The Info List - Reich

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REICH (/ˈraɪk/ ; German: ( listen )) is a German word literally meaning "realm ". The terms Kaiserreich (literally "realm of an emperor") and Königreich (literally "realm of a king") are used in German to refer to empires and kingdoms respectively.

As such, the term Deutsches Reich (often translated to "German Empire ") continued to be used even after the collapse of the German Empire and abolition of the monarchy in 1918, without any imperial connotations.

The term derives from the Germanic word meaning "realm" in general, but is typically used in German to designate a kingdom or an empire, especially the Roman Empire
. The terms Kaisertum (roughly "Emperordom") and Kaiserreich are used in German to more specifically define an empire ruled by an emperor.

Reich is comparable in meaning and development (as well as descending from the same Proto-Indo-European
root) to the English word realm (via French reaume "kingdom" from Latin
regalis "royal"). It is used for historical empires in general, such as the Roman Empire
(Römisches Reich), Persian Empire
(Perserreich), and both the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire
(Zarenreich, literally " Tsar
realm"). The Eastern Realm
(Österreich) of the Holy Roman Empire
is still the name used today for Austria

In the history of Germany
specifically, it is used to refer to:

* the early medieval Frankish Realm
( Francia
) and Carolingian Empire
(the Fränkisches Reich and Karolingerreich); * the Holy Roman Empire
(Heiliges Römisches Reich), which lasted from the coronation of Charlemagne
as Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
in 800, until 1806, when it was dissolved during the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
; * the German Empire
(Deutsches Reich or Deutsches Kaiserreich), which lasted from the unification of Germany
in 1871 until its collapse after World War I
World War I
, during the German Revolution of 1918–1919 ; * the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
of 1919–1933 continued to use Deutsches Reich as its official name; * Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
, the state often referred to as the Third Reich, which lasted from the Machtergreifung in 1933 until the end of World War II in Europe in 1945. * The current Federal Republic of Germany
is sometimes referred to as the "Merkelreich" (named after Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
), or Fourth Reich, but both terms tend to be used in Political satire . The term "Merkelreich", however, is used mainly by those who subscribe to the belief of Euroscepticism .

The term "Third Reich" was adopted by the Nazis as propaganda to legitimize their government as a successor to the retroactively renamed "First" and "Second" Reichs. The terms "First Reich" and "Second Reich" are not used by historians, whilst the term "Fourth Reich " is used mainly in fiction and for political humour, however it also used by those who subscribe to the belief of Neo-Nazism
or the belief of "Aryan Supremacy".


* 1 Etymology

* 2 Usage throughout German history

* 2.1 Frankish Empire

* 2.2 Holy Roman Empire

* 2.2.1 Modern age
Modern age

* 2.3 German Reich * 2.4 During the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
* 2.5 During the Nazi period * 2.6 Possible negative connotations in modern use * 2.7 Limited usage in the railway system of the German Democratic Republic * 2.8 Names

* 3 Usage in related languages

* 3.1 Rike, rige, riik * 3.2 Rijk/ryk

* 4 See also * 5 References


Look up REICH in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Look up RECONSTRUCTION:PROTO-GERMANIC/RīKIJAN in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Look up RECONSTRUCTION:PROTO-GERMANIC/RīKS in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

The Latin
equivalent of Reich is imperium or rather with a king regnum. Both terms translate to "rule, sovereignty, government", usually of monarchs (kings or emperors), but also of gods, and of the Christian God
Christian God
. The German version of the Lord\'s Prayer uses the words Dein Reich komme for "ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου" (usually translated as "thy kingdom come" in English). Himmelreich is the German term for the concept of "kingdom of heaven ".

The German noun Reich is derived from Old High German
Old High German
rīhhi, which together with its cognates in Old English
Old English
rīce Old Norse
Old Norse
rîki (modern Scandinavian rike/rige) and Gothic reiki is from a Common Germanic *rīkijan. The English noun is extinct, but persists in composition, in bishopric.

The German adjective reich, on the other hand, has an exact cognate in English rich. Both the noun (*rīkijan) and the adjective (*rīkijaz) are derivations based on a Common Germanic
Common Germanic
*rīks "ruler, king ", reflected in Gothic as reiks, glossing ἄρχων "leader, ruler, chieftain".

