|Commander in Chief :||The Reich President
Last: Paul von Hindenburg and Adolf Hitler
Last: Werner von Blomberg
|Military Commander:||The Reichswehr Minister|
|Eligibility for military service:||Age 17 and over|
|Founding:||January 19, 1919 as "peace army"|
|Replacement:||March 16, 1935 ( Wehrmacht ),
June 1, 1935 ( Navy )
During the Weimar Republic and the first years of the “ Third Reich ” from 1921 to 1935, the Reichswehr was the official name of the German armed forces , which were organized as a professional army at that time . After the German Army ("Reichsheer") was dissolved in January 1919 and was to be transformed into a peace army , the Reich government decided in March 1919 to form a provisional Reichswehr. Due to the conditions of the Versailles Treaty of 1919, the scope and armament of the Reichswehr were subject to severe restrictions. After the "regaining of military sovereignty " (reintroduction of compulsory military service, etc.) announced by Adolf Hitler in 1935, the Reichswehr was absorbed into the new Wehrmacht .
The Reichswehr acted as a state within a state , and its leadership was an important political power factor within the Weimar Republic. The Reichswehr partly supported the democratic form of government, as in the Ebert-Groener Pact , and partly it supported anti-democratic forces with the Black Reichswehr . The Reichswehr saw itself as a cadre army, which should receive the expertise of the old imperial military and thus form the basis for rearmament.
Structure of the Reichswehr
Arms restriction through the Treaty of Versailles
In Part V of the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919, Germany had committed itself “in order to allow the beginning of a general restriction on the armaments of all nations” to limit the scope and armament of its armed forces in such a way that they were used exclusively to maintain order within Germany and could be used as border guards.
In accordance with the provisions of the victorious powers of the First World War in Articles 159 to 213 of the Treaty, the number of personnel was limited to a professional army of 100,000 men plus a 15,000-strong navy . The establishment of a general staff was prohibited. Heavy weapons such as artillery above the 105 mm caliber (naval guns above 203 mm), armored vehicles , submarines and capital ships were prohibited, as was any type of air force . The regulations were overseen by the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission until 1927 .
The arms limitations bypassed the Army command through a series of secret and illegal measures: These included the secret construction of a so-called Black Reichswehr , illicit weapons tests with artillery, aircraft and tanks in the Soviet Union ( see: Treaty of Rapallo ), the establishment of a leader assistant training , was defining to compensate for the banned general staff training and the maintenance of the general staff in the newly created troop office . In the statistical society , plans for the armaments industry were worked out together with the Reichsverband der Deutschen Industrie . With the help of retired officers, people's sports schools were mostly set up near former military training areas, in which trainers for military sports were trained in preparation for the training of infantrymen . This took place especially in northern Germany with the support of the Stahlhelm . Other aids were the use of z. B. tank dummies for training purposes.
The Army found himself in his own self-image as a "regular army" or "leader of the army", which means that every soldier was trained so that he became the suitability for higher levels of responsibility, which in turn essential for the rapid regrowth of the army after the announcement of the military sovereignty by the Nazi regime should be in 1935.
Two days later, the Compiègne armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, with which the - new - government approved the speedy evacuation of the occupied territories. The withdrawal on the western front began on November 12th, and the areas on the left bank of the Rhine were also free of the German military by January 17, 1919. The task now was to gradually disarm these formations of the " Old Army " , which still numbered several million soldiers . This happened in the previously determined demobilization locations, usually the respective home garrisons; For the regiments with garrisons on the left bank of the Rhine, demobilization sites were determined in the interior of the Reich.
The Council of People's Representatives and the Supreme Army Command intended to transfer existing units into a peace army after the demobilization . On January 19, 1919, the Reich Government issued the “Provisional Regulations on the Clothing of the Peace Army” in the 1919 Army Ordinance Gazette, No. 85; the Weimar National Assembly , which met on February 6, 1919, passed the law on the formation of a provisional Reichswehr on March 6, 1919 . It authorized the Reich President
"To dissolve the existing army and to form a provisional Reichswehr that protects the borders of the Reich until the creation of the new Wehrmacht, which is to be regulated by Reich law, enforces the orders of the Reich government and maintains peace and order inside."
