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Hitler's Wehrmacht, 1935--1945

Hitler's Wehrmacht, 1935--1945

Translated by Janice W. Ancker
Series editor: Roger Cirillo
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Hitler's Wehrmacht, 1935--1945
    Book Description:

    Since the end of World War II, Germans have struggled with the legacy of the Wehrmacht -- the unified armed forces mobilized by Adolf Hitler in 1935 to ensure the domination of the Third Reich in perpetuity. Historians have vigorously debated whether the Wehrmacht's atrocities represented a break with the past or a continuation of Germany's military traditions. Now available for the first time in English, this meticulously researched yet accessible overview by eminent historian Rolf-Dieter Müller provides the most comprehensive analysis of the organization to date, illuminating its role in a complex, horrific era.

    Müller examines the Wehrmacht's leadership principles, organization, equipment, and training, as well as the front-line experiences of soldiers, airmen, Waffen SS, foreign legionnaires, and volunteers. He skillfully demonstrates how state-directed propaganda and terror influenced the extent to which the militarizedVolksgemeinschaft(national community) was transformed under the pressure of total mobilization. Finally, he evaluates the army's conduct of the war, from blitzkrieg to the final surrender and charges of war crimes. Brief acts of resistance, such as an officers' "rebellion of conscience" in July 1944, embody the repressed, principled humanity of Germany's soldiers, but ultimately, Müller concludes, the Wehrmacht became the "steel guarantor" of the criminal Nazi regime.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6804-3
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Translator’s Note (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction: Current State of Research (pp. 1-6)

    The era of the Wehrmacht spans only one decade. In the approximately 300 years of Prussian-German military history, the shortest episode involved the army that pledged itself to Adolf Hitler. Neither before nor since has a German army created such a maelstrom of violence. Overwhelming victories, massive crimes, and catastrophic defeats kept the entire world in a state of breathlessness. With the unconditional capitulation on 8 May 1945 and the total dissolution of the Wehrmacht, the Third Reich ceased to exist, as did the German Empire that Bismarck had created in the mid-nineteenth century from “blood and iron.” After this...

  7. 1 The Military in the Totalitarian Führer State (pp. 7-42)

    On 16 March 1935 chancellor of the Reich Adolf Hitler proclaimed German “military sovereignty.” To his inner circle he described the enormous inner tension that had preceded his sudden decision and how he had hardly been able to sleep for ten days. The organizational preparations for this revolutionary step into the foreign and military policy of the German Reich had occurred much earlier. His intentions and the measures taken against ambassadors of the Versailles signatory powers had been secret up to this point, and revealing them would involve great risk. For this reason, the army leadership had considerable doubts. Hitler,...

  8. 2 The Regime’s Armed Forces (pp. 43-90)

    Rarely has any army in the world been analyzed and described as often as this one. Never has an army experienced such highs and lows, and never in military history has an army been subjected to such widely varying judgments, including a “marching slaughterhouse,” a “criminal organization,” and possibly the greatest and most combat-effective conventional army in the era of the world wars, one that could defeat every enemy—even a superior one—under any conditions.

    In Hitler’s Wehrmacht, the army represented the largest part of the military as a whole. At the height of the Second World War, it...

  9. 3 Training and Front Experience (pp. 91-106)

    During the war, all the major powers strengthened their militaries many times over. The necessary expansion of the Wehrmacht after the start of the war was initially limited due to an elaborate system whereby many were designated ineligible for combat. Around 3 million to 6 million eligible young men were protected from the draft until shortly before the end of the war because of their status as skilled workers in the modern arms industry or because they were claimed by other civilian areas that were dogmatically oriented toward peace. It was not until the tide turned in Moscow at the...

  10. 4 The Wehrmacht and the Volksgemeinschaft (pp. 107-122)

    In the 1930s Germany experienced a comprehensive militarization. Idealized as an ethnic community with a shared heritage, this society would have to maintain itself in the coming war according to Hitler’s expectations. It was to become the “homeland front,” which, unlike during the First World War, was supposed to remain stable and productive while under the influence of the party and of modern propaganda. But what was the condition of its fighting spirit? In August and September 1939, in contrast to August 1914, there was no sign of a celebratory mood. The longing for peace was too great in broad...

  11. 5 The War of the Factories (pp. 123-138)

    The First World War showed that in the war of the factories, a nation’s ability to mobilize industrial, technological, and scientific capabilities played a powerful role. This could compensate, to a certain extent, for personnel or material deficiencies and help turn the tide for the commanders in the field. In large measure, the weapons that had been available in the First World War were models for those in the Second World War. Now the battle of material was determined by engines. Between 1914 and 1918 tanks and aircraft had served only as support for the attacking infantry, but most soldiers...

  12. 6 Total War and the War of Annihilation (pp. 139-154)

    The First World War is commonly viewed as the earliest manifestation of total war; the Second World War, as total war at its peak. The term “total war” refers to an all-out effort for the sake of war, that is, an entire society’s mobilization for war to the point of exhaustion. It means eliminating the boundaries of political war objectives, which carries the potential to destroy entire countries and populations. It means defining the war in ideological terms, dehumanizing the conduct of war, and using modern technology and science for military purposes.

    The conduct of total war from 1914 to...

  13. 7 The Wehrmacht and Operations (pp. 155-198)

    In the gray dawn of 1 September 1939, the German Wehrmacht attacked neighboring Poland. Unlike in 1914, there had been no declaration of war. Instead, there had been an attack on the German radio station in Gleiwitz, allegedly by Polish troops, but in fact, this had been completely staged by the Nazis. Behind this ruse was an attempt to camouflage the attack as an emergency act of defense and thus deceive both the local population and the rest of the world. The claim that it was only a police action was supposed to excuse the Nazis’ violation of the taboo...

  14. Epilogue: The Difficult Legacy (pp. 199-204)

    Despite the Allies’ demand for an unconditional surrender in 1943 and the announcement of the punishment of German war criminals, no one in the Wehrmacht could imagine that this was the end of the 300-year tradition of the German military. After the end of the war, this fate was shared by the Japanese as well.

    The large majority of officers loyal to the regime had confidence that the Western Allies would realize the danger their Soviet allies posed to the entire Western world. The Wehrmacht would then be an indispensable part of the defense against the “flood of Bolshevism.” In...

  15. Notes (pp. 205-210)
  16. Bibliography (pp. 211-218)
  17. Index (pp. 219-236)