Armament of the Wehrmacht

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Junkers factory in Aschersleben : Series production of Ju-88 hulls

Economic and financial policy measures between the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933 and the start of the Second World War in Europe on September 1, 1939, which served to expand the military of the German Reich , are referred to as armament of the Wehrmacht .

The arming of the armed forces, army , navy and air force , which were combined in the Wehrmacht from 1935 , was an integral part of National Socialist policy and, for Hitler, the most important prerequisite for regaining the great power of the German Reich. As a result of the vigorously advanced armaments program, the foundation of which was already laid in the Weimar Republic , the Wehrmacht created a strong military power factor on the European continent, whereby material and personnel quality deficiencies were accepted in favor of rapid development. The 115,000 Reichswehr men granted in the Versailles Peace Treaty could be expanded to a 1.1 million strong "active force" by 1939 due to the military service introduced in 1935 , which increased to 4.5 million men through mobilization at the beginning of the war.

In direct connection with the armament, the four-year plan authority was created, whose task, in addition to the function of its own armaments organization, was to expand the economy to make it “war-ready”. The rapidly increasing military budget was accompanied by an enormous national debt . Due to inefficient organization and the lack of an overall armament plan, however, the deep armament necessary for a longer war could not be built up and extensive reserves could not be made available.


Starting point in the Weimar Republic

The defeat in World War I and the resulting Peace Treaty of Versailles determined the thinking of the Reichswehr . The drastic restrictions that were imposed met with broad resistance from politics and the population, so that the 100,000-man army with its seven infantry and three cavalry divisions not only allowed in the treaty but, as was the case in the occupation of the Ruhr, with no defense Eyes of the military leaders was seen as a temporary solution and as a starting formation for a larger and unconditional force. In order to achieve this goal, the Reichswehr leadership was prepared to violate the Versailles Treaty, which was a Reich law, and to take illegal measures such as equipping the resident police with military equipment, approving the Black Reichswehr , and setting up black cash registers such as the Lohmann affair , the concealment of state armaments investments by the coal and steel scheme , the secret armaments planning by the Stega , the continuation of the forbidden general staff under the code name troop office and the military cooperation with the Soviet Union within the framework of the Rapallo treaty to obtain basic tactical and technical knowledge. Until the beginning of the 1930s, however, the extent and the military efficiency of these measures remained relatively low in terms of personnel and material.

First armaments program

Chancellor Wilhelm Marx approved the financing of the secret armament

The dismissal of Hans von Seeckts as head of the army command in October 1926 and the realization, which was slowly gaining ground in the army command , that only cooperation with the Reichstag as a legislature would provide a political safeguard for the desired armament measures, marked a turning point in the relationship between the Reichswehr and the imperial government, viewed with skepticism . In November 1926 , Reichswehr Minister Gessler announced to the cabinet that he would give up the secrecy that had hitherto been practiced vis-à-vis the government and from now on to provide comprehensive information about the armaments measures that had been initiated so far. Due to the thus accepted political control over the Reichswehr, the cabinet under Reich Chancellor Wilhelm Marx and his social democratic successor Hermann Müller was ready to take over the financing of the still secret armaments measures. Thereupon, after almost two years of preparatory work, the “First Armaments Program” was approved by the Chief of Army Command on September 29, 1928, and passed by the Müller cabinet on October 18. The aim of this program, which for the first time integrated the entire material armament project of the army into a five-year program, was to equip equipment and ammunition for a 16-division army, limited stocks and measures to improve industrial production possibilities in the event of mobilization . This goal was to be achieved by 1932; 350 million Reichsmarks were to be spent on this from a secret fund. Measured against the total budget of the Reichswehr of 726.5 million RM (= 8.6% of the state budget), the 70 million RM available annually appear relatively insignificant, but it can be seen as a novelty in German military history. that the complex factors of a military armament determined by modern industrial production processes have been coordinated in a targeted program.

Second armaments program

Chest portrait photo of Wilhelm Groener.  Reichswehr Minister Wilhelm Groener expanded the army within the political framework
Reichswehr Minister Wilhelm Groener expanded the army within the political framework

With the newly appointed Reichswehr Minister Wilhelm Groener in January 1928 , first quartermaster general of the OHL in 1918 , the armament efforts were dynamized, since with him a man was appointed to the top who had sufficient political, economic and military competence. Under the premise of the further development of the Reichswehr, the "Second Armaments Program" was passed in spring 1932, which later formed the basis for rearmament in the Third Reich . At an expense of 484 million Reichsmarks, the creation of a 21-division army, its equipment with weapons, equipment and ammunition as well as its stockpiling were to be implemented for six weeks. The Luftwaffe , which was considered for the first time, was to receive 110 million RM and consist of a total of 150 aircraft. In view of the difficult economic environment, the program was designed for five years (April 1933 to March 1938). A modification made in November stipulated that a total of 570,000 men should be actively under arms by the spring of 1938. Since this was a program designed for a maximum of armaments measures and accordingly tightly calculated, it turned out to be particularly sensitive due to the economic changes that accompanied the consequences of the global economic crisis , so that Groener was forced to raise further funds of one billion marks, spread over five years, to be requested from the Reich government. Financially more difficult were the price dictates of some armaments companies who, in view of the general economic crisis, wanted to heal themselves through pricing . The few armaments factories had a monopoly position , since according to the Versailles Treaty only a small number of firms (for example Borsig or Simson ) were allowed to manufacture armaments.

It is unclear to what extent the two arms programs were based on a top secret plan from 1925. As early as 1923, Seeckt, as chief of the army command, had a small group of 18 men create important cornerstones for an army capable of being used in war with 102 divisions and 3 million men. However, it is controversial whether and to what extent this plan had any effects on later armaments planning. Looking back on the armaments policy in the Weimar Republic, however, the fact emerges beyond doubt that long-term and comprehensive armaments planning did not only begin with the takeover of power by the National Socialists, but with the first and second armaments program during the Weimar Republic.

Change in armaments policy in the time of National Socialism

When Adolf Hitler came to power , a radical change in military policy began. Groener's guideline - which stated that only political aspects were decisive for the tasks of the Reichswehr embedded in a multilateral security system - was quickly abandoned and the revision intentions latent since the establishment of the Reichswehr declared the primacy of the Reichswehr strategy. Particularly significant was Hitler's speech to the representatives of the Reichswehr on February 3, 1933, in which he announced right at the beginning that the regaining of political power would be the sole goal of his policy and that the prerequisite for this was the development of the Wehrmacht. The rearmament of the Reichswehr, which Hitler described as the most important institution in the state, was given top priority.

State of armament after the takeover of power
The three advertising squadrons for the camouflaged Luftwaffe consisted of a handful of biplanes like this He 51

A memorandum drawn up for Reichswehr Minister Werner von Blomberg in March 1933 due to the Westerplatte affair characterized the current military situation as "hopeless". The army lacked personnel reserves, military equipment and above all ammunition. It could be expected that the completed preparatory work of the “Second Armaments Program” would soon produce the first tangible results, but in March 1933 not a single one of the many measures of the November 32 conversion plan had been implemented. For the 15,000 men of the Reichsmarine , not even the shipments allowed by the Versailles Treaty were available. The limit of the light naval forces was almost reached, but only three of the six armored ships allowed had been commissioned and none had been completed. The Luftwaffe , which officially did not yet exist, consisted of three "advertising panels" with only a small number of civilian training machines. At this point in time, the Reichswehr had only marginally exceeded the personnel provisions of the Versailles Treaty, which was still in force.

Foreign policy factors

Due to the unresolved foreign policy situation, Hitler was initially reluctant to publicly announce concrete armaments measures, since France or Poland did not want to risk military intervention and await the outcome of the Geneva Disarmament Conference . Although Hitler - in contrast to Blomberg and Neurath  - was not completely averse to a positive conclusion to the conference due to the avoidance of foreign policy isolation, no fundamental agreement was reached, as the mediation proposals presented did not represent any improvement from the perspective of the German delegation. Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations and the Conference on Disarmament, announced on October 14, 1933, marked the final break with Groener's collective security system and marked the turn towards the policy favored by Blomberg, based solely on military strength.

Armament of the Wehrmacht 1933 to 1939

Arming the Army

The “Second Armaments Program” still applied to the armaments measures of 1933. Since at the beginning one wanted to avoid an open breach of contract, the now abundant funds were initially used for an indirect armament in the form of extensive military infrastructure measures as well as the establishment of army operations. An extensive violation of the Versailles restrictions, on the other hand, took place in secret, which was particularly noticeable in the intensive support of the military in setting up an arms industry. In the so-called "Inner Germany", for example, countless arms companies were founded or supported. To 1934 took 18 large companies, such as Borsig in Berlin, Krupp subsidiary Gruson in Magdeburg or to Bochum club belonging Hanomag in Hanover on its banned weapons production.

Armaments programs

Towards the end of 1933, the political framework changed: in foreign policy after the British and French governments had actually come to terms with the withdrawal of the Reich from the League of Nations , and domestically, because the Reichswehr fought off competition with the SA by expanding its own base. The long-term planning program from 1932 seemed out of date to the Reichswehr; In December 1933 the decision was made to build a 300,000-man army. The program, which was signed on December 18, 1933 by the Chief of the Troops Office, Lieutenant General Ludwig Beck , envisaged the formation of a standing 21-division peace army by March 1938, from which a mobilizable 63-division army was to emerge.

Despite forced rearmament, the army only had twelve
Panzer I vehicles in the spring of 1935

In the spring of 1934, Hitler urged an acceleration of the December program, said he was compliant with Beck, who took the view that the focus must be of the structure in the first two years, even if Beck for a low armor instead of a favorite of Hitler width armor entered. Based on the organizational foundation of the "Second Armaments Program", the Reichsheer reached 180,000 men in spring 1934 without any problems worth mentioning. The 21 divisions , consisting mostly of rump formations, had by far not reached their full personnel and material strength, because the army was increased according to the scheme that each division had to set up two new ones. Of the 189 infantry battalions planned, only 109 had been set up and the two tank battalions had only 12 armored vehicles . The army had only six weeks of supplies; In simulation games, from the 3rd month of the war, replenishment was expected to drop to a few percent and the possible war production of ammunition only reached 50 percent.