The strength of this army should be 400,000 men.
The law on the formation of a provisional Reichsmarine of April 16, 1919 authorized him
"To dissolve the existing formations of the previous navy and to form a provisional Reichsmarine, which will secure the German coasts until the creation of the new Wehrmacht, which is to be regulated by Reich law, through mine clearance, exercise of the maritime police and other support for merchant shipping, enabling safe sea traffic, the undisturbed exercise of the Fishing guaranteed, in association with the Reichswehr enforced the orders of the Reich government and maintaining peace and order. "
The strength of the navy should be 20,000 men.
From October 1, 1919 to April 1, 1920, the armed forces of the so-called Provisional Reichswehr were transformed into the 200,000-strong " transitional army ". At the same time, the previous units and offices of the old army ceased to exist . With the intermediate step of 150,000 men in October 1920, the final army strength of 100,000 men was reached by January 1, 1921. The Reichswehr was thus formed on January 1, 1921, with the Defense Act of March 23, 1921 regulating the details.
The soldiers were sworn in on the Weimar Constitution :
"I swear loyalty to the Reich constitution and vow that as a brave soldier I want to protect the German Reich and its legal institutions at all times, and to obey the Reich President and my superiors."
The Reichswehr was divided into the Reichsheer ("100,000-man army") and the Reichsmarine . The Reichsheer consisted of seven infantry and three cavalry divisions , all of which were renumbered. The territory of the empire was divided into seven military districts (I – VII). There were two group commands , No. 1 in Berlin and No. 2 in Kassel . The navy was divided into the naval station of the Baltic Sea and the naval station of the North Sea . The period of service was 12 years for NCOs and men and 25 years for officers .
The defense law ended the military sovereignty of the states, but left Saxony , Württemberg , Baden and Bavaria a limited degree of independence. The Free State of Bavaria was special in that Wehrkreis VII comprised the entire state area with the exception of the Palatinate and only Bavaria served in the 7th (Bavarian) Division stationed here. As the Bavarian Reichswehr, this association enjoyed certain autonomy rights vis-à-vis the Reich government until 1924.
Commander of the Reichswehr
According to the Weimar constitution , the Reich President had " supreme command over the entire armed forces of the Reich". In general, however, he could only act if a member of the government had countersigned it . With regard to the authority, this was the Reichswehr Minister.
In the Weimar Republic there were two presidents: Friedrich Ebert until 1925, followed by Paul von Hindenburg . The first Reichswehr Minister was Gustav Noske , who was replaced by Otto Geßler after the Kapp Putsch in 1920 . Wilhelm Groener took over the office in 1928, and Kurt von Schleicher replaced him in 1932. Von Schleicher continued to serve on a provisional basis during his two-month chancellorship . Before Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor, Hindenburg arbitrarily appointed Werner von Blomberg as Reich Defense Minister , not as prescribed in the constitution, at the suggestion of the Chancellor . He was supposed to help "tame" the National Socialists, but later supported them e.g. B. by swearing in the Reichswehr on Hitler. However, in the further course of history, Blomberg clearly and openly opposed Hitler's plans for a war of aggression and was removed from office in 1938 as part of the Blomberg-Fritsch crisis .
In the beginning, Walther Reinhardt was in charge of the army command . After the Kapp Putsch, Hans von Seeckt took over this post; in 1923 he had both the KPD and the NSDAP banned. Wilhelm Heye followed in 1926 . Heye was replaced in 1930 by Kurt Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord , who submitted his resignation on December 27, 1933. Werner von Fritsch was his successor .
Given the limited size of the army, careful selection of personnel was possible. Experienced executives came from the "Old Army" of the German Empire . The proportion of nobility was 24% in 1925 after 30% in the last year of peace in 1913, following the long-term trend of reducing the proportion of noble officers. Large parts of the officer corps represented a conservative, monarchist worldview and rejected the Weimar Republic . Especially within the former aristocracy, however, there was not a completely uncritical view of National Socialism (see Aristocracy and National Socialism ).
The Reichswehr leadership and officer corps successfully opposed a democratization of the troops. Preference was given to recruits from the predominantly conservative rural areas of Germany. Compared to the young men of urban origin, the Reichswehr leadership not only considered them physically superior, but also robust against the "temptations" of social democracy .
