Reichswehr (English: Realm Defence) formed the military
organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was united with
Wehrmacht (Defence Force).
2 State within the state
3 Creation of the Wehrmacht
4 See also
6 External links
At the end of World War I, the forces of the
German Empire had mostly
split up, the men making their way home individually or in small
groups. Many of them joined the
Freikorps (Free Corps), a collection
of volunteer paramilitary units that were involved in suppressing the
German Revolution and border clashes between 1918 and 1923.
Reichswehr was limited to a standing army of 100,000 men, and a
navy of 15,000. The establishment of a general staff was prohibited.
Heavy weapons such as artillery above the calibre of 105 mm (for
naval guns, above 205 mm), armoured vehicles, submarines and
capital ships were forbidden, as were aircraft of any kind. Compliance
with these restrictions was monitored until 1927 by the Military
Inter-Allied Commission of Control.
It was conceded that the newly formed
Weimar Republic did need a
military, so on 6 March 1919 a decree established the Vorläufige
Reichswehr (Provisional National Defence), consisting of the
Reichsheer (Provisional National Army) and Vorläufige
Reichsmarine (Provisional National Navy). The Vorläufige Reichswehr
was made up of 43 brigades.
On 30 September 1919, the army was reorganised as the Übergangsheer
(Transitional Army), and the force size was reduced to 20 brigades.
About 400,000 men were left in the armed forces.and In May 1920 it
further was downsized to 200,000 men and restructured again, forming
three cavalry divisions and seven infantry divisions. On 1 October
1920 the brigades were replaced by regiments and the manpower was now
only 100,000 men as stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles. This
lasted until 1 January 1921, when the
Reichswehr was officially
established according to the limitations imposed by the Treaty of
Versailles (Articles 159 to 213).
Reichswehr was a unified organisation composed of the following
(as was allowed by the Versailles Treaty):
The Reichsheer, an army consisting of:
seven infantry divisions, and
three cavalry divisions.
General Command 1 at
Berlin supervised 1st Division (Königsberg), 2nd
Division (Stettin), 3rd Division (Berlin), and 4th Division (Dresden)
as well as 1st and 2nd
Cavalry Divisions (
Frankfurt an der Oder
Frankfurt an der Oder and
General Command 2 at Kassel supervised 5, 6, 7 and 3rd Cavalry
divisions (Stuttgart, Münster, Munich, and Weimar).
The Reichsmarine, a navy with a limited number of certain types of
ships and boats. No submarines were allowed.
Reichswehr soldiers in a military exercise, September 1930
Despite the limitations on its size, their analysis of the loss of
World War I, research and development, secret testing abroad (in
co-operation with the Red Army) and planning for better times went on.
In addition, although forbidden to have a general staff, the army
continued to conduct the typical functions of a general staff under
the disguised name of
Truppenamt (Troop Office). During this time,
many of the future leaders of the
Wehrmacht — such as Heinz Guderian
— first formulated the ideas that they were to use so effectively a
few years later.
State within the state
In 1918, Wilhelm Groener,
Quartermaster General of the German Army,
had assured the government of the military's loyalty. But most
military leaders refused to accept the democratic
Weimar Republic as
legitimate and instead the
Reichswehr under the leadership of Hans von
Seeckt became a state within the state that operated largely outside
of the control of the politicians. Reflecting this position as a
“state within the state”, the
Reichswehr created the Ministeramt
or Office of the Ministerial Affairs in 1928 under Kurt von Schleicher
to lobby the politicians. The German historian
Eberhard Kolb wrote
…from the mid-1920s onwards the
Army leaders had developed and
propagated new social conceptions of a militarist kind, tending
towards a fusion of the military and civilian sectors and ultimately a
totalitarian military state (Wehrstaat).
The biggest influence on the development of the
Reichswehr was Hans
von Seeckt (1866–1936), who served from 1920 to 1926 as Chef der
Heeresleitung (Chief of the
Army Command) - succeeding Walther
Reinhardt. After the Kapp Putsch,
Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt took over this post.
After Seeckt was forced to resign in 1926,
Wilhelm Heye took the post.
Heye was in 1930 succeeded by Kurt Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord,
who submitted his resignation on 27 December 1933.
The forced reduction of strength of the German army from 4,500,000 in
1918 to 100,000 after Treaty of Versailles, enhanced the quality of
Reichsheer because only the best were permitted to join the
army.. However the changing face of warfare meant
that the smaller army was impotent without mechanised and air support,
no matter how much effort was put into modernising infantry tactics.
