The term “Third Reich” was coined by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck in his 1923 book Das Dritte Reich. He defined the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) as the “First Reich”, and the German Empire (1871–1918) as the “Second Reich”, while the “Third Reich” was an ideal state including all German peoples, including Austria. In the modern context the term refers to Nazi Germany. It was used by the Nazis to legitimize their regime as a successor state to the retroactively-renamed First and Second Reichs.
The term “Fourth Reich” has been used in a variety of different ways. Neo-Nazis have used it to describe their envisioned revival of an ethnically pure state, mostly in reference to, but not limited to, Nazi Germany. Others have used the term derogatorily, such as conspiracy theorists like Max Spiers, Peter Levenda, and Jim Marrs who have used it to refer to what they perceive as a covert continuation of Nazi ideals.
Neo-Nazis envision the Fourth Reich as featuring Aryan supremacy, anti-Semitism, Lebensraum, aggressive militarism, and totalitarianism. Upon the establishment of the Fourth Reich, German neo-Nazis propose that Germany should acquire nuclear weapons and use the threat of their use as a form of nuclear blackmail to re-expand to Germany’s former boundaries as of 1937.
Based on pamphlets published by David Myatt in the early 1990s, many neo-Nazis came to believe that the rise of the Fourth Reich in Germany would pave the way for the establishment of the Western Imperium, a pan-Aryan world empire encompassing all land populated by predominantly European-descended peoples (i.e., Europe, Russia, Anglo-America, Australia, New Zealand, and White South Africa).
Usage to indicate German influence in the European Union
Some commentators in various parts of Europe have used the term “Fourth Reich” to point at the influence that they believe Germany exerts within the European Union. For example, Simon Heffer wrote in the Daily Mail that Germany’s economic power, further boosted by the European financial crisis, is the “economic colonization of Europe by stealth”, whereby Berlin is using economic pressure rather than armies to “topple the leadership of a European nation”. This, he says, constitutes the “rise of the Fourth Reich.”Likewise, Simon Jenkins of The Guardian wrote that it is “a massive irony that old Europe’s last gasp should be to seek … German supremacy”.According to Richard J. Evans of the New Statesman, this kind of language had not been heard since German reunification which sparked a wave of Germanophobic commentary. In a counterbalancing perspective, the “Charlemagne” columnist at The Economist reports that the German hegemony perspective does not match reality.
This perspective gained particular traction in the United Kingdom in the run up to Brexit and the current negotiations.