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Rudolf Stoger-Steiner von Steinstatten here as Generaloberst Rudolf Stoger-Steiner von Steinstatten.jpg
Rudolf Stöger-Steiner von Steinstätten here as Generaloberst

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.

German <i>Reich</i> official name for the German nation state from 1871 to 1949

Deutsches Reich was the official name in the German language for the German nation state that existed from 1871 to 1945. The Reich became understood as deriving its authority and sovereignty entirely from a continuing unitary German 'national people'; with that authority and sovereignty being exercised at any one time over a unitary German 'state territory' with variable boundaries and extent. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not in itself have monarchical connotations. The word Kaiserreich is applied to denote an empire with an emperor; hence the German Empire of 1871–1918 is termed Deutsches Kaiserreich in standard works of reference. From 1943 to 1945, the official name of Germany became – but was not formally proclaimed – Großdeutsches Reich on account of the further German peoples and associated territories annexed into the state's administration during and before the Second World War.

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.

<i>Reichswehr</i> 1921–1935 combined military forces of Germany

The Reichswehr formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was united with the new Wehrmacht.


A literal translation of Generaloberst would be "uppermost general", but it is often translated as "colonel-general" by analogy to Oberst, "colonel", including in countries where the rank was adopted, e.g. in Russia (генерал-полковник, general-polkovnik). "Oberst" derives from the superlative form of Germanic ober (upper), cognate to English over, thus "Superior General" might be a more idiomatic rendering. The rank was created in 1854, originally for Emperor William I—then Prince of Prussia—because traditionally members of the royal family were not promoted to the rank of field marshal. During the 19th century the rank was largely honorary and usually only held by members of the princely families or the Governor of Berlin. Regular promotion of professional officers to the grade did not begin until 1911. Since the rank of Generalfeldmarschall was also reserved for wartime promotions, the additional rank of a "supreme general in the capacity of a field marshal"—the Generaloberst im Range eines Generalfeldmarschalls—was created for promotions during peacetime. Such generals were entitled to wear four pips on their shoulder boards, compared to the normal three. As such, Generaloberst could be a peacetime equivalent of the general field marshal rank.

William I, German Emperor German Emperor and King of Prussia

William I, or in German Wilhelm I., of the House of Hohenzollern, was King of Prussia from 2 January 1861 and the first German Emperor from 18 January 1871 to his death, the first head of state of a united Germany. Under the leadership of William and his Minister President Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the establishment of the German Empire. Despite his long support of Bismarck as Minister President, William held strong reservations about some of Bismarck's more reactionary policies, including his anti-Catholicism and tough handling of subordinates. In contrast to the domineering Bismarck, William was described as polite, gentlemanly and, while staunchly conservative, he was more open to certain classical liberal ideas than his grandson Wilhelm II.

Generalfeldmarschall 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 in the Kaiserliche Marine and Kriegsmarine, a five-star rank, comparable to OF-10 in today's NATO naval forces.

Generaloberst was the second highest general officer rank—below field marshal—in the Prussian Army as well as in the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1921–33), the Wehrmacht (which included the Luftwaffe , established in 1935) of Nazi Germany (1933–45), and the East German Nationale Volksarmee (1949–1991). As military ranks were often used for other uniformed services, the rank was also used by the Waffen-SS and the Ordnungspolizei of Nazi Germany, and the Volkspolizei and Stasi of East Germany. In East Germany, the rank was junior to the general of the army (Armeegeneral), as well as to the briefly extant, and never awarded, rank of Marschall der DDR .

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.

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 Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Austro-Hungarian Army

gorget patch Generaloberst of the k.u.k. Common Army Kuk ColGen 1918.svg
gorget patch Generaloberst of the k.u.k. Common Army

In 1915 the Generaloberst - Vezérezredes rank was introduced to the Austro-Hungarian Common Army. It was the second highest behind the Feldmarschall - Tábornagy rank.

See also
  1. 1916 Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand von Österreich-Toskana (1872–1942)
  2. Friedrich Graf von Beck-Rzikowsky (1830–1920)
  3. Eduard Graf Paar (1837–1919)
  4. Arthur Freiherr von Bolfras (1838–1922)
  5. Friedrich Freiherr von Georgi (1852–1926)
  6. Karl Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin (1855–1925)
  7. Viktor Graf Dankl von Krasnik (1854–1941)
  8. Karl Tersztyánszky von Nádas (1854–1921)
  9. Adolf Freiherr von Rhemen zu Barensfeld (1855–1932)
  10. Paul Freiherr Puhallo von Brlog (1856–1926)
  11. Erzherzog Leopold Salvator von Österreich-Toskana (1863–1931)
  12. Karl Graf von Kirchbach auf Lauterbach (1856–1939)
  13. Karl Georg Graf Huyn (1857–1938)
  14. Hermann Kusmanek von Burgneustädten (1860–1934)
  15. Karl Křitek (1861–1928)
  16. Wenzel Freiherr von Wurm (1859–1921)
  17. Samuel Freiherr von Hazai (1851–1942)
  18. Leopold Freiherr von Hauer (1854–1933)
  19. Viktor Graf von Scheuchenstuel (1857–1938)
  20. Stephan Freiherr Sarkotić von Lovčen (1858–1939)
  21. Josef Freiherr Roth von Limanowa-Łapanów (1859–1927)
  22. Arthur Freiherr Arz von Straußenburg (1857–1935)
  23. Hugo Martiny von Malastów (1860–1940)
  24. Rudolf Freiherr Stöger-Steiner von Steinstätten (1861–1921)
  25. Alois Fürst Schönburg-Hartenstein (1858–1944)

German Empire

Rank insignia of the German Empire 1871 until 1918, here shoulder strap of the German Imperial Army: twisted of silver- and golden-braids with three stars to "Colonel general" (equivalent to four-star rank, today: OF-9).

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.

A four-star rank is the rank of any four-star officer described by the NATO OF-9 code. Four-star officers are often the most senior commanders in the armed services, having ranks such as (full) admiral, (full) general, or air chief marshal. This designation is also used by some armed forces that are not North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) members.

Generaloberst (1871-1918) DR Generaloberst 1918.gif
Generaloberst (1871–1918)

Bavarian Army

Carl Grafvon Horn was a Bavarian Colonel General and War Minister from April 4, 1905 to February 16, 1912. He was born in Würzburg and died in Munich. Before he became minister, he was Lieutenant General and divisional commander in Regensburg, where the Hornstraße is named in honor of him.

Otto Kreß von Kressenstein German general

Paul Otto Felix FreiherrKreß von Kressenstein was a Bavarian Colonel General and War Minister from 16 February 1912 to 7 December 1916.

Prussian Army

Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden as Prussian Generaloberst(with the special rank GFM) FrederikIB.jpg
Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden as Prussian Generaloberst(with the special rank GFM)

Royal Saxon Army

Army of Württemberg

Weimar Republic


Nazi Germany


Colonel General
Collar tabs for the Generals of the Heer.svg Generaloberst-camo.svg
Generaloberst (Wehrmacht) 8.svg
Army shoulder board
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
RankGeneral officer group
NATO rank OF-9
Next higher rank Generalfeldmarschall
Next lower rank General der Waffengattung
Equivalent rankssee list

The equivalent ranks of a colonel general were in the:

⇒ see also main articles Ranks: Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, and Waffen-SS


  1. April 20, 1936 – Werner von Fritsch (1880–1939)
  2. November 1, 1938 – Ludwig Beck (1880–1944)
  3. Dezember 31, 1938 – Wilhelm Adam (1877–1949)
  4. Oktober 1, 1939 – Johannes Blaskowitz (1883–1948)
  5. July 19, 1940 – Friedrich Dollmann (1882–1944)
  6. July 19, 1940 – Heinz Guderian (1888–1954)
  7. July 19, 1940 – Franz Halder (1884–1972)
  8. July 19, 1940 – Hermann Hoth (1885–1971)
  9. July 19, 1940 – Adolf Strauß (1879–1973)
  10. July 19, 1940 – Nikolaus von Falkenhorst (1885–1968)
  11. July 19, 1940 – Friedrich Fromm (1888–1945)
  12. July 19, 1940 – Curt Haase (1881–1943)
  13. July 19, 1940 – Erich Hoepner (1886–1944)
  14. July 19, 1940 – Eugen Ritter von Schobert (1883–1941)
  15. January 1, 1942 – Georg-Hans Reinhardt (1887–1963)
  16. January 1, 1942 – Rudolf Schmidt (1886–1957)
  17. April 1, 1942 – Richard Ruoff (1883–1967)
  18. Jun 1, 1942 – Eduard Dietl (1890–1944)
  19. July 3, 1942 – Georg Lindemann (1884–1963)
  20. December 3, 1942 – Hans-Jürgen von Arnim (1889–1962)
  21. January 1, 1943 – Gotthard Heinrici (1886–1971)
  22. January 1, 1943 – Hans von Salmuth (1888–1962)
  23. Januar 30, 1943 – Walter Heitz (1878–1944)
  24. July 6, 1943 – Eberhard von Mackensen (1889–1969)
  25. September 1, 1943 – Heinrich Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel (1887–1952)
  26. September 1, 1943 – Karl-Adolf Hollidt (1891–1985)
  27. February 1, 1944 – Alfred Jodl (1890–1946)
  28. February 1, 1944 – Erwin Jaenecke (1890–1960)
  29. February 1, 1944 – Walter Weiß (1890–1967)
  30. February 1, 1944 – Kurt Zeitzler (1895–1963)
  31. April 1, 1944 – Josef Harpe (1887–1968)
  32. April 1, 1944 – Lothar Rendulic (1887–1971)
  33. April 20, 1944 – Hans-Valentin Hube (1890–1944)
  34. July 23, 1944 – Johannes Frießner (1892–1971)
  35. August 15, 1944 – Erhard Raus (1889–1956)
  36. May 1, 1945 – Carl Hilpert (1888–1947)


