The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics, 1918-1945

By John W. Wheeler-Bennett | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

(i)

THE collapse of the revolt of July 20, 1944, marked the end of any form of military resistance in Germany. It marked also the end of a period which had begun with the Wehrmacht Crisis of February 1938. Up to that time the Army, as represented by the Officer Corps, had been consistently in the ascendant in politics, reaching the peak of their power in the 'non-political' period of von Seeckt, and thereafter declining in influence when, in the eras of von Schleicher and Hitler, they sought to play politics rather than to dominate them. The Army dominated the Weimar Republic from the very moment of its birth and of their own apparent eclipse in November 1918, to the fantastic circumstances of their contribution to the obsequies of the Republic in January 1933. They sought to dominate the Third Reich in the same manner, and were blindly and confidently under the impression that they were doing so, until the crisis of 1938 humbled their pride and hobbled their power.

Up to 1938 the Army had been the final arbiter of the political destinies of the Reich. They had first supported, and then condoned the overthrow of, the Republic and had made a major contribution to Hitler's coming to power. They had entered into a pact with the Party in order to preserve their privileged status and influence and had, as a result, been guilty of complicity in the Blood Purge of June 30, 1934. Well knowing what they did, they had accepted Hitler as Chief of State and had pledged their loyalty to him personally as their supreme Commander, always with the reservation that at their own good pleasure they could unmake the Caesar they had made.

The Fritsch-Blomberg Crisis had awakened many to the realization of their true position, but of that many there were all too few who were prepared to take action in the cause of their own emancipation. The majority -- some because of ambition, some because of the fatal mystic spell of their oath of loyalty, some through fear -- elected to continue to support the Führer, to submit to the dictates of his 'intuition' and to follow in his train.

From 1938 onwards, however, there was a definite movement

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