Glossary of WWII German military terms

From Academic Kids

This is a list of words, terms, concepts, and slogans that were used by the German military during World War II. Some have also been used in other times, and some are still in use today. Ranks and translations of the nicknames Germans gave their vehicles during the war are included. Also included are some general terms from the German language found frequently in military jargon. Some terms are from the general German cultural background, others are given to show a change that was made before or after the Nazi era. Some factories that were the primary producers of military equipment, especially tanks, are also given.

Contents

Glossary

A

  • abgeschossen -- shot down; destroyed
  • Abschnitt -- sector, district
  • Abteilung (Abt.) -- detachment, section, battalion
  • Abwehr -- defense; however, this term was also a name for the counter-espionage service (German Secret Service) of the high command, headed by Admiral Canaris.
  • Abzeichen -- insignia; badge of rank, appointment or distinction
  • Aggregat-4 (A4) -- earlier name for the German V2 rocket.
  • AGRU-Front -- Technische Ausbildungsgruppe für Front U-Boote -- technical training group for front-line u-boats.
  • Allgemeine-SS -- general body of the Schutzstaffel consisting of full-time, part-time, and honorary members.
  • Alte Hasen -- Old hars; slang for military veterans who survived front-line hardships.
  • Amt -- office, main office branch
  • Amt Mil -- German Army intelligence organization which succeeded the Abwehr.
  • Angriff -- attack
  • "Arbeit macht frei" -- Work makes you free.; notorious slogan seen in some concentration camps.
  • Armee -- army
  • Armeeabteilung -- command between a corps and an army, an enlarged corps headquarters.
  • Armeekorps -- infantry corps
  • Armee-Nachrichten-Führer -- Army Signals Officer, served on the staff HQ of an Armee.
  • Armeeoberkommando -- Field Army Command
  • Armee-Pionier-Führer -- Army Engineer Officer, served on the staff HQ of an Armee.
  • Armee-Sanitäts-Abteilung -- Army medical unit
  • aufgelöst-- dissolved; disbanded, written off the order of battle after being destroyed.
  • Aufklärung -- reconnaissance
  • Aufklärungs-Abteilung -- reconnaissance unit or batallion, also used to designate certain battalion-sized units.
  • Aus der Traum -- lit. The dream is over; a slogan painted by German soldiers near the end of the war expressing the surreality of their situation.
  • Ausführung (Ausf.) -- version, model, variant
  • Ausschreitungen -- bloody atrocities (see Greuelerzählungen).
  • Auszeichnung -- accolade, distinction

B

  • Banditen -- bandits; bewaffnete banden -- armed gangs; Soldaten in Zivilkleidung -- soldiers in civilian dress; (see Franktireure).
  • Batterie -- battery, artillery piece
  • Baubelehrung -- boat famililarization; when a u-boat crew studied the construction of a new submarine; see "KLA."
  • Baupionier -- army construction engineer
  • B-Dienst -- Beobachtungsdienst, lit observation service; German Navy crypto-analytical department.
  • BdU -- Befeshlshaber der U-boote -- Commander-in-Chief of the U-boats (Adm. Donitz); see FdU.
  • Befehl (pl. Befehle) -- order, command
  • Beobachtungswagen -- observation or reconnaissance vehicle
  • Bergepanzer -- salvage or tank-recovery vehicle
  • Beute-Panzer -- captured tank or armored vehicle
  • Blechkoller -- tin fright; in U-boats, a form of nervous tension that could be caused by depth charge attacks and resulted in violence or hysteria.
  • Blitzkrieg -- lightning war; fast moving battle tactics developed by German generals, most notably Erwin Rommel, Heinz Guderian, and Erich von Manstein, using massed tanks and ground-attack bombers to speedily penetrate enemy lines at points and move to their rear, causing confusion/panic among them.
  • Brückenleger -- bridgelayer
  • Brummbär -- grumbler; a children's word for bear in German. It was the nickname for a mobile artillery piece
  • Bundeswehr -- name adopted for the German armed forces after the fall of the Third Reich in the western part. (between 1945 and 1955 there was no German army). Consisting of Heer (Army), Luftwaffe (Air Force) and Marine (Navy).

C

  • Chef des Generalstabes -- Chief of the General Staff
  • Concentration camp -- Any internment camp for holding "enemies of the Third Reich." The construction of concentration camps began almost immediately after Hitler came to power. There were several kinds: labor camps, prison camps and death camps.

D

  • Daimler Benz (DB) -- A producer of military vehicles
  • Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK) -- German troops send to North Africa under the command of Erwin Rommel to prevent the loss of Libya by the Italians.
  • Death Marches -- At the end of the war when it became obvious that the German army was trapped between the Soviets to the east and the advancing Allied troops from the west, the Nazis, in an attempt to prevent the liberation of camp inmates, forced them to march westward. Thousands died in these marches.
  • Drahtverhau -- barbed-wire entanglement. Slang term used by German soldiers during World Wars I and II for a military-issue mixture of dried vegetables.
  • Drang nach Osten -- "Push to the East" into Poland.

E

  • Eagle's Nest -- name given to Hitler's mountain-top home at Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, also known as the Berghof.
  • EGz.b.V. -- Einsatzgruppe zur besonderen Verwendung -- SS Special Purpose Operational Group.
  • Eichenlaubträger -- oak-leaf cluster to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
  • Einheit -- detachment or unit
  • Einsatz -- duty, mission, encouragement
  • Einsatzbereit -- statement meaning, "Ready for action."
  • Einsatzgruppen -- battalion-sized, mobile killing units of the Security Police and SS Security Service or SS Special Action Groups that followed the German armies into the Soviet Union in June 1941. These units were supported by units of the uniformed German Order Police and auxiliaries of volunteers (Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian). Their victims, primarily Jews, were executed by shooting and were buried in mass graves from which they were later exhumed and burned. At least a million Jews were killed in this manner. There were four Einsatzgruppen (A,B,C,D) which were subdivided into company-sized Einsatzkommandos.
  • Einsatzkommando -- Subdivisions of the Einsatzgruppen which took care of the mobilization and killing of Jews during the German invasion into the Soviet Union.
  • Eisenbahn -- iron way; railroad
  • Eisernes Kreuz -- iron cross; medal awarded for valorious service
  • Elektra -- a German radio-navigational system
  • Endlösung or Endziel -- the "Final Solution"; refers to the genocide planned against the Jewish people.
  • Enigma -- German message encryption equipment.
  • Entmenscht -- inhuman (see Untermenschen).
  • Erkennungsmarke -- identity tag; "dog tag"
  • Ersatz -- substitute, replacement, reserves; could refer to replacement troops or any substance used in place of another, e.g., ersatz coffee, ersatz rubber, etc.
  • Ersatzbataillone or Marschbataillone -- coherent military replacement groups.
  • Etappendienst -- German naval intelligence department
  • Etappenschweine -- (slang) "rear swine" or rear personnel.
  • Exerzierpanzer -- practice or exercise tank

F

  • Fallschirmjäger -- paratroopers; German airborne troops
  • FdU -- Führer der U-Boote -- Commander-in-Chief of U-boats (used from WWI to 1939, when title was reduced to Regional Commander).
  • Feindbild -- enemy
  • Feld -- Field
  • Feldgendarmerie -- German military or field police
  • Feldgrau -- field gray; term used to describe the color of the ordinary German soldier's tunic.
  • Feldlazarett -- field hospital
  • Feldpolizeibeamte -- field police officers
  • Feldpostbriefe -- soldiers' letters
  • Feind -- enemy
  • Feindfahrt -- enemy trip; in U-boat terminology, a war cruise/patrol against the enemy.
  • Festung -- fortress
  • FLAK, Flugzeugabwehrkanone -- anti-aircraft gun.
  • Flakpanzer -- anti-aircraft tank, such as the Möbelwagen.
  • Flammpanzer -- flame-throwing tank
  • Flammenwerfer -- flame-thrower
  • Fliegerabwehr-Abteilung -- anti-aircraft batallion
  • Fliegerabwehrkanone (FLAK) -- air defense gun; the acronym has become a common term for any anti-aircraft gun.
  • Flucht nach vorn -- flight to the front -- a desire to return to the battlefront.
  • Forschungsamt -- intelligence service of the Luftwaffe.
  • Franktireure -- terrorists; (see Freischärler).
  • Franktireurkrieg -- terrorist warfare
  • Freikorps -- volunteer corps; (see Freiwillige).
  • Freischärler -- irregular/guerillas (see Widerstandskräfte).
  • Freischärlerunwesen -- guerilla activities or terrorist incidents.
  • Freiwillige -- volunteer
  • Fronterlebnis -- battle-front expierence.
  • Frontgemeinschaft -- front-line community/commradship.
  • Frontkämpfer -- battle-front soldier.
  • Frontgemeinschaft -- front combat soldier
  • Führer -- leader, title given to exclusively to Adolf Hitler: Mein Fuhrer, Der Führer
  • Funke -- spark; radio. A radio operator was called a Funker.
  • Füsilier -- an historic German term often used to refer to heavy infantry units, original referring to the type of weapon carried of the same name. During WWII used to name infantry formations with some recon abilities that replaced an infantry division's recon battalion mid-war when the Germans reduced the number of standard infantry battalions in their divisions from 9 to 6.
  • Freya radar -- first operational radar with the Kriegsmarine

G

  • Gauleiter -- supreme territorial or regional party authority(-ies)
  • Gebirgsjäger -- mountain troops; a mountain unit might be described as either Gebirgs or Gebirgsjäger
  • gefallen -- killed, dead
  • geheim -- secret
  • Geheime Feldpolizei -- secret field police
  • Geheimfernschreiber -- cipher machine
  • Gemeindepolizei -- local police
  • Gemeinschaft -- a community of men who shared a great destiny.
  • Gendarmerie -- rural police
  • Generalfeldmarschall -- Field Marshal
  • Generalkommando -- The headquarters of an army corps
  • Generalstab des Heeres (Gen.St.d.H.) -- German Army General Staff
  • gepanzert -- armored
  • Geschütz -- gun
  • Gestapo -- Geheime Staatspolizei, lit. secret state police; the official state secret police force of Nazi Germany, coordinated with the Kripo under the SD.
  • Gewehr -- rifle, such as the Gewehr 43.
  • Gift -- poison; giftig: poisonous/toxic
  • Gleichschaltung -- coordination, coordination of everything into Nazi ideals.
  • Goldfasan (Golden pheasant) -- slang term for high-ranking Nazi Party members. Derived from the brown-and-red uniforms similar to the colors of male pheasants.
  • Gothic Line -- German defence line in Italy, north of Florence.
  • Grabenkrieg -- trench warfare
  • Granatwerfer -- grenade thrower; mortar
  • Grenadier -- traditional term for heavy infantry, adopted from mid-war onward as a morale-building honorific often indicative of low-grade formations
  • Grenze -- border
  • Grenzschutz -- border patrol
  • Greuelerzählungen -- numerous atrocities
  • Gröfaz -- German soldiers' derogatory acronym for Größter Feldherr aller Zeiten, a title initially publicized by Nazi propaganda to refer to Adolf Hitler during the early war years; lit. "Greatest War Lord of all Time".
  • Gruppe -- group; could be either small or large units.
  • Gruppenstab -- command staff
  • Gustav Line -- German defence line in Italy, centred on the monastery of Monte Cassino.

H

  • Hakenkreuz -- (hooked cross) the version of the Swastika used by the Nazi Party
  • Handelsmarine -- German merchant marine
  • Hannoversche Maschinenbau AG (Hanomag) -- producer of military vehicles
  • Härteübung -- hardiness training
  • Haubitze -- howitzer
  • Hauptamt Sicherheitspolizei (HA-Sipo) -- Security Police headquarters
  • Heckenschützen -- terrorist-snipers
  • Heer -- regular German Army
  • Heeresgruppekommando (HGr.Kdo) -- Army Group Command
  • Heimat -- home
  • Heimatschuß -- homeland shot; a wound not severe enough to be permanently disabling but of enough severity to require evacuation from the battlefront. The German soldier's equivalent of the American G.I.'s "million-dollar wound."
  • Heldenklau - stealing or snatching of heroes; slang term used to denote the practice of commandeering rear-echelon personnel for front-line service
  • Hetzer -- agitators, also the name of a tank-hunter
  • Hilfsfreiwillige (HIWI) - German Army volunteer forces usually made up of Soviet volunteers serving in non-combat capacities
  • Himmelfahrtskommando -- "trip to heaven", a suicide mission
  • Hinterhalt -- ambush
  • Hitler Jugend (HJ) -- Hitler Youth organization
  • Hilfswilliger (Hiwis) -- eastern-European volunteer helper to the military
  • Höckerhindernisse -- anti-tank obstacles often referred to as "Dragon's Teeth"
  • Hoheitsabzeichen -- national insignia (eagle and swastika)
  • Hummel -- bumble-bee; nickname for a piece of mobile artillery
  • Hundehütte -- (dog house) punishment hut

I

  • Infanterie -- infantry
  • Ivan -- German slang for a Soviet soldier (similar to "Kraut", the American slang term for Germans).

J

  • Jabo (Jagdbomber) -- fighter-bomber
  • Jagdeschwader (JG) -- single-engine fighter wing.
  • Jagdpanzer -- tank hunter; armored, mobile tank destroyer
  • Jagd-Kommando -- hunting commando; generally refers to a commando outfit that remained behind enemy lines when an area was overrun and would carry out sabotage and other guerrilla actions. These units did not generally operate as such and were later taken over by the SS and used as front line combat troops in 1944-45.
  • Jäger -- light infantry; used alone or as part of a specialty such as Gebirgsjäger or Fallschirmjäger. The root Jagd- is also used in its literal meaning of hunter for weapon systems such Jagdtiger.
  • Junkerschule -- officer academy

K

  • Kadavergehorsam -- "absolute duty and blind obedience till death"
  • Kameradschaft -- small military unit, or phrase for "comrade support amongst soldiers" (see Volkgemeinschaft).
  • Kampf -- struggle, fight or conflict
  • Kampfgeist -- fighting spirit
  • Kampfgeschwader (KG) -- bomber wing
  • Kampfgruppe -- battlegroup; formal designation of an ad hoc task force, or informal description of a combat unit at greatly reduced strength.
  • Kampfschwimmer -- frogman
  • Kampfzone -- battle zone
  • Kampfwunde -- battle injury
  • Kapo -- crematory-oven workers in the concentration camps (see Konzentrationslager).
  • Kaserne -- barracks
  • Kavallerie -- cavalry
  • Ketten -- track, such as a tank track
  • Kettenhund -- "chained dog", slang for a Military Policeman (derived from the metal gorget worn on a chain around the neck).
  • Kettenkraftrad -- a tracked motorcycle; also "Kettenkrad"
  • Kindersärge -- "children's coffins", slang term applied to small, wooden, antipersonnel box-mines.
  • KLA: Kriegsschiffbaulehrabteilung -- was a warship-construction training division which supervised a Baubelehrung.
  • Kleinkampfverband (K-Verband) -- special naval operations by a few frogmen.
  • Kleinkrieg -- guerrilla war
  • Knochensammlung -- gathering the bones of dead soldiers.
  • Kommandanten-Schießlehrgang -- U-boat Commander's Torpedo Course.
  • Kommando -- command; detachment; detail
  • Kommissarbefehl -- 6 June 1941, order to kill all political commissars in the Red Army
  • Kompanie -- company, unit
  • Konzentrationslager -- concentration camp
  • Knickebein -- crooked leg; German navigational system using radio beams to guide bombers.
  • Krad (Kraft-Radfahrzeug) -- motorcycle
  • Kradschütze(n) -- motorcycle unit or soldier
  • Kraut -- for sauerkraut; slang term used by Americans to refer to Germans.
  • Krieg- -- wartime-, war
  • Kriegsgefangener -- prisoner of war
  • Kriegsgericht -- court martial; slang for a war dish or poor meal.
  • Kriegsmarine -- German Navy
  • Kriegsneurose -- battle fatigue
  • Kriegstagebuch -- war diary
  • Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) -- Criminal police
  • Krupp (Kp) -- producer of tanks
  • Krupp-Daimler (KD) -- A producer of tanks
  • Kübel -- (bucket or tub) short for Kübelwagen, open-topped military utility cars
  • Kugel -- bullet (also ball)
  • Kugelblitz -- fireball
  • Küstenfischkutter (KFK) -- patrol vessels constructed to a fishing-vessel design; (see Vorpostenboote).

