This is a list of words, terms, concepts, and slogans that have been
or are used by the German military. Ranks and translations of
nicknames for vehicles are included. Also included are some general
terms from the
German language found frequently in military jargon.
Some terms are from the general German cultural background, others are
given to show a change that was made before or after the
Some factories that were the primary producers of military equipment,
especially tanks, are also given.
Wehrmacht military ranks
Operation code names
A-Stand — forward defensive gunner's position on aircraft.
abgeschossen — shot down; destroyed by means of firing.
Abschnitt — sector, district.
Ablösungsdivision — relief division (1917), later renamed Eingreif
division (intervention division).
Abteilung (Abt.) — a battalion-sized unit of armor, artillery or
cavalry; in other contexts a detachment or section.
Abteilungsarzt — battalion physician
Abteilungschef — battalion commander in artillery and cavalry
Abteilungsführer — substitute battalion commander in artillery and
Abteilungsveterinär — battalion veterinarian
Abwehr — "defense"; as a shortening of Spionage
Abwehr (spy defense)
the term referred to the counter-espionage service (German Secret
Service) of the German High Command, headed by Admiral Canaris. Also
an element in such compounds as Fliegerabwehr-Kanone "anti-aircraft
Abzeichen — insignia; badge of rank, appointment or distinction.
Adlerangriff — "Eagle Attack"; term for projected "decisive attack"
RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command under the direction of Hermann
Göring, instituted to gain control of the skies from the Royal Air
Force and soften Britain for the impending invasion forces planned in
Operation Seelöwe (Sea Lion). These attacks ultimately failed and the
air campaign is now known in the anglophone world as the Battle of
Afrika Korps - the elite German mechanized force commanded by Erwin
Rommel which performed exemplary in Hitler's North African campaigns
between 1941-1943. Allied efforts to defeat Rommel were notable and
many historians believe that had Rommel convinced
Hitler to provide
him with three additional divisions of tanks, he very well could have
gained command of the
Suez Canal in early 1942 and cut off the vast
supplies being sent from America to the
Soviet Union via the Persian
Gulf. In the end, the
Afrika Korps was defeated by combined offensives
from the British and Americans.
Aggregat 4 (A4) — original name of the German V2 rocket.
AGRU-Front — Technische Ausbildungsgruppe für Front U-Boote –
technical training group for front-line U-boats.
AK — Alle Kraft (voraus), naval command for flank speed. Also
Aal — "eel"; slang for torpedo.
U-boat order to activate the alarm and begin a crash
dive. Also "Fire!", "Air raid!" for
Luftwaffe fighter pilots, etc.
Alarmtauchen — crash dive.
"Alle Maschinen stop!" — naval command: "Stop all engines".
"Alle Mann von Bord!" — naval command; "All hands, abandon ship!"
Allgemeine SS — "General SS", general main body of the Schutzstaffel
made up of the full-time administrative, security, intelligence and
police branches of the SS as well as the broader part-time membership
that turned out for parades, rallies and "street actions" such as
Kristallnacht; also comprised reserve and honorary members.
Alte Hasen — "Old hares"; slang for military veterans who survived
Amerika Bomber - A spring 1942 aviation contract competition for a
Luftwaffe trans-oceanic range strategic bomber, only resulting in a
few completed prototype aircraft from two firms, and many advanced
designs that mostly remained on paper.
Ami — German slang for an American soldier.
German spelling alphabet
German spelling alphabet for A equivalent to Alpha (e.g.
Ärmelband — cuff title. Worn on the left sleeve, the title contains
the name of the wearer's unit or a campaign they are part of. Cuff
titles are still used in the German
Army and Luftwaffe.
Amt — office, main office branch.
Amt Mil — German
Army intelligence organization that succeeded the
Amtsgruppe Allgemeine Wehrmachtsangelegenheiten (Office of General
Military Affairs) - Department of the OKW responsible for general
military affairs. in 1938-39, this office was called the
Military Economics Staff).
Angriff — attack.
Angriffsmuster — attack pattern.
Angriffsziel — attack objective.
Ansatz (attack) – First World War military term, used in National
Socialist vocabulary in the same ways as the word Einsatz, though less
frequently; one referred to bringing a piece of equipment, troops or a
weapon "zum Ansatz" (into attack, or play).
Anschluss — unification of
Austria and Germany
Armee — army, typically a numbered army.
Armeeabteilung — command between a corps and an army, an enlarged
Armeekorps — infantry corps.
Army Signals Officer, served on the
staff HQ of an Army.
Armeeoberkommando — Field
Army Engineer Officer, served on the staff
HQ of an Army.
Army medical unit.
Artillerie (Art.) — artillery.
Atomwaffe — nuclear weapon.
Atomkrieg — nuclear war.
Aufbau Ost (Buildup East) - code name for the preparatory measures
taken amid great secrecy for the attack on the Soviet Union, now known
as Operation Barbarossa.
aufgelöst — "dissolved"; disbanded, written off the order of
Aufklärung — reconnaissance.
Abteilung — reconnaissance unit or battalion, also used
to designate certain battalion-sized units.
Aufklärungsgruppe (Aufkl.Gr., later AGr) - "
Reconnaissance group", an
aerial recon group of the Luftwaffe, e.g. Aufklärungsgruppe 11.
"Auftauchen!" — "surface the boat".
Auftragstaktik — mission-type tactics, the central component of
German warfare since the 19th century
Aus der Traum — "It's over!", "It's finished!", literally, "The
dream is over"; a common German phrase for dashed hopes and a slogan
painted by German soldiers near the end of the war expressing the
inevitability of their situation.
Ausführung (Ausf.) — version, model, variant, batch, for
non-aviation related vehicles and ordnance.
Ausführung!/Ausführen! — command to execute a given order
ausgefallen — Statement that equipment is down, has failed, is out
Ausrüstung — equipment
Ausschreitungen — bloody atrocities (see Greuelerzählungen).
Auszeichnung — medal, accolade, distinction.
außer Dienst (a.D.) — retired (literally: out of service)
B-Stand — Dorsal (top of fuselage) defensive gunner's position on
Backbord (Bb) — Port side of a ship.
Balkenkreuz — equal-armed black cross flanked in white, the emblem
used on German Empire and
Third Reich military aircraft and vehicles
from March/April 1918 until V-E Day
Banditen — bandits, partisans in occupied territories in World War
II; bewaffnete Banden — armed gangs; Soldaten in Zivilkleidung —
soldiers in civilian dress; (see Franktireure).
Bandengebiet — territory controlled by partisan squads in occupied
territories during World War II.
Barbarossa (Red Beard) - code name for the massive
Nazi attack against
Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) which began during June 1941
and failed miserably in the end despite early success. Operation
Barbarossa is the English rendering of the German “Unternehmen
Barbarossa.” Barbarossa or `Redbeard' (Frederick I) lived from 1123
AD to 1190 and was both King of
Germany and Holy Roman emperor from
1152–90. He made a sustained attempt to subdue
Italy and the papacy,
but was eventually defeated at the battle of Legnano in 1176. He was
drowned in Asia Minor while on his way to the Third Crusade.
Nonetheless, German superstition holds to this day and certainly was
Hitler at the time, that Barbarossa rests in a mountain in
Germany awaiting the moment to emerge and save
Germany from certain
defeat and to establish German ascendancy.
Bataillon (Btl.) — battalion
Bataillonsadjutant - battalion adjutant
Bataillonsarzt — battalion physician
Bataillonsführer — substitute battalion commander
Bataillonskommandeur — battalion commander
Bataillonsveterinär — battalion veterinarian
Batterie (Bttr.) — battery, artillery piece; also used for an
electrical battery. sometimes also called Akkumulator, abbreviated as
Batteriechef — battery commander
Batterieführer — substitute battery commander
Batterieoffizier — Gun Position Officer
Baubelehrung — vessel familiarization; when a boat or ship crew
studied the construction of a new vessel; see "KLA."
Baubeschreibung — General arrangement drawing sheet, giving basic
dimensions and other measurement & physical parameters (materials,
dihedral angles, etc.), of either German front line; or
Beute/"captured" Allied aircraft, in World War I. The same term was
used in the
Third Reich era for more comprehensive, multi-page
technical document works for factory proposals concerning combat
aircraft designs to the RLM and Luftwaffe.
Baupionier — army construction engineer.
B-Dienst — Beobachtungsdienst, literally, "observation service";
German Navy cryptanalytical department.
BDM Bund Deutscher Mädel — League of German Girls, the girls'
segment of the
B. d. U. —
Befehlshaber der U-Boote – Commander-in-Chief of the
U-boats (Admiral Karl Dönitz); see FdU.
Befehl (pl. Befehle) — order, command. "Zu Befehl!" was an
affirmative phrase on par with "Jawohl".
Befehlshaber — commander-in-chief; lit. "one who has (the power to
issue) commands." Sometimes also used to refer to the headquarters of
a C-in-C as an alternative to Hauptquartier.
Benzin — gasoline, petrol.
Benzintank — fuel tank.
Beobachter — artillery or air observer
Beobachtungswagen — observation or reconnaissance vehicle.
Bereitschaft — readiness.
Bergepanzer — armoured recovery vehicle.
Berlin radar - most advanced airborne intercept radar of the WW II
Luftwaffe in 1944-45, based on captured cavity magnetron technology,
operated on SHF-band 3.3 GHz frequency
Beschlagschmied — blacksmith; see Hufbeschlagschmied.
Betriebstoff — fuel.
Beutepanzer — captured tank or armoured vehicle.
Bewährungseinheit — probationary unit.
BK — Bordkanone. heavy-calibre (usually over 30 mm) cannon for
offensive use on aircraft.
U-boat order; "Blow the tanks!"
Blechkoller — "tin fright"; in U-boats, a form of nervous tension
that could be caused by depth charge attacks and resulted in violence
Blechkrawatte — "tin necktie," slang for the Knight's Cross
Blitzkrieg — "lightning war"; not a widely used German military
term, this word became popular in the Allied press and initially
referred to fast-moving battle tactics developed principally by German
military theorists, most notably Erwin Rommel, Heinz Guderian, and
Erich von Manstein, using massed tanks and ground-attack bombers to
speedily penetrate enemy lines at points and move to their rear,
causing confusion and panic among enemy forces.
Blaukreuz — chemical warfare agent consisting of arsenic compounds,
Bola — contraction of Bodenlafette, a lightly armoured
casemate-style of bulged ventral defensive gunner's position, using
only flexible (unturreted) weapon mounts, a common fitment on German
bomber aircraft designs, usually under the nose.
Bomber B - the abortive World War II-era aviation contract competition
meant to replace all previous
Luftwaffe medium bombers with a single
design, meant to be used for all but the longest-range missions, and
function as a combination of medium and heavy bomber, and meant to be
powered by a pair of high-output aviation piston engines such as the
Junkers Jumo 222.
Brotbeutel — haversack
Brücke — bridge. Can mean either the road structure or a ship's
command center, also the supporting framework that existed below the
bird-like monoplane wings of the earlier examples of the Etrich Taube
before World War I.
Brückenleger — bridgelayer.
Brummbär — "grumbling bear"; a children's word for "bear" in
German. It was the nickname for a heavy mobile artillery piece.
Bundes — federal.
