Book Review: Hitler's Wehrmacht, 1935–1945


by Rolf-Dieter Müller, translated by Janice W. Ancker

Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016. Pp. xii, 236. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0813167388

A Modern German Scholar’s Look at the Wehrmacht

Although his only works that have appeared in English are on the Eastern Front, such as The Unknown Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht and Hitler's Foreign Soldiers and Enemy in the East: Hitler's Secret Plans to Invade the Soviet Union, Dr. Müller, Scientific Director of the German Armed Forces Military History Research Office, has written extensively on the Second World War. In this newly translated volume, he breaks new ground on the history of the German Armed Forces during the Hitler regime.

Müller begins with an introductory overview of the current state of research on the Wehrmacht -- the unified German armed forces – which for many decades was much influenced by Cold War politics. Then, in seven chapters, he examines various aspects of the life and war of the Wehrmacht.

In his opening chapter, Müller looks at the often selective and even subtle ways in which the regime bent the armed forces to its will, and how the individual services accepted their role, which ultimately affected the relatively ineffective resistance to the regime. There follows a chapter on the background, organization, and prewar expansion of the armed forces. He then gives us a look at the iterative interrelationship between training and front line experience, which was one of the primary factors in maintaining the fighting edge of the German Army through nearly six years of war. Müller follows with a look at the ways in which the regime’s racialist “Aryan” communal ideology – the Volksgemeinschaft – promoted greater cohesion and dedication among the troops, and helped contribute to greater ferocity, particularly on the Eastern Front. The final chapters are on the armed forces and industrial production and the rise of total war. Müller end with a thoughtful epilogue titled “The Difficult Legacy,” discussing how the modern German Armed forces – and their allies – have adapted to the Hitlerite heritage.

A volume in the University Press of Kentucky series “Foreign Military Studies,” Hitler’s Wehrmacht is a very useful read for anyone interested in the German armed forces and the Second World War.

Note: Hitler’s Wehrmacht is also available in pdf, ISBN 978-0-8131-6804-3, and as an epub, ISBN 978-0-8131-6805-0.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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