L

  • Landekopf -- beachhead
  • Landratsamt -- civil administration
  • Landsturm -- historically, infantry of non-professional soldiers, a kind of militia
  • Landser -- historical term for a German infantryman, slang: "Schütze Arsch."
  • Landwehr -- Territorial Army
  • Latrinenparole -- "latrine talk" slang for "rumor talk."
  • laufende Nummer -- serial number
  • Lebensraum -- space to live in
  • Lehr -- "demonstration"; usually part of the name of an elite formation used as or mobilzed from instructional troops, e.g. Panzer Lehr.
  • leicht -- light, usually to refer a lighter type, such as light tank: leichter Panzer. Several classes of division were also classified as "light".
  • Liechtenstein -- German airborne radar used for nightfighting.
  • Lorenz Schlüsselzusatz -- German cipher machine.
  • Lorenz (navigation) -- pre-war blind-landing aid used at many airports. most German bombers had the radio equipment needed to use it.
  • Luchs -- lynx; nickname given to a verson of the Panzer II.
  • Leuchtkugel -- signal flare
  • Luftadler -- air eagle; Luftwaffe's eagle insignia
  • Luftwaffe -- air force; the German Air Force
  • Luftschutzpolizei -- air raid protection police

M

  • MAN -- German armed anti-nazi resistance group named after the MAN engineering works in Bavaria.
  • Mannschaften -- enlisted personnel
  • Maus -- mouse; nickname for a large, heavy tank that never passed beyond prototype stage.
  • Maybach (M) -- a company that manufactured engines for many of the German panzers.
  • Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN) -- Augsburg-Nuremberg Machine Company; a German engineering works and truck manufacturer.
  • Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen Hannover (MNH) -- weapon (tank) development and production firm.
  • Maschinengewehr (MG - pronounced emm-gay) -- machine gun, as in the MG-42.
  • Maschinenpistole (MP) -- submachine gun, as in the MP40.
  • Mine (pl. Minen) -- an anti-personnel, tank, or boat mine.
  • Minensuchboote (M-boats) -- large, minesweepers
  • Mißliebige -- undesirables
  • Munitionsschlepper -- munitions or ammunition carrier.
  • Mütze -- cap or small hat, such as the M43 field cap, also known as the Einheitsfeldmütze.

N

  • Nachricht(en) -- signals / news / communication
  • Nacht und Nebel -- night and fog; code for some prisoners that were to be disposed of, leaving no traces.
  • Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) -- night-figher air wing.
  • Nahverteidigungswaffe -- Close Defense Weapon; an attachment to panzers to combat close assaulting infantry
  • Nashorn -- rhinoceros, nickname for a tank destroyer
  • Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) -- National Socialist German Worker's Party -- Nazi Party.
  • Nationalsozialistische Führungsoffiziere (NSFO) -- National Socialist Leadership Officers.
  • Nationalsolzialistische Volksfürsorge (NSV) -- National Socialist People's Welfare centers.
  • Naxos radar detector -- "Naxos Z" was developed for night fighters, "Naxos U", was provided to U-boats
  • Nebelwerfer (Nb.W) -- fog thrower; rocket artillery, multi-barrel rocket launchers that could be used for smoke or high explosive projectiles.
  • Norden -- north
  • Nummer (Nr.) -- Number; used to describe some divisional organizations with a unit number but no combat assets, often converted to ordinary divisions later on. (E.g. Division Nr. 157.)

O

  • Ober-* -- higher; part of several military ranks like Oberleutnant
  • Oberst* -- German equivalent of a colonel
  • Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Ob.d.H.) -- Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
  • Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) -- Army High Command; Army General Staff.
  • Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine -- Navy High Command
  • Oberkommando der Luftwaffe -- Supreme Command of the Air Force
  • Oberkommando der Wehrmacht -- Armed Forces High Command
  • Offizier-Lager (Oflag) -- officer camp; German prisoner of war camp for Allied officers.
  • Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) -- order police
  • Ortskampf -- combat in towns
  • Osten -- east
  • Ostjuden -- eastern Jews in Poland
  • Ostmark -- post-Anschlus Austria
  • Ostpreußen -- Province of East Prussia

