National Socialist Germany

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Greater Germany 1933 - 1945.
The Reichsadler or Emblem of the German Reich (used 1935–1945), which features an eagle looking over its right shoulder, that is, looking to the left from the viewer's point of view. It is similar to the Parteiadler of the NSDAP, but the eagle of the latter is looking over its left shoulder, that is, looking to the right from the viewer's point of view.

National Socialist Germany, officially German Reich (1919–1945), commonly referred to unofficially as the Third Reich (the first Reich being the Holy Roman Empire, the second being the German Empire), was governed by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) following their victory as the largest single parliamentary party in the Federal General Elections of 30 January 1933. As a result, during the 1933-45 period National Socialism became the state ideology. From the 8 May 1945 it ceased to exist.


Co-National Flags of Germany (14 March 1933 to 15 September 1935)
The contemporary official designation of the German national state for the period from 1871 to 1945 (map outlined red for the borders from 1 December 1937 and dark green [dashed line] for the borders as of 1943) was Deutsches Reich. It is still used today in political science for this period. In English language publications, the inofficial terms "National Socialist Germany" or even "Nazi Germany" (sometimes NS State) are used. The correct term is Deutsches Reich and, as of 1943, Greater German Reich (Großdeutsches Reich), although this term had been used already since the unification of the Old Empire (Altreich) with Austria (Anschluß) in 1938 (but also including Sudetenland, Memelland and the Free City of Danzig), including in the official Reichsgesetzblatt. Although the Reichstag was known as the Großdeutscher Reichstag, only in 1943 was the German Reich officially renamed to "Greater German Reich".

Take-over of power (Machtübernahme)

A further Federal General Election was held on 5 March 1933 again giving the National Socialists the largest number of seats (288) in the Reichstag. Hitler stated in a Cabinet Council that his successes in Bavaria in particular had exceeded his wildest dreams".[1] The next large bloc was held by the Marxist Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP) (120). The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) held 81. Under the provisions of Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg's Reichstag Fire Decree[2] all the Communist deputies were arrested, and several Social Democrats were kept out of the chamber. On March 6 the Communist Party was banned.[3] In June the SDP also was banned altogether from operating in any way in Germany.

Following the Reichstag fire on Monday 27 February 1933, the parliament moved across the Königsplatz square (today Platz der Republik) to the magnificent Kroll Opera House, facing the Reichstag building. (It was bombed by the British RAF on 22 November 1943.)

Following the law for the establishment of [exclusion] uniformity between the national and State governments the following was observed at the end of April: all Communists were excluded from sitting; and some diets reduced the number of their seats.[4]

  • In Bavaria National Socialists and other nationalist parties held 53 seats out of 104.
  • In Wurttemberg the Government coalition commanded 29 seats out of 54.
  • In Baden the National Socialists have an absolute majority (out of 88 seats).
  • In Saxony the National Socialists hold 38 seats out of 70.
  • In Thuringia the National Socialists hold 30 seats out of 50.
  • In Hesse the National Socialists have a majority.
  • In Oldenburg the National Socialists hold 20 seats out of 39.
  • In Mecklenburg-Schwerin the National Socialists hold 24 out of 44 seats.
  • In Mecklenburg-Strelitz the National Socialists hold 9 out of 15 seats.
  • In Bremen the National Socialists with other nationalists have a majority.
  • In Hamburg the National Socialists hold 50 out of 104 seats.
  • In the Prussian Diet the National Socialists and other nationalists control 254 seats out of 474.

On 23 October 1933, Germany announced its withdrawal from both the Disarmament Conference (which in any case was a failure) and the League of Nations in response to the Western powers' refusal to meet its demand for equality between nations.[5]

The peacetime years

Germany renounces the hated and imposed Treaty of Versailles.
Map of National Socialist Germany showing its administrative subdivisions (Gaue and Reichsgaue)

On 30 January 1933 a new National Socialist dominated government was elected, inheriting the Weimar Republic's "exceedingly precarious financial situation". Moreover it was pointed out that "Russia had become the largest buyer of German industrial products."[6] The Foreign Ministry also telegraphed embassies abroad that "any apprehensions regarding future German foreign policy should be met by reference to the Foreign Minister, who has been a member of the last two Cabinets and who has the confidence of the President to conduct foreign policy. Continuity of policies is guaranteed."[7]

The 1933–1939 years under National Socialist leadership showed that Germany could stand strong and independent. First, they succeeded in eradicating unemployment in principle. In 1932, during the Weimar Republic, six million Germans able to work were unemployed. By 1937, over five million of these had found work. Numerous social reforms were implemented in Germany. In addition to better wages, workers also received rights in the event of dismissal, more holidays than in other European countries, better housing standards, health care and more.