July program 1935

Since up to 10 immediately deployable divisions had to stand on the western border to defend against a possible French attack and these cadres were therefore not available for building up the army, the army command increased the armament target to 30 to 36 divisions. With Hitler's proclamation of military sovereignty (“Law on the establishment of the armed forces and restoration of military sovereignty”) on March 16, 1935, the strength of the peace army was now set at 36 divisions. With the simultaneous announcement of the "Defense Law", the last restrictions of the Versailles Treaty were formally stripped and the introduction of general conscription was announced (on October 1, 1935), with which Hitler kept a promise made in 1933 to the generals. In July, the plans drawn up by the General Staff were approved, according to which the army should be around 700,000 men by October 1, 1939 (divided into 33 infantry and 3 tank divisions). For the first time, specific information was also given about the army, which was to grow to 28 divisions by April 1936, to 49 in 1939 and finally to the planned strength of 63 divisions in 1941.

Werner von Fritsch (center) as OBdH advocated continuous expansion

This striking revision of the December plan of 1933, in which the formation of the war army was planned for the spring of 1938, was probably due (in addition to the delayed introduction of conscription) to a conflict within the military leadership in which there was disagreement about how to proceed . Beck and Fritsch now plead for a slower and more continuous line-up of new formations. The chief of the General Army Office , Colonel Fromm , on the other hand, wanted the immediate formation of these 36 divisions, which in his opinion could only be infantry divisions and the cavalry divisions and tank divisions should also be added. General von Schwedler, as head of the Army Personnel Office , again categorically rejected an increase in the army for 1936, arguing that in 1933 the corps consisted of 3,800 officers and two years later this number had increased by 72 percent to 6,553, which inevitably led to a reduction in the military Quality must result. A shortfall of 13,150 officers was calculated for 1941, which under normal circumstances was not expected to be settled until 1950.

As a compromise, as an intermediate stage, the army command set the autumn 1935 goal of a 24-division army, whose personnel increase to 400,000 men was ensured by taking over two-thirds of the barracked state police .

Those responsible were aware that this four-fold increase in personnel in two and a half years meant a reduction in quality, because the material equipment could by far not keep up with this inflation. The disregard of the material relevance became clear through the fact that the Army Weapons Office was not involved in the planning concept .

Draft "Increasing the Army's Attack Power"
The planned equipping of infantry divisions with an assault gun division each could not be realized economically

During the short period of stagnation in the overall planning for the development of the army in 1936, the discussion about the newly opening up possibilities of the young armored forces , which was also to have an impact on the final armament program, occurred under the heading of increasing the army's attack power . The General Staff recognized the chance that this new weapon could carry out a very agile warfare and thus opened up new operational dimensions. The Chief of the General Staff Beck then suggested building motorized rifle regiments and independent tank brigades in addition to the three existing armored divisions, which, depending on the situation, were to be combined to form operational combat units. He wanted to increase the army's attack power by motorizing several infantry divisions. Furthermore, he was of the opinion that every army corps should be equipped with a tank brigade . The program "increases your attack power" can include the design of Chief of the Army, von Fritsch , count, the basis of a memorandum of the Chief of Operations Department of the General Staff, von Manstein signed a transfer, therefore, each infantry division an assault gun - Department should be assigned. This instruction was later revised after Fritsch's dismissal as part of the Blomberg-Fritsch crisis . On the one hand, the concept of "increasing attack power" represented a strengthening of the army, on the other hand the deficits of the military leadership in economic questions were clearly shown, because the realization of this program was far beyond the economic possibilities of the Reich. Beck rejected the argument from the head of the Army Office to take into account the armament-technical possibilities when planning and to reduce the number of the financially barely manageable tank departments with the remark that "financial reasons do not count".

Final armaments program

In 1936 the final armament plan was finally drawn up with the August program. Despite the reduction by one infantry division, the draft meant a strengthening compared to the July 35 program, as the concept of "increasing attack power" was taken into account with the establishment of three light divisions and four motorized infantry divisions . The military army , which had hardly appeared so far, was to consist of 102 divisional units, which were mainly divided into 72 infantry divisions (plus 21 Landwehr divisions ) and with strong corps troops should comprise a total of 3.6 million soldiers. In seven years, the establishment of the German Army , which lasted over 40 years in the German Empire, was surpassed, which at the beginning of the war in 1914 had 2.1 million men.

The upgrade program also included the creation of an appropriate infrastructure. Between 1934 and the start of the war, around 500 new barracks were built in Germany for the army alone, and from 1936 also in the Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by then.

Overview of the three armaments programs for building the peace army
December program 1933
Army build-up by April 1, 1939
July program 1935
Development by October 1, 1939
August program 1936
Setup by October 1, 1939
Army Corps 8th 12 13
Infantry divisions 21st 33 32
Inf.-Divisions (motorized) 4th
Mountain Divisions 1
Cavalry divisions 3
Tank divisions 3 3
Light divisions 3
Strength of the peace army 300,000 700,000 800,000
Strength of the war army 63 divisions 63 divisions
(planned completion 1941)
102 divisions
(planned completion 1940/41)
Armaments progress up to the start of the war

The further armament largely proceeded according to the August program. In autumn 1936 the planned total of 36 infantry divisions was reached, which increased the number by 50 percent compared to the previous year. Organizationally, the build-up of the war army was promoted, with a large part of the divisions earmarked for it from the cadre of the peace army, although this itself consisted only of rump units. In 1937, for the first time after three years of continuous reorganization, no large association (with the exception of a light division) was set up. The most important measure this year was the motorization of four infantry divisions. Great changes occurred in 1938, as with the incorporation of the Austrian Armed Forces after the annexation of Austria and the annexation of the Sudetenland ( Munich Agreement ) it became possible to set up three infantry, two tank, two mountain and one light division , with which the actual goal of the August program has already been exceeded. Of great importance for the armament level were the high-quality Czech army stocks captured by the smashing of the rest of the Czech Republic , which made it possible to equip 15 to 20 divisions with military equipment. In the summer of 1939, the staggered and not publicly announced partial mobilizations began, whereby the organizationally well-prepared army was quickly and relatively inconspicuously strengthened.

Economic problems

The material component, however, could in no way keep up with the enormous increase in personnel. An upgrade at such a pace inevitably led to economic problems, which, however, were not taken into account by either the military or the political leadership. However, the economic consequences of this rapid armament, the immense financial burden and the social consequences that might develop from it played no role for the military leadership and were only mentioned in passing or not at all in lectures and memoranda.

Extent of the financial volume for the final expansion of the army (August program 1936)
Budget year 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Requirements to date (in billion RM )
July program 1935
3.58 3.68 3.86 3.44 2.58 2.58 2.58 2.58 2.58
New requirement
August program 1936
8.88 8.98 8.86 4.67 4.29 3.50 3.47 3.47 3.17
Minimum procurement costs
(in addition to the August program)
2.90 3.33 3.75 4.18 4.60 4.60

The minimum procurement orders, which were supposed to convey orders to industry even after the high phase of armaments, resulted in unsustainable conditions in the future, which was evident, for example, from the fact that from 1942 this item was higher than the army's maintenance costs. The senseless consequence of the minimum procurement would become apparent from 1940 at the latest, when, for example, an annual increase of 36,000  MG was expected, for which there was no possibility of use.

Worldwide steel production in 1939

Continuous rescheduling, and thus a slowdown in armament, began in 1936 when the scarcity of raw materials became a precarious factor. So it is no coincidence that the four-year plan proclaimed by Hitler fell into this period . This program for the exploitation of all domestic raw material deposits and the establishment of a substitute industry - mainly for synthetic rubber and synthetic gasoline  - regardless of profitability and the associated objective of making the economy “war-ready”, should be seen in connection with the Army's August program. However, this did not solve the economic problems. As early as 1937, the army's copper requirements could only be covered by half, which prompted the ObdH to report that a considerable part of the ammunition to be manufactured in 1939 would be delivered without guide rings and without detonators. In addition to the shortage of non-ferrous metals, there was also a shortage of crude steel in 1937, which led to iron and steel quotas. This year, instead of the 750,000 tons of steel requested monthly by the army, only 300,000 tons could be delivered. Another distribution struggle in the sharpest form arose after Hitler's orders to expand the Siegfried Line through the Todt Organization without any consideration for the economic situation. The steel shortage finally led to a ban on all orders for steel bars and sheet metal to industry, which was declared by the Reich Minister of Economics in December 1938, which led to serious delays in the delivery of weapons, equipment and ammunition. The Army Office and the General Staff then drew the conclusions and reported that the majority of the war army could not be fully assembled until April 1, 1941 and that the necessary ammunition supplies could not be reached until April 1, 1942. But Hitler had not considered stockpiling supplies and demanded an even faster pace of armament, which prompted the Army Office to report in April 1939 that 34 infantry divisions had almost no weapons and equipment, the reserve army only over ten percent had rifles and machine guns and the total stock of ammunition had fallen to 15 days of fighting. The broad armament that was carried out did not allow the production of replenishment capacities, so that the necessary provision of extensive material reserves could not be guaranteed.

Armament of the Navy

Erich Raeder was able to change the mind of Hitler, who was initially skeptical, to force the construction of the fleet

As with the army, the armament of the navy began with the »Second Armaments Program«, although from 1933 the financial resources were initially used for infrastructure measures such as the construction of coastal defense systems, ports, shipyards and our own armaments factories. In 1933 there was no clear direction for building the navy because they wanted to wait for the Geneva Conference on Disarmament and Hitler was initially a fierce opponent of a maritime orientation in German politics and was not interested in promoting the building of the navy, as he was able to find a compromise with England in this way wanted to achieve. In a first conversation in the spring of 1933 with the chief of the naval command, Raeder , Hitler repeated his political guideline, "never wanting to fight England again." However, Raeder seems to have convinced the Reich Chancellor of the usefulness of the fleet for reasons of power and alliance politics. for Hitler later revised his opinion and was no longer averse to naval armament. The initial naval war games were carried out with the background not only of preventing France from entering the Baltic Sea, but also of hindering its sea communications through active naval warfare in the Atlantic. That is why the aim of the naval command has been parity with France since the two armaments programs of the Reichswehr.

