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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

Messerschmitt Bf 110

Messerschmitt Bf 110
Messerschmitt Bf 110

During the 1930s air strategists believed twin-engine “heavy fighters” to be essential to offensive air operations. As was happening elsewhere at the same time, in 1934 the Reichsluftfahrtministerium issued a requirement for a machine capable of tackling aircraft, including single-seat fighters, sent up to intercept the bombers; it was to make up in firepower what it lacked in manoeuvrability and was dubbed Zerstörer (destroyer). Messerschmitt’s prototype Bf 110V1 first flew in May 1936 and the production Bf 110 entered service as the Bf 110B with two 700hp (522kW) Junkers Jumo 210 engines. Only 45 were built before the advent of the Bf 110C with two Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines, which had seven sub-variants, and the Bf 110D, built in three.

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Artillery

Jagdpanzer IV

Jagdpanzer IV
Jagdpanzer IV

Introduced late in 1943, the Jagdpanzer IV was based on the PzKpfw IV medium tank with the turret removed and the upper hull revised into a fixed superstructure, including 60mm (2.47in) upper and lower frontal plates sloped at 45° and 57° respectively, above the all-welded original hull. The sloping sides of the superstructure extended beyond the vertical hull sides over the tracks to provide additional volume for ammunition stowage (a maximum of 79 rounds). Armour skirts of 5mm (0.2in) thickness were bolted to brackets welded to the vehicle’s sides.

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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

Sturmgewehr 44

Sturmgewehr 44
Sturmgewehr 44

Experience with the 8000 examples of the Haenel Maschinenkarabiner 42(H) assault rifle used for operational trials on the Eastern Front was generally successful, but indicated the need for changes whose implementation created the Maschinenpistole 43 firing the same 7.92mm kurz (short) intermediate-power round.

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Tracked Vehicles

Panzer I

Panzer I
Panzer I

In the early 1930s the German Army needed a tank that could be built cheaply and in large numbers for training purposes. The Krupp design (the L.K.A.1) was selected as the first production model in 1934, eventually becoming the Panzer IA. The earliest versions had open-top hulls, no turrets and were designated as agricultural tractors to disguise their true purpose.

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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

Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel

No discussion of the German Army’s performance in North Africa can exclude an analysis of Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox.” The war in North Africa made his reputation. On February 12, 1941, Hitler dispatched Rommel by air to Tripoli in response to the major defeat that the Italian units had just suffered at the hands of British and Commonwealth forces. The new commander had with him just a small mobile force to stiffen Italian resolve and to assist them in reversing the possibility of total defeat at the hands of the British-led forces advancing from Egypt. Hitler did not, however, envisage the Africa Corps making spectacular successes, lest the need to protect these accomplishments from British ripostes led to the diversion of precious German reserves away from the impending Barbarossa invasion of the Soviet Union to the North Africa theater.

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