The German Army was the land forces component of the Wehrmacht , the regular German Armed Forces, from 1935 until it was demobilized and later dissolved in August 1946. The Wehrmacht also included the Kriegsmarine (Navy) and the Luftwaffe (Air Force). During World War II, a total of about 13 million soldiers served in the German Army. Most army personnel were conscripted.
Only 17 months after Adolf Hitler announced publicly the reamament program, the Army reached its projected goal of 36 divisions. During the autumn of 1937, two more corps were formed. In 1938, four additional corps were formed with the inclusion of the five divisions of the Austrian Army after the Anschluss on March 12 1938. During the period of its expansion by Adolf Hitler, the German Army continued to develop concepts pioneered during World War I, combining ground (Heer) and air (Luftwaffe) assets into combined arms teams. Coupled with operational and tactical methods such as encirclements and the “battle of annihilation”, the German military managed quick victories in the two initial years of World War II, prompting the use of the word Blitzkrieg, for the techniques used.
The German Army entered the war with a majority of its infantry formations relying on horse-drawn transport. The infantry remained foot soldiers throughout the war; artillery also remained primarily horse-drawn. The motorized formations received much attention in the world press in the opening years of the war, and were cited as the main reason for the success of the German invasions of Poland (September 1939), Norway and Denmark (April 1940), Belgium, France and Netherlands (May 1940), Yugoslavia (April 1941) and Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). However their motorized and tank formations accounted for only 20% of the Heer’s capacity at their peak strength. The army’s lack of trucks (and petroleum to run them) was a severe handicap to infantry movement especially during and after the Normandy invasion when Allied air power devastated the French rail network north of the Loire. Panzer movements also depended upon rail: driving a tank over 150 kilometers wore out its tracks.
The German Army was demobilized following the unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. Confronted with a huge number of German prisoners of war after VE Day , the Western Allies kept Feldjägerkommando III, which was a regimental-sized unit of German military police, active and armed to assist with the control of the POWs. Feldjägerkommando III remained armed and under Western Allied control until 23 June 1946, when it was finally deactivated.
War crimes of the Wehrmacht were those carried out by the German armed forces during World War II. While the SS (in particular the SS-Totenkopfverbände. Einsatzgruppen and Waffen SS of Nazi Germany was the organization most responsible for the genocidal killing of the Holocaust, the regular armed forces represented by the Wehrmacht committed war crimes of their own, particularly on the Eastern Front in the war against the Soviet Union.