Bundeswehr — "Federal Defense Force", name adopted for the West
German armed forces after the fall of the Third Reich. (Between 1945
and 1955 there was no German army.) The
Bundeswehr consists of the
Luftwaffe (Air Force) and Marine (Navy), as well as
(since the late 1990s) the
Streitkräftebasis (Joint Service Support
Command) and Zentraler Sanitätsdienst (Central Medical Service).
Bürger — citizen.
Bürgerkrieg — civil war.
C-Stand — Ventral (underside of fuselage) defensive gunner's
position on aircraft.
Chef — commander of a unit or sub-unit, e.g. Regimentschef. A
substitute in case of absence would be referred to as Regimentsführer
Chef des Generalstabes — Chief of the General Staff.
Condor Legion - volunteer forces of the
or more strong) sent by
Hitler to assist Franco during the Spanish
Civil War (1936) on the stipulations that it remained exclusively
under German command. The aerial branch of the
Condor Legion gained
notoriety for their comprehensive bombing of the Spanish rebel lines
and the surrounding civilian centers, most notably the Spanish city of
Guernica on April 27, 1937. After the successful utilization of the
Condor Legion, a homecoming parade was held in Berlin on 6 June 1939
to honor the 300 Germans who died fighting in the campaign.
Dachschaden - "roof damage"; a head wound, more commonly used in the
sense of "gone bonkers", "Section 8"
Daimler-Benz (DB) — A producer of military vehicles, and engines to
power both German aircraft and surface vehicles.
Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) — German troops sent to North Africa
under the command of
Erwin Rommel to prevent the loss of
Libya to the
British by the Italians. The term is properly used to refer to
Rommel's original force of two divisions that landed in
February 14, 1941 (which stayed as a distinct formation for the
remainder of the North African Campaign), but often refers to all
German forces that operated in North Africa, eventually consisting of
several divisions and corps and formed into an entire
Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke (DAW; German Armament Works) - an armaments
organization established in 1939 under SS control.
Deutsche Minenräumleitung (DMRL) — German mine-sweeping group
Dienst — service.
Division — in the army and air force a military formation, in the
navy either a sub-unit of a squadron or trainings units of battalion
Divisionsarzt — Medical officer of a division.
Divisionskommandeur — commanding officer of a division, typically a
General officer. In the imperial army this was the post of a
Dienstdolch — service dagger (uniform dagger).
Donnerbalken — "thunder beam"; latrine .
Drahtverhau — barbed-wire entanglement. Slang term used by German
soldiers during World Wars I and II for a military-issue mixture of
Drang nach Osten
Drang nach Osten — "Push to the East", Germany's ambitions for
territorial expansion into Eastern Europe.
Düppel — German code name for radar chaff, used by the Royal Air
Force as Window, possibly from düpieren (to dupe). or from a suburb
of Berlin of the same name, where it was allegedly first found near.
Eagle's Nest — English name given to Hitler's mountain-top
Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, not far from the
Berghof. In German, it is known as the Kehlsteinhaus. Hitler, however,
only visited the property ten times and each visit was under 30
EG z.b. V. — Einsatzgruppe zur besonderen Verwendung – SS Special
Purpose Operational Group.
Ehrendolch — literally, "honor dagger", a presentation dagger
awarded for individual recognition, especially by the SS.
Eichenlaubträger — holder of Oak Leaves to the
Knight's Cross of
the Iron Cross.
Eid — oath. The current oath when joining the
Bundeswehr is "Ich
gelobe, der Bundesrepublik Deutschland treu zu dienen, und das Recht
und die Freiheit des deutschen Volkes tapfer zu verteidigen" ("I
pledge to faithfully serve the Federal Republic of
Germany and to
bravely defend the right [law] and the freedom of the German people").
For soldiers joining for an extended period of time beyond the
mandatory conscription of nine months, "so wahr mir Gott helfe" ("so
help me God") is optionally added.
Einfall — invasion.
Eingeschlossen — encirclement, surrounded, cut off.
Eingreif division — interlocking (counter-attack) division
Einheit — detachment or unit.
Einheitsfeldmütze - standard field cap
Einsatz — duty, mission, deployment, action.
Einsatzbereit — statement meaning, "Ready for action."
Einsatzgruppen — "mission groups", or "task forces". Einsatzgruppen
were battalion-sized, mobile killing units made up of SiPo, SD or SS
Special Action Groups under the command of the RSHA. They followed the
Wehrmacht into occupied territories of
Eastern Europe and the Soviet
Union. These units were supported by units of the uniformed German
Order Police (Orpo) and auxiliaries of volunteers (Estonian, Latvian,
Lithuanian, and Ukrainian). Their victims, primarily Jews, were
executed by shooting and were buried in mass graves from which they
were later exhumed and burned. At least a million Jews were killed in
this manner. There were four
Einsatzgruppen (A, B, C, D), which were
subdivided into company-sized Einsatzkommandos.
Einsatzkommando — company-sized subunits of the
took care of the mobilization and killing of Jews, partisans,
Communists and others during the German invasion into the Soviet
Einsatz Reinhard (Mission/Action "Reinhard") - code name given on June
4, 1942 for the assignment to exterminate all Polish Jews in honor of
SS Deputy Chief
Reinhard Heydrich who had been assassinated by Czech
nationalists during a covert operation.
Einsatztrupp (Troop Task Force) - smallest of the
responsible for liquidations in the German occupied territories.
Einwohner — resident, inhabitant.
Eisenbahn — "iron road"; railroad.
Eisernes Kreuz — "iron cross"; medal awarded for valorous service,
and the German national military insignia from 1910 to the beginning
of spring 1918, and once again from 1955 (with the establishment of
the Bundeswehr) to today.
Eiserne Kuh — "iron cow"; evaporated milk
Eiserne Ration — "iron ration"; emergency rations
El Alamein (October–November 1942) - crucial battle of WW2 pitting
the British under General Montgomery's 8th
Army (approximately 1200
tanks) against General Erwin Rommel's
Afrika Korps (500 tanks) and
fought primarily in Egypt. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Germans
never regained the operational initiative, forcing Rommel to withdraw
the bulk of his forces into Libya, marking the final stages of the
Nazis' North African campaign.
Elefant — "Elephant"; a heavy
Panzerjäger (tank hunter or tank
destroyer) built on the chassis of Porsche's unsuccessful prototypes
for the Tiger tank, and mounting the 88mm L/71 PaK 43.
Elektra — a German radio-navigational system.
Endlösung or Endziel — the "Final Solution"; refers to the genocide
planned against the Jewish people.
Endsieg — final victory.
Enigma — German message encryption equipment.
Ententeich — duck pond, maritime manoeuvre to create an area of calm
sea in order to lower boats into the water or land aircraft
Entmenscht — bestial, inhuman, brutish.
Entscheidender Sieg — decisive victory.
Entwicklung series, more commonly known as the E-series, was a
World War II
World War II attempt by
Germany to produce a standardised series
of tank designs.
Ereignismeldung (ERM: Operational Report) -
report delivered daily to the
Reichssicherheitshauptamt RSHA in Berlin
which comprehensively listed secretly coded murder activities in the
occupied territories along the Eastern Front.
Erobert — conquered.
Erkennungsmarke — identity tag; "dog tag".
Erprobungsstelle — test centre.
Ersatz — substitute, replacement, reserves; could refer to
replacement troops or any substance used in place of another (e.g.,
ersatz coffee, ersatz rubber, etc.).
Ersatzbataillone or Marschbataillone — coherent military replacement
Erschießungsaktion - Shooting action usually carried out by a member
of a firing squad (Erschießungskommando).
Etappendienst — German naval intelligence department.
Etappenschwein — (slang) "rear swine" (REMF), a soldier with a safe
job away from danger. Compare with Frontschwein.
Exerzierpanzer — practice or exercise tank.
Exzellenz — honorary address for a General officer from the rank of
Generalleutnant upwards in the Prussian and Imperial Army
Fahndung Funk (F. Fu.:
Radio Search) – department of German Military
Intelligence tasked to locate forbidden radio transmitters in France.
Fahne (pl. Fahnen) — flag or banner.
Fahnenjunker — lowest officer candidate rank equivalent to
Fahnenflucht — desertion
Fahnenschmied — farrier NCO
Fähnlein (Squad) - unit of the Deutsches Jungvolk within the Hitler
Fähnrich — officer candidate rank equivalent to Feldwebel
(Sergeant). A Fähnrich is an NCO, though, and will have commensurable
Fähnrich zur See — naval officer candidate rank equivalent to
Petty Officer 1st Class). A Fähnrich zur See is an NCO,
though, and will have commensurable tasks.
Fall — "case." A name for a German operation. The most important
German offensives were called "cases," as they were viewed as problems
to be solved.
Fallschirmjäger — paratroopers; German airborne troops.
Führer der Minensuchboote
Führer der Unterseeboote; Commander-in-Chief of U-boats (used
from World War I to 1939, when the title was reduced to "Regional
Führer der Vorpostenboote
Feigling — coward.
Feind — enemy. "Feindlich-" is used as an adjective, such as
"feindliche Truppen" (enemy troops) or "feindliche Stellung" (enemy
Feindfahrt — "enemy trip"; in
U-boat terminology, a war cruise or
combat patrol against the enemy.
Feindbild — "enemy image"; prejudiced 'bogeyman' image of the enemy.
Feld — field.
Feldersatzbatallion — field replacement battalion, usually one per
Feldflasche — canteen.
Abteilung — "field airmen's section", abbreviated as
"FFA". The earliest form of Fliegertruppe German
Army (Deutsches Heer)
flying unit in World War I, first formed in 1914 with six two-seater
observation aircraft per unit.
Feldgendarmerie — Field Gendarmerie or "Field Police", the military
police units of the Wehrmacht.
Feldgrau — "field gray"; the color of the ordinary German soldier's
tunic – by extension the soldiers themselves.
Feldjäger — military police detachments formed late in the war to
root out deserters; later the name was applied to all military police
units of the postwar Bundeswehr.
Feldkoch — cook.
Feldlazarett — field hospital.
Feldpolizeibeamter — field police officer.
Feldpost, Feldpostbrief — mail to and from troops at the front.
Feldwebel — non-commissioned rank in the Heer and Luftwaffe, the
most junior of the "Unteroffiziere mit Portepee" (senior NCO) ranks.
Approximately equal to sergeant.
Feldzug — military campaign
Fernglas — binoculars; literally "remote glass".
Fernmelde- — telecommunication.
Fernsprech- — telephone.
Festung — fortress.
"Feuer auf mein Kommando" — "fire on my command".
"Feuer Frei" — "fire at will".
Feuerschutz — suppressive fire, covering fire.
Feuerwerker — ordnance NCO
FlaK — Fliegerabwehrkanone, Flug(zeug)abwehrkanone – air defense
gun; anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) (e.g., the "eighty-eight").
FlaK-Helfer — "FlaK helper"; often underaged auxiliaries used to
load and operate FlaK batteries and man searchlight batteries.
Flakpanzer — armoured self-propelled antiaircraft gun, such as the
Flakvierling - anti-aircraft, open turret-style weapon system
employing a quartet (vierling) of 20mm autocannon, employed on land,
in self-propelled mounts and on ships.
Flammpanzer — flame-throwing tank.
