The Wehrmacht during the Nazi Dictatorship

Abgeschlossenes Projekt

Employees (IfZ):  Prof. Dr. Johannes Hürter
Weitere Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter:  

Dr. Peter Lieb (ehemaliger IfZ-Mitarbeiter), Dr. Ulrike Jureit, Prof. Dr. Dieter Pohl (ehemaliger IfZ-Mitarbeiter)


In this project, the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) reacted to one of the greatest historical debates in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the long and virulent discussion that began in 1995 on the Wehrmacht. Led by Christian Hartmann and supported chiefly by the Bavarian Ministry for Science, Research, and the Arts, the project responded to the problem of previous discourse on the issue being fueled by overgeneralizations – whether they stemmed from personal experience or from research results. A broader synthesis was lacking, not least since German historians had nearly fully neglected the military aspects of German history over an extended period of time.

This deficit was always the reason why the Wehrmacht debate, at the intersection of a historiographical problem and a public controversy, was able to foment such escalation and polarization, so that just a few detail studies could no longer suffice to address this issue. This research focused instead on large, comparative presentations of what was by far the most significant and consequential event in the history of the Wehrmacht – the German-Soviet War of 1941-1944. The perspectives of the individual subprojects were closely interconnected here: The supreme army leadership (Johannes Hürter), everyday troop practices (Christian Hartmann), occupation policy in rear military administration zones (Dieter Pohl), and to round this out in both hierarchical and territorial terms, a further study on the Wehrmacht in occupied France, 1943/44 (Peter Lieb).

The various dissertations stemming from the project – with their authors Judith Schneider, Andreas Götz, Peter Lieb, Steffen Rohr, Max Spindler, and Andreas Toppe – led to further comparative perspectives: whether institutional (Luftwaffe, Waffen-SS), temporal (culture of memory), or topical (international war and law of war). These comparative approaches were also connected to the major issues underlying the project.

This research conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History also led to the reorganization of the Wehrmacht exhibition along the lines of the classical dialectical trio of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The March 2004 conference organized in cooperation with the Hamburg Institute for Social Research constituted a visible conclusion to the project published as the edited collection Verbrechen der Wehrmacht (“Crimes of the Wehrmacht”) edited by Christian Hartmann, Johannes Hürter, and Ulrike Jureit, and published by C.H.Back the following year. A further conference was organized by the project in October 2006 in cooperation with the Military History Research Office and the German Committee for the History of the Second World War, which led to a further edited collection (Von Feldherrn und Gefreiten).

The project’s work not only included its underlying research but also other activities such as the publication of popular history books and articles, numerous lectures, classes, expert opinions, contributions to exhibitions, discussions, and conferences, as well as film and documentary consulting. A lively discourse on the Wehrmacht and the Second World War is indeed not only a topic for academic research but is of particular importance to the broader public as well.

Publications within the project

Johannes Hürter

Hitlers Heerführer.

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

München 2006


Christian Hartmann

Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg.

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

München 2009


Dieter Pohl

Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht.

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

München 2008


Peter Lieb

Konventioneller Krieg oder NS-Weltanschauungskrieg?

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

München 2007


Christian Hartmann, Johannes Hürter, Peter Lieb, Dieter Pohl

Der deutsche Krieg im Osten 1941 - 1944.

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

München 2009


Christian Hartmann, Johannes Hürter, Ulrike Jureit

Verbrechen der Wehrmacht.

München 2005


Christian Hartmann (Hrsg.)

Von Feldherren und Gefreiten.

Zeitgeschichte im Gespräch

München 2008


© Institut für Zeitgeschichte