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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

Henschel Hs 129

Henschel Hs 129
Henschel Hs 129

Designed by Henschel in response to a requirement in spring 1937 for a twin-engine ground-attack aircraft, to provide close air support for ground forces, that could carry at least two 20mm cannon and extensive protection, the Hs 129 was a cantilever low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction and it first flew in spring 1939 with two 347kW (465hp) Argus As 410 inverted-Vee engines. Poor performance hampered development, which was further hindered when the Luftwaffe pilots who tested the prototypes complained about poor fields of vision and sluggish handling. This forced Henschel to undertake a radical series of improvements that resulted in the Hs 129B-1.

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Artillery

Kanone 39

Kanone 39
Kanone 39

In the 1930s Krupp responded to a requirement of the Turkish Army with the development of a powerful gun in 150mm calibre. Production got under way in the later stages of the decade, but delivery of the first completed weapons was prevented by the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 (notwithstanding its spectacular victories, the German Army entered the war with a shortage of equipment).

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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

Gewehr 41

Gewehr 41
Gewehr 41

In 1940 the Germany Army, currently equipped with bolt-action weapons so far as rifles and carbines were concerned, issued a requirement for a semi-automatic (or self-loading) rifle to succeeded the various Mauser weapons of the Gewehr 98 series. The requirement elicited very similar designs from Mauser and Walther, and the German authorities ordered prototypes of each type for competitive evaluation before any major production contracts were placed.

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Tracked Vehicles

Hummel

Hummel
Hummel

The Hummel was an attempt to provide armoured units with artillery support on a fully tracked armoured chassis. The 150mm sFH18/1L/30 gun was mounted on a Panzer IV chassis, though this was only intended as an interim measure until a chassis designed specifically for self-propelled gun platforms could be developed and produced. To accommodate the gun, the engine was moved forward to a central position, while the Hummel’s drive sprocket was of the type designed for the Panzer III. The open-topped fighting compartment was enclosed on all four sides by slanted armour plates bolted to the hull, while the glacis plate was extended and there was a small compartment for the driver on the left-hand side.

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Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich in his uniform as SS-Gruppenfuhrer. Heydrich was a key member of the Nazi regime, who was central in pre-war attacks on Jews, such as Kristallnacht of 1938; he organised the Einsatzgruppen that followed the army during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews; and he chaired the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 that set in motion plans for the “Final Solution”, the murder of all Jews within Nazi-controlled Europe. Strangely, there were always rumours that Heydrich had Jewish ancestry, rumours he strove to quell.

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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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