Oberkommando des Heeres

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Oberkommando des Heeres
OKH2.svg
Command flag from 1938 to 1942
Founded1935
Disbanded23 May 1945
Country German Reich
Branch German Army
TypeHigh Command
Part ofOberkommando der Wehrmacht
Nickname(s)OKH
Commanders
Chief of the General StaffWilhelm Keitel
Insignia
Command flag 1936-38OKH1.svg
Command flag 1938-42OKH2.svg

The Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) was the High Command (lit. Upper Command) of the German Army during the Era of Nazi Germany. It was founded in 1935 as a part of Adolf Hitler's re-militarisation of Germany. From 1938 OKH was, together with OKL (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, High Command of the Air Force) and OKM (Oberkommando der Marine, High Command of the Navy), formally subordinated to the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, High Command of the Armed Forces), with the exception of the Waffen-SS. During the war, OKH had the responsibility of strategic planning of Armies and Army Groups, while the General Staff of the OKH managed operational matters. Each German Army also had an Armeeoberkommando, Army Command, or AOK. Until the German defeat at Moscow in December 1941, OKH and its staff was de facto the most important unit within the German war planning. OKW then took over this function for theatres other than the German-Soviet front. OKH commander held the title Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Supreme Commander of the Army). Following the Battle of Moscow, after OKH commander Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch was excused, Hitler appointed himself as Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

OKH vs OKW[edit]

Hitler had been the head of OKW since January 1938, using it to pass orders to the navy (OKM), air force (OKL), and army (OKH). After a major crisis developed in the Battle of Moscow, Walther von Brauchitsch was dismissed (partly because of his failing health), and Hitler appointed himself as head of the OKH while still retaining his position at the OKW. At the same time, he limited the OKH's authority to the Russian front, giving OKW direct authority over army units elsewhere. This enabled Hitler to declare that only he had complete awareness of Germany's strategic situation, should any general request a transfer of resources between the Russian front and another theater of operations.[1]

Organisation[edit]

In 1944, these elements were subordinate to the OKH:[2]

Leadership[edit]

Commander-in-Chief of the Army[edit]

The Commander-in-Chief of the Army (German: Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres) was the head of the OKH and the German Army during the years of the Nazi regime. Supreme Commanders of the Army were:

No. Officeholders Took office Left office Time in office
1
Werner von Fritsch
von Fritsch, WernerColonel General
Werner von Fritsch
(1880–1939)
1 January 19344 February 19384 years, 34 days
2
Walther von Brauchitsch
von Brauchitsch, WaltherField Marshal
Walther von Brauchitsch
(1881–1948)
4 February 193819 December 19413 years, 318 days
3
Adolf Hitler
Hitler, AdolfFührer and Reich Chancellor
Adolf Hitler
(1889–1945)
[a]
19 December 194130 April 1945 †3 years, 132 days
4
Ferdinand Schörner
Schörner, FerdinandField Marshal
Ferdinand Schörner
(1892–1973)
[b]
30 April 19458 May 19458 days

Chief of the OKH General Staff[edit]

Flag of Chief of the German Army General Staff

The Chiefs of the OKH General Staff (German: Chef des Generalstabes des Heeres) were:

No. Chief of Staff Took office Left office Time in office
1
Ludwig Beck
Beck, LudwigGeneraloberst
Ludwig Beck
(1880–1944)
1 July 193531 August 19383 years, 61 days
2
Franz Halder
Halder, FranzGeneraloberst
Franz Halder
(1884–1972)
1 September 193824 September 19424 years, 23 days
3
Kurt Zeitzler
Zeitzler, KurtGeneraloberst
Kurt Zeitzler
(1895–1963)
24 September 194210 June 19441 year, 260 days
Adolf Heusinger
Heusinger, AdolfGeneralleutnant
Adolf Heusinger
(1897–1982)
Acting
[c]
10 June 194421 July 194441 days
Heinz Guderian
Guderian, HeinzGeneraloberst
Heinz Guderian
(1888–1954)
Acting
21 July 194428 March 1945250 days
Hans Krebs
Krebs, HansGeneral der Infanterie
Hans Krebs
(1898–1945)
Acting
[d]
1 April 19451 May 1945 †30 days
Wilhelm Keitel
Keitel, WilhelmGeneralfeldmarschall
Wilhelm Keitel
(1882–1946)
Acting
1 May 194513 May 194512 days
Alfred Jodl
Jodl, AlfredGeneraloberst
Alfred Jodl
(1890–1946)
Acting
13 May 194523 May 194510 days

Although both OKW and OKH were headquartered in Zossen during the Third Reich, the functional and operational independence of both establishments were not lost on the respective staff during their tenure. Personnel at the sprawling Zossen compound remarked that even if Maybach 2 (the OKW complex) was completely destroyed, the OKH staff in Maybach 1 would scarcely notice. These camouflaged facilities, separated physically by a fence, also maintained structurally different mindsets towards their objectives.

On 28 April 1945 (two days before his suicide), Hitler formally subordinated OKH to OKW, giving the latter command of forces on the Eastern Front.[3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hitler assumed personal command of the OKH following Brauchitsch's dismissal in order to supervise Operation Barbarossa, the German-led invasion of the Soviet Union.
  2. ^ one of Hitler's favorite military commanders was named in Hitler's last will and testament, which the latter issued prior to his suicide on April 30, 1945 as the new commander of the OKH. Meanwhile, the OKH was subordinated to the OKW of the Wehrmacht, under Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel.
  3. ^ Later served as the Inspector General of the Bundeswehr (1957–1961) and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee (1961–1964)
  4. ^ Committed suicide

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barnett, Correlli (1989). Hitler's Generals. Grove. p. 497. ISBN 978-1555841614.
  2. ^ CIA (1944). Who's Who In Nazi Germany (PDF). CIA. pp. 31–32. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  3. ^ Grier, Howard D. Hitler, Dönitz, and the Baltic Sea, Naval Institute Press, 2007, ISBN 1-59114-345-4. p. 121

External links[edit]