Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


The purpose of this study is to investigate the influence of National Socialist ideology on the High Command of the Armed Forces in Germany between 1938 and 1945. As a result of Hitler's desire to coordinate all institutions of the state to serve the National Socialist Weltanschauung, the Army of the Weimar Republic found itself exposed to political pressure both from within and from without: Hitler's elimination of the SA as a possible threat to the position of the Reichswehr, the introduction of conscription, and his assumption of the direct command over the Armed Forces were all stages which led to increased influence of Party ideology on the Armed Forces. The creation of the High Command of the Armed Forces in 1938 and the appointment of Wilhelm Keitel as Chief of the OKW represented the culmination of a development which had begun under Field Marshal von Blomberg and which had been diverted from its original course, namely to bring about a unified command of the Services, to serve the needs of Hitler in his role as Supreme Commander. Although relations between the Armed Forces and Hitler were not without friction during the campaigns in the West, the contrast between the traditional minded Corps of Officers and Hitler became more obvious with the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union. Because of the ideological nature of this conflict and the apparent lack of enthusiasm of the generals for the implementation of ideological goals in the Eastern campaign, Hitler decided to take over direct command of the Army in the East. This act signalled the breakdown of the higher organization of the Armed Forces and reduced the High Command to the role of Hitler's military bureau. The Chief of the High Command found himself involved in political and ideological measures which, although criminal in nature, he supported because he felt obedience and loyalty to be the prime virtues of a soldier. The last-minute effort to convert the Armed Forces to a truly National Socialist instrument of power turned out to be, like all previous attempts in that direction, a failure. The thesis of this paper is that in spite of prolonged and intense pressure by the Party on the Armed Forces, the military, as a whole, did not accept the ideology of the movement.


Committee Chair

Date of Award

Summer 1968

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1968 Helmut J. Schmeller


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