Oberst

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This article is about the OF-5 rank Oberst in German speaking countries. For the equivalent rank in Slavophone armed forces see Polkovnik, in Anglophone countries see Colonel.
For other uses, see Oberst (disambiguation).
Flag of Germany.svg
Oberst

(Heer / Luftwaffe)

HD H 53 Oberst ABCAbw.svg LD B 53 Oberst.svg
Rank insignia German officer rank
Introduction 1956
Rank group Commissioned officers
Army / Air Force Oberst
Navy Kapitän zur See
NATO
equivalent
OF-5
Army Colonel
Navy Captain (naval)

Oberst (German pronunciation: [ˈoːbɐst]) is a military rank in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, equivalent to Colonel. It is currently used by both the ground and air forces of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway. The Swedish rank överste is a direct translation, as are the Finnish rank eversti and the Icelandic rank ofursti. In the Netherlands the rank overste is used as a synonym for a lieutenant colonel.

Germany[edit]

Oberst (short: O) is the highest staff officer rank in the armed forces of Germany (Bundeswehr), e.g. Heer, and Luftwaffe.

See also

⇒ Article: Ranks of the German Bundeswehr ⇒ Article: Rank insignia of the German Bundeswehr

Rank[edit]

The rank is rated OF-5 in NATO, and is grade A16 or B6 in the pay rules of the Federal Ministry of Defence. It is comparable in NATO to OF-5 and equivalent to:

On the shoulder straps (Heer, Luftwaffe) there are three silver pips (stars) in silver oak leaves.

Heer Luftwaffe
junior Rank
Oberstleutnant
Bundeswehr Logo Heer with lettering.svg Bundeswehr Logo Luftwaffe with lettering.svg

(German officer rank)
Oberst

senior Rank
Brigadegeneral

History[edit]

Oberst is a German word. Spelled with a capital O, "Oberst" is a noun and defines the military rank of colonel or group captain. Spelled with a lower case o, or "oberst", it is an adjective, meaning "top, topmost, uppermost, highest, chief, head, first, principal, or supreme". Both usages derive from the superlative of ober(e), "the upper" or "the uppermost".

As a family name, Oberst is common in the southwest of Germany, in the area known as the Black Forest (Schwarzwald). The name is also concentrated in the north-central cantons of Switzerland (Aargau & Zürich). Here the Swiss version of Oberst is spelled Obrist. The name first appeared in the thirteenth century in the German-Swiss border area, and early forms were Zoberist and Oberist. The name most likely refers to the "tribe that lives the highest on the mountain" or "the family that lives the highest in the village".

Translated as "superior" or "supreme", the rank of Oberst can trace its origins to the Middle Ages where the term most likely described the senior knight on a battlefield or the senior captain in a regiment. With the emergence of professional armies in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an Oberst became the commander of regiment or battalion-sized formations.

By the eighteenth century, Obersten were typically afforded aides or lieutenants, often titled Oberstleutnant. This led to formation of the modern German rank of the same name, translated as lieutenant colonel. The rank of Oberst is equivalent to that of colonel in English-speaking armies, although its more accurate meaning of "supreme" refers to the fact that Oberst is the highest-ranking officer below general officers.

Oberst was used in the militaries of Germany and Austria during both World Wars. Oberst was also used as the prefix of the now obsolete SS rank of Oberstgruppenführer. The SS Standartenführer was equivalent to an Oberst. A colonel general during the World Wars was called Generaloberst. Again, rather than literally meaning colonel general, its more accurate translation is "supreme general" as it was normally the highest peacetime military rank.

Popular culture[edit]

The rank of Oberst is known in American cinema, since several popular movies (such as The Great Escape, Stalag 17, The Eagle Has Landed, Hart's War, and Live Free or Die Hard) have featured characters holding the rank. Luftwaffe Colonel Klink of the television series Hogan's Heroes was a caricature of such a character.

Oberst Heer (Panzergrenadiertruppe)
Oberst Heer (Panzertruppe)
Collar patch Heer
military camouflage Heer
           
Luftwaffe Oberst/ Oberst (Ing)
Collar patch Luftwaffe
Flight suit Luftwaffe
Junior Rank
Oberstleutnant
War Ensign of Germany 1938-1945.svg

German officer rank
Oberst

Senior Rank
Generalmajor

References[edit]