Oberkommando des Heeres

Oberkommando des Heeres
OKH2.svg
Command flag from 1938 to 1942
Founded 1935
Disbanded 23 May 1945
Country  German Reich
Branch Balkenkreuz.svg German Army
Type High Command
Part of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
Nickname(s) OKH
Commanders
Chief of the General Staff Wilhelm Keitel
Insignia
Command flag 1936-38 OKH1.svg
Command flag 1938-42 OKH2.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

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]

Leadership

Commander-in-Chief of the Army

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:

Officeholders Took office Left office Time in office
1
Werner von Fritsch
von Fritsch, WernerColonel General
Werner von Fritsch
(1880–1939)
1 January 1934 4 February 1938 4 years, 34 days
2
Walther von Brauchitsch
von Brauchitsch, WaltherField Marshal
Walther von Brauchitsch
(1881–1948)
4 February 1938 19 December 1941 3 years, 318 days
3
Adolf Hitler
Hitler, AdolfFührer and Reich Chancellor
Adolf Hitler
(1889–1945)
[a]
19 December 1941 30 April 1945 † 3 years, 132 days
4
Ferdinand Schörner
Schörner, FerdinandField Marshal
Ferdinand Schörner
(1892–1973)
[b]
30 April 1945 8 May 1945 8 days

Chief of the OKH General Staff

Flag of Chief of the German Army General Staff

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

Chief of Staff Took office Left office Time in office
1
Ludwig Beck
Beck, LudwigGeneraloberst
Ludwig Beck
(1880–1944)
1 July 1935 31 August 1938 3 years, 61 days
2
Franz Halder
Halder, FranzGeneraloberst
Franz Halder
(1884–1972)
1 September 1938 24 September 1942 4 years, 23 days
3
Kurt Zeitzler
Zeitzler, KurtGeneraloberst
Kurt Zeitzler
(1895–1963)
24 September 1942 10 June 1944 1 year, 260 days
Adolf Heusinger
Heusinger, AdolfGeneralleutnant
Adolf Heusinger
(1897–1982)
Acting
[c]
10 June 1944 21 July 1944 41 days
Heinz Guderian
Guderian, HeinzGeneraloberst
Heinz Guderian
(1888–1954)
Acting
21 July 1944 28 March 1945 250 days
Hans Krebs
Krebs, HansGeneral der Infanterie
Hans Krebs
(1898–1945)
Acting
[d]
1 April 1945 1 May 1945 † 30 days
Wilhelm Keitel
Keitel, WilhelmGeneralfeldmarschall
Wilhelm Keitel
(1882–1946)
Acting
1 May 1945 13 May 1945 12 days
Alfred Jodl
Jodl, AlfredGeneraloberst
Alfred Jodl
(1890–1946)
Acting
13 May 1945 23 May 1945 10 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.[2]

See also

Copyright