Home Page World War II Armed Forces — Orders of Battle and Organizations Last Updated 27.06.01
German Army
Ranks
 
German English
“A” Group (Oberbefehlshaber)
Generalfeldmarschall General of the Army (Field Marshal)
Generaloberst General
“F” Group (Kommandierender General)
General
   der Infanterie
   der Kavallerie
   der Artillerie
   der ...
Lieutenant General
   of the Cavalry
   of the Infantry
   of the Artillery
   of the ...
“D” Group (Divisionskommandeur)
Generalleutnant
   Generalstabsartz
   Generalstabs-…
Major General
   Major General (Medical Corps)
   Major General ( … )
“I” Group (Infanterie-, Atrillerie-, Brigadekommandeur)
Generalmajor
   Generalarzt
   General- …
Brigadier General
   Brigadier General (Medical Corps)
   Brigadier General ( … )
“R” Group (Regimentskommandeur)
Oberst
   Oberstarzt
   Oberst- …
Colonel
   Colonel (Medical Corps)
   Colonel ( … )
“B” Group (Bataillonskommandeur)
Oberstleutnant
   Oberfeldarzt
   Oberfeld- …
Lieutenant Colonel
   Lieutenant Colonel (Medical Corps)
   Lieutenant Colonel ( … )
Major
   Oberstabsarzt
   Oberstabs- …
Major
   Major (Medical Corps)
   Major ( … )
“K” Group (Kompanieführer)
Hauptmann
   Rittmeister
   Stabsarzt
   Stabsveterinär
   Stabsmusikmeister
   Stabs- …
Captain
   Captain (Cavalry Corps)
   Captain (Medical Corps)
   Captain (Veterinary Corps)
   Captain (Band)
   Captain ( … )
“Z” Group (Zugführer)
Oberleutnant
   Oberazt
   Obermusikmeister
   Oberzahlmeister
   Ober- …
First Lieutenant
   First Lieutenant (Medical Corps)
   First Lieutenant (Band)
   First Lieutenant (Paymaster Corps)
   First Lieutenant ( … )
Leutnant
   Asisstenzarzt
   Musikmeister
   Assistenzzahlmesiter
   Assistenz- …
Second Lieutenant
   Second Lieutenant (Medical Corps)
   Second Lieutenant (Band)
   Second Lieutenant (Paymaster Corps)
   Second Lieutenant ( … )
“O” Group (Oberfeldwebel)
Stabsfeldwebel
   Obermeister
Warrant Officer First Class
   Warrant Officer 1st Class of a Technical Establishment
Hauptfeldwebel
   Hauptwachtmeister
Warrrant Officer 2nd Class
   Warrant Officer 2nd Class (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
Oberfeldwebel
   Oberwachtmeister
   Musikleiter
Sergeant Major
   Sergeant Major (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
   Sergeant Major (Band), etc.
Feldwebel
   Wachtmeister
   Beschlagmeister
   Feuerwerker
   Brieftaubenmeister
First Sergeant
   First Sergeant (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
   Farrier First Sergeant
   Ordnance First Sergeant
   Pigeon Postmaster, etc.
“G” Group (Gruppenführer)
Unterfeldwebel
   Unterwachtmeister
Staff Sergeant
   Staff Sergeant (Cavalry, Artillery, AA, etc.)
Unteroffizier
    Santitätsunteroffizier
Sergeant
   Sergeant (Medical Corps)
Obergefreiter
   Beschlagschmiedobergefreiter
Corporal
   Farrier Corporal, etc.
“M” Group (Mannschaft)  
Gefreiter Private First Class
Oberschütze
   Oberreiter
Private 2
   Trooper First Class, etc.
Schütze
   Grenadier
   Jäger
   Reiter
   Kanonier
   Pionier
   Funker
   Fahrer
   Kraftfahrer
   Sanitätssoldat
   Beschlagschmiedschütze
   Spielman
Private 1 (infantryman)
   Private (alternate designation for infantryman)
   Private (Mountain or Light Infantry)
   Trooper (Cavalry)
   Gunner (Artillery)
   Engineer / Pioneer (Engineers)
   Radioman (Signals)
   Driver (usually of a horse-drawn vehicle)
   Driver (motor vehicle)
   Medic (Medical)
   Farrier (horse smith)
   Bandsman / Bugler, etc.
NOTES:
This is only a simplified account of the German military personnel structure and hierarchy. Readers are warned that, as in all armies, they were in actual fact more complicated, with important differentiations being made between designations of rank, position, function, skill, and assignment.

The equivalent Ranks given in English are neither completely World War II British nor American, and is not going to satisfy any specialist. (However a specialist would probably not be reading this anyway).

An attempt has been made to give modern US Army rank equivalents, but this Army has some differences. It has one more enlisted rank (Command Sergeant Major), and one more Warrant Officer rank Warrant Officer 3rd Class). The US Army also differentiates between Sergeants and Specialist. And, Warrant Officers are counted as officers, not enlisted men. (In the German WWII Army, all ranks below 2nd Lieutenant were enlisted men).

The German Army divided officers are into eight groups, depending on the function they were to carry out. The enlisted men were divided into three groups: Senior Sergeants (Unteroffiziere mit Portepee) (“O” Group), Junior Sergeants (Unteroffizier ohne Portepee)(“G” Group), and enlisted men (Mann-schaften)(“M” Group”).

The German Wehrmacht also had a unique category of personnel within its ranks, namely the Wehrmachtbeamten, which can be loosely translated as Armed Forces Civil Servants or as Government Service Officials. They were found in administrative, legal, and technical service positions. They were civilians performing functions within the Armed Forces. Although they were not classified as soldiers, they wore uniforms identical with those of the Service branch they were serving with, albeit with different insignia. Their duties, at least at field and company level, could lead to armed encounters with enemy forces, and they were all armed with pistols.

In the personnel table opposite, the position and function equivalents are indicated, but not skill.

German Tables of Organization (KStN – Kriegsstδrkenachweisungen) had many notes indicating which positions and functions were to be filled with what ranks and specialists, listing which positions had priority over others, which could alternatively be filled by a person with specialized knowledge or skill, and which positions should by preference be filled with regular army personnel.

Although it was expected to have rank and position corresponding to each other, this was far from the case. Specialist personnel was rare and many units were raised in a hurry, not having enough time to acquire all its correct personnel. And once a units entered combat, the chances of acquiring the exact, highly-skilled soldier for the correct position often became merely a matter of luck.

Promotion in ranks was achieved by serving time. The function or position filled as such was not a ground for promotion. Skill was preferred to rank.

The highest combat leader position held by an enlisted was that of platoon leader. However, this usually applied only to the third and fourth platoons. All other combat command positions were held by officers. Sergeants and Warrant Officers were in charge of logistics and administration, freeing the officers for their primary function of leading men into combat. It was not unusual for senior enlisted men to become involved in combat when the need arose, although the German Army considered it a waste of skilled manpower to use these highly trained and experienced men for this purpose.
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