Flammenwerfer — flame-thrower.
Flecktarn — spotted camouflage.
Abteilung — anti-aircraft battalion.
Fliegerabwehrkanone — see FlaK.
Fliegerbombe (FliBo) — aerial bomb
Fliegerdivision - lit. Flight division.
Fliegerkorps - lit. Flight corps
Fliegerschwert — airman's sword (part of an officer's regalia).
Fliegertruppe - part of the official name (Die Fliegertruppen des
Deutschen Kaiserreiches) of the Imperial German
Army Air Service,
existing under that name from 1910 to October 1916, when it was
reorganized as the Luftstreitkräfte.
Flotte — naval fleet
Flottille (Fl.) — flotilla.
Flucht nach vorn — "flight to the front"; trying to assault rather
than wait or retreat while under threat.
Flüchtlingslager — refugee camp.
Flügelmann — wingman
Flugbombe V-1 (V-1 flying bomb) - pulse-jet engine powered flying bomb
carrying high-explosive warhead known to the Allies as the "buzz
Flugzeug — aircraft.
Flug(zeug)abwehrkanone — see FlaK.
Flugzeugträger — aircraft carrier.
U-boat order; "Flood the tanks!"
Forschungsamt — intelligence service of the Luftwaffe.
Forstschutz — Forest Police (see Ordnungspolizei)
Frachter — freighter.
Franktireure — terrorists; (see Freischärler).
Franktireurkrieg — terrorist warfare.
Fregattenkapitän — Naval rank, literally meaning "Frigate Captain",
in between Korvettenkapitän and Kapitän zur See. Commanded a light
cruiser, or served as the executive officer on a capital ship, hence
often translated as Commander
Freikorps — volunteer corps; (see Freiwillige). The
Freikorps was an
early volunteer paramilitary organizations formed in the wake of the
German defeat of the First World War making up the German army in lieu
of the restrictions mandated by the Treaty of Versailles; they
consisted primarily of demobilized soldiers, disillusioned young men,
and fanatical conservative nationalists who blamed Social Democrats
and Jews for Germany's problems.
Freischärler — irregular or guerrilla (see Widerstandskräfte).
Freischärlerunwesen — "pestering by guerrillas"; guerrilla
activities or terrorist incidents.
Freiwillige — volunteer.
Fremde Heere Ost/West (FHO/FHW) — Foreign Armies East/West, staff
intelligence specialist on the subject.
Frieden — peace.
Fritz-X — The Luftwaffe's radio-controlled glide bomb, precursor to
today's "smart weapons" or PGMs.
Fronterlebnis — front experience. Fronterlebnis was a literary genre
which romanticized the war experience and the camaraderie of being
Frontgemeinschaft — front-line comradeship or community; group of
front-line combat soldiers.
Frontkämpfer — front line soldier
Frontschwein — (slang) "front pig" soldier serving long at the
front, often used as an ironic accolade for a soldier with the will to
fight. Compare with Etappenschwein.
Führer — "The Leader"; title used by Adolf Hitler: Mein
Führer, Der Führer.
Führerbunker — (literally meaning "shelter [for the] leader" or
"[the] Führer's shelter") was located about 8.2 metres beneath the
garden of the old
Reich Chancellery building at Wilhelmstraße 77, and
about 120 metres north of Hitler's New
Reich Chancellery building in
Berlin. This underground bunker was Hitler's last FHQ and where he and
Eva Braun ended their lives on 30 April 1945.
Führerhauptquartiere (FHQ) — a number of official headquarters
especially constructed in order to be used by the Führer.
Führersonderzug — a special train built for and used by the
Führer — in the army a substitute commander of a unit or sub-unit
in absence of the regular commander (see 'Chef'); in the navy a flag
Führer der Uboote)
SS-Führungshauptamt — SS Leadership Head Office, the administrative
headquarters of the Waffen-SS.
Funke — 1) radio [die Funke, f., slang abbreviation for Funkgerät];
2) spark [der Funke, m.]; the literal (pre-radio) meaning of the word.
Funker — radio operator (from funken [verb], to transmit by radio).
Funkgerät (prefix: FuG) — generic term for radio and airborne IFF,
RDF and airborne and some ground based radar equipment.
Funkmessbeobachtungsgerät (FuMB) — radar detector.
Füsilier — historic term often used to refer to light infantry,
originally named after the fusil, or musket, such troops once carried.
During World War II, a name given to infantry formations with some
reconnaissance abilities that replaced an infantry division's
reconnaissance battalion mid-war when the Germans reduced the number
of standard infantry battalions in their divisions from 9 to 6.
Füsilierbataillon — In the Imperial army the 3rd battalion of a
Grenadier-Regiment. Its designation was F, as in F/GR10 for
Füsilierbataillon of the Genadier-
Futtermeister — Quartermaster responsible for fodder
Freya radar — first operational radar with the Kriegsmarine.
P-38 Lightning "Fork Tailed Devil".
Garnison - garrison
Gasmaske — gas mask
Gasmaskenbehälter — gas mask container.
Gaspistole — starting pistol; a gun that fires blanks.
Gau - An administrative region equivalent to a shire or province.
Gauleiter — supreme territorial or regional
authority(-ies). Gau leader.
Gebirgsjäger — mountain troops; a mountain "unit" might be referred
to as either Gebirgs or Gebirgsjäger.
Gebirgstruppe — mountain troops.
gefallen (gef.) — fallen, killed in action
Gefecht — combat, action.
Gefechtsgepäck — infantry assault pack.
Gefechtsstand — command post.
Gefechtsstation — naval term, "battle stations" or (more literally)
Gefechtsverband - defensive aerial tactic employed against
bombers when Zerstörer twin-engined heavy fighters had proven too
vulnerable to Allied single-engined fighters — used heavily armed Fw
190As as bomber destroyers in place of the slower Zerstörer aircraft,
with Bf 109Gs for escort.
Gefreiter — enlisted rank, senior to privates but not considered an
Gegenangriff — counterattack.
Gegenoffensive — counter-offensive.
Gegenstoß — hasty counter-attack.
Gegenschlag — counter stroke.
geheim — secret.
Geheime Feldpolizei (GFP) — Secret Field Police. It was Germany's
secret military police that was organised by the German high command
(OKW) in July 1939 to serve with the Wehrmacht. It was mainly designed
to carry out security work in the field, as the executive agent of the
Geheimfernschreiber — (literally, "secret distance writer") cipher
Gelbkreuz — mustard gas
Geleit — escort.
Geleitschutz — convoy.
Gemeindepolizei — local police.
Gemeinschaft — community.
Generalfeldmarschall — Field Marshal.
Generalkommando — the headquarters of an army corps.
Generalstab des Heeres (Gen. St.d. H.) — German
Army General Staff.
gepanzert (gep.) — armoured.
Geschütz — cannon, gun.
Geschützführer — gun captain / commander / layer.
Geschwader – originally and literally a naval "squadron" and,
therefore, equivalent to the French escadre or Italian squadriglia; in
military aviation, the translation varies:
World War I Luftstreitkräfte: a unit comprising four fighter
squadrons (Staffeln), such as Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) –the famous
"Flying Circus", led by
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen ("The Red Baron"); also
used for the Kagohl and Bogohl heavy bomber units, the last two
mentioned unit types specifically tied to the
Oberste Heeresleitung or
World War II
World War II Luftwaffe: comprising three or more Gruppen, each made up
of three (or sometimes four) Staffeln; a WW2 Geschwader was equivalent
to a British Commonwealth air force group, French escadron, Italian
stormo, IJAAS hikōdan, IJNAC sentai, Soviet aviation division, a
USAAF/USMC air wing and/or a US Navy carrier air group; ;
current Luftwaffe: a Geschwader comprises a "technical group"
(Technische Gruppe), a "flying group" (Fliegende Gruppe), along with
two or three other flying squadrons (Staffeln);
Geschwaderkennung — the two-character alphanumeric identification
code used by a non-day-fighter Geschwader for unit identification,
that appeared to the left of the fuselage
Balkenkreuz on most World
Luftwaffe aircraft. It also included two letters to the right
of the cross, the third letter designating the aircraft's individual
identification, with the fourth letter designating the aircraft's
assigned squadron (Staffel) within the unit.
Gestapo — Geheime Staatspolizei – Secret State Police. Originally
the Prussia secret state police and later (as part of the SiPo then
merged into the RSHA) the official secret police force of Nazi
Gestapo was derived as follows: Geheime Staatspolizei.
Gewehr — rifle, such as the Gewehr 43.
Gift — poison; giftig: poisonous, toxic.
Gleichschaltung — "coordination", coordination of everything into
Gliederung — table of organisation
Goldfasan (Golden pheasant) — derogatory slang term for high-ranking
Nazi Party members. Derived from the brown-and-red uniforms similar to
the colors of male pheasants and the perceived behaviour of
high-ranking party officials living in peace and luxury at home.
Gothic Line German defense line in Italy, north of
Grabenkrieg — trench warfare.
Granate — grenade, used not only for hand grenades (Handgranate) but
also for other explosive ordnance such as mortar (Werfgranate) and
armor-piercing (Panzergranate) shells.
Granatwerfer (GrW) — mortar.
Grenadier — traditional term for heavy infantry, adopted during
World War II
World War II from mid-war onward as a morale-building honorific often
indicative of low-grade formations.
Grenze — border.
Grenzschutz — border patrol.
Greuelerzählungen — numerous atrocities.
Gröfaz — German soldiers' derogatory acronym for Größter Feldherr
aller Zeiten, a title initially publicized by
Nazi propaganda to refer
Hitler during the early war years; literally, the "Greatest
Commander of all Time".
Grundausbildung (abbr. Grundi) — basic training
Gruppe (Luftwaffe) - a gruppe usually consisted of three squadrons of
nine to twelve aircraft, and a staff. An equivalent would be a US or
French group. In the British Commonwealth the equivalent would be a
Gruppe (Heer) — in the army a gruppe is the equivalent to a squad
Gruppenführer - squad leader, also a
Nazi party rank.
Gruppenhorchgerät (GHG) — hydrophone array.
Gulaschkanone — "goulash cannon", mobile field kitchen
Gruppenstab — command staff.
Gustav Line — German defense line in Italy, centered on the
monastery of Monte Cassino.
Gefreiter vom Dienst — soldier who is the runner of CQ.
Hafen — harbor. "Flughafen" is airport.
Hakenkreuz — (literally, "hooked cross") the version of the swastika
used by the
"Halbe Fahrt!" — Naval command calling for half-speed. "Halbe Fahrt
voraus" is "half-speed ahead" and "Halbe Fahrt zurück" is "half-speed
Halsschmerzen — "sore throat" or "itchy neck;" used to describe a
reckless or glory-seeking commander, implying an obsession with
winning the Knight's Cross.
Halt — Stop! Freeze!
Handelsmarine — German merchant marine.
Hannoversche Maschinenbau AG (Hanomag) – producer of military
vehicles, principally the
SdKfz 251 medium-armoured halftrack.
"Hart..." — Naval command calling for a sharp turn. "Hart Backbord"
is "hard-a-port" and "Hart Steuerbord" is "hard-a-starboard".
Härteübung — hardiness training.
Haubitze — howitzer.
