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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

Focke Wulf Fw 190

Focke Wulf Fw 190
Focke Wulf Fw 190

This outstanding aircraft was in fact the only new fighter design to enter service with the Luftwaffe during the war. The prototype flew in June 1939 and after an intensive development programme in which both vee and radial engines were trialled, the Fw 190A entered production with a BMW 801 radial engine. The 40 Fw 190A-0 pre-production aircraft were followed by 100 Fw 190A-1 fighters, and the type entered service in the autumn of 1940. Although well known to the Allies prior to the war, the Fw 190 caused a nasty shock when it was first encountered over France in May 1941. It was light, manoeuvrable, fast, powerfully armed and immensely strong.

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Artillery

Flak 38

The capability of the FlaK 30 was hampered by the gun’s low rate of fire, so Mauser was allocated the task of boosting the firing rate and, at the same time, significantly reducing the gun’s tendency to jam. The result was the 2cm Flak 38 that appeared in 1940 with a revised breech mechanism improving the cyclic and practical rates of fire to 420-480 and 180-220rpm respectively. The feed system and carriage/trailer were essentially unaltered, but sighting was now effected by means of the Flakvisier 38, a complex and somewhat fragile and expensive unit replaced from 1941 by the Linealvisier 38 open ring sight, itself succeeded from a time late in 1944 by the Schwebekreisvisier 38.

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Ships

Schleswig-Holstein

Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein

The Schleswig-Holstein was one of a class of five pre-dreadnought battleships, laid down in 1902–04. She was launched in December 1906, completed in July 1908 and subsequently served with the German High Seas Fleet, seeing action in the Battle of Jutland. In the last two years of the war she served in turn as a depot ship at Bremerhaven and an accommodation ship at Kiel, and was one of the small force of warships that Germany was permitted to retain by the Versailles Treaty for coastal defence in the post-war years.

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Small Arms

Karabiner 98K

Karabiner 98K
Karabiner 98K

In World War I the German Army decided that its standard rifle, the Gewehr 98, was too long for effective use. There was little that could be done at the time, but by 1924 Mauser had developed a rifle shorter than its Gewehr 98 and based on its “Standard” model for export sales: this was manufactured in Belgium and other countries, but did not enter German production until 1935 as the Karabiner 98k (the letter suffix standing for kurz, or short).

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Tracked Vehicles

StuG (F1)

StuG (F1)
StuG (F1)

During World War II flamethrower tanks were popular with infantry units for a number of reasons, such as their ability to deal with enemy bunkers and strongpoints (thus saving infantry formations having to get close to such locations, which would have resulted in heavy casualties), and thus demoralise the enemy in general. It was therefore logical that the Germans would convert a number of StuGs, their prime assault gun, to flamethrowers.

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Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

The funeral of Heydrich

The funeral of Heydrich
The funeral of Heydrich

The funeral of Reinhard Heydrich. Immediately after the attack, Heydrich’s injuries were not thought life threatening, but he had in fact suffered severe damage to his left lung and spleen, while it is thought that horsehair from the car upholstery was forced into his body and became infected. He died on 4 June. Nazi reprisals were swift: in the village of Lidice, suspected of hiding the assassins, 199 men were killed while 190 women and children were sent to concentration camps. In another village, Lezaky, all 33 adult men and women were later shot.

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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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