Third Reich


November 30, 2021

Third Reich refers to the Nazi German state ruled by Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945. This term is often used alternately with that of “Nazi Germany”. As the Republic was not abrogated in law during the year 1933, the term "German Reich" (Deutsches Reich) continues to be the official name given to the German state, in all administrative and political documents produced by Germany until 1945. However, from the fall of 1943, the term "Great German Reich" (Grossdeutsches Reich) was preferred by some representatives of the regime. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (abbreviated as “NSDAP”, for the German Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) was appointed chancellor by the President of the Weimar Republic Paul von Hindenburg on January 30, 1933. After his arrival in power, the party begins to destroy all political opposition in the country and to consolidate its power; Germany becomes a totalitarian state. After Hindenburg's death on August 2, 1934, Hitler established absolute power by merging the functions of chancellor and president. On August 19, 1934, he called himself “Führer”. From the end of the 1930s, Nazi Germany made territorial claims and threatened war. Austria was annexed in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939. An alliance was signed with the USSR and Poland was invaded in September 1939. The alliance was broken by Nazi Germany two years later with Operation Barbarossa. Another alliance is signed with fascist Italy and the Axis countries. Nazi Germany will occupy most of Europe, until being defeated on May 8, 1945. On May 23, the last Nazi government of Karl Dönitz is arrested. The Nazi propaganda destined the Third Reich to last “a thousand years”, it lasted twelve, the Weimar Republic having never been formally abrogated by the Nazis. A totalitarian-type police state, resting above all on the absolute power exercised by Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich is responsible for the outbreak of World War II in Europe. It leaves Germany and Europe in ruins. The ideology of the Third Reich was based on racism, anti-Semitism, the promotion of Lebensraum and the belief in the existence of an “Aryan race”. During World War II, the regime set up a genocidal system, made up of extermination camps, concentration camps, ghettos and massacres by mobile units. Nazi Germany thus committed the Shoah, the genocide of the Jews, the genocide of the Roma in Europe (Porajmos), the systematic killing of the disabled, as well as the deportation of homosexual people and political opponents of the regime.


Formally, the republic, known as the Weimar Republic, has never been abolished. The official name therefore remains the same, namely Deutsches Reich (German Reich), a name which the Empire already bore in 1871. From 1943, the name of Großdeutsches Reich (Great German Reich, sometimes rendered in Great German Reich ) is also used. The name Deutsches Reich is usually translated into French as "German Empire" or "German Reich"; depending on the context, the first ("Empire") is generally used for the period 1871-1918 when the country is ruled by an emperor (Kaiser in German, the country is therefore a Kaiserreich), the second ("Reich", non- translated) is used for the period 1918-1945, i.e. the regime informally referred to as the Weimar Republic and the Hitler regime. In French, the expressions "Germany Nazi" and "Third Reich" are commonly used to refer to the Hitler regime - when the context is not ambiguous, the simple word "Reich" refers to the regime.

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