German Reich

Deutsches Reich (German: [ˈdɔʏtʃəs ˈʁaɪç]) was the official name in the German language for the German nation state that existed from 1871 to 1945. The Reich became understood as deriving its authority and sovereignty entirely from a continuing unitary German 'national people'; with that authority and sovereignty being exercised at any one time over a unitary German 'state territory' with variable boundaries and extent. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not in itself have monarchical connotations. The word Kaiserreich is applied to denote an empire with an emperor; hence the German Empire of 1871–1918 is termed Deutsches Kaiserreich in standard works of reference.[1] From 1943 to 1945, the official name of Germany became – but was not formally proclaimed – Großdeutsches Reich ("Great-German Reich") on account of the further German peoples and associated territories annexed into the state's administration during and before the Second World War.

To refer to the entire period 1871–1945, the partially translated "German Reich" (/-ˈraɪk/) is applied by historians in formal contexts,[2] although, in common English usage, this state was and is known simply as Germany, the English term "German Empire" being reserved to denote the German state between 1871 and 1918.

The history of the nation-state known as the German Reich is commonly divided into three periods:

The Nazi regime later called itself the "Third Reich," counting the Holy Roman Empire as the first and the 1871 German Empire as the second, and ignoring the Weimar Republic.


The name Deutsches Reich was occasionally applied in contemporary maps to the Holy Roman Empire (911–1806), also called "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" from the 16th century onwards, though it constituted a supranational entity extending beyond the frontiers of the German language area (Sprachraum). The first attempt to establish a "German Empire" during the 1848 March Revolution by the Frankfurt Constitution ultimately failed: it was aborted by the monarchs of the German Confederation, especially by the King of Prussia, fighting German nationalism, which then was tied to the idea of popular sovereignty.

Following the Anschluss annexation of Austria in 1938, Nazi Germany informally named itself the Greater German Reich (German: Großdeutsches Reich). This name was made the official state name only during the last two years (1943–45) of Nazi rule under Adolf Hitler,[3] although the change was never proclaimed. After World War II, the denotation "German Reich" quickly fell into disuse in Allied-occupied Germany, however, and the state's continued existence remained a matter of debate; the post-war Bonn Republic maintained the continued existence of the German Reich as an 'overall state", but dormant while East and West Germany continued to be divided. Nevertheless, when Germany was reunited in 1990 the term "German Reich" was not revived as a title for the Berlin Republic.

The difference between "Reich" and "Empire"

Deutsches Kaiserreich 1893
Deutsches Reich, 1893 map

The German word Reich translates to the English word "empire" (it also translates to such words as "realm" or "domain"). However, this translation was not used throughout the full existence of the German Reich. Historically, only Germany from 1871 to 1918 — when Germany was under the rule of an emperor (Kaiser) — is known in English as the "German Empire" (Deutsches Kaiserreich in German historiography), while the term "German Reich" describes Germany from 1871 to 1945.[2] As the literal translation "German Empire" denotes a monarchy, the term is used only in reference to Germany before the fall of the monarchy at the end of World War I in 1918.

After the Unification of Germany, under the reign of the Prussian king Wilhelm I and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the historic German states (e.g. Bavaria and Saxony) were united with Prussia under imperial rule, by the Hohenzollern dynasty. On 18 January 1871, Wilhelm I was proclaimed "German Emperor" at the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, the German Reich was officially declared Deutsches Reich, or "German Empire",[4] explicitly referring back to the extinct Holy Roman Empire. The title "German Emperor" was a compromise; Wilhelm I had wanted the title of "Emperor of Germany", but Bismarck refused this, so as to avoid implying a claim to extended monarchical authority over non-Prussian German kingdoms. On 14 April 1871, the Reichstag parliament passed the Constitution of the German Empire (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches), which was published two days later.

However, originating from the North German Confederation, the Empire never comprised all "German" lands; as it excluded Luxembourg, and those Cisleithanian crown lands of Austria-Hungary which had been part of the former German Confederation until 1865. Moreover, it included the whole of the Kingdom of Prussia, the eastern parts of which had never been included in historic German lands. The unification under Prussian leadership manifested Bismarck's "Lesser German" solution of the German question after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, realised with the support of his national liberal allies. On the other hand, the German Reich of 1871 comprised extended Prussian territories with large non-German sections of the population, like Posen, West Prussia or Schleswig, and also territories with predominantly German populations which had never been constitutionally "German", such as East Prussia.

Bismarck was otherwise unable, however, to avoid the term German Reich acquiring connotations from the English term "empire" or the Dutch term "rijk"; especially in emulation of late 19th century Imperialism, as exemplified by the British Empire, the Dutch Empire and the French colonial empire. Although a latecomer (and against Bismarck's pleading), the German Empire established colonies in modern Togo, Cameroon, Namibia, Tanzania and Polynesia; with an extensive naval capability to support these. At the same time strong Pan-Germanic political forces emerged, pressing for the borders of the Reich to be extended into a German-led central European multi-ethnic empire, emulating and rivalling Imperial Russia to the east.

Before and during the events of World War I, the German state was called an "empire" in English and Wilhelm II was titled "His Imperial and Royal Majesty the German Emperor." After the War and the abolition of the monarchy during the German Revolution of 1918–19, however, when Wilhelm was forced to abdicate, the official English name for Germany was the "German Reich": Reich was left untranslated and no longer referred to an "empire" but, instead, took on the connotation of "Realm" or "State". "German Reich" was used in legal documents and English-language international treaties — for example, the Kellogg–Briand Pact[5] and the Geneva Conventions.[6]

Apart from official documents, post-World War I Germany was referred to as the "German Reich" — never as the "German Empire" — for example, by British politicians[7]—and the word "Reich" was used untranslated by Allied prosecutors throughout the Nuremberg Trials, with "German Empire" only used to describe Germany before it became a federal republic in 1918.

Reich as "national people" versus Reich as "state territory"

At the 1871 Unification of Germany (aside from Austria), the Reich was established constitutionally as a federation of monarchies, each having entered the federation with a defined territory; and consequently the unitary nationalism of the 'German Reich' was initially specified (at Article 1 of the 1871 constitution) in territorial terms, as the lands within the former boundaries of this particular subset of German monarchies[8]. This geographical understanding of the Reich became steadily superseded in the period up to the first World War by an understanding of the German Reich as a unitary nation state identified with the German national people according to the principle of jus sanguinis, and drawing on the rhetoric of "the sovereignty of the nation" in the Frankfurt Constitution[9]—albeit that many ethnic "Germans" (as with the German-speaking peoples of Austria) remained outside the national people constituting the German Empire of 1871 and also that the Empire of 1871 included extensive territories (such as Posen) with predominantly non-German populations. This transition became formalised in the constitution of the Weimar Republic,[10] where Article 1 identifies the Reich as deriving its authority from the German national people, while Article 2 identifies the state territory under the Reich as the lands which, at the time of the constitution's adoption, were within the authority of the German state. The identity of Reich and people ran both ways—not only did the institutions of the German state derive their legitimacy from the German people, so, too, the German people derived their inherent identity and patriotic duties from their being collectively constituted as an organ and institution of the German Reich[11]. Subsequently the term "German Reich" continued to be applied both as identifying with the national people, and also with the state territory; but increasingly, the application of the term to the German national people came to be seen as primary.[12] Following the Second World War, the term "German Reich" fell out of use in constitutional formulations, being replaced by the term "nation as a whole", as applied to denote the state as a totality of the German national people; and the term "Germany as a whole", as applied to denote the state as a totality of German national territory.

Nazi perspective on the Weimar Republic

The 1918–1933 republic, which was also called German Reich, was ignored and denounced by the Nazis as a historical aberration. The name "Weimar Republic" was first used in 1929 after Hitler referred to the period as the "Republik von Weimar" (Republic of Weimar) at a rally in Munich with the term later becoming mainstream during the 1930s both within and outside Germany.[13] The Nazis also contemptuously referred to it as "the System".[14]

A 1923 book entitled Das Dritte Reich by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck[15] counted the medieval Holy Roman Empire as the first and the 1871–1918 monarchy as the second, which was then to be followed by a "reinvigorated" third one.

End of World War II

On 8 May 1945, with the capitulation of the German armed forces, the supreme command of the Wehrmacht was handed over to the Allies. The Allies refused to recognise Karl Dönitz as Reichspräsident or to recognise the legitimacy of his Flensburg Government (so-called because it was based at Flensburg and controlled only a small area around the town) and, on 5 June 1945, the four powers signed the Berlin Declaration and assumed de jure supreme authority with respect to Germany.[16] The declaration asserted the complete legal extinction of the Third Reich following death of Adolf Hitler on 30 April 1945, but the continued subsequent existence of a German people and a German national territory; although subject to the four signatory powers also asserting their authority to determine the future boundaries of Germany.

At the Potsdam Conference, Allied-occupied Germany was defined as comprising "Germany as a whole"; and was divided into British, French, American and Soviet occupation zones; while the Allied Powers exercised the state authority assumed by the Berlin Declaration in transferring the former eastern territories of the German Reich east of the Oder–Neisse line to the Republic of Poland and the Soviet Union.

Divided Germany

In 1973, in a review of the previous year's Basic Treaty between East and West Germany, the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) ruled that according to the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany the German Reich had outlasted the collapse in 1945, and hence had continued to exist as an “overall state”, albeit one not itself capable of action. The court ruled that since 1949 the Federal Republic (FRG) had been partially identical with the German Reich and not merely its successor.[17] The court further elaborated that the 'partial identity' of the FRG was limited to apply only within its current de facto territory; and hence the Federal Republic could not claim an exclusive mandate for the territory of the Reich then under the de facto government of the German Democratic Republic; "identity does not require exclusivity". This was explained as being because the German Democratic Republic was beyond FRG authority and because the Allied powers still had jurisdiction where "Germany as a whole" was concerned. Nevertheless, the Court insisted that within the territory of the Federal Republic, the GDR could only be considered as one de jure German state amongst others, on the analogy of the pre-existing de jure German states that in 1949 had come together as the Federal Republic; and hence, like them, could never be accorded by the organs of the Federal Republic full recognition as a state in international law; even though the Federal Constitutional Court recognised that, within international law, the GDR was indeed an independent sovereign state. The constitutional status of the GDR under the Basic Law still differed from that of the Länder of the Federal Republic, in that the GDR had not declared its accession to the Basic Law; but the Constitutional Court maintained that the Basic Treaty was consistent with the GDR declaring its accession at some time in the future in accordance with its own constitution; and hence the Court determined that in recognising the GDR as a de jure German State, the Basic Treaty could be interpreted as facilitating the reunification of the German Reich (as indeed it eventually did). So long as any de jure German state remained separated from the rest, the German Reich could continue to exist only in suspension; but should the GDR be reunited with the Federal Republic, the Reich would once more be fully capable of action as a sovereign state.

"In Article 6 the Contracting Parties agree that they shall base themselves on the principle that the sovereign power of each of the two States be confined to its State territory and that they will respect the independence and autonomy of each of the two States in domestic and foreign affairs. This agreement too is compatible with the Basic Law only if interpreted to the effect that for the Federal Republic of Germany the basis of this Treaty is the continued existence of Germany, which has according to the Basic Law to be recognized as a State (albeit not organized and therefore not capable of action), and that accordingly the mutual restriction of sovereign power to the territory of the State and respect for the independence and autonomy of each of the two States in domestic and foreign affairs has its reference to the special situation in which both States find themselves vis-à-vis each other as sub-States of Germany as a whole."

After 1973, however, the claimed identity of the Federal Republic with the German Reich was not recognised by most other countries of the world. The Soviet Union, the three Western allies, and most other Western countries regarded the German Reich as still being one nation — not synonymous with either the West or East German state but rather the two states in collective. Other countries tended to regard the German Reich as having been divided into two distinct states in international law, and accordingly accorded both states full diplomatic recognition. As of 1974, East Germany's official stance was that the GDR was a new state that is German in nature, a successor of the German Empire,[18] and that there were then two German states that were different nations.

