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Wehrmacht
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Wehrmacht

The Wehrmacht (literally defence force or means/power of resistance) was the name of the armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945.

(In Nazi Germany the term "Wehrmacht" was not only used for the German military forces. The military forces of other nations were also addressed as "Wehrmacht". For instance "Englische Wehrmacht" meant all English forces.)

In 1935, with the re-institution of conscription in Germany, the "Wehrmacht" became the official term for the German armed forces, previously known as the Reichswehr. Today Germany's armed forces are called Bundeswehr and take care not to follow the footsteps and traditions of the Wehrmacht. The former German Democratic Republic's armed forces were called Nationale Volksarmee (national people's army).

The Wehrmacht was organised into:

The Commander-in-Chief was the German Chancellor (a position Adolf Hitler had gained 1933). In 1938, after the Blomberg-Fritsch-Krise the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) under Wilhelm Keitel was formed, intended to serve as military staff for the Chancellor.

Any soldier in the Wehrmacht had to swear "unconditional loyalty" to the "Führer und Reichskanzler" Adolf Hitler.

Former Wehrmacht members have long hold the belive and claimed that the Wehrmacht just did its duty out of a sense of loyality, a sense of duty, and honor, but was not part of the Nazi murder-machine. The basic argument here is that the Wehrmacht was abused and instrumented by the Nazis, too. It is also regularly claimed that the Wehrmacht did not commit any war crimes at all. These is of course contradicting evidence. The Wehrmacht was a huge organisation, and the question is not if war crimes were commited, but to what extend and on what scale. The debate is still ongoing. In the mid-90s a controvers exhibition (Wehrmachtsausstellung) about crimes of the Wehrmacht was displayed in Germany, and lead to much public discussions. The exhibition had to be re-done after factual errors were discovered.

On the other hand, in one of Germany's finest hours Wehrmacht officers around Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler and overthrow his government. But again, the Wehrmacht was a large organisation and the size of the resistance marginal.

The different branches of the Wehrmacht had different command organisations: OKH for the army, OKM for the Navy and OKL for the Air Force.

Its actions were presented with a lot of beautiful photos in the magazine "Signal".

See also