German General Staff

As a general staff history is often referred to the sum of all specially trained General Staff officers in the German military, identify the top military leadership. On the other hand, it also refers to a specific institution, the highest military command authority of many armed forces. Your head is the chief of staff. The General Staff is subordinate to the Ministry of Defence today in most countries. The appropriate command authority of naval forces in many countries of the Naval Staff or the Admiralty.


The General Staff is implementing the orders of the political leadership in military action. The duties of a general staff may include:

        Force planning

        S mobilization and deployment planning

        Use planning

        Use management



        Workforce planning

Concept of origin

The term derives etymologically from the constable (including constables) and comes from the Middle Latin comes stabuli or constabularius, stable mate, comrade.

The comes stabuli was a privileged person at the court, which initially was responsible for the supervision of the stud (Marshal Service), in the Franconian Empire and was later also to European military and diplomat European tasks used.

Comes from the stabuli was in the 11th Century France, the Constable, in the hierarchy of the five most important court officials (grands officiers) was. The Constable of France (Constable of France) was then from 14 Century the commander in chief of the army (top Kronfeldherr), which from 1190 served as deputy marshals of France.

The members of the General Staff are functionally close to the historic group of lictor s, which played a prominent role in the Roman dictatorship.

Origin and Meaning of the General Staff in Germany


The modern Prussian General Staff was not a result of the reform period 1807-1814. In essence, precursors of the General Staff developed in the 18th Century, but actually already in 1803 by Christian von Massenbach and Levin Geusau. Especially after the defeat of Napoleon in 1806 against much-maligned mass Bach had lobbied for the establishment of a military institution which no longer only auxiliary tasks solved as the old Prussian quartermaster staff. With success: out of a loose group of aides and engineering officers, which operated as Quartermaster General Staff since 1787, at least on paper had become a bureaucratic organization, responsible for land survey, military science and operational planning.

Under Gerhard von Scharnhorst, the General Staff was then folded in 1808 as the central organ of the newly established Ministry of War with the General Staff officers in the newly formed army brigades institutionally. He was into a kind of nervous system in the squad.

The Prussian General Staff has proven itself in the wars of liberation against France n and n in the wars of unification. His military plans were on a military scientific basis. The term general staff is still a widespread practice in the vernacular term for a thorough planning that leaves nothing to chance.

He was at that time at all armies as exemplary. Many countries sent officers to Berlin, so they studied the work of the General Staff, or asked to send German General Staff as instructors.

However, the development history of General Staff has its origin not in Prussia. Thus, the Great Elector organized his Quartermaster General Staff end of the 17th Century after the pattern of the then highly esteemed Swedish army. The task of the rod was to oversee the engineering services of the army, to monitor the roadmaps, and select camps and fortified positions.

At the same time similar institutions originated in England under Cromwell, in Austria and other southern states.

The army had become so strong over the years, the theater of war so extensive that it was difficult for the sovereign to command in war alone. The final image was transformed, as was the war of the princes and kings to the people’s war with the French Revolution and fought at various mass armies, often widely separated locations. Now it had become impossible for a commander commanded alone and now was a campaign in which millions of soldiers were mobilized, not to organize out of the moment.

In Prussia remained in view of the successes of Frederick the Great the change of the situation and the consequent need to adapt unnoticed, whereas France was the first nation a staff of experts called together, you could call a general staff for the purposes of the modern era. Not least owed him by Napoleon to conquer Europe.

Only through the Napoleonic successes was awakened the sleeping Prussia. The young revolutionary forces that had previously not been able to prevail against the conservative forces felt their views confirmed by the course of events, and finally they were able to convince the King. Wide-ranging Scharnhorst plans that he intended to catch up lost time in decades within short time:

        Abolition of the mercenary army,

        Introduction of conscription (as in France)

        Abolition disgraceful punishment in the army, to give the soldiers back his self-esteem

        Abolition of the nobility sprivilegien, even the simple man of the people should be able to become an officer if he had the ability.

