Reichswehreid

Reichswehreid

The Reichswehreid and from August 1934 Führereid was the name for three different versions of the oath of allegiance of the German Forces, called Reichswehr from 1919 to 1935, and then Wehrmacht until 1945.

1919 -1933

The Original Reichswehreid came into effect on 14 August 1919, shortly after Reichspräsident Friedrich Ebert had signed the Weimar Constitution for the German Empire (the so-called Weimar Republic). The Treaty of Versailles limited the Reichswehr to a total of 100,000 men.

German English
Ich schwöre Treue der Reichsverfassung und gelobe, daß ich als tapferer Soldat, das Deutsche Reich und seine gesetzmäßigen Einrichtungen jederzeit schützen, dem Reichspräsidenten und meinen Vorgesetzten Gehorsam leisten will. I swear loyalty to the Reich's constitution and pledge, that I as a courageous soldier always want to protect the German Empire and its legal institutions, (and) be obedient to the Reichspräsident and to my superiors.

1933-1934

In 1933, Adolf Hitler had taken over as Reichskanzler and the Enabling Act and Gleichschaltung came in effect. As a result, a new wording was adopted on 1 December 1933:

German English
Ich schwöre bei Gott diesen heiligen Eid, daß ich meinem Volk und Vaterland allzeit treu und redlich dienen und als tapferer und gehorsamer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit für diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen. I swear by God this holy oath, that I want to ever loyally and sincerely serve my people and fatherland and be prepared as a brave and obedient soldier to risk my life for this oath at any time.

It has to be noted that all references to the constitution and the office of Reichspräsident, then held by aging war hero Paul von Hindenburg, had already been removed. Instead, more emphasis was put on religion and patriotism.

1934-1945

In August 1934, after Hindenburg had died, Hitler assumed the rights of the office, which itself was abolished, and declared himself Führer and Reichskanzler. War Minister Werner von Blomberg issued a new wording which became known as Führereid:

German English
Ich schwöre bei Gott diesen heiligen Eid, daß ich dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes, Adolf Hitler, dem Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht, unbedingten Gehorsam leisten und als tapferer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit für diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen. I swear by God this holy oath, that I want to offer unconditional obedience to the Führer of the German Empire and people, Adolf Hitler, the commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht, and be prepared as a brave soldier to risk my life for this oath at any time.

Now Volk and Fatherland had been superseded by the person of Hitler himself, who would be Führer and supreme commander. In addition, the obedience was now to be unconditional.

The allegiance to Hitler, which millions of soldiers had to pledge, proved to be fateful as it choked opposition to him (July 20 Plot etc.).

In 1935, the Reichswehr was renamed Wehrmacht.

SS

For comparison, the Eidformel der Schutzstaffel (oath of the SS):

German English
"Ich schwöre dir, Adolf Hitler, als germanische Führer, Treue und Tapferkeit. Ich gelobe dir und den von Dir bestimmten Vorgestzten Gehorsam bis in den Tod. So wahr mir Gott Helfe." I swear unswerving loyalty to Adolf Hitler. I swear unconditional obedience to him and to the leaders that he determines for me. Adolf Hitler: Sieg Heil!

The SS, founded to protect Hitler, even mentioned his name twice, as well as the leaders he put in charge (Führerprinzip). The unshakable loyalty was made part of the SS' honour, as the motto "Unsere Ehre heißt Treue" (Our Honour is Loyalty) was coined.

Bundeswehr

Nowadays, recruits of the Bundeswehr pledge the Gelöbnis after three months of basic training

German English
Ich gelobe, der Bundesrepublik Deutschland treu zu dienen und das Recht und die Freiheit des deutschen Volkes tapfer zu verteidigen. I pledge to loyally serve the Federal Republic of Germany and to bravely defend the law and freedom of the German people.

Professional soldiers and officers of the Bundeswehr have to swear an oath with the same wording, but beginning with "Ich schwöre, ...".

The website of the Bundeswehr points out that loyalty is not pledged to a person, but to the country, a novum in German military history.

References

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