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Military History German Army, 1871-1945
by
Jeff Rutherford

Introduction

From the founding of Bismarck’s Reich to the Gotterdämmerung of the Third Reich, the Prusso-German army proved to be perhaps the most enduring and important institution within the German state. Scholarly research on the army has followed three primary themes. First, its purely military exploits have generated numerous monographs, ranging from overviews of wars and campaigns to the development of its operational and tactical doctrine; its struggles with and exploitation of technology also fall within this type of analysis. Since the 1980s, this nearly exclusive focus on field marshals and their battles––a “chaps and maps” approach––has expanded to one that includes other aspects of the military experience, including the army’s politics and the mentalities of its soldiers. The former concerns the army’s relationship to state and society. While armies around the world have been subjected to this type of scrutiny, historians have particularly investigated the political machinations of the German army as it played such a pivotal role in three very different political systems––the monarchial Reich of Bismarck and Wilhelm II, the democracy of Weimar, and the Nazi dictatorship. In addition to its position within the state, the army’s relationship with society has also engendered scholarly attention as the age of total war demanded increasing army intervention on the home front. The third and most recent avenue of inquiry has focused on how individual soldiers experienced and understood the wars that they fought. Though such an analysis originally examined how soldiers withstood the rigors of industrialized war, the primary emphasis now attempts to unearth the ideological commitment of soldiers to their state and how this informed their actions during wartime. While both the Franco-Prussian War and World War I are receiving more attention from this perspective, the Schwerpunkt of this research has concentrated on the Wehrmacht during World War II.

General Overviews

Craig 1964 and Ritter 1970–1973 offer the most comprehensive political analyses of the German army from a liberal and conservative perspective, respectively. Citino 2005 provides the best purely military history of the army, while Kitchen 1975 expertly melds the two approaches. Wallach 1986 offers a penetrating analysis of the development of German operational thought and practice. The period stretching from 1914 to 1945 receives strong coverage in Geyer 1986, an outstanding interpretive essay. Specific areas such as the historical development both of the officer corps and armament policies are covered in Demeter 1965 and Geyer 1984, respectively.

  • Citino, Robert. The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years’ War to the Third Reich. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005.

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    In lively prose, Citino traces the long-term patterns and thinking that animated German military practice from the mid-17th century to the final destruction of the German Reich in 1945, persuasively identifying the threads of a German way of war. Appropriate for undergraduate students.

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  • Craig, Gordon. The Politics of the Prussian Army: 1640–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964.

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    Despite being dated in some of its interpretations, this remains the standard examination of the Prusso-German army from 1871 to 1945. Craig expertly details the army’s increasingly pernicious effect on the political and social evolution of the German state.

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  • Demeter, Karl. The German Officer-Corps in State and Society, 1650–1945. Translated by Angus Malcolm. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1965.

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    Originally published in 1962 as Das deutsche Offizierkorps in Gesellschaft und Staat, 1650–1945 (Frankfurt am Main: Bernard & Graefe), this study examines the long-term development of a “German” officer corps. While the sections on the Weimar and Nazi periods have been superseded, Demeter’s earlier examinations remain useful.

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  • Geyer, Michael. Deutsche Rüstungspolitik 1860–1980. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1984.

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    Broad survey of German armament policies that places them in the context not only of the international constellation but also within the shifting domestic terrains.

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  • Geyer, Michael. “German Strategy in the Age of Machine Warfare, 1914–1945.” In Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Edited by Peter Paret, 527–597. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

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    Geyer’s innovative and extremely suggestive essay examines the development of German military thinking during the era of total war. The army’s evolution from an important component of the Reich’s leadership into a technocratic organization whose focus narrowed to mere operational and tactical thought constitutes an important theme in the essay.

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  • Kitchen, Martin. A Military History of Germany: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975.

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    Kitchen places military issues and operations within the context of larger political, social, and economic developments. While not as comprehensive on the evolution of military doctrine and battlefield experiences as Citino 2005, it provides much more detail on the integration of German military history into German history as a whole.

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  • Ritter, Gerhard. The Sword and the Sceptre: The Problem of Militarism in Germany. Translated by Heinz Norden. 4 vols. London: Lane, 1970–1973.

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    Originally published as Staatskunst und Kriegshandwerk: Das Problem des “Militarismus” in Deutschland between 1959 and 1968 (Munich: Oldenbourg), Ritter’s first volume covers the period from 1740 to 1890, while the remaining three analyze the years 1890 to 1914. Provides an examination of the German army from a conservative viewpoint.

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  • Wallach, Jehuda. The Dogma of the Battle of Annihilation: The Theories of Clausewitz and Schlieffen and Their Impact on the German Conduct of Two World Wars. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1986.

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    An analysis of how the ideas of Clausewitz and Schlieffen both complemented and contrasted one another during German experiences during the two world wars. Highlights the army’s shift toward Schlieffen’s focus on operations at the expense of politics and the catastrophic results of this development.

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Anthologies

Deist 1991 covers specific topics of the 1871–1945 period in real depth, while Deist 1985 focuses on the period of 1914–1945. Wette 1992 is a pioneering collection that allows the voices of the soldiers at the “sharp end” to be heard.

  • Deist, Wilhelm, ed. The German Military in the Age of Total War. Leamington Spa, UK, and Dover, NH: Berg, 1985.

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    This volume makes the major findings of the Militärgeschichtliche Forschungsamt (Military History Research Section or MGFA) accessible to an English-language audience. The chapters by Förster, Kroener, Messerschmidt, Geyer, and Schreiber are all innovative and thought-provoking selections.

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  • Deist, Wilhelm. Militär, Staat und Gesellschaft: Studien zur preußisch-deutschen Militärgeschichte. Munich: Oldenbourg, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1524/9783486595673Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This volume contains the seminal articles of perhaps the foremost scholar of the modern German military. Ranging from essays examining the imperial German officer corps to ones examining the increasingly ideological manner in which the German state approached war, this volume is required reading for those interested in the Reich’s military.

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  • Wette, Wolfram, ed. Der Krieg des Kleinen Mannes: Eine Militärgeschicte von Unten. Munich: Piper, 1992.

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    A solid collection of essays that examine how ordinary German soldiers experienced war from the mid-17th to the late 20th centuries. Of special interest are the sections on the First and Second World Wars and especially the contributions by Deist, Ulrich, and Shröder.

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Bibliographies

Showalter 1984 provides the most comprehensive general survey of the literature, though the numerous insights within Geyer 1978 make it a valuable complement. Müller and Ueberschär 2009 is simply the best guide to the voluminous literature regarding the German-Soviet war.

  • Geyer, Michael. “Die Geschichte des deutschen Militärs von 1860–1945: Ein Bericht über die Forschungslage (1945 bis 1975). In Special Issue: Die modern deutsche Geschichte in der internationalen Forschung. Edited by Hans-Ulrich Wehler. Geschichte und Gesellschaft 4 (1978): 256–286.

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    Comprehensive survey of published work on the German military since the conclusion of World War II.

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  • Müller, Rolf-Dieter, and Gerd R. Ueberschär. Hitler’s War in the East, 1941–1945: A Critical Assessment. 3d ed. New York and London: Berghahn, 2009.

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    Originally published as Hitlers Krieg im Osten 1941–1945: Ein Forschungsbericht (Darmstadt : Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2000), this volume provides a broad overview of the Nazi-Soviet war. The authors examine the entirety of the German army’s campaign in the Soviet Union, including military operations, the ideological basis of the conflict, and the evolution and goals of the occupation.

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  • Showalter, Dennis. German Military History, 1648–1982. New York: Garland, 1984.

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    A lively and comprehensive examination of the published literature––both primary and secondary––that not only serves as an excellent introduction to German military history but also is an important research tool.

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Journals

Several historical journals provide extensive coverage of the German military experience between 1871 and 1945. In German, the most important are Militärgeschichtliche Zeitschrift and Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte. In English, both War in History and the Journal of Military History regularly publish articles dealing with German military history.

The Franco-Prussian War

While Howard 2001 long remained the standard interpretation of the conflict, Wawro 2005 now holds pride of place as the most concise and readable overview of the war. Bucholz 2001 and Showalter 2004 put the conflict into the larger contexts of the wars of unification and the 18th century, respectively. The tactical innovations of the period are covered in Haselhorst, et al. 2009, while Showalter 1975 expertly details the importance of technology in the Prussian triumphs. Stoneman 2001 analyzes how Bavarian troops dealt both with occupation and the threat of irregular warfare in France. Röhkramer 2002 provides an effective complement to Stoneman 2001 by investigating the attitudes of soldiers toward French civilians.

  • Bucholz, Arden. Moltke and the German Wars, 1864–1871. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.

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    Bucholz, perhaps the English-speaking world’s foremost authority on Moltke and his influence first on Prussian and later German military developments, details the importance of the General Staff system for German success during the wars of unification.

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  • Haselhorst, Olaf, Jan Gaschow, and Maik Ohenzeit, eds. Der Deutsch-Französische Krieg 1870/71: Vorgeschichte, Verlauf, Folgen. Graz, Austria: Ares Verlag, 2009.

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    A recent treatment whose title promises a bit more than it delivers. Haselhorst’s two chapters on operations and tactics as well as Gaschow’s examination of international law during the conflict are useful contributions to the literature.

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  • Howard, Michael. The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France, 1870–1871. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2001.

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    First published in 1961 (New York: Macmillan), Howard’s work is the classic study of the Franco-Prussian War. Exhaustive in scope and detail, though dated in sections, this would be more useful for graduate-level classes.

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  • Röhkramer, Thomas. “Daily Life at the Front and the Concept of Total War.” In On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861–1871. Edited by Stig Förster and Jorg Nagler, 497–518. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    Eschewing the usual top-down approach to the Franco-Prussian War, Röhkramer focuses on how Prussian and other German soldiers experienced the war. The essay highlights the contradictory nature of the conflict as it toggled back and forth between a traditional European conflict and one that verged on total war.

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  • Showalter, Dennis. Railroads and Rifles: Soldiers, Technology and the Unification of Germany. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1975.

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    A groundbreaking study when first published, Showalter examines how the Prussian military dealt with the technological advances of the mid-19th century both before and during the wars of unification.

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  • Showalter, Dennis. The Wars of German Unification. London: Hodder Arnold, 2004.

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    Places the wars of unification into the larger political and social context of the 18th century while retaining a focus on the military developments of the era.

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  • Stoneman, Mark R. “The Bavarian Army and French Civilians in the War of 1870–1871: A Cultural Interpretation.” War in History 8 (2001): 273–293.

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    Stoneman provides a thoughtful account of the interaction between Bavarian troops and French civilians, by examining such diffuse issues as logistics, gender, and the importance of “citizen soldiers.” Persuasively places the Bavarian experience of war into the larger context of the Prusso-German military tradition of the 20th century.

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  • Wawro, Geoffrey. The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870–1871. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    A fresh, well-written account that expertly details the development of the conflict from the traditional “cabinet war” to the first rumblings of total war in a manner appropriate both for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students.

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The Ascendency of Moltke, Schlieffen, and the General Staff

Following the unification of Bismarck’s Reich, the German army became one of the most important components of the new German state. The army played a major role in maintaining the conservative settlement that served as the basis for the German Empire, as its officer corps attempted to secure its social and political power against liberal and socialist challenges. According to some historians, this reactionary political view negatively affected the army’s ability to master the new challenges of technological advancement, while other scholars have argued that the Germans remained at the forefront of tactical innovation in the era preceding World War I. Despite this checkered relationship with modern weaponry, the army and its General Staff––personified by the two titans of the imperial army, Helmuth von Moltke and Alfred von Schlieffen––served as the model for the remainder of the world. The army’s operations during this era were limited to colonial actions, but these nonetheless pointed toward more radical developments in the army’s future practices.

Technology and the Development of Tactical Doctrine

The question of how progressive or reactionary the German army was in the face of the ever-increasing technological developments of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has been one of the most stridently debated in the literature. Storz 1992 and Raths 2009 sit at one end of the spectrum, arguing that the German army dealt with these challenges in a successful way, while Jackman 2004 and Brose 2004 take a more critical view of the army’s effectiveness in modifying their tactical approaches. On the other end of the spectrum, Schulte 1977 claims that the conservatism rampant within the German officer corps led to a tactically regressive, yet politically obedient force.

  • Brose, Eric Dorn. The Kaiser’s Army: The Politics of Military Technology in Germany during the Machine Age, 1870–1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Dorn updates the examination in Showalter 1975 (cited under The Franco-Prussian War) of the Prusso-German army, with a first-rate analysis of the tension between modernizers and more conservative officers in the army. Provides a necessary corrective to the once popularly held view that the German army substantially surpassed its British counterpart in understanding and applying modern technology to war.

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  • Jackman, Steven D. “Shoulder to Shoulder: Close Control and ‘Old Prussian Drill’ in German Offensive Infantry Tactics, 1871–1914.” Journal of Military History 68 (2004): 73–104.

    DOI: 10.1353/jmh.2003.0384Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Through an analysis of the cultural elements of conservatism and their effects on the army’s tactical evolution, Jackman argues that while military thinkers did recognize the necessity for tactical innovation and did implement battlefield reforms, these were constrained by the cultural, social, and political conservatism of the German officer corps.

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  • Raths, Ralf. Vom Massensturm zur Stoßtrupptaktik: Die deutsche Landkriegtaktik im Spiegel von Dienstvorschriften und Publizistik 1906 bis 1918. Freiburg, Germany: Rombach, 2009.

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    Raths convincingly argues that many of the elements that would make World War I so challenging from a military perspective were already being discussed and thought about during the prewar era; hence, wartime developments should be seen as part of a larger evolutionary process.

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  • Schulte, Bernd F. Die deutsche Armee 1900–1914: Zwischen Beharren u. Verandern. Düsseldorf: Drost, 1977.

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    Based on extensive archival research, Schulte persuasively argues that the reactionary military leadership looked to secure its power and status by constructing a force that could be counted on to blindly follow its officers in case of domestic uprisings by the revolutionary left at the expense of progressive tactical thinking.

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  • Storz, Dieter. Kriegsbild und Rüstung vor 1914: Europaische Landstreitkrafte vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg. Bonn and Berlin: E. S. Mittler & Sohn, 1992.

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    If Schulte 1977 provided the strongest and most cogent argument concerning the German army’s conservative leanings, Storz provided the most compelling and sweeping rebuttal, claiming that the prewar German army proved the most progressive of all major European armies in understanding both the potential and problems associated with industrialized warfare.

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The General Staff and Military Thought, 1871–1914

Historians have written numerous studies on the two towering figures of the German army during this period: Helmuth von Moltke and Alfred von Schlieffen. Two of the most prominent on Moltke are Kessel 1957, which is a biography, and Bucholz 1991, which examines both Moltke and Schlieffen within the context of the bureaucratization of the General Staff. Rothenberg 1986 concisely analyzes the German emphasis on encirclement operations. The debate over the existence and importance of the Schlieffen Plan is encapsulated in the diametrically opposed Zuber 2003 and Ehlert, et al. 2006. Both Echevarria 2001 and Förster 1995 look at German military thinkers who presciently foresaw the lengthy course of the coming war.

  • Bucholz, Arden. Moltke, Schlieffen, and Prussian War Planning. New York: Berg, 1991.

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    Using organizational theory and historical analysis, Bucholz provides a detailed account of the evolution of Prussian war planning under the leadership of Moltke and Schlieffen. His primary focus is directed toward how the General Staff developed as a modern institution while still operating within the context of a conservative society.

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  • Echevarria, Antulio J., II. After Clausewitz: German Military Thinkers before the Great War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

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    This stimulating book highlights several important military thinkers within the Kaiserheer who understood the new realities of warfare created by industrialization and its consequent technological change. This convincing revisionist view of the imperial army’s intellectual culture should be read in concert with Brose 2004 and Schulte 1977 (both cited under Technology and the Development of Tactical Doctrine).

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  • Ehlert, Hans, Michael Epkenhans, and Gerhard P. Gross. Der Schlieffenplan: Analysen und Dokumenten. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2006.

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    Forceful rejoinder to Zuber 2003 on the existence of the Schlieffen Plan as the guiding principle of German prewar planning and of actual operations during the conflict.

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  • Förster, Stig. “Der deutsche Generalstab und die Illusion des kurzen Krieges, 1871–1914: Metakritik eines Mythos.” Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen 54 (1995): 61–95.

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    In contrast to the popularly held notion that all European militaries expected the war to be over by Christmas 1914, Förster provides evidence that some officers within the German army not only realized that the war could prove to be lengthy but also that victory would prove beyond German means.

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  • Kessel, Eberhard. Moltke. Stuttgart: Koehler, 1957.

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    This massive tome remains the standard biography of Moltke long after its initial publication in the mid-20th century. Based on archival materials destroyed during the war, Kessel skillfully portrays a man who belonged to the 19th century yet helped usher in the total war that characterized the 20th century.

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  • Rothenberg, Gunther E. “Moltke, Schlieffen, and the Doctrine of Strategic Envelopment.” In Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Edited by Peter Paret, 296–325. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

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    A concise summary of the development of military thinking in Germany under Moltke and Schlieffen, with an emphasis on the army’s increasing fascination and reliance on large encirclement battles.

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  • Zuber, Terence. Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning, 1871–1914. New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Based on newly available archival material found in the former Soviet Union, Zuber’s highly polemical but nonetheless trenchant analysis of the Schlieffen Plan presents a compelling case for the infamous Schlieffen Plan being nothing more than a bogeyman created in the postwar period.

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The Army’s Relationship to State and Society

Messerschmidt 1975 emphasizes the army’s peculiar position in imperial Germany, while Hull 2005 stresses that this relative independence led the army to embrace violence as the solution to its operational and tactical problems. Förster 1985 portrays the army as a conservative institution caught between the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and other left-leaning political parties and the political pressure groups that sprung up on the nationalist left. The assessment in Kitchen 1968 of the officer corps as an increasingly anachronistic caste follows this line of thought. Showalter 2000 analyzes the strategic predicament that faced a conservative-based force in the age of industrialized mass armies. Kirn 2009 examines the everyday lives of soldiers from Württemberg, while Stein 2007 offers a fresh interpretation of German armament policies in the prewar period.

  • Förster, Stig. Der doppelte Militarismus: Die deutsche Heersrustüngspolitik zwischen Status-Quo-Sicherung und Aggression 1890–1913. Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1985.

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    Förster examines the tensions caused by the interplay of the officer corps’ traditional militarism and a more aggressive version advocated by nationalist pressure groups and concludes that the army’s attempts to exert total control over issues of rearmament and expansion only exacerbated an already tense international situation.

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  • Hull, Isabel. Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.

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    Hull convincingly argues that the German army’s independent standing within the German state led it to develop a unique military culture that pursued increasingly violent solutions to strategic problems. Conceptually innovative and tightly argued, this monograph works well both in upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level classes.

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  • Kirn, Daniel. Soldatenleben in Württemberg 1871–1914: Zur Sozialgeschichte des deutschen Militärs. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2009.

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    In contrast to the usual focus on Prussian officers, Kirn shifts the focus to Württemberg and its enlisted men. Examines their experience of life in the army during a time of peace.

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  • Kitchen, Martin. The German Officer Corps, 1890–1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.

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    Set within the volatile political and social atmosphere of Wilhelmine Germany, Kitchen portrays an increasingly isolated officer corps struggling to maintain its conservative identity in the face of liberal and socialist challenges. Also highlights the increasing distance between generals and diplomats.

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  • Messerschmidt, Manfred. Militär und Politik in der Bismarckzeit und im Wilhelminischen Deutschland. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1975.

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    One of the true deans of German military history, Messerschmidt’s classic treatment of the imperial army focuses on its role in politics and society between unification and the outbreak of World War I.

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  • Showalter, Dennis. “From Deterrence to Doomsday Machine: The German Way of War, 1890–1914.” Journal of Military History 64 (2000): 679–710.

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    In a wide-ranging overview of German military developments, Showalter details the evolution of the German military from a force that won limited wars through the application of total methods to one that was forced to prepare for a total war that proved impossible to win due to deficiencies in manpower and equipment.

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  • Stein, Oliver. Die deutsche Heeresrüstungspolitik 1890–1914: Das Militär und der Primat der Politik. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2007.

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    Innovative study that examines the effects of armament policies on different “levels” of society––military and civilian––and the ebb and flow of armament production. Trenchant commentary on the relationship between the army and the Reich’s political leadership.

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Colonial Warfare

Hull 2005 places the German response to the Herero Revolt within the larger context of German military culture, while Trotha 1999 highlights the genocide of the Herero in German Southwest Africa. Bührer 2011 examines the intersection of German and African military cultures on the other side of the continent. Dabringhaus 1999 covers German participation in the multinational expedition to defeat the Boxers.

  • Bührer, Tanja. Die Kaiserliche Schutztruppe für Deutsch-Ostafrika: Koloniale Sicherheitspolitik und transkulturelle Kriegführung, 1885 bis 1918. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2011.

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    A pathbreaking study of how African notions of warfare influenced German units stationed in German East Africa; also examines the military-political conflict between German colonial authorities.

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  • Dabringhaus, Sabine. “An Army on Vacation? The German War in China, 1900–1901.” In Anticipating Total War: The German and American Experiences, 1871–1914. Edited by Manfred Boemeke, Roger Chickering, and Stig Förster, 459–476. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    An analysis of an often-neglected and important topic. Germany’s participation in the Boxer Rebellion highlighted its approach to colonial warfare and demonstrated the army’s resort to violence in response to irregular combat.

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  • Hull, Isabel. Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.

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    In addition to her focus on German military culture, Hull has produced a first-rate analysis of the German response to the Herero Revolt, based on exhaustive archival research.

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  • Trotha, Trutz von. “‘The Fellows Can Just Starve’: On Wars of ‘Pacification’ in the African Colonies of Imperial Germany and the Concept of ‘Total War.’” In Anticipating Total War: The German and American Experiences, 1871–1914. Edited by Manfred Boemeke, Roger Chickering, and Stig Förster, 415–436. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Trotha examines the German colonial campaign against the rebellious Herero and Nama in German Southwest Africa, which culminated in the genocide of natives living in the German colony. Highlights the violence employed by the German military in its attempt to crush the revolt.

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World War I

Herwig 1997 is the best survey of the German war effort, while Stone 2004 covers the eastern front in impressive detail. Herzfeld 1968 offers a German perspective of the conflict.

  • Herwig, Holger. The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914–1918. London: Edward Arnold, 1997.

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    Simply the best one-volume history of Germany’s and Austria-Hungary’s war effort. Based on a strong archival basis as well as a broad survey of the relevant literature, Herwig has produced a very readable examination of the Dual Power’s war. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level classes.

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  • Herzfeld, Hans. Der Erste Weltkrieg. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1968.

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    Though dated in many respects, still provides a solid and concise interpretation of the war.

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  • Stone, Norman. The Eastern Front, 1914–1917. 2d ed. London: Penguin, 2004.

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    First published in 1976, Stone’s examination of the neglected eastern front still remains the best overview of the theater. Suitable for upper-division undergraduate classes.

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Campaigns and Battles

For operations on the western front, Herwig 2009 admirably details the battle of the Marne. The terrible bloodletting at Verdun has been analyzed in Afflerbach 2000 from the perspective of Erich von Falkenhayn and, more comprehensively, by the gripping narrative and penetrating analysis in Foley 2005. The German reaction to the Somme offensive has been summarized in Foley 2011, while Erich Ludendorff’s 1918 attack has finally received scholarly treatment from Kitchen 2001. On the eastern front, Showalter 2004 expertly discusses the battle of Tannenberg and DiNardo 2010 has rescued the important Gorlice-Tarnow campaign from historical oblivion.

  • Afflerbach, Holger. “Planning Total War? Falkenhayn and the Battle of Verdun 1916.” In Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914–1918. Edited by Roger Chickering and Stig Förster, 113–132. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    For those without the ability to read German, this chapter provides a glimpse of Afflerbach’s much larger biographical treatment of Falkenhayn.

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  • DiNardo, Richard L. Breakthrough: The Gorlice-Tarnow Campaign, 1915. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2010.

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    An outstanding operational history of the primary eastern German offensive in 1915 that smashed the Russian Third Army and ripped open a large gap on the southern sector of the eastern front. An important contribution to the literature regarding the overshadowed eastern theater of war.

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  • Foley, Robert T. German Strategy and the Path to Verdun. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Using a mass of archival material thought lost during World War II until recently returned from the former Soviet Union, Foley’s investigation of the Verdun battle focuses on Falkenhayn and his favoring of attritional warfare. An extremely well-written narrative of the battle, complemented by strong analysis.

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  • Foley, Robert T. “Learning War’s Lessons: The German Army and the Battle of the Somme 1916.” Journal of Military History 75 (2011): 471–504.

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    Through the use of German after-action reports, Foley investigates the development of German doctrine in the face of the Materialschalcht of the Somme. He concludes that despite the massive losses suffered by the Germans, they were nonetheless able to rapidly understand and distribute these lessons throughout the army as a whole.

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  • Herwig, Holger. The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2009.

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    Herwig makes a plausible argument for the battle of the Marne as the most decisive of the 20th century, through an examination of materials from archives in Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, Saxony, and the former Prussian state. Deftly weaves the experiences of combat soldiers into the larger strategic picture.

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  • Kitchen, Martin. The German Offensives of 1918. Charleston, SC: Tempus, 2001.

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    The first comprehensive English-language account of the Germans’ final offensive of the war, which relies heavily on German sources.

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  • Showalter, Dennis. Tannenberg: Clash of Empires, 1914. Washington, DC: Potomac, 2004.

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    First published in 1991, Showalter provides a meticulous reconstruction of a decisive battle generally left in the shadows by Anglocentric historiography and its focus on the western front. Highlights the “first” experience of battle both for the German and Russian armies and how they dealt with the shock of combat.

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The Military Leadership, Politics, and the Home Front

Deist 1997 provides a concise overview of the German state and army at war. The three German High Commands are covered in Mombauer 2001, Afflerbach 1994, and Kitchen 1976. Deist 1970 and Feldman 1992 examine the army’s more radical interventions on the home front.

  • Afflerbach, Holger. Falkenhayn: Politisches Denken und Handeln im Kaiserreich. Munich: Oldenbourg, 1994.

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    An outstanding biography of the man who replaced the younger Moltke as chief of the General Staff in 1914. Falkenhayn’s appreciation of the failure of Germany’s initial offensive led him to advocate for a switch to an attritional strategy that seemingly contradicted all previous Prusso-German doctrine.

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  • Deist, Wilhelm. Militär und Innenpolitik im Weltkrieg, 1914–1918. 2 vols. Düsseldorf: Droste, 1970.

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    A fundamental study of the German army’s initiatives on the home front during World War I. Deist’s volume includes not oly a large quantity of previously unpublished material, but also expert analysis that establishes the necessary context for each document.

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  • Deist, Wilhelm. “The German Army, the Authoritarian Nation-State, and Total War.” In State, Society, and Mobilization in Europe during the First World War. Edited by John Horne, 160–172. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511562891Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A concise examination of how the nature of the conflict forced the German army to transform itself from an imperial army to a mass, people’s army. Highlights the effects of the imperial system’s breakdown on the army and its identity.

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  • Feldman, Gerald. Army, Industry and Labor in Germany, 1914–1918. Oxford: Berg, 1992.

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    First published in 1962, Feldman’s pioneering analysis of the German army’s intervention on the home front during the war remains fundamental to understanding how the German army responded to the multiplying demands it faced due to the unprecedented intensity and scale of combat.

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  • Kitchen, Martin. The Silent Dictatorship: The Politics of the German High Command under Hindenburg and Ludendorff, 1916–1918. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1976.

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    Kitchen provides the most detailed examination available of the Hindenburg-Ludendorff duumvirate during end of the imperial state. By focusing on issues such as unrestricted submarine warfare, diplomatic initiatives, and the Reichstag’s 1917 Peace Resolution, Kitchen demonstrates the army’s increasing power as it established a virtual dictatorship over the Kaiserreich.

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  • Mombauer, Annika. Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    Mombauer makes a persuasive and damning case for Helmuth von Moltke’s responsibility for the outbreak of the war and for his role in defeat suffered by Germany in the summer of 1914. Based on voluminous archival sources and written with verve, Mombauer has penned an extremely important contribution to the literature.

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Soldiers at War

Questions of morale in the German army are discussed in Strachan 1996 and Watson 2009; Ashworth 2000 also makes some suggestive claims about frontline soldiers and their understanding of the war. Ziemann 1997 discusses how one specific group of Germans––Catholic Bavarian peasants––experienced the conflict.

  • Ashworth, Tony. Trench Warfare 1914–1918: The Live and Let Live System. London: Pan, 2000.

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    While Ashworth’s study is based on British sources, he nonetheless unearths some suggestive material on the regional differences within the German army, as well as the problems officers had in inculcating an aggressive attitude in their soldiers during the opening years of the war.

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  • Strachan, Hew. “The Morale of the German Army, 1917–1918.” In Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced. Edited by Hugh Cecil and Peter H. Liddle, 383–398. London: Leo Cooper, 1996.

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    Taking issue with the contention in Geyer 1986 (cited under General Overviews) that the German army wholeheartedly embraced machine warfare from 1916 on, Strachan emphasizes the importance of traditional notions of morale within the imperial army and its links to political instability at home and more mundane issues such as food.

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  • Watson, Alexander. Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914–1918. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    An innovative comparative work that demonstrates that the British and German armies remained in the field for similar reasons. Concludes that the mass surrenders of late 1918 were the result of junior officers who realized Germany’s cause was lost and saw no need for further unnecessary casualties.

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  • Ziemann, Benjamin. Front und Heimat: Ländliche Kriegserfahrungen im südlichen Bayern 1914–1923. Essen, Germany: Klartext Verlag, 1997.

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    While this study of Bavaria provides a broad overview of the war, Ziemann has utilized numerous sources written by Bavarian peasants who served at the front, producing an extremely interesting appraisal of how they understood the war and why they fought for so long.

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Occupation

Horne and Kramer 2001 meticulously reconstructs the chain of events as well as the mentalities of German soldiers that led to massacres of Belgian civilians in 1914, while Zuckerman 2004 discusses the entirety of the German occupation of Belgium during the war. Liulevicius 2000 details German attempts to “re-order” the Baltic states under occupation.

  • Horne, John, and Alan Kramer. German Atrocities 1914: A History of Denial. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

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    Through a systematic examination of German, Belgian, and French primary-source material, the authors meticulously reconstruct the events of 1914, exploding postwar German claims that atrocities in Belgium were only a product of Allied propaganda. The study highlights the German army’s developing views of guerilla warfare during the age of total war.

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  • Liulevicius, Gabriel. War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity and German Occupation in World War I. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497186Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An innovative analysis of the army’s occupation of the Baltic states that details the army’s attempts to construct both a “military utopia” that seamlessly functioned according to military dictates and its cultural policies designed to bring “order” and German identity to the region. Highly recommended for graduate-level classes.

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  • Zuckerman, Larry. The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

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    Comprehensive analysis of the totality of German occupation of Belgium, from the earliest shooting of alleged “franc-tireurs” to the deportation of Belgian civilians to work in Germany for the Reich’s war effort.

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Strategy and Tactics

Gudmundsson 1995 and Samuels 1995 detail the evolution of German infantry tactics during the war, while Geyer 2001 analyzes the debate over whether the army should utilize “people’s war” to save the empire.

  • Geyer, Michael. “Insurrectionary Warfare: The German Debate about a Levée en Masse in October 1918.” Journal of Modern History 73 (2001): 459–527.

    DOI: 10.1086/339124Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Geyer examines the idea of Volkskrieg, which emerged in the final weeks of the German war effort as a means to achieve victory, despite its diametrical opposition to traditional German military practice that called for a strict control of force by professionals.

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  • Gudmundsson, Bruce. Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914–1918. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

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    A first-rate analysis of German tactical developments that culminated in the famous “stormtroopers” who drove Ludendorff’s spring 1918 offensive.

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  • Samuels, Martin. Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888–1918. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1995.

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    Outstanding comparative look at the military practices of Germany and Great Britain, with an emphasis on infantry doctrine. Samuels concludes that the Germans favored a more open, flexible approach, in contrast to the British practice based on centralized decision making.

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The Reichswehr and the Weimar Republic

The German army that emerged from the wreckage of World War I faced two vitally important issues. First, its relationship to the new republican state needed to be clarified. Would the army support the new state and work to stabilize it or would it actively conspire to weaken the Weimar Republic in hopes of reestablishing a political structure more conducive to its values? The second matter concerned the army’s ability to defend the state. Due to the limitations placed on it by the Versailles Treaty, traditional German notions of securing victory through mobility were challenged by various military thinkers who looked to unleash “people’s war” against any aggressors. While traditional ideas triumphed in the end––laying the groundwork for future “Blitzkrieg” operations––the army’s rearmament plans only worsened Germany’s increasingly precarious international position.

The Beginning of the “Blitzkrieg” Doctrine

Corum 1992 examines Hans von Seeckt’s military influence on the Reichswehr; Citino 1999 takes this story and advances it to the end of the 1930s. The case study in Citino 1987 looks at how the Polish “threat” led the army to develop a practice of war based on mobility. Strohn 2010 analyzes the development of defensive doctrine, while Vardi 2010 documents doctrinal disputes within the Reichswehr.

  • Citino, Robert. The Evolution of Blitzkrieg Tactics: Germany Defends Itself against Poland, 1918–1933. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1987.

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    A significant study that examines the evolution of a military doctrine designed to defeat Poland during the interwar period. Emphasizes the importance of Wilhelm Groener, who as minister of the Reichswehr played an extremely vital role in beginning the mechanization of the German army.

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  • Citino, Robert. Path to Blitzkrieg: Doctrine and Training in the German Army, 1920–39. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999.

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    Citino merges two historiographical trends––Blitzkrieg as an answer to the Materialschlachten of World War I and as an evolution of traditional Prusso-German military doctrine that placed an emphasis on decisiveness and mobility––into a tightly argued, extremely well-evidenced appraisal of German military thinking during the interwar period.

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  • Corum, James. The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992.

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    An important examination of Hans von Seeckt’s ideas concerning doctrine and the remolding of the German officer corps during the immediate postwar period. The study focuses on how Seeckt and the German leadership evaluated the lessons of 1917–1918 and then applied their findings to the Reichswehr.

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  • Strohn, Matthias. The German Army and the Defence of the Reich: Military Doctrine and the Conduct of the Defensive Battle 1918–1939. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    In contrast to much of the literature that examines the development of an offensive doctrine, Strohn highlights the real focus of German military planners during the interwar period: defending the Reich with their limited forces.

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  • Vardi, Gil-Li. “Joachim von Stülpnagel’s Military Thought and Planning.” War in History 17 (2010): 193–216.

    DOI: 10.1177/0968344509356835Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rejecting the orthodox view of Stülpnagel as a radical thinker because of his calls for a “people’s war,” Vardi provocatively argues that his ideas should be seen as fitting snugly into preexisting German military culture.

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The Army and Democracy

The founding of the Reichswehr in the postwar period is ably covered in Mulligan 2005 and Meier-Welcker 1967. The interaction between foreign policy and military thought receives outstanding analysis in Geyer 1980 and Post 1973. Carsten 1973 provides a critical perspective on the relationship between the Reichswehr and the Republic, while Hürter 1993 looks at the end of Weimar. The German–Soviet military relationship receives comprehensive coverage from Zeidler 1993.

  • Carsten, F. L. The Reichswehr and Politics: 1918 to 1933. Berkley: University of California Press, 1973.

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    The classic examination of the Reichswehr’s political machinations during the Weimar Republic. Carsten’s critical examination of the army focuses on the hostile attitude it displayed toward democracy.

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  • Geyer, Michael. Aufrüstung oder Sicherheit: Die Reichswehr in der Krise der Machtpolitik, 1924–1936. Wiesbaden, Germany: Franz Steiner, 1980.

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    Geyer expertly details the contradiction that plagued German military thinkers during the war: Germany could realize its security only by working within the international system as a relatively weak state. Neatly ties military considerations into the larger context of societal mobilization required for victory in the era of machine warfare.

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  • Hürter, Johannes. Wilhelm Groener: Reichswehrminister am Ende der Weimarer Republik (1928–1932). Munich: Oldenbourg, 1993.

    DOI: 10.1524/9783486595703Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perhaps the most influential German soldier of the interwar period, Groener receives expert treatment from Hürter, who focuses on his role as the Weimar Republic’s defense minister. Provides interesting analysis of Groener’s attempts to prepare the army as well as state and society for the all-encompassing nature of total war.

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  • Meier-Welcker, Hans. Seeckt. Frankfurt: Bernard & Graefe, 1967.

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    This monumental biography presents an exhaustive overview of the life of Hans von Seeckt, leader of the German army during the immediate postwar period. While at times meandering into minutia, it covers in impressive detail Seeckt’s reorganization of the Reichswehr and attitude toward the Weimar Republic.

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  • Mulligan, William. The Creation of the Modern German Army: General Walther Reinhardt and the Weimar Republic, 1914–1930. New York: Berghahn, 2005.

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    Mulligan brings deserved attention to Walther Reinhardt, the man who picked up the shattered pieces of the imperial army and created the organizational structure of the modern German army. Provides interesting analysis of army–government relations during the first chaotic months of the Weimar Republic’s existence.

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  • Post, Gaines, Jr. The Civil-Military Fabric of Weimar Foreign Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.

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    Moving away from the well-trodden ground of the army’s interference in domestic matters, Post details its foreign policy initiatives, both in opposition to and support of the Foreign Ministry. A well-written and tightly argued study that fills a considerable gap in the literature.

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  • Zeidler, Manfred. Reichswehr und Rote Armee, 1920–1933: Wege und Stationen einer ungewöhnlichen Zusammenarbeit. Munich: Oldenburg, 1993.

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    Based on a wide array both of Soviet and German sources, Zeidler has produced the standard text on the collaboration between the German and Red Armies during the interwar period.

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The Wehrmacht and the Third Reich, 1933–1939

The ascension of Hitler and the Nazi regime in 1933 was enthusiastically greeted by large sections of the army leadership for a variety of reasons. While older literature emphasized the army’s allegedly apolitical attitudes, more recent examinations of important commanders and the officer corps as a whole have focused on the shared ideological and political beliefs of the Wehrmacht leadership and the Nazi Party. Perhaps even more importantly, the Nazi desire to reassert German power corresponded to the army’s ambitions to regain its former position as the preeminent military power on the continent. During the late 1930s, the two institutions feverishly worked to rearm the Wehrmacht and create the preconditions for German expansion. Though Hitler’s risky policies did lead to some opposition within the upper ranks of the army, the majority of the army willingly “coordinated” itself to the Third Reich and prepared for World War II.

The German Military Elite

On Beck and Blomberg, two of the most important officers during the 1930s, see Müller 2008 and Schäfer 2006, respectively; other high-ranking officers are discussed in Barnett 1989 and Ueberschär 1998.

  • Barnett, Correlli, ed. Hitler’s Generals. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1989.

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    Solid, though occasionally superficial, overview of twenty-six of the Reich’s most important military leaders. Good introduction for English-language readers.

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  • Müller, Klaus-Jürgen. Generaloberst Ludwig Beck: Eine Biographie. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2008.

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    A massive biography of the former chief of the General Staff who was executed in 1944 for his part in the assassination attempt against Hitler. Based on decades of research, the volume places Beck within the context of the Prusso-German military elite and its relationship with the Nazi state.

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  • Schäfer, Kirstin A. Werner von Blomberg: Hitlers erster Feldmarschall. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2006.

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    Solid, scholarly biography of one of the most important leaders of the Reichswehr, who helped pave the way for a much closer “coordination” of the Wehrmacht with the Nazi regime.

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  • Ueberschär, Gerd, ed. Hitlers militärische Elite. Vol. 1, Von den Anfängen des Regimes bis Kriegsbeginn. Darmstadt: Primus, 1998.

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    A broader overview than Barnett 1989, this volume examines the “military elite” of the 1933–1939 period, including Luftwaffe, naval, and Waffen-SS officers.

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Preparations for War

Deist, et al. 1991 provides the most comprehensive coverage of the era. For the army’s relationship to the National Socialist state, Messerschmidt 1969, Müller 1969, Müller 1987, and O’Neill 1966 more than suffice. The development of armor doctrine is detailed in Habeck 2003, while Deist 1986 looks at the rearmament process that made such a doctrine possible. The army’s relationship to Nazi society is treated in Messerschmidt 1983.

  • Deist, Wilhelm. The Wehrmacht and German Rearmament. 2d ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986.

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    A concise, yet comprehensive examination of German rearmament from Groener through Blomberg. Highlights the army’s ignorance of larger political, economic, and social issues as it pushed for accelerated rearmament. Suitable for graduate-level seminars.

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  • Deist, Wilhelm, Manfred Messerschmidt, Hans-Erich Volkmann, and Wolfram Wette. Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 1, The Build-up of German Aggression. Translated by P. S. Falla, Dean S. McMurry, and Ewald Osers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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    Originally published in 1979 as Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd.1, Ursachen und Voraussetzungen der deutschen Kriegspolitik (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt), this outstanding volume published by a team of historians working for the Military History Research Section includes important contributions on rearmament and the army’s preparations for war. Highly recommended.

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  • Habeck, Mary R. Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919–1939. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

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    An excellent comparative analysis of how the two pariahs of Versailles and later antagonists on the eastern front thought about and integrated theories of armored warfare into their respective doctrines.

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  • Messerschmidt, Manfred. Die Wehrmacht im NS-Staat: Zeit der Indoktrination. Hamburg, West Germany: Deckers Verlag, 1969.

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    The standard examination of the Wehrmacht and its ideological relationship with the Nazi leadership. Messerschmidt argues that the army became increasingly indoctrinated by Nazi ideas and values during the Third Reich and that this frequently occurred on its own volition.

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  • Messerschmidt, Manfred. “The Wehrmacht and the Volksgemeinschaft.” Journal of Contemporary History 18 (1983): 719–744.

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    A cogently argued article that examines the reasons behind the Wehrmacht’s enthusiastic acceptance of the Nazi regime, which includes shared ideological beliefs, the Nazi promise to unite and mobilize society for any upcoming conflicts, and Hitler’s accelerated rearmament plans. Makes Messerschmidt’s ideas accessible to an English-language audience.

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  • Müller, Klaus-Jürgen. Das Heer und Hitler: Armee und nationalsozialistisches Regime 1933–1940. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1969.

    DOI: 10.1524/9783486595581Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a thorough examination of the relationship between the regime and the army, by emphasizing both areas of agreement and issues that led to opposition on the part of the army. Particularly strong on the growth of resistance within the army and its subsequent failure.

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  • Müller, Klaus-Jürgen. The Army, Politics and Society in Germany, 1933–45: Studies in the Army’s Relation to Nazism. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1987.

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    Originally published as Armee, Politik und Gesellschaft in Deutschland 1933–1945, this slim volume provides an excellent introduction to Müller’s ideas concerning the army and the Nazi state, Beck, and the military opposition. Very useful both for upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

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  • O’Neill, Robert J. The German Army and the Nazi Party, 1933–1939. London: Cassell, 1966.

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    While many of its conclusions are now dated––particularly in regard to its view of the German army as a relatively apolitical force that was in some ways duped by the Nazis––the volume still offers English-language readers an introduction to army–party relations before the outbreak of war.

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World War II

Müller 2005 provides the most recent survey of the war’s military events from a German perspective. Förster 2009 traces the development of the Wehrmacht during the Third Reich, while Wette 2006 emphasizes the army’s criminal practices. Müller and Volkmann 1999 examines numerous aspects of the army’s experience during World War II.

  • Förster, Jürgen. Die Wehrmacht im NS-Staat: Eine strukturgeschichtliche Analyse. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2009.

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    An outstanding synthesis of the historiography that in some ways updates Messerschmidt 1969 (cited under cited under Preparations for War) and additionally carries the story up through 1945. Provides a sophisticated analysis of how the army evolved as an institution in relation to the Reich’s political structure.

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  • Müller, Rolf-Dieter. Der letzte deutsche Krieg, 1939–1945. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2005.

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    A recent overview of the German war effort, by the head of the Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamt (the MGFA or Military History Research Section). Summarizes the findings of the ten-volume Das Deutsch Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg in one volume. Written in an accessible German.

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  • Müller, Rolf-Dieter, and Hans-Erich Volkmann, eds. Die Wehrmacht: Mythos und Realität. Papers presented at the international conference “Die Wehrmacht: Selbstverständnis, Professionalität, Verantwortlichkeit,” 8–9 September 1997, Potsdam, Germany.” Munich: Oldenbourg, 1999.

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    This massive collection of specialist essays examines topics ranging from assessments of the High Command and the army as “school of the nation” to the mentalities of men at the front and the Wehrmacht’s participation in war crimes. Müller’s introduction challenges the prevailing view that a thoroughly ideological Wehrmacht waged an unrelenting war of extermination.

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  • Wette, Wolfram. The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality. Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

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    Originally published in 2002 as Die Wehrmacht: Feindbilder, Vernichtungskrieg, Legenden (Frankfurt: S. Fischer), Wette provides a broad overview of the Wehrmacht’s criminality during the war, with a special focus on its attitude toward and treatment of Jews. Powerful indictment of the army, with a searing discussion of its postwar reputation.

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Combat in Poland and the West

Germany’s initial campaign against Poland is covered in Rohde 1991. The invasion of France receives expert treatment in Frieser 2005. Kitchen 2009 provides the most recent overview of the fighting in North Africa, while Beevor 2010 and Vogel 2006 cover the defensive battles in 1944. Zumbro 2006 looks at the army’s most devastating defeat in the west. Melvin 2010 is perhaps the finest biography of any Wehrmacht officer, while Fraser 1994 is a professional military biography of the war’s most famous German commander, who exclusively fought against the Western Allies.

  • Beevor, Antony. D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. New York: Penguin, 2010.

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    Based on a wide range of German and English primary sources as well as most recent literature, this extremely readable narrative opens up new perspectives on the fighting in northwest Europe.

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  • Fraser, David. Knight’s Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994.

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    The best English-language biography of the Wehrmacht’s most well-known solider. Provides expert analysis of Rommel’s military career and makes some surprising judgments regarding Rommel’s supposed strategic deficiencies.

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  • Frieser, Karl-Heinz. The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2005.

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    Originally published as Blitzkrieg-Legende: Der Westfeldzug 1940 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1995), this is an exceptional operational history that not only covers the 1940 battle for France in stunning detail but also convincingly challenges the concept of “Blitzkrieg” and its utility for describing the campaign. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level classes.

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  • Kitchen, Martin. Rommel’s Desert War: Waging World War II in North Africa, 1941–1943. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Recent treatment of the North African theater that mines German and Italian archives, among others. Fluidly written and cogently argued, it is appropriate for upper-division undergraduates.

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  • Melvin, Mungo. Manstein: Hitler’s Greatest General. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2010.

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    Based on unrivaled access to Manstein’s papers, Melvin has written the first biography of the war’s most brilliant operational mind, which provides a successful balance between his battlefield exploits and his role in the war of extermination.

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  • Rohde, Horst. “Hitler’s First Blitzkrieg and Its Consequences for North-Eastern Europe.” In Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 2, Germany’s Initial Conquests in Europe. By Klaus A. Maier, Horst Rohde, Bernd Stegemann, and Hans Umbreit, 67–139. Translated by P. S. Falla, Dean S. McMurry, and Ewald Osers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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    Originally published in the 1979 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd. 2, Die Errichtung der Hegemonie auf dem europäischen Kontinent (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt), Rohde presents the most concise and authoritative overview of the German campaign against the Poles as well as brief discussion of the occupation regime established by the army.

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  • Vogel, Detlef. “German and Allied Conduct of War in the West.” In Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 7, The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943–1944/5. By Horst Boog, Gerhard Krebs, and Detlef Vogel, 459–702. Translated by Derry Cook-Radmore. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Originally published in the 2001 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd. 7: Das Deutsche Reich in der Defensive: Strategischer Luftkrieg in Europa, Krieg im Westen und in Ostasien 1943–1944/45 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt), Vogel’s solid contribution details German defensive preparations along the Atlantic Wall and the fighting from June 1944 through January 1945.

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  • Zumbro, Derek S. Battle for the Ruhr: The German Army’s Final Defeat in the West. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006.

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    Monograph on the massive defeat suffered by the German army in 1945. Based on a wide variety of sources, including numerous interviews with Wehrmacht soldiers from all ranks, Zumbro expertly details the experiences of the men in combat.

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Combat on the Eastern Front

Klink 1999a and Klink 1999b provide the most comprehensive overviews both of the planning and fighting in 1941. The works of Stahel 2009 and Reinhardt 1972 analyze the military events of late summer and early winter 1941, respectively. The decisive year of 1942 is surveyed in Citino 2007; additional emphasis on Stalingrad is ably given in Wegner 2001 and Wette and Ueberschär 2003. The German defensive battles in 1944 are addressed in Frieser, et al. 2007.

  • Citino, Robert. Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.

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    A solid operational history of the German army in 1942 that focuses on the defeat of the “German way of war” at El Alamein and Stalingrad. Appropriate for undergraduates.

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  • Frieser, Karl-Heinz, Klaus Schmider, and Klaus Schönherr. Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Vol. 8, Die Ostfront: Der Krieg im Osten und an den Nebenfronten. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2007.

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    Outstanding volume on the German campaigns in the Soviet Union, the Balkans, and Italy in 1943–1944. Frieser’s section on the Kursk campaign explodes numerous myths about the battle and has set a high standard for operational history.

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  • Klink, Ernst. “The Military Concept of the War against the Soviet Union.” In Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 4, The Attack on the Soviet Union. By Horst Boog, Jürgen Förster, Joachim Hoffman, Ernst Klink, Rolf-Dieter Müller, and Gerd R. Ueberschär, 225–325. Translated by Ewald Osers, Dean S. McMurry, and Louise Willmot. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999a.

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    Originally published in the 1983 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd.4, Der Angriff auf die Sowjetunion (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt), this volume remains an essential starting point for any analysis of the German army during the opening year of war with the Soviet Union. Klink’s discussion of the army’s planning for the invasion remains the standard.

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  • Klink, Ernst. “The Conduct of Operations.” In Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 4, The Attack on the Soviet Union. By Horst Boog, Jürgen Förster, Joachim Hoffman, Ernst Klink, Rolf-Dieter Müller, and Gerd R. Ueberschär, 525–762. Translated by Ewald Osers, Dean S. McMurry, and Louise Willmot. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999b.

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    Klink’s analysis of the fighting from June 1941 through the Winter Crisis of 1941–1942 is peppered with penetrating insights and remains the best overview of this phase of the conflict.

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  • Reinhardt, Klaus. Die Wende Vor Moskau: Das Scheitern Der Strategie Hitlers im Winter 1941/42. Stuttgart: Deutsche-Verlags Anstalt, 1972.

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    Provides a gripping narrative of Operation Typhoon––the drive on Moscow––while simultaneously placing it within the larger political and economic contexts. Sets a high standard for battlefield history.

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  • Stahel, David. Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    An outstanding, archival-based analysis of Army Group Center’s two panzer groups during the summer of 1941. Persuasively argues that the attrition suffered by the Germans’ tank forces made victory already impossible by late summer.

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  • Wegner, Bernd. “The War against the Soviet Union 1942–1943.” In Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 6, The Global War: Widening of the Conflict and the Shift of the Initiative 1941–1943. By Horst Boog, Werner Rahn, Reinhard Stumpf, and Bernd Wegner, 843–1216. Translated by John Brownjohn, Patricia Crampton, Ewald Osers, and Louise Willmot. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Originally published in the 1990 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd.6, Der globale Krieg: Die Ausweitung zum Weltkrieg und der Wechsel der Initiative 1941–1943 (Stuttgart: Deutsche-Verlags Anstalt), Wegner’s analysis of the Stalingrad campaign expertly details Operation Blue within the larger context of the eastern front. Operational history at its best.

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  • Wette, Wolfram, and Gerd R. Ueberschär, eds. Stalingrad: Mythos und Wirklichkeit einer Schlacht. Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2003.

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    An outstanding collection of specialist essays that examine the battle both from above and below.

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Occupation

The contours of the debate are framed in Gerlach 1999, which portrays the Wehrmacht as an integral piece of the criminal German occupation regime, and Arnold 2005, which generally absolves the army of ghastly intentions. Pohl 2008 provides the best overview of German military occupation in the Soviet Union, though Oldenburg 2004, a case study of policies in the southern Soviet Union, is similarly excellent. Müller 1999 examines the economic basis of German occupation policies in 1941. Schulte 1989 analyzes the occupation practices of rear-area formations. Scheck 2008 sheds light on German treatment of French black colonial soldiers, while the military’s role in the occupation of France is detailed in Laub 2010.

  • Arnold, Klaus Jochen. Die Wehrmacht und die Besatzungspolitik in der bestzten Gebieten der Sowjetunion: Kriegsführung und Radikalisierung im “Unternehmen Barbarossa.” Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2005.

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    Revisionist study that generally exonerates the army for the horrific nature of German occupation in 1941. Argues that the army had little part in the planning for the war of extermination and that its subsequent actions were caused both by the demands of its political leadership and by brutal Soviet behavior that radicalized that of the German army.

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  • Gerlach, Christian. Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts und Vernichtungspolitik in Weiβruβland 1941 bis 1944. Hamburg, Germany: Hamburger Edition, 1999.

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    An exhaustive overview that covers the totality of the German occupation of Belarus. Convincingly documents the army’s involvement in the mass death of Soviet POWs, the implementation of a “Hunger Strategy,” and the murder of Belarusian Jews.

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  • Laub, Thomas J. After the Fall: German Policy in Occupied France, 1940–1944. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Laub analyzes the role of the army vis-à-vis the SS and the German diplomatic service in the occupation of France. He concludes that the army, being more concerned with industrial production, generally acted as a modifying force.

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  • Müller, Rolf-Dieter. “The Failure of the Economic ‘Blitzkrieg’ Strategy.” In Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 4, The Attack on the Soviet Union. By Horst Boog, Jürgen Förster, Joachim Hoffman, Ernst Klink, Rolf-Dieter Müller, and Gerd R. Ueberschär, 1081–1188. Translated by Ewald Osers, Dean S. McMurry, and Louise Willmot. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Originally published in the 1983 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd.4, Der Angriff auf die Sowjetunion (Stuttgart: Deutsche-Verlags Anstalt), Müller’s contribution focuses on the army’s decision to live off the land and the consequences this had both for Soviet civilians and the army itself when it proved illusory.

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  • Oldenburg, Manfred. Ideologie und militärisches Kalkül: Die Besatzungspolitik der Wehrmacht in der Sowjetunion 1942. Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau, 2004.

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    Army-level examination of occupation policies in the southern Soviet Union in 1942. Persuasively argues that while ideology proved important in motivating German occupation practices, perceptions of military necessity proved more decisive.

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  • Pohl, Dieter. Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht: Deutsche Militärbesatzung und einheimische Bevölkerung in der Sowjetunion 1941–1944. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2008.

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    Concise yet comprehensive survey of the German army’s occupation of the Soviet Union based on archival materials as well as the synthesis of a burgeoning literature. Covers soldier–civilian relations as well as the crimes committed by the Wehrmacht against Soviet POWs, Jews, and alleged partisans.

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  • Scheck, Raffael. Hitler’s African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    Based on the mining of German and French archives, Scheck has produced an important study on a hitherto neglected topic.

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  • Schulte, Theo. The German Army and Nazi Policies in Occupied Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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    Examines rear-area units and their occupation practices during the war. Concludes that not all units implemented Nazi policies toward the civilians in their areas of responsibility.

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The War of Extermination

The German war of extermination against the Soviet Union and its spread across the continent are surveyed in Heer and Naumann 2000. Rossino 2003 looks at the first stirrings of criminal practices in Poland. Megargee 2006 integrates combat and crimes against humanity into one concise narrative examining the Barbarossa campaign. Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung 2002 and Förster 1999 are fundamental on the planning and implementation of German ideological measures during the invasion of the Soviet Union. Hürter 2006 investigates the attitudes and actions of the senior field commanders in regard to the war of extermination. Römer 2008 provides an unsurpassed analysis of the Commissar Order. The mass murder of Soviet POWs is more than adequately covered in Streit 1998.

  • Förster, Jürgen. “Securing ‘Living-Space.’” In Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 4, The Attack on the Soviet Union. By Horst Boog, Jürgen Förster, Joachim Hoffman, Ernst Klink, Rolf-Dieter Müller, and Gerd R. Ueberschär, 1189–1244. Translated by Ewald Osers, Dean S. McMurry, and Louise Willmot. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Originally published in the 1983 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd.4, Der Angriff auf die Sowjetunion (Stuttgart: Deutsche-Verlags Anstalt), Förster’s contribution is a pathbreaking examination of how the German army and other institutions implemented the new order in the occupied Soviet Union.

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  • Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, ed. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht: Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941–1944. Hamburg, Germany: Hamburger Edition, 2002.

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    Exhibition catalogue for the second Wehrmacht exhibition, which combines numerous primary-source documents with concise analytical commentary.

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  • Heer, Hannes, and Klaus Naumann, ed. War of Extermination: The German Military in World War II, 1941–1944. New York and Oxford: Berghahn, 2000.

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    Based on the German volume Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941–1944 (Hamburg, Germany: Hamburger Edition, 1995), this important collection of essays makes German-language research on Wehrmacht’s complicity in the crimes of the Nazi state accessible to an English-language audience. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level classes.

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  • Hürter, Johannes. Hitlers Heerführer: Die deutschen Oberbefehlshaber im Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion 1941/42. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2006.

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    Perhaps the most thought-provoking and innovative book on the German army written since the early 1990s, this is a collective biography of the twenty-five generals who commanded the Ostheer in 1941. Astute analysis that examines both their formative military experiences and their complicity with the war of extermination.

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  • Megargee, Geoffrey. War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

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    Synthesis of primarily German-language scholarship that blends the military and ideological aspects of Operation Barbarossa into one fluid narrative. Appropriate for undergraduate students.

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  • Römer, Felix. Der Kommissarbefehl: Wehrmacht und NS-Verbrechen an der Ostfront, 1941/42. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2008.

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    Based on an exhaustive examination of the files of the entire Eastern Army as well as the High Command, Römer convincingly demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of the German army willingly implemented the murderous Commissar Order until it was suspended in early 1942.

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  • Rossino, Alexander B. Hitler Attacks Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology and Atrocity. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003.

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    Rossino focuses on German policy in Poland during the immediate aftermath of its conquest. While much of his analysis is devoted to the SS and its activities, he also provides extremely valuable discussion of the army’s attitudes toward police practices and its complicity in the implementation of such brutal policies.

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  • Streit, Christian. Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangen 1941–1945. 4th ed. Stuttgart: Verlag J. H. W. Dietz Nachf, 1998.

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    A groundbreaking study when first published in 1978, Streit’s work still remains unsurpassed as an all-encompassing study of German policies toward Soviet prisoners of war. Highlights the mass mortality of the prisoners consciously caused by army and other political authorities.

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Antipartisan Warfare in Europe

For German antipartisan warfare in Yugoslavia, see Schmider 2002 and Shepherd 2010. Shepherd 2004 describes the actions of rear-area units that ruthlessly waged the desired war of extermination, while Rutherford 2010 examines the more nuanced actions of a front-line combat division. German actions in Belarus––the area with the largest guerilla movement––are covered in Gerlach 1999, while Lieb 2007 provides an analysis of German operations in France.

  • Gerlach, Christian. Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts und Vernichtungspolitik in Weiβruβland 1941 bis 1944. Hamburg, Germany: Hamburger Edition, 1999.

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    Contains a lengthy and important section on German antipartisan measures––including Army units––that devastated the region.

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  • Lieb, Peter. Konventioneller Krieg oder NS-Weltanschauungskrieg? Kriegführung und Partisanenbekämpfung in Frankreich 1943/44. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2007.

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    Based on an extensive mining of German, French, and British sources, Lieb examines the German response to French partisan activity. Concludes that the army behaved, by and large, according to the normal standards of war.

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  • Rutherford, Jeff. “‘One senses danger from all sides, especially from fanatical civilians’: The 121st Infantry Division and Partisan War, June 1941–April 1942.” In War in a Twilight World: Partisan and Anti-Partisan Warfare in Eastern Europe, 1939–1945. Edited by Ben Shepherd and Juliette Pattinson, 58–79. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    Examines the actions of one frontline combat division during the Barbarossa advance. Suggests that not all units reflexively reacted with violence to irregular warfare.

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  • Schmider, Klaus. Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien 1941–1944. Hamburg, Germany: E. S. Mittler & Sohn, 2002.

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    The most comprehensive examination either in English or German of the German army’s futile attempts to crush the Yugoslav partisan movement.

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  • Shepherd, Ben. War in the Wild East: The German Army and Soviet Partisans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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    A study of the attitudes and actions of the 221st Security Division, which operated behind the ever-advancing German front in the Soviet Union. Sophisticated analysis that examines the interplay among ideology, situation, and contingency. Recommended both for undergraduate and graduate-level classes.

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  • Shepherd, Ben. “Bloodier than Boehme: The 342nd Infantry Division in Serbia, 1941.” In War in a Twilight World: Partisan and Anti-Partisan Warfare in Eastern Europe, 1939–1945. Edited by Ben Shepherd and Juliette Pattinson, 189–209. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    A case-study examination of the Austrian 342nd Infantry Division and its brutal operations in Serbia. Provides an excellent analysis of the division’s leadership and its motivations.

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Mentalities, Motivations, and Actions

Bartov 2001 and Hartmann 2009 reach opposite conclusions regarding the complicity of frontline troops with war crimes; Rutherford 2008 fits somewhere in the middle of their positions. The attitudes of ordinary soldiers are detailed in Bartov 1992, Fritz 1997, and Neitzel and Welzer 2011. Mazower 1992 examines soldiers stationed in Greece. Schulte 1989 revises the importance of ideology, by emphasizing situational factors in the author’s investigation of rear-area units.

  • Bartov, Omer. Hitler’s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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    An innovative and suggestive, if bit speculative, examination of how the German army became Hitler’s army during World War II, due to ideological indoctrination.

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  • Bartov, Omer. The Eastern Front, 1941–45, German Troops and the Barbarization of Warfare. 2d ed. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

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    Pioneering study of three German divisions that fought on the eastern front, highlighting the ideological congruence between junior officers and the Nazi leadership.

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  • Fritz, Stephen. Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.

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    Fritz analyzes a wealth of documentation generated by soldiers themselves––memoirs, diaries, letters, and fictional writings––to conclude that many soldiers fought Hitler’s war of extermination in the belief that this would help create a better life for themselves after the war.

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  • Hartmann, Christian. Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg: Front und militärisches Hinterland 1941/42. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2009.

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    An in-depth examination of five German units that participated in the Barbarossa campaign. After a detailed examination of their background and structure, Hartmann examines their combat experiences and their responsibility for atrocities. Not entirely convincingly concludes that frontline troops were far less apt than their rear-area counterparts to carry out war crimes.

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  • Mazower, Mark. “Military Violence and National Socialist Values: The Wehrmacht in Greece 1941–1944.” Past and Present 134 (1992): 129–158.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/134.1.129Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the attitudes and beliefs of “ordinary” German soldiers in Greece. Mazower concludes that despite being removed from the seething cauldron of the eastern front, German troops nonetheless lashed out at Greek civilians, due to their internalization of Nazi ideological precepts.

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  • Neitzel, Sönke, and Harald Welzer. Soldaten: Protokolle vom Kämpfen, Töten und Sterben. Frankfurt: Fischer, 2011.

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    Based on secret recordings made of personal conversations between German prisoners of war, this volume allows for a reconstruction of the attitudes and belief systems of ordinary German soldiers. Divided into thematic sections, including “The Soldier’s World” and “Fighting, Killing and Dying,” the authors examine how ideologically committed the average German soldier behaved.

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  • Rutherford, Jeff. “Life and Death in the Demiansk Pocket: The 123rd Infantry Division in Combat and Occupation.” Central European History 41 (2008): 347–380.

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    The author concludes that during times of military crisis, the division ruthlessly treated civilians as mere objects to be exploited for the German war effort or as existential threats. During periods of stability, however, the unit enacted much more conciliatory policies, highlighting the relative unimportance of ideology.

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  • Schulte, Theo. The German Army and Nazi Policies in Occupied Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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    Examines rear-area units and how they experienced the war of annihilation. Conclusions modify Bartov’s by examining the lack of ideological fervor displayed by the soldiers.

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The Army and Nazi Germany

Ueberschär 2008 covers the emerging military elite of World War II; their rather unsavory relationship with the Nazi state receives attention in Goda 2000. The army’s relationship to the war economy and its manpower policies are exhaustively detailed in Kroener, et al. 2000 and Müller, et al. 2003. Messerschmidt 2005 examines the Nazi state’s pernicious influence on the Wehrmacht’s military justice system. The High Command of the army is analyzed in Megargee 2000, while the army’s ability to learn lessons from campaigns is captured in Murray 1981. Rass 2003 is the best investigation of a Wehrmacht division from an institutional and structural standpoint.

  • Goda, Norman J. “Black Marks: Hitler’s Bribery of His Senior Officers during World War II.” Journal of Modern History 72 (2000): 413–452.

    DOI: 10.1086/315994Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Goda uncovers the large-scale bribery that permeated the highest ranks of the Wehrmacht. Ranging from large monetary bonuses to donations of enormous estates, such gifts were utilized by Hitler to cement his commanders to the state and its policies.

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  • Kroener, Bernhard, Rolf-Dieter Müller, and Hans Umbreit. Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 5, Part 1, Organization and Mobilization of the German Sphere of Power: Wartime Administration, Economy, and Manpower Resources, 1939–1941. Translated by John Brownjohn and Neville Maxwell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Originally published in the 1988 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd.5/1, Organisation und Mobilisierung des deutschen Machtbereichs: Kriegsverwaltung, Wirtschaft und personelle Ressourcen 1939–1941 (Stuttgart: Deutsche-Verlags Anstalt), this volume proves indispensable in understanding how the German state attempted to mobilize the Continent behind its war economy in the period prior to the 1941–1942 Winter Crisis.

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  • Megargee, Geoffrey. Inside Hitler’s High Command. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

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    Excellent analysis of the German High Command and its institutional practices during the war. Emphasizes the poor strategic sense displayed by the army leadership in contrast to its postwar claims that placed all blame on Hitler. Recommended for upper-division and graduate-level courses.

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  • Messerschmidt, Manfred. Die Wehrmachtjustiz 1933–1945. 2d ed. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2005.

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    Penetrating analysis of how the military justice system of the German army evolved into an extremely brutal and violent system. Messerschmidt details the development of a military bureaucracy that handed out thousands of death sentences during the war, from ideologically tinged crimes defined as desertion, cowardice, and sleeping on sentry duty.

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  • Müller, Rolf-Dieter, Hans Umbreit, and Berhnard Kroener. Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 5, Part 2, Organization and Mobilization in the German Sphere of Power, Wartime Administration, Economy, and Manpower Resources 1942–1944/5. Translated by Derry Cook-Radmore. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Originally published in the 1999 volume Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Bd.5/2, Organisation und Mobilisierung des deutschen Machtbereichs: Kriegsverwaltung, Wirtschaft und personelle Ressourcen 1942–1944/45 (Stuttgart: Deutsche-Verlags Anstalt), the volume provides an authoritative discussion of military occupation on the Continent as well as how Wehrmacht manpower needs were reconciled with the war economy’s voracious demands for labor.

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  • Murray, Williamson. “The German Response to Victory in Poland: A Case Study in Professionalism.” Armed Forces and Society 7 (1981): 285–298.

    DOI: 10.1177/0095327X8100700209Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Details the army’s study of the Polish campaign as a means to improve its performance. Highlights an important component of the Wehrmacht’s success during the war.

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  • Rass, Christoph. “Menschenmaterial”: Deutsche Soldaten an der Ostfront: Innenansichten einer Infanteriedivision 1939–1945. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2003.

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    A first-rate case study of the 253rd Infantry Divison. Very strong on the structure of the unit and how it fit institutionally within the Wehrmacht. Also makes some important points regarding the division’s participation in the war of annihilation waged on the eastern front.

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  • Ueberschär, Gerd R., ed. Hitlers militärische Elite. Vol. 2, Von Kriegsbeginn bis zum Weltkriegsende. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2008.

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    Ueberschär’s second volume of essays on the German military elite, which extends the analysis to those who made their names and careers during the war itself.

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LAST MODIFIED: 02/06/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791279-0072

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