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Maier, Hans (2019): Hitler und das Reich. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 67, No. 4
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Abstract

The Reich has been a central category of German legal and political thought since the Middle Ages. From the Holy Roman Empire (in German: Reich) to the Kaiser-reich and the Third Reich it has at the same time defined the political and territorial structure as well as the political aspirations of the German lands. Despite its centrality, the concept of the Reich has not been fully explored in the context of National Socialism. Important questions about the regime's relationship with the political term and the political model therefore remain unanswered: How, for example, did Hitler see the Reich? This article examines the concept of the Reich in the thinking of central Nazi figures, including Hitler himself as well as Goebbels, Rosenberg, and Himmler. It shows that despite the well-known identification of Nazism with the term Third Reich, Hitler, in fact, distanced himself from the Reich concept - particularly from the Holy Roman Empire and its Christian-universalist tradition. Even Bismarck's Empire was not quite the paragon it is often suggested to have been. The term Third Reich itself was even expressly rejected by Hitler. With the end of Nazism, the Reich finally faded from the German legal tradition. It was replaced by the simple term Germany.