Hitler’s Wehrmacht

German Armed Forces in Support of the Führer

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About the Book

On August 2, 1934, Hitler required all members of Germany’s re-emerging military to take an oath of allegiance to his regime. As the war progressed and Hitler’s commands became more erratic and less humanitarian, his better generals were left to a moral predicament—live up to their oath and follow the questionable commands of the Führer or violate their oath and, consequently, one of their most basic beliefs. Through a critical examination of memoirs, postwar trial testimony and peer analysis, this volume explores the motivation behind the Wehrmacht leadership’s support of Hitler.

Beginning with the atmosphere prevalent in post–World War I Germany, the book details the conditions and mindset which left the whole country—and the military in particular—ready for someone with Hitler’s charisma. The author uses contemporary sources to delve into the almost incomprehensible reasoning behind the loyalty of Hitler’s chief lieutenants. These include the possibility of personal gain, the natural culmination of their chosen career, and Napoleonic dreams spurred on by Germany’s initial victory in Poland. Those who apparently attempted, to no avail, to dissuade Hitler from his course of action are also discussed. The appendices contain a list of postwar indictments; a chronology of the Third Reich; information regarding treaties and agreements; and comparative army ranks.

About the Author(s)

The late James Steiner, a naval officer and World War II veteran, was a weapons systems manager and engineer. He lived in Encino, California.

Bibliographic Details

James Steiner
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: 19 photos, 8 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013 [2008]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7505-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
List of Maps and Figures      1
Preface      3
Introduction      5

1. The Interwar Years: Foundation of the Third Reich      7
2. Military Reaction to Hitler as Chancellor: Leadership Changes Produce a Reliable Team      15
3. An Emerging Wehrmacht Upsets Versailles: Promises of Restored Sovereignty Are Persuasive      24
4. Conspiracy to Make War: Hitler Overcomes Officer Corps Opposition      33
5. The Anschluss/Czech Transition: The Pan-German Era Brings Expanded Military Opportunity      42
6. The Inevitable Hot War: Poland’s Rapid Defeat Leads to Wehrmacht Hubris      53
7. Phony War and Attack on France: Rapid Victory Keeps the Military Interested      61
8. Interlude after France Falls: The Führer Seeks Additional Victories—But Where?      72
9. The Russian Quagmire: Wehrmacht Doubts Grow as the Leadership Sees the Apogee      78
10. The U-boat Versus Surface Ship War: Initial Victories, Then Heavy Losses, Concern the Forces      94
11. The Africa-Italy Campaigns: Victory Becomes Tenuous      100
12. Aftermath in Italy: Defeat Impacts the Once-Aggressive Wehrmacht      108
13. Invasion: The Tables of Victory Begin to Turn      112
14. Hitler as Commander-in-Chief: Revealing a Disjointed Organization Command      121
15. A Futile Pursuit of Freedom: Support for the Führer Wanes at the Top      132
16. Aggression’s Price: Twelve Years of Rampage Have a Cost      139

Conclusion: The Military’s Napoleonic Dreams Lead to Catastrophe      152
Appendix A. International Military Tribunal Indictments      167
Appendix B. Chronology of the Third Reich      168
Appendix C. Treaties and Agreements      171
Appendix D. Comparative Army Ranks      173
Appendix E. Definitions      174
Appendix F. Significant Figures      175
Chapter Notes      179
Bibliography      189
Index      193