P

  • Panje -- horse-cart wagon
  • Panzer -- armor; German word is derived from Old French pancier, meaning "armor for the belly". It can refer to a tank (see panzerkampfwagen below), or to an armored formation (Panzer Division is literally "Tank Division"; the adjective for "armored" is gepanzert)
  • Panzerabwehrkanone (PaK) -- anti-tank gun
  • Panzerbefehlswagen (Pz.Bef.Wg) -- the commanding tank of any panzer detachment.
  • Panzerfaust -- A light disposable infantry anti-tank weapon firing a rocket propelled shaped charge grenade.
  • Panzerschreck -- A heavy re-usable infantry anti-tank weapon firing a rocket propelled shaped charge grenade. Modelled on the US bazooka
  • Panzergrenadier -- mechanized infantry
  • Panzerjäger -- armor or tank hunter, anti-tank weapon
  • Panzerkampfwagen (Pzkpfw.) -- armored fighting vehicle; usually a reference to a type of tank.
  • Panzerschiffe -- armored ships, i.e. "pocket battleships".
  • Panzerzerstörer -- tank destroyer; name was sometimes also given to units in an attempt to boost morale.
  • Pionier (pl. pioniere) -- combat engineer
  • Porsche (P) -- company that designed and produced tanks and other military vehicles. They now produce cars.

Q

  • Quist -- one of several manufacturers of German helmets both during and after WWII.

R

  • Radikale Niederwerfung -- ruthless suppression
  • Rasputitsa -- slang for watery, mud-filled trenches or landscape in Russia.
  • Raumboote (R-boats) -- small motor minesweepers
  • Reich -- realm, empire
  • Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) -- compulsory labor service in Nazi Germany
  • Reichsbahn -- railway system
  • Reichsführer-SS -- Reich Leader of the SS, an office held by Heinrich Himmler.
  • Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) -- Reich Security Main Office; orgainisation created by Himmler to coordinate all German security and police departments, including the Gestapo, Kripo and SD.
  • Reichswehr -- name for the German Armed Forces under the Weimar Republic, from 1919 to 1935.
  • Reissen und scheissen -- slang for aches and bowl runs.
  • Reiter -- cavalry
  • Ritterkreuz -- Knight's Cross (of the Iron Cross); award for valorious service for those who had already received the Iron Cross. 7318 of these were awarded during the war.
  • Ritterkreuzträger - a holder of the Knight's Cross.
  • Rollkommando -- small unit
  • Rommelspargel -- Rommel's Asparagus; slanted and barb-wired poles placed in key places behind the Atlantic Wall with the intention of preventing paratroop and glider landings.
  • Rotes Kreuz -- Red Cross