It is probable that the Germanic word was not inherited from pre-Proto-Germanic, but rather loaned from Celtic (i.e. Gaulish
rīx, Welsh rhi, both meaning 'king') at an early time .

The word has many cognates outside of Germanic and Celtic, notably Latin
rex and Sanskrit raja "king". It is ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European
root *reg-, meaning "to straighten out or rule".



Frankenreich or Fränkisches Reich is the German name given to the Frankish Kingdom
Frankish Kingdom
of Charlemagne
. Frankenreich came to be used of Western Francia
and medieval France
after the development of Eastern Francia
into the Holy Roman Empire
. The German name of France
, Frankreich, is a contraction of Frankenreich used in reference to the kingdom of France
from the late medieval period.


See also: Holy Roman Empire

The term Reich was part of the German names for Germany
for much of its history. Reich was used by itself in the common German variant of the Holy Roman Empire
, (Heiliges Römisches Reich (HRR)). Der rîche was a title for the Emperor. However, Latin, not German, was the formal legal language of the medieval Empire
( Imperium Romanum Sacrum), so English-speaking historians are more likely to use Latin imperium than German Reich as a term for this period of German history. The common contemporary Latin
legal term used in documents of the Holy Roman Empire
was for a long time regnum ("rule, domain, empire", such as in Regnum Francorum for the Frankish Kingdom
Frankish Kingdom
) before imperium was in fact adopted, the latter first attested in 1157, whereas the parallel use of regnum never fell out of use during the Middle Ages.

Modern Age

At the beginning of the modern age , some circles redubbed the HRE into the "Holy Roman Empire
of the German Nation" (Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation), a symptom of the formation of a German nation state as opposed to the multinational state the Empire
was throughout its history. Austria-Hungary
and Prussia
opposed this movement.

Resistance against the French revolution
French revolution
with its concept of the state brought a new movement to create a German "ethnical state", especially after the Napoleonic wars
Napoleonic wars
. Ideal for this state was the Holy Roman Empire; the legend arose that Germany
were "un-defeated when unified", especially after the Franco-Prussian War (Deutsch-Französischer Krieg, lit. "German-French war"). Before that, the German question ruptured this "German unity" after the 1848 Revolution before it was achieved, however; Austria-Hungary
as a multinational state could not become part of the new "German empire", and nationality conflicts in Prussia
with the Prussian Poles arose ("We can never be Germans – Prussians, every time!").

The advent of national feeling and the movement to create an ethnically German Empire
did lead directly to nationalism in 1871. Ethnic minorities declined since the beginning of the modern age; the Polabs , Sorbs and even the once important Low Germans had to assimilate themselves. This marked the transition between Antijudaism , where converted Jews were accepted as full citizens (in theory), to Antisemitism
, where Jews were thought to be from a different ethnicity that could never become German. Apart from all those ethnic minorities being de facto extinct, even today the era of national feeling is taught in history in German schools as an important stepping-stone on the road to a German nation.

The term royal reich, or reich royale, was coined to describe a monarchy or royalty-backed network that characterizes many of the same attributes that Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
possessed, notably privilege of royal rank, repression and silencing of expression.


See also: German Reich

In the case of the Hohenzollern Empire
(1871–1918), the official name of the country was Deutsches Reich ("German Realm"), because under the Constitution of the German Empire
, it was legally a confederation of German states under the permanent presidency of the King of Prussia
. The constitution granted the King of Prussia
the title of "German Emperor" (Deutscher Kaiser), but this referred to the German nation rather than directly to the "country" of Germany.

The exact translation of the term "German Empire" would be Deutsches Kaiserreich. This name was sometimes used informally for Germany between 1871 and 1918, but it was disliked by the first German Emperor, Wilhelm I , and never became official.

The unified Germany
which arose under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
in 1871 was the first entity that was officially called in German Deutsches Reich. Deutsches Reich remained the official name of Germany until 1945, although these years saw three very different political systems more commonly referred to in English as: "the German Empire
" (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
(1919–1933; this term is a pre- World War II
World War II
coinage not used at the time), and Nazi Germany (1933–1945).


