I’ve seen the German army in WWI referred to as “Heer” but in WWII they switched to “Wehrmacht.” What is the substantive difference in the terms? Kriegsmarine for the navy makes sense translated more literally as “war marine” and the Luftwaffe translates to “Air Force.” My WAG on Waffen-SS is that it’s the same use of Waffe in a different case to mean “SS Force.” So what then does Wehrmacht mean that Heer isn’t already sufficient for?
Heer, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe made up the Wehrmacht. Previously the collective was called the Reichswehr.
Main question has been answered. Waffe (sing., plural: Waffen) means weapons first. Force is a more figurative meaning.
As don’t ask explained, it’s like the difference between Army (one branch) and Armed Forces (all branches). Wehrmacht could be translated as Power or Force of defense ((sich) wehren = to defend (oneself); Macht= Force, Power, Strength, ability to do sth.)
Excellent. Ignorance blitzed.
And the modern German armed forces are collectively called the Bundeswehr (Federal Defense Force), which consists of the Heer, Luftwaffe, and Marine.
It’s how all the armed forces in the this country are collectively referred to as the US Armed Forces.
Coincidently Bundeswehr is often conflated with Heer, just as Wehrmacht and Heer were back in the 40s. This even occurs in professional writings. I happen to think that this is because Bundeswehr and Wehrmacht sound a lot cooler in English than Heer.
This makes me wonder about references to the high command. I’ve read about OKH (OberKommandoHeer) and OKW (OberKommandoWehrmacht). These were terms for the “High Command.” Following the explanations here, the OKW would be above OKH. But did both offices exist simultaneously? What was the real relationship between the two? Or were my history sources making the conflation that JerseyMarine2092 mentions?
Both existed at the same time. OKW in theory would be similar to our Joint Chiefs of Staff, and OKH similar to the Office of the Army Chief of Staff. In reality I think I remember reading that it worked out to be more of a competition of authority which help muddle the German chain of command. This was probably deliberate on the part of Hitler- he believed in competition to an absurd degree.
I refer you to a similar question I asked here not long ago. The answer is quite informative: