February 22, 2024

1934. "Concept of Third Reich Begins to Take Reality"

Nazis Use Nationalist Nostalgia to Claim Legitimacy
Map featured in The New York Times on March 27, 1938

From The New York Times, October 7, 1934:

With Their Leader Firmly Entrenched in Power, the Nazis Hope for a New Era of German Greatness

Adolf Hitler, heavily entrenched in power, recently predicted that the Third Reich would last a thousand years. Even if, to those outside Germany, it does not seem firmly established, in the minds of the Nazis the concept of the new Reich is taking a definite form. For a year and a half the Third Reich has been a hope and a slogan, with Hitler sharing his power with Field Marshal von Hindenburg. Hindenburg's tomb at Tannenberg was also the Third Reich's birthplace.

What is the Third Reich, and what were the First and Second Reichs from which the new order seeks inspiration?

To Hitlerites the Third Reich is a new Germany in which Nazi supreme authority is exerted by a Leader to whom Germans everywhere bow. Its sources and ideology were described by the theoretician Moeller van den Bruck, whose volume "Das Dritte Reich" is Nazi gospel, second in importance only to Hitler's own book. In the view of van den Bruck and his disciples, the Third Reich must comprise all people of German blood, whether born in Germany or outside. A German, they say, owes allegiance to the Third Reich notwithstanding that he may be the citizen of another country.

It may be pointed out that among the principal Nazi leaders are some who were born in Austria, Egypt, Argentina and Russia. Dr. Alfred Rosenberg, born a Russian but withal the spiritual director of the Third Reich, thus expresses the essence of that realm: "Under its rule race ranks higher than the State, and the protection of the race is the supreme aim of law."

Conformity a Duty

Hence, while Germany's present boundaries contain about 65,000,000 inhabitants, the population of the Third Reich is regarded as 100,000,000. According to the Nazi doctrine, it is the duty of all members of this Reich to feel and think alike. This can be accomplished only by ultimately uniting the Germans living outside of the geographical Reich with their fellows at home.

The Third Reich, as the Nazis set it forth, seeks to emulate the autocratic greatness of the First Empire in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when Germany's famous Hohenstaufen family ruled over a large part of Europe as Holy Roman Emperors. It seeks at the same time to eclipse the greatness of the Second Reich, that was born in 1871 in the Versailles Hall of Mirrors, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, and died in the same hall in 1918, at the end of the World War. Both the first and Second Reichs are considered by the Nazis in many ways the high points of their country's history.

In adopting the name "Third Reich" the Nazis have taken a label that might militate against Communist gains in Germany. The phrase "Third Reich," it is their hope, will hold greater appeal for Germans than the Third International. It has often been suggested that number three stands for finality. Whereas the First and Second Reichs together lasted for less than two centuries, the Hitlerites expect the Third Reich to endure for a millennium.

Heroes of the First Reich

What inspiration can a twentieth-century Third Reich draw from a twelfth-century First Reich? Nazi leaders express admiration for the sterling virtues of German forefathers. They take particular pride in the two great heroes of the First Reich, who have also been adopted as the heroes of the Third Reich, and about whom books and plays have been written in profusion.

In Adolf Hitler a reverent Nazi author sees the reincarnation of one of these First Reich chieftains, Frederick Barbarossa. According to an ancient legend, Emperor Frederick of the ruddy beard fell asleep centuries ago in a cavern of Thuringia's Kyffhaeuser hills. Ever since then his red whiskers have been growing around the marble slab on which his head rests. In Germany's hour of need he will return and, mounted on a white charger, lead his nation against the enemy.

During his glory-filled lifetime, Frederick Barbarossa was a German Fuehrer in the Nazi sense. He struck terror into Europe's heart and extended Germany's frontiers far beyond the language boundary. The great herald of the German idea of the "Drang nach Osten," he led his army toward the eastern star, bound on the conquest of the Holy Land.

Progress in Second Reich

But the First Reich's greatness was fully revealed only at the court of his grandson, Emperor Frederick II, who was known to his contemporaries as the Marvel of the World. Frederick was a master not only of a large part of Europe's body but also of its soul. He gave Europe a new idea of culture and made the German name respected as far south as Sicily.

In his declining years he showed a desire to return to paganism. His words and deeds are quoted today by anti-Christians of the Third Reich. Dr. Rosenberg takes these words from Frederick's mouth: "The cross must be removed from the altar, because it is the sign of suffering and humility."

As the Nazis survey history, the First Reich was followed by centuries of darkness in which German fought German in wars of religion, of territorial expansion, or merely as a manly sport or whim. The Thirty Years' War left German land reduced to mounts of ruins on which stray humans fought stray wolves for scraps of food. Eventually Prussia took the lead and gave unity to German purpose; yet as late as 1866 German again fought German in battle.

The proclamation of the Second Reich was another triumph of unity. When Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, became German Emperor on January day of 1871, the way was open for a breath-taking phase of German influence. The Nazis, looking back, see the Second Reich forging the arms with which to force its way to a higher place in the sun. They see it acquiring colonies and spheres of influence, challenging for supremacy of the world.

"Crime" of Weimar Republic

The Second Reich is too near the present, however, to receive the unqualified endorsement of the Nazis; too fulsome praise might inspire the Germans to seek the return of the Hohenzollerns. Nor can the Nazis afford to extol too much of the giant of the Second Reich, Prince Bismarck, without inviting comparison with Adolf Hitler, their own idol. Yet it is the policy of the Nazis to give a friendly picture of the Second Reich, so that the "crime" of the Weimar Republic in "stabbing it in the back" may be emphasized. The Nazis do not forget they were aided in their upward climb by the assertions that the republicans had dug the grave of German greatness.

The Hitlerites see the Third Reich as cultivating the best virtues of the First and Second Reichs plus their own. They insist on even more complete obedience to authority than did Frederick Barbarossa or Wilhelm II. They believe that their Fuehrer is to be viewed not only as a leader but also as an oracle and seer. The Third Reich is expected to become a sovereign power in the most pronounced sense of the word.

There are some aspects of the First and Second Reichs that the Nazis do not wish to emulate. They do not want, for the time being at least, to mix their blood with that of other races, as Frederick II did. They are satisfied with ruling over the 100,000,000 people of German blood.

The Nazis have criticized the Second Reich for opening its Parliament to "destructive" Socialists and liberals. They have chosen an opposite course; they have not only driven dissenting parties out of the Reichstag but have also outlawed all political party organizations except their own. Starting with the Communists and following with the Socialists, they have driven underground one group after another that has dared to dispute their power.