War Academy

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General staff course in the lecture hall , 1935

War academy in German-speaking countries was the name for the highest military teaching institution or military college (today's name General Staff School ) for the training of officers for the General Staff ( General Staff officers ), the adjutantage and higher troop commanders as well as for the advanced training of officers, initially in Prussia and in Bavaria and later also in imperial Germany and in the Third Reich .


The first military academy was founded by Charles V in Toledo and Wallenstein built one in Gitschin in 1624 , but it was dissolved again in 1634.

The most famous military college in Germany - the Prussian War Academy , also known as the Berlin War Academy - was founded in 1756 by Friedrich II as a general war school. The facility has been renamed several times; so in the Académie militaire , Académie des nobles and from 1858 officially in the war academy , with the same name as a university. In 1872 they were directly subordinate to the Chief of the General Staff. The general staff course, also called Coetus , had up to 100 officers and was three years old. The nine-month officer course, which is usually upstream, was attended by up to 300 officer candidates or students.

Bavaria had also had a similarly organized war academy in Munich since 1867 with an adequate curriculum. In Austria, general staff officers were trained in two-year courses at the kuk war school in Vienna. The Nicholas General Staff Academy in Saint Petersburg served similar purposes in Russia and the École supérieure de guerre in France .

Prussian War Academy
Bavarian War Academy
École supérieure de guerre , France

Development in Germany

The two war academies in Berlin and Munich were primarily intended to contribute to the restructuring of the hitherto largely feudal officer corps and to the modernization of the armed forces as a whole. Major General Gerhard von Scharnhorst (1755-1813) submitted plans and proposals according to which the War Academy, as the highest military educational institution, should have the task of educating a new, highly educated officer who was open to all progressive ideas in the development of the military and who was himself active contributed to the development of military theory and practice.


The curriculum of the war academies contained both military science and general education subjects and built on the knowledge imparted at the war schools. A course at the War Academy lasted three years.

From 1810 to 1812, for example in Berlin, all officers who passed the entrance examination were accepted. At first it was possible to attend the lectures for only one or two years for general further education. However, artillery and engineer officers had to complete the full cycle, as there were no specific teaching facilities for their qualification until 1815. One of the first teachers at the Berlin War Academy was the then Major Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), who gave lectures on general staff service and tactics, among other things.

Development until the second half of the 19th century

In 1812 the Berlin War Academy was closed. After reopening in 1816, its level flattened under the influence of restorative developments in Prussia. The goals with which the university was founded faded more and more into the background. On the one hand, officers with military qualifications were trained, on the other hand the War Academy developed more and more into a refuge for Prussia and militarism. This tendency has increased especially since the second half of the 19th century, especially since the Berlin War Academy with its predominance in Prussia in Germany had become the central academic training facility for the German army . The one-sidedness of the training at the Berlin War Academy was deepened by the fact that it was subordinated to the Chief of the General Staff in 1872 (previously the General Inspector of Military Education).

The Bavarian War Academy, which has existed in Munich since 1867 - much smaller than the Prussian one - only trained for the Bavarian Army . In terms of its main training content, however, it corresponded to the Prussian War Academy and was de facto equivalent.

Growth and further development of teaching

The number of listeners, which in the first half of the 19th century averaged 100 to 120 officers (30 to 40 per course or teaching group), rose steadily from 1871 onwards in connection with the ongoing army reinforcements and the increase in general staff positions and assignments. In 1897 there were 400 (around 160 per course). The teaching groups, now headed by General Staff officers, were further divided into lecture halls (initially up to 50, later 25 to 30 officers). At their head was a tactics teacher. Admission to the War Academy took place since 1816 according to a strict selection process, the result of which depended not only on the examination to be taken, but also on the assessments made by the commanders (including previous leadership, material situation). The assessment of the tactics teacher, which he gave on the basis of the practical exercises during the courses and exercises, was of particular importance for later use. Of the graduates who were not employed on the General Staff, a significant number worked as teachers at other military teaching institutions such as war schools.

The lessons at the War Academy were divided into compulsory and facultative subjects. Thus, in three years of study subjects such tactics , military history , weapons doctrine , attachment theory , transportation, military law , health care, general staff , fortress war , state administration and in addition to French and Russian also chemistry and physics taught.

The lecturers were either officers, especially in the main subjects, or civilian teachers. In the military subjects, some officers provided by the General Staff taught. The teaching of general subjects - the so-called formal disciplines - was mainly given by professors, for example from the Berlin University. Since the second half of the 19th century, the subjects of tactics and war history were given increasing priority. The main objective of the lessons in war history was to introduce examples into higher command and maintenance of tradition, but also to consolidate the general staff's caste and elite thinking. The tactics instruction was limited primarily to problems related to the use of the division ; whereas the leadership of the army corps was only given an overview.

The study of society and economy, domestic or foreign policy was missing from the curriculum. The training differed from other general staff schools , such as the British Imperial Defense College , the American United States Army War College or the French Center des hautes études militaires .

When the First World War broke out, both German war academies were closed and not reopened until the end of the war, although the development of the course of the war and the reorganization of large units through to army groups increased the need for academically trained commanders and general staff officers . The Supreme Army Command (OHL) tried to match this by running so-called combat training courses or courses at the Division Command School (→ Sedan General Staff Course ) in Solesmes (France). She also trained general staff officers in four-week courses in Sedan .

Reichswehr and Wehrmacht

The Reichswehr circumvented the prohibition stipulated by the Versailles Treaty on the maintenance of a military academy by establishing a so-called leader assistant training decentralized in the military districts. Accordingly, the graduates became senior staff officers instead of the previous designation officer i. G.

With the start of the accelerated preparations for war, the Wehrmacht reopened the war academies in 1935, initially with a two-year training course and an audience of 100 to 150 officers. From 1937 onwards, senior captains were also prepared in a one-year course for the general staff career. The training extended to the management level of the army corps . It gives a general overview of the operational principles of the army corps as a temporary large operational unit. The focus was on military training, supplemented by special lectures and instructions in Nazi politics and ideology .

In 1939 the military academy stopped training, but by 1940 general staff courses were set up, first in Dresden, then in Berlin. During the Second World War, a total of 17 general staff courses, each with around 60 lecture hall participants, took place. They initially lasted eight weeks, but were then extended to six months.

In March 1943, the War Academy was finally reopened, to which almost 200 officers were assigned. The focus was on the training of general staff officers for the division level .

Germany's defeat in World War II also sealed the end of the War Academy. Their tasks, but not their tradition, were largely continued by the Bundeswehr Leadership Academy after the Bundeswehr was founded .

See also


  • Military History Research Office (Ed.): German Military History 1648–1939. 6 volumes. Bernard & Graefe, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-88199-112-3 .
  • Bernhard von Poten (Ed.): Concise dictionary of the entire military sciences. 9 volumes. Velhagen and Klasing, Leipzig 1877–1880.
  • Dictionary of German military history . 1st edition, pages 411-413. License no. 5, P 189/84, order no .: 746 6350, Berlin 1985.