High Command of the Wehrmacht

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High Command of the Wehrmacht

active February 4, 1938 to May 8, 1945
Country German Reich NSGerman Reich (Nazi era) German Empire
Armed forces Wehrmacht
Type Wehrmacht headquarters
Headquarters of the OKW Wünsdorf near Zossen / Berlin
Chief OKW (1938–1945) Wilhelm Keitel
Command flag chief OKW 1938–1941
Chief OKW version 1.svg
Command flag chief OKW in the rank of General Field Marshal 1941–1945
Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht as Generalfeldmarschall.svg

The High Command of the Wehrmacht ( OKW ), along with the High Command of the Army (OKH), the High Command of the Navy (OKM) and the High Command of the Air Force (OKL), was one of the highest staff organizations in the Wehrmacht . The OKW and the high commands of the three armed forces took on planning tasks in their respective areas of responsibility. They were subordinate to the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, Adolf Hitler . There was no line of command from the OKW to the other high commands, which had their own general staffs.

The headquarters of the OKW was in Wünsdorf near Zossen in the “Maybach II” bunker , south of Berlin. There was a field squadron at the respective location of the Führer headquarters .

On April 20, 1945, the OKW relocated its headquarters to Wannsee for three days , and then gradually moved its headquarters via Krampnitz , Neuroofen , Dobbin , Wismar , Neustadt in Holstein to the Mürwik special area on May 3, 1945 , where the last Reich government was located and with her stopped Hitler's successor as Commander-in-Chief, Karl Dönitz .


Adolf Hitler used the Blomberg-Fritsch crisis , which ended with the resignation of the Reichswehr Minister Werner von Blomberg , to commit the leadership of the Wehrmacht more closely to himself and the NSDAP . He himself took over the function of Reich Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief and restructured the Wehrmacht Office into the "High Command of the Wehrmacht" in the function of a military general staff . At his head he put the loyal generals Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl . At the same time, the army received Walther von Brauchitsch as a new commander in chief who was given direct access to Hitler. Another sixteen generals were relieved of their command posts. Because the commanders-in-chief of all branches of the armed forces were given the right to speak to Hitler, Keitel could no longer represent the interests of the Wehrmacht as a whole. Keitel was only able to take over the functions of deputy war minister in part and only to the extent that the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces, army , navy and air force allowed it.

The legal basis was created on February 4, 1938 with a Führer decree . It says:

“Decree on the leadership of the Wehrmacht of
February 4, 1938.
From now on I exercise the authority over the entire Wehrmacht personally.
The previous Wehrmacht Office in the Reich Ministry of War, with its tasks as "High Command of the Wehrmacht" and as my military staff, comes directly under my command.
At the head of the staff of the High Command of the Wehrmacht is the previous head of the Wehrmacht Office as "Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht". He is on an equal footing with the Reich ministers in rank.
The High Command of the Wehrmacht is also responsible for the business of the Reich Ministry of War, the Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht exercises on my behalf the powers that were previously due to the Reich Minister of War.
In peace, according to my instructions, the High Command of the Wehrmacht is responsible for the uniform preparation of the defense of the Reich in all areas.
Berlin, February 4, 1938 "


Gradual withdrawal of the OKW to the north and ultimately to Mürwik (1945)

The OKW was divided into six offices, the Adjutantur to the Führer and the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht:

  • Office Group General Wehrmachtamt (AWA) (Chief: 1939–1945 General of the Infantry Hermann Reinecke )
    • Domestic department
    • General Department
    • Wehrmacht welfare and supply department
    • Wehrmacht technical school lessons
    • science
    • Wehrmacht administration department
    • General on special disposal for prisoners of war
    • Wehrmacht Loss Department (WVW)
  • Foreign Office / Defense (Military Espionage) (Chief: September 1, 1939 to February 12, 1944 Admiral Wilhelm Canaris ; February 13 to June 1, 1944 Colonel Georg Hansen , June 1, 1944 to May 4, 1945 SS -Brigadführer Walter Schellenberg , from May 5, 1945 SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny )
    • Chief of Staff
    • Central Department (Chief: September 1, 1939 to January 1944 Major General Hans Oster , January to June 1944 Colonel Jacobsen)
    • International Department (Head: September 1, 1939 to June 30, 1944 Vice Admiral Leopold Bürkner )
      • Group I: Foreign and Defense Policy
      • Group II: Relationship with foreign military powers
      • Group III: Foreign Armed Forces, OKW registration center
      • Group IV: Stage Organization of the Navy
      • Group V: foreign press
      • Group VI: Military Investigation Unit for International Martial Law
      • Group VII: Colonial Issues
      • Group VIII: Defense evaluation
    • Intelligence Department (Head: September 1, 1939 to March 1943 Colonel Hans Piekenbrock , March 1943 to February 1944 Colonel Georg Hansen )
      • Group H: Army Secret Intelligence Service
      • Group M: Secret Intelligence Service Navy
      • Group L: Air Force Secret Intelligence Service
      • Group G: Technical work equipment
      • Group wi: secret reporting service for the economy
      • Group P: press evaluation
      • Group i: radio network defense radio station
    • Special Service Department (Head: September 1, 1939 to July 1943 Colonel Erwin von Lahousen , July 1943 to June 1944 Colonel Wessel Freiherr von Freytag-Loringhoven )
      • Group I: minorities
      • Group II: special measures
    • Defense Department (Chief: September 1, 1939 to August 1943 Colonel Franz Eccard von Bentivegni , August to September 20, 1943 Colonel Heinrich, September 20, 1943 to March 1944 Colonel Franz Eccard von Bentivegni)
      • Leadership Group W: Defense in the Wehrmacht
      • Group Wi: Defense Economy
      • Group C: Domestic defense
      • Group F: Defense abroad
      • Group D: Special Service
      • Group S: anti-sabotage
      • Group G: expert opinion
      • Group Z: Central Archives
    • Foreign (telegram) inspection agency
      • Group I: sorting
      • Group II: Chemical investigation
      • Group III: private letters
      • Group IV: commercial letters
      • Group V: letters from the field
      • Group VI: POW Letters
      • Group VII: Central File
      • Group VIII: evaluation
      • Group IX: POW letter evaluation
  • Wehrmacht leadership office (from 1940 Wehrmacht leadership staff ) (Chief: September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945 Colonel General Alfred Jodl )
  • Wehrmacht Central Department
    • Group I Mobile Group
    • Group II personnel group
    • Group III general
    • Section IV Human Resources
    • Registry
    • Administrative department
    • Office director of the OKW
    • OKW library
    • OKW headquarters
  • Wehrwirtschaftsamt
    • Defense Department
    • Defense Department
    • Contract and Price Review Department

