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Oberarzt (short: OArzt or OA), literally meaning "senior physician," in English known as first lieutenant (Dr.), was a military commissioned officer rank in the Austro-Hungarian Common Army until 1918, and in German Reichswehr and Wehrmacht until 1945.

It describes a qualified or licensed surgeon or dentist with a rank equal to 1st lieutenant (de: Oberleutnant) or sub-lieutenant lieutenant (de: Oberleutant zur See) NATO-Rangcode OF1a[1] in anglophone armed forces.

While holders of this rank were commissioned officers, their authority was usually limited to medical matters and medical staff, and they were regarded as non-combatants and accorded the status of "protected persons" under international humanitarian law when participating in humanitarian work during armed conflicts. As such, they could not be attacked, harmed or taken as prisoners of war, and were entitled under the Geneva Conventions to carry out their work without being inhibited.



In the German Wehrmacht from 1933 until 1945 there were the OF1a-ranks Oberarzt (physician), Oberapotheker (pharacologis), and Oberveterinär (veterinary), comparable to the Oberleutnant/First lieutenant OF2a-rank.

During wartime, the regular assignment of Oberarzt was the management of a battalion dressing station (de. Truppenverbandsplatz), supported by second lieutenants (Dr.), and help surgeons (de: Assistenz-, and Hilfsärzte). However, a battalion dressing station could be managed by an Assistenzarzt (OF1b) as well.

The corps colour of the military Health Service Support (HSS) in German armed forces was traditional dark blue, and of the veterinarian service carmine red.[2] This tradition was continued by the medical service corps in Heer and Luftwaffe of the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht. However, the corps colour of the Waffen-SS HSS was “cornflower blue”.

junior Rank
German medical officer rank
senior Rank


The manner of formal addressing of military surgeons/dentists with the rank Oberarzt was, „Herr Oberarzt“.

Rank insignias[]

On the shoulder straps (Heer, Luftwaffe) there was one silver stars and the career insignia (de: Laufbahnabzeichen) as symbol of the medical standing, or course of studies. The piping on shoulder straps shows the Waffenfarbe (en: corps- or troop-function colour), corresponding to the appropriate military service, branch, or special force.

Ranks Wehrmacht until 1945[3] Flag of NATO.svg
Medical service en Equivalent Heer en
Generaloberstabsarzt Senior Staff-Surgeon General General der Waffengattung General ... OF8
Generalstabsarzt Staff-Surgeon General Generalleutnant Lieutenant general OF7
Generalarzt Surgeon General Generalmajor Major general OF6
Oberstarzt Colonel (Dr.) Oberst Colonel OF5
Oberfeldarzt Lieutenant colonel (Dr.) Oberstleutnant Lieutenant colonel OF4
Oberstabsarzt Major (Dr.)
Stabsarzt Captain (Dr.) Hauptmann Captain OF2
Oberarzt First lieutenant (Dr.) Oberleutnant First lieutenant OF1a
Assistenzarzt Second lieutenant (Dr.) Leutnant Second lieutenant OF1b
Unterarzt Oberfähnrich (Dr.) Oberfähnrich Officer Aspirant OR7[4]


In the Austria-Hungarian Common Army (de: Gemeinsame Armee or k.u.k. Armee) there were the OF1a-ranks Oberarzt and Obertierarz until 1918. That particular ranks were comparable to the Oberleutnant/1st lieutenant OF1-rank as well.[5]

Ranks k.u.k. Army until 1918 Flag of NATO.svg
Medical service en Equivalent Heer en
Generalstabsarzt Staff-Surgeon General Generalmajor Major general OF6
Oberstabsarzt I. Klasse Colonel (Dr. 1st class) Oberst Colonel OF5
Oberstabsarzt II. Klasse Lieutenant colonel (Dr. 2nd class) Oberstleutnant Lieutenant colonel OF4
Stabsarzt Major (Dr.)
Regimentsarzt I. Klasse Captain (Dr. 1st class) Hauptmann Captain OF2
Regimentsarzt II. Klasse Captain (Dr. 2nd class)
Oberarzt First lieutenant (Dr.) Oberleutnant First lieutenant OF1a
Assistenzarzt Secon lieutenant (Dr.) Leutnant Second lieutenant OF1b


  1. The abbreviation "OF" stands for de: "Offizier / en: officer / fr: officier / ru: офицер"
  2. “War and victory 1870-71”, culture history, published by Julius von Pflugk-Harttung. (Original title: Krieg und Sieg 1870-71, Kulturgeschichte, Herausgeber Julius von Pflugk-Harttung.)
  3. F. Altrichter: “The reserve officer”, fourteenth checked addition, Berlin 1941, pages 158-159. (Original title: F. Altrichter: „Der Reserveoffizier“, vierzehnte durchgesehene Auflage, Berlin 1941, Seiten 158-159.)
  4. The abbreviation "OR" stands for "Other Ranks / fr: sous-officiers et militaires du rang / ru:другие ранги, кроме офицероф"
  5. Schriften des Heeresgeschichtlifhen Museums in Wien Das k.u.k. Heer im Jahre 1895 Edition Leopold Stocker Graz 1997 ISBN 3-7020-0783-0.

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