Shipbuilding plans

At the beginning of 1934, the construction contracts for the armored ships D and E with increased tonnage (later Gneisenau and Scharnhorst ) and four destroyers were awarded. After leaving the disarmament conference, an armaments policy that no longer took the Versailles Treaty into account also began in the naval leadership, which was reflected in a new shipbuilding plan in March. This envisaged the construction of eight armored ships, three aircraft carriers, 18 cruisers, 48 ​​destroyers and 72 submarines and was to be completed by 1949. In the autumn, the construction contracts for the heavy cruisers Blücher , Admiral Hipper and for five destroyers were placed as part of this plan , as well as the plans for the first capital ship (replacement F , later Bismarck ), so that construction could start in the summer of 1936. The third cruiser of the Admiral Hipper class , later the Prinz Eugen , was also commissioned and laid down in May 1936. With these building regulations, the framework of the Versailles Treaty was blown, but this did not result in any consequences, as this could be well concealed from the public.

The hastily conceived porter Graf Zeppelin was never completed like its sister ship

In the period that followed, there were sharp controversies within the naval leadership, but also between the latter, the Foreign Office and Hitler over the details of the shipbuilding planning and the political objectives; Ultimately, this program could not even come close to being implemented by the start of the war. A long-term armaments program such as shipbuilding in particular had to prove particularly sensitive to short-term changes to plans. In January 1935, Hitler emphasized that due to the expected foreign policy pressure due to the Saar referendum, the armament speed had to be increased, which prompted the naval leadership to commission further destroyers and to start construction of the aircraft carrier A (later Graf Zeppelin ) on 1. April 1935 to be brought forward, although the most important construction dates for this ship had not yet been decided. This hasty plan could not be realized and it was not until November 16, 1935 that aircraft carrier A and its sister ship aircraft carrier B were commissioned (neither of which was ever completed). The German-British naval agreement , signed on June 18, 1935 - and only regarded as provisional by the naval command anyway - did not mean a "waiver" for the Navy, as the now instead of 144,000  tn.l. officially available 520,000 tn.l. could not be exhausted because the shipyards were already working to capacity and could not take on any additional newbuildings.

Submarine construction
A concentration on the Type VII demanded by Dönitz did not take place

The submarine construction policy also remained without clear contours. The leader of the submarines Dönitz demanded concentration on one main type, a 750 t boat , which was characterized by high offensive power in a small space. But the naval management also looked at larger undertakings, so that as a compromise in 1936 Raeder ordered the construction of seven type VII boats and four larger type IX boats . The following year eight boats of the medium type VII, five boats of the larger type IX and eight boats of the coastal type II were commissioned. The unconceptual building policy, which followed neither military nor political calculations, but just given economic possibilities, was shown u. a. that in the summer of 1937 orders for eight additional boats of the small type II were only awarded because, surprisingly, shipyard capacity was available. At the beginning of the war only 57 submarines were ready; half of them were suitable for oceanic ventures.

Shipbuilding plan 1937

Hitler's attempts to get closer to England in order to get a free hand in the East did not have the desired success, which is why England was included for the first time as a possible opponent in the studies of the maritime operations departments. This was taken into account with Raeder's expanded construction program of December 21, 1937, which not only provided for the construction of six battleships, but also added two more to the two aircraft carriers already under construction. This plan had no consequences due to the tense economic situation - in 1937 not a single warship up to and including destroyers could be commissioned. Compared to the rambling plans, the number of ships at the end of the year looked rather modest: the fleet consisted of three ironclad ships, six light cruisers, seven destroyers and twelve torpedo boats.

Z plan

In the naval war command there were critical voices about the purpose of battleships (here: the Bismarck )

In 1938 the spell of a German-English confrontation was finally broken, whereupon in the summer the operations department of the naval command issued a memorandum on the possibilities of "naval warfare against England", from which it emerged that the navy could not and could not break the expected British naval blockade the only goal of naval warfare could only be the lasting disruption of British overseas trade by means of long-range armored ships and the massive use of submarines. The future of the battleships favored by Hitler was treated only cautiously in the report and in the final meeting the paradoxical situation arose that the chief of staff had to determine that the type of ship was needed, but a complete clarification of the purpose could not be achieved . However, this report was only marginally taken into account and after several planning revisions a utopian program was developed, which became known as the Z-Plan . In the final version, this comprised a total of 10 battleships, 4 aircraft carriers, 15 ironclads, 5 heavy, 22 light and 22 reconnaissance cruisers, 68 destroyers and 249 submarines. The project should be completed by 1948, with the battleships and aircraft carriers with their extremely long construction times being pushed into the background for the time being. At the same time, the fleet chief did not stop at this adventurous vision and proposed, in addition to a strong home fleet, an additional foreign fleet, whose four combat groups each with a battle cruiser, heavy cruiser and aircraft carrier as well as destroyers, submarines and supply ships should operate independently in the oceans. Similar to the army, this unrealistic plan revealed the economic way of thinking of the military leadership, because even with a - hardly realizable - completion one would never have achieved parity with the allied fleet, which had also been expanded by then . When Raeder presented the Z-Plan to Hitler on January 17, 1939, he could not assert himself with the priority on armored ships for the cruiser warfare, because Hitler gave priority to the construction of the six battleships of the H-class and ordered their completion by 1944 the now politically advanced battleship building did not correspond to the concept of naval warfare against England, but the Navy believed that it was on the way to becoming a sea ​​power .

Economic problems

The steel distribution '39 shows the disproportion between the demands of the Wehrmacht and the allocation

Like the other two branches of the armed forces, the navy was subject to the problem of steel shortages. In addition to these delivery difficulties, there were also organizational problems, which indicated that the navy had been assured an increase in the monthly quota from 45,000 t of steel to 70,000 t after the conference between Hitler and the Wehrmacht leadership on November 5, 1937, but the shipyards were not at all guaranteed were able to process this amount, because in April 1938 the internal delivery demand was only 53,000 t. The workers' question turned out to be even more difficult, because the shortage of personnel at the end of 1938 could only be covered to some extent by service obligations ordered in July, which, however, could no longer compensate for the increased need for workers due to the new battleship in 1939. In addition, the lack of housing for the shipyard workers, the bonus system and the service obligations led to a bad working atmosphere.

The entire shipbuilding industry dragged on due to the insufficient supply of steel and non-ferrous metals as well as the noticeable shortage of skilled workers. A list prepared for Raeder showed that since the start of construction the delays for all ships have averaged 12 months, in extreme cases even 22 months, although enormous financial resources have been invested in shipbuilding:

Funds used to build up the Navy
year 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
Shipbuilding (in million RM) 49.6 76.1 172.3 287 561.3 603.1 458.8 545.1
Total marine budget (in million RM) 187.4 311.8 496.5 695.1 1160.7 1478.5 1756.3 2389.9
Percent (of the marine budget) 26.4 24.5 34.7 41.3 48.4 40.8 26.1 22.8

Although more than twelve times the budget was spent in 1939 compared to 1932, the shipyards could not easily compensate for the pause in shipbuilding enforced by the Versailles Treaty. They were confronted with the special problems of warship building and first had to gain time-consuming experience. For example, it took Deutsche Werke in Kiel almost five years from placing the order to commissioning for the heavy cruiser Blücher , three and a half years for the light cruiser Karlsruhe and almost three years even for a destroyer in 1934 . An extreme example is the armored ship Germany , whose development history can be traced for almost a decade from the first design drafts to commissioning.

Armament of the Air Force

Göring's political weight opened up special prospects for the young air force

No other branch of the armed forces developed as rapidly as the Luftwaffe , whose development from the total ban in Versailles to the 4,000 front-line aircraft at the beginning of the war could initially be based on the fact that it did not have to follow a rigid, traditional model and exposed one due to the political weight of its boss Göring Position. The air force armament was also based on the foundation of the "Second Armaments Program" from the summer of 1932, whereby for 1933/34 only the establishment of pure training associations and until 1937 the establishment of 21 squadrons with 150 combat aircraft (78 reconnaissance aircraft, 54 fighters and 18 bombers) was planned . The initial difficulties in building up the air force were based on the fact that there were no existing organizational structures and that the group of people associated with military aviation was small. In the summer of 1933 there were only 76 officers in the Reich Aviation Ministry and the airborne units consisted of three camouflaged "advertising panels" that were set up in the fall of 1930 and were exclusively equipped with double-deckers . 550 qualified flying officers were initially available, 220 of whom had been trained in the secret flying school of the Reichswehr in Lipetsk , Russia .

Air defense programs

The memorandum “Die deutsche Luftflotte” by the director of Lufthansa, Robert Knauss , which was presented to State Secretary Milch in the Reich Aviation Ministry in May 1933, is considered to be the earliest statement on fundamental questions of air warfare . Knauss was of the opinion that Germany's position as a great power could only be achieved by setting up a bomber fleet, and argued that the construction of two armored cruisers would not change the current balance of power, but that with the same financial means 400 bombers could be built instead represent enormous deterrent potential - originally against France and Poland. Despite the agreement with the memorandum demonstrated by Milch, the theories were only incompletely incorporated into the first official air armament program of June 1933, which envisaged the deployment of 600 front-line aircraft in 51 squadrons by autumn 1935. The focus was clearly on the planned formation of 27 bomber squadrons, but the bomber fleet did not consist of the aircraft type desired by Knauss, nor were the recommended sizes achieved; instead of the 400 bombers he required, only 250 were to be ready for use by autumn 1935. A previously planned program with a total of 1000 aircraft for the year 1934 was revised as unrealistic because the production capacities did not allow this.

Capacity expansion
The introduction of the clock method for the Ju 52 was initiated by the RLM

A significant problem was the initially low production capacity of the German aircraft industry . At the beginning of 1933, a total of just under 4,000 men were working in all German aircraft factories. The most important works up until then were Junkers in Dessau, Heinkel and Arado in Warnemünde, BFW / Messerschmitt in Augsburg, Focke-Wulf in Bremen and Dornier in Friedrichshafen. With the "noiseless financing" based on the Mefo exchange , the number of employees could be increased. At the same time, the aircraft industry was asked by the Reich Aviation Ministry to build new plants, and could count on support from loans and investments from the Luftfahrtkontor , a Reich-owned investment company. The number of workers grew fifty-fold in just under six years:

  • 1934: 16,870
  • 1935: 59,600
  • 1936: 110,600
  • 1937: 167.200
  • 1938: 204.100

The rationalization also took place on the initiative of the Reich Aviation Ministry. The Junkers company was informed that in 1934 it was planned to order 179 Ju 52 aircraft . After only 18 aircraft of this type were manufactured in 1932, the tact process was developed in order to increase production, in which Junkers-controlled suppliers manufactured the individual parts and only final assembly on the assembly line took place in the main Dessau plant.

