Date of Award

Summer 1997

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Carl Boyd

Committee Member

Craig Cameron

Committee Member

Austin Jersild

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 C75


The predominance of technocrats within the Reichswehr, the inability of the officer corps to reassert its elite status in the Weimar era, and the extensive interaction between the Reichswehr and a militaristic German society contributed to Hitler's successful absorption of military authority in the 1930s. The social and political upheaval resulting in part from the First World War diffused military authority and diminished the role of the officer corps in German society. The corps struggled to maintain its historic level of corporateness and consistently failed to fulfill its responsibility to the Weimar Republic. The Reichswehr's top officers worked to revitalize the armed forces with one eye on the past and the other on the future, but always they were aware of the intolerable present constructed by the Treaty of Versailles.

Interwar officer selection, training, and codes of conduct were designed to resurrect the values of the Imperial Army while also preparing for the new technological battlefield. The incompatibility of these two missions made it difficult for the officer corps to establish an institutional identity. Internal debates raged in the Reichswehr, but additional pressures came from a polarized Weimar society. Contrary to the traditional interpretation that the Reichswehr was a state within a state, evidence presented here suggests that the officer corps was not immune to the Weimar Republic's cultural excesses. Under these circumstances the acceptance of the oath of allegiance to Hitler on the part of the officer corps was fateful, but certainly not surprising. The 1934 oath was dangerous because it resurrected the worst elements of the Prussian past and combined them with the destructive impulses of the Third Reich. By deconstructing the existing secondary literature and including other methodologies, such as film and literary criticism, a more complex picture of the officer corps emerges. Primary sources include military attache reports and German military journals.


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