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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

Junkers Ju 88

Junkers Ju 88
Junkers Ju 88

Probably no other aircraft in history has been developed in so many different forms for so many purposes as the Ju 88, with the possible exception of Britain’s Mosquito. The Ju 88 was flown in 1936 as a civil prototype, and it remained of vital importance to Germany throughout the war. After a frantic design process led by two Americans well versed in modern stressed skin construction, it was transformed into a heavier, slower and more capacious high-speed level- and dive-bomber of the type just then entering service when war broke out. Structurally the aircraft was excellent, combining a large internal fuel capacity with great load-carrying capability, and despite the fact that many of its variants were mere “lash-ups”, the performance of the aircraft was never so degraded as to become seriously vulnerable – as the Dornier and Heinkel bombers were.

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Artillery

LE IG 18

LE IG 18
LE IG 18

One of the pieces of light field artillery used in the largest numbers by the German Army in World War II was the 7.5cm leichte Infanteriegeschütz 18. The need for such a weapon was perceived in the first half of the 1920s, and the task of designing and developing such a gun was entrusted to Rheinmetall during 1927. Field trials of the new equipment proved very successful, and a major manufacturing programme was initiated so that the le IG 18 could be adopted as the standard artillery weapon of the support companies of infantry regiments and also of some mountain units.

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Ships

Bismarck

Bismarck
Bismarck

Together with her sister ship, Tirpitz, the Bismarck was the pride of Hitler’s navy, and was viewed with alarm by the Royal Navy. Launched in February 1939 and completed in August 1940, she underwent sea trials in the Baltic and in May 1941 she sailed in company with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen to attack Allied commerce in the Atlantic.

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Small Arms

Erma

Erma
Erma

The Maschinenpistole Erma (or MPE) was designed in the early 1930s by Heinrich Vollmer for the Erfurter Maschinenfabrik company, hence the weapon’s name.

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Tracked Vehicles

Panzer III Ausf J

Panzer III Ausf J
Panzer III Ausf J

The Panzer III Ausf J was the first variant of the tank to be built to have the armour protection increased to a basic 50mm (1.96in). The armour change required new fittings. In addition, an improved driver’s visor was fitted, plus a new ball-shaped hull machine-gun mount. The upper hull front accommodated newly designed air intakes for brakes and final-drive cooling, while single-piece access hatches in the glacis were fitted in place of the double hatch.

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Free Media

Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Hitler inspects Hitler Youth soldiers during the last days of the Third Reich, a still from a newsreel. By this time, old men and young boys comprised a high proportion of Germany’s ground forces as Germany was being invaded from both east and west.

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Commanders

Commanders

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler

Hitler’s aim in the East was very clear: acquiring Lebensraum in the East up to the Ural Mountains. These lands were occupied by groups that Hitler and Nazism despised: Bolsheviks, Slavs and Jews. Under the New Order, these peoples would either become slaves under German overlords or would be exterminated. He was to state in 1942: “If we do not complete the conquest of the East utterly and irrevocably, each successive generation will have war on its hands”. For him the war in Russia was a racial conflict, in which the racially superior German Aryan race was locked in a struggle with the “sub-human” Slavs. This made retreat in the face of “inferior” peoples unimaginable, for the Führer could not conceive of the racially inferior Slavs being able to defeat a superior race. As he stated on the eve of Kursk: “Germany needs the conquered territories or she will not exist for long. She will win hegemony over the rest of Europe. Where we are - we stay.”

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