The Luftwaffe raised ground troops

Army (Wehrmacht)

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The army was one of the three armed forces of the Wehrmacht, alongside the navy and the air force, and comprised the bulk of the German land forces in World War II. In addition to the army, there was also the Waffen SS and ground troops on the German side under the command of the Air Force Commander in Chief Hermann Göring and, since 1944, the Volkssturm, which was subordinate to the NSDAP party leadership.


Associations and command authorities

Special armies outside the army of the Wehrmacht

From the beginning of the Second World War, the German armed forces increasingly had larger units of ground troops that did not belong to the army, that is, were not subordinate to the Army High Command (OKH). This was also the case with other armed forces within certain limits. B. to the U.S. Marines; However, the situation was particularly confusing because of the coexistence of competing responsibilities, which was typical in National Socialist Germany and which Adolf Hitler had expressly wanted to secure his own position.

Another reason on the part of the Nazi leadership to withdraw units from the direct reach of the army was that Hitler did not trust the army generals much, as there were often plans for overthrowing long before July 20, 1944.[25] The formation of ground troops by the Luftwaffe and the Waffen SS, which were under the command of the Nazi greats Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, was intended to create a reliable, National Socialist counterweight to the army.

  • Ground troops under the command of the Air Force Commander in Chief Hermann Göring:
    • The Parachute troops were subordinate to the Air Force. A total of 13 paratrooper divisions were set up, but in the course of the war they were increasingly no longer used for airborne operations, but rather infantry. From September 1944 paratroopers, but also other troops, formed the 1st Parachute Army for the fight on the Lower Rhine.
    • In addition, since the summer of 1942 there were units for ground combat formed from "surplus Luftwaffe personnel",[26] the so-called Air Force Field Divisions. A total of 21 divisions were set up in this way.[27] Since these were hardly trained for infantry operations and therefore only partially operational, they were "after a relatively short time and unnecessarily high losses"[28] taken over into the army.
    • In addition, the Hermann Göring Division, which was even equipped with tanks, existed as a special formation. In the last year of the war, a complete “parachute tank corps” was set up from this.
    • A total of 31 anti-aircraft divisions and seven anti-aircraft corps commands were set up in the air force, which often operated together with the army units and were subordinate to their command authorities.
    • In addition, three Air Force generals, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring as OB South - Southwest - West - South, Colonel General Alexander Löhr as OB of Army Group E and temporary OB Southeast and Colonel General Kurt Student, as OB of the 1st Parachute Army and Army Groups H and Vistula entrusted to high commands over army troops.
  • Ground troops under the command of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler:
    • Right at the beginning of the Second World War, the SS started building the Waffen SS as a separate fighting force. If only volunteers were accepted at the beginning, from 1943 there was a move to include conscripts in the Waffen SS instead of the Wehrmacht. Towards the end of the war, with an actual strength of over 600,000 men, this consisted of 38 divisions and 16 general commands (corps). Formally assigned to the division of the Ministry of the Interior, the Waffen-SS as an armed force was actually not only outside the Wehrmacht, but with its focus on Hitler even outside the state.[29] In addition to SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Sepp Dietrich, the mayor of the 6th SS Panzer Army, two other SS commanders were entrusted with higher commands over army troops: SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Paul Hausser and SS-Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner.
    • At the beginning of July 1944, Hitler had already ordered 15 so-called grenadier divisions to be set up after July 20 in People's Grenadier Divisions were renamed. This “National Socialist People's Army of the Führer and his Reich” quickly grew to around 50 divisions. In addition, other people's associations were set up, such as B. the People's Artillery Corps.[30]
    • With a decree of September 25, 1944, Hitler ordered the formation of the Volkssturm at. This too was neither an institution of the Wehrmacht nor of the state in general, but one of the NSDAP. The Gauleiter was responsible for the list, and Himmler was responsible for the military organization. From the German side, the members of the Volkssturm were legally considered soldiers, but the Soviet armed forces often treated them as partisans.[31]
  • In order to weaken the Army High Command even further, since December 1941, when Hitler took over command of the Army, there was a subdivision into theaters of war of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) and those of the OKH, which were already with the Weser Exercise company against Norway began in 1940 and has now become a permanent institution. The general staff of the army was limited to the eastern front, the chief of the armed forces command staff in the OKW, Alfred Jodl, was responsible for all other theaters of war.[32]