After 1918 "Reich" was usually not translated as "Empire" in English-speaking countries, and the title was instead simply used in its original German. During the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
the term Reich and the prefix Reichs- referred not to the idea of empire but rather to the institutions, officials, affairs etc. of the whole country as opposed to those of one of its constituent federal states (Länder), in the same way that the terms Bund (federation) and Bundes- (federal) are used in Germany
today, and comparable to The Crown in Commonwealth countries and The Union in the United States
United States


The Nazis sought to legitimize their power historiographically by portraying their ascendancy to rule as the direct continuation of an ancient German past. They adopted the term Drittes Reich ("Third Empire" – usually rendered in English in the partial-translation "the Third Reich"), first used in a 1923 book entitled Das Dritte Reich by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck , that 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. This ignored the previous 1918–1933 Weimar period , which the Nazis denounced as a historical aberration, contemptuously referring to it as "the System ". In the summer of 1939 the Nazis themselves actually banned the continued use of the term in the press, ordering it to use expressions such as nationalsozialistisches Deutschland ("National Socialist Germany"), Großdeutsches Reich ("Greater German Reich "), or simply Deutsches Reich ( German Reich ) to refer to the German state instead. It was Adolf Hitler's personal desire that Großdeutsches Reich and nationalsozialistischer Staat (" National Socialist State") would be used in place of Drittes Reich. Reichskanzlei Berchtesgaden (" Reich Chancellery Berchtesgaden
"), another nickname of the regime (named after the eponymous town located in the vicinity of Hitler\'s mountain residence where he spent much of his time in office) was also banned at the same time, despite the fact that a sub-section of the Chancellery was in fact installed there to serve Hitler's needs.

Although the term "Third Reich" is still in common use to refer to this historical period, the terms "First Reich" and "Second Reich" for the earlier periods are seldom found outside Nazi propaganda. To use the terms "First Reich" and "Second Reich", as some commentators did in the post-war years, is generally frowned upon as accepting Nazi historiography. During and following the Anschluss
(annexation) of Austria
in 1938 Nazi propaganda also used the political slogan Ein Volk , ein Reich, ein Führer ("One people, one Reich, one leader"), in order to enforce pan-German sentiment. The term Altes Reich ("old Reich"; cf. French ancien regime for monarchical France) is sometimes used to refer to the Holy Roman Empire
. The term Altreich was also used after the Anschluss
to denote Germany
with its pre-1938 post- World War I
World War I
borders. Another name that was popular during this period was the term Tausendjähriges Reich ("Thousand-Year Reich"), the millennial connotations of which suggested that Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
would last for a thousand years.

The Nazis also spoke of enlarging the then-established Greater German Reich into a " Greater Germanic Reich
Greater Germanic Reich
of the German Nation " (Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation) by gradually annexing all the historically Germanic countries and regions of Europe ( Flanders
, the Netherlands
, Denmark
, Norway
, Sweden
etc.) directly into the Nazi state.


A number of previously neutral words used by the Nazis have later taken on negative connotations in German (e.g. Führer or Heil ); while in many contexts Reich is not one of them (Frankreich, France; Römisches Reich, Roman Empire
), it can imply German imperialism or strong nationalism if it is used to describe a political or governmental entity. Reich has thus not been used in official terminology since 1945, though it is still found in the name of the Reichstag building , which since 1999 has housed the German federal parliament , the Bundestag
. The decision not to rename the Reichstag building was taken only after long debate in the Bundestag; even then, it is described officially as Reichstag – Sitz des Bundestages (Reichstag, seat of the Bundestag). As seen in this example, the term "Bund" (federation) has replaced "Reich" in the names of various state institutions such as the army (" Bundeswehr
"). The term "Reichstag" also remains in use in the German language as the term for the parliaments of some foreign monarchies, such as Sweden
's Riksdag
and Japan
's pre-war Imperial Diet .


