- Glossary of German military terms
This is a list of words, terms, concepts, and slogans that were have been or are used by the German military. Ranks and translations of nicknames for vehicles are included. Also included are some general terms from the
German languagefound 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.
*abgeschossen — shot down; destroyed.
*Abschnitt — sector, district.
*Abteilung (Abt.) — detachment, section,
Abwehr— "defense"; as a shortening of "Spionage Abwehr" (spy defense) the term referred to the counter-espionage service (German Secret Service) of the German High Command, headed by Admiral Canaris.
insignia; badgeof rank, appointment or distinction.
*Adlerangriff — "Eagle Attack"; term for projected "decisive attack" by the "Luftwaffe" on RAF
*Aggregat-4 (A4) — earlier name for the German
*AGRU-Front — "Technische Ausbildungsgruppe für Front U-Boote" – technical training group for front-line
*AK - "Äusserste Kraft (voraus)", naval command for full speed (or
U-boatorder to activate the alarm and begin a crash dive. Also Fire! Air raid! etc.
Allgemeine-SS— "General SS"; general body of the "Schutzstaffel" consisting of full-time, part-time, and honorary members.
*Alte Hasen — "Old hares"; slang for military veterans who survived front-line hardships.
*Ami — German slang for an American soldier.
*Amt — office, main office branch.
*Amt Mil — German Army intelligence organization which succeeded the Abwehr.
*Angriff — attack.
Arbeit macht frei" — "Work sets you free"; notorious slogan seen in some Nazi concentration camps.
*Armee — army.
*Armeeabteilung — command between a
corpsand an army, an enlarged corps headquarters.
*Armeekorps — infantry corps.
*Armee-Nachrichten-Führer — Army Signals Officer, served on the staff HQ of an Army.
*Armeeoberkommando — Field Army Command.
*Armee-Pionier-Führer — Army Engineer Officer, served on the staff HQ of an Army.
*Armee-Sanitäts-Abteilung — Army medical unit.
*aufgelöst — "dissolved"; disbanded, written off the
order of battleafter being destroyed.
reconnaissanceunit or battalion, also used to designate certain battalion-sized units.
*Aus der Traum — literally, "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, batch.
*Ausschreitungen — bloody atrocities (see "Greuelerzählungen").
*Auszeichnung — accolade, distinction.
*Banditen — bandits,
partisanson occupied territories in WWII; "bewaffnete Banden" — armed gangs; "Soldaten in Zivilkleidung" — soldiers in civilian dress; (see "Franktireure").
*Bandengebiet - territory, controlled by partisan squads on occupied territories in WWII.
*Batterie — battery,
*Baubelehrung — boat famililarization; when a U-boat crew studied the construction of a new submarine; see "KLA."
*Baupionier — army construction engineer.
B-Dienst— "Beobachtungsdienst", literally, "observation service"; German Navy cryptanalytical department.
*BDM Bund Deutscher Mädel — League of German Girls, the girls' segment of the
*BdU — "Befehlshaber der U-Boote" – Commander-in-Chief of the U-boats (Admiral Karl Dönitz); see FdU.
*Befehl (pl. Befehle) — order, command.
*Beobachtungswagen — observation or reconnaissance vehicle.
*Bergepanzer — armored salvage or tank-recovery vehicle.
*Beutepanzer — captured tank or armored vehicle.
*Blechkoller — "tin fright"; in
U-boats, a form of nervous tension that could be caused by depth chargeattacks and resulted in violence or hysteria.
Blitzkrieg— "lightning war"; fast-moving battle tactics developed principally by German military theorists, 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 and panic among enemy forces.
*Brückenleger — bridgelayer.
Brummbär— "grumbling bear"; a children's word for "bear" in German. It was the nickname for a mobile artillery piece.
Bundeswehr— name adopted for the West German armed forces after the fall of the Third Reich. (Between 1945 and 1955 there was no German army.) The "Bundeswehr" consists of the "Heer" (Army), " Luftwaffe" (Air Force) and "Marine" (Navy), as well as (since the late 1990s) the " Streitkräftebasis" (Joint Service Support Command) and "Zentraler Sanitätsdienst" (Central Medical Service).
*Chef des Generalstabes — Chief of the
*Konzentrationslager — concentration camp, any internment camp for holding "enemies of the Third Reich." The construction of concentration camps began almost immediately after
Hitlercame to power. There were several kinds: labor camps, prison camps and death camps.
Daimler-Benz(DB) — A producer of military vehicles.
Deutsches Afrika Korps(DAK) — German troops sent to North Africaunder the command of Erwin Rommelto prevent the loss of Libyato the British by the Italians.
*Todesmärsche — "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 concentration camp inmates, forced them to march westward toward Germany proper. Thousands died in these marches.
*Dienstdolch — service dagger (uniform dagger).
*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", Germany's ambitions for territorial expansion into Eastern Europe.
*Düppel-the German code name for radar chaff, used by the Royal Air Force, from the German town it was first found near.
*Eagle's Nest — English name given to Hitler's mountain-top home at
Berchtesgadenin the Bavarian Alps, also known as the "Berghof". In German, it is known as the "Kehlstein Haus".
*EGz.b. V. — "Einsatzgruppe zur besonderen Verwendung" – SS Special Purpose Operational Group.
*Ehrendolch — literally, "honor dagger", a presentation
daggerawarded for individual recognition, especially by the SS.
*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— "mission groups", or "task forces". "Einsatzgruppen" were battalion-sized, mobile killing units of the Security Police and SS Security Service or SS Special Action Groups that followed the German armies into occupied territories of Eastern Europeand the Soviet Union. 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— company-sized subunits of the "Einsatzgruppen" which took care of the mobilization and killing of Jews during the German invasion into the Soviet Union.
*Eisenbahn — "iron road"; railroad.
*Eisernes Kreuz — "iron cross"; medal awarded for valorous service.
Elefant— "elephant"; an anti-tank " Panzerjäger" (tank hunter).
*Elektra — a German radio-navigational system.
Endlösungor Endziel — the "Final Solution"; refers to the genocideplanned against the Jewish people.
*Enigma — German message
*Entmenscht — dehumanized (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.
*Etappenschwein — (slang) "rear swine" (
*Exerzierpanzer — practice or exercise tank.
*Fahne (pl. Fahnen) — flag or banner.
Fallschirmjäger— paratroopers; German airborne troops.
*FdU — Führer der U-Boote; Commander-in-Chief of U-boats (used from WWI to 1939, when the title was reduced to "Regional Commander").
*Feindbild — "enemy image"; prejudiced 'bogeyman' image of the 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 – by extension the soldiers themselves.
*Feldpolizeibeamte — field police officers.
Feldpost, Feldpostbrief — mail to and from troops at the front.
Feldwebel— Staff Sergeant.
*Feindfahrt — "enemy trip"; in U-boat terminology, a war cruise or combat patrol against the enemy.
*Festung — fortress.
suppressive fire, covering fire.
*FlaK — Fliegerabwehrkanone, Flug(zeug)abwehrkanone – "air defense gun"; anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) (e.g., the "eighty-eight").
*FlaK-Helfer — "FlaK helper"; often underaged troops used to load and operate FlaK batteries.
*FlaKpanzer — anti-aircraft tank, such as the
*Flammpanzer — flame-throwing tank.
*Flammenwerfer — flame-thrower.
*Fliegerabwehr-Abteilung — anti-aircraft battalion.
*Fliegerabwehrkanone — see FlaK.
*Fliegerschwert — airman's sword (part of an officer's regalia).
*Flucht nach vorn — "flight to the front"; trying to assault rather than wait or retreat while under threat.
*Flugzeug — aircraft.
*Flug(zeug)abwehrkanone — see FlaK.
*Forschungsamt — intelligence service of the "
*Franktireure — terrorists; (see "Freischärler").
*Franktireurkrieg — terrorist warfare.
Freikorps— volunteer corps; (see "Freiwillige").
*Freischärler — irregular or
*Freischärlerunwesen — "pestering by guerillas"; guerrilla activities or terrorist incidents.
*Freiwillige — volunteer.
*Fremde Heere Ost/West (FHO/FHW) — Foreign Armies East/West, staff intelligence specialist on the subject.
*Fronterlebnis — battle-front experience.
*Frontgemeinschaft — front-line comradeship or community.
*Frontkämpfer — battle-front soldier.
*Frontgemeinschaft — group of front-line combat soldiers.
*Frontschwein — soldier serving long at the front.
Führer— "leader"; title given to exclusively to Adolf Hitler: "Mein Führer", "Der Führer".