Failed Scharnhorst to enforce all claims, and he had to go some detours, but to get to the destination. But he pushed through a plan: The old quartermaster staff was disbanded, formed a Ministry of War, and in him the General Staff. And as input to school Scharnhorst founded the Institute of War. In this academy, the officers should not be brought up to stubborn command receivers, but to educated, independently thinking and acting leaders.

A few years after its revival in the wars of liberation 1813-15, the new Prussian general staff went into action for the first time. Scharnhorst, the boss of this General Staff, had designed the plan of operation for the Prussian Army, led Gneisenau after his death his work continued.

Paris was taken in 1814 by Gneisenau plan and also the Battle of Waterloo was a design based on the Prussian General Staff. This time you fell in Berlin not as after the death of Frederick the Great in complacent slumber: After the liberation war, the right recognized as principles of the General Staff were further developed. The war story that has been explored so that the young officers could draw from it the lessons plans for possible war, according to the political situation, have been developed which maps work perfect, studied management and supply issues, monitors the expansion of the road network as well as military. The General Staff was given the task to handle all personnel matters of the army and to prepare the necessary mobilization maybe someday. Each Infantry Division was assigned to a staff officer as a liaison officer. Always be followed to the doctrine that every officer must be a person who is ordered while the goal of the path that leads to the goal but even decides.

In the battle of Hradec Králové in 1866 understood the then Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke, to bring his staff work full: three Prussian armies marched separately in Bohemia and met with the utmost precision together only on the battlefield to defeat the opposing army.

Chief of Staff

since the introduction of the official designation:

        Lieutenant General Carl Friedrich Ferdinand Freiherr von Müffling – 11 January 1821 to 21 January 1829

        General of Infantry of Johann Wilhelm Krauseneck – 29 November 1829 to 13 May 1848

        Cavalry General Karl Friedrich Wilhelm von REYHER – 13 May 1848 to 7 October 1857

        Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke – 29 October 1857 to 10 August 1888

German Empire

German Empire

The Prussian “General Staff of the Army” led by zukommandierten General Staff officers from Saxony, Württemberg and Bavaria in the “General Staff” military planning in the kingdom through. The General Staff was divided into the central, the “General Staff” in Berlin and the troops of General Staff at the Corps commands or General Command and General Staff officers in the divisions. The Chief of the General Staff called himself “chief of staff” and was also superior of all professional staff officers. Even in Prussia since the General Staff Moltke a special political significance. He was extremely influential, as it since 1883 along with the commanding generals and the commanders Immediatrecht the Emperor as “supreme commander” (German Empire) and “Chief of the Army” (Prussia), effectively had the opportunity to military decisions past chancellor and to meet the Reichstag. This is one of the germ cells of the catastrophe of the First World War, as the military planning was thus not necessarily subject to political control (see also: the primacy of politics). Thus, the Schlieffen plan and the only war almost a dogma could develop without significant politicians of the empire were even inaugurated. Even the leadership of the Imperial Navy did not know this army planning.

Internal organization

The “General Staff” was subdivided into several departments.

        The first Department dealt with Russia

        The second Department was the “German” section, also called march department. It consisted of two sections.

o        The first Section had all the German Army to edit in question, questions which related to its wartime development in peacetime. This includes its training, armament, equipment and organization. Likewise, their work area extended sfall on the border and the deployment of the army in the mobilization.

o        The second Section edited all the questions that related to the defense capability and reinforcement German fortifications. Later, from about 1908 still came to the technical section. She had to deal with the increasingly important military art.

        The railway department

        The 3rd Department dealt with France and England

        The 4th with the fortresses of these states

        The 5th with Italy and Austria-Hungary

        The 6th was the maneuver department for planning the Kaisermanöver

Other departments had to watch the politics and the military of other countries of the world from the press, diplomacy, and military and agent reports and analyze and to always keep their knowledge up to date.

