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Third Reich Day by Day

The rise of the Third Reich as it happened from its beginnings to the start of World War II in September 1939.

Weapons & Technology

Aircraft

Heinkel He 111

Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 111

The Heinkel He 111 was the natural twin-engined outgrowth of the Heinkel 70 bomber used to such great effect in Spain. Although revealed to the world as a civil airliner, it was designed for bombing. Powered by twin BMW VI engines, it could carry 1000kg (2205lb) of bombs stowed nose-up in eight cells in the centre section. In 1937 some similar machines flew secret reconnaissance missions over Britain, France and the Soviet Union in the guise of airliners, and in the same year the He 111B-1 entered service with the Luftwaffe. In February 1937 operations began with the Condor Legion in Spain, where its seeming invincibility led many to become complacent.

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Artillery

PAK 35/36

PAK 35/36
PAK 35/36

The 3.7cm PaK 35/36 entered service in 1936. More than 15,000 such weapons had been completed in Germany by 1941, and the type was also built under licence by other countries. Experience proved that by the standards of the day the PaK 35/36 was excellent, and the weapon strongly influenced the design of other guns: the American 37mm M3, for example, was a close copy.

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Ships

Lützow

Lützow
Lützow

Originally named Deutschland, the Lützow was one of three armoured ships – the so-called “pocket battleships” – laid down between 1928 and 1931. Deutschland was the first of the class, being launched in May 1931 and completed in April 1933. She was originally used as a seagoing training ship, to familiarize crews with her new technology.

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Small Arms

MP 38

MP 38
MP 38

The Maschinenpistole 38 is one of the most celebrated, or perhaps infamous, submachine guns ever placed in service. Designed by the Erma-Werke, the MP 38 introduced a number of unusual and innovative features: the main spring was contained within a telescopic sleeve (as pioneered in the limited-production MP Erma), the butt could be folded, and there was no wood in the weapon, which was therefore entirely of steel and plastic construction. Created from the outset for service with airborne and motorized troops (and thus with the folding butt), the MP 38 had a magazine located vertically under the weapon.

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Tracked Vehicles

PaK 40 (SF)

PaK 40 (SF)
PaK 40 (SF)

With the capture of so many vehicles following the fall of France in June 1940, the Germans set about converting them for their own use. This was not an immediate decision, as the army was flushed with victory and few believed that large numbers of non-German armoured fighting vehicles would be needed. It was only with the huge losses experienced on the Eastern Front, plus the appearance of the Soviet T-34, that prompted the necessity for large numbers of antitank platforms. One such vehicle was the PaK40 (SF), a self-propelled antitank gun on a light tank chassis. The conversion was unusual in that the engine was left in the rear.

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Free Media

Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

A drawn and haggard Adolf Hitler during one of his last appearances outside his bunker in Berlin. By this time Hitler was increasingly losing his grasp of reality, ordering movements of formations that in practice did not exist and still hoping that something would happen to save his Reich from the Red Army that was grinding down Germany’s forces. During these last months, Hitler often mentioned Frederick the Great, whose Prussian state was saved from dismemberment in the Seven Year’s War when the Empress Elizabeth of Russia died in January 1762.

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Commanders

Commanders

Ewald von Kleist

Ewald von Kleist
Ewald von Kleist

Born in 1885, Kleist saw service in World War I with the hussars. A corps commander during the invasion of Poland in 1939, he led a panzer group during the fall of France in May-June 1940. Although initially inexperienced in the proper use of armoured forces, he learnt quickly and had able subordinates such as Guderian and Zeitzler. Thus, by the spring of 1941 he was equipped to command mobile forces, and his First Panzer Group achieved rapid success in the Balkans campaign. During Barbarossa, his panzer group was attached to Army Group South, taking part in the great Uman and Kiev encirclements, before being ordered north to close the southern part of the Vyazma encirclement. On October 6, 1941, his panzer group became the First Panzer Army; it had taken Rostov by November, but was then forced to withdraw from the city and spend the winter of 1941-42 on the defensive.

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