The Fourth Reich (or New Reich) is a term for the government of Nazi Germany following the events of Wolfenstein 3D used only in the Wolfenstein visual graphic novel. While the term "New Reich" appears in the visual graphic novels, the trailers, and the official Strategy Guide, neither term ever appears in any of the games. While no exact date is given, it likely formed between July 14, 1942 and February, 1945). The graphic novel may even suggest Heinrich I was resurrected to become the new leader of the New Reich. Wolfenstien (Wolf2) takes place in the period of this 'New Reich/Fourth Reich' at some point between Fall 1945 and perhaps as late as 1947.
The idea that Wolfenstein took place after RTCW, which took after Wolfenstein 3D goes back iD Software's development and ideas (and these got reflected in the order given in the animated graphic novels). However some sources in particular those who worked on RTCW and Tides of War material switch the order and put RTCW before Wolfenstein 3D.
Following what was thought to be the "end" of "World War II" (with the defeat, and death of Hitler, perhaps c. February 1945), the remaining Nazi leadership escaped. Poised with the power of the Black Sun they were able to rebuild their power in Germany and continue the war.
Near the 'end of the war', they attempted to resurrect Heinrich I to make him the new leader of the "New Reich" (there is some confusion on if this was before the defeat of Hitler, or after). However, thought to have died, Hitler appears to have recovered from his wounds (or is brought back to life somehow). After the loss Heinrich Himmler returned to Berlin to report the loss to Hitler.
Apparently follow the loss of the war. They sent the SS Tirpitz five miles off the coast of England in the North Sea, to launch rockets at Britain in an attempt to destroy one of the Allies major defensive positions. But was sabotaged by the OSA spy B.J. Blazkowicz before they could be launched.
The destruction of the SS Tirpitz and the stolen veil medallion from the ship was a major setback for the Fourth Reich, forcing them to examine the files of each of their major defeats by the super spy Blazkowicz as a defense protocol as the Fourth Reich restructured, including up to their latest defeat, should he be sent against them again. Which may have happened next in Isenstadt (or after).
Blazkowicz would destroy General Zetta, forcing the Reich's leadership to send Wilhelm Strasse Deathshead to takeover. Blazkowicz would destroy Deathshead's Zeppelin, but he survived the crash and escaped.
The exact members of the leadership are not known, but the high command sends orders from Berlin. Himmler is at least mentioned as still in charge of the SS Paranormal Division, and there are plenty of photos, paintings and posters of Adolf Hitler in place suggesting he is alive and still in command.
Zetta and Wilhelme Strasse still appear to be insubordinate to the Central Command at the time, and under orders of the high command (Strasse is also known to continue refering to the Reich as the Third Reich). However, Strasse is Zeta's superior, and there is indication that he has been following Zetta's work for some time (and a painting of himself in the Isenstadt castle appears to suggest that he sees himself as perhaps Hitler's equal, if not greater than the Fuhrer). There is a photo of several of the leaders. Including one in uniform wearing glasses and appearing to have Hitler's noteable mustache, and the Fourth Reich's files indicate Hitler suffered a "major defeat", and was a setback "ending" the Third Reich at the height of the war. The files show Hitler laying on the ground bleeding out of his back after Blazkowicz shot him through the chest (although the files never specifically say he was 'killed' just that he had a 'major defeat').
Hans Grosse also returned, Blazkowicz had previously broken his neck and stabbed shortly before he gave Hitler a major defeat (whichever year Eisenfaust took place), and assumed he had killed him. However in time he had healed and had become even stronger than before (and under power of the veil).
At the time of Operation Nachtsonne, Zetta had captured Isenstadt and put it under martial law, and curfew in the last few months. The dig site also began a few months before, looking for further Thule artifacts. Zetta was acting as a rogue and was not reporting back to Berlin very much. However, Strasse may have been there much longer working from the shadows as Zetta's superior.
Note: The use of "Central Command" may have two meanings. The first is the obvious command structure in Berlin, however some of the other uses may refer to the Central Command of Deathshead & Zetta's operations in Isenstadt.