Sicherheitspolizei (HA-SiPo) — Security Police
Hauptbahnhof - main or central station.
Hauptfeldwebel - company sergeant-major or first sergeant
Hauptkampflinie (HKL) — literally main combat line, official term
for "front" until the end of World War II
Hauptmann — army captain.
Hauptquartiere (HQ) — headquarters.
Hauptstadt — capital city.
Hauptwachtmeister - company first sergeant in artillery and cavalry
Heckenschütze — "hedge marksman" hidden, ambushing sniper.
Heckschütze — tail gunner the man to handle the Heckstand.
Heckstand — tail gun defensive position on aircraft.
Heer — regular German Army. Can also be used for any national army.
Heeresgruppenkommando (HGr.Kdo) —
Army Group Command.
Heimat — home, homeland.
Heimatkurs — the way home. Literally "homeland course".
Heimatschuß — "homeland shot"; a wound not severe enough to be
permanently disabling, but of sufficient severity to require
evacuation from the battlefront. The German soldier's equivalent of
the American G.I.'s "million-dollar wound" or the British soldier's
Heldenklau — "stealing" or "snatching of heroes"; slang term used to
denote the practice of commandeering rear-echelon personnel for
Henschel — railroad locomotive and rolling stock manufacturer, and a
firm responsible for many German
World War II
World War II weapons systems for both
Wehrmacht Heer and the Luftwaffe, especially the heavy
Tiger I and
Tiger II tanks and the
Henschel Hs 293
Henschel Hs 293 guided anti-ship missile.
"Herr..." — In past and modern German military protocol, "Herr"
("mister") is said before ranks when someone is addressing a person of
higher rank. For example, a lieutenant ("Leutnant") would address his
captain as "Herr Hauptmann" ("Mr. Captain"). Superior officer address
subordinates with "Herr" and their last name or simply their rank, but
not adding "Herr" to the rank. This practice was forbidden in the
Waffen-SS, as it offended Himmler's egalitarian principles.
Hetzer — agitators; also a hunting dog and as such the unofficial
name of a certain mid-war model of German tank destroyer.
Hilfswillige (Hiwis) — German
Army volunteer forces usually made up
of Soviet volunteers serving in non-combat capacities.
Himmelfahrtskommando — literally, "trip to heaven mission", a
Hinterhalt — ambush.
Hitler-Jugend (HJ) —
Hitler Youth. The German youth organization
founded by the
Nazi Party (NSDAP). Made up of the Hitlerjugend proper,
for male youth ages 14–18; the younger boys' section "Deutsches
Jungvolk" for ages 10–14; and the girls' section "Bund Deutscher
Hitlersäge — "
Hitler saw", nickname of the
MG42 machine gun. Also
named „Singende Säge“(singing saw), „Knochensäge“(bone saw)
HJ-Fahrtenmesser — common dagger specially designed for the Hitler
Spätlese — nickname for the Volkssturm.
Höckerhindernisse — anti-tank obstacles often referred to as
Hoheitsabzeichen — national insignia e.g. on a tank or aircraft.
Hohentwiel — FuG 200 UHF-band (500 MHz) maritime patrol
airborne radar gear.
Hubschrauber — helicopter.
Hummel — "bumble-bee"; nickname for a piece of mobile artillery.
Hundehütte — literally, "dog house", punishment hut.
im Dienst (i.D.) — in service.
Indianer — Indians.
Luftwaffe slang for an enemy fighter (from the
game of cowboys and Indians.)
Infanterie (Inf.) — infantry.
Inhaber der Befehls- und Kommandogewalt (IBuK) — Commander-in-Chief,
Minister of Defence (peacetime) or Federal Chancellor (wartime)
Iststärke — actual strength (compared to Soll-Stärke)
Iwan — German slang for a Soviet soldier (similar to "Jerry" or
"Kraut", the British and American slang terms for Germans).
Jabo (Jagdbomber) — fighter-bomber.
Jagdgeschwader (JG) — single-engine fighter wing/group, literally
Jagdpanzer — "hunting tank"; armoured casemate-style self-propelled
Jagd-Kommando — "hunting commando"; generally refers to a commando
outfit that remained behind enemy lines when an area was overrun and
would carry out sabotage and other guerrilla actions. These units did
not generally operate as such and were later taken over by the SS and
used as frontline combat troops in 1944-1945.
Jäger —  light infantry; used alone or as part of a specialty
Gebirgsjäger or Fallschirmjäger.  Fighter Airplane. The
root Jagd- is also used in its literal meaning of "hunter" for weapon
systems such Jagdtiger.
jawohl — simply the word "yes" with the emphatic "wohl", which one
might translate as "Yes, indeed!", "Aye, aye, sir!" or "Absolutely
yes!" Widely used in World War II.
Junkerschule — SS officer academy.
"Kaczmarek" — wingman
Kadavergehorsam — "absolute duty and blind obedience till death.";
lit.: "carcass obedience"
Kaiserliche Marine (KM) — Imperial German Navy
Kaiserlicher Yacht-Club (KYC) — Imperial Yacht Club
Kameradschaft — small military unit, or phrase for "comrade support
amongst soldiers" (see Volkgemeinschaft).
Kampf — struggle, fight or conflict.
Kampfeinsitzer Kommando (KEK), the first specialist, single-seat armed
scout/fighter units of the Fliegertruppe predecessor of the
Luftstreitkräfte, first formed by Inspektor-
Major Friedrich Stempel
in February 1916, and the direct predecessor units to the Jagdstaffeln
fighter squadron units first formed in the late summer of 1916.
Kampfflotte — battle fleet.
Kampfgeist — fighting spirit.
Kampfgeschwader (KG) — bomber wing (
USAAF practice)/group (RAF
Army battlegroup or task force; formal designation
of an ad hoc task force, or informal term for a combat unit at greatly
reduced strength. 2. In the Luftwaffe, a bomber unit equivalent to a
US/French group or a British Commonwealth wing.
Kampfmesser — combat knife.
Kampfplan — battle plan.
Kampfschwimmer — frogman.
Kampfzone — battle zone.
Kampfwunde — battle injury.
Kanone — gun (as opposed to a howitzer).
Kanonier — gunner
Kapitän — Naval rank of Captain; in full Kapitän zur See (KzS or
Kpt.z.S.) ;literally, Sea Captain. Commanded any capital ship.
Kapitänleutnant (Kptlt.) — Naval rank of Lieutenant
(literally) Captain Lieutenant. Officers of this rank generally
command small vessels such as U-boats and minesweepers. The rank is
often shortened to "Kaleun", with junior officers addressing people of
this rank as "Herr Kaleun".
Kapitulation — surrender.
Kapo — overseer, NCO (sl). Esp. a prisoner who acted as an overseer
of his fellow inmates in the
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi concentration camps (see
Karbol-Tränke — field dressing station
Kartenstelle — mapping detachment, normally part of staff company of
a division or higher
Kaserne — barracks, casern.
Kavallerie (Kav.) — cavalry.
KdE - abbreviation for the Kommandeur der Erprobungsstellen, the
commander of all German military aviation test facilities in World War
II, an office held by
Edgar Petersen late in the war.
Kesselschlacht — lit. "cauldron battle" encirclement often shortened
to Kessel e.g. "Kessel von Stalingrad"
Kette — chain, in the air force a sub-unit of 3—6 aircraft
Ketten — chains, chain-drive, tracks (e.g. Panzerketten)
Kettenantrieb — track, such as a tank track; tracked vehicle.
Kettenhund — "chained dog", slang for a
Military Policeman (derived
from the metal gorget worn on a chain around the neck).
Kettenkraftrad — a tracked motorcycle; also Kettenkrad.
Kindersärge — "children's coffins", slang term applied to small,
wooden antipersonnel box-mines.
KLA: Kriegsschiffbaulehrabteilung — was a warship-construction
training division that supervised a Baubelehrung.
Kleinkampfverband (K-Verband) — special naval operations unit,
comprising a few frogmen.
Kleinkrieg — guerrilla war.
Knickebein — "crooked leg", also "bent leg" (in the sense of
"dogleg"); German navigational system using radio beams to guide
Knochensammlung — gathering the bones of dead soldiers.
Kochgeschirr - mess tin
Koffer - in the
Bundeswehr a derogatory term for a raw recruit
Koffer, schwerer - large calibre shell, similar to the British coal
box or the American trah can
Kolonne — column, also supply units (e.g. leichte
Kommando (Kdo.) — command; detachment; detail.
Kommissarbefehl — the notorious 6 June 1941 "Commissar Order" to
kill all political commissars in the Red
Army and civil government.
Kompanie (Kp.) — company, unit.
Kompaniechef — company commander
Kompaniefeldwebel — company first sergeant
Kompanieführer — substitute company commander in case of absence or
if the ‘Kompaniechef ’ is only an honorary function (similar to a
Kompanietruppführer — Company headquarters section leader
Konteradmiral — Naval rank of Rear Admiral.
Konzentrationslager (KZL) — concentration camp.
Korvettenkapitän (K.Kpt) — Naval rank of (literally) "Corvette
Captain". The grade senior to Kapitänleutnant; frequently translated
as either Lieutenant
Commander or Commander. Typically commanded a
Krad (Kraft-Radfahrzeug) — motorcycle (dated in civil use, but still
common in the Bundeswehr).
Krad-Melder — motorcycle dispatch rider
Kradschütze(n) — motorcycle unit or soldier.
Kraft — strength.
Kraftei - literally "power-egg", used both for the unitized aviation
engine installation system that combined all major engine ancillary
components (radiator, oil cooler, etc.) with the engine itself, into a
single interchangeable unit for ease of field maintenance and rapid
replacement, or as a slang term for the short-fuselaged Messerschmitt
Me 163 Komet rocket fighter.
Krankenstation — sick bay of a ship.
Krankenträger — stretcher bearer
Kraut — for sauerkraut; slang term used by Americans to refer to
Krieg or Krieg(s)- — "war" or "wartime-".
Kriegserlebnis — (myth of the) war experience.
Kriegsfischkutter (KFK) — patrol vessels constructed to a
fishing-vessel design; (see Vorpostenboote).
Kriegsflagge — "war ensign"; military form of the national flag,
quartered by a black cross with an
Iron Cross in the canton.
Kriegsgefangener — prisoner of war.
Kriegsgericht — court-martial; slang for a war dish or poor meal.
Kriegsmarine — German Navy, 1935–45.
Kriegsneurose — battle fatigue. Mod. post traumatic stress disorder.
Kriegsstärkenachweisungen (KStN) — The German equivalent of the
American table of organization and equipment (TO&E) or the British
Kriegstagebuch — war diary.
Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) — "Criminal Police" — In
Nazi Germany, it
became the national Criminal (investigative) Police Department for the
Reich in July 1936. It was merged, along with the Gestapo, into
Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo). Later, in 1939, it was folded into the
Krupp (Kp) — famous German steel producer, manufactured most of the
tanks, howitzers and heavy mortars, as well as armour plates for
battleships (most famously the Bismarck).
Krupp-Daimler (KD) — See Krupp.
Kübel — literally, "bucket" or "tub", short for Kübelwagen,
open-topped military utility cars.
Kugel — "bullet" (also "ball").
Kugelfest — bullet-proof.
Kugelblitz — literally "ball lightning", fireball.