The exception is that during the Cold War
Cold War
, the East German railway incongruously continued to use the name Deutsche Reichsbahn (German Reich Railways), which had been the name of the national railway during the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
and the Nazi era. Even after German reunification in October 1990, the Reichsbahn continued to exist for over three years as the operator of the railroad in eastern Germany, ending finally on 1 January 1994 when the Reichsbahn and the western Deutsche Bundesbahn were merged to form the privatized Deutsche Bahn AG .


Due to the importance of this word it is a popular conjunction in names. Many German names contain the word reich in modified forms. Such as Dietrich
, Heinrich , Friedrich , Richard
, and so on.



RIKE is the Swedish and Norwegian word for "realm ", in Danish spelled RIGE, of similar meaning as German Reich. The word is traditionally used for sovereign entities; a country with a King or Queen as head of state , such as the United Kingdom or Sweden
itself, is a (kunga)rike, literally a "royal realm". Two regions in Norway that were petty kingdoms before the unification of Norway
around 900 AD have retained the word in the names (see Ringerike and Romerike
). Riik is an Estonian word for country and realm.

The word is used in "Svea rike", with the current spelling Sverige, the name of Sweden
in Swedish. The derived prefix "riks-" implies nationwide or under central jurisdiction such as in riksväg, the Swedish name for a national road. It is also present in the names of institutions such as the Riksdag
, Sveriges Riksbank
Sveriges Riksbank
, Riksåklagaren, Rikspolisstyrelsen , Riksteatern, riksdaler , etc. Riksförbund is used as a denomination by many national central organizations. Rike in Swedish is also used in utrikes (relating to foreign countries and other things from abroad) such as Utrikesdepartementet (Ministry for Foreign Affairs ) and utrikesnyheter (news from abroad). The opposite of utrikes is inrikes (relating to the home country).

The Lord\'s Prayer uses the word in the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish versions: Tillkomme ditt rike, Komme ditt rike, Komme dit rige ('Thy kingdom come' – old versions). Låt ditt rike komma!, La ditt rike komme, Komme dit rige ('Let your kingdom come' – new versions).

"Rike" is also a now-archaic English word cognate with "reich".


RIJK is the Dutch and RYK the Afrikaans
equivalent of German Reich.

In a political sense in the Netherlands
and Belgium the word rijk often connotes a connection with the Kingdom of the Netherlands
and Belgium as opposed to the European part of the country or as opposed to provincial or municipal governments; the ministerraad is the executive body of the Netherlands
' government and the rijksministerraad that of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
, a similar distinction is found in wetten (laws) versus rijkswetten (kingdom laws), or the now-abolished rijkswacht for gendarmerie in Belgium. The word rijk can also be found in institutions like Rijkswaterstaat , Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu
Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu
, and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen .

In Afrikaans, ryk refers to rulership and area of governance (mostly a kingdom), but in a modern sense the term is used in a much more figurative sense (e.g. Die Hemelse Ryk (the heavenly kingdom, China)), as the sphere under one's control or influence, such as:

* die drie ryke van die natuur: die plante-, diere- en delfstowweryk (the three kingdoms of nature: the plant, animal and mineral kingdom) * die duisendjarige ryk (the thousand year realm, the Biblical millennium) * die ryk van die verbeelding, van drome (the realm of the imagination, of dreams) * 'n bestuurder wat sy ryk goed beheer (a manager that controls his domain well)

Like in German, the adjective rijk/ryk means "rich".


* Germany
* German Reich * Imperium * Reich (other)


* ^ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reich * ^ A B C Harper's magazine, Volume 63. Pp. 593. * ^ see e.g. Jacob Grimm , Deutsches Wörterbuch , s.v. " Reich n." * ^ the Lord's Prayer
Lord's Prayer
in Scandinavian also uses the cognate word; so it is in Old English
Old English
– 'Tobecyme thin rice' * ^ Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch , original suggestion from Karl Brugmann grundrisz der vergl. gramm. 1, 65. Also mentioned in e.g. Calvert Watkins, American Heritage dictionary of Indo-European Roots, p. 70. * ^ Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch cites Conrad of Megenberg (fastn. 140.14): ich pin ein konig aus Frankreich. * ^ 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 . * ^ A B C Schmitz-Berning, Cornelia (2000). Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus. Walter de Gruyter GmbH