S

  • SA -- see Sturmabteilung.
  • S-Mine -- a common type of anti-personnel landmine.
  • Sanitäts- -- (1) medical unit, (2)personnel
  • Sanka -- acronym for Sanitätskraftfahrtzeug, a term for German field ambulances.
  • Saukopf -- pig's head, used to refer to the shape of a gun mantlet or mount
  • Schanzzeug -- entrenching tool; slang term for fork and knife
  • Schatten -- shadow; used to describe division headquarters that controlled just a few combat assets, usually for the purpose of misleading enemy intelligence.
  • Schlacht -- battle
  • Schlachtschiff - battleship
  • schnell -- adjective meaning "fast".
  • Schnellboat (E-boat) -- motor torpedo boat
  • Schnelltruppen -- mechanized troops (whether armor or infantry)
  • Schrecklichkeit -- using terror against civilians.
  • Schutzhaft -- protective custody.
  • Schutzpolizei -- uniformed police
  • Schutzstaffel (SS) -- protection squad; basically, Hitler's praetorian guard (bodyguard).
  • Schürze -- skirting, armor skirting added to tanks to give additional protection.
  • Schütze -- rifleman
  • Schützenpanzerwagen (SPW) -- armored half-track
  • Schutzhaft -- protective custody; a euphemism for the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings, typically in concentration camps.
  • Schutzhaftbefehl -- detention order; document declaring that a detained person desired to be imprisoned. Normally this signature was forced by torture.
  • Schutzstaffel (SS) -- protective squads; operated the concentration camps; (1) elite "Black Shirts" guard of the Nazi Party; (2) Shock Troops on battlefields. Had a tri-force structure: original Allgemeine SS, later organized as SS-Totenkopf, then finally reorganized as the SS-Verfügungstruppen.
  • Schwadron (pl. Schwadrone) -- squadron; Used in the cavalry, squadron was basically company-sized.
  • Schwarze Kapelle -- Black Orchestra; a term used to describe a group of conspirators within the German Army who plotted to overthrow Hitler and came near to assassinating him on July 20, 1944.
  • Schweinereien -- "scandalous acts" -- crimes against civilians.
  • schwer -- adjective meaning "heavy", the word "gross" (large) can mean the same.
  • Schwerer Kreuzer -- heavy cruiser
  • Schwimmpanzer -- amphibious or swimming tank
  • SD -- see Sicherheitsdienst
  • Seekriegsleitung (SKL) -- directorate of the Naval War.
  • Seitengewehr -- bayonet
  • Selbstfahrlafette -- self-propelled
  • Selbstschutz -- ethnic German civilian militia
  • Sicherheitsdienst (SD) -- security department; the Nazi Party security service, intelligence gathering and counter-espionage wings of the RSHA headed by Reinhard Heydrich.
  • Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo) -- secret security police, namely the Kripo and Gestapo; the Nazi Party's own internal intelligence and security service.
  • Sicherungsflottillen -- (1) escort ships, (2) paramilitary organization of unemployed ex-soldiers, who were recruited to protect Nazi speakers, and because of their clothing were called "Brown Shirts."
  • Sigrunen -- the name of the double "S" rune used by the SS.
  • Sipo -- see Sicherheitspolizei
  • Sippenverhaftung -- the practice of arresting members of a person's family for political crimes or treason committed by that person.
  • Soldat -- soldier/enlisted man
  • Soldbuch -- pay book carried by every member of the German armed forces. Unit information, a record of all equipment issued,and other details were entered into this book.
  • Sonderbehandlung -- special treatment; a Nazi euphemism meaning torture or killing of people in detention.
  • Sonderfahndungslisten -- wanted-persons list
  • Sonderkommando - special unit; an official term that applied to certain German and foreign SS units that operated in German-occupied areas. They were responsible for the liquidation of persons not desirable to the Nazi government.
  • Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Sd.Kfz.) -- special purpose motor vehicle, usually abbreviated and referring to an Ordinance Inventory Number.
  • Sonderreferat -- special administrative section
  • Späher -- scout
  • Spähwagen -- Scout/reconnaissance vehicle
  • Sperrschule -- Mine Warfare School at Kiel-Wik
  • Spieß -- colloquial name for the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in a company, usually a Hauptfeldwebel. He exercized more authority than his American counterpart (Sergeant-Major).
  • SS -- see Schutzstaffel
  • SSTV -- SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS Death's Head Units).
  • SS-Verfügungstruppen -- "units available" or military formations of the SS, renamed Waffen-SS in early 1940.
  • Stab (pl. Stäbe) -- HQ or staff
  • Stabsfeldwebel -- staff sergeant
  • Stacheldraht -- barbed wire
  • Stadtkommandant -- military commander of a city
  • Staffel -- squadron; the smallest operational air unit.
  • Stahlhelm -- (1) steel helmet, (2) nationalist organization.
  • Stalag -- acronym for Stammlager, German prisoner-of-war camp for ranks other than officers.
  • Standarte -- SS unit equivalent to a regiment.
  • Stielhandgranate -- stick hand grenade: the "potato masher" Model 24 grenade.
  • Stellung -- position
  • Stoßtruppen -- shock or attack troops
  • Stuka -- acronym for Sturzkampfflugzeug, lit. dive-bombing aircraft. Used to designate German JU-87 dive bombers prevalent early in the war.
  • Stukageschwader -- a Ju-87 air wing.
  • Sturm -- assault
  • Sturmabteilung (SA) -- storm troopers, not part of the army, basically, in the beginning Hitler's praetorian guard (bodyguard) of "brown shirts" as faction of the Nazi party, later dismissed by the Schutzstaffel (SS).
  • Sturmbann [plural: Sturmbanne] -- a battalion; used by SA and SS units until 1940.
  • Sturmgeschütz (StuG) -- self-propelled assault gun, such as the Sturmgeschütz III.
  • Sturmgewehr -- assault rifle
  • Süden -- south
  • Swastika -- see Hakenkreuz.

T

  • Tauchpanzer -- submersible tank
  • Teilkommando -- a small, section command group
  • Tiger -- nickname given to the PzKW Panzer VI "Tiger I" and "Tiger II" series of tanks, as well as the Jagdtiger and Sturmtiger built on the same chassis.
  • Tommy -- German slang for a British soldier (similar to "Kraut", the American slang term for Germans).
  • Tropenhelm -- pith helmet; a wide rimmed helmet used in tropical areas, most notably by the Afrika Korps.
  • tot -- dead
  • Totenkopf -- death's head
  • Totenkopfverbände -- Death's Head units, employed earlier as guards in concentration camps, they later became the first unit of the Waffen-SS, the Totenkopf division.
  • Totenkopfwachsturmbanne -- Death's head Guard battalions; units of the SS that guarded concentration camps during the war.
  • Truppenamt -- "Troop Office" the disguised Army General Staff after the Versailles Treaty abolished the German Army General Staff.

U

  • UAA -- see U-Fahrausbildungslehrgang
  • U-bootjäger (UJ-boats) -- steam trawlers equipped for anti-submarine operations.
  • U-Fahrausbildungslehrgang -- where submarine personnel learned to operate u-boats.
  • U-Lehrdivision (ULD) -- U-boat Training Division (see Kommandanten-Schießlehrgang).
  • Untermenschen -- those peoples the Nazi's derided as subhuman (see entmenscht).
  • Unteroffiziere -- non-commissioned officers
  • Unterführer -- non-commissioned officer
  • Unterseeboot (U-Boat) -- submarine
  • Urlaub -- furlough; also: vacation