*Führerhauptquartiere (abbreviated FHQ), a number of official headquarters especially constructed in order to be used by the
*Führersonderzug, a special train built for and used by the
*Funke — 1)
radio["die Funke", f., slang abbreviation for "Funkgerät"] ; 2) spark ["der Funke", m.] .
*Funker — radio operator (from "funken" [verb] , to transmit by radio).
* - generic term for radio and airborne IFF, RDF and airborne and some ground based
*Füsilier — historic term often used to refer to
light infantry, originally named after the "fusil", or musket, such troops once carried. During WWII, a name given to infantry formations with some reconnaissanceabilities 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".
*Der Gabelschwanz Teufel -
P-38 Lightning"Fork Tailed Devil"
Gauleiter— supreme territorial or regional Nazi party authority(-ies).
Gebirgsjäger— mountain troops; a mountain "unit", might be described as either "Gebirgs" or "Gebirgsjäger".
*gefallen — fallen,
killed in action.
*Gefechtsstationen - naval term, "battlestations" or (more literally) "combat stations".
*geheim — secret.
*Geheime Feldpolizei — secret field police.
Geheimfernschreiber— (literally, "secret distance writer") ciphermachine.
*Gemeindepolizei — local police.
*Gemeinschaft — community.
Generalfeldmarschall— Field Marshal.
*Generalkommando — the headquarters of an army corps.
*Generalstab des Heeres (Gen. St.d. H.) — German Army
*gepanzert — armored.
*Geschütz — gun.
*Geschwader — literally "squadron". Equivalent to the French "escadre" or Italian "squadra". In English, the translation varies. In naval usage, it has the same meaning as an English
squadron. In "Luftwaffe" usage:
**Luftwaffe WW2: 1 Geschwader was divided in 3 "Gruppen" of 3 "Staffeln" each. ("Staffel" of 9-12 aeroplanes). It was a unit equivalent to a British Commonwealth air force group, a US wing or a Soviet air regiment.
**Luftwaffe post WW2: 1 Geschwader is divided in 2-3 "Staffeln". It is a unit equivalent to a British Commonwealth air force wing or a US group.
Gestapo— "Geheime Staatspolizei", literally, "secret state police"; the official state secret police force of Nazi Germany, coordinated with the Kripo under the SD.
*Gewehr — rifle, such as the
*Gift — poison; "giftig": poisonous, toxic.
*Gleichschaltung — "coordination", coordination of everything into Nazi ideals.
Golden pheasant) — derogatory slang term for high-ranking Nazi Party members. Derived from the brown-and-red uniforms similar to the colors of male pheasants and the perceived behaviour of high-ranking party officials living in peace and luxury at home.
*Gothic Line — German defense line in
Italy, north of Florence.
*Granatwerfer — "grenade thrower"; mortar.
Grenadier— traditional term for heavy infantry, adopted during WWII from mid-war onward as a morale-building honorificoften 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
propagandato refer to Adolf Hitler during the early war years; literally, the "Greatest Field Commander of all Time".
*Gruppe — group; could be either small or large units. A "Luftwaffe" "gruppe" was equivalent to a US/French group or a British Commonwealth wing.
*Gruppenstab — command staff.
*Gustav Line — German defense line in
Italy, centered on the monasteryof Monte Cassino.
*Halt — Stop! Freeze!
*Hakenkreuz — (literally, "hooked cross") the version of the
swastikaused by the Nazi Party.
*Handelsmarine — German merchant marine.
*Hannoversche Maschinenbau AG (
Hanomag) – producer of military vehicles.
*Härteübung — hardiness training.
*Hauptamt Sicherheitspolizei (HA-Sipo) — Security Police headquarters.
*Heckenschützen — terrorist-snipers.
*Heer — regular German Army.
*Heeresgruppenkommando (HGr.Kdo) — Army Group Command.
*Heimat — home, homeland.
*Heimatschuß — "homeland shot"; a wound not severe enough to be permanently disabling, but of sufficient severity to require evacuation from the battlefront. The German soldier's equivalent of the American G.I.'s "million-dollar wound" or the British soldier's "Blighty."
*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 — literally, "trip to heaven unit", a suicide mission.
*Hinterhalt — ambush.
*Hitler-Jugend (HJ) —
*Hilfswilliger (Hiwi) — Eastern European volunteer "helper" to the military.
*HJ-Fahrtenmesser — common
daggerspecially designed for the Hitler Jugend
*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