Just a few months after the National Socialists came to power, animal welfare laws were introduced in Germany. On April 21, 1933, the first law was passed that regulated how the slaughter of animals should take place so as not to inflict unnecessary pain on the animals.

German doctors became the first in the world to identify the link between smoking and lung cancer, and National Socialist Germany began the first public anti-tobacco campaign in modern history. The anti-tobacco campaign included a ban on smoking in trams, buses and city trains, promoting health education, organizing medical lectures for soldiers and increasing taxes on tobacco.

During this period, Otto Hahn was the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin. Between 1934 and 1938 he worked with Fritz Strassmann on the study of isotopes created through the neutron bombardment of uranium and thorium, which led to the discovery of nuclear fission. In 1944, Hahn received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of nuclear fission, although Fritz Strassmann had been acknowledged as an equal collaborator in the discovery.[8][9]

On 8 August 1935, as Führer and Chancellor, Adolf Hitler announced in the newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter, the final dissolution of all Masonic Lodges in Germany.

In 1936, the Summer Olympics were held in Berlin, and the famous Swedish explorer Sven Hedin made the opening speech. The Olympics were a great triumph for National Socialist Germany. Germany also won by far the most medals in total. Many of today's Olympic traditions, such as the Olympic torch, originate in these Olympics. The Winter Olympics that year took place in Bavaria's Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and were another outstanding Olympic success[10]

In 1936, the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugund) (HJ) (founded in 1922) became the official youth organisation in Germany for boys aged 14 - 18, its purpose being to reinvigorate the nation's youth with healthy activities and social direction. The junior version (ages 10 - 14) was called the Deutsches Jungvolk or "DJ". The girls' wing was The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel) (BDM), the only legal female youth organization in Germany.[11]

In March 1936, the 245-metre (804-foot) long rigid airship Hindenburg was launched at Friedrichshafen, Germany. It had a maximum speed of 135 km (84 miles) per hour and a cruising speed of 126 km (78 miles) per hour. Though it was designed to be filled with helium gas, the airship had to be filled with highly flammable hydrogen gas because of export restrictions (today known as sanctions) by the United States against National Socialist Germany. In 1936 the Hindenburg inaugurated its commercial air service across the North Atlantic; it by carried 1,002 passengers on 10 scheduled round trips between Germany and the United States. During the 1936 flight season, it finished 17 round-trip crossings of the ocean, and even set a new record that July by flying across the Atlantic—and back—in just five days, 19 hours, and 51 minutes. At the time, this was the fastest double-crossing of the Atlantic ever carried out. On 6 May 1937 while landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey, it was destroyed by an internal bomb planted in an act of sabotage.[12]

On 30 January 1937, Germany publicly repudiated the Treaty of Versailles in its entirety.[13]

Several voluntary organizations were also founded in the later 1930s. One of these was the Winterhilfswerk des Deutschen Volkes (English: Winter Relief of the German People), a charity that collected food, money and clothes for needy Germans.

In 1938, the Organization Todt (de), led by the construction engineer Fritz Todt, was founded. This gigantic organization, which employed about 1.5 million workers, incorporated the construction of the Autobahns (Reichsautobahnen) with a whole range of other assignments such as the Siegfried Line. After 1939, these included repairs of war-damaged bridges, roads and railway lines, as well as the construction of the Atlantic Wall.

On 16 December 1938, Hitler introduced the Mother's Cross, the Cross of Honour of the German Mother. The medal was awarded annually on the second Sunday in May (Mother's Day) and on August 12, Klara Hitler's (Hitler's mother) birthday. The award bore the inscription "The German Mother". It was not only married mothers who were awarded the Mother's Cross. Even single mothers could get it, which at this time was a radical view of women with children. Hitler was very careful to emphasize the importance of not expelling these women from society or shaming them.

