1 OCTOBER 1942: ADOLF HITLER, WEHRMACHT OFFICER POLICY, AND SOCIAL REVOLUTION
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 January 2001
The origins of the process that transmuted Prussia–Germany's most hallowed social institution and professional group, the officer corps, into a functional elite of ‘National Socialist Führer-personalities’ remain obscure. Recent studies have argued that the ‘structural pressures of modern war’ – the immense losses of summer 1942 – compelled the abolition of time-honoured educational and social qualifications for officer candidacy and the basing of promotions almost solely on battlefield prowess, and that ‘National Socialist elite manipulation’ was at best a secondary factor. Yet archival evidence makes clear that the pressures of war took second place in the army's official mind to the need to preserve order and tradition, and that it was above all Adolf Hitler who dictated the timing, shape, and extent of changes that the bureaucrats were largely incapable of imagining. ‘Führer-selection through battle’ was simultaneously the most far-reaching and lasting element in the social revolution that Hitler sought, and a decisive step in steeling the German armed forces for their fight to the bitter end. In this as in other areas, it was National Socialism's very modernity that endowed it with demonic force.
- Research Article
- The Historical Journal , Volume 43 , Issue 3 , September 2000 , pp. 801 - 825
- © 2000 Cambridge University Press