Oberkommando des Heeres

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The Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) was Nazi Germany's High Command of the Army from 1936 to 1945. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Supreme High Command of the Armed Forces or OKW) commanded OKH only in theory. However, after 1941, the OKW de facto directly commanded operations on the Western front while the OKH commanded the Eastern front.

For commanding the navy and the air force, Third Reich had also the Oberkommando der Marine (OKM) and the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) respectively. These were theoretically subordinate to the OKW, but in actuality acted quite independently.

Contents

Overview

The position of Commander of the Army (Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres, or OBdH for short) of the Wehrmacht was held by,

The OBdH did not plan operations following in German tradition. This task was left to the General Staff, so actually the most important man in the Army (and the Navy, but less so in the Luftwaffe, which was commanded by Hermann Göring) was the chief of the general staff (Chef des Generalstabs des Heeres, or Chef GenStdH for short). Das Heer (the Army) always has been the leading factor in planning campaigns. Thus there was no such thing as combined planning of the different services. The position of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, which was by definition superior to the OKH, was not intended for that, nor did it have the resources to do so.

Later in the war, the OKH became responsible for fewer and fewer tasks, with Adolf Hitler, assisted by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), taking an increasing role in the planning and running of operations. For example, the invasion of Norway was entirely planned outside the OKH. During the April 1945 allied campaign towards Berlin, the disputes between the OKH and OKW involving strategic priorities were commonplace. Stemming from the fact that the eastern front was the responsibility of the OKH, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel displayed callous disregard for German failures against the Russians. General Heinz Guderian, then chief of the army high command was more than apathetic towards Keitel for his lack of support in convincing Hitler to emphasize troop increases to counter Russian advances east of the Oder river. The executive capabilities of the army general staff were deliberately reduced following the 20 July assassination attempt on Hitler after which he himself assumed more expanded roles for military planning and operations. Although both the 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 the OKW (designated Maybach 2) complex was completely destroyed the employees of Maybach 1 would scarcely notice. Both the camouflaged facilities separated physically by a fence also maintained structurally different mindsets towards their objectives. On 28 April 1945 (2 days before his suicide) Hitler placed the OKH under the OKW, giving the latter command of forces on the Eastern Front.[1]

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