Schütze in German means "rifleman" or "shooter", or in older terms originally connoted "archer" before the advent of the rifle. It also occasionally occurs as a surname, or as Schütz, as in the opera Der Freischütz. The word itself is derived from the German word schützen, meaning to protect, or to guard. It was originally used for archers as they protected castle walls, and is the German equivalent to Sagittarius, the mythical form which held bow and arrow.
As a rank of the Armed Forces of Germany in First World War until 1918, Schütze was used for the lowest enlisted ranks in machine gun units and some elite troops like Saxon Schützen-Regiment 108 exclusively. Usually translated as "private", from 1920 on it names the lowest enlisted rank of the Reichswehr infantry. The equivalent of Schütze in the other branches of the German military was Jäger, Kanonier, Pionier, Kraftfahrer or Grenadier in the army; Flieger in the Luftwaffe, Matrose in the Reichsmarine and Kriegsmarine, respectively.
- Rank insignias Schütze of the Wehrmacht until 1945
|Collar patch||Shoulder strap||Sleeve badge
(left upper arm)
Second World War
- Insignia of rank Schütze of the Waffen-SS
The present-day German military maintains Schütze as the lowest enlisted grade, with a NATO rank code of OR-1. A Schütze ranks below Gefreiter which is the equivalent of a private (OR-2); the equivalent of a private first class being an Obergefreiter or Hauptgefreiter.
During various periods in German military history, a senior private rank known as Oberschütze existed between the grades of Schütze and Gefreiter. In the modern German Army the rank of Schütze is not used very often. Every part of the Bundeswehr has a different name for this rank. For example, in the Panzergrenadiertruppe (heavy mechanized infantry) the name of the rank is Panzergrenadier, and within the Fernmelder (communication troops), the name is Funker (radio operator).