Reichswehr

Last updated
Realm Defence
Reichswehr
Flag of Weimar Republic (war).svg
War Ensign of the Reichswehr
Founded19 January 1919
Disbanded16 March 1935
Service branchesWar Ensign of Germany (1921-1933).svg  Reichsheer
Flag of Weimar Republic (jack).svg  Reichsmarine
Headquarters Zossen, near Berlin
Leadership
Commander-in-chief Friedrich Ebert (1919–25)
Paul von Hindenburg (1925–34)
Adolf Hitler (1934–35)
Minister of Defence See list
Chief of the Troop Office See list
Manpower
Military age18–45
ConscriptionNo
Active personnel115,000 (1921)
Related articles
History German Revolution
Silesian Uprisings
Suppression of the Beer Hall Putsch
Ruhr Uprising
Kapp Putsch (limited support)
General Hans von Seeckt, Chief of the Reichswehr together with infantry men at a Reichswehr manoeuvre in Thuringia, 1926 Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2005-0163, Thuringen, Reichswehrmanover, Hans v. Seeckt.jpg
General Hans von Seeckt, Chief of the Reichswehr together with infantry men at a Reichswehr manoeuvre in Thuringia, 1926
Reichswehr army structure 1920-21 to 1934 Kommandostruktur des Reichsheeres.jpg
Reichswehr army structure 1920–21 to 1934

The Reichswehr (English: Realm Defence) formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was united with the new Wehrmacht (Defence Force).

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Weimar Republic Germany state in the years 1918/1919–1933

The Weimar Republic is an unofficial historical designation for the German state from 1918 to 1933. The name derives from the city of Weimar, where its constitutional assembly first took place. The official name of the republic remained Deutsches Reich unchanged from 1871, because of the German tradition of substates. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not have monarchical connotations in itself. The Reich was changed from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. In English, the country was usually known simply as Germany.

<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.

Contents

Founding

At the end of World War I, the forces of the German Empire were disbanded, the men returning home individually or in small groups. Many of them joined the Freikorps (Free Corps), a collection of volunteer paramilitary units that were involved in suppressing the German Revolution and border clashes between 1918 and 1923.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

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.

<i>Freikorps</i> German volunteer military or anti-communist paramilitary units

Freikorps were German military volunteer units that existed from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, which effectively fought as mercenary or private armies, regardless of their own nationality. In German-speaking countries, the first so-called Freikorps were formed in the 18th century from native volunteers, enemy renegades and deserters. These sometimes exotically equipped units served as infantry and cavalry, sometimes in just company strength, sometimes in formations up to several thousand strong; there were also various mixed formations or legions. The Prussian von Kleist Freikorps included infantry, jäger, dragoons and hussars. The French Volontaires de Saxe combined uhlans and dragoons.

The Reichswehr was limited to a standing army of 100,000 men, [1] and a navy of 15,000. The establishment of a general staff was prohibited. Heavy weapons such as artillery above the calibre of 105 mm (for naval guns, above 205 mm), armoured vehicles, submarines and capital ships were forbidden, as were aircraft of any kind. Compliance with these restrictions was monitored until 1927 by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control.

The term Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control was used in a series of peace treaties concluded after the First World War (1914–1918) between different countries. Each of these treaties was concluded between the Principal Allied and Associated Powers on the one hand, and one of the Central Powers like Germany, Turkey or Bulgaria.

It was conceded that the newly formed Weimar Republic did need a military, so on 6 March 1919 a decree established the Vorläufige Reichswehr (Provisional National Defence), consisting of the Vorläufiges Reichsheer (Provisional National Army) and Vorläufige Reichsmarine (Provisional National Navy). The Vorläufige Reichswehr was made up of 43 brigades. [2]

On 30 September 1919, the army was reorganised as the Übergangsheer (Transitional Army), and the force size was reduced to 20 brigades. [2] About 400,000 men were left in the armed forces, [3] and in May 1920 it further was downsized to 200,000 men and restructured again, forming three cavalry divisions and seven infantry divisions. On 1 October 1920 the brigades were replaced by regiments and the manpower was now only 100,000 men as stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles. [2] This lasted until 1 January 1921, when the Reichswehr was officially established according to the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (Articles 159 to 213).

Treaty of Versailles one of the treaties that ended the First World War

The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to World War I. The other Central Powers on the German side of World War I signed separate treaties. Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.

The Reichswehr was a unified organisation composed of the following (as was allowed by the Versailles Treaty):

An army or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch, service branch or armed service of a nation or state. It may also include aviation assets by possessing an army aviation component. In certain states, the term army refers to the entire armed forces. Within a national military force, the word army may also mean a field army.

Infantry military service branch that specializes in combat by individuals on foot

Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.

Division (military) large military unit or formation

A division is a large military unit or formation, usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. Infantry divisions during the World Wars ranged between 8,000 and 30,000 in nominal strength.

Reichswehr soldiers in a military exercise, September 1930 Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10351, Kreis Frankfurt a-O, Herbstmanover der Reichswehr.jpg
Reichswehr soldiers in a military exercise, September 1930

Despite the limitations on its size, their analysis of the loss of World War I, research and development, secret testing abroad (in co-operation with the Red Army) and planning for better times went on. In addition, although forbidden to have a General Staff, the army continued to conduct the typical functions of a general staff under the disguised name of Truppenamt (Troop Office). During this time, many of the future leaders of the Wehrmacht – such as Heinz Guderian – first formulated the ideas that they were to use so effectively a few years later.

State within the state

In 1918, Wilhelm Groener, Quartermaster General of the German Army, had assured the government of the military's loyalty. [6] [7] But most military leaders refused to accept the democratic Weimar Republic as legitimate and instead the Reichswehr under the leadership of Hans von Seeckt became a state within the state that operated largely outside of the control of the politicians. [8] Reflecting this position as a “state within the state”, the Reichswehr created the Ministeramt or Office of the Ministerial Affairs in 1928 under Kurt von Schleicher to lobby the politicians. [9] The German historian Eberhard Kolb wrote that

…from the mid-1920s onwards the Army leaders had developed and propagated new social conceptions of a militarist kind, tending towards a fusion of the military and civilian sectors and ultimately a totalitarian military state (Wehrstaat). [10]

The biggest influence on the development of the Reichswehr was Hans von Seeckt (1866–1936), who served from 1920 to 1926 as Chef der Heeresleitung (Chief of the Army Command) – succeeding Walther Reinhardt. After the Kapp Putsch, Hans von Seeckt took over this post. After Seeckt was forced to resign in 1926, Wilhelm Heye took the post. Heye was in 1930 succeeded by Kurt Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, who submitted his resignation on 27 December 1933.

The forced reduction of strength of the German army from 4,500,000 in 1918 to 100,000 after Treaty of Versailles, enhanced the quality of the Reichsheer because only the best were permitted to join the army.[ citation needed ] However the changing face of warfare meant that the smaller army was impotent without mechanization and air support, no matter how much effort was put into modernising infantry tactics.

During 1933 and 1934, after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, the Reichswehr began a secret program of expansion. In December 1933, the army staff decided to increase the active strength to 300,000 men in 21 divisions. On 1 April 1934, between 50,000 and 60,000 new recruits entered and were assigned to special training battalions. The original seven infantry divisions of the Reichswehr were expanded to 21 infantry divisions, with Wehrkreis headquarters increased to the size of a corps HQ on 1 October 1934. [11] These divisions used cover names to hide their divisional size, but, during October 1935, these were dropped. Also, during October 1934, the officers who had been forced to retire in 1919 were recalled; those who were no longer fit for combat were assigned to administrative positions – releasing fit officers for front-line duties. [12]

Transition to the Wehrmacht

Reichswehr soldiers swear the Hitler oath in August 1934, with hands raised in the traditional schwurhand gesture Bundesarchiv Bild 102-16108, Vereidigung von Reichswehr-Soldaten auf Hitler.jpg
Reichswehr soldiers swear the Hitler oath in August 1934, with hands raised in the traditional schwurhand gesture

The Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933. The Sturmabteilung (Storm Battalion or SA), the Nazi Party militia, played a prominent part in this change.[ citation needed ] Ernst Röhm and his SA colleagues thought of their force – at that time over three million strong – as the future army of Germany, replacing the smaller Reichswehr and its professional officers, whom they viewed as old fogies who lacked revolutionary spirit. Röhm wanted to become Minister of Defense, and in February 1934 demanded that the much smaller Reichswehr be merged into the SA to form a true people's army. This alarmed both political and military leaders, and to forestall the possibility of a coup, Hitler sided with conservative leaders and the military. Röhm and the leadership of the SA were murdered, along with many other political adversaries of the Nazis, including two Reichswehr generals, in the Night of the Long Knives (30 June – 2 July 1934).

The secret programme of expansion by the military finally became public in 1935. On 1 March 1935 the Luftwaffe was established. On 16 March 1935 Germany introduced conscription – in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. In the same act, the German government renamed the Reichswehr as the Wehrmacht (defence force). On 1 June 1935 the Reichsheer was renamed the Heer (army) and the Reichsmarine the Kriegsmarine . [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Military of Germany may refer to:

Reichsmarine 1919-1935 maritime warfare branch of Germanys military

The Reichsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Weimar Republic and first two years of Nazi Germany. It was the naval branch of the Reichswehr, existing from 1919 to 1935. In 1935, it became known as the Kriegsmarine, a branch of the Wehrmacht; a change implemented by Adolf Hitler. Many of the administrative and organizational tenets of the Reichsmarine were then carried over into the organization of the Kriegsmarine.

<i lang="de" title="German language text">Sturmabteilung</i> original Nazi paramilitary

The Sturmabteilung, literally Storm Detachment, was the Nazi Party's original paramilitary. It played a significant role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Its primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and intimidating Romanis, trade unionists, and, especially, Jews – for instance, during the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.