KwK — abbreviation for "Kampfwagenkanone", the turret-mounted main
(cannon) armament of a main battle tank.
L/ — length of barrel in calibres (For example, an 8.8cm L/71 gun
would have a barrel of 71 x 8.8cm = 624.8cm long)
Ladeschütze — loader
Lager — camp.
Landekopf — beachhead.
Lafette — literally "gun mount", used for many differing artillery
carriages and for manned and remotely controlled gun turret
installations on German military vehicles, especially on aircraft.
Landratsamt — civil administration office.
Landsturm — historically, infantry of non-professional soldiers; a
kind of militia.
Landser — historical term for a German infantryman; slang: "Schütze
Landwehr — Territorial Army, a type of militia.
Lastensegler — cargo glider
Latrinenparole — "latrine talk", rumor.
laufende Nummer — serial number.
Lebensraum — "living space", or in Hitler-speak the minimum space
the German people needed to live in.
Lehr — "demonstration"; usually part of the name of an elite
formation used as or mobilized from instructional troops (e.g.,
Leibermuster — a camouflage pattern.
leicht — "light", usually to refer a lighter type, such as light
tank: leichter Panzer. Several classes of divisions were also
classified as "light".
Leopard — the name originally used for the Porsche-produced VK
3601(P) prototype tank hull design, and later used by the Federal
German Republic for the
Leopard 1 and
Bundeswehr main battle
tanks in service from the 1960s into the 21st century.
Leuchtpistole — flare pistol
Leuchtgeschoss/-granate — star shell
Army rank, equivalent to Second Lieutenant
Leutnant zur See — Naval rank, equivalent to Lieutenant, junior
Lichtenstein — German airborne radar used for nightfighting, in
early UHF-band BC and C-1 versions, and later VHF-band SN-2 and SN-3
Lorenz Schlüsselzusatz — German cipher machine.
Lorenz (navigation) — pre-war blind-landing aid used at many
airports. Most German bombers had the radio equipment needed to use
"Los!" — "Go!" or "Away!" Also the
U-boat command to fire a torpedo
Luchs — "lynx"; nickname given to the Model L version of the Panzer
Leuchtkugel — signal flare.
Luftangriff — air attack, air raid.
Luftflotte - lit. air fleet. Largest sub-units within the Luftwaffe.
Luftschutz — air raid protection
Luftwaffe — "air force"; the German Air Force.
Luftwaffenhelfer — "
Luftwaffe assistant"; see FlaK-Helfer.
Luftschutzpolizei — air raid wardens.
Luftstreitkräfte - originally (October 1916) the name for the
Army Air Service of World War I, later part of the
name for the East German dedicated air arm.
Mannschaften — enlisted personnel
Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (M.A.N.) — Augsburg-Nuremberg
Machine Factory; a German engineering works and truck manufacturer.
Now called MAN AG, and primary builder of the Panther tank.
Marineausrüstungsstelle (Mast.) — naval equipment store
Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen Hannover (MNH) — weapon (tank)
development and production firm.
Maschinengewehr (MG) — machine gun, as in the MG42.
Maschinengewehrschütze — machine gunner
Maschinenkanone (MK) - an autocannon used for aircraft armament, as
with the MK 108 30mm calibre weapon.
Maschinenpistole (MP or MPi) — submachine gun, as in the MP40.
Maschine — "machine". Commonly used as airplane or engine.
Maskenball - German slang for fighting with NBC-protective gear, or at
least with gas mask
SdKfz 4 half-track truck, German for mule
Maus — "mouse"; nickname for a large, Porsche-designed super-heavy
tank, the heaviest tank ever actually built and tested, that never
passed beyond prototype stage.
Maybach (M) — a German automotive and engineering company.
Melder — runner
Meldereiter - horse despatch rider
Metox — radar warning receiver (named for manufacturer) fitted to
U-boats; superseded by Naxos-U
Milchkuh — "milk cow", nickname for the Type XIV resupply U-boat.
Militär — military.
Militärnachrichtendienst — military intelligence.
Mine (pl. Minen) — an anti-personnel, tank or ship mine.
Mineneigenschutz (MES) — ship's degaussing cable; literally "mine
Minensuchboote (M-boats) — large minesweepers.
Mißliebige — undesirables.
Mitarbeiter — assistant clerk
Motorkanone — engine-mounted autocannon armament firing through a
hollow propeller shaft on inline-engined fighter aircraft.
MP(i) — sub-machine gun
Mörser — mortar
Munitionskanonier — ammunition handler
Munitionsschlepper — ammunition carrier.
Munitionsschütze — ammunition handler
Mütze — cap or small hat, such as the M43 field cap, also known as
Nachricht(en) — signals / news / communication, also intelligence.
Nachrichtendienst — intelligence
Nachrichtenoffizier — signals officer
Nachrichtentruppen — Signal Corps.
Nachschub — supply
Nachschubtruppen — supply troops.
Nacht und Nebel
Nacht und Nebel — "night and fog"; code for some prisoners that were
to be disposed of, leaving no traces; bei
Nacht und Nebel
Nacht und Nebel (idiom) —
secretly and surprisingly, at dead of night.
Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) — night-fighter wing/group.
Nahkampfmesser — close-combat fighting knife.
Nahverteidigungswaffe — "close defense weapon"; an attachment to
Panzers to combat close-assaulting infantry.
Nashorn — "rhinoceros", nickname for a type of tank destroyer.
Nationalsozialistische Führungsoffiziere (NSFO) — National
Socialist Leadership Officers.
Naxos radar detector
Naxos radar detector — The FuG 350 radar detector set; "Naxos Z" was
developed for night fighters, "Naxos U", was provided to U-boats, to
locate Allied H2S microwave-band radar transmissions, not able to
H2X radar gear.
Nebelwerfer (Nb. W) — "fog thrower"; rocket artillery, multi-barrel
rocket launchers that could be used for smoke or high-explosive
Neptun radar - Low-to-mid
VHF band (125 to 187 MHz) airborne
intercept radar for night fighter aircraft, to take the place of the
Lichtenstein SN-2 unit, which had been compromised by July–August
Niederlage — defeat.
"Nicht Schiessen" - Don't shoot in German
Norden — north.
Notsignal — distress signal.
NSKK — the Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrerkorps, or National
Socialist Motor Corps.
Nummer (Nr.) — "number"; some divisional organizations with a unit
number but no combat assets, often converted to ordinary divisions
later on. (E.g., Division Nr. 157.)
Ober-* — higher; part of several military ranks and titles like
Oberleutnant and "Oberkommando".
Oberst — lit. "Uppermost" or "Seniormost," German equivalent of a
Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Ob.d.H.) — Commander-in-Chief of the
Oberkommando des Heeres
Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) — "High Command of the Army" and Army
General Staff from 1936 to 1945.
Kriegsmarine (OKM) — "High Command of the (War)
Luftwaffe (OKL) — "High Command of the Air Force".
Wehrmacht (OKW) — "High Command of the Armed
Forces". The OKW replaced the War Ministry and was part of the command
structure of the armed forces of
Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL) — "Supreme
Army Command", the OHL was
the highest level of command of the World War I Deutsches Heer.
Offizier im Generalstab —
General Staff officer
Offizier-Lager (Oflag) — "officer camp"; German prisoner-of-war camp
for Allied officers.
Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) — "order police" - the regular uniformed
police after their nationalization in 1936.
Ordonnanzoffizier — aide-de-camp
Ortskampf — combat in towns, urban warfare.
Osten — east.
Ostfront — eastern front (Russian Front)
Ostjuden — eastern Jews in Poland.
Ostmark — lit. Eastern march, post-
Ostpreußen — province of East Prussia.
Panjewagen — one-horse carriage.
Panzer — "armour"; German word is derived from
Old French pancier,
meaning "armour for the belly". It can refer to a tank (see
Panzerkampfwagen below) or to an armoured formation. (
is literally "
Tank Division"; the adjective for "armoured" is
Panzerabwehrkanone (PaK) — anti-tank gun; literally, "tank defence
cannon", also used for the main armament for a typical casemate style
turretless German tank destroyer.
Panzerbefehlswagen (Pz. Bef.Wg) — the commanding tank of any panzer
detachment; also used of purpose-built command tanks with extra radio
Panzerbüchse — anti-tank rifle
Panzerbüchsenschütze — anti-tank rifleman
Panzerfaust — literally "armour fist"; a light disposable infantry
anti-tank weapon, a small recoilless gun firing a fin-stabilized
shaped charge grenade, and a forerunner of the Soviet RPG
(rocket-propelled grenade) although the
Panzerfaust was not
Panzerführer — tank commander, literally "tank leader".
Panzerkommandant — tank commander
Panzerschreck — literally "armour terror," officially
Raketenpanzerbüchse "rocket armour rifle;" a heavy re-usable infantry
anti-tank weapon firing a rocket-propelled 88mm shaped charge grenade.
Also called Ofenrohr ("stovepipe") for its appearance.
Panzergrenadier — mechanized infantry; a soldier belonging to a
mechanized infantry unit.
Panzerjäger — "tank hunter(s)", anti-tank troops; also used by
extension for their self-propelled tank destroyers (e.g., the Elefant)
until superseded by the
Jagdpanzer ("hunting tank") term.
Panzerkampfwagen (Pzkpfw.) — "armoured fighting vehicle"; usually a
reference to a type of tank with a 360° fully rotating turret for the
Panzerschiffe — "armoured ships"; i.e., "pocket battleships".
Panzertruppen — tank forces.
Papier — paper. Often used as paper of identification.
Papierkrieg — paper war. The struggle to keep up with reports and
Partei — political party.
Pionier (pl. Pioniere) — combat engineer.
Plattenpanzer — plate armour.
Planoffizier — Triangulation officer
Porsche (P) — company that designed and produced tanks and other
military vehicles. They now produce cars.
Protze — limber, a horse-drawn two-wheel chariot that was hitched
before a gun and usually transported munitions and crew. The term
derives from the Italian "birazzo", a two-wheeled cart.
Putsch — coup d'état; the sudden overthrow of a government by a
small group, usually the military.
Pyrrhussieg — Pyrrhic victory.
Quartiermeister — quartermaster
Quist — one of several manufacturers of German helmets both during
and after World War II.
Radikale Niederwerfung — ruthless suppression.
Räumboot (R-boot) — small motor minesweeper.
Rasputitsa — semi-annual mud-season in Eastern Europe
Regierung — government.
Regimentsadjutant - regiment adjutant
Regimentsarzt — Regimental Medical Officer
Regimentschef — colonel of the regiment
Regimentsführer - substitute for the colonel of the regiment
Regimentskommandeur - commander of the regiment
Regimentsveterinär — regimental veterinarian officer
Reich — realm, empire.
Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) — compulsory labor service in Nazi
Reichsbahn — railway system.
Reich Leader of the SS, an office held by
Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) — "
Reich Main Security Office or
Reich Security Head Office"; created by
Himmler in September 1939 to
combine all German security and plainclothes police departments,
including the Gestapo,
Kripo and SD (
Sicherheitsdienst der SS) into
one umbrella organization with seven departments.
Reichswehr — name for the German Armed Forces under the Weimar
Republic, from 1919 to 1935.
Reiter — cavalryman. See also Ritter.
