Since the end of World War II, Germans have struggled with the legacy of the Wehrmacht -- the unified armed forces mobilized by Adolf Hitler in 1935 to ensure the domination of the Third Reich in perpetuity. Historians have vigorously debated whether the Wehrmacht's atrocities represented a break with the past or a continuation of Germany's military traditions. Now available for the first time in English, this meticulously researched yet accessible overview by eminent historian Rolf-Dieter Müller provides the most comprehensive analysis of the organization to date, illuminating its role in a complex, horrific era.
Müller examines the Wehrmacht's leadership principles, organization, equipment, and training, as well as the front-line experiences of soldiers, airmen, Waffen SS, foreign legionnaires, and volunteers. He skillfully demonstrates how state-directed propaganda and terror influenced the extent to which the militarized Volksgemeinschaft (national community) was transformed under the pressure of total mobilization. Finally, he evaluates the army's conduct of the war, from blitzkrieg to the final surrender and charges of war crimes. Brief acts of resistance, such as an officers' "rebellion of conscience" in July 1944, embody the repressed, principled humanity of Germany's soldiers, but ultimately, Müller concludes, the Wehrmacht became the "steel guarantor" of the criminal Nazi regime.