Air armament program 1934

Despite the recognition of the importance of strategic air warfare, the focus was placed on a tactical air force at a very early stage , as it was believed that twin-engine bombers could defend against a possible attack by potential opponents France and Poland. Since the production capacities did not allow the simultaneous construction of heavy and medium bombers, a new armament plan was necessary. For this purpose, a new production program was decided on July 1, 1934, which provided for the procurement of 17,015 aircraft of all kinds by March 1938 with a cost estimate of 10.5 billion RM. This plan included a total of only 5,112 combat aircraft:

  • Fighter planes: 2.225
  • Bomber: 2,188
  • Dive bombers: 699
  • Recon: 1,559
  • Training aircraft: approx. 10,000
The introduction of new types of aircraft such as the Dornier Do 17 was delayed due to lengthy development phases

The high number of planned training aircraft made it clear that the air force command at that time still attached great importance to the training and consolidation of their armed forces . In the first phase, around 4,000 aircraft were to be produced by autumn 1935, which corresponded to a four-fold increase in aircraft production in a very short time. At the end of 1934, almost 2,000 aircraft had already been delivered, which meant a planning deficit of only six percent and can be seen as a masterpiece of the industrial planners in the Reich Ministry of Aviation. At the time of the official exposure of the Luftwaffe by Hitler in March 1935, the Luftwaffe had around 2,500 aircraft, including 800 front-line aircraft. However, these were almost exclusively out of date models: the 270 bombers that had been delivered so far were makeshift aircraft of the Ju 52 and Do 11 types , and the 100 fighters were biplanes of the Ar 64 and Ar 65 types . The head of the development department in the technical office of the Reich Aviation Ministry, Major Wolfram von Richthofen , summed up the opinion of the time when he said that "conditionally useful equipment is better than no equipment at all" .

The new medium-range bombers Do 17 , He 111 and the dive bomber Ju 87 still had a lengthy development phase ahead of them. There was an initial bottleneck in engine production, as only the Junkers company had participated in its further development in the twenties and the companies Daimler-Benz and BMW first had to gain experience. So there were several supplementary programs by mid-1936, the aim of which was to implement the technological change without reducing the capacities created. The industry was relatively flexible, so that the conversion process could be completed in 1937.

Changed armament from 1936

Despite the difficulties that the rapid construction brought with it, the years 1933 to 1936 were characterized by effective cooperation between the leading men in the Reich Aviation Ministry; Overloaded with offices, Göring largely left his competent employees Erhard Milch , Wilhelm Wimmer and Walther Wever a free hand. In addition, the previous armament was characterized by careful planning, which, in contrast to the other two Wehrmacht parts, took into account the economic factors of the armament. Despite the armament focus on tactical bombers, the importance of the strategic deployment options was not disregarded, because Wever, as head of the air command office, declared in his "Air Warfare Regulations" as early as 1935 that the tasks of the air force on the offensive against against the enemy air force and then against the power sources of the enemy army ”and therefore had guidelines drawn up for the further development of a strategic bomber.

The success of his senior officers, which Göring was suspicious of, and Wever's death on June 3, 1936, heralded a new era in the Air Force. Goering now interfered more and more in the official business and began to play the three highest Air Force officers against each other. He appointed Lieutenant General Albert Kesselring as Wever's successor , who as head of the Air Force Administration Office was an expert in organizational matters, but was not a happy choice for the new position as Chief of the General Staff (until June 2, 1937, Air Command Office). At the same time the General Staff was now directly subordinate to Goering. This effectively ended Milk's position as Deputy Mayor of the Air Force in day-to-day business because he only stepped in for Göring in actual emergencies.

Udo's incompetence led to absurd demands such as that of the
He 177 heavy bomber for fall combat capability

The most serious wrong decision was the replacement of the chief of the technical office General Wimmer by Goering's former aviator Udet , who later rose to the position of general aviation master. Udet had excellent flight experience, but no technical or organizational skills. In the technical field there were now some serious changes. The development of a strategic bomber was declared to be of secondary importance and from now on the emphasis was placed on general fall combat capability, from which Udet expected better accuracy. The grotesque consequence was that future types of bombers should be capable of fall combat, including the heavy He 177 and the promising Ju 88 . The considerations that began in 1937 about a modernization phase to be carried out until 1940, in which the current types such as He 111 , Do 17 and Ju 86 were to be replaced by more advanced types, were not pursued any further, as this would have represented a serious interference in the existing series production and it was expected that the plants would take up to nine months to convert. In order to simplify what, in his opinion, were complicated production processes, Udet came up with the idea of ​​a unit cell with a unit engine, which, in view of the different purposes in air warfare and taking into account the accelerated technical developments, missed the reality.

Concentrated air armament program

After the Munich conference , which Hitler perceived as a defeat , Göring announced a gigantic armaments program on October 14, 1938 in view of the international tensions, which should lead to a fivefold increase in the air force. He spoke of a general mobilization of economic resources, without going into how this should be done in detail. At the end of October, the Air Force General Staff presented the »Concentrated Air Armament Program«, which envisaged the expansion of the air force to 20,000 aircraft by the spring of 1942 as follows:

  • 40 combat squadrons (8000 aircraft, plus 1 battle squadron)
  • 16 fighter squadrons (3000 aircraft)
  • 16 destroyer squadrons (3000 aircraft)
  • 12 Stukageschwader (2000 aircraft)
  • 10 sea combat squadrons (2000 aircraft)
  • 43 squadrons of reconnaissance aircraft (750 aircraft)
  • 36 squadrons of carrier aircraft (500 aircraft)
  • 4 transport squadrons (500 aircraft)

Even though the military command had intended the Luftwaffe mainly for army support and for the protection of the home airspace, the strategic aerial warfare component was not completely neglected, because the armament plan provided for the establishment of four squadrons with around 500 He 177 long-range bombers . But the unsatisfactory drive units, the unresolved fuel situation and the fully utilized production capacities did not allow production and thus the establishment of a strategic air fleet.

Economic problems

By March 1940, 1,000 units of the Ju 88 should have been delivered, but due to the demand for fall combat capability, there were such delays that in autumn 1939 only 18 units were with the troops

The raw material situation at the time made such a program utopian and obsolete anyway. The Technical Office came to the conclusion that such an increase in production would not be feasible and that in order to maintain the combat capability of this air force in a war trap assumed for 1941, jet fuel would be required in such quantities that to replenish the corresponding - not yet built - WiFo - Tank farm 85 percent of the then known world production of specialty gasoline would have had to be imported. In addition to the incompetent leadership, the general shortage of raw materials made matters worse. As early as 1937, it was only possible to cover a third of the steel requirement, which resulted in a decline in production in 1938 despite the improvement in the supply situation by Göring, who was responsible for the four-year plan. The attempt by the political leadership to overcome the stagnation at the time through excessive demands had to fail or even produce negative effects in a company as complicated as the air force armament. One example is the hasty training in which 281 pilots died and 76 were seriously injured from May 39 until the start of the war. The changed political conditions also exerted a negative influence, because with England a new enemy appeared on the horizon, for whom one was not prepared technically, because the lack of training of the crews for the special conditions of a mission against the British Isles as well as the low one The depth of penetration and the relatively weak combat power of the tactical bombers available indicated that they were not adequately prepared for such a fight. The construction, which was viewed with suspicion, especially in Great Britain, had conjured up an international political risk which the Air Force itself was no longer able to cope with.

Organization of the arms industry

Overview of the complicated structure of the arms industry

The Nazi regime loudly advocated the thesis that its leader state was far superior to the despised western democracies in terms of military mobilization . After 1945, historians judged that their leadership style led to an inefficiency of the economy, which was not overcome until 1942 with the Speer era . Those responsible were aware that a future war, like the previous one, would be a protracted war of blockade and attrition, and that the creation of sufficient reserves and a strong focus on the production of military products to the detriment of civilian needs are a prerequisite for to successfully persevere. But the consequence that only a strict centralization of decision-making authority through the appointment of an “economic dictator” promised the desired success was not drawn. Instead, new institutions were created, which hindered or even fought each other:

  • In 1935, the Reich Defense Act decided to appoint a general representative for the war economy (GBK). However, this only had an impact on the war and vital operations; responsibility for the armaments factories remained with the Wehrmacht.
  • The rapidly expanding Defense and Armaments Office of the OKW under the direction of General Thomas tried incessantly to get the overall economic management into hand. However, as a soldier, Thomas wanted to establish a "military command economy", whereby as early as 1923 the investigation reports from the First World War confiscated by the Reichswehr came to a damning verdict on an economic military bureaucracy.
  • With the institution of the four-year plan , which became an independent armaments organization through the appointment of more and more general plenipotentiaries and carefully isolated special economic areas, there was strong competition for the GBK.
  • Another compromise was decided in 1938 with the revised Reich Defense Act, whereby the Reich Minister of Economics as General Plenipotentiary for the Economy (GBW) should take over the management of the economy in the event of war. The GBW as well as the GBK were later dissolved.
  • The newly created Reich Defense Council , whose chairmanship was entrusted to Göring, was to take over the management of the entire war preparations . The tasks in the event of war, however, remained indefinite. The council only met a few times and never made an important decision.
  • Each branch of the armed forces had its own armaments organization, which initiated developments and ordered war equipment independently of one another: the 5,000-man Army Arms Office, the Naval Arms Main Office and the General Aircraft Master. There was no central point for defining and distributing armaments orders.
The sharp drop in unemployment soon led to an acute shortage of skilled workers

The complaints from the industry about the extraordinarily complicated military organization, which made planning almost impossible, increased. Due to the large number of departments, there were constant requests for changes, which delayed production and drove up costs. IG Farben, for example, created its own connection to the Wehrmacht with the switching center W. In addition, rigorously conducted price checks gave companies no incentive to increase profits through rationalization. The military leadership did not even strive for mass production, as it was believed that the guarantee of victory was the use of high-quality weapons, with the necessary high expenditure of shortage of raw materials and man-hours being accepted. The lack of rationalization was demonstrated, for example, by the fact that there were 136 types of passenger cars and 364 types of trucks before the war , with only a quarter of the latter being equipped with robust, fuel-efficient diesel engines. Although the empire had the world's highest growth rates in automobile production thanks to a series of measures, in 1939 it was only in 15th place in terms of the number of vehicles per inhabitant and thus still behind Uruguay. Due to the production situation, trucks had to be removed from the civilian stock, which, however, largely did not meet the military requirements and their repair caused serious logistical problems due to the variety of types.