Reunified Germany

When the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany between Germany and the wartime Allies was signed on 12 September 1990, there was no mention of the term Deutsches Reich, however the Allies paraphrased the international legal personality of Germany as "Germany as a whole" in the English version of the text. Instead the states of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany, FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, GDR) agreed to be bound by certain conditions which they had to ratify, one of which was the recognising the reunification of East Germany, West Germany and Berlin as constituting the full achievement of a united Germany. On meeting these conditions under Article 7.2 "The United Germany [has] accordingly full sovereignty over its internal and external affairs."[19]

Under Article 1 of the Treaty on Final Settlement, the new united Germany committed itself to renouncing any further territorial claims beyond the boundaries of East Germany, West Germany and Berlin; "The united Germany has no territorial claims whatsoever against other states and shall not assert any in the future." Furthermore the Basic Law of the Federal Republic was required to be amended to state explicitly that full German unification had now been achieved, such that the new German state comprised the entirety of Germany, and that all constitutional mechanisms should be removed by which any territories outside those boundaries could otherwise subsequently be admitted; these amendments being bound by treaty not to be revoked. Article 23 of the Basic Law was repealed, closing off the possibility for any further states to apply for membership of the Federal Republic; while Article 146 was amended to state explicitly that the territory of the newly unified republic comprised the entirety of the German people; "This Basic Law, which since the achievement of the unity and freedom of Germany applies to the entire German people, shall cease to apply on the day on which a constitution freely adopted by the German people takes effect". This was confirmed in the 1990 rewording of the preamble; "Germans..have achieved the unity and freedom of Germany in free self-determination. This Basic Law thus applies to the entire German people." In place of the former Article 23 under which the former GDR had declared its accession to the Federal Republic, a new Article 23 embedded the accession of the Federal Republic to the European Union within the Basic Law; hence with the subsequent accession of Poland to the EU, the constitutional bar on pursuing any claim to territories beyond the Oder–Neisse line was reinforced. In so far as the German Reich may be claimed to continue in existence as 'Germany as a whole', the former eastern territories of Germany in Poland or Russia, and the western territories, such as the eastern cantons or Elsass-Lothringen, are now definitively and permanently excluded from ever again being united within this Reich under the Basic Law.

Hence, although the GDR had by the Volkskammer's declaration of accession to the Federal Republic, initiated the process of reunification; the act of reunification itself (with its many specific terms and conditions; including the fundamental amendments to the Basic Law required by the Treaty of Final Settlement) was achieved constitutionally by the subsequent Unification Treaty of 31 August 1990; that is through a binding agreement between the former GDR and the Federal Republic now recognising each another as separate sovereign states in international law.[20] This treaty was then voted into effect by both the Volkskammer and the Bundestag by the constitutionally required two-thirds majorities; effecting on the one hand, the extinction of the GDR, and on the other, the agreed amendments to the Basic Law of the Federal Republic. Hence, although the GDR had nominally declared its accession the Federal Republic under Article 23 of the Basic Law, this did not imply its acceptance of the Basic Law as it then stood; but rather of the Basic Law as subsequently amended in line with the Unification Treaty and the Treaty of Final Settlement. These amendments had the effect of removing all those clauses by which the Federal Constitutional Court had formerly maintained the identity of the Federal Republic with the historic 'German Reich', specifically including the very Article 23 that had provided the basis for the Volkskammer's declaration of accession.

See also


  1. ^ Harper's magazine, Volume 63. Pp. 593. Nevertheless the official name of the German Empire remained as Deutsches Reich because the constitutional position of the head of state was officially a "presidency" of a confederation of German states led by the King of Prussia who would assume "the title of German Emperor" as referring to the German people, but was not emperor of Germany as in an emperor of a state.
  2. ^ a b "Germany" in the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. ^ Decree RK 7669 E of the Reichsminister and head of the Reich chancellery Hans Lammers, 26 June 1943.
  4. ^ "Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law with respect to Collisions between Vessels". Brussels. 23 September 1910. — an example of a legal document in which Germany is officially referred to as "the German Empire"
  5. ^ "Full text of the Kellogg–Briand Pact". 27 August 1928. Archived from the original on 2012-05-09.
  6. ^ "Full text of the Geneva Convention". 27 July 1929.
  7. ^ "Speech by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain". 17 March 1939. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007.
  8. ^ Heun, Werner (2011), The Constitution of Germany, Hart, p. 14
  9. ^ Heun, Werner (2011), The Constitution of Germany, Hart, p. 16
  10. ^ Heun, Werner (2011), The Constitution of Germany, Hart, p. 17
  11. ^ Heun, Werner (2011), The Constitution of Germany, Hart, p. 88
  12. ^ Heun, Werner (2011), The Constitution of Germany, Hart, p. 33
  13. ^ Eva-Maria Schnurr (September 2014). "Der Name des Feindes: Warum heißt die erste deutsche Demokratie eigentlich "Weimarer Republik?"". 5/2014 (Der Spiegel - Geschichte 3 Hausmitteilung 137 Impressum ed.). Der Spiegel: 20.
  14. ^ Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus. 2. durchges. u. überarb, Aufl. Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019549-1, pp. 597-598.
  15. ^ The man who invented the Third Reich: the life and times of Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. Npi Media Ltd. May 1, 1999. ISBN 978-0-75-091866-4.
  16. ^ Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers Archived 2007-02-18 at the Wayback Machine, 5 June 1945
  17. ^ BVerfGE 36, 1: Verdict of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) regarding the East–West Basic Treatyin German and in English, 31 July 1973
  18. ^ Donald M. McRae, Canadian Yearbook of International Law 2005, Vol. 43, University of British Columbia, Vancouver 2006, p. 431.
  19. ^ Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany. Updated: November 2003
  20. ^ Kommers, Donald P (2012), The Constitutional Jursiprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany, Duke University Presss, p. 309