Organization of the NS-State

The Jewish Question

In 1933, Germany had a small Jewish population (0.8%) compared to, say, Poland (10%), Lithuania (7.6%), Carpatho-Ruthenia (14.1%) and Slovakia (4.1%) (both then in Czechoslovakia), Austria (2.8%) and European Russia (2.2%). In 1933 there were 503,720 Jews in Germany[14], a third of whom lived in Berlin.

Germany enacted the Nuremberg Laws on 15 September 1935 at a special meeting of the Reichstag convened during the annual Nuremberg Rally of the National Socialist Party. The two laws were the (1) Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, which forbade (a) marriages and extra-marital intercourse between Jews and Germans, and (b) the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish households; and (2) the Reich Citizenship Law, which declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be German citizens. Anyone outside these categories were now classed as State subjects without any citizenship rights. A supplementary decree outlining the definition of who was Jewish was passed on 14 November, the date the Reich Citizenship Law officially came into force. The laws were expanded on 26 November 1935 to include gypsies and negroes. Jews in Germany were being actively encouraged to emigrate. Some went to the U.S.A., the most favoured destination. Smaller numbers went to Britain and some others to France and the Low Countries.

In response to the Nuremberg Laws, on 26 August, 1936 the British Embassy in Berlin compiled a well-researched report and sent it to the Foreign Office in London, stating that "in 1931 out of 3,450 lawyers in Berlin, 1,925 were Jews. In Breslau the numbers were 285 and 192, and in Frankfurt-on-Main 659 and 432 respectively. In Berlin the number of Jewish doctors was 52%, while in most towns the average was 30%. Fifteen Jewish bankers are stated to have held 718 director-ships in banks and commercial undertakings. Of theatre directors, 50.4% were Jews. Although Jews formed less than one per cent of the total population, there is a widespread feeling that they blocked the approaches to all the leading positions in the State, monopolising them for themselves."[15]

From the 1933 Census until the end of 1937 about 110,000 Jews had emigrated. In addition there was a natural decrease in this period of about 25,000, leaving about 368,000 in Germany at that point.[16].

In January 1937 a comprehensive report on the Jewish Question in Germany was compiled by Department II/112 of the SD. It emphasized that rapid Jewish emigration from Germany should be the keynote of all efforts regarding the Jewish Question. It also recommended the elimination of Jews from the economy, a significant increase in political and legal pressure on Jews to leave Germany, and the establishment of radically new procedures to further Jewish emigration. It continued: "Jewish emigration from the territory of the Reich is so urgent that an absolute resoluteness should not be overlooked in the process." In particular, the German government was anxious to get the British Mandate of Palestine to take more Jews than they already had, and the report went on to say its contacts in Palestine must not be involved in: "the stirring up of Arabs against Jewish immigrants [which] is harmful to the Reich in the end as it will curtail emigration activity."[17]

Between 1919 and 1937, 43,764 Jews from Germany had arrived in Palestine (not counting illegals); in 1938 nearly 75% of the comparatively wealthy Jews arriving were from Germany; in 1939 fifty percent of all legal immigrants were from Germany. With the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 this figure slumped to 17.4% in 1940, 8% in 1941 and 5% in 1942.[18] The emigration procedures established by the SD in 1938 and 1939 were continued during the first two years of WWII, albeit with diminishing success. In 1939 and 1940 the SS continued to promote Jewish emigration to Palestine, using both legal and illegal channels. These programmes for Jews seeking to emigrate to Palestine continued to receive the support of the SS, the Foreign Office, and the Ministry of the Interior. Throughout 1940 and much of 1941 German authorities in eastern Europe did nothing to prevent the steady sometimes chaotic flow of Jewish refugees to Palestine and in some cases encouraged it.[19]

On 7 December 1938, the Reich Foreign Minister had a conversation with the French Foreign Minister, George Bonnet, who said great interest was being taken in France for a solution to the 'Jewish question'. Bonnet said that in the first place they did not want to receive any more Jews from Germany and asked whether Germany could not take some sort of measures to stop them from coming to France any more, and in the second place France had to ship 10,000 Jews somewhere else. They were actually thinking of Madagascar for this. Von Ribbentrop replied that "we all wish to get rid of our Jews but the difficulties lay in the fact that no country wished to receive them.....and that resettlement of Jews was particularly difficult, as they are not willing to undertake any work on the land."[20]

