1. The Wehrmacht is the Arms Carrier of the German Nation. It protects the
German Reich and Fatherland, the through National-Socialism united nation
and its living space. The root of its power rests in a glorious past, in
German national traditions, German soil, and German labour. Service in the
Wehrmacht is service in honor of the German nation.
2. The honor of a soldier lies in unconditioned commitment of his person for
Nation and Fatherland, even to the sacrifice of his life.
3. Highest virtue of a soldier is militant velour. It demands vigor and
resoluteness. Cowardice is disgraceful, hesitation is not worthy of a
4. Obedience is the basis for the Armed Forces; Trust is the basis of
obedience. Soldierly leadership is based on enjoyment of accountability,
superior ability, and indefatigable care.
5. Great Achievements in war and peace arise only in the staunch combat
union of Führer and troops.
6. Combat union demands comradeship. It’s proven especially in adversity and
7. Self-conscious, though modest, upright and loyal, religious and truthful,
discreet and modest, the German soldier should be a role model of manly
strength for the whole nation. Only accomplishment justifies pride.
8. The German soldier finds great reward and highest happiness in the
awareness of gladly performed duty.
Berlin May 25, 1934
Der Reich’s Präsident
Der Reich’s Army secretary
(gez.). von Hindenburg
(gez.) Von Bromberg
These duties of the German soldier every soldier had to memorize. They are
not only guide lines for his time as a soldier, but for the whole of live.
1 After Major Foertsch, Wehrpflichtfibel, Offene Worte, Berlin--- no
printing year given (ca 1935), S 55 f.
10 Commandments for the warfare of the
The following 10 commandments for the warfare were contained in every pay
book of a German soldier in the Second World War and where borne in mind.
1. The German soldier fights gallantly for the victory of his nation.
Cruelties and senseless destructions are unworthy of him.
2. The combatant must be uniformed or be equipped with a specially
introduced badge, seen well in great distance. Fighting in civilian
clothing, without such badge is prohibited.
3. No enemy, who surrenders, is allowed to be killed, nor a guerilla
or a spy.
These receive their just punishment through the courts.
4. Prisoners of war are not permitted to be maltreated or insulted.
Weapons, plans and records are to be confiscated. Their belongings are
otherwise not to be touched.
5. Dumdum bullets are prohibited. Bullets are not permitted to be
modified into such.
6. The Red Cross is inviolable. Wounded enemies are to be treated
humanly. Medical orderlies and army chaplains are not to be hindered in
their medical, resp. pastoral activity.
7. The civil population is inviolable. The soldier is not
allowed to plunder or wantonly destroy. Historical monuments and buildings
which serve divine service, the arts, science or charity are to be
especially respected. Natural supplies and services by the civilian
population are only allowed to be called for on orders of superiors against
8. Neutral territory is not allowed to be involved in the war actions
by either entry or over-flying, nor through strafing or shelling.
9. Should a German soldier be taken prisoner, he has to give, on
demand, his name and rank. Under no circumstances must he reveal the
belonging to his unit of troops, and about military, political and economic
conditions on the German side. He may not be enticed by
promise and threatening.
10. Contraventions against the standing orders in duty matters are
a punishable offence. Offences by the enemy against the principles
explained under 1 – 8 are to be reported. Retaliatory measures are only
permissible on orders of higher troop leadership.
comments by RjH;
Crimes by individual Wehrmacht soldiers, like rape, plundering, and
destruction of dwellings, civil buildings and churches, were according to
Wehrmacht penal code punishable offences and therefore prosecuted.
The Wehrmacht insisted on adherence to the regulations.
So one can read, e.g. in the kitbag advise of the high command of the
Wehrmacht of 1940/41, booklet 16 „German deportment before foreigners“,
which was issued to soldiers:
„You should adapt the
same measure for yourself in foreign countries which you expect to be
applied to you at home. You shouldn’t presume something for yourself in
foreign countries which you would deny yourself at home in front of the
examining eyes of your national companions, on whose high regard you depend.
For the foreign country is not the place where you can let yourself go,
because no one knows you there, to the contrary, nowhere else must you pull
yourself together than in a foreign country.” (p.1)
for your own in foreign countries, but rather form for yourself a just
impression of the other nation and of the other land.”
doesn’t prove one’s country by being overloud and raising hell, by trying to
prove how cheerful one is or by behaving arrogantly, even challenging, but
by behaving in a manner which is befitting for a member of a great nation.”
„If you as
a soldier in a foreign country behave badly, the disgrace not only will harm
your nation, but also it’s Wehrmacht. Don’t believe that you are so
insignificant and the Wehrmacht so large, that it doesn’t depend on your
conduct alone. Don’t ever believe that ill behavior of an individual matters
little within such a large frame.” (p. 7)
right to unavoidable severity will you claim, if you let yourself go? How
can you form a clear judgment, how can you maintain correct behavior, if you
lose control of yourself in drunkenness? In this war an opportunity for more
responsibility is given to many of you than in a peaceful live could have
ever happen. You will have to prove worthy of this responsibility. That you
are valiant in combat we know. But that all of you may also learn to be
valiant, disciplined, and moderate if you don’t stand to attention, this we
hope for the sake of the future of our Nation.” (p. 28)
If every nation could have formulated such rules for its soldiers, it would
not have been necessary to write books about how soldiers maltreat the
civilian population. We would have never heard of the endless war crimes of
the victor’s troops of WW2 after their settlement with the axis powers, e.g.
in the Korean War, then the Vietnam War, especially there in Ming Lai, till
today in Iraq and in Afghanistan…neither would we have heard how German
soldiers after the war had been clubbed in the US-, GB-, F-, USSR-,
etc. war prisons.
See also this to compare German soldiers to English