An “impressively comprehensive” study of the Nazi military and its culpability in war crimes by “one of the foremost historians of World War II” (Stephen G. Fritz, author of Ostkrieg).

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. 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 a comprehensive analysis of the Wehrmacht, illuminating its role in the horrors of the Third Reich.

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 citizenry—or Volksgemeinschaft—was transformed under the pressure of total mobilization.

Finally, Müller evaluates the army’s conduct during 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.



At the outbreak of war in 1939, the German Army was one of the finest fighting forces in the world. No other army since Napoleon’s ‘Grand Armee’ had begun a war with such resounding conquests and victories and ended it in such total defeat.


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