V

  • V1 Rocket -- The first of the operational German weapons of vengeance, or "Vergeltungswaffen" - the V-1 was a pilotless flying bomb powered by a pulse-jet engine and carried a 850 kg (1875 lb) high-explosive warhead. They had a range of up to 200 km. nicknamed "buzz bombs" by allied troops due to the sound they made.
  • V2 Rocket -- Also known as the A4, the successor to the V-1 was a long range rocket powered by liquid oxygen and alcohol, it had a 975 kg (2150 lb) high-explosive warhead and a range of 320 km.
  • V3 -- Long-range, smooth-bore gun designed to fire shells carrying up to a 10 kg (22 lb) high-explosive warhead at a range of 93 km. It was never very successful as most installations were destroyed by bombing before they could be used.
  • Verband -- formation (from a battalion to a brigade).
  • verdächtige Elemente/Personen -- suspicious elements/persons.
  • Verfügungs Truppen-SS -- units-available brankch; developed from various counter-revolutionary or counter-terrorist units.
  • Vergeltungsmaßnahmen -- reprisals; retaliatory punitiive measures.
  • Vernichtungskrieg -- (1)"war of annihilation" against (1) USSR civilians, (2) dogmatic offensive.
  • Vernichtungslager -- Extermination camp
  • Versuchskonstruktion -- prototype
  • Vichy France -- French regime set up in the city of Vichy under Marshal Petain in collaboration with the Germans following the fall of France in 1940. It governed the southern half of France until its dissolution in 1944.
  • völkisch -- an adjective used to describe the racist, nationalist ideology which divided people into "pure" Aryans and inferior Untermenschen.
  • Volksdeutsche -- ethnic Germans
  • Volksgemeinschaft -- national community or civilian population; public support (see Kameradschaft).
  • Volksgrenadier -- "People's Infantryman", a morale-building honorific given to low-grade infantry divisions raised or reconstituted in the last months of the war
  • Volkskrieg -- "People's War"
  • Volkssturm -- People's semi-military defense force, made up mostly of boys and older men.
  • Volkstumskampf -- ethnic struggle
  • Vorpostenboote (VP-boats) -- coastal escort work, with anti-submarine and minesweeeping gear. Also called Küstenfischkutter (KFK), as they were patrol vessels constructed to a fishing-vessel design.

W

  • Wabos -- in U-boat terminology, the nickname for wasserbomben, lit. depth charges.
  • Wach- -- guard (in conjunction)
  • Waffe (pl. Waffen) -- weapon, or can be an adjective meaning "armed".
  • Waffen-SS -- militarized combat branch of the SS.
  • Wagen -- vehicle, car
  • Wehrkraftzersetzung -- undermining the fighting spirt of the troops.
  • Wehrkreis -- Geman military district centered on an important city.
  • Wehrmacht -- German armed forced under the Third Reich consisting of three branches: the Heer (Army), the Luftwaffe (Air Force), and the Kriegsmarine (Navy).
  • Wehrmachtsführungsstab -- Armed Forces Operations Staff
  • Wehrmachtsadler -- the Wehrmacht's eagle insignia
  • Wehrmachtsgefolge -- Armed Forces Auxiliaries. These include those organizations that were not a part of the armed forces but which served such an important support role that they were given protection under the Geneva Convention and/or militarizied. The armed forces auxiliaries consisted in part of the Reicharbeitsdienst, NSKK, Organization Todt, and the Volkssturm.
  • Werwolf -- German guerrilla fighters dedicated to harass Allied rear areas. Initially conceived as an adjunct to the Jagd-Kommando units and placed under the command of Otto Skorzeny, the idea was later appropriated by Joseph Goebbels to represent the general rising up of the German people to defend against foreign invasion. It was not widely effective or organized, and there were only a few known instances of involvement, mainly after the war ended and mostly in the Eastern regions.
  • Wespe -- wasp, a self-propelled 105mm artillery piece mounted on the PzKpfw II chassis.
  • Widerstandskräfte -- insurgents (see Freischärler).
  • Wilhelm Gustloff -- A German hospital ship sunk by a Soviet submarine's torpedo attack on January 30, 1945. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the single deadliest sinking in maritime history, killing between 6,000 and 10,000 people, most of whom were civilian refugees and wounded German soldiers.
  • Wolfsschanze -- Wolf's Lair; code name for Hitler's headquarters near Rastenburg in East-Prussia.
  • Wotan (navigation) -- alternative name for Y-Gerät radio radio navigation system.
  • Würzburg radar (usually spelt Wuerzburg radar in English)-- German radar went into service in 1940 and over 3,000 of all variants were built.

X

  • X-Gerät -- equipment for using "X" guidance on German aircraft.

Y

  • Y-Beam -- German aircraft navigational system which utilized a single station that radiated a directional beam plus a ranging signal which the bomber picked up and re-transmitted to enable the ground controllers to compute the range and know when to order the bombs to be dropped.
  • Y-Gerät -- equipment for using "Y" guidance on German aircraft.

Z

  • Z3 computer -- developed by Konrad Zuse in 1941, it was destroyed by bombardment in 1944
  • z.b.V. -- see Zur besonderen Verwendung.
  • Zeltbahn -- a triangular or square shelter quarter made of closely-woven water-repellent cotton duck. It could be used on its own as a poncho or put together with others to create shelters and tents. Also called Zeltplane.
  • Zentralstelle II P -- Central office II P (Poland)
  • Ziel -- target, objective
  • Zimmerit -- an anti-magnetic mine paste applied on the armor of German tanks to prevent magnetic mines from being attached. It was similar to cement, and was applied on the tanks with rake, giving the vehicle a rough appearance. From the summer of the 1943 to mid-1944 zimmerit became a standard characteristic on many German panzers.
  • Zitadelle -- citadel, used as the name for Operation Zitadelle
  • Zur besonderen Verwendung (z.b.V.) -- for special use/employment. Sometimes a killing squad/unit, but also used for divisions raised for special reasons (e.g. the Division zbV Afrika).
  • Zyklon-B -- commercial name for the prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid) gas used in German extermination camps.

