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Rise Of The Third Reich History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Reich is a German word that is synonymous with the English word reign. It is used most often to designate, empire, realm or nation. This word has been traditionally used to define different sovereign entities including Germany for certain period of time in the history. In Latin however Reich mostly meant monarchy, in case of Germany this does not hold the same undertone. With respect to Germany specifically, Reich was used to connote ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’. Even the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany continued to use the same, Deutsches Reich while being republican in structure. Deutches Reich was so called for the first time under Otto Von Bismark, under whom German Roman Empire arose in 1871. The state of Germany retained this name till the year 1945 although It had been subjected to three different regimes during this span starting with German Republic, from (1871 to 1918) followed by the Weimar Republic from (1919 -1933) and finally it ended with Nazi Rule from (1933 to 1945). During the last phase specifically that is from 1933 to 1945 when Germany came under Fuhrer Hitler, the meaning of Deutches Reich however gained a new connotation. Under the influence of the propaganda, the last two regimes now came to be known as the First and the Second Reich. It now implied, German Imperialism, Strong Nationalism and a strong Political Entity. For that matter the German Parliament building also came to be known as the Reichstag Building.

The Third Reich (Drittes Reich) came to be established under the National Socialist German Workers party (NSDAP) led by Adolf Hitler, as a successor to the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806) and the German Empire (1871-1918), after bringing and end to the Weimar Republic, a parliamentary democracy established by Germany after World War I. Hitler became the chancellor on 30th January 1933. Soon after the death of German President, Paul von Hindenburg in August 1934 Hitler became the President. The German army swore an oath of loyalty to him. Thus Hitler’s dictatorship rested on him in the capacity of a Reich President (Head of the State), Reich Chancellor (Head of the Government), and Fuehrer (Head of the Nazi Party).


Soon after Hitler took up the command, Nazi foreign policy was guided by the racist belief that Germany was biologically destined to expand eastwards into Europe and perpetuate racially superior German command and establish permanent rule in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union. Here, women played a vital role. The Third Reich’s aggressive population policy encouraged “racially pure” women to bear as many “Aryan” children as possible. [1] Initially Hitler headed the coalition government however; he quickly eliminated his government partners.

The government soon put up a totalitarian dictatorship in Germany with the event of the mysterious fire in the Reichstag Building. All fingers soon pointed at the communist lobby. This gave Hitler an excuse of curbing the ongoing revolution in Germany by annulling most of the civil liberty rights including habeas corpus to suppress their opponents. The enabling Act of 1933 gave dictatorial powers upon Hitler and with that Germany officially became a single-party-state. By 1934 Germany was completely Centralized. All the State parliaments were disbanded, transferring their administrative powers to the Central Command at Berlin directly under Hitler. All political oppositions were ruthlessly eliminated at this point of time. Everything associated to the Weimar Republic was purposely bulldozed, starting with the change of the Weimar Republic flag with the Nazi swastika flag, even the national anthem lyrics was changed.

In one of his public addresses Hitler said,

“At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense, I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years! . . . Don’t forget how people laughed at me, 15 years ago, when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power” [2] 

Nazi propaganda took up full steam in Germany,

The international political developments post World War I also played a significant role behind the rise of the Third Reich. After the war, universal enthusiasm for democracy swept over Germany, and the form of government that emerged from such a chaos was a republic with a Social Democrat Government, the president being an ex-cobbler named Ebert.

The ‘Weimar Republic’ started its life in the most discouraging conditions. Everywhere there was disorder, disorganization and destitution. The Versailles treaty was basically a final nail to the coffin. [3] Although it was meant to be a peace treaty many consider the treaty as a “treaty imposed by the victors on the vanquished” [4] It had clauses like that of the “war guilt” and “war criminals” that forced Germany to take the entire responsibility for the war. By the end of this treaty there was a reparation chapter, The total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion marks (then $31.4 billion, £6.6 billion) in 1921. This was a sum that many economists deemed to be excessive because it would have taken Germany until 1988 to pay. [5] The disarmament scheme rendered Germany virtually crippled and defenses less. The Allies wanted to make sure that their enemy is incapable of waging any war in future for as long as possible. It was more rigorous and complete than any other disarmament process attempted in modern History. Under the armistice, Germany had surrendered the greater part of her fleet and her heavy artillery. Her army was limited to 100,000 men only. She was allowed to possess no submarines and no military aircraft. [6] The Allied Governments in the passion of moment however did not realize that this extorted admission of guilt would actually serve no purpose on the contrary it would excite bitter resentment in German minds.