External links

1934 German referendum

A referendum on merging the posts of Chancellor and President was held in Germany on 19 August 1934, after the death of President Paul von Hindenburg 17 days earlier. The German leadership sought to gain approval for Adolf Hitler's assumption of supreme power. The referendum was associated with widespread intimidation of voters, and Hitler used the resultant large "yes" vote to claim public support for his activities as the de facto head of state of Germany. In fact, he had assumed these offices and powers immediately upon von Hindenburg's death and used the referendum to legitimize this move, taking the title Führer und Reichskanzler (Führer and Chancellor).

Administrative divisions of Nazi Germany

Gaue (Singular: Gau) were the de facto main administrative divisions of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945.

The Gaue were formed in 1926 as Nazi Party regional districts in Weimar Germany based on the territorial changes after the First World War. The Gau system was established in 1934 as part of the Gleichschaltung process, replacing the de jure system of Länder (states) and Prussian provinces, which held no administrative purpose since the Enabling Act of 1933 and were reduced to rudimentary bodies. Each Gau was headed by an administrative leader, the Gauleiter, a high-ranking Nazi Party official with near-autocratic powers.

Germany consisted of 32 Gaue in 1934, eventually peaking at 42 Gaue with regions occupied in 1938 to early 1939 (Austria, Sudetenland, Memelland) and conquered during the Second World War incorporated into existing Gaue or organised as Reichsgaue, a special type of Gau where the Gauleiter also carried the position of Reichsstatthalter. The Gaue system was dissolved on May 8, 1945, following the surrender of Nazi Germany.

Chancellor of Germany

The title Chancellor has designated different offices in the history of Germany. It is currently used for the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundeskanzler(in) der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), the head of government of Germany.

The term, dating from the Early Middle Ages, is derived from the Latin term cancellarius.

The modern office of chancellor evolved from the position created for Otto von Bismarck in the North German Confederation in 1867; this federal state evolved into a German nation-state with the 1871 Unification of Germany. The role of the chancellor has varied greatly throughout Germany's modern history. Today, the chancellor is the country's effective leader, although in formal protocol, the Bundespräsident and Bundestagspräsident are ranked higher.

In German politics, the chancellor is the equivalent of a prime minister in many other countries.

The chancellor is elected by the Bundestag.The current, official title in German is Bundeskanzler(in), which means "federal chancellor", and is sometimes shortened to Kanzler(in).

The 8th and current chancellor is Angela Merkel, who is serving her fourth term in office.

She is the first female chancellor.

Constitution of the German Empire

The Constitution of the German Empire (German: Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches) was the basic law of the German Empire of 1871-1918, from 16 April 1871, coming into effect on 4 May 1871. German historians often refer to it as Bismarck's imperial constitution, in German the Bismarcksche Reichsverfassung (BRV).

According to the constitution, the empire was a federation (federally organised national state) of 25 German states under the permanent presidency of Prussia, the largest and most powerful state. The presidency of the confederation (Bundespräsidium) was a hereditary office of the King of Prussia, who had the title of German Emperor. The Emperor appointed the Chancellor, the head of government and chairman of the Bundesrat, the council of representatives of the German states. Laws were enacted by the Bundesrat and the Reichstag, the Imperial Diet elected by male Germans above the age of 25 years.