There were

        War History departments

        Department General Staff Corps and Travel

        Prussian land survey

This was the country to measure trigonometric and topographically, to make cards and to keep up to date. They also had to collect tickets from abroad and to reproduce.

The responsibility was on the general staff except the Chief of the General Staff itself in the converged all the work, the Quartermaster (OQ I). This was superior of all department heads.

With the onset of World War II, the Army High Command (OHL) was formed from the Prussian, Saxony, Württemberg and Bavaria staffs, that an enlarged and enhanced Great General Staff. Which was managed by the Prussian “Chief of the General Staff of the Army.” Helmuth von Moltke d J. and Erich von Falkenhayn were the chiefs of the First and Second OHL. After detachment Falkenhayn the Third OHL was formed. These were Paul von Hindenburg, the almost as an equal partner Erich Ludendorff stood to the side. Hence the name First Quartermaster General Ludendorff was introduced. After the dismissal of Ludendorff, Groener followed him into this position.

Chief of Staff

        Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke — 29 October 1857 to 10 August 1888, Moltke was the last Prussian Chief of Staff and the first chief of the General Staff

        Cavalry general Alfred Graf von Waldersee — 10 August 1888 to 7 February 1891

        Cavalry general Alfred Graf von Schlieffen — 7 February 1891 to 1 January 1906

        Colonel General Helmuth von Moltke dJ. — 1 January 1906 to 14 September 1914

        Infantry General Erich von Falkenhayn — 14 September 1914 to 29 August 1916

        Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg — 29 August 1916 to 3 July 1919

First Quartermaster General under Hindenburg:

o        Infantry General Erich Ludendorff — 29 August 1916 to 26 October 1918

o        Lieutenant General Wilhelm Groener — 30 October 1918 to 15 July 1919

Weimar Republic

The Reichswehr was allowed under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles do not have a general staff. Article 160 of the Treaty provides that: “The German General Staff and all similar formations are resolved and may be re-formed in any shape.” The role of the General Staff took over the Troop Office (a euphemism) in the Defense Ministry.

Except in Truppenamt there was in the two groups in the ten commands and divisional staffs a general staff. The General Staff officers, however, was no longer referred to as such, but were called “leaders Staff Officers”. The General Staff training was held under the title “assistant leader training” and was in a decentralized manner in the military district s.

Overall, there was in the time of the Weimar Republic about 250-300 points for Generalstabsofffiziere, which from 1933 became known as the disruptive effect of the accelerated increase of the Wehrmacht at the time.

Internal organization

The Troop Office was composed of four divisions:

        The Department T 1, also called “Department of Defence”, took over the duties of former Nazis and Operation Department.

        T 2 Organization

        T 3, and “Army Department of Statistics”, dealt with the study of foreign armies

        T 4 training

Part of the military history department of the General Staff continued to work in the newly established National Archives.

Chief of Truppenamt

        Major General Hans von Seeckt — 1 October 1919 to 26 March 1920

        Major General Wilhelm Heye — 28 March 1920 to February 1923

        Major General Otto Hasse — February 1923 to October 1925

        Major General George Wetzell — October 1925 to December 1926

        Major General Werner von Blomberg — January 1927 to 30 September 1929

        Lieutenant General Baron Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord — 1 October 1929 to 31 October 1930

        Major General William Adam — 31 October 1930 to 30 September 1933

Period of National Socialism


With effect from 1 June 1935 the Troop Office was renamed “General Staff of the Army”.

Chief of the General Staff of the Army was established on 1 July 1935 Lieutenant-General Ludwig Beck, who ever since the first October 1933, the troops Office initiated in the Defense Ministry.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force was formed on 1 March 1935, Major General Walther Wever, who also earlier, since 1 September 1933, Chief of the Air Force Command Office in the Ministry of Aviation, and thus head of the General Staff of the Air Force was camouflaged.