Against this background, there was no scope for qualitative improvements, which could a. the partly outdated armaments which were ordered for the year 1939 become clear. The introduction of new weapon developments was refrained from for the time being, as this would have meant a decrease in production figures due to the production changeover.

Ordered quantity of armaments of the army for the year 1939
Carabiner K98 1,143,182 Grenade launcher ( 34 + 36 ) 11,227 Panzer II 537
Pistol 08 139.224 10 cm fog thrower 155 Panzer III 2,087
Pistol 38 410,600 light infantry gun 18 755 Panzer IV 533
MG 34 61,998 black Infantry Gun 33 413 Pz.Kpfwg. 38 (t) 475
2 cm Flak 30 2,804 Mountain Gun 36 272 Armored command vehicle 190
20 mm KwK 30 761 light field cannon 18 120 Armored car 938
3.7 cm pack 3,286 light field howitzer 18 1,784 light trucks 9,959
3.7 cm KwK 1,749 heavy field howitzer 18 1,017 medium truck 18,946
heavy Pak 260 15 cm cannon 18 125 heavy trucks 3,000
7.5 cm KwK 676 21 cm mortar 18 564 Towing vehicles 6,997

Probably the greatest obstacle in the armaments industry was the distribution of raw materials, which was characterized by an extremely bureaucratic control and which was elevated to the position of the most important steering body of the war economy. But errors in the collection of the almost unmanageable amount of data, disastrous effects in the event of the smallest fluctuations in deficiency management and the countless approvals of special regulations ultimately made this system fail.

The fact that the armaments industry did not record a sharp drop in production figures despite the organizational confusion was due to the independent action of the companies, which, in their own interest, ignored the often contradicting orders and hoarded raw materials and workers. A high degree of flexibility was developed to adapt to the armaments bureaucracy, and when the resources made available were not sufficient, as is so often the case, military orders were either “postponed” or, if necessary, switched to civilian production.

Distribution of industrial production
in percent (total = 100)
Divisions 1938 1939
Raw materials 21st 21st
Armaments 7th 9
buildings 25th 23
Capital goods 16 18th
Consumer goods 31 29

The Nazi government showed remarkably atypical features with regard to the burden on the civilian population. A switch to a total war economy was not implemented due to feared dissatisfaction among the population. Concern about the " home front " made the National Socialists shy away from necessary interventions such as plant shutdowns or a curbing of civilian production, which the military vehemently demanded. In order to meet the demands of the social revolutionary part of the party to support the middle class, a decentralization of production was also decided, which made higher-level planning and control more and more difficult and the already existing transport problem - in 1938 there were 4500 locomotives and 100,000 freight wagons missing - increased. Since the noticeably growing shortage of skilled workers and the shortage of workers estimated at one million in 1939 hardly allowed multi-shift operation, the existing machinery could not be used effectively. To remedy this through the extensive recruitment of women in the armaments industry was diametrically opposed to the National Socialist ideology, especially since state family support suppressed any incentive for female employment.

There could be no question of a clear authority with tight control of the entire economy and close cooperation between all departments. There was no coordination of civil and military planning. In the complex web of an economy, dirigisme , bitter disputes over competence, ancient military thinking and irrational political interventions inevitably led to undesirable developments and friction losses at all levels. It was by no means possible to adapt to the requirements of an industrialized war more quickly than the western democracies, which as a rule showed a considerably higher degree of consensus and cooperation capability. As in World War I, it took severe military setbacks before a profound change in the war economy was implemented.

Characteristics of armaments coordination

Hitler's polycracy was not insignificantly responsible for the uncoordinated rearmament (May 1941)

The armament of the Wehrmacht, which was seen as a well-organized process abroad due to the propaganda , was in reality an uncoordinated expansion of the individual Wehrmacht parts, with the armament programs of the respective branch of the armed forces being planned without consulting the other two branches of the armed forces. There was no uniform "Wehrmacht armament program", which would have been indispensable with such a complex subject. This lack of coordination was due to the confusing organizational structure of the political and military leadership levels. In Hitler's polycracy, a bureaucratic apparatus equipped with overlapping competencies bloated and every overview was lost. To a certain extent, there was a lack of leadership in the Führer state. As far as is known, until the beginning of the war, Hitler never issued an instruction that covered the entire area of ​​military armament and thus indicated a coordination of the individual armament measures. Another serious problem was the inability of the military leadership to respond to the relationship between the economy and armaments that has radically changed as a result of industrial change. The new perspectives that opened up and Hitler's fantasies blinded the majority of those responsible in such a way that the economic basis of armaments was not given due consideration and fundamental economic factors were simply pushed aside. Everything seemed possible in an armament freed from all inhibitions. So the rearmament, which Hitler had described as the most important prerequisite for the restoration of the great power of the Reich, took place without any recognizable system.

Armament financing

The Mefo bills were one of the most important means of financing the armament

Between January 1933 and autumn 1938 the share of the military budget in the German national product rose from one to twenty percent. The military expenditures were soon so high that regular coverage from tax revenues was no longer possible and the huge armament projects could only be financed by means of expanding public debt. One of the most important instruments of this " silent war financing " were the so-called Mefo bills . For this purpose, the Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft (Mefo) was founded by four important companies, which accepted the bills of exchange issued by the armaments factories as a dummy company. These bills of exchange, guaranteed by the state, were paid interest by the Reichsbank in order to counteract early redemption - which the state could no longer financially realize from 1939 onwards. From a fiscal point of view, the bills of exchange issued to the value of 12 billion Reichsmarks up to 1938 represented a loan from the armaments industry to the Reich. Between 1934 and 1936 the Mefo bills covered around 50 percent of armaments expenditure; Overall, up to 1939 it was around 20 percent. Arms financing was also increased by increasing the amount of money in circulation and by issuing additional treasury bills such as E.g. non-interest-bearing Reichsschatzanweisung, realized. Another inflow of liquidity was the rise in the population's savings deposits in the course of the economic recovery, which in turn were invested in long-term Reich bonds by the banks in the absence of alternatives and often without the knowledge of savers.

From 1938 onwards, the financing also came from the possession of foreign currency and gold in the affiliated , annexed and occupied countries that had been procured and confiscated by the “ Foreign Exchange Protection Command ”, as well as the gold reserves of the central banks and, last but not least, the plundering of German Jews by the foreign exchange offices and the billions stolen by the “ Jewish property tax ”as part of the November pogroms 1938 .

Arms financing was viewed by the political leadership as a secondary problem, so that apart from Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht , who was dismissed in January 1939, there were only a few critics who criticized the risk of inflation and the rising debt level. At the end of 1938 the total Reich debt was around 40 billion Reichsmarks. At the beginning of the war, apart from RM 500 million, there were no gold or currency reserves left. In contrast, England and France had reserves of $ 6.8 billion, which at the purchasing power rate corresponded to around RM 27 billion.

The armament expenditures, which fluctuate in amount due to the direct and indirect investments, which cannot always be precisely separated, are shown as follows:

Overview of the variously determined armaments expenditures of the German Reich (in billion RM)
year W. Boelcke
The Costs of Hitler's War
W. Fischer
economic policy in Germany
A. Schweitzer
Big Business
B. Carroll
Design for Total War
D. Eichholtz
German war economy
Finance Minister
Schwerin v. Krosigk
calculated average
1932 0.6 0.8 0.6 0.7
1933 1.9 0.7 1.9 1.5 0.7 1.34
1934 4.1 4.2 4.4 4.1 2.8 3.7 3.9
1935 5.5 5.5 5.9 6.0 5.5 5.3 5.6
1936 10.3 10.3 10.7 10.8 11 9.6 10.4
1937 11.0 11.0 14.5 11.7 14.1 10.9 12.2
1938 17.2 17.2 20.3 17.2 16.6 16.3 17.5
1939 11.9 32.3 13.9 30.0 16.3 14.0
total 61.9 81.2 69.8 81.7 67.8 46.5 66.5

Notes on the overview of armaments expenditure

  1. Issues up to the start of the war.
  2. a b Billing period April to the start of the war.
  3. Billing period until the start of the war.
  4. This number can be viewed as the precisely determined sum of the direct armaments expenditure of the Wehrmacht up to the start of the war. The often mentioned RM 90 billion that Hitler boasted about in his Reichstag speech on the day the war began, was propaganda.
  5. 1933-1939. Add 3 to 4 billion RM as indirect armaments expenditure.
  6. April 1934 until the start of the war. Here one can also add indirect armament expenditures of 3 to 4 billion RM.
  7. 1933-1939.
  8. 1933 until the beginning of the war. If you add in the expenditures of the federal states and municipalities for armaments, this results in a total of RM 78 billion.
  9. 1933-1938. The information provided by the Reich Minister of Finance can be viewed as too low for reasons of self-justification.
  10. Average of columns 1, 3 and 5, which covers the period from 1933 to the day the war began.