List of German Military Ranks

Approximate ranks relative to US ranks:

  • Grenadier/Schütze – Private
  • Obergrenadier/Oberschütze – Private
  • Gefreiter – Private First Class
  • Obergefreiter – Corporal
  • Unteroffizier – Sergeant
  • Unterfeldwebel – no equivalent
  • Feldwebel – Staff Sergeant
  • Oberfeldwebel – Technical Sergeant
  • Stabsfeldwebel – Master Sergeant
  • Hauptfeldwebel – Sergeant-Major
  • Leutnant – Second Lieutenant
  • Oberleutnant – First Lieutenant
  • Hauptmann – Captain
  • Major – Major
  • Oberstleutnant – Lieutenant Colonel
  • Oberst – Colonel
  • Generalmajor – Brigadier-General
  • General-Leutnant – Major-General
  • General der Infanterie, Kavallerie, etc. – Lieutenant-General
  • Generaloberst – General
  • Generalfeldmarschall – General of the Army

For additional comparisons, see Comparative military ranks of World War II.

List of Code Names for Major German Operations

The German term for Operation is Unternehmen, lit. undertaking.

  • Fall Grün -- Case green; operational code name for the intended German invasion of Czechoslovakia.
  • Fall Rot -- Case red; operational code name for counterstrike against France in the event of an attack on Germany from the West.
  • Fall Weiß -- Case white; operational code name for the German invasion of Poland.
  • Fall Gelb -- Case yellow; operational codename for the German invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
  • Adlertag -- Eagle day; code name for the day of intense German air attack on Britain, 15th August 1940. Also called Adlerangriffe; Eagle attack.
  • Tiger -- operational codename for the German advance through the Maginot Line on the French border in June 1940. (The name was also the operational code name for a British convoy to Egypt in May 1941.)
  • Seelöwe -- Sea Lion; operational codename for the planned German assault on Great Britain in 1940/41. It never took place.
  • Taifun -- Typhoon; operational codename for the German push towards Moscow in September 1941.
  • Bestrafung -- operational code name for German "punishment" air attacks on Belgrade, April 1941.
  • Felix -- operational codename for the German plan to capture Gibraltar in 1941. It never took place.
  • Anton -- code name for the German occupation of Vichy France, November 1942; later known as Atilla.
  • Atilla -- code name for the German occupation of Vichy France, November 1942
  • Aufbau Ost -- Eastern buildup; operational code name for the German build-up of arms prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union.
  • Barbarossa -- operational code name for the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Barbarossa, or "Red Beard" was the nickname for Emperor Frederick I, who attempted to unify Germanic states in the 12th century.
  • Bernhard -- operational code name for German scheme to counterfeit British bank notes and put them into circulation; began in 1942.
  • Paukenschlag -- Drumroll or Drumbeat; operational codename of the offensive against Allied shipping in US and Caribbean waters in the first half of 1942.
  • Pastorius -- operational codename for a U-boat spy operation involving U-202 and U-548 setting 8 agents ashore in the USA in June 1942.
  • Nordlight -- Northern lights; operational codename for the German attack on Leningrad in 1942.
  • Wintergewitter -- Winter gale; operational codename for the unsuccessful German attempt to relieve the 6th Army at Stalingrad in December 1942.
  • Zitadelle -- Citadel; operational code name for the German attack on the Soviet forces near Kursk, July 1943.
  • Eiche -- Oak; operational code name for the plan to rescue Mussolini by the fallschirmjäger of the Luftwaffe.
  • Fischfang -- Fish trap; operational code name for the German counter attack on the Allied beachead at Anzio in February 1944.
  • Greif -- Griffin; operational code name for the dropping of English-speaking German troops wearing American uniforms behind the Allied lines in the Ardennes, prior to the Battle of the Bulge.
  • Herbstnebel -- Autumn mist; operational codename for the German offensive in the Ardennes, December 1944 - Also known as the Battle of the Bulge.
  • Reinhard -- operational code name for the entire process of building extermination camps, deportation of Jews first to ghettos, then to the concentration camps for extermination and incineration. The operation was named for SD chief Reinhard Heydrich.
  • Bodenplatte -- Base plate; operational code name for the German air offensive against Allied airfields in north-western Europe, January 1945.

References

  • Andrew, Stephen; Thomas, Nigel; The German Army 1939-45: Blitzkrieg. Osprey Publishing Lt., 1999.
  • Bidermann, Gottlob Herbert. In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier's Memoir of the Eastern Front. Kansas, University Press of Kansas. (2001): ISBN 0700611223.
  • Sajer, Guy; The Forgotten Soldier. Brassey's Inc. (2001): ISBN 1574882864. Excellent, personal telling of a regular German soldier's experience of the Eastern Front in WWII.
  • Shirer, William; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Simon & Schuster. (1990): ISBN 0671728687.

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