Third Reich Information / Informationen zum Dritten Reich

Hindenburg over New York City.

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Deutsche Reichsbahn

The Deutsche Reichsbahn, also known as the German National Railway, the German State Railway, German Reich Railway, and the German Imperial Railway, as the name of the German national railway system created after the end of World War I from the regional railways of the individual states of the German Empire. The Deutsche Reichsbahn has been described as “the largest enterprise in the capitalist world in the years between 1920 and 1932”, nevertheless its importance “arises primarily from the fact that the Reichsbahn was at the center of events in a period of great turmoil in German history.”

General Government

The General Government—sometimes also referred to as General Governorate was a German zone of occupation established after the joint invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 at the onset of World War II. The newly occupied Second Polish Republic was split into three zones: the General Government in its center, Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany in the west and Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union in the east. The territory was expanded in 1941 to include the District of Galicia.

The basis for the formation of General Government was a German claim of the total collapse of the Polish state, proclaimed by Hitler on October 8, 1939 through the so-called Annexation Decree on the Administration of the Occupied Polish Territories. This rationale was utilized by the German Supreme Court to reassign the identity of all Polish nationals as stateless subjects, with exception of the ethnic Germans of interwar Poland, named the only rightful citizens of the Third Reich, in disregard of international law.

The General Government was run by Nazi Germany as a separate administrative unit for logistical purposes. When the Wehrmacht forces attacked the Soviet positions in Kresy in June 1941 during its initially successful Operation Barbarossa, the area of the General Government was enlarged by the inclusion of the regions of Poland occupied by the Red Army since 1939. Within days, Eastern Galicia was overrun and renamed Distrikt Galizien. Until 1945 the General Government comprised much of central and southern Poland (and of modern-day Western Ukraine), including the major Polish cities of Warsaw, Kraków, Lwów, Lublin, Tarnopol and Stanisławów, among others.

The Nazi German rulers of the Generalgouvernement territory had no intention of sharing power with the Poles or Ukrainians throughout the war, regardless of their political orientation. The authorities rarely even mentioned the name “Poland” in government correspondence. The only exception to this was the General Government’s Bank of Issue in Poland (Polish: Bank Emisyjny w Polsce, German: Emissionbank in Polen). The government and administration of the General Government was composed entirely of Germans, with the intent that the area was to be colonized by German settlers who would reduce the remaining population to the level of serfs before their final genocide.

LZ 129 Hindenburg

LZ 129 Hindenburg (Luftschiff Zeppelin #129; Registration: D-LZ 129) was a large German commercial passenger-carrying rigid airship, the lead ship of the Hindenburg class, the longest class of flying machine and the largest airship by envelope volume. It was designed and built by the Zeppelin Company (Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH) on the shores of Lake Constance in Friedrichshafen and was operated by the German Zeppelin Airline Company (Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei). The airship flew from March, 1936 until it was destroyed by fire 14 months later on May 6, 1937 while attempting to land at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey at the end of the first North American transatlantic journey of its second season of service with the loss of 36 lives. This was the last of the great airship disasters; it was preceded by the crashes of the British R38 in 1921 (44 dead), the US airship Roma in 1922 (34 dead), the French Dixmude in 1923 (52 dead), the British R101 in 1930 (48 dead), and the US Akron in 1933 (73 dead).

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Hindenburg was named after the late Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, President of Germany from 1925 until his death in 1934.

Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia

The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (German: Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren; Czech: Protektorát Čechy a Morava) was the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate of Nazi Germany established following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia by annexing Sudetenland territory of Czech Lands as a Reichsgau. Following the establishment of the independent Slovak Republic on 14 March 1939, and the German occupation of the Czech rump state the next day, the protectorate was established on 16 March 1939 by a proclamation of Adolf Hitler from Prague Castle.

The German government justified its intervention by claiming that Czechoslovakia was descending into chaos as the country was breaking apart on ethnic lines, and that the German military was seeking to restore order in the region. Czechoslovakia at the time under President Emil Hácha had pursued a pro-German foreign policy; however, upon meeting with German Führer Adolf Hitler, Hácha submitted to Germany’s demands and issued a declaration stating that in light of events he accepted that the fate of the Czech people would be decided by Germany; Hitler accepted Hácha’s declaration and declared that Germany would provide the Czech people with an autonomous protectorate governed by ethnic Czechs. Hácha was appointed president of the protectorate the same day.

The Protectorate was an autonomous Nazi-administered territory which the German government considered part of the Greater German Reich. The state’s existence came to an end with the surrender of Germany to the Allies in 1945.

Reichsluftfahrtministerium – Ministry of Aviation

The Ministry of Aviation (German: Reichsluftfahrtministerium), abbreviated RLM, was a government department during the period of Nazi Germany. It is also the original name of the Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus building on the Wilhelmstrasse in central Berlin, Germany, which today houses the German Finance Ministry (Bundesministerium der Finanzen).

The Ministry was in charge of development and production of all aircraft developed, designed and built in Germany during the existence of the Third Reich, overseeing all matters concerning both military and civilian designs.  It handled military aviation matters as its top priority, particularly for the Luftwaffe. As was characteristic of government departments in the Nazi era, the Ministry was personality-driven and formal procedures were often ignored in favor of the whims of the Minister, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. As a result, early successes in aircraft development progressed only slowly and erratically during World War II.

Third Reich Architecture

Nazi architecture is the architecture promoted by the Third Reich from 1933 until its fall in 1945. It is characterized by three forms: a stripped-down neoclassicism typified by the designs of Albert Speer; a vernacular style that drew inspiration from traditional rural architecture, especially alpine; and a utilitarian style followed for major infrastructure projects and industrial or military complexes. Nazi ideology took a pluralist attitude to architecture; however, Adolf Hitler himself believed that form should follow function and wrote against “stupid imitations of the past”.

While similar to Classicism, the official Nazi-style is distinguished by the impression it leaves on viewers. The architectural style was used by the Nazis to deliver and enforce their ideology. Formal elements like flat roofs, horizontal extension, uniformity, and the lack of decor created “an impression of simplicity, uniformity, monumentality, solidity and eternity,” which is how the Nazi Party wanted to appear.

The construction of new buildings served other purposes beyond reaffirming Nazi ideology. In Flossenbürg and elsewhere, the SS built forced-labor camps where prisoners of the Third Reich were made to mine stone and make bricks, much of which went directly to Albert Speer for use in his rebuilding of Berlin and other projects in Germany. These new buildings were also built by forced-laborers. Working conditions were very hard and many laborers died. This process of mining and construction allowed the Nazis to fulfill political and economic goals simultaneously while creating buildings that fulfilled ideological expression goals.

The crowning achievement of this movement was to be Welthauptstadt Germania, the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin following the Nazis’ victory in World War II. Speer, who oversaw the project, produced most of the plans for the new city. Only a small portion of the “World Capital” was ever built between 1937 and 1943. The plan’s core features included the creation of a great neoclassical city based on an East-West axis with the Berlin victory column at its center. Major Nazi buildings like the Reichstag or the Große Halle (never built) would adjoin wide boulevards. A great number of historic buildings in the city were demolished in the planned construction zones. However, with the defeat of the Third Reich, the work was never started.

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