×
Courtesy Reuters

EVENTS of the last few months have placed the Reichswehr in the forefront of world interest. But its bloodless victories in Austria and Czecho-Slovakia have not offered any insight into its real capacity to carry on another World War. The Reichswehr remains, even more than the Red Army, the mystery force of the world.

The difficulty in appreciating the Reichswehr's real strength lies not so much in the elaborate secrecy surrounding it as in the unique conditions under which it was created and now works. No other military force in the world has had to undergo such violent changes within so short a period as it has undergone since the World War; nor has any other modern army been expanded eightfold under conditions of complete secrecy and the threat of armed intervention -- and this simultaneously with the development of one of the most thoroughgoing revolutions in history.

To understand the present position of the German Army we must go back to the revolution of 1918-19. During those hectic days the foundations of the Reichswehr were laid by the somewhat chaotic "Free Corps," remnants of the old Imperial Army that assisted the new Republican Government to suppress the extreme radicals and to restore order. This unnatural partnership between the revolutionary Government and ultra-nationalist elements inevitably broke down: in March 1920 the famous Kapp Putsch found the Army divided. But thanks to the remarkable diplomacy of General von Seeckt, confidence was restored after a relatively short period of upheaval and the Army leaders were able to continue with their work of consolidating the Reichswehr's position.

The material and political circumstances in which this was carried on made the Reichswehr fundamentally different from the old Imperial Army. The Versailles Treaty had restricted Germany to a mercenary force of 100,000 long-service men, without tanks, planes or heavy artillery -- conditions such as to make the task of preparing an adequate defense for the country seem at first a bitter farce. Nevertheless, the very harshness of the

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue