knew his only hope of living again was to encourage his best genetic
scientists to escape Germany before Berlin was overrun. He had been assured
by Joseph Mengele and Ilse Koch, with the backing of Joseph Goebbels, that
they could create a super human race, and restore his dead body to life,
using their new method of duplicating animals and humans.
The Wehrmacht were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe (air force). 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.
The Replacement Army (Ersatzheer) was part of the Imperial German Army during
World War I and part of the Wehrmacht during World War II.
After the Nazi rise to power in 1933, one of Adolf Hitler's most overt and audacious moves was to establish the Wehrmacht, a modern offensively-capable armed force, fulfilling the Nazi régime's long-term goals of regaining lost territory as well as gaining new territory and dominating its neighbours. This required the reinstatement of conscription and massive investment and defense spending on the arms industry.
The Wehrmacht formed the heart of Germany's politico-military power. In the early part of the Second World War, the Wehrmacht employed combined arms tactics (close-cover air-support, tanks and infantry) to devastating effect in what became known as Blitzkrieg (lightning war). Its campaigns in France (1940), the Soviet Union (1941) and North Africa (1941/42) are regarded by historians as acts of boldness. At the same time, the far-flung advances strained the Wehrmacht's capacity to the breaking point, culminating in its first major defeat in the Battle of Moscow (1941); by late 1942, Germany was losing the initiative in all theatres. The German operational art proved no match to the war-making abilities of the Allied coalition, making the Wehrmacht's weaknesses in strategy, doctrine and logistics apparent.
Closely cooperating with the SS and the Einsatzgruppen, the German armed forces committed numerous war crimes (despite later denials and promotion of the myth of the clean Wehrmacht). The majority of the war crimes took place in the Soviet Union, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy, as part of the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union, the Holocaust and Nazi security warfare.
During World War II about 18 million men served in the Wehrmacht. By the time the war ended in Europe in May 1945, German forces (consisting of the Heer, the Kriegsmarine, the Luftwaffe, the Waffen-SS, the Volkssturm, and foreign collaborator units) had lost approximately 11,300,000 men, about 5,318,000 of whom were missing, killed or died in captivity. Only a few of the Wehrmacht's upper leadership went on trial for war crimes, despite evidence suggesting that more were involved in illegal actions. According to Ian Kershaw, most of the three million Wehrmacht soldiers who invaded the USSR participated in war crimes.
In January 1919, after World War I ended with the signing of the armistice of 11 November 1918, the armed forces were dubbed Friedensheer (peace army). In March 1919, the national assembly passed a law founding a 420,000-strong preliminary army, the Vorläufige Reichswehr. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were announced in May, and in June, Germany signed the treaty that, among other terms, imposed severe constraints on the size of Germany's armed forces. The army was limited to one hundred thousand men with an additional fifteen thousand in the navy. The fleet was to consist of at most six battleships, six cruisers, and twelve destroyers. Submarines, tanks and heavy artillery were forbidden and the air-force was dissolved. A new post-war military, the Reichswehr, was established on 23 March 1921. General conscription was abolished under another mandate of the Versailles treaty.
The Reichswehr was limited to 115,000 men, and thus the armed forces, under the leadership of Hans von Seeckt, retained only the most capable officers. The American historians Alan Millet and Williamson Murray wrote "In reducing the officers corps, Seeckt chose the new leadership from the best men of the general staff with ruthless disregard for other constituencies, such as war heroes and the nobility." Seeckt's determination that the Reichswehr be an elite cadre force that would serve as the nucleus of an expanded military when the chance for restoring conscription came essentially led to the creation of a new army, based upon, but very different from, the army that existed in World War I. In the 1920s, Seeckt and his officers developed new doctrines that emphasized speed, aggression, combined arms and initiative on the part of lower officers to take advantage of momentary opportunities. Though Seeckt retired in 1926, his influence on the army was still apparent when it went to war in 1939.
Germany was forbidden to have an air force by the Versailles treaty; nonetheless, Seeckt created a clandestine cadre of air force officers in the early 1920s. These officers saw the role of an air force as winning air superiority, strategic bombing, and close air support. That the Luftwaffe did not develop a strategic bombing force in the 1930s was not due to a lack of interest, but because of economic limitations. The leadership of the Navy led by Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, a close protégé of Alfred von Tirpitz, was dedicated to the idea of reviving Tirpitz's High Seas Fleet. Officers who believed in submarine warfare led by Admiral Karl Dönitz were in a minority before 1939.
By 1922, Germany had begun covertly circumventing the conditions of the Versailles treaty. A secret collaboration with the Soviet Union began after the Treaty of Rapallo. Major-General Otto Hasse traveled to Moscow in 1923 to further negotiate the terms. Germany helped the Soviet Union with industrialization and Soviet officers were to be trained in Germany. German tank and air-force specialists could exercise in the Soviet Union and German chemical weapons research and manufacture would be carried out there along with other projects. In 1924 a fighter-pilot school was established at Lipetsk, where several hundred German air force personnel received instruction in operational maintenance, navigation, and aerial combat training over the next decade until the Germans finally left in September 1933. However, the arms buildup was done in secrecy, until Hitler came to power and it received broad political support.
NAZI RISE TO POWER
After the death of President Paul von Hindenburg on 2 August 1934, Adolf Hitler assumed the office of President of Germany, and thus became commander in chief. In February 1934, the Defence Minister Werner von Blomberg, acting on his own initiative, had all of the Jews serving in the Reichswehr given an automatic and immediate dishonorable discharge. Again, on his own initiative Blomberg had the armed forces adopt Nazi symbols into their uniforms in May 1934. In August of the same year, on Blomberg's initiative and that of the Ministeramt chief General Walther von Reichenau, the entire military took the Hitler oath, an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler. Hitler was most surprised at the offer; the popular view that Hitler imposed the oath on the military is false. The oath read: "I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath".