During 1933 and 1934, after
Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany,
Reichswehr began a secret program of expansion. In December 1933,
the army staff decided to increase the active strength to 300,000 men
in 21 divisions. On 1 April 1934, between 50,000 and 60,000 new
recruits entered and were assigned to special training battalions. The
original seven infantry divisions of the
Reichswehr were expanded to
21 infantry divisions, with Wehrkreis headquarters increased to the
size of a corps HQ on 1 October 1934. These divisions used cover
names to hide their divisional size, but, during October 1935, these
were dropped. Also, during October 1934, the officers who had been
forced to retire in 1919 were recalled; those who were no longer fit
for combat were assigned to administrative positions - releasing fit
officers for front-line duties. 
Creation of the Wehrmacht
Reichswehr soldiers swear the
Hitler oath in August 1934, with hands
raised in the traditional schwurhand gesture
After the Nazi takeover, in which the
Sturmabteilung (Storm Battalion
or SA), the Nazi Party militia, played a prominent part, Ernst Röhm
and his SA colleagues thought of their force – at that time over
three million strong – as the future army of Germany, replacing the
Reichswehr and its professional officers, whom they viewed as old
fogies who lacked revolutionary spirit. Röhm wanted to be made
Minister of Defense and in February 1934, demanded that the much
Reichswehr be merged into the SA, to form a true people's
army. This alarmed both political and military leaders and to
forestall the possibility of a coup, Hitler sided with conservative
leaders and the military. Röhm and the leadership of the SA were
murdered, along with many other political adversaries of the Nazis,
Reichswehr generals, in the Night of the Long Knives.
The secret programme of expansion by the military finally became
public in 1935. On 1 March 1935 the
Luftwaffe was established. On 16
March 1935 conscription was introduced in Germany in violation of the
Treaty of Versailles. In the same act, the
Reichswehr was renamed
Wehrmacht ("defence force"). On 1 June 1935 the
Reichsheer was renamed
the Heer (army) and the
Reichsmarine the Kriegsmarine.
Military of Germany portal
Ministry of the Reichswehr
Weimar paramilitary groups
^ Darman, Peter, ed. (2007). "Introduction: Deutschland Erwache".
World War II A Day-By-Day History (60th Anniversary ed.). China: The
Brown Reference Group plc. p. 10; 575.
ISBN 978-0-7607-9475-3. The Reichswehr, the 100,000 man
post-Versailles Treaty German Army, was forced to train with dummy
^ a b c Axis History Factbook, Introduction to the Reichswehr,
accessed July 2015.
^ Haskew, Michael, The Wehrmacht, Amber Books Ltd. 2011, p. 13
^ Haskew, The Wehrmacht, p. 13
^ Porter, David, The Kriegsmarine, Amber Books Ltd. 2010, p. 11
^ Wheeler-Bennett, J.W. (1967). Hindenburg: The Wooden Titan. Palgrave
Macmillan. pp. 207–208.
^ William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History
of Nazi Germany, New York, NY, Simon & Schuster, 2011, p. 54
^ Kolb, Eberhard The
Weimar Republic London: Routledge, 2005, p. 172
^ Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967,
^ Kolb, Eberhard The
Weimar Republic London: Routledge, 2005, p. 173.
^ Robert B. Kane, Disobedience and Conspiracy in the German Army
1918–1945, 102. See also Robert J. O'Neill, The
German Army and the
Nazi Party 1933–39, London, 1968, pp. 91–92.
^ Stone, David J. (2006) Fighting for the Fatherland: The Story of the
German Soldier from 1648 to the Present Day, p. 450.
^ Stone says 21 May; Fighting for the Fatherland, p. 316.
Deist, Wilhelm; Messerschmidt, Manfred; Volkmann, Hans-Erich; Wette,
Wolfram (1990). VOLUME I The Build-up of German Aggression. Das
Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg [Germany and the Second World
War]. I. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt GmbH.
Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John (2005) The Nemesis of Power:
German Army in
Politics, 1918–1945 New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishing Company.
Peter Keller (2014) "Die
Wehrmacht der Deutschen Republik ist die
Reichswehr". Die deutsche Armee 1918-1921 Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand
Axis History Factbook — Reichswehr
Feldgrau's overview of the Reichswehr
The Archives of technical Manuals 1900–1945 (includes the