Rekrut — coll. rookie, recruit, member of the military in the basic
Rettungsboot — lifeboat.
Richtkreisunteroffizier — Gun Director (NCO)
Richtschütze — aiming gunner.
Ringkanone (Rk) — built-up gun
Ritter — knight, cavalier.
Ritterkreuz — "knight's cross", usual abbreviated name for the
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (see next entry)
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes —
Knight's Cross (of the Iron
Cross); award for valorous service for those who had already received
the Iron Cross. Highest award class for bravery under fire or military
leadership. 7318 of these were awarded during the war. Previous
recipients of the Ritterkreuz would be awarded a higher degree of the
same award, and then successively higher ones. The higher degrees are,
in ascending order:
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub — "knight's cross with oak leaves". 890
recipients during the war.
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwerten — "knight's cross with oak
leaves and swords". 159 recipients total, plus one honorary recipient
(Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto)
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Schwerten und Brillanten — "knight's
cross with oak leaves, swords, and diamonds": 27 recipients total.
Ritterkreuz mit Goldenem Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten:
"knight's cross with golden oak leaves, swords, and diamonds": only
Knight's Cross job" — soldiers' slang for a
Ritterkreuzträger — a holder of the Knight's Cross.
Rittmeister — Captain, used instead of
Hauptmann in the cavalry,
reconnaissance, and horse-transport waffen.
Rollkommando — small motorized (rolling) taskforce (non military:
band for hit-and-run crime)
Rommelspargel — "Rommel's asparagus"; slanted and barb-wired poles
placed in key places behind the
Atlantic Wall with the intention of
preventing paratroop and glider landings.
Rotes Kreuz — Red Cross.
Rotte — two of a kind, especially ships, boats or aircraft. Also the
'file' in rank and file
Rottenführer — leader of a 'rotte', also a
Rottenknecht — subordinate in a 'rotte'
Rottenmann — see 'Rottenknecht'
Rottmeister — first in a file of soldiers. Originally, soldiers
would file 10 – 25 deep, but in the 19th century two files were
standard, thus a 'rotte' described two of a kind. Also a
(non-commissioned) officer in charge of a detachment of 50 cavalry.
RSO — the Raupenschlepper Ost fully tracked artillery towing
Rückzug — retreat.
S-mine — a common type of anti-personnel landmine.
SA — see Sturmabteilung.
Sachbearbeiter — clerk
die Sahnefront — (the cream front) occupied Denmark during World War
II, a lot of food, minuscule fighting.
Sanitäter ('Sani') — combat medic
Sanitätsoffizier — Medical officer
Sanitätsunteroffizier — Medical NCO
Sanka — acronym for Sanitätskraftfahrtzeug, a term for German field
Saukopf — "pig's head", used to refer to the shape of a gun mantlet
or mount, alternatively called Topfblende in German military
Schanzzeug — entrenching tool; slang term for fork and knife.
Schachtellaufwerk - name for the system of overlapped and interleaved
road wheels used on German military half-track and armored fighting
vehicles before and during World War II.
Scharfschütze — "sharpshooter"; sniper, marksman.
Schatten — "shadow"; division headquarters that controlled just a
few combat assets, usually for the purpose of misleading enemy
Scheisskommando — latrine detail as referred to by survivors of the
Scheuch-schlepper - the adapted three-wheel agricultural tractor
(named from the maker of the original agri-version) used to tow the
Luftwaffe's Komet rocket fighter on the ground.
Schiffchen — side cap
Schirmmütze — officer's and senior NCO's peaked cap
Schirrmeister — Harness keeper
Schlacht — battle. "Von" is used for a general location and "um" is
used for what exactly was being fought over; for example, the Battle
of Midway is referred to as the "Schlacht um Midway" while the Battle
of Trafalgar is called the "Schlacht von Trafalgar".
Schlachtschiff — battleship.
Schleichfahrt — silent running.
schnell — fast.
Schnellboot (S-Boot) — motor torpedo boat (British term: "E-boat",
Schnelle Truppen — lit. "fast troops" mechanized troops (whether
armour or infantry).
Schräge Musik — "slanted music", obliquely upward/forward-firing
offensive German night fighter armament.
Schutzpolizei — "protection police", the urban police; largest
component of the uniformed police or Ordnungspolizei.
Schutzstaffel (SS) – "Protection Squadron", a major Nazi
organization that grew from a small paramilitary unit that served as
Hitler's personal body guard into an all-encompassing security, police
and combat force. "SS" is formed from (S)chutz(s)taffel. Had a
Allgemeine-SS or "General SS", general main body
of the Schutzstaffel; SS-
Totenkopfverbände responsible for the
concentration camps; SS-
Verfügungstruppe made up of military
"dispositional" troops which, in 1940, officially became part of the
Schürze — "skirting", armour skirting added to tanks to give
Schussline — line of fire.
Schütze — lit. shooter; member of the infantry. From 1920-45 also
the lowest military rank. see also Scharfschütze.
Schützenpanzerwagen (SPW) — armoured half-track or self-propelled
Schutzhaft — "protective custody"; a euphemism for the power to
imprison people without judicial proceedings, typically in
Schutzhaftbefehl — "protective custody order"; document declaring
that a detained person desired to be imprisoned; normally this
signature was forced by torture.
Schwadron (plural: Schwadrone) — "squadron"; used in the cavalry, a
squadron was basically company-sized.
Schwadronführer — company commander in the cavalry
Schwadrontruppführer — company HQ section leader
Schwarm — Flight (military unit)
Schwarze Kapelle — "Black Orchestra"; a group of conspirators within
Army who plotted to overthrow
Hitler and came near to
successfully assassinating him on 20 July 1944.
Schweinereien — "scandalous acts" (lit.: "acts of a pig"); (in a
military context) crimes against civilians.
schwer — (1) adjective meaning "heavy", the word "gross" (large) can
mean the same; (2) hard/difficult.
Schwerer Kreuzer — heavy cruiser.
Schwerpunkt — main axis of attack
Schwert — sword.
Schwimmpanzer — amphibious or "swimming" tank.
SD — see Sicherheitsdienst.
SdKfz — Sonderkraftfahrzeug
Seekriegsleitung (SKL) — directorate of the Naval War.
Sehrohr — periscope; literally "looking tube".
Sehrohrtiefe — periscope depth.
Seitengewehr — bayonet.
Selbstfahrlafette — self-propelled gun carriage.
Selbstschutz — lit. "self protection"; ethnic German civilian
Sicherheitsdienst (SD) — "security service"; the SS and
security service. Later, the main intelligence-gathering, and
counter-espionage sections of the RSHA; originally headed by Reinhard
Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) — "security police", the combined forces
Gestapo and KriPo, made up of the Reich's criminal
investigators and secret state police.
"sichern und laden" — "lock and load".
Sicherungsflottillen — (1) escort ships, (2) paramilitary
organization of unemployed ex-soldiers, who were recruited to protect
Nazi speakers, and because of their clothing were called "Brown
Sieg — victory.
Sigrunen — the name of the double "S" runes used by the SS.
SiPo — see Sicherheitspolizei.
Sippenhaftung — the practice of arresting members of a person's
family for political crimes or treason committed by that person.
SMS - abbreviation for Seiner Majestät Schiff, the German Empire's
equivalent of the British Royal Navy's "HMS" (His/Her Majesty's Ship)
naval vessel naming prefix before 1918.
Soldat — soldier/enlisted man.
Soldbuch — pay book carried by every member of the German armed
forces. Unit information, a record of all equipment issued, and other
details were entered into this book.
Sollstärke — authorized strength
Sonderbehandlung — "special treatment"; a
Nazi euphemism meaning
torture or killing of people in detention.
Sonderfahndungslisten — wanted-persons list.
Sonderkommando — "special unit"; during WWII, an official term that
applied to certain German and foreign SS units that operated in
German-occupied areas, who were responsible for the liquidation of
persons not desirable to the
Nazi government; ALSO: Jewish inmates of
extermination camps, assigned to clear gas chambers of corpses, etc.
During WWI, the term was used to refer to special fleet groups, i.e.
the coastal defense force tasked with maintaining control over
Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Sd. Kfz.) — "special-purpose motor vehicle",
usually abbreviated and referring to an Ordnance Inventory Number.
Sonderreferat — special administrative section.
Späher — scout.
Spähtrupp - combat patrol
Spähwagen — armoured car, scout/reconnaissance vehicle.
Sperrfeuer — protective fire, curtain fire.
Artillery barrage to
stop advancing troops
Störfeuer — harassing fire
Sperrlinie — blocking line.
Sperrschule — Mine Warfare School at Kiel-Wik.
Spieß — "pike"; colloquial name for the mustering and
administrative non-commissioned officer of a company, the
Hauptfeldwebel. Typically held the rank of
Stabsfeldwebel. He exercised more authority than his American
counterpart (First Sergeant), but his duties did not ordinarily
include combat leadership.
Spion — spy.
Sprengstoff — explosive material.
Sprung - an advance movement for infantry: jump up from cover, run a
few steps, take cover again. Repeat.
"Sprung auf, marsch, marsch!" - command to initiate a Sprung
SS — see Schutzstaffel.
SS-TV — SS-
Totenkopfverbände (SS Death's Head Units).
SS-Verfügungstruppen — "units available" or military formations of
the SS; became the core of the
Waffen-SS formed in August 1940.
Stab (pl. Stäbe) — "staff", sometimes HQ.
Stabschef — chief of staff.
Stabsfeldwebel — lit. "Staff Sergeant", but roughly equivalent to
Sergeant Major: the highesr NCO rank in the Wehrmacht, the second
highest NCO rank in the Bundeswehr.
Stacheldraht — barbed wire.
Stadtkommandant — military commander of a city.
Staffel — squadron; the smallest operational air unit, and the
primary operational unit of the World War I era Luftstreitkräfte.
Stahlhelm — (1) literally "steel helmet"; (2) inter-war nationalist
Stalag — acronym for Stammlager, German prisoner-of-war camp for
ranks other than officers.
Stalinorgel — "Stalin's Organ"; nickname for the Katyusha rocket
Stammkennzeichen — four-letter radio identification code applied to
Luftwaffe aircraft, also used for prototype
identification, not used on non-day-fighter aircraft assigned to a
Luftwaffe wing, where a Geschwaderkennung code would be
Standarte — SS unit equivalent to a regiment
Standort - garrison
Standortältester - garrison commander
Stellung — position
Stellungskrieg — static warfare, contrary to Blitzkrieg, if neither
of the conflict parties is able to overcome the defense with offensive
operations, the result is an Abnützungskrieg.
Stellungsunteroffizier — gun position NCO
Steuerbord (Stb) — starboard side of a ship.
Stielhandgranate — stick hand grenade: the "potato masher" Model 24
"stopfen" — a command to stop firing, probably derived from "stop
Stoßtrupp — small unit as shock or attack troops.
Stoß-[unit] — Stoßbataillon, Stoßregiment, Stoßdivision, a
temporary designation for units, battalions, regiments or divisions
that were held as mobile reserve and thus could be used to push
(stoßen) an attacking force back in a counterattack. This term was
first used in trench warfare in WWI, when in 1917 the defensive tactic
of the German
Army changed to in depth defense. The rationale was that
frontline units in the trenches suffered so many casualties and
material losses as not to be able to mount an effective counterstroke.