Realizing the futility of reparation France decided to occupy Ruhr region of Germany which was industrially the most productive region of Germany having rich mine and iron ore content. The Ruhr occupation and the pressure of reparation together brought the whole economic life in Germany to a standstill. [7] This had resulted in complete bankruptcy of the German exchequer. The value of mark on the eve of occupation had fallen to 35000 to the pound. Throughout 1923 the decline was continuous its value was getting halved with each passing day. [8] Inflation was another greater disaster in Germany than the Treaty of Versailles, every mortgage, every investment bearing fixed interest, every banking accunt in marks, was rendered valueless. All savings were wiped out in one stroke. The working class who previously also used to be living hand to mouth had at any rate nothing to lose from this situation. The middle class however deprived of its savings forfeited that small margin which raised it above the proletariat and suffered all humiliations of loss and caste. It despised the working class to whose levels they had shrunk and the Jews whom it regarded as the profiteers of inflation. From this dispossessed and degraded middle class a sentiment was rearing its head and Hitler would one day come up from these ranks itself to draw the great mass into a revolution.

Hitler finally came to power on January 30th, 1933, when he became the German Chancellor in a government composed of three Nazis and eight nationalists. From this point on, all pretence of respect for legality and Constitutional form vanished. Jews, Social Democrats and Communists were in effect outlawed. Large number of them were driven from their homes, confined in concentration camps or subjected to great physical brutality. Many assassinations took place without any attempts being made to bring perpetrators to justice. Similar treatment was meted out to members of other parties who resisted or criticized the new dictatorship. Persecutions of racial, social, and ethnic minorities continued in Germany and occupied countries. Parallel to the Holocaust, the Nazis executed the Generalplan Ost (General Plan East) for the conquest, ethnic cleansing, and exploitation of the populaces of the captured Soviet and Polish territories; some 20 million Soviet civilians, 3 million gentile Poles, and 7 million Red Army soldiers were killed. [9] By 1933 all non-Nazi parties and party organizations had been forcibly dissolved, The Reichstag had henceforth no functions but to meet at rare intervals for the purpose applauding the Chancellor’s declarations of policy. As far as international politics was concerned, although Hitler emphatically disclaimed any desire to revise treaty settlement by force he however continued with the secret rearmament of Germany. [10] 

As far as the international scenario is concerned, once his regime was consolidated, Hitler took little interest in domestic policy, his sole concern being that Germany become sufficiently strong to realize his long-term geopolitical goal of creating a German empire that would dominate western Europe and extend deep into Russia. [11] In order to achieve his goal, Hitler made a de facto revision of treaty of Versailles, He withdrew from the League of Nations to reduce their control over Germany. He also stepped up the remilitarization process by 1920s. In 1936 Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, in violation of various treaties. In the same year, Germany, Japan, Italy signed the Anti-comintern pact pledging to defend each other against the Soviet Union and international communism. When war began in September 1939 with the invasion of Poland, Germany had a broad and impressive range of weapons, but not much in the way of replacements.The German army was permitted to occupy Austria by that country’s browbeaten political leadership. The annexation (Anschluss) of Austria was welcomed by most Austrians, who wished to become part of a greater Germany, something forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. In September 1938, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain consented to Hitler’s desire to take possession of the Sudetenland, an area in Czechoslovakia bordering Germany that was inhabited by about 3 million Germans. [12] In March 1939, Germany occupied the Czech-populated western provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, and Slovakia was made a German puppet state. [13] 

Immediately after the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, Britain and France finally became convinced of Hitler’s expansionist objectives and announced their intention to defend the sovereignty of Poland. Because Hitler had concluded that he could not hope for British neutrality in the coming war, he formed a formal military alliance with Italy–the Pact of Steel. In August he signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, thus apparently freeing Germany from repeating the two-front war it had fought in World War I. [14] 

The Thrid Reich finally fell apart at the conclusion of World War II and the defeat of Germany for the second time in the hands of the Allied powers. Hitler, along with many of his loyal Nazi officials committed suicide and the rest of the Nazi officials who survived the war were arrested and tried at the Nuremburg trials.


Thus we see that the international political developments post World War I played a significant role behind the rise of the Third Reich. The allied powers’ mishandling of Germany post World War I, and the effect of the treaty of Versailles brought Germany almost into a verge of destruction, the British and French took advantage of vanquished Germany thereby destroying their economy completely and bringing the Germans at the brink of deep poverty and great moral indignation. I see the rise of Hitler and the formation of Third Reich as a direct result of it. There is no doubt that there were other factors as well, that the above mentioned factors played a key role behind the rise of Third Reich. After Hitler came to power in 1933, we see Germany gradually coming out of its dilapidated state (of course there is no denying the fact that Germany did get enough international help for that purpose.) But the aggressive ways and means adopted by Hitler and the expansionist policies followed by him proved to be detrimental for Germany once again. The Nazi revolution during the Third Reich made a deep impression throughout the civilized world. In most of the countries the predominant feeling was one of moral indignation at the cruelties and excesses of the dictatorship. But all I can see about this is that it all began and ended with a chain of serious mistakes at the international, political and diplomatic levels.

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