The constitution followed an earlier constitution of 1 January 1871, the Constitution of the German Confederation. That constitution already incorporated some of the agreements between the North German Confederation and the four German states south of the River Main. It renamed the country to Deutsches Reich (conventionally translated to 'German Empire') and gave the Prussian King the title of German Emperor.The constitutions of 1 January and 4 May 1871 are both essentially an amended version of the North German Constitution, which had likewise been instigated by Otto von Bismarck. The political system remained the same.

The constitution lost its effect in the November Revolution of 1918: the legislative and executive powers were performed by a new revolutionary organ. A national assembly created in 1919 a new, republican constitution: the Weimar Constitution, which has the same title in German as its predecessor (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches, or 'Constitution of the German Reich').

Deutsche Reichsbahn (East Germany)

The Deutsche Reichsbahn or DR (German Reich Railways) was the operating name of state owned railways in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and after German reunification until 31 December 1993.

In 1949 occupied Germany's railways were returned to German control after four years of Allied control following World War II. Those in the Soviet occupation zone (which became the German Democratic Republic or GDR on 7 October 1949) continued to run as the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the name given to the German national railways in 1937. In West Germany, the Reichsbahn was succeeded by the Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB).

Both the Reichsbahn and the Bundesbahn continued as separate entities until 1994, when they merged to form the Deutsche Bahn.

Deutsche Reichspartei

The Deutsche Reichspartei (DRP, German Reich Party, German Imperial Party or German Empire Party) was a nationalist political party in West Germany. It was founded in 1950 from the German Right Party (German: Deutsche Rechtspartei), which had been set up in Lower Saxony in 1946 and had five members in the first Bundestag.

Frankfurt Constitution

The Frankfurt Constitution (German: Frankfurter Reichsverfassung, FRV) or Constitution of St. Paul's Church (Paulskirchenverfassung), officially named the Constitution of the German Empire (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches) of 28 March 1849, was an unsuccessful attempt to create a unified German nation state in the successor states of the Holy Roman Empire organised in the German Confederation. Adopted and proclaimed by the Frankfurt Parliament after the Revolutions of 1848, the constitution contained a charter of fundamental rights and a democratic government in the form of a constitutional monarchy. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was designated head of state as "Emperor of the Germans" (Kaiser der Deutschen), a role he rejected.

The constitution is called by its more common names in order to distinguish it from the Constitution of the German Empire enacted in 1871 and initiated by Otto von Bismarck.

German-occupied Europe

German-occupied Europe refers to the sovereign countries of Europe which were occupied and civil occupied including puppet government by the military forces and the government of Nazi Germany at various times between 1939 and 1945 and administered by the Nazi regime. The furthest east in Europe the German Wehrmacht managed to occupy was the town of Mozdok in the Soviet Union. The furthest north in Europe the German Wehrmacht managed to occupy was the settlement of Barentsburg in the Kingdom of Norway. The furthest south in Europe the German Wehrmacht managed to occupy was the island of Gavdos in the Kingdom of Greece. The furthest west in Europe the German Wehrmacht managed to occupy was the island of Ushant in the French Republic.

Germany and the Second World War

Germany and the Second World War (German: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg) is a 12,000-page, 13-volume work published by the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA), that has taken academics from the military history centre of the German armed forces 30 years to finish.

Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic

Hyperinflation affected the German Papiermark, the currency of the Weimar Republic, between 1921 and 1923. It caused considerable internal political instability in the country, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium as well as misery for the general populace.

List of Chancellors of Germany

The Chancellor of Germany is the political leader of Germany and the head of the Federal Government. The office holder is responsible for selecting all other members of the government and chairing cabinet meetings.The office was created in the North German Confederation in 1867, when Otto von Bismarck became the first Chancellor. With the unification of Germany and establishment of the German Empire in 1871, the Confederation evolved into a German nation-state and the office became known as the Chancellor of Germany.Originally, the Chancellor was only responsible to the Emperor. This changed with the constitutional reform in 1918, when the Parliament was given the right to dismiss the Chancellor. Under the 1919 Weimar Constitution the Chancellors were appointed by the directly elected President, but were responsible to Parliament. The constitution was set aside during the 1933–1945 Nazi dictatorship. During Allied occupation, no independent German government and no Chancellor existed; and the office was not reconstituted in East Germany. The 1949 Basic Law made the Chancellor the most important office in West Germany, while diminishing the role of the President.