Officers of the Reichswehr
According to the provisions of the Versailles Peace Treaty, the Reichswehr Army was only allowed to have 4,000 officers, while the Navy was allowed to have 1,500 officers and deck officers . The Army Officer Corps comprised 3,718 troop officers, including 3 generals, 14 lieutenant general, 24 major general, 105 colonels, 189 lieutenant colonels, 373 majors, 1,098 captains and captains, 1,274 first lieutenants and 637 lieutenants. There were also 80 officers with special tasks and 202 military officers with officer rank. In 1918 the German officer corps still comprised 227,081 officers, of which 38,118 were active officers, i.e. professional officers. Almost all of the officers accepted into the Reichswehr were general staff officers. Of the approximately 15,000 officers who had been promoted to officers during the war, the Reichswehr took over only a few, as these front-line officers were alien to officer life in the casino, barracks and society. Democratically minded officers were not accepted into the force. With a few exceptions, radical national officers were removed from the force, especially after the Kapp Putsch. The political attitude of the officer corps was monarchist; outwardly they were loyal to the republic. While the proportion of nobility in the German population was only 0.14%, an average of 23.8% of the officers of the Reichswehr came from the nobility. The proportion of noble officers in the individual branches of service was extremely different. In 1920, 50% of the officers in the cavalry were nobles. On the other hand, only 5% of the intelligence forces and only 4% of the pioneers were noble officers. Of the approximately 1,000 NCOs who were promoted to officers in 1919, only 117 or 3.5% of the officers remained in the Reichswehr until 1928. The respective regimental commander was responsible for the selection of the officer candidates in the Reichswehr as in the army of the Kaiserreich. The officer candidates who were accepted came almost exclusively from circles traditionally close to the military; 96% of the officer candidates in 1926 came from the upper classes. At the end of the 1920s, almost 50% of the officer candidates came from officer families because the government failed to bring the recruitment process for officer candidates under state control. The homogeneity of the officer corps of the Reichswehr was even greater than in the German Empire. In 1912/13, 24% of the officers came from families of active or former officers, and in 1926/27 it was 48% who came from officer's families.
The relationship of the Reichswehr to the Weimar Republic
The crisis years 1919–1923
After the defeat in World War I , the previous Supreme Army Command (OHL) under Wilhelm Groener made the services of the army available to the Council of People's Representatives under Friedrich Ebert .
Cooperation with right-wing volunteer corps against "red enemies of the Reich"
The Reichswehr thus ensured the new government's survival. In the crisis-ridden early 1920s, the military was used primarily in the fight against insurgent left-wing forces, such as the Spartacus uprising in 1919.
The Reichswehr left the Freikorps , which was dissolved in 1923, with "national defense" wherever the Versailles Treaty tied their hands or their own personnel were insufficient (border fight against Polish and Lithuanian irregulars, deployment against the " Red Ruhr Army " in the demilitarized Rhineland). She cooperated with nationalist volunteer corps when she took action against left-wing governments in Thuringia and Saxony in October and November 1923 on the occasion of the so-called " Reich executions " . The Reichswehr generality maintained close contacts with the right-wing, anti-republic military associations ( Stahlhelm , Kyffhäuserbund ), although they officially described themselves as "apolitical".
Passivity in the Kapp Putsch
In March 1920, the Reichswehr was not used by the political leadership against the Kapp Putsch . The chief of the troop office - the camouflaged general staff of the Reichswehr - Hans von Seeckt had previously spoken out against it with the alleged formulation Reichswehr does not shoot at Reichswehr . Seeckt, however, had no power of command either. The head of the army command and thus the highest military officer Walther Reinhardt was in favor of the loyal Reichswehr organizations. However, neither Reichswehr Minister Gustav Noske nor the Reich government gave the order to deploy. The communist March uprising , which began during the Kapp Putsch in the Ruhr area and Saxony , was ruthlessly put down; Participants in the Kapp Putsch were involved. As a result of the putsch, the previous Reichswehr Minister Gustav Noske ( SPD ) was replaced by Otto Geßler ( DDP ).
