Generalfeldmarschall

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Prussian marshal's baton, awarded to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in 1895. Preussischer Marschallsstab 1895.jpg
Prussian marshal's baton, awarded to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in 1895.

Generalfeldmarschall (English: general field marshal, field marshal general, or field marshal ; Loudspeaker.svg listen  ; abbreviated to Feldmarschall) was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsgeneralfeldmarschall); in the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary, the rank Feldmarschall was used. The rank was the equivalent to Großadmiral (English: Grand admiral ) in the Kaiserliche Marine and Kriegsmarine , a five-star rank, comparable to OF-10 in today's NATO naval forces.

Field marshal is a very senior military rank, ordinarily senior to the general officer ranks. Usually it is the highest rank in an army, and when it is, few persons are appointed to it. It is considered as a five-star rank (OF-10) in modern-day armed forces in many countries. Promotion to the rank of field marshal in many countries historically required extraordinary military achievement by a general. However, the rank has also been used as a divisional command rank and also as a brigade command rank. Examples of the different uses of the rank include Austria-Hungary, Prussia, Germany and Sri Lanka for an extraordinary achievement; Spain and Mexico for a divisional command ; and France, Portugal and Brazil for a brigade command.

Holy Roman Empire varying complex of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European empire (1526–1804)

The Habsburg Monarchy – also Habsburg Empire, Austrian Monarchy or Danube Monarchy – is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the countries and provinces that were ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg between 1526 and 1780 and then by the successor branch of Habsburg-Lorraine until 1918. The Monarchy was a typical composite state composed of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, united only in the person of the monarch. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire, and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Contents

Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary

The rank existed in the Austrian Empire as Kaiserlicher Feldmarschall ("imperial field marshal") and in Austria-Hungary as Kaiserlicher und königlicher Feldmarschall - Császári és királyi tárbornagy ("imperial and royal field marshal"). Both were based on usage in the Holy Roman Empire. The monarch held the rank ex officio, other officers were promoted as required. Between 1914 and 1918, ten men attained this rank, of whom four were members of the reigning Habsburg dynasty.

Austrian Empire monarchy in Central Europe between 1804 and 1867

The Austrian Empire was a Central European multinational great power from 1804 to 1867, created by proclamation out of the realms of the Habsburgs. During its existence, it was the third most populous empire after the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom in Europe. Along with Prussia, it was one of the two major powers of the German Confederation. Geographically, it was the third largest empire in Europe after the Russian Empire and the First French Empire. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it partially overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union from 1867 to October 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe from 1867 to 1918. It was formed by giving a new constitution to the Austrian Empire, which devolved powers on Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) and placed them on an equal footing. It broke apart into several states at the end of World War I.

Germany

Marshal's baton of Wolfram von Richthofen Marschallsstab.jpg
Marshal's baton of Wolfram von Richthofen

Kingdom of Prussia and German Empire

Rank insignia
DR Generalfeldmarschall 1918.gif
Shoulder badge
Generalfeldmarschall until 1918

In the Prussian Army, the Imperial German Army and later in the Wehrmacht , the rank of Generalfeldmarschall had several privileges, such as elevation to nobility, equal protocol rank with cabinet ministers, the right of reporting directly to the monarch, and a constant escort.

Prussian Army 1701-1871 land warfare branch of Prussias military, primary component and predecessor of the German Army to 1919

The Royal Prussian Army served as the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It became vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.

German Army (German Empire) 1871-1919 land warfare branch of the German military

The Imperial German Army was the unified ground and air force of the German Empire. The term Deutsches Heer is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the Bundeswehr. The German Army was formed after the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership in 1871 and dissolved in 1919, after the defeat of the German Empire in World War I.

<i>Wehrmacht</i> unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

In 1854, the rank of colonel general (German : Generaloberst ) was created in order to promote William, Prince of Prussia (the later William I, German Emperor) to senior rank without breaking the rule that only wartime field commanders could receive the rank of field marshal for a victory in a decisive battle or the capture of a fortification or major town. The equivalent of colonel-general in the German Navy was the rank of Generaladmiral ("general admiral" or "admiral-general").

Colonel general is a three or four-star rank in some armies, usually equivalent to that of a full general in other armies. North Korea and Russian Federation have used the rank in that fashion throughout their histories. The rank is also closely associated with Germany, where Generaloberst has formerly been a higher rank above full General but below Generalfeldmarschall.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

<i>Generaloberst</i> General officer rank

Generaloberst, in English colonel general, was, in Germany and Austria-Hungary—the German Reichswehr and Wehrmacht, the Austro-Hungarian Common Army, and the East German National People's Army, as well as the respective police services—the second highest general officer rank, ranking above full general but below general field marshal. It was equivalent to Generaladmiral in the Kriegsmarine until 1945, or to Flottenadmiral in the Volksmarine until 1990. The rank was the highest ordinary military rank and the highest military rank awarded in peacetime; the higher rank of general field marshal was only awarded in wartime by the head of state. In general, a Generaloberst had the same privileges as a general field marshal.