The Wehrmacht at the start of the war

At the beginning of the war, the Wehrmacht gave an ambivalent picture. The fact is that the “Wehrmacht, well equipped with the most modern weapons through a uniformly organized process, which was able to defeat neighboring countries with predictable ease” did not exist. The construction was not yet completed in 1939. But it is also indisputable that the Wehrmacht grew to enormous strength from its foundation until the outbreak of war in a process that was unique in the history of war. At the beginning of the war, the troops comprised a total of 4,556,000 men

distributed. However, there were serious differences between the numerical strength and the quality of the fighting force. The army, which according to the German war doctrine was to bear the brunt of the fighting, consisted of a total of only 730,000 active and fully trained soldiers; in the navy there were 78,000 and in the air force 332,000 men. The overall level of training is as follows:

Active force of
professional soldiers / conscripts
Reserve I
born in 1914 and younger
Reserve II
born in 1913 and older
Military service
Landwehr (born 1894–1900)
born in 1906/07 a. 1918/19
Wehrmacht total strength
1,131,000 647,000 770,000 1,200,000 808,000 4,556,000

Together with the protective police, waterway protection, security assistance service (SDH), air raid protection service (LSD), reinforced mail protection, SS guards, technical emergency aid, border troops and the reinforced border inspection service (VGAD), around six million people were deployed for the military and the protection of the Reich territory.


The rapid expansion from the 100,000-man army of the Versailles Treaty to the usable peace army can be seen as follows:

  • Autumn 1934: 250,000 men (21 infantry and three cavalry divisions)
  • Autumn 1935: 400,000 men (24 infantry, three tank and two cavalry divisions)
  • Autumn 1936: 520,000 men (36 infantry and 3 tank divisions)
  • Autumn 1937: 550,000 men (32 infantry, four motorized infantry and three tank divisions)
  • Autumn 1938: 570,000 men (the mob section 1938 was moved to spring 1939)
  • Summer 1939: 730,000 men.

At the beginning of the war, the field army had a strength of 2.758 million men. The planned 43 divisions of the August program were opposed to 52 divisions, which were divided into 35 infantry, four motorized infantry, six armored, four light and three mountain divisions. In addition, there were the 51 infantry divisions to be mobilized for the war army, so that the 102 large units that were once projected now opposed 103. The 3.7 million men in the entire army were divided into:

  • 2,758,000 men in the field army,
    • 2,108,000 combat units
    • 223,000 men native border and fortress troops
    • 427,000 construction troops (these mostly untrained and unarmed troops were lifted from the RAD in 1939 and placed under the army)
  • around 1 million men in the replacement army and
  • 23,000 men in the Waffen SS (The SS disposable troop was placed under the command of the Army on August 19, 1939) .

The material armament level, which cannot be equated with operational readiness in all positions, is as follows:

Armaments status of the army in autumn 1939
Pistols (08 and 38) 630,000 light grenade launcher 36 - caliber 5.0 cm 5,062 Tank I. 1,305
K98 rifles 2,569,300 heavy grenade launcher 34 - caliber 8.14 cm 3,959 Panzer II 991
Submachine guns (38/40) 5,711 Fog launchers 10 cm and 15 cm 179 Panzer III 151
Machine guns 103,300 light infantry guns 2,931 Panzer IV 143
Anti- tank rifles (38,39,41) 62 black Inf.-guns 367 Pz.Kpf.Wg. 35 (t) 125
2 cm Flak 30 895 Mountain guns 213 Pz.Kpf.Wg. 38 (t) 122
3.7 cm anti-aircraft gun 63 light field cannon 18 20th Spähpz. / Command car 1,076
3.7 cm pack 10,560 light field howitzers 4,919 Tractors 5,200
4.7 cm pack (t) - black Field howitzer 18 2,434
Pak 38 - 10 cm cannon 18 400
15 cm cannon 18 25th
heaviest artillery 47
Infantry ammunition 6,665,459,000 Artillery ammunition 29,363,000 Pz.- u. PaK ammunition 35,793,000

A serious problem, which only came to bear later in the course of the war, concerned the reserves. Since the barracks infrastructure and the existing training staff did not allow for the simultaneous training of several years, the lack of trained reserves had a devastating effect on a prolonged war. At the beginning of the war there were sufficient reserves in the age group from 35 to 45 years old, but these could only be used for security groups and rear services. A significant substitute from the 18 to 35 age group was not available. Another point, which also affected the navy and air force, was the lack of specialists. Due to the mechanization of the military machinery, the increasingly complex equipment required special personnel for operation and maintenance, which in turn was urgently needed by the war economy. For this reason, the requirements for the offspring were restricted even before the outbreak of war, so that even dishonorable discharges, but not Jewish mixed race , could be reinstated.

Personnel structure of the infantry divisions at the beginning of the war
(figures in percent)
Type 1st wave
(35 div.)
2nd wave
(16 div.)
3rd wave
(21 div.)
4th wave
(14 div.)
Active staff 78 6th - 9
Reserve I
trained since 1920; under 35 years
12 83 12 21st
Reserve II
3 months trained; under 35 years
6th 8th 46 46
Landwehr soldiers
born 1894–1900 or
unused years up to 45 years of age
4th 3 42 24

As a result of the poor material situation and the different level of training, not every division could be set up with the same strength and composition and equipped with the same weapons. Thus the 51 divisions still to be mobilized in the summer of 1939 were made up of three different division types, so-called waves , which differed enormously in terms of their combat strength. The material equipment and the combat strength of the 3rd and 4th waves were so low that they were mainly used as ground-based divisions or as supplementary units. Even the 35 divisions of the peace army belonging to the 1st wave were not all fully staffed when the war began.

Furthermore, the stocks of ammunition, spare parts and other supplies were insufficient. The peace army could be provided with the necessary equipment to a certain extent, but the ammunition stock of four months required by the OKH for the war army at the beginning of the war could not be achieved by far. The shortage of this 4-month stock was for the following types of ammunition:

  • Infantry ammunition: 60 percent
  • 2 cm anti-aircraft or combat vehicle ammunition: 70 or 95 percent
  • Grenade launcher ammunition: 90 percent
  • Infantry gun ammunition: 70 percent
  • light field howitzer ammunition: 60 percent
  • heavy field howitzer ammunition: 45 percent.

The fact that after the start of the war there was no shortage of ammunition - as expected by parts of the military leadership - was due to the unexpectedly fast end of the initial Blitzkrieg campaigns and the extremely low consumption of ammunition associated with it.


In contrast to the army, the navy had no problems meeting the needs of officers. The corps consisted of 1,100 officers in 1933 and had increased to 4,400 by the start of the war. The total personnel strength at the beginning of 1933 was 15,000 men, whereby this peacetime population quintupled to 78,000 men by the summer of 1939. Due to the staggered mobilizations carried out in the summer, the total strength increased to 150,000 men at the beginning of the war. The slow build-up of the insufficient number of ships can be seen as follows:

Battleships Armored ships Heavy cruisers Light cruisers destroyer Torpedo boats Submarines
April 1, 1934 1 5 12
September 1, 1939 2 3 1 6th 21st 12 57

When Great Britain declared war on the Third Reich on September 3, Raeder - for whom the war came “five years too early” - concluded the naval armament: “As far as the Navy is concerned, it is by no means a matter of course for the fight with England adequately armed ... But the surface forces are still so small in number and strength that - provided they are fully deployed - they can only die with decency. ” This negative assessment of the situation corresponded to the result of an armaments policy that does not follow a consistent guideline between long-term shipbuilding and short-term political decisions could. After the war began, the construction of almost all of the planned surface forces were canceled. The instruction No. 1 of August 31, 1939 for the conduct of wars of the Navy read succinctly: "The Kriegsmarine wages trade war with the main focus against England."

air force

Increase in staff strength
1933 1935 1939
Officers 250 1,100 15,000
NCOs and
2,000 17,000 370,000

Due to the total ban on the Air Force, in contrast to the other two branches of the armed forces, it could not build on an existing personnel body, so that the increase in personnel with all its disadvantages was particularly strongly expressed here. As early as 1935, officer training had to be reduced from three to two years. In the course of time there was such an immense increase in personnel that the officer corps increased thirteen-fold from the time of the unmasking in 1935 until the beginning of the war. If you consider that the formation of a homogeneous officer corps and the introduction to the new, complicated technology is a lengthy process and that a large part of the corps was recruited from former army officers who were not familiar with the new matter, one will judge the quality of this corps with skepticism have to. Due to the immense increase in personnel and the resulting high staff turnover, it was no longer possible to consolidate the troops from 1935 onwards.

Aircraft production in the German Reich
year All in all including war planes
1932 36 -
1933 368 -
1934 1,968 840
1935 3,183 1,823
1936 5.112 2,530
1937 5,606 2,651
1938 5,235 3,350
1939 8,295 4,733

Aircraft production also recorded enormous growth rates, with problems in the supply of raw materials in 1938 leading to a decline in total production, which had stagnated since 1936. The intense pace of development can also be seen in the rapid increase in the number of organizationally reorganized squadrons, whereby the particularly high rates of increase are due to the sharing of existing associations:

  • 1933: 3 seasons
  • 1934: 14 seasons
  • 1935: 49 seasons
  • 1936: 109 seasons
  • 1937: 214 seasons
  • 1938: 243 squadrons (2,180 front-line aircraft)
  • 1939: 275 seasons (summer)

The anti-aircraft artillery also had high personnel growth rates , which grew from 11 departments at the time of the unmasking to 60 anti-aircraft departments with 68,000 men at the end of 1938. In the case of the third branch of service, the air intelligence force , the situation was analogous with the increase from six companies to 102 companies with 35,500 men in the same period.

In August 1939, 373,000 men served in the Air Force, which were in

  • 208,000 air force (including 20,000 air personnel)
  • 107,000 man anti-aircraft artillery and
  • 58,000 air intelligence force

structured. As a result of the mobilization measures, the total number of personnel was increased to 677,000 men at the beginning of the war, mainly by tripling the anti-aircraft troops, whose necessary equipment was stored.

Operational readiness of the flying front formations at the beginning of the war
Fighter pilot
fighter planes
High- speed bomber
Army and long-range reconnaissance aircraft
Transport aircraft
without cargo gliders
courier squadrons, sea planes, etc.
inventory of 302 scales
Aircraft ready to use 1,082 377 1.105 541 502 225 3,832
Not ready for use 148 23 105 120 42 18th 456
Crews ready for action 980 345 1,045 459 539 201 3,569

The operational readiness of the 11,700 front crews was relatively high, although not all available aircraft could be manned. Furthermore, the air defense component was considerably increased compared to the first armaments programs, because the 21 flak regiments with their 2,600 heavy, 6,700 medium or light anti-aircraft guns and 3,000 flak searchlights had 107,000 men, almost a third of the active core personnel of 370,000 men. In addition, the Air Force 133 could airbases , ammunition 49 institutions and 13 large air tank farm to fall back.