Nazi Germany

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich (German Reich) until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich (Greater German Reich) from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich (German: Drittes Reich), meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, on 30 January 1933. The NSDAP then began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidate its power. Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934 and Hitler became dictator of Germany by merging the offices and powers of the Chancellery and Presidency. A national referendum held 19 August 1934 confirmed Hitler as sole Führer (leader) of Germany. All power was centralised in Hitler's person and his word became the highest law. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Hitler's favour. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Nazis restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Extensive public works were undertaken, including the construction of Autobahnen (motorways). The return to economic stability boosted the regime's popularity.

Racism, especially antisemitism, was a central feature of the regime. The Germanic peoples were considered by the Nazis to be the master race, the purest branch of the Aryan race. Discrimination and persecution against Jews and Romani people began in earnest after the seizure of power. The first concentration camps were established in March 1933. Jews and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned, and liberals, socialists, and communists were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. Christian churches and citizens that opposed Hitler's rule were oppressed, and many leaders imprisoned. Education focused on racial biology, population policy, and fitness for military service. Career and educational opportunities for women were curtailed. Recreation and tourism were organised via the Strength Through Joy program, and the 1936 Summer Olympics showcased Germany on the international stage. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Hitler's hypnotic oratory to influence public opinion. The government controlled artistic expression, promoting specific art forms and banning or discouraging others.

The Nazi regime dominated neighbours through military threats in the years leading up to war. Nazi Germany made increasingly aggressive territorial demands, threatening war if these were not met. It seized Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. Hitler made a non-aggression pact with Joseph Stalin and invaded Poland in September 1939, launching World War II in Europe. By early 1941, Germany controlled much of Europe. Reichskommissariats took control of conquered areas and a German administration was established in the remainder of Poland. Germany exploited the raw materials and labour of both its occupied territories and its allies. In the Holocaust, millions of Jews and other peoples deemed undesirable by the state were imprisoned, murdered in Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps, or shot.

While the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was initially successful, the Soviet resurgence and entry of the US into the war meant the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) lost the initiative on the Eastern Front in 1943 and by late 1944 had been pushed back to the pre-1939 border. Large-scale aerial bombing of Germany escalated in 1944 and the Axis powers were driven back in Eastern and Southern Europe. After the Allied invasion of France, Germany was conquered by the Soviet Union from the east and the other Allies from the west, and capitulated in May 1945. Hitler's refusal to admit defeat led to massive destruction of German infrastructure and additional war-related deaths in the closing months of the war. The victorious Allies initiated a policy of denazification and put many of the surviving Nazi leadership on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials.

Postage stamps and postal history of Baden

Postage stamps and postal history of Baden refers to the postal history and postage stamps of the German state of Baden from 1851 to 1871.

President of Germany (1919–1945)

The Reichspräsident was the German head of state under the Weimar constitution, which was officially in force from 1919 to 1945. In English he was usually simply referred to as the President of Germany. The German title Reichspräsident literally means President of the Reich, the term Reich referring to the federal nation state established in 1871.

The Weimar constitution created a semi-presidential system in which power was divided between the president, a cabinet and a parliament. The Reichspräsident was directly elected under universal adult suffrage for a seven-year term. It was intended that the president would rule in conjunction with the Reichstag (legislature) and that his emergency powers would be exercised only in extraordinary circumstances, but the political instability of the Weimar period, and a paralysing factionalism in the legislature, meant that the president came to occupy a position of considerable power (not unlike that of the German Emperor he replaced), capable of legislating by decree and appointing and dismissing governments at will.

In 1934, after the death of President Hindenburg, Adolf Hitler, already Chancellor, assumed the Presidency, but did not usually use the title of President – ostensibly out of respect for Hindenburg – and preferred to rule as Führer und Reichskanzler ("Leader and Reich Chancellor"), highlighting the positions he already held in party and government. In his last will in April 1945, Hitler named Joseph Goebbels his successor as Chancellor but named Karl Dönitz as Reichspräsident, thus reviving the individual office for a short while until the German surrender.