Secret armaments cooperation with the Soviet Union
From 1921 the leadership of the Reichswehr tried in secret, in cooperation with the Red Army, contrary to the Versailles Treaty, to expand the Reichswehr, to introduce new weapon systems and to set up an air force. Germany supported the development of modern technologies and was able to train its own soldiers in the Soviet Union.
In February 1923, the new chief of the troop office, Major General Otto Hasse , traveled to Moscow for secret negotiations . Germany supported the development of Soviet industry, commanders of the Red Army received general staff training in Germany. In return, the Reichswehr was given the opportunity to purchase artillery ammunition from the Soviet Union, to train aviators and tank specialists on Soviet soil and to have chemical warfare agents manufactured and tested there. In the Russian city of Lipezk , a secret flying school and testing facility of the Reichswehr was founded and around 120 military pilots, 100 aerial observers and numerous ground personnel trained as tribe for a future German air force. Tank specialists were trained near Kazan, but only from 1930 and only about thirty. In Tomka (near Saratov ) warfare agents were jointly tested and developed.
In December 1926, the social democrat Philipp Scheidemann disclosed this cooperation in the Reichstag and thereby overthrew the government under Wilhelm Marx . In 1931 the journalist Carl von Ossietzky was convicted of treason for a report on the already known collaboration .
Seeckt in 1923
The occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 also showed the weakness of the Reichswehr. In response to an attempt in Bavaria to establish a legal dictatorship , Ebert transferred executive power to Reichswehr Minister Gessler in November. So the violence was in reality with Seeckt, the head of the army command, who prevented an execution of the Reich against the government under Gustav Ritter von Kahr . Also participated Otto von Lossow , the Bavarian Military District commander . He was removed from office by Gessler. As Seeckt wrote in a letter that he did not send, he sympathized with the government in Munich and did not regard the Weimar Constitution as noli me tangere (Eng: “don't touch me!”). It contradicts his political thinking. Furthermore, he stated in the letter that due to the lack of trust of the Reichswehr in the government of Gustav Stresemann, he foresaw a civil war that could only be prevented by a change in government. He expressed the conviction that a government would not be able to last long without the support of the Reichswehr. The Hitler putsch of 8./9. November 1923, however, he did not support.
When Seeckt indicated his readiness for chancellorship on November 3rd and Ebert refused this with reference to foreign policy reasons and his indispensability as head of the army command, Seeckt accepted the refusal. He wanted nothing more to do with a coup , as some high-ranking officers had demanded. In February 1924, Seeckt gave up the dictatorial powers he had received from Ebert.
"Non-political" weapon bearer or "state within the state" that is distant from democracy
In 1925, with the Treaty of Locarno, a violent change of the western borders was ruled out, and in 1926 Germany joined the League of Nations . The position of the Reichswehr can be well represented by discussions between Reich President Ebert and Seeckt, the chief of the army command. When asked where the Reichswehr was, Seeckt replied: The Reichswehr is behind me . When asked whether the Reichswehr was reliable, he replied: I don't know whether it is reliable, but it obeys me .
After Paul von Hindenburg was elected President of the Reich (1925), as the winner of Tannenberg instead of Seeckt, he became the soldiers' identification figure. On October 8, Seeckt was dismissed for having a son of the former emperor taking part in a maneuver , but there were probably other reasons as well, such as criticism of the undemocratic leadership of the Reichswehr.
After the Kapp Putsch, the Reichswehr under Seeckt and Geßler officially acted "apolitically". Members of the Reichswehr had no right to vote , were subject to the Reichswehr's internal jurisdiction and were thus detached from their socio-political career. Because of its direct subordination to the Reich Presidents and through the Ebert-Groener Pact , the army was able to secure extensive internal autonomy. They used this to the Reich government - z. B. during the Kapp Putsch - to refuse to obey. The autonomy in the selection of personnel as well as its code of values and the view of serving the state and not the form of the state made the Reichswehr, in conjunction with its own jurisdiction under the Reich President, a " state within the state " that was difficult to control .