At the same time, the Navy Department was renamed the High Command of the Navy, the former chief of the Naval Command, Admiral Erich Raeder was Commander in Chief of the Navy (ob.d.M.), which was henceforth referred to as the Navy. The Navy did not know any admiralty, but only the Admiralty, which was introduced in 1938. The owner of the command post was first called “Chief of Staff of Naval Operations,” starting in May 1944, “Chief of Naval Operations.”

In the course of the Blomberg-Fritsch crisis in February 1938, Hitler became the direct command of the army, and also created his own military staff – the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) with General Wilhelm Keitel as Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht at the top. Since then acted special bars in the OKW and the High Command of the Armed Forces (General Staff of the Air Force and Naval Staff) and General Staff.

The actual staff work has been done on this by the Wehrmacht Operations Office (EFC) of the High Command of the Wehrmacht and its various departments. The EFC (1940 renamed the Armed Forces Operations Staff (WFSt)) was performed with a brief interruption in 1939, until the war ended by Alfred Jodl, chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Staff of the High Command of the Wehrmacht.

The structure and tasks of the General Staff in case of war were in the secret instructions “H.Dv.g 92 – Manual for the General Staff during the war – 08.01.1939” planned and defined.

The OKW or Armed Forces Operations Staff, however, was contrary to what the name suggested, is not the supreme military staff for the entire Wehrmacht. The respective main theater of war, so in 1941 the conduct of the war against the Soviet Union, was in the hands of the army high command, only the other theaters of war were in the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces Operations Staff.

Chief of Staff of the Army

        Artillery General Ludwig Beck — 1 October 1933 to 31 October 1938

        General Franz Halder — 31 October 1938 to 24 September 1942

        Colonel General Kurt Zeitzler — 24 September 1942 to 10 July 1944

        Lieutenant-General Adolf Heusinger — 10 to 20 July 1944 (with the Deputy conduct of the business entrusted)

        General Heinz Guderian — 21 July 1944 to 28 March 1945 (with the conduct of the business entrusted)

        General of Infantry Hans Krebs — 29 March to 1 May 1945 (with the conduct of the business entrusted)

        Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel — 1 to 13 May 1945 (with the conduct of the business entrusted)

        General Alfred Jodl — 13 to 23 May 1945 (with the conduct of the business entrusted)

Chief of Staff of the Air Force

        Lieutenant General Walther Wever — 1 March 1935 to 3 June 1936

        Lieutenant General Albert Kesselring — 3 June 1936 to 31 May 1937

        Air General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff — 1 June 1937 to 31 January 1939

        Colonel General Hans Jeschonnek — 1 February 1939 to 19 August 1943

        Luftwaffe General Günther Korten — 4 September 1943 to 22 July 1944

        Air General Werner Kreipe — 2 August to 28 October 1944 (with the conduct of the business entrusted)

        Air General Karl Koller — 1 November 1944 to 8 May 1945

        Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff — 8 to 23 May 1945 (with the conduct of the business entrusted)

Chief of Staff (Chief from 1944) of the Naval Staff

        Admiral Otto Schniewind — 31 October 1938 to 12 June 1941

        Admiral Kurt Fricke — 13 June 1941 to 21 February 1943

        Admiral Wilhelm Meisel — 21 February 1943 to 22 July 1945

Federal Republic of Germany

See: Joint Staff of the Armed Forces

After 1945, an independent German Army and the General Staff was forbidden by the Potsdam Agreement. In the rearmament on 5 May 1955, the term general staff was not used in the Bundeswehr. Nevertheless, there are the aforementioned duties of a general staff in the armed forces. Their top management authority is the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces (Armed Forces Staff) in the Ministry of Defence (MoD). At the head of the Armed Forces Staff of the General Staff of the Bundeswehr stands as the highest soldier of the Bundeswehr.

In the period to 1990, West Germany had delegated the operational management of its forces in case of war completely to NATO, said sometimes of a nationwide German headquarters were under such As the fleet command or the German army corps (I, II, III.). Today’s missions abroad, which are not under the command of NATO or any other international organization, led by the Ministry of Defence and Operations Command, or in exceptional cases, the Operational Command of the armed force. Were also in those services and general staff are tasks to complete. The rest were not operational tasks of a general staff and are perceived in the Armed Forces Staff and the guide bars of the armed forces in the MoD.