Luftwaffe rank insignia
Generaloberst Luftwaffe
  1. July 19, 1940 – Alfred Keller (1882–1974)
  2. July 19, 1940 – Hans-Jürgen Stumpff (1889–1968)
  3. July 19, 1940 – Ernst Udet (1896–1941)
  4. July 19, 1940 – Ulrich Grauert (1889–1941)
  5. July 19, 1940 – Hubert Weise (1884–1950)
  6. May 3, 1941 – Alexander Löhr (1885–1947)
  7. April 1, 1942 – Hans Jeschonnek (1899–1943)
  8. November 1, 1942 – Günther Rüdel (1883–1950)
  9. February 16, 1943 – Bruno Loerzer (1891–1960)
  10. Jun 11, 1943 – Otto Deßloch (1889–1977)
  11. July 13, 1944 – Kurt Student (1890–1978)
  12. July 22, 1944 (posthum) – Günther Korten (1898–1944)


Rank insignia Waffen-SS
Uniform colour Feldgrau (Waffen-SS)

SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer and Generaloberst of the Waffen-SS :

German Police

Rank insignia police 1936–1945
Collar tabs for the Generals of the German Police.svg
Gorget patche 1936–42
GenObst d. Polizei Kragenspiegel 1942-45.gif
Gorget patche 1942–45
Shoulder strap
Generaloberst of the Police

SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer and Generaloberst of the Police:

German Democratic Republic (East Germany)

Rank insignia
Generaloberst Land forces

National People's Army

In the Land Forces and Air Forces of the National People's Army, as well as the Border Troops of the German Democratic Republic Generaloberst was in line to Soviet military doctrine third general officer rank in that particular genera´s rank group. Pertaining to the NATO-Rangcode it might have been comparable to the three-star rank (OF-8). The equivalent to the Generaloberst was Admiral of the Volksmarine .

See also
Preceded by
Junior Rank
Coat of arms of NVA (East Germany).svg
(NPA rank)
Succeeded by
Senior Rank
  1. March 1, 1966 Kurt Wagner (1904–1989)
  2. March 1, 1972 Herbert Scheibe (1914–1991)
  3. March 1, 1976 Horst Stechbarth (born 1925)
  4. October 7, 1977 Werner Fleißner (1922–1985)
  5. July 14, 1979 Erich Peter (1919–1987)
  6. October 7, 1979 Wolfgang Reinhold (1923–2012)
  7. October 7, 1979 Fritz Streletz (born 1926)
  8. March 1, 1986 Joachim Goldbach (1929–2008)
  9. March 1, 1987 Horst Brünner (1929–2008)
  10. October 7, 1988 Klaus-Dieter Baumgarten (1931–2008)
  11. October 7, 1989 Fritz Peter (born 1927)

Ministry of State Security

  1. February 1980 Bruno Beater (1914–1982)
  2. May 1986 Markus Wolf (1923–2006)
  3. February 1987 Rudi Mittig (1925–1994)
  4. 1989 Werner Großmann (born 1929)

Deutsche Volkspolizei (DVP)

  1. 1962 Karl Maron (1903–1975)
  2. 1987 Karl-Heinz Wagner (1928–2011)

See also

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  1. Kurt von Priesdorff: Soldatisches Führertum. Band 6, Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt Hamburg, ohne Jahr, S. 417.