An example of the increasing criticism after Seeckt's dismissal was the proposal by Reichstag President Paul Löbe to make the employment of recruits dependent only on their physical fitness. He wanted to achieve that the composition of the Reichswehr came closer to the overall picture of society. The Reichswehr, especially in the officer corps, was strongly influenced by the National Conservative and Protestant movements, and most of the crews came from agricultural and craft trades. It is no coincidence that the anti-republican stab in the back legend found numerous followers in these circles . Apart from that, service in the army was in any case less attractive to other groups in society. The personnel selection practiced, however, corresponded exactly to the ideas of the Reichswehr leadership ("desired circles").
This is why Löbe received violent opposition from conservative circles. They were of the opinion that opening it up would lower the level of the Reichswehr. While the Reichswehr continued to see war as a means of achieving political goals, politics with the Locarno Treaty and the Dawes Plan were more geared towards maintaining peace and international understanding. Seeckt and his officers were against joining the League of Nations and also saw their existence threatened by the pacifism of the left.
Seeckt's successor was Wilhelm Heye , although Kurt von Schleicher, the head of department at the time, gained power in the Reichswehr Ministry. Under his leadership, the Reichswehr intervened more strongly in politics to achieve its goals, and the Republic and the Reichswehr moved closer together. The Reichswehr accepted democracy as a form of government and Groener saw it as an important part of the people and an instrument of power of the German Republic .
In February 1927 the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission , which had been overseeing disarmament until then, was withdrawn.
The decision to build the powerful armored ship A , which complied with the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, a matter of prestige, caused problems for Hermann Müller and his coalition (June 28, 1928 to March 27, 1930) in 1928. For the Reichswehr leadership, the decision to build it was a fundamental political decision. Even the budget 1929 contained the first rate for the tank vessel B .
The main winner of the rapprochement between the republic and the Reichswehr was the Reichswehr. She achieved an increase in the defense budget. A criticism of the defense budget was seen as an attack on the Reichswehr and thus the state.
The end of the Weimar Republic
Through the presidential cabinets from 1930 the power of the Reichswehr increased again, since the former head of the OHL , Hindenburg, was now in power. Heinrich Brüning was accepted as a former soldier by the Reichswehr and spared them from his unpopular austerity measures . Franz von Papen and General Kurt von Schleicher considered using the Reichswehr to abolish democracy. In addition, one of the main goals was a revision of the Versailles Treaty in the interests of the Reichswehr.
When in 1930 three officers (Lieutenant Richard Scheringer , Lieutenant Hanns Ludin and First Lieutenant Hans Friedrich Wendt) stood trial for Nazi activities in the Reichswehr, Hitler took the oath of legality .
When the Harzburg Front was formed in 1931, high-ranking members of the Reichswehr were also present.
In 1932 Groener, who had meanwhile also become Minister of the Interior, banned the SA . He lost the trust of the Reichswehr and had to resign.
The Reichswehr under Hitler
After taking power in the Reich , Adolf Hitler needed the army for his foreign policy and decided to give preference to the experienced and efficient Reichswehr over the SA party troops. On February 3, 1933, he presented his government program to the generals. Among other things, he promised them that the Reichswehr would remain the sole bearer of arms in Germany and announced the reintroduction of compulsory military service ( Liebmann record ). On the one hand, the Reichswehr hoped to intensify efforts to revise the Versailles Treaty and to build up a strong military and a tight government. But it was also feared that the Reichswehr could be ousted by the SA , which had 3 million members . The Reichswehr supported Hitler in disempowering the SA in the summer of 1934, when rumors had spread that Röhm had plans for a putsch and that a “ Röhm putsch ” was imminent, which had to be thwarted. Two generals of the Reichswehr (Kurt von Schleicher and Ferdinand von Bredow ) were killed by the SS . The officer corps took note of these murders without protest.
On August 2, 1934, the anniversary of the death of President Paul von Hindenburg , the Reichswehr Minister Werner von Blomberg had the Reichswehr sworn in on the person of Hitler (see Oath of the Fiihrer ).
The Luftwaffe was founded on March 1, 1935, and compulsory military service was reintroduced in Germany on March 16 - both of which violated the Versailles Treaty - and in the same law the Reichswehr was renamed " Wehrmacht ". On June 1, 1935, the Reichsheer was renamed “ Heer ” and the Reichsmarine was renamed “ Kriegsmarine ”.
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