By September 1939, more than 300,000 Jews had left Germany, and 117,000 from Austria (two-thirds of Austria's Jews). Of these, some 95,000 emigrated to the United States; in the four-month period alone from February 1 to May 31, 1939, 34,000 Jews left Germany and 34,300 left Austria.[21] In addition, there were about 30,000 German Jewish refugees held in Britain who were interned in concentration camps on the Isle of Man and in other locations throughout England and Scotland. A further 8000 were deported to Australia.


The official name of the state continued as the German Reich (German: Deutsches Reich), after the Anschluss 1938 Greater Germany (German: Großdeutschland). From 1943 onwards, it became the Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation (German: Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation), often shortened to the Greater German Reich (German: Großdeutsches Reich).

See the article on Reich for the origins and meanings of the terms "Reich" and "Third Reich".

Adolf Hitler was Chancellor of the Reich (German: Reichskanzler) from 1933 and from 1934 head of state (Reichspräsident und Reichskanzler) with varying official and unofficial titles that included the word "Führer" (Leader).


National Socialist Germany
Adolf Hitler
Allied psychological warfare
Book burning/censorship
and National Socialist Germany
Claimed mass killings of Germans
by the WWII Allies
Claimed mass killings of non-Jews
by National Socialist Germany
Clean Wehrmacht
Degenerate art
Foreign military volunteers
and National Socialist Germany
Master race
Munich Putsch
National Socialism and occultism
National Socialist Germany
and forced labor
National Socialist Germany
and partisans/resistance movements
National Socialist Germany revisionism
National Socialist Germany's
nuclear weapons program
Night of the Long Knives
Nuremberg trials
Pre-WWII anti-National
Socialist Germany boycott
Revisionist views on
the causes of the World Wars
Soviet offensive plans controversy
Superior orders
The Holocaust
The World Wars and mass starvation‎

See also

Further reading

External links

See the article on National Socialism regarding external links specifically on this topic

Article archives

In German


  1. Woodward, M.A., F.B.A., Prof. E.L., and Butler, M.A., Rohan, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 second series, vol.v, 1933, HMSO, London, 1956, p.60.
  2. The Reichstag had been set on fire by communists.
  3. The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was again formally banned in West Germany in 1956 by the Constitutional Court.
  4. Woodward & Butler, vol.v, 1956, p.46-7.
  5. Adolf Hitler, October 14, 1933 Radio Broadcast
  6. Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, by an editorial committee, Series C, vol.1, pps: 257 & 259, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London, 1957.
  7. German Documents, 1957, p.1.
  8. Per F Dahl (1 January 1999). Heavy Water and the Wartime Race for Nuclear Energy. CRC Press, 73–. ISBN 978-0-7503-0633-1. 
  9. (1997) Chemical Achievers: The Human Face of the Chemical Sciences. Chemical Heritage Foundation, 76-80. ISBN 9780941901123. 
  10. Die Olympischen Spiele 1936 in Berlin und Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Band 1, Winterspiele, pubs.Altona-Bahrendfeld, Germany.
  11. These youth groups were outlawed by the Allied Control Council on 10 October 1945.
  13. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939 edited by Norman H. Baynes, New York, 1969, vol.ii, p.1335-6, address to the Reichstag.
  14. Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year 1938, London, 1938, p.354
  15. Medlicott, Professor W.N., Dakin, Professor Douglas, Bennett, Gillian, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Second Series, vol.xvii, HMSO London, 1979, p.175.
  16. Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year 1938, London, 1938, p.354
  17. Nicosia, Francis R., The Third Reich and the Palestine Question, Tauris & Co., London, 1985, p.151-2, ISBN: 1-85043-010-1
  18. Great Britain and Palestine 1915-1945, Royal Institute of International Affairs, Information Papers [Book] No.20, London, 1946. p.66-7.
  19. Nicosia, 1985, p.163-4.
  20. German Documents on Foreign Policy 1918-1945 by an editorial board, Series D, vol.iv, p.482-3.
  21. Nicosia, 1985, p.163.