The Wolfenstein Visual Graphic Novels are an attempt to present the four main titles in the series as a single timeline, in the order Spear of Destiny, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein 3D, and Wolfenstein (at least the prologue of Wolfenstein, not the entire game). The "Fourth Reich" supposedly formed after BJ "defeated" Hitler at the end of Wolfenstein 3D (the co-released Wolfenstein 3D Classic places the event of his defeat at February, 1945, a few months earlier than his historical suicide), being the power faced by BJ in Wolfenstein (it never indicates that he killed the Fuhrer, just that Hitler suffered a major defeat).
The Fourth Reich appears to also include the period in Return to Wolfenstein (although this may be interpreted as a prequel to Wolfenstein 3D in previous sources), it is said to be "near the end of the war...", I.E. World War II. But in this version of the universe Hitler was killed in Wolfenstien 3D, and Heinrich was resurrected in order to try to replace him.
The various graphic novels are not necessarily in direct order but rather in order of the game's releases (Wolf 3D, Spear of Destiny, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and finally Wolfenstein). However, the title of Return may suggest a return trip to the Castle, and that the game is a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, rather than a precursor. However RTCW is set in 1943 and Himmler and Hitler are still alive at that point which chronologically before Hitler's historical "death" in 45. However, in part 1 Blazkowicks states specifically that Hitler's "major defeat" represented the end of the war (thus thematically RTCW must occur before Wolfenstein 3D, and since RTCW occurs in 1943 must occur before 1945). However, Blazkowicz also refers to the "New Reich" in the 3rd episode about RTCW, discussing how the Nazis have plans to resurrect Heinrich I to rule the "New Reich" which could imply that its set after Wolfenstein 3D. However, Himmler is also alive during 2009 game and may be one of the officials seen in the Fourth Reich cutscenes in the graphic novel. The official strategy guides for Return to Castle Wolfenstein also place RTCW after Wolfenstein 3D chronologically implying that Hitler saw his 'first defeat' before July, 14, 1942 (and RTCW is a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D), Operation: Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Elements of the graphic novel appear to be based roughly off the Original Encounter, where Hitler is fought at Castle Wolfenstein (rather than at the Reichstag).
If RTCW is set as a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, then it could move the events of the game up to early 1945, or late just before the events of Wolf2.
Technically the exact date when the "Third Reich" ends and the Nazis started calling itself the "Fourth Reich" may not be entirely clear (and may overlap around the period of the destruction of the Tirpitz before or not long after, or even following the events of Wolfenstein 2009). The restructuring to form the Fourth Reich does appear to have occurred following the Tirpitz event, but perhaps before events of the game itself, or maybe shortly after. Episode 1 mentions that the four record files are being reviewed as defense protocol against future intrusions by the super spy. While Episode 4 suggests that they are preparing to restructure their leadership, and are about to change things with the power of the Black Sun. This does suggest that it occurs before the 2009 game before much of the veil technology was destroyed. Regardless, many still refer to the Reich as the Third Reich internally. The use of the "Fourth Reich" even if it used by some, may not represented a true 'official' terminology in official documents, or it may even be the name of an secret organization within the Third Reich concerned with intelligence and secret documents.
One of Wolfenstein's trailers is narrated by a German soldier who praises the regimes new weapons and powers, and welcomes the agent to the "New Reich". Another tie-in trailer is narrated by a scientist who mentions his memories of the war, and calls the events of Wolfenstein representing the Nazi's 'greatest defeat'.
The Strategy guide mentions the "New Reich" as well:
- "Welcome to the New Reich
- The Reich controls power you can’t possibly imagine. The Nazis have done much more than develop a new weapon - they have harnessed the power of a dark parallel dimension. Can you penetrate the heart of the Reich, lift the veil on their supernatural weapon of war-ending magnitude, and turn their perverse science against them? This indispensible guide shows you how!"
The Befolgen Sie! (You follow/obey) propaganda posters seen in Wolfenstein 2009 mark an event which occurred in Hamburg, Germany on Sept 3, 1944. Many are covered by layers of old newspapers suggesting that posters have been up for a fairly long time. This would suggest that the game takes place later than the given date, supporting the possibility of the game taking place later in 1945. There is also a reference to the Manhattan Project which may imply that the Americans have already begun tests of the Atom bombs (July 16, 1945 Trinity in actual history), although in history the project goes back to 1942 in the real history. There is also a registration form appearing in some intel that looks as if it might be marked as "45" but it is not clear.
The term "Fourth Reich/New Reich" is of highly dubious canonicity, however, as Wolfenstein mostly uses the terms Das Reich (The Reich), or Deutch Reich (German Reich) (Strasse mentions the Third Reich, and there are other lesser references to the Third Reich as well) and the Graphic Novel timeline does not actually match up to the events in the original games themselves (highly compressed, and the 'villain defeats' occur differently than in the games for example). However, the fourth episode is needed to understand how B.J. boarded the Tirpitz and how he obtained the captain's uniform, and the Thule Medallion.
However, in Wolfeinstein (2009), Anton Kriege learns of B.J.'s membership in the Office of Secret Actions, and through that learns that B.J. has connections to the Spear of Destiny, he mentions it was recaptured by B.J. in one of his missions before events of RTCW, and he wonders how much the Spear would cost to the right individuals (this is a direct reference to the game Spear of Destiny, which is covered in the second graphic novel). In addition while Hans Grosse never likely directly 'faced' B.J. as in Wolfenstein 3D, the graphic novel suggests he was incapacitated from behind, Strasse mentions in the game that Hans not to fail him again. This could be a nod to B.J.'s previous encounter with him, and his failure in Wolfenstein 3D, as seen in the Graphic Novel, but also likely refers to the failure at Castle Isenstadt.
Another point of detail is that it seems that Zetta has 'recaptured' Isenstadt for Germany, and started the dig site there only in the last 'few months', however, other details indicate that the Third Reich had been studying the Black Sun and the Veil at least since 1940. This odd bit about Berlin declaring war on its own German city, would suggest that the city was lost to the Allies or resistance before the events of the game, explaining why Zetta had to retake it (and possibly tieing into the 'major defeat' suggested by the Graphic Novels).
It should at least be noted that almost every game in Wolfenstein has been made by a different developer, and each developer more or less created their own new timeline, and interpretation of events, with later games seemingly ignore details of previous timelines (Wolfenstein (2009)'s timeline with 4th Reich/New Reich was made by Raven Software). The Doom universe itself more or less followed an "iD timeline", that included all of ID games up to Wolfenstein (2009)/Wolfenstein RPG/Wolfenstein 3-D Platinum.
The New Order/The Old Blood in particular deviates from previous timelines leading to a universe where Nazis won the Second World War, but also deviates from the events of Return to Castle Wolfenstein in a number of details (though it also includes a reinterpretation of the events of original Wolfenstein 3-D).
The New Order barely mentions the "Reich" at all mostly calling them the Nazis. It is highly doubtful that the Fourth Reich is the main term to be describe after the Nazis have conquer the whole world in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Although the title of the game "The New Order" suggests it may be something different than the original order under Adolf Hitler (Adolf Hitler was still alive at least into 1946 according to an ingame newspaper). The game refers to a Church of the Third Reich in 1955.
When Gamespot asked if Mecha-Hitler would be in Wolfenstein: The New Order, they were told that he was already defeated in Wolfenstein 3D (but still possibly alive). It was suggested to them that a version of the events of Wolfenstein 3D were still part of Machine Games' canon. This may have been hinted at in the Nightmare, based on hazy memories B.J. is able to have in the Kreissau HQ. In the creative easter egg the Nightmare where B.J. reminisces of his past experiences at the start of Wolfenstein 3.D. in an interactive extra level based on the original level of Wolf 3D the "Escape from Castle Wolfenstein". How this fits into any consistent timeline is however up for debate, and may simply represent a joke: However the game does include it as a Side Mission, and there is some narrative details associated with it (including B.J. internal monologue, and B.J.'s description notes for the side mission).
Some of the paintings in Deathhead's Compound, and scattered throughout the game in many offices look similar to the leadership individuals shown in graphic novel as seen in the image above.
Oddly enough, the material for RTCW as seen in the strategy guide, placed the original Wolfenstein before Return to Castle Wolfenstein chronologically. Suggesting a false end to the war in 1942, but war continues into 1943 and Operation Return to Castle Wolfenstein.