The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany established the office of Federal President (Bundespräsident), which is, however, a chiefly ceremonial post largely devoid of political power.


The Reichsadler ("Imperial Eagle") is the heraldic eagle, derived from the Roman eagle standard, used by the Holy Roman Emperors and in modern coats of arms of Germany, including those of the Second German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (Nazi Germany, 1933–1945).

The same design has remained in use by the Federal Republic of Germany since 1945, albeit under the name Bundesadler ("Federal Eagle").

Reichsrat (Germany)

The Reichsrat was one of two legislative bodies in Germany during Weimar Republic (1919–1933), the other being the Reichstag.

The Reichsrat consisted of members appointed by the German States and participated in legislation affecting all constitutional changes and state competences, while the Reichstag was the elected body of the people. Therefore, the Reichsrat functioned similarly to a parliamentary upper house, such as the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, although the Weimar constitution did not specifically spell out a bicameral parliament. The Reichsrat was the successor body to the Bundesrat of the German Empire (1867–1918), which was a more formalized upper house.

Reichstag (Weimar Republic)

The Reichstag (English: Diet of the Realm) was the Lower house of the Weimar Republic's Legislature from 1919, with the creation of the Weimar constitution, to 1933, with the Reichstag fire.

Weimar Constitution

The Constitution of the German Reich (German: Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs), usually known as the Weimar Constitution (Weimarer Verfassung) was the constitution that governed Germany during the Weimar Republic era (1919–1933). The constitution declared Germany to be a democratic parliamentary republic with a legislature elected under proportional representation. Universal suffrage was established, with a minimum voting age of 20. The constitution technically remained in effect throughout the Nazi era from 1933 to 1945.

The constitution's title was the same as the Constitution of the German Empire that preceded it. The German state's official name was Deutsches Reich until the adoption of the 1949 Basic Law.

Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic (German: Weimarer Republik [ˈvaɪmaʁɐ ʁepuˈbliːk] (listen)) is an unofficial historical designation for the German state from 1918 to 1933. The name derives from the city of Weimar, where its constitutional assembly first took place. The official name of the republic remained Deutsches Reich unchanged from 1871, because of the German tradition of substates. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not in itself have monarchical connotations per se. The Reich was changed from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. In English, the country was usually known simply as Germany.

Germany became a de facto republic on 9 November 1918 when Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the German and Prussian thrones with no agreement made on a succession by his son Crown Prince Wilhelm, and became a de jure republic in February 1919 when the position of President of Germany was created. A national assembly was convened in Weimar, where a new constitution for Germany was written and adopted on 11 August 1919. In its fourteen years, the Weimar Republic faced numerous problems, including hyperinflation, political extremism (with paramilitaries—both left- and right-wing) as well as contentious relationships with the victors of the First World War. Resentment in Germany towards the Treaty of Versailles was strong especially on the political right where there was great anger towards those who had signed the Treaty and submitted to fulfill the terms of it. The Weimar Republic fulfilled most of the requirements of the Treaty of Versailles although it never completely met its disarmament requirements and eventually paid only a small portion of the war reparations (by twice restructuring its debt through the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan). Under the Locarno Treaties, Germany accepted the western borders of the country by abandoning irredentist claims on France and Belgium, but continued to dispute the eastern borders and sought to persuade German-speaking Austria to join Germany as one of Germany's states.

From 1930 onwards President Hindenburg used emergency powers to back Chancellors Heinrich Brüning, Franz von Papen and General Kurt von Schleicher. The Great Depression, exacerbated by Brüning's policy of deflation, led to a surge in unemployment. In 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor with the Nazi Party being part of a coalition government. The Nazis held two out of the remaining ten cabinet seats. Von Papen as Vice Chancellor was intended to be the "éminence grise" who would keep Hitler under control, using his close personal connection to Hindenburg. Within months, the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act of 1933 had brought about a state of emergency: it wiped out constitutional governance and civil liberties. Hitler's seizure of power (Machtergreifung) was permissive of government by decree without legislative participation. These events brought the republic to an end – as democracy collapsed, the founding of a single-party state began the dictatorship of the Nazi era.

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