In addition, the Reich Court Martial and the Reich Welfare and Supply Court were organizationally assigned to the OKW. From 1942 onwards the staff z. b. V. under General of the Infantry Walter von Unruh and on May 17, 1942, the Fuhrer's representative for military historiography, Walter Scherff .

Individual edicts

The mass murder of civilians and combatants without a legal basis, later justifying the fight against partisans , was prepared in its core by the martial law decree of Barbarossa Hitler, which was signed by Wilhelm Keitel on May 13, 1941. Units of the SS, Wehrmacht and Ordnungspolizei, so-called ( Einsatzgruppen ), carried out numerous massacres of the civilian population while fighting actual or alleged partisans or persons who were declared as such, or of prisoners designated as hostages . The so-called partisan war in the Soviet Union cost around half a million lives and is one of the Wehrmacht's greatest crimes . The decree describes that irregulars “should be dealt with relentlessly by the troops in combat or on the run”, and that “all other attacks by enemy civilians [...] must be put down on the spot with the utmost means until the attacker is destroyed”. Before the court martial was issued, German regulations and laws against irregulars provided for court martial. This decree made it possible, used as a justification, to wage a war of annihilation that was contrary to international law under the pretext of fighting partisans (former term gang fight).

For more, see under criminal orders (in: Verbrechen der Wehrmacht , there are commissar order, expiation order, night and fog orders, command orders ( October 18, 1942), bullet orders)

War crimes and crimes against humanity convictions

Wilhelm Keitel with Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Alfred Rosenberg in the dock during the Nuremberg trial of major war criminals
Telford Taylor , chief prosecutor in the OKW trial, 1947/48

At the end of the war, the Wehrmacht High Command was transferred to the Mürwik special area , where its members were arrested on May 23, 1945. The General Staff and the High Command of the Wehrmacht were subsequently indicted as organizations in the Nuremberg trial against the main war criminals , but could not be convicted as a criminal organization for formal reasons, such as the Waffen SS . The court recommended that the members go to trial individually, as there were frequent staff fluctuations in the General Staff and OKW. Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl were found guilty on individual charges and sentenced to death.

In the follow-up trial in Nuremberg, OKW generals and commanders-in-chief of army and army groups were indicted and convicted individually before the American military court in Nuremberg ( trial of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ). Central charges included the transfer of criminal commands such as the Commissar Order , the atonement command , the Commando Order , the Night and Fog decree , the ball decree , the murder of prisoners of war, the kidnapping of civilians for forced labor and participation in the Holocaust . Eleven defendants were sentenced to between three years and life imprisonment, and two were acquitted.

War diaries

The war diaries of the OKW were kept from 1940 to 1945 by the national defense department in the Wehrmacht command staff. It describes the strategies, battles, troop movements, front lines, war goals and plans as well as assessments of the situation by the top Wehrmacht leadership. The secretaries of the KTB / OKW were Helmuth Greiner (until 1943) and Percy Ernst Schramm .

From 1961 to 1965, the war diaries of the High Command of the Wehrmacht were edited by historians and on behalf of the Working Group for Defense Research in four volumes in Bernard & Graefe Verlag für Wehrwesen, Frankfurt am Main, published:


First edition

  • Hans-Adolf Jacobsen a . a. (Ed.): War diary of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (Wehrmacht command staff) . 4 volumes. Bernard & Graefe, Verlag für Wehrwesen, Frankfurt am Main 1963–1965 (and several reprints).

Study edition

In the original edition, volumes II to IV each consist of two sub-volumes; In the study edition, Volume I is also divided into two sub-volumes, which were then renumbered as volumes 1 to 8.

See also


  • Waldemar Erfurth : The history of the German general staff from 1918 to 1945. Muster-Schmidt, Göttingen 1957, ISBN 978-3-941960-20-6 .
  • Geoffrey P. Megargee: Hitler and the Generals. The struggle for leadership in the Wehrmacht 1933–1945 . Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2006, ISBN 3-506-75633-8 .
    • First edition: Inside Hitler's High Command . University Press of Kansas, Lawrence 2000, ISBN 0-7006-1015-4 .
  • Klaus Hesse: The “Third Reich” after Hitler. 23 days in May 1945. A chronicle . Hentrich & Hentrich, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-95565-180-0 .

Web links

Commons : Standards of the OKW  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Manfred Weißbecker Wilhelm Keitel "... you have become such a rascal" In: Kurt Pätzold / Manfred Weißbecker (ed.) Steps to the gallows. Life paths before the Nuremberg judgments, Militzke-Verlag, Leipzig 2004, p. 113.
  2. Text at 1000dokumente.de
  3. ^ Annette Weinke : The Nuremberg Trials . CH Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-53604-2 , pp. 80-84.