Strategischer Sieg — strategic victory.
Stube — room in the barracks, quarters
Stuka — acronym for Sturzkampfflugzeug, literally: "downfall combat
aircraft" figuratively: *dive-bombing aircraft". Particularly
associated with the German Ju 87 dive bomber, although the German term
refers to any dive bomber.
Stukageschwader — a dive bomberwing/group, later Schlachtgeschwader
in a ground support role (SG).
Stupa — a Sturmpanzer IV assault gun.
Sturm — assault.
Sturmabteilung (SA) — "assault detachment," party militia, not part
of the army. In the beginning the
Nazi Party's "Brown Shirt"
bully-boys and street brawlers that grew by 1934 into a paramilitary
force of nearly a half-million men; after the purge of its leadership
Schutzstaffel (SS) and
Gestapo during the Night of the Long
Knives rapidly decreased in numbers and influence.
Sturmbann [plural: Sturmbanne] — lit. "storm band," a battalion;
used by SA and SS units until 1940.
Sturmgeschütz (StuG) — self-propelled assault gun, such as the
Sturmgewehr — assault rifle.
Sturmtrupp — assault troop, a specially drilled group of soldiers,
usually a squad or a platoon, that was used for assaults on fixed
positions in trenchwarfare. Later usage in WWII was for combat patrols
with orders to infiltrate
Sturmbattaillon — assault battalion, specially trained and equipped
battalions of the German
Army in WWI, specifically created in 1917 and
1918 from the experience in trench warfare.
StuK - Sturmkanone, prefix for the main armament of any German
self-propelled artillery, also "StuH" for Sturmhaubitze, when a
howitzer was used instead on a tracked chassis.
Stützpunkt — military base.
Süden — south.
Swastika — English term for the German Hakenkreuz.
sWS — Schwere Wehrmachtschlepper, late
World War II
World War II "replacement"
Tonne (t) — tonne (metric, 1000 kg)
Tonne (ts) — long ton
Tagesbefehl — order of the day
tauchen — dive; submerge.
Tauchpanzer — submersible tank.
Teilkommando — a small, section-sized command group.
Testflug — flight test, shakedown cruise
Tiger — name given to the PzKW
Panzer VI "Tiger I" and "Tiger II"
series of tanks, as well as the
Jagdtiger tank destroyer, based on the
Tiger II, and Sturmtiger, built on the Tiger I's chassis.
Todesmärsche — "Death marches" — at the end of the war when it
became obvious that the German army was trapped between the Soviets to
the east and the advancing Allied troops from the west, the Nazis, in
an attempt to prevent the liberation of concentration camp inmates,
forced them to march westward toward
Germany proper. Thousands died in
Tommy — German slang for a British soldier (similar to "Jerry" or
"Kraut", the British and American slang terms for Germans).
Totenkopf — "death's head", skull and crossbones, also the nickname
Kampfgeschwader 54 bomber wing of the
World War II
World War II era
Tornister - Back pack
Totenkopfverbände — "Death's Head units", employed as guards in
Nazi concentration camps, many later became the members of units of
the Waffen-SS, such as the SS Division Totenkopf.
Totaler Krieg — "Total war" — In a total war, there is less
differentiation between combatants and civilians than in other
conflicts, and sometimes no such differentiation at all, as nearly
every human resource, civilians and soldiers alike, can be considered
to be part of the belligerent effort
Totenkopfwachsturmbanne — Death's Head Guard battalions; units of
the SS that guarded concentration camps during the war.
Treffer — hit. Mostly in past tense. "
Torpedo getroffen!" = "Torpedo
hit!" or "
Tropenhelm — pith helmet; a wide-rimmed fabric-covered cork helmet
used in tropical areas, most notably by the Afrika Korps.
Trupp (pl. Trupps) — Smallest tactical unit of 2 to 8 men, best
Fireteam but also used in non-combat tasks as logistics.
Truppe (pl. Truppen) — summarising term for armed forces, in some
context it stands for the enlisted personnel.
Truppenamt — "Troop Office", the disguised
General Staff after
Versailles Treaty abolished the German
Army General Staff.
Truppenarzt — physician in units and sub-units with organic medical
sections, e.g. Regimentsarzt, Bataillonsarzt
Truppführer — team leader
Ubootausbildungsabteilung (UAA) — see U-Fahrausbildungslehrgang.
Uboot-Abnahme-Kommission (UAK) — submarine acceptance commission
Ubootabwehrschule (UAS) — anti-submarine school
U-Bootjäger (UJ-boats) — steam trawlers equipped for anti-submarine
U-Fahrausbildungslehrgang — where submarine personnel learned to
U-Lehrdivision (ULD) —
U-boat Training Division (see
unabkömmlich (uk) — not available for military service
Uk (Schnellladekanone in Uboot-Lafette) — quick-firing gun with
Untermenschen — those peoples the Nazis derided as "subhuman" (see
Unteroffizier — (1) a non-commissioned officer; (2) the lowest NCO
rank, typical for e.g. infantry squad leaders and functionally
equivalent to US Sergeant or UK Corporal.
Unteroffiziere mit Portepee
Unteroffiziere mit Portepee — senior NCO; lit. "underofficer with
Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee
Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee — junior NCO; lit. "underofficer
Unterführer — summarized term for all non-commissioned officers;
Unterseeboot (U-Boot) — literally, "undersea boat"; submarine. In
the English-speaking world, there is a distinction between "U-boat"
and "submarine": "U-boat" refers to a German submarine, particularly
the ones used during the world wars. In German, there is no
distinction as "U-boat" is used for any submarine, such as "Deutsches
U-Boot" or "Amerikanisches U-Boot".
Ural bomber -
Luftwaffe General Walter Wever's initiative to build
Germany's first four engined strategic bomber at the dawn of the Third
Reich, with prototypes coming from Dornier and Junkers. After Wever's
death in 1936, the program was shelved.
Urlaub — furlough; also: vacation.
Utof (Uboots-Torpedoboots-Fliegerabwehr-Lafette) — quick-firing gun
in submarine-torpedo boat-anti-aircraft mounting
Unteroffizier vom Dienst - Sergeant in charge of CQ
V1 — the first of the operational German "weapons of vengeance", or
Vergeltungswaffen, the V1 was a pilotless, pioneering cruise missile
powered by a pulse-jet engine and carried an 850 kg
(1875 lb) high-explosive warhead. They had a range of up to
200 km. Nicknamed "buzz bombs" by Allied troops ("doodlebug" by
Australians) due to the sound they made.
V2 Rocket — Also known as the A4, the successor to the V1 was the
SRBM powered by liquid oxygen and alcohol, it
had a 975 kg (2150 lb) high-explosive warhead and a range of
V3 — long-range, smooth-bore multiple-chamber supergun nicknamed the
Hochdruckpumpe (high-pressure pump), designed to fire shells carrying
up to a 10 kg (22 lb) high-explosive warhead at a range of
93 km. It was never very successful as most installations were
destroyed by bombing before they could be used.
Verband — formation (from a battalion to a brigade).
Verbindungsoffizier — liaison officer
verdächtige Elemente/Personen — suspicious elements/persons.
Verfügungstruppen — "[Special] Disposal Troops"; SS combat units,
Waffen-SS in 1940.
Vergeltungsmaßnahmen — reprisals; retaliatory punitive measures.
Vernichtungskrieg — (1) "war of annihilation" against USSR
civilians; (2) dogmatic offensive.
Vernichtungslager — extermination camp.
Verpflegung - food supplies
Verräter — traitor.
"Verstanden" — procedure word; "understood", "roger".
Verstärkung — reinforcement.
Versuchs — experimental. Hence the "V" designation for any military
aircraft prototype for the
World War II
World War II era Luftwaffe. Originated by
the Fokker Flugzeugbau in 1916, solely for its own experimental
Versuchskonstruktion — prototype.
Verwendung — duty position
Veterinäroffizier — veterinarian officer
Vichy France — French regime set up in the city of
Marshal Philippe Petain in collaboration with the Germans following
the fall of France in 1940. It governed the southern half of France
until its dissolution in 1944.
Vierling — German for "quadruple", referring to any weapons mount
that used four machine guns or autocannon of the same make and model,
in a single traversable and elevatible mount, used as part of the name
for the Flakvierling quadmount 20mm anti-aircraft cannon system, and
the experimental HL 131V (Hecklafette 131-Vierling) tail turret,
MG 131 12.7mm machine guns in an enclosed, powered
defensive position for advanced German late-war bomber aircraft
Vizeadmiral — Naval rank of Vice Admiral
völkisch — popular, in the sense of "of the (German) populace." An
adjective derived from "Volk" meaning "people," coming from the
racist, nationalist ideology that divided people into "pure" Aryans
and inferior Untermenschen.
Volksdeutsche — ethnic Germans.
Volksgemeinschaft — national community or civilian population;
public support (see Kameradschaft).
Volksgrenadier — "People's Infantryman", a morale-building honorific
given to low-grade infantry divisions raised or reconstituted in the
last months of the war.
Volkskrieg — "People's War".
Volkssturm — people's semi-military defense force, made up mostly of
boys and older men.
Volkstumskampf — ethnic struggle.
Vorausabteilung — advance detachment
Vorgeschobener Beobachter — forward observer
Vorpostenboote (VP-boot) — coastal escort vessels and motor launches
with anti-submarine and minesweeping gear. Also called
Küstenfischkutter (KFK), as they were patrol vessels constructed to a
Wasserbombe (WaBo) —depth charge.
Wach- — guard (in conjunction).
Wachsamkeit — vigilance.
Wachtmeister — senior NCO (equivalent to Feldwebel) in cavalry and
Waffe (plural: Waffen) — "weapon", or can be an adjective meaning
Waffenamt — "weapons office" — arms inspection stamp or mark.
Waffenfarbe — arm of service colour
Waffen-SS — "Armed SS". The military combat branch of the SS that
was created in August 1940 with the amalgamation of the
Verfügungstruppe, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf
Hitler (LSSAH) and the
combat Standarten of the Totenkopfverbände.
Wagen — vehicle, car.
Wehrkraftzersetzung — undermining the fighting spirit of the troops.
Wehrkreis — German military district centered on an important city.
Wehrmacht — German armed forces under the
Third Reich consisting of
three branches: the Heer (Army), the
Luftwaffe (Air Force), and the
Kriegsmarine (Navy). The
Waffen-SS was a separate organization,
although SS combat units were usually placed under the operational
Army High Command (OKH) or
Wehrmacht High Command (OKW).
Wehrmachtbericht — a daily radio broadcast that described the
military situation on all fronts during World War II.
Wehrmachtführungsstab — Armed Forces Operations Staff.
Wehrmachtsadler — the Wehrmacht's eagle insignia.
Wehrmachtgefolge — Armed Forces Auxiliaries. These include those
organizations that were not a part of the armed forces but that served
such an important support role that they were given protection under
Geneva Convention and/or militarized. The armed forces auxiliaries
consisted in part of the Reichsarbeitsdienst, NSKK, Organisation Todt,
and the Volkssturm.
Wehrmachtskanister — Robust tank used to carry fuel. Called a
"Jerrycan" by the Allies.
