Hitler was building the Third Reich. What were Reichs One and Two?

Dear Cecil:

Adolf Hitler spoke of the empire he was trying to build as the Third Reich. What were Reichs One and Two?

Cecil replies:

According to a fascinating tome called The Hitler Fact Book by Thomas Fuchs (like I say, I get the most amazing stuff in the mail), “the first Reich was the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages; the second, the one established by Bismarck and ended by Germany’s defeat in 1918.” The term was a favorite of Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler himself wasn’t that crazy about it, Fuchs notes; he outlawed the term at the beginning of World War II and referred to his realm merely as the Reich.

Another Nazi term, “Thousand Year Reich,” supposedly had its origin in a remark by Hitler following the purge of June 1934, when he had many of his onetime supporters murdered. Hitler said the victims had been plotting a revolt, and promised there would be no more such strife for a thousand years.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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