But the term G1, G2, etc. is also today still found in the divisional staffs of the army (in the Air Force as A1, A2, etc., in the Navy as M1, M2, etc. and the Operational Command of the Armed Forces as J1, J2, etc. referred to.). It identifies the competent General Staff and its area of responsibility. G1 stands for. As for the General Staff Department, which is responsible for personnel management. Head of this department is usually an officer with the rank of Colonel (“the General Staff” (meant to 1945 i G. “General Staff”)) or Lieutenant Colonel All subordinate ranks in the department are thus G S (Staff) officers, Sergeant S, S, S-commissioned officers or soldiers. The S1 DVVerbOffz would therefore be the S1 DV liaison officer in the G1 division, responsible for the electronic management of personal data within the division. In subordinate regiments and battalions of the post of HR Manager is represented by an officer S1 (Staff Officer for Personnel Management). An S1 officer usually holds the rank of lieutenant or captain or Staff Captain.

General Staff officers

For the service of the general staff specially qualified officer s were needed from the start. This required a general staff officers to the area of their branch of service (initially infantry, cavalry, artillery) go through this training to understand the forces in their entirety. The best officers of a vintage were for general staff training therefore always selected and it is usually a prerequisite for promotion to General. There are only a few of exceptions, such As the stage manager of the respective branches of service.

The general staff training in Germany was always tedious and expensive. In the past she was part of several phases at the General Staff Academy, scientific studies and between temporal service in the squad. In the Armed Forces, the General Staff of the Army and the Air Force is the Naval Staff and officers of the Navy since 1957 in a two-year course (National Generalstabs-/Admiralstabsdienst course, LGAN) at the Staff College (FüAkBw) is formed in Hamburg. It has been shown that bringing the new tasks of the armed forces in their operations abroad in ever larger scale joint operations of all branches of the armed forces (joint) with you. Therefore, the traditional training with different armed force-related training courses and joint (joint) training units no longer meets the requirements. Since 1 October 2004, therefore, the officers of the Army, Air Force and Navy are formed in a common course.

Certain posts are called general staff positions. In higher military bars – the army of the brigade level upwards – support General Staff officers to commanders as so-called leaders assistants. They are also in many other senior positions in the Ministry of Defence, at academies and schools as military attaché or see Officers of the Army and the Air Force, serving on the General Staff post, result in the addition to their rank iG. “meaning” in the General Staff “(1945 meant iG. “General Staff”) and are identified by outward sign of the uniform (s crimson collar tabs, backing the crimson shoulder flap). Most of them – but not all – have participated in the general staff training. The Navy knows neither rank nor additives labeling of naval staff officers.

German Democratic Republic

After the founding of the NVA on 1 March 1956, the functions of the General Staff were executed by the main bar. The term general staff was not used to pressure the Soviet Union.

General Staff Training

The general staff training were the officers of the armed forces of the GDR at the Military Academy and Friedrich Engels the General Staff Academy of the USSR. The chief of the general staff, was well as the chiefs of the armed forces until 1989, Deputy Minister of National Defence.

Chief of the General Staff of

        Lieutenant-General Vincenz Müller — 1 March 1956 to 1 March 1958

        Colonel General Heinz Hoffmann — 1 March 1958 to 1 October 1960

        Lieutenant General Sigfrid Riedel — 1 October 1960 to 15 March 1967

        Colonel General Heinz Kessler — 15 March 1967 to 10 January 1979

        Colonel Fritz Streletz — 10 January 1979 to 21 December 1989

        Lieutenant General Manfred Gratz — 1 January to 15 September 1990

        Major General Michael Schlothauer — 15 September to 2 October 1990


To see Austria-Hungary Austro-Rod being

The Chief of the General Staff in Austria is the chief advisor to the Federal Minister of Defence on all military matters and represents the military leadership of the armed forces there at home and abroad. He is an advisory member of the National Security Council and Chairman of the Working Committee “M” in the context of the Comprehensive national defense and military advisor to the Armed Complaints Commission and a representative of the Armed Forces in the EU Military Committee, the Coordination Committee of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership as well as in relevant multinational bodies.