In 1870 Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia and Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm—who had commanded armies during the Franco-Prussian War—became the first Prussian princes appointed as field marshals.

Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia (1828–1885) German general

Prince Friedrich Karl Nicolaus of Prussia was the son of Prince Charles of Prussia (1801–1883) and his wife, Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1808–1877). Prince Frederick Charles was a grandson of King Frederick William III of Prussia and a nephew of Frederick William IV and William I. He was born at Schloss Klein in Berlin.

Franco-Prussian War significant conflict pitting the Second French Empire against the Kingdom of Prussia and its allies

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire and later the Third French Republic, and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. Some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw the independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia, while others contend that Bismarck did not plan anything and merely exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, however, dispute the fact that Bismarck must have recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.

The exalted nature of the rank was underscored during World War I, when only five German officers (excluding honorary promotions to members of royal families and foreign officers) were designated Generalfeldmarschall: Paul von Hindenburg, August von Mackensen, Karl von Bülow, Hermann von Eichhorn, and Remus von Woyrsch. Only a single naval officer, Henning von Holtzendorff, was designated Grand Admiral. Not even such well-known German commanders as Erich Ludendorff, Erich von Falkenhayn, or Reinhard Scheer received marshal's batons or Grand Admiral rank.

Paul von Hindenburg Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and president of Germany

Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, known generally as Paul von Hindenburg, was a German Generalfeldmarschall and statesman who commanded the Imperial German Army during the second half of World War I before later being elected President of the Weimar Republic in 1925. He played a key role in the Nazi "Seizure of Power" in January 1933 when, under pressure from advisers, he appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of a "Government of National Concentration", even though the Nazis were a minority in both the cabinet and the Reichstag.

August von Mackensen German general

Anton Ludwig Friedrich August von Mackensen, born August Mackensen, was a German field marshal. He commanded with extreme success during the First World War and became one of the German Empire's most prominent and competent military leaders. After the Armistice, Mackensen was interned for a year. He retired from the army in 1920 and was made a Prussian state councillor in 1933 by Hermann Göring. During the Nazi era, Mackensen remained a committed monarchist and sometimes appeared at official functions in his First World War uniform. He was suspected of disloyalty to the Third Reich, although nothing was proven against him.

Karl von Bülow German officer in WWI

Karl Wilhelm Paul von Bülow was a German field marshal commanding the German 2nd Army during World War I from 1914 to 1915.

Nazi Germany

General field marshal
Generalfeldmarschall
Collar tabs of Generalfeldmarschall of the Heer.svg GenFeldmarschall until 1945 (Wehrmacht).svg
Arabesque and Epaulette
(1942–1945)
Generalfeldmarschall-camo.svg
on camouflage uniform
Hoheitszeichen Kfz Generalfeldmarschall.svg
Flag
CountryFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Nazi Germany
Service branchWar ensign of Germany (1938-1945).svg  Heer
War ensign of Germany (1938-1945).svg  Luftwaffe
AbbreviationFeldmarschall
Rank Five-star
NATO rank OF-10
Non-NATO rank O-11
Formation20 April 1936
Abolished1945
Next higher rankNone
Next lower rank Generaloberst
Equivalent ranks Großadmiral

Before World War II Hitler promoted War Minister Werner von Blomberg (20 April 1936) and Aviation Minister Hermann Göring (4 February 1938) to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall. In the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II, the rank of Generalfeldmarschall remained the highest military rank until July 1940, when Hermann Göring was promoted to the newly created higher rank of Reichsmarschall . The equivalent of a Generalfeldmarschall in the navy was Großadmiral ("grand admiral").

Unlike Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler distributed the rank more widely, promoting 25 Heer and Luftwaffe officers in total and two Kriegsmarine Grand Admirals. (Another promotion, that of Austrian General Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli, was honorary.) Four weeks after the Heer and Luftwaffe had won the Battle of France, Hitler promoted twelve generals to the rank of field marshal on 19 July 1940: Walther von Brauchitsch, Wilhelm Keitel, Gerd von Rundstedt, Fedor von Bock, Wilhelm von Leeb, Wilhelm List, Günther von Kluge, Erwin von Witzleben and Walter von Reichenau (Heer); and Albert Kesselring, Erhard Milch and Hugo Sperrle (Luftwaffe). [1]

In 1942, three other men were promoted—"Wüstenfuchs" (desert fox) Erwin Rommel (22 June) for the siege of Tobruk, Erich von Manstein (30 June) for the Siege of Sevastopol and Georg von Küchler (30 June) for his success as Oberbefehlshaber der Heeresgruppe Nord ("commander-in-chief of Army Group North").

Hitler promoted Friedrich Paulus—commander of the 6th Army at Stalingrad—to the rank of field marshal via field radio on 30 January 1943, a day before his army's inevitable surrender in order to encourage him to continue to fight until death or commit suicide. [2] In the promotion Hitler noted that no German or Prussian field marshal at that point in history had ever been captured alive. Paulus surrendered the following day anyway, claiming Ich habe nicht die Absicht, mich für diesen bayerischen Gefreiten zu erschießen ("I have no intention of shooting myself for this Bavarian corporal"). [3] A disappointed Hitler commented, "That's the last field marshal I make in this war!" (In fact, he appointed seven more -- two on the very day after Paulus' surrender and the last just five days before his own suicide.)

Generalfeldmarschall was the highest regular general officer rank in the German Wehrmacht, comparable to NATO rank codes OF10, and to the five-star rank in anglophone armed forces. It was equivalent to Großadmiral of the German Kriegsmarine .

Financially the rank of Generalfeldmarschall in Nazi Germany was very rewarding as, apart from a yearly salary, Hitler introduced a tax free fringe benefits for generals in the range of ℛℳ 2,000 to 4,000 per month in 1940. He also bestowed generous presents on his highest officers, with Wilhelm von Leeb receiving ℛℳ 250,000 for his 65th birthday from Hitler. [4]

Promotion to the rank did not guarantee Hitler's ongoing favor, however. As the tide of the war turned, Hitler took out his frustrations on his top commanders, relieving most of the Generalfeldmarschalls of duty before the war's conclusion. Bock, Brauchitsch, Leeb, and List were all relieved of their posts in 1942 for perceived failures during Operation Barbarossa and took no further active part in the war. Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, Manstein and Sperrle were similarly retired in 1944 and Rundstedt and Maximilian von Weichs in March 1945. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder was retired in January 1943 following a fierce argument with Hitler over the future of the German surface fleet. Walther Model, one of Hitler's most successful commanders, had nevertheless lost the Fuhrer's confidence by war's end and committed suicide to avoid capture and likely trial as a war criminal. Milch was relieved after conspiring unsuccessfully to have Göring removed from command of the Luftwaffe, and even Göring himself was stripped of his offices and expelled from the Nazi Party in Hitler's last days. Ferdinand Schörner ignominiously abandoned his command to save himself in the war's last days. Kluge, Witzleben and Rommel were either executed or forced to commit suicide for their real or imagined roles in assassination plots against Hitler. By war's end, only Keitel, Kesselring, Robert Ritter von Greim and Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz were still in positions of military responsibility.

Junior rank
Generaloberst
Balkenkreuz.svg
(Ranks Wehrmacht)
Generalfeldmarschall
Senior rank
Reichsmarschall

East Germany

The National People's Army of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR (German Democratic Republic, i.e. East Germany) created the rank of Marshal of the German Democratic Republic on 25 March 1982. A general could be appointed to this rank by the State Council (Staatsrat; the head-of-state council of the GDR) during wartime or for exceptional military achievement; no one ever held the rank, however.

Modern Germany

The ranks of Generalfeldmarschall, Generaloberst, Großadmiral and Generaladmiral no longer exist in the new German (until 1990 West German) Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, which were created in 1956. Currently, the highest military grades in the Bundeswehr are general and admiral.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Bundeswehr is in peacetime, according to Article 65a of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (constitution), the civilian Federal Minister of Defence, who holds supreme command authority over all soldiers. In wartime, during the State of Defence, that supreme command authority is transferred to the Federal Chancellor. The Inspector General of the Bundeswehr is the military chief of defence and heads the Armed Forces Command Staff (German : Führungsstab der Streitkräfte).

See also

Notes

  1. Snyder, Louis (1994) [1976]. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, pp. 111, 112
  2. Snyder, Louis (1994) [1976], p. 112
  3. Beevor, Antony (1998). Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. New York: Penguin Books. p. 381
  4. "Dienen und Verdienen. Hitlers Geschenke an seine Eliten" [Book review: Serving and earning. Hitlers presents to his elite]. www.hsozkult.de (in German). Retrieved 19 March 2016.

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