Wehrpass — German military individual service record booklet.
Werkschutz — industrial plant protection service and security
Werwolf — German guerrilla fighters dedicated to harass Allied rear
areas. Initially conceived as an adjunct to the Jagd-Kommando units
and placed under the command of Otto Skorzeny, the idea was later
Joseph Goebbels to represent the general rising up of
the German people to defend against foreign invasion. It was not well
organized or widely effective, and there were only a few known
instances of involvement, mainly after the war ended and mostly in the
Wespe — "wasp", a self-propelled 105mm howitzer on PzKpfw II
Westen — west.
Wetterbeobachtungsschiff (WBS) — weather ship
Widerstandskräfte — insurgents (see Freischärler).
Wolf — the military designation name for a
Mercedes-Benz G-Class in
the German Bundeswehr.
Wolfsrudel — wolf pack, an anti-convoy tactic developed by Admiral
Dönitz prior to the war.
Wolfsschanze "Wolf's lair" lit. "Wolf's entrenchment" — Hitler's
World War II
World War II Eastern Front military headquarters, one of several
Headquarters or FHQs located in various parts of Europe. The
complex, built for
Operation Barbarossa (the 1941 German invasion of
the Soviet Union) was located in the Masurian woods, about 8
kilometres (5.0 mi) from Rastenburg,
East Prussia (N/K/A
Wotan — alternative name for the Y-Gerät radio navigation system.
Würzburg radar — German air defense radar that went into service in
1940; over 3,000 of all variants were built.
X-Gerät — "X-device" or "X-equipment"; radio navigation equipment
used on German aircraft.
Y-Beam — German aircraft navigational system that utilized a single
station that radiated a directional beam plus a ranging signal that
the bomber picked up and re-transmitted to enable the ground
controllers to compute the range and know when to order the bombs to
Y-Gerät — "Y-device" or "Y-equipment"; radio navigation equipment
used on German aircraft.
Z-Plan (or Plan-Z) was the name given to the re-equipment and
expansion of the
Nazi German Navy) as ordered by Adolf
Hitler on 27 January 1939. The plan called for 10 battleships, four
aircraft carriers, three battlecruisers, eight heavy cruisers, 44
light cruisers, 68 destroyers and 249 U-boats by 1944 that was meant
to challenge the naval power of the United Kingdom. The outbreak of
World War II
World War II in September 1939 came far too early to implement the
Z3 — pioneering computer developed by
Konrad Zuse in 1941, it was
destroyed by bombardment in 1944.
z.b.V. — see zur besonderen Verwendung.
Zeit — time.
Zeitplan — timetable, schedule.
Zeltbahn — a triangular or square shelter quarter made of closely
woven, water-repellent cotton duck. It could be used on its own as a
poncho or put together with others to create shelters and tents. Also
Zentralstelle II P — Central Office II P (Poland).
Zerstörer — destroyer, also the designation for a
fighter combat aircraft.
Ziel — target, objective.
Zimmerit — an anti-magnetic mine paste applied on the armour of
German tanks to prevent magnetic mines from being attached. It was
similar to cement, and was applied on the tanks with a rake, giving
the vehicle a rough appearance. From the summer of the 1943 to
Zimmerit became a standard characteristic on many German
Zossen — The underground bunker complex that was headquarters for
Wehrmacht (OKW) and (Heer)
Army High Command (OKH) located
approximately 20 miles west of Berlin in Zossen, Germany.
Zug — platoon or train.
Zugführer — platoon leader
Zugtruppführer — platoon HQ section leader
Zur besonderen Verwendung (z.b.V.) — for special employment.
Sometimes a killing squad/unit, but also used for divisions raised for
special reasons (e.g., the Division zbV Afrika).
Zyklon-B — commercial name for the prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid)
gas used in German extermination camps.
List of German military ranks
World War II
World War II German
Army Ranks and Insignia
Approximate ranks relative to US ranks:
Reichsmarschall – "Marshal of the Empire", the highest rank in the
German armed forces during
World War II
World War II (specifically created for
Hermann Göring to distinguish him from the other field marshals).
Equivalent to General of the Armies of the United States
Generalfeldmarschall – General of the
Army during World War II.
Generaloberst – General, literally "highest" or "supreme general",
usually translated "Colonel-general"; not used in the Bundeswehr
General der Infanterie, Kavallerie, etc. – General (before 1956
equivalent to US Lieutenant General)
Generalleutnant – Lieutenant-General (before 1956 equivalent to US
Generalmajor – Major-General (before 1956 equivalent to US Brigadier
Brigadegeneral – Brigadier General; not used prior to the Bundeswehr
Oberst – Colonel, literally "highest"
Oberstleutnant – Lieutenant Colonel
Major – Major
Rittmeister – Captain
Oberleutnant – First Lieutenant
Leutnant – (Second) Lieutenant
Oberstabsfeldwebel/Oberstabsbootsmann – (Senior NCO)
Stabsfeldwebel/Hauptbootsmann – Master Sergeant (Senior NCO)
Oberfeldwebel/Bootsmannsmaat – Technical Sergeant (Senior NCO)
Fähnrich/Oberfähnrich – no perfect equivalent. Senior Officer
Cadet with something like warrant officer status, used in functions
like Ensign, passed Midshipman or 2nd Lieutenant but not commissioned.
Fahnenjunker – no perfect equivalent. Most junior Officer Cadet with
sergeant (US) or corporal (UK) status.
Staff Sergeant (Senior NCO)
Unterfeldwebel – Sergeant; formerly called Sergeant prior to 1921
(not in use in the Bundeswehr)
Stabsunteroffizer/Obermaat (Junior NCO)
Unteroffizier/Maat – Corporal (Junior NCO) (since the Bundeswehr
more comparable to Petty Officer)
Oberstabsgefreiter – (enlisted personnel); not used prior to the
Stabsgefreiter – (enlisted personnel)
Hauptgefreiter – (enlisted personnel); not used prior to the
Obergefreiter – Lance Corporal (enlisted personnel). Historically,
and up until 1945, the rank of
Obergefreiter was considered in English
the equivalent to a British
Army Lance Corporal with seniority,
therefore named "Senior Lance Corporal", or rather
Second Corporal in
Gefreiter – Private First Class (enlisted personnel). Historically,
and up until 1945, the rank of
Gefreiter was considered in English the
equivalent to a British
Army Lance Corporal rank.
Oberschütze – Senior Rifleman. Historical rank used up until 1945,
not in use in the Bundeswehr.
Gemeiner – Private (enlisted personnel). Historically, and up until
1918, the rank of Gemeiner was ordinarily used for an enlisted soldier
of Private rank.
Grenadier/Schütze/Soldat/Matrose/Flieger/Sanitäter – Private
For additional comparisons, see Comparative military ranks of World
List of military operations
The German term for "Operation" is Unternehmen, literally
Adlerangriffe (Eagle Attack) series of raids against Royal Air Force
Adlertag — Eagle Day; day one of intense raiding against
August 1940 known as
Operation Eagle Attack
Operation Eagle Attack (postponed from 10
Anton — occupation of
Vichy France, November 1942; later known as
Atilla — occupation of
Vichy France, November 1942 (previously,
Aufbau Ost — Eastern Buildup; build-up of arms prior to the invasion
of the Soviet Union.
Barbarossa — invasion of the
Soviet Union in June 1941. Barbarossa,
or "Red Beard" was the nickname for Emperor Frederick I, who attempted
to unify Germanic states in the 12th century.
Bernhard — scheme to counterfeit British bank notes and put them
into circulation; begun in 1942.
Bodenplatte — Base Plate; air offensive against Allied airfields in
north-western Europe, New Year's Day 1945.
Eiche — Oak; mission to rescue
Benito Mussolini by Fallschirmjäger
led by Skorzeny.
Eisenhammer - Iron Hammer, planned strategic bombing raid on Soviet
electric power generation water turbines, potentially knocking out
three-quarters of all western Soviet electrical generation capacity,
never carried out
Fall Blau - Case Blue; summer offensive in Southern Russia.
Fall Gelb — Case Yellow; invasion of the Netherlands,
Fall Grün — Case Green; intended invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Fall Rot — Case Red; counterstrike against France in the event of an
attack from the West.
Fall Weiß — Case White; invasion of Poland.
Felix — plan to capture
Gibraltar in 1941. It never took place.
Fischfang — Fish Trap; counterattack on the Allied beachhead at
Anzio in February 1944.
Greif — Griffin; dropping of English-speaking troops wearing
American uniforms behind the Allied lines in the Ardennes, prior to
the Battle of the Bulge.
Herbstnebel — Autumn Mist; offensive in the Ardennes, December 1944.
Better known as the Battle of the Ardennes.
Herkules — projected invasion of Malta by
Fallschirmjäger and the
Navy. Never executed.
Kathrin — Plan to help the Irish Republican
Army to commit terrorism
and disrupt British internal security.
Merkur — Mercury (the planet or the Roman god, not the metal);
airborne invasion of Crete 1941.
Nordlicht — Northern Lights; attack on Leningrad in 1942.
Nordwind — North Wind; counteroffensive in Alsace and Lorraine in
Panzerfaust — Armored Fist; the October 1944 mission to kidnap
Miklós Horthy Jr, son of Hungarian Regent Admiral Miklós Horthy.
Paukenschlag — Drumroll or Drumbeat; offensive against Allied
shipping in US and
Caribbean waters in the first half of 1942.
U-boat operation involving U-202 and U-548 setting 8
agents ashore in the USA in June 1942.
Reinhard — covername for the entire process of building
extermination camps, deportation of Jews first to ghettos, then to the
concentration camps for extermination and incineration. Named for SD
chief Reinhard Heydrich.
Seelöwe — Sea Lion; projected amphibious assault on Great Britain
in 1940/41. It never took place.
Steinbock - the German
Luftwaffe bomber offensive against England from
late January through the end of May 1944
Stösser — parachute drop on evening of 16 December 1944; purpose
was to seize a crossroads for
Kampfgruppe Peiper during the Germans'
Strafgericht — "punishment" air attacks on Belgrade, April 1941.
Taifun — Typhoon; push towards
Moscow in September 1941.
Tannenbaum — "fir-tree"; projected invasion of
Switzerland in 1940.
Never carried out.
Tiger — advance through the
Maginot Line on the French border in
Wacht am Rhein — "Guard on the Rhine"; the December 1944 Ardennes
offensive, known by Americans as the Battle of the Bulge.
Walküre — Valkyrie Officially a Reserve
Army contingency plan to
restore law and order in the event a disruption caused by the Allied
bombing of German cities caused a breakdown in law and order, or a
rising by the millions of forced laborers German factories. Was, in
fact, a major part of the failed
July 20 Plot
July 20 Plot to arrest SS and other
Nazi officials and seize control of the German government.
Weserübung — Weser Exercise (commonly, Water Exercise); invasion of
Denmark and Norway, 9 April 1940
Wintergewitter — Winter Gale; unsuccessful attempt to relieve the
Stalingrad in December 1942.
Zitadelle — Citadel; attack on Soviet salient at Kursk, July 1943.
Weimar paramilitary groups
Ranks and Insignia of the German
Army in World War II
Ranks and insignia of the Schutzstaffel
Comparative military ranks of World War II
List of SS personnel
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