Deployment strategy

From the experiences of the First World War, the regulation arose in the Reichswehr in 1921/22 under Hans von Seeckt Army Service Regulations H.DV. 487 "Command and Combat of Combined Arms" (FuG) [4]. This was established by the Army Service Regulations H.Dv. 300/1 "Troop leadership" (T.F. 1933, also: "Beck regulation") replaced under the leadership of Lieutenant General Ludwig Beck.

The Blitzkrieg strategy devised by the Wehrmacht aimed primarily at encircling larger opposing troops. Material battles and trench warfare like in the First World War should be avoided. Unexpected advances should ideally not give the opponent an opportunity to organize a stable defense.

An important planner on the German side in World War II is Lieutenant General Erich von Manstein (later General Field Marshal and Commander of Army Group South), who revised the planned outdated attack plans on France and planned a rapid advance of heavy tank divisions through the Ardennes (later referred to as the sickle-cut plan and in the frame practiced during the western campaign in May 1940).[33] The Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union, prepared militarily under the code name "Operation Barbarossa", failed after initial German successes. The Soviet victories in the Battle of Moscow at the end of 1941 and, above all, in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942/43 forced the Wehrmacht to restrict itself essentially to defensive operations. On their retreat, the Wehrmacht practiced the scorched earth tactic.

Sergeant with submachine gun MP 40 and binoculars in 1941 during an exercise (Poland)

