- the Republic's armed forces, fixed in type and number by the Versailles Treaty* and consisting of both army and navy. Aiming to avert a war of revenge, the Allies rigorously limited Germany's military (Articles 159-213 of Versailles). The disarmament* clauses restricted the army to 100,000 officers and men, universal conscription was annulled, reserves were disallowed, the War Academy and cadet schools were banned, and the General Staff was proscribed. In addition, embattlements were dismantled and some weaponry, including tanks and heavy artillery, was forbidden. The navy was allowed 15,000 officers and men, six battleships ("Deutschland" class, older and smaller than "Dreadnoughts"), six small cruisers, twelve destroyers, and twelve torpedo boats; submarines were prohibited. Aircraft were allowed only for civilian pur-poses. Having nurtured the idea of forming a compulsory militia, the SPD found these provisions no less onerous than did the High Command of the Imperial Army (Reichsheer).By the end of World War I the Reichsheer was largely a citizens' army. When the troops came home, they tended to quickly disperse. Early efforts by the Council of People's Representatives* to form a democratic army had mixed results; amidst threats to the council's safety, such units proved inefficient, un-reliable, and, in some cases, hostile to the reestablishment of order. Faced with anarchy, Gustav Noske* turned to members of the General Staff; together they devised the Freikorps* structure. In the first months after the Armistice* the only units manifesting any loyalty to German authorities, and any fighting spirit, were the Freikorps. Unfortunately, that loyalty was infrequently maintained fol-lowing acceptance of the Versailles Treaty.The need to create a unified and responsive military force was soon apparent to both the government and the High Command. Although the Freikorps pro-vided inestimable service in time of emergency, too many units were contemp-tuous of authority and endangered public safety. Thus in an early measure the new National Assembly* passed the Provisional Reichswehr Law on 6 March 1919. By this act the Imperial Army was dissolved, supreme command was entrusted to the President (Friedrich Ebert*), a civilian Defense Minister (Noske) was given immediate command authority, and an oath of allegiance to the Con-stitution* was created for all personnel.Although the March law did not dissolve the Freikorps (that followed in 1920), the core of the Reichswehr came from the Freikorps, just as the core of the Freikorps had earlier come from the Reichsheer. This continuity was not altered when, by the Defense Law (Wehrgesetz) of March 1921, the Provisional Reichswehr was recast as the 100,000-man force required by Versailles. Un-derscoring a constitutional provision that the government had total jurisdiction over national defense, the law stated that the "President of the Reich is the commander-in-chief of the entire Wehrmacht" (defense force). Through the President, the Defense Minister was authorized to issue orders to the military. Leading the Reichswehr, and directly responsible to the Defense Minister, was the Chief of the Army Command (Heeresleitung). The General Staff was sup-planted by the Truppenamt (Troops Office), the intellectual hub of the army. The Chief of the Truppenamt, who was responsible to the Chief of the Heer-esleitung, possessed neither the power nor the prestige of the old Chef des Generalstabs.The navy (Reichsmarine) was decidedly the junior partner among the Repub-lic's armed forces. The Chief of the Naval Command (Marineleitung) was also subordinate to the civilian Defense Minister. But in contrast to the army, which began military discussions with Soviet Russia in 1921 (the Reichswehr opened its own offices in Moscow, Zentrale Moskau, in 1923), the navy initiated ten-tative contacts with Soviet naval representatives only in 1926. The navy never depended on the Soviets to cover its illegal activities and consistently rejected close relations with Moscow. Yet throughout the Weimar era it focused on the likelihood of a two-front war: an offensive strike against Poland* in the Baltic Sea and coastal defense against France in the North Sea. First under Admiral Hans Zenker (Chef der Marineleitung, 1924-1928) and then under Admiral Erich Raeder (1928-1935), the navy evolved elaborate mobilization plans for offensive action in both the North Sea and the Baltic that presumed British neutrality. Despite its secondary guise, it rarely worked in harmony with the army; indeed, its presumptuous goals were unpalatable to senior army officers who recalled the unrealistic aspirations of the prewar High Seas Fleet. Mean-while, the army managed throughout the Weimar years to accent two principles from Clausewitz: war is a means of national policy, not an end in itself; and military planning must be subordinate to political considerations. The navy dis-counted Clausewitz.Since the army was preoccupied with protecting Germany's heartland, its relative moderation led the government to give it support and cover. Yet under Hans von Seeckt,* Chief of the Heeresleitung during 1920-1926, the army rig-idly preserved the traditions of the old Reichsheer and failed to generate more than an ambivalent opinion of the Republic. Never esteeming himself subordi-nate to any civilian, Seeckt enjoyed a close relationship with President Ebert and often went over the head of both the Chancellor and the Defense Minister. His frequent protests in cabinet sessions, especially against Gustav Strese-mann's* Locarno* policy, created the impression that the Chefder Heereslei-tung, not the Defense Minister, spoke for defense policy. With or without the assistance of the Republic's civilian leaders, Seeckt managed to evade Ver-sailles's military stipulations. A law unto itself, the army under Seeckt and his successors remained a "state within a state," establishing its own goals and unfolding its own means for their achievement. Moreover, from 1928 until the Republic's collapse, the "civilian" Defense Minister was a former general, first Wilhelm Groener* and then Kurt von Schleicher.* By 1932 the army was utterly professional and efficient; however, it was not the nonpolitical force Seeckt had professedly desired. With its older leadership seeking restoration of the mon-archy, and many junior officers warming to the NSDAP, the Reichswehr failed utterly to serve the Republic in the regime's waning months.REFERENCES:Bennett, German Rearmament; Carsten, Reichswehr and Politics; Corum, Roots of Blitzkreig; Craig, Politics of the Prussian Army; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Post, Civil-Military Fabric.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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