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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 109

Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109

The Bf 109 was the standard Luftwaffe fighter of the war, with more than 30,500 examples built before and during it. Willy Messerschmitt began work on this classic machine in 1935, in response to Germany’s requirement for its first “modern” monoplane fighter (see Heinkel He 112). It was revealed in September 1935, when the first of 13 prototypes flew. The Bf 109B entered service in April 1937 and was followed by the Bf 109C with extra guns. Both saw service in the Spanish Civil War. They were followed by the Bf 109D and the Bf 109E (“Emil”), which entered service at the end of 1938 and was Germany’s standard single-seat fighter at the start of World War II – instrumental in Luftwaffe successes over Poland, Scandinavia and the Low Countries.

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Artillery

PAK 41

PAK 41
PAK 41

Built in competition with the Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.5cm PaK 40 as a means of providing the German Army with the best possible weapon to succeed the 5cm PaK 35/36, the 7.5cm Panzerabwehrkanone 41 was designed by Krupp, the other main creator of larger-calibre weapons for the German Army.

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Ships

Emden

Emden
Emden

Completed in January 1925, the light cruiser Emden was the first medium-sized German warship built after World War I. Originally a coal-burning vessel, she was intended primarily for overseas service and consequently had a large bunker capacity; particular attention was paid to accommodation space and crew comfort, something of a novelty at that time. Her first mission in World War II was to lay mines in the North Sea, and, in April 1940, she was one of the warships that accompanied the Blücher during the invasion of Norway. Though this operation was a costly affair in terms in shipping, she survived and was later transferred to the Baltic and saw considerable operational service there, initially operating as part of a powerful task force that included the new battleship Tirpitz and later operating as a mine warfare training vessel.

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Small Arms

Gewehr 43

Gewehr 43
Gewehr 43

When they evaluated the Tokarev semi-automatic rifle, of which they captured numerous examples in 1941 and 1942, the Germans quickly appreciated that the Soviet gas-operated system offered several advantages over the modified Bang system used in their Gewehr 41 weapons. It was seen that the Russian gas-operated mechanism had many advantages over the system used on the Gew 41. The Gew 41(W) was already in production, but the Germans now modified the action to a system modelled closely on that of the Soviet self-loading rifle to create the Gewehr 43 firing the German Army’s standard 7.92mm cartridge.

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Tracked Vehicles

StuG III Ausf G

StuG III Ausf G
StuG III Ausf G

In December 1942, the first of the final production series of the StuG III - the Ausf G - rolled off the production line in Germany. When production ceased in March 1945, a total of 7720 had been built. The hull of the Ausf G was not radically different from previous models, the main changes being to the superstructure. A cupola with periscopes was added for the commander, while a shield for the machine gun was installed in front of the loader’s hatch.

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Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Attaching an ammunition belt to the MG34

Attaching an ammunition belt to the MG34
Attaching an ammunition belt to the MG34

German infantry attaching a new belt of ammunition to the MG34. It is unclear whether this is a training photograph or taken during real action. Belts were supplied in a fixed length of 50 rounds, but could be linked up to make longer belts for sustained firing. A 250 round belt was also issued to machine guns installed in fixed emplacements such as bunkers. Ammunition boxes contained 250 rounds in five belts that were linked to make one continuous 100 round belt and one 150 round belt.

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Commanders

Commanders

Josef Goebbels

Josef Goebbels
Josef Goebbels

It is a little-known fact that the Minister of Propaganda was opposed to a European war. He realized that Germany would be taking unnecessary risks and that her position of power would be weakened. Despite the victories of 1940 Goebbels said: “We must not fool ourselves. It will be a long and difficult war. Its outcome will not depend on boisterous victory parties but on a determination to do one’s daily duty.” He was probably the only Nazi leader to correctly judge the length and gravity of the war.

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