In spite of Hitler's "peace speeches", the massive rearmament led to a tightening of international relations and a change in the constellation of powers, so that in the event that war broke out there was little prospect of being able to limit the conflict locally. In 1939, however, the armament level was insufficient for this case. The massive armament developed an uncontrollable momentum of its own and itself became a risk for the empire. For the military, there was no alternative to armament, as the train of thought of the Wehrmacht leadership to react to the worsening foreign policy situation due to the intensive armament by accelerating armament shows.

The question posed by the Chief of the Army Office in 1936 as to whether the maintenance of an army designed for the highest level of readiness for war was economically viable at all, soon no longer arose, because Hitler had announced his intention to use the Wehrmacht to fight for the expansion of living space from 1943 at the latest. In accordance with the proposed Blitzkriegs concept of defeating a diplomatically isolated enemy with limited but powerful strikes, the Wehrmacht had a high first strike capacity. The broad armament practiced in Germany made it possible to bring the armed forces to a relatively high quantitative strength within a short period of time, but the lack of coordination of armament measures and the maintenance of the peace economy - even after the start of the war - limited the efficiency of the armaments industry, so that a deep armament and the build-up of supply reserves could not be realized. Even by its own military leadership, the Wehrmacht was described as unfit for war in the summer of 1939. In the course of the increasingly prolonged and unplanned expansion of the conflict, it should become clear that the Wehrmacht was not equipped for a long world war. The armament advantage achieved with great effort in some areas melted away after a very short time due to the failure to achieve total economic mobilization.

To this day there are different receptions about the progress of the armament. Older research supports the thesis of the "lightning war economy" formulated in the 1960s by the economic historian Alan S. Milward. The theory explained the low level of economic mobilization with an allegedly ingenious economic policy of Hitler, in which the scarce resources were supposed to guarantee a successful blitzkrieg through skillful use of forces within the given framework. The economic bottleneck created by the enormous invested funds was to be overcome by a kind of flight forward to war. The next short campaign should be made possible through the exploitation of the territories conquered. The war should feed the war, so to speak.

According to Adam Tooze , Hitler and the Nazi leadership would have been aware before the war began that the armaments of the Wehrmacht were insufficient for a longer war and that time was working against them in view of the foreseeable entry into the war by the USA. But Hitler stuck to the war with his ideology of the Jewish world conspiracy . After the "Victory in the West", the USSR was to be quickly overthrown by a blitzkrieg, which should greatly improve the military situation in favor of Nazi Germany. This project failed in 1941 before Moscow.

Other researchers assume that the Nazi leadership had always strived to focus on a long war and total mobilization, but failed in this task due to inefficiency and the lack of understanding that the economic potential was too low for a major world war .



Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rainer Wohlfeil, Edgar Graf von Matuschka: Reichswehr and Republic (1918–1933). Bernard & Graefe, 1970, ISBN 3-7637-0304-7 , pp. 207 ff.
  2. ^ Wohlfeil / Matuschka: Reichswehr and Republic. P. 218 ff.
  3. There is talk of a “sensational turnaround” in Müller / Volkmann: Die Wehrmacht. Myth and Reality. P. 79.
  4. ^ Ernst Hansen: Reichswehr and Industry. Arms industry cooperation and economic mobilization preparations 1923–1932. Boldt, 1978, ISBN 3-7646-1686-5 , p. 64 ff.
  5. Groener changed the Reichswehr like no other. → Johannes Hürter : Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehr Minister at the end of the Weimar Republic. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-486-55978-8 , p. 355 ff.
  6. 78 reconnaissance planes, 54 fighters and 18 bombers. → Müller-Hillebrand: The Army 1933–1945. Volume I, p. 19 f.
  7. ^ Müller / Volkmann: The Wehrmacht. Myth and Reality. P. 81.
  8. Samson had the empire-wide monopoly on the production of light MG. → Wolf Gruner: German Empire 1933–1937. ISBN 3-486-58480-4 , p. 372.
  9. ^ Karl-Heinz Janßen : The big plan. Die Zeit , No. 11/1997, ( article online ).
  10. This previously long underestimated statement u. a. in: Johannes Hürter: Wilhelm Groener. ISBN 3-486-55978-8 , p. 106.
    Rüdiger vom Bruch , Brigitte Kaderas (Ed.): Sciences and science policy: inventory of formations, breaks and continuities in Germany in the 20th century. Steiner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-515-08111-9 , p. 265.
  11. copy on the Liebmann recording .
  12. The memorandum was drawn up by the Chief of Army Command ( Hammerstein ) and the Chief of the Troop Office ( Adam ). In addition MGFA : DRZW . Volume 1, p. 400.
  13. All figures according to MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 401 f.
  14. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 243 f.
  15. ^ Wilhelm Deist (1991): Military, State and Society. P. 307.
  16. MGFA: The Age of World Wars. P. 262.
  17. a b MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 418.
  18. The study was prepared by Beck and approved by Fritsch, who even called for 36 to 40 divisions. →  Klaus-Jürgen Müller : General Ludwig Beck. Studies and documents on the political-military imagination and activities of the Chief of Staff of the German Army 1933–1938. Boldt, 1980, ISBN 3-7646-1785-3 , p. 202 ff.
  19. ^ Proclamation of the Reich government to the German people regarding the introduction of general conscription . March 16, 1935. On: . See Deutsches Reichsgesetzblatt Part I 1867–1945, p. 375 ; at the Austrian National Library (ÖNB).
  20. : Defense Act of May 21, 1935 .
  21. For Hitler's promise see point 4 of the Liebmann transcript . With the law, some renaming took place from the summer: the Reichswehr officially became the Wehrmacht , the troop office was renamed the “ General Staff of the Army” and the leaders of the three branches of the armed forces became commander-in-chief.
  22. a b MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 420.
  23. The main cause is considered to be the one year delay in introducing compulsory military service, which has been required since 1933, and the lack of divisions assigned to the Western Front. → MGFA, DRZW , Volume 1, p. 420.
  24. Increase: MGFA, DRZW , Volume 1, p. 421; Compensation: p. 433.
  25. There were a total of 56,000 men. The training of the barracked hundreds had a military character as early as autumn 1933. → Rudolf Absolon: The Wehrmacht in the Third Reich. Structure, structure, law and administration. Volume III, Oldenbourg, 1975, ISBN 3-486-41567-0 , p. 31 ff.
  26. Rüdiger von Manstein: Erich von Manstein. Soldier in the 20th Century: Military-Political Gleanings . Bernard & Graefe, 1994, ISBN 3-7637-5214-5 .
  27. ^ Deist: Military, State and Society. P. 324.
  28. The Army in 1914 consisted of 87 divisions and 44 Landwehr brigades. → Deist: military, state and society. P. 326.
  29. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 439.
  30. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, 1936: p. 432; 1937–1939: p. 442 ff.
  31. See several times in MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, pp. 415, 422, 431, 435, 437 or 444.
  32. According to the AHA, annual exchange costs of 700 million RM were added to the August program. → MGFA: DRZW , p. 434.
  33. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 435.
  34. message of OBDH to the Chancellor. → MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 445.
  35. a b c d e Müller-Hillebrand: Das Heer 1933–1945. Volume I, pp. 37 (a), 20 (b), 70 (c), 128 (d), 126 (e).
  36. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, delay: p. 446; Equipment misery: p. 447.
  37. ^ Salewski: The Germans and the Sea. Part 2, p. 137.
  38. a b c d e f g Jost Dülffer: Weimar, Hitler and the Navy. Reich policy and naval building 1920–1939. Droste, 1973, ISBN 3-7700-0320-9 , pp. 248 f. (A), 566 (b), 313 (c), 389 (d), 568 f. (E), 458 ff. (F) , 504 ff. (G).
  39. ^ Salewski: The Germans and the Sea. P. 134.
  40. Ingo Bauernfeind: Radioactive for all eternity - The fate of the Prinz Eugen . Mittler-Verlag, Hamburg / Berlin / Bonn 2011, ISBN 978-3-8132-0928-0 , pp. 10 .
  41. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 458.
  42. ^ Erminio Bagnasco: U-Boats in World War II. Motorbuch, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-613-01252-9 , p. 56.
  43. ^ A b c Michael Salewski: The German Naval Warfare 1935-1945. Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt 1985, ISBN 3-7637-5168-8 .
  44. ^ Rolf Güth: The Navy of the German Empire 1919-1939. Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-7637-5113-0 , p. 157.
  45. The Z-Plan contains the already planned and existing ships of the Kriegsmarine. The original plan even included 8 aircraft carriers. → Robert Bohn: neutrality and totalitarian aggression. Steiner-Verlag, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-515-05887-7 , p. 60.
  46. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 468.
  47. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 450.
  48. Gert Sandhofer: The Panzerschiff A and the preliminary drafts from 1920-1928. In: The Navy of the German Reich 1919–1939. Bernard & Graefe, 1972, ISBN 3-7637-5117-3 , p. 83.
  49. Article 198
  50. a b c d e f g h i j Völker: The German Air Force 1933–1939. P. 15 fu 229 (a), p. 58 (b), p. 131 (c), p. 170 (d), p. 201 (e), p. 138 (f), p. 99 and 121 (g), pp. 31, 48, 102 f. (H), pp. 106 and 111 ff. (I), p. 182 and 193 (j).
  51. reprinted by: Bernhard Heimann, Joachim Schunke: A secret memorandum on the conception of air warfare by Hitler Germany from May 1933. In: Journal for Military History . No. 3, Berlin-Ost 1964, pp. 72-86.
  52. The air fleet should consist of 400 bombers (penetration depth 800 km and dropping capacity at least 2 t) and 10 reconnaissance squadrons. → MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 475 f.
  53. a b c d Edward L. Homze: Arming the Luftwaffe. The Reich Air Ministry and the German Aircraft Industry 1919-1939. Nebraska Press, 1976, ISBN 0-8032-0872-3 , pp. 74 f. (A and b), 78 u. 184 (c), 222 ff. (D), 145 (e).
  54. ^ Zgorniak: Europe on the brink. P. 58.
  55. ^ Opinion in MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 483.
  56. L.Dv. 16 → Rolf Schabel: The illusion of miracle weapons. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-486-55965-6 , p. 79.
  57. see also Ernst Stilla: The air force in the fight for air supremacy. Decisive influencing factors in the defeat of the Luftwaffe in the defensive battle in the West and over Germany in the Second World War with special consideration of the factors “air armament”, “research and development” and “human resources”. Dissertation 2005 (pp. 38–46: Structural difficulties and the negative influence of Göring on the organization and ability to act of the air force command ).
  58. Guido Knopp , Friederike Dreykluft: Hitler's warriors . Goldmann-Verlag, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-442-15045-0 , p. 337.
  59. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 488 f.
  60. ↑ Slightly injured: 211 men. → MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 717.
  61. ^ On the institutions MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, Part 2: "The Mobilization of the German Economy for Hitler's Warfare", p. 349 ff.
  62. Almost no budget was actually achieved. → MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 408.
  63. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 366.
  64. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 364.
  65. ^ Judgment in MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 497 ff.
  66. Adam Tooze : Economy of Destruction. The history of the economy under National Socialism. Siedler-Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-88680-857-1 , p. 755.
  67. ^ Zgorniak: Europe on the brink. P. 34.
  68. Christoph Franke: The role of the foreign exchange offices in the expropriation of the Jews . In: Katharina Stengel (Ed.): The state expropriation of the Jews in National Socialism . Frankfurt a. M. 2007, ISBN 978-3-593-38371-2 , p. 81. ( Preview on Google Books )
  69. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 362.
  70. Willi A. Boelcke: The Costs of Hitler's War: War Financing and Financial Legacy in Germany 1933-1948 . Schöningh-Verlag, Paderborn 1985, ISBN 3-506-77471-9 , p. 28.
  71. Wolfram Fischer: German Economic Policy 1918–1945. Leske-Verlag, Opladen 1968, ISBN 3-7850-0073-1 , p. 102.
  72. Arthur Schweitzer: Big Business in the Third Reich. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1977, ISBN 0-253-10670-2 , p. 331.
  73. ^ Berenice Carroll: Design for Total War, Arms and Economics . Walter de Gruyter 1968, ISBN 90-279-0299-2 , p. 184.
  74. Dietrich Eichholtz: History of the German war economy . Akademie-Verlag 1969, ISBN 3-598-11635-7 , p. 31.
  75. ^ Information from Reich Finance Minister Schwerin von Krosigk in the Wilhelmstrasse Trial ; quoted after Rene Erbe: The National Socialist Economic Policy 1933–1939 in the light of modern theory. Polygraphischer Verlag 1958.
  76. ^ Bernhard R. Kroener: The personnel situation of the Wehrmacht at the outbreak of war. In: The German Reich and the Second World War . (Volume 5/1), Stuttgart 1988, pp. 726-739 (graphic representation p. 731).
  77. Figures according to MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 410 ff .; Mueller-Hillebrand: The Army 1933-1945. Volume I, p. 66.
  78. The numbers fluctuate between 3.706 million (MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 731) and 3.731 million (Mueller-Hillebrand: Heer. P. 66) men. The numbers for the field army are consistent.
  79. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 554 (due to deficiencies in the statistics at the time, differences to other figures - especially for tanks - are possible).
  80. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 728.
  81. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 732.
  82. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 448.
  83. ^ Rolf Güth: Organization of the Navy in War and Peace 1913–1933. In: German naval history of modern times. ISBN 3-7637-0307-1 , p. 347 ff.
  84. ^ Müller / Volkmann: The Wehrmacht. Myth and Reality. P. 270.
  85. Gerhard Koop: Ship classes and ship types of the German Navy. Volume 5, Bernard & Graefe, Bonn 1994, ISBN 3-7637-5923-9 , p. 294.
  86. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 479.
  87. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 242.
  88. Fromm called for armaments to be slowed down if there was no firm intention to use the Wehrmacht. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 436.
  89. MGFA: The Age of World Wars. P. 262.
    Conclusion inefficiency → Müller / Volkmann: The Wehrmacht. P. 102.
  90. judgment u. a. Klaus-Jürgen Müller: The Army and Hitler. Oldenbourg, 1988, ISBN 3-486-55350-X , p. 407 ff.
    Gotthard Breit: The image of the state and society of German generals during the two world wars as reflected in their memoirs. Boldt, 1973, ISBN 3-7646-1576-1 , pp. 185 ff.
  91. ↑ In the summer of 1939 England built more aircraft than Germany, and a year later it was 50% more; Not to mention the economic capacities of Russia and the USA, which were fully exploited from the middle of the war. More on this Richard Overy : The Roots of Victory. Rowohlt-Verlag, Reinbek 2002, ISBN 3-499-61314-X , p. 425.
  92. See Alan S. Milward: The Influence of Economic and Non-Economic Factors on the Strategy of the Blitzkrieg. In: Forstmeier, Volkmann (ed.): Economy and armaments on the eve of the Second World War. Droste-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1975, ISBN 3-7700-0399-3 , pp. 189-201.
  93. Timothy Mason : Social Policy in the Third Reich. Working class and national community. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1977, ISBN 3-531-11364-X , p. 295 ff.
  94. See Adam Tooze : Wages of Destruction. The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. 2006, paperback edition 2007, especially chapter 9 "1939: Nothing to Gain by Waiting".
  95. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 349 and 689