See also


  • BundesArchiv - Department MA (Military Archives) - Armed Forces 1919–1945 - Reichswehr and Wehrmacht - Reichsheer and Army - Command authorities of the peace and field army.
  • Georg Tessin: Associations and troops of the German Wehrmacht and Waffen SS in World War II 1939–1945. 16 volumes, Osnabrück 1965 ff.
  • Manfred Rauh: History of World War II. 3 volumes, Berlin 1998.
  • Christian Zentner: World War II. Lexicon of World War II. KNOWLEDGE digital 2002, 6 CD-ROMs.
  • Johannes Hürter: Hitler's army leaders - the German commanders in chief in the war against the Soviet Union in 1941/42. Munich 2006.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ The fact that the latter was often briefly referred to as “chief” has led to an abundance of misunderstandings in the literature, especially when it comes to the translation of foreign-language works: The “chief of the 4th Army” quickly becomes a “commander-in-chief of the 4th Army ".
  2. ↑ cf. Tom Ripley, The history of the Wehrmacht 1939–1945, Vienna 2003, p. 211 f. - Often the continuity in a command authority results from the person of the chief of staff. So was z. B. General Georg von Sodenstern Chief of Staff of Army Group A from February 6, 1940 to February 9, 1943 and experienced four renaming of the command authority (A - OB West - A - South - B) and four commanders-in-chief (Rundstedt, Reichenau, Bock, Weichs ).
  3. ↑ 1943–1945 the following army groups were newly deployed or completely reorganized: E, Africa, F, C (Italy), B (Channel coast), G, H, Upper Rhine, Vistula.
  4. ab"The German Army 1939, structure, locations, occupation and list of all officers on January 3, 1939", published by H. H. Podzun, Bad Nauheim 1953.
  5. ↑ The number is reduced to 13 if Army Group B (3) is rated as a continuation of Army Group B (2) and HGr Weichsel as a continuation of Army Group Upper Rhine; However, since the subordination changed from OKH to OKW or from OKW to OKH and the conversion did not take place exactly one to one, the individual staffs are usually counted separately at the Federal Archives - Military Archives Department - and in the relevant literature.
  6. ^ Order according to signatures in the Federal Archives - Department MA - Signatures RH 19-I to RH 19-XV.
  7. ↑ Friedrich Stahl: Army division 1939. Dörfler, ISBN 3-89555-338-7.
  8. ↑ Also known as "Army Group B" or "Army Blumentritt". This inconsistent naming is also an indication of the chaotic conditions during the collapse.
  9. ↑ Since "Heeresgruppe" means "Army Group" in English and "Groupe d’Armées" in French, unbelievable chaos is often created here when translating back and forth: Army Group = Army Group - Groupe d’Armées = Army Group.
  10. ↑ cf. Federal Archives - Department MA - Signature: RH 20-8, online finding aid, introduction.
  11. ↑ So it could be that one Army Group Command was subordinate to another: Army Group D was subordinate to Army Groups B and G in 1944, Army Group F from 1943–45, Army Group E.
  12. ↑ This division into OKW and OKH theaters of war had already started with the "Operation Weser Exercise" against Norway in 1940 and became a permanent establishment after Hitler had also assumed command of the army on December 19, 1941. See Rauh, Vol. III, p. 191 ff.
  13. ↑ cf. Leader's Decree of April 24, 1945.
  14. ↑ Guardian p. 266: “… the composition of these large associations [was] constantly in flux…. 'The' Army Group and 'the' Army, like 'the' Army Corps, were… rather staffs… than units ”.
  15. ↑ So there were 208 div. In 1941, 233 div. In 1942, 276 div. In 1943. (Rauh, Vol. III, p. 99)
  16. ↑ Rauh, Vol. III, p. 72.
  17. ↑ Rauh, Vol. III, p. 199.
  18. ↑ This armored car Sd.Kfz. 221 were the only armored vehicles of the 1st wave division.
  19. ↑ Wolfgang Fleischer, Richard Eiermann: The German tank destroyer force 1935–1945, Podzun-Pallas Verlag 1998, ISBN 3-7909-0613-1; Pp. 115 to 117
  20. ↑ Werner Haupt: The German infantry divisions. Ed. Dörfler im Nebel-Verlag, Eggolsheim 2005, ISBN 3-89555-274-7, p.99.
  21. ↑ Werner Haupt: The German Infantry Divisions, Dörfler Zeitgeschichte, ISBN 3-89555-274-7, p. 100.
  22. ↑ Werner Haupt: The German infantry divisions. Ed. Dörfler im Nebel-Verlag, Eggolsheim 2005, ISBN 3-89555-274-7, p.100.
  23. ↑ Werner Haupt: The German infantry divisions. Ed. Dörfler im Nebel-Verlag, Eggolsheim 2005, ISBN 3-89555-274-7, page 190.
  24. ↑ Werner Oswald: Motor vehicles and tanks of the Reichswehr, Wehrmacht and Bundeswehr: Catalog d. German military vehicles from 1900 to today. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-87943-850-1.
  25. ↑ Rauh, Vol. 2, pp. 87 ff. And Vol. 3, pp. 237 ff.
  26. ↑ cf. Lexicon of World War II, keyword “Luftwaffe field divisions”.
  27. ↑ A 22nd was disbanded before it was completed. See ibid.
  28. ↑ cf. Wolfgang Ernst: Was Hitler a general?, 2000, p. 96.
  29. ↑ cf. Lexicon of World War II, keyword "Waffen-SS" and Rauh, vol. 3, p. 226 f.
  30. ↑ cf. Rauh, Vol. 3, pp. 339 f.
  31. ↑ cf. Lexicon of World War II, keyword “Volkssturm” and Rauh, vol. 3, p. 341 f.
  32. ↑ cf. Rauh, Vol. III, p. 191 ff.
  33. ↑ Berthold Seewald: The "Blitzkrieg" was invented against FranceDie Welt, May 11, 2015