By 1935, Germany was openly flouting the military restrictions set forth in the Versailles Treaty: German rearmament was announced on 16 March with the "Edict for the Buildup of the Wehrmacht" (German: Gesetz für den Aufbau der Wehrmacht) and the reintroduction of conscription. While the size of the standing army was to remain at about the 100,000-man mark decreed by the treaty, a new group of conscripts equal to this size would receive training each year. The conscription law introduced the name "Wehrmacht"; the Reichswehr was officially renamed the Wehrmacht on 21 May 1935. Hitler's proclamation of the Wehrmacht's existence included a total of no less than 36 divisions in its original projection, contravening the Treaty of Versailles in grandiose fashion. In December 1935, General Ludwig Beck added 48 tank battalions to the planned rearmament program. Hitler originally set a time frame of 10 years for remilitarization, but soon shortened it to four years. With the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the Anschluss, the German Reich's territory increased significantly, providing a larger population pool for conscription.
RECRUITMENT OF PERSONNEL
Recruitment for the Wehrmacht was accomplished through voluntary enlistment and conscription, with 1.3 million being drafted and 2.4 million volunteering in the period 1935–1939. The total number of soldiers who served in the Wehrmacht during its existence from 1935 to 1945 is believed to have approached 18.2 million. The German military leadership originally aimed at a homogeneous military, possessing traditional Prussian military values. However, with Hitler's constant wishes to increase the Wehrmacht's size, the Army was forced to accept citizens of lower class and education, decreasing internal cohesion and appointing officers who lacked real-war experience from previous conflicts, especially World War I and the Spanish Civil War.
The effectiveness of officer training and recruitment by the Wehrmacht has been identified as a major factor in its early victories as well as its ability to keep the war going as long as it did even as the war turned against Germany.
As the Second World War intensified, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe personnel were increasingly transferred to the army, and "voluntary" enlistments in the SS were stepped up as well. Following the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, fitness and physical health standards for Wehrmacht recruits were drastically lowered, with the regime going so far as to create "special diet" battalions for men with severe stomach ailments. Rear-echelon personnel were more often sent to front-line duty wherever possible, especially during the final two years of the war where, inspired by constant propaganda, the oldest and youngest were being recruited and driven by instilled fear and fanaticism to serve on the fronts and, often, to fight to the death, whether judged to be cannon fodder or elite troops.
Prior to World War II, the Wehrmacht strove to remain a purely ethnic German force; as such, minorities within and outside of Germany, such as the Czechs in annexed Czechoslovakia, were exempted from military service after Hitler's takeover in 1938. Foreign volunteers were generally not accepted in the German armed forces prior to 1941. With the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the government's positions changed. German propagandists wanted to present the war not as a purely German concern, but as a multi-national crusade against the so-called Jewish Bolshevism. Hence, the Wehrmacht and the SS began to seek out recruits from occupied and neutral countries across Europe: the Germanic populations of the Netherlands and Norway were recruited largely into the SS, while "non-Germanic" people were recruited into the Wehrmacht. The "voluntary" nature of such recruitment was often dubious, especially in the later years of the war when even Poles living in the Polish Corridor were declared "ethnic Germans" and drafted.
After Germany's defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht also made substantial use of personnel from the Soviet Union, including the Caucasian Muslim Legion, Turkestan Legion, Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians and Russians, Cossacks, and others who wished to fight against the Soviet regime or who were otherwise induced to join. Between 15,000 and 20,000 anti-communist White émigrés who had left Russia after the Russian Revolution joined the ranks of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS, with 1,500 acting as interpreters and more than 10,000 serving in the guard force of the Russian Protective Corps.
Legally, the commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht was Adolf Hitler in his capacity as Germany's head of state, a position he gained after the death of President Paul von Hindenburg in August 1934. With the creation of the Wehrmacht in 1935, Hitler elevated himself to Supreme Commander of the Armed
Forces, retaining the position until his suicide on 30 April 1945. The title of Commander-in-Chief was given to the Minister of the Reichswehr Werner von Blomberg, who was simultaneously renamed the Reich Minister of War. Following the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, Blomberg resigned and Hitler abolished the Ministry of War. As a replacement for the ministry, the Wehrmacht High Command Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), under Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, was put in its place.
Placed under the OKW were the three branch High Commands: Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH), Oberkommando der Marine (OKM), and Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL). The OKW was intended to serve as a joint command and coordinate all military activities, with Hitler at the top. Though many senior officers, such as von Manstein, had advocated for a real tri-service Joint Command, or appointment of a single Joint Chief of Staff, Hitler refused. Even after the defeat at Stalingrad, Hitler refused, stating that Göring as Reichsmarschall and Hitler's deputy, would not submit to someone else or see himself as an equal to other service commanders. However, a more likely reason was Hitler feared it would break his image of having the "Midas touch" concerning military strategy.
With the creation of the OKW, Hitler solidified his control over the Wehrmacht. Showing restraint at the beginning of the war, Hitler also became increasingly involved in military operations at every scale.
Additionally, there was a clear lack of cohesion between the three High Commands and the OKW, as senior generals were unaware of the needs, capabilities and limitations of the other branches. With Hitler serving as Supreme Commander, branch commands were often forced to fight for influence with Hitler. However, influence with Hitler not only came from rank and merit but also who Hitler perceived as loyal, leading to inter-service rivalry, rather than cohesion between his military advisers.
- Z OF NAZI GERMANY