  1. The initial plan for a 21-division army was discarded for economic reasons. The lion's share went to the army; the Navy received around 7 million RM annually. With the full approval of all governing parties, the 350 million RM were placed in the Reich budget by means of a secret fund. To this end, the State Secretaries' Committee was founded, which was able to approve the budget. This consisted of one representative each from the Audit Office, the Reichswehr Ministry and the Finance Ministry and was beyond the control of the Reichstag. →  Johannes Hürter : Wilhelm Groener. ISBN 3-486-55978-8 , p. 114 f.
  2. Karl-Heinz Janßen describes “the great plan” in detail in his book Der Krieg der Generals: Hitler as a tool of the Wehrmacht. ISBN 3-548-36277-X . The representation is z. B. criticized by the historian Dieter Pohl as “speculative in parts” (→  Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht. ISBN 3-486-58065-5 , p. 41.) In
    general, this book is controversial because Hitler was only a puppet of a military leadership geared towards a war of revenge is pictured. Critical z. B. Ursula Heukenkamp: Guilt and atonement? War experience and interpretation of war in German media in the post-war period. ISBN 90-420-1425-3 , p. 151.
  3. Hitler was up to the end of a degree (which he would have revised later anyway) positively because he recognized his own military weakness and was of the opinion that “it was wrong to ask for more than we could actually buy for technical or financial reasons.” Quoted in MGFA, DRZW , Volume 1, p. 398.
  4. As early as 1933, the English public reacted with concern to articles in the Yellow Press ; From 1934 the threat was also taken seriously politically, although England did not yet play a role in German air war considerations. So the objective of the air force command to create a weapon mainly against France and Poland, became obsolete due to external factors. → MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 477.
  5. It was only through Speer's appointment as Reich Minister for Armaments and Munitions in 1942 and then in 1943 as Reich Minister for Armaments and War Production that the economy was completely converted to war production and from the manual production of armaments to industrial mass production. The concept of "self-responsibility of industry" implemented by Speer released all the dynamic forces of a modern industrial society and made the " armaments miracle Speer " possible (MGFA: DRZ , volume 5/2, p. 343). For a critical assessment of Albert Speer and the “so-called” (so Tooze) armaments miracle cf. Adam Tooze: Economy of Destruction: The History of the Economy under National Socialism. Pantheon 2008, ISBN 3-570-55056-7 , pp. 550 ff.
  6. In order to counter the emergence of war profiteering, which had developed in the First World War, a price test was developed that worked on the principle that the company's profit margin was based on a fixed percentage ratio to the real production costs. The higher the operating costs, the higher the profits were, so that the companies did not even try to rationalize.
  7. The order in 1939 was: USA, New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, Australia, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Luxembourg, Norway, Uruguay, Belgium and then Germany. In absolute figures, Germany was in 4th place with almost 2 million vehicles (cars, buses and trucks), but still far behind the USA with its 30 million vehicles. → MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, table p. 651 (the Schell Plan was no longer used before the war).
  8. ↑ Sample calculation of a family support: If the man, who previously earned 216 RM in a factory , was called up, even the childless wife received support of 84 RM, plus a rent allowance of 10 RM. The 94 RM available per month did not offer any incentive for employment, as the woman z. B. earned only 53 RM in a canning factory. → MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 771.
  9. A comprehensive overview of the armaments industry, which would blow up the article, offers u. a. in:
    Rolf-Dieter Müller : The mobilization of the German economy for Hitler's warfare. In: MGFA, DRZW , Volume 5/1, pp. 349-689;
    Alan S. Milward: The German War Economy 1939-1945. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1966;
    MGFA: Economy and Armaments on the eve of the Second World War. Düsseldorf 1975, ISBN 3-7700-0399-3 ;
    Forstmeier / Volkmann : War Economy and Armaments 1939–1945. Droste, 1976, ISBN 3-7700-0443-4 ;
    Georg Thomas : History of the German Defense and Armaments Industry. ISBN 3-7646-1067-0 ;
    Adam Tooze : Economy of Destruction: The History of the Economy under National Socialism. Pantheon 2008, ISBN 3-570-55056-7 .
  10. MGFA: DRZW , Volume 1, p. 249: There are differences between the short-term and long-term debt level. The following figures are added up:
    1933: 14 billion RM; 1934: RM 16 billion; 1935: 20 billion RM; 1936: 26 billion RM; 1937: 32 billion RM.
  11. Figures according to MGFA: DRZW , Volume 5/1, p. 963. Note: Figures do not necessarily conform to other sources due to statistical deficits and other incorrect or multiple countings. So comes Völker, Luftwaffe , to 4093 existing aircraft, of which 3646 were operational, including u. a. 1056 Bf 109 , 787 He 111 , 628 Do 17 , 366 Ju 87 and 552 Ju 52 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 7, 2009 .