It is responsible for administrative and technical supervision over the armed forces and the intelligence services and the academies, the weapons and technical schools, the military mission, military advice and the offices of defense attaché. The Chief of the General Staff makes use of his staff, which currently consists of the application, the planning and the deployment section.

In the Austrian army officers carry with general staff training marked “dG” (the general staff service, such B. MjrdG). All troops officers are subjected to a multistage selection process earlier than five years after the retirement of Lieutenant. The General Staff course lasts six semesters. A general staff training for police officers is not provided.


The General Staff was under different names to the Army XXI reform the organization responsible for planning and overall management organizational unit of the Swiss Army and was under the guidance of the Chief of Staff with the rank of Lieutenant s. Even after the reform is the Corps of Army staff officers who are trained at the General Staff School Leadership assistants of senior management.

Other countries


The U.S. has a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), on 1 October odd years shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. In 2011 this was Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, U.S. Army. In addition, each of the four branches of the armed forces has a general staff, whose chief, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Chief of Naval Operations, Chief of Staff of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are.


The European Israel forces (Tzahal) have a general staff, which is led by the highest officer rank, currently this is Rav Aluf Benny Gantz.


Japan had several general staffs, which was dissolved in 1945 by the U.S. occupation. The Sambo Hombu of the Army was created in 1878 by the Prussian model. 1884 followed the Gunreibu for the Navy. To coordinate both the Daihon’ei was founded in 1893, which is also known as Imperial General Staff.

Great Britain

The United Kingdom has a Joint Chiefs of Staff (Chiefs of Staff Committee), composed mainly of the Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces and chairman of a joint (the Chief of the Defence Staff) is conducted. First holder of this position was created in 1965 Admiral Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, presently there is Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup. In addition, each of the armed services has its own general staff. The Chief of Staff of the Royal Navy is called the First Sea Lord, the Chief of Staff of the British Army as Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of Staff of the Royal Air Force as Chief of the Air Staff. The duties of the Chief of Staff of the entire British army were carried out by the respective Chief of Staff of the British Army until 1965, which was from 1904 to 1909 as Chief of the General Staff, and then referred to 1964 as Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Since the creation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1965, the title of Chief of Staff of the Army is again chief of the General Staff.

Russia / Soviet Union

In the Soviet Union in 1918 was a All-Russian Main Staff (since 1921 known as rod and since 1935 as Chief of Staff of the Red Army of workers and peasants). After a few more name changes his name from 1955 until the end of the Soviet Union by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR. The Russian armed forces have taken him to continue in 1991.

The headquarters of the command of the Supreme Commander, short STAVKA (Russian: Ставка Верховного Главнокомандующего transliteration Stawka Werchownogo Glawnokomandujuschtschego) was already in the Russian Empire, a device that is similar to a general staff. They reported directly to the Tsar s and was set up in 1914. In the Soviet Union dissolved in 1918 and the STAVKA out after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, parallel to the general staff.


        Trevor N. Dupuy: The Genius of the war.The German Army and General Staff 1807-1945. Ares-Verlag, Graz 2009, ISBN 978-3-902475-51-0.

        Othmar Hackl: General Staff, General Staff and General Staff training in the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht 1919-1945. Studies German generals and staff officers in the Historical Division of the U.S. Army in Europe from 1946 to 1961. Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1999, ISBN 3-7648-2551-0.

        Walter Goerlitz: A Short History of the German General Staff. 2 Edition. Haude & Spener, Berlin 1977.

        Heinz Helmert: war policy and strategy – Political and military objectives of the war of the Prussian General Staff before the Empire (1859-1869). German military Verlag, East Berlin in 1970.

General customer troops

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