Article

German Army, 1871-1945

Jeff Rutherford

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0072
German Army, 1871-1945

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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.

Article.  13194 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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