Why was the name of the Third Reich given?
Reich, in German, means ‘Empire’. And the third was the one who took over Hitler’s government.
To understand the name of the Third Reich, one must go back in the history of Germany and identify the First and Second Reich.
The Holy Roman Empire was known as the First Reich. Established in 962, it would last more than eight centuries. It never became a nation-state or a modern state: it maintained a monarchical government and a strict imperial tradition.
The Holy Empire was dissolved in 1806 when Emperor Franz II resigned from the imperial crown to remain the Austrian emperor only, due to the defeats suffered at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Second Reich began in 1871 with the unification of the German states and the proclamation of William I as emperor. His successor, Frederick III, reigned only 99 days and on June 15, 1888, his son William II acceded to the German throne as the new emperor of the Second Reich.
It lasted until 1918, when Germany became a republic after its defeat in World War I and the abdication of the German Emperor William II on November 9 of that year.
The arrival of the Third Reich’s power
The arrival of the Nazis in 1933 marked the beginning of the Third Reich, which ended the Weimar Republic, the parliamentary democracy established in post-World War I Germany.
The Nazi project sought to restore Germany to its former imperial splendour; hence its self-proclaimed Third Reich, a name that has remained in historiography to designate the time of Hitler’s rule between 1933 and 1945.
Both within Germany and outside it, the term is still used as synonymous with the Nazi regime.
Officially, when Hitler came to power in 1933, the German state continued to be called the Deutsches Reich (“German Empire”).
However, in 1943 the Nazi government decided to adopt the name Grossdeutsches Reich (“Great German Empire”), which would continue to be used until 1945.
However, within Nazi terminology itself, the term Third Reich was used profusely to refer to this era.
Historians often use the notion of reich to refer to the regime adopted by the German state in various historical periods. It is possible, in this sense, to distinguish between three reich: the First reich, the Second reich, and the Third reich.
The Last Days of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich
The Third Reich initiated a plan for armaments and the fight against unemployment through the construction of public works.
As roads, highways, and railways and promoted the construction of infrastructure works, hydroelectric plants, mining, chemicals, and oil refining.
He promoted the construction of ships and aircraft, concealing specifications that did not comply with the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.
The industry acquired an unusual boom and all inventions and discoveries that had some military utility were classified as State secrets. Unemployment rates fell, inflation was halted and the economy grew.
The German armed forces were transformed from a purely police contingent into a modern war machine, with equipment and techniques never been seen before and like no other power in the world.
Once that was achieved, Hitler was ready to claim the territories lost by the Treaty of Versailles.
First, in 1933, Hitler withdrew Germany from the League of Nations. Then, when the Wehrmacht was already transformed into a powerful and efficient war machine, it reoccupied the Rhineland by evicting the French and Belgians through a plebiscite.
The Steel Pact
On April 3, 1939, preparations for the invasion of Poland began in Germany. At the end of the month, Hitler denounces the Anglo-German naval agreement that imposed limitations on the size of the war fleet and cancels the non-aggression treaty signed with Poland.
On 22 May Germany and Italy sign the Steel Pact.
Invasion of Poland
On August 18, Hitler signed a trade treaty with Russia and a few days later a German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact that includes a secret clause to divide Poland between the two countries.
On August 30, Hitler gives Poland an ultimatum and on September 1, 1939, he invades Poland, officially beginning the Second World War.
Terminology: “Third Reich”
The designation”Third Reich” was coined in 1922 by the writer and nationalist intellectual völkisch and romantic conservative Arthur Moeller van den Bruck.
In his publication Das Dritte Reich (The Third Reich), Moeller envisioned the emergence of an anti-Marxist, anti-liberal German empire in which all divisions of social classes would be reconciled in national unity under a charismatic”Führer” (leader).
Moeller’s”Third Reich” referred to two earlier German empires: the Franco-Medieval empire of Charlemagne and the German Empire under the Prussian dynasty of Hohenzollern (1871-1918).
The historical period from 1871, with the unification of Germany and the proclamation of William as emperor, to 1918, was called the second Reich.
As such, it was one of the strongest and most powerful industrial economies in the world, until the nation was defeated militarily in the First World War.
The first Reich is the name given to the Holy Roman Germanic Empire, whose existence extended between 962 and 1806.
It was, more than a nation-state, a political grouping of imperial states ruled by a common monarchical government.
Located in western and central Europe and was ruled by the Roman-Germanic emperor.
It was a predominant entity in Central Europe for almost a thousand years. It was dissolved after the defeats suffered at the hands of Napoleon in 1806.
The Third Reich began in 1933 with the rise to power of the German National Socialist Workers Party (Nazism).
This reich had Adolf Hitler as his main leader, as he became the German president and chancellor simultaneously.
Hitler transformed the Weimar Republic into a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by the hegemonic principles of National Socialism.
He created the State Secret Police (Geheime Statspolizei) Gestapo and established the People’s Courts.
It dissolved the workers’ unions and banned political parties. He also took advantage of the moment to purge his own party, and in July, Germany declared itself a National Socialist and one-party party.
This third German empire was characterized by the persecution of Jews, gypsies, blacks and other communities.
From the instrumentation of detention and torture centers and gas chambers, Nazism murdered thousands of people, developing the worst genocide of the twentieth century.
Moreover, due to its military-expansionist policy, the Third Reich was annexing several nations to its territory until the Second World War ended.
The 10 Famous Phrases of the Third Reich
1) “Life does not forgive weakness”.
2) “Before God and the world, the strongest have the right to make his will prevail. He who has no strength, the right itself is of no use to him! All of nature is a formidable struggle between strength and weakness, an eternal victory of the strong over the weak.
3) “National Socialism is no doctrine of inactivity; it is a doctrine of struggle. It is not a doctrine of jouissance, but a doctrine of effort and struggle.
4) “The Nazi Party must not become the sheriff of public opinion, it must dominate it. It will not be a servant of the masses, but its master.
5) “It is not my ambition to be at war, but it is to create a new national and social state of the highest culture.
6) “Care should be taken that only healthy individuals produce children because the fact that sick or incapable people place children in the world is a disgrace while refraining from doing so is a highly honorable act.
7) “Surely the first stage of human culture was based less on the employment of the pet than on the services rendered by men of the inferior race.
8) “Perhaps the greatest and best lesson in history is that no one learned the lessons of history.
9) “When a war is initiated and unleashed, what matters is not to be right, but to achieve victory.
10) “With humanity and democracy the peoples have never been liberated”.
A great book I recommend is this.
- Chuck Driskell
- Autobahn Books
- Edición Kindle
- Edition no. 1 (01/05/2018)