Field marshal or Generalfeldmarschall ( listen (help·info)) in German (usually translated simply as "general field marshal", and sometimes written only as Feldmarschall), was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation; in the Habsburg Monarchy, the rank Feldmarschall was used. The rank was the equivalent to a grand admiral (German language: Großadmiral) in the Imperial German Navy and Kriegsmarine.
In the German-Prussian Army and later in the Wehrmacht, the rank had several privileges, such as elevation to nobility, equal protocol rank with cabinet ministers, right of reporting directly to the monarch, and a constant escort/protection. In 1854, the rank of colonel-general (German language: Generaloberst) was created in order to promote William I, German Emperor to senior rank without breaking the rule that only wartime field commanders could receive the rank of field marshal for a victory in a decisive battle or the capture of a fortification or major town. In 1870 Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia and Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm—who had commanded armies during the Franco-Prussian War—became the first Prussian princes appointed field marshals.
In the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe of Germany during World War II, the rank of Generalfeldmarschall was the highest military rank until July 1940, when it was made subordinate to the even higher rank of Reichsmarschall (held solely by Hermann Göring). The equivalent of a Generalfeldmarschall in the navy was Großadmiral ("grand admiral"). The rank of Generalfeldmarschall was abolished after the fall of the Third Reich.
Hitler promoted Friedrich Paulus—commander of the 6th Army at Stalingrad—to the rank of field marshal shortly before his army's inevitable surrender in order to encourage him to continue to fight until death or commit suicide. In the promotion Hitler noted that no German or Prussian field marshal at that point in history had ever been captured alive. Paulus surrendered anyway, claiming "I have no intention of shooting myself for this Bohemian corporal".
Currently, the highest military grade in in the reconstituted Bundeswehr is general and admiral. The Commander-in-Chief (German language: Inhaber der Befehls- und Kommandogewalt) of the Bundeswehr is in peacetime, according to Article 65 a of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, the civilian Federal Minister of Defence (German language: Bundesminister der Verteidigung), who holds supreme command authority over all soldiers. The Chief of Staff, Bundeswehr German language: Generalinspekteur) is the chief of defence post and heads the armed forces command staff (German language: Führungsstab der Streitkräfte).
The Nationale Volksarmee of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) created the rank of Marschall der DDR ("marshal of the GDR") on 25 March 1982. A general could be appointed to this rank by the Staatsrat (the head-of-state council of the GDR) during wartime or for exceptional military achievement; no one ever held the rank, however.
See also[edit | edit source]
- List of German field marshals
- List of Austrian field marshals
- List of field marshals of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation
- Comparative military ranks of World War I
- Comparative military ranks of World War II
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Beevor, Antony (1998). Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. New York: Penguin Books. p. 381
[edit | edit source]
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