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Realm Defence
Reichswehr
Flag of Weimar Republic (war)

War Ensign of the Reichswehr
Established 19 January 1919
Disbanded 16 March 1935
Parts
  • Template:Flagd Reichsheer
  •  Reichsmarine
Headquarters Zossen, near Berlin
Leadership
Commander-in-chief Friedrich Ebert (1919–25)
Paul von Hindenburg (1925–34)
Adolf Hitler (1934–35)
Minister of Defence See list
Chief of the Troop Office See list
Serving soldiers
Military age 18–45
Conscription No
Active employees/soldiers 115,000 (1921)
See also
History German Revolution
Silesian Uprisings
Suppression of the Beer Hall Putsch
Ruhr Uprising
Kapp Putsch (limited support)
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2005-0163, Thüringen, Reichswehrmanöver, Hans v. Seeckt
General Hans von Seeckt, Chief of the Reichswehr together with infantry men at a Reichswehr manoeuvre in Thuringia, 1926
Kommandostruktur des Reichsheeres
Reichswehr army structure 1920–21 to 1934

The Reichswehr (English: Realm Defence) formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was united with the new Wehrmacht (Defence Force).

Founding

At the end of World War I, the forces of the German Empire were disbanded, the men returning home individually or in small groups. Many of them joined the Freikorps (Free Corps), a collection of volunteer paramilitary units that were involved in suppressing the German Revolution and border clashes between 1918 and 1923.

The Reichswehr was limited to a standing army of 100,000 men, and a navy of 15,000. The establishment of a general staff was prohibited. Heavy weapons such as artillery above the calibre of 105 mm (for naval guns, above 205 mm), armoured vehicles, submarines and capital ships were forbidden, as were aircraft of any kind. Compliance with these restrictions was monitored until 1927 by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control.

It was conceded that the newly formed Weimar Republic did need a military, so on 6 March 1919 a decree established the Vorläufige Reichswehr (Provisional National Defence), consisting of the Vorläufiges Reichsheer (Provisional National Army) and Vorläufige Reichsmarine (Provisional National Navy). The Vorläufige Reichswehr was made up of 43 brigades.

On 30 September 1919, the army was reorganised as the Übergangsheer (Transitional Army), and the force size was reduced to 20 brigades. About 400,000 men were left in the armed forces, and in May 1920 it further was downsized to 200,000 men and restructured again, forming three cavalry divisions and seven infantry divisions. On 1 October 1920 the brigades were replaced by regiments and the manpower was now only 100,000 men as stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles. This lasted until 1 January 1921, when the Reichswehr was officially established according to the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (Articles 159 to 213).

The Reichswehr was a unified organisation composed of the following (as was allowed by the Versailles Treaty):

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10351, Kreis Frankfurt a-O, Herbstmanöver der Reichswehr
Reichswehr soldiers in a military exercise, September 1930

Despite the limitations on its size, their analysis of the loss of World War I, research and development, secret testing abroad (in co-operation with the Red Army) and planning for better times went on. In addition, although forbidden to have a General Staff, the army continued to conduct the typical functions of a general staff under the disguised name of Truppenamt (Troop Office). During this time, many of the future leaders of the Wehrmacht – such as Heinz Guderian – first formulated the ideas that they were to use so effectively a few years later.

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