Ernst Röhm German Nazi and military officer

Ernst Julius Günther Röhm was a German military officer and an early member of the Nazi Party. As one of the members of its predecessor, the German Workers' Party, he was a close friend and early ally of Adolf Hitler and a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung, the Nazi Party's militia, and later was its commander. By 1934, the German Army feared the SA's influence and Hitler had come to see Röhm as a potential rival, so he was executed during the Night of the Long Knives, also known as the "Röhm Purge".

Kurt von Schleicher German chancellor

Kurt Ferdinand Friedrich Hermann von Schleicher was a German general and the last Chancellor of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

Werner von Blomberg German field marshal

Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg was a German Generalfeldmarschall, Minister of War, and Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces until January 1938, as he was forced to resign due to his marriage with a woman who had posed for pornographic photographs.

Hans von Seeckt German general

Johannes "Hans" Friedrich Leopold von Seeckt was a German military officer who served as Chief of Staff to August von Mackensen, and was a central figure in planning the victories Mackensen achieved for Germany in the east during the First World War.

Paramilitary groups were formed throughout the Weimar Republic in the wake of Germany's defeat in World War I and the ensuing German Revolution. Some were created by political parties to help in recruiting, discipline and in preparation for seizing power. Some were created before World War I. Others were formed by individuals after the war and were called "Freikorps". The party affiliated groups and others were all outside government control, but the Freikorps units were under government control, supply and pay.

The Reichswehreid and from August 1934 Führereid was the name for three different versions of the oath of allegiance of the German Armed Forces, called Reichswehr from 1919 to 1935, and then Wehrmacht until 1945.

Black Reichswehr was the name for the extra-legal paramilitary formations promoted by the German Reichswehr army during the time of the Weimar Republic; it was raised despite restrictions imposed by the Versailles Treaty. The secret organization was dissolved in 1923 upon the failed Küstrin Putsch.

The Truppenamt or 'Troop Office' was the cover organisation for the German General Staff from 1919 through until 1935 when the General Staff of the German Army (Heer) was re-created. This subterfuge was deemed necessary in order for Germany to be seen to meet the requirements of the Versailles Treaty. It completely revised German tactical and strategic doctrine and thereby conserved, re-energised and unified the military thinking and capability of the Reichswehr, later to become the Wehrmacht.

The 21st Infantry Division was a German military unit which fought during World War II.

German re-armament

The German rearmament was an era of rearmament in Germany during the interwar period (1918–1939), in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. It began as soon as the treaty was signed, on a small, secret, and informal basis, but it was massively expanded after the Nazi Party came to power in 1933.

Ernst Feßmann was a German general of the Heer who led the 267th Infantry Division in the early stages of World War II. Prior to the war, he was also notable for commanding one of the first Panzer Divisions.

The 1st Division was a unit of the Reichswehr, the armed forces of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

Walther Reinhardt German general

Walther Gustav Reinhardt was a German officer who served as the last Prussian Minister of War and the first head of the army command within the newly created Ministry of the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic. During the Kapp Putsch of 1920, Reinhardt remained loyal to the elected government and was one of the few senior officers of the Reichswehr willing to order troops to fire at the revolting units.

The relationship between the Wehrmacht, the regular combined armed forces of Nazi Germany, and the regime it served has been the subject of a voluminous historiographical debate. Broadly speaking, there have been two camps. The myth of the Clean Wehrmacht claims that the Wehrmacht had minimal participation in war crimes and genocide. More recently, scholarship has emerged demonstrating that the Wehrmacht was complicit in the Holocaust.

Heer may refer to:

References

Citations

  1. Darman, Peter, ed. (2007). "Introduction: Deutschland Erwache". World War II A Day-By-Day History (60th Anniversary ed.). China: The Brown Reference Group plc. p. 10; 575. ISBN   978-0-7607-9475-3. The Reichswehr, the 100,000-man post-Versailles Treaty German Army, was forced to train with dummy tanks.
  2. 1 2 3 Axis History Factbook, Introduction to the Reichswehr, accessed July 2015.
  3. Haskew, Michael, The Wehrmacht, Amber Books Ltd. 2011, p. 13
  4. Haskew, The Wehrmacht, p. 13
  5. Porter, David, The Kriegsmarine, Amber Books Ltd. 2010, p. 11
  6. Wheeler-Bennett, J.W. (1967). Hindenburg: The Wooden Titan. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 207–208.
  7. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, New York, NY, Simon & Schuster, 2011, p. 54
  8. Kolb, Eberhard The Weimar Republic London: Routledge, 2005, p. 172
  9. Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967, p. 198
  10. Kolb, Eberhard The Weimar Republic London: Routledge, 2005, p. 173.
  11. Robert B. Kane, Disobedience and Conspiracy in the German Army 1918–1945, 102. See also Robert J. O'Neill, The German Army and the Nazi Party 1933–39, London, 1968, pp. 91–92.
  12. Stone, David J. (2006) Fighting for the Fatherland: The Story of the German Soldier from 1648 to the Present Day, p. 450.
  13. Stone says 21 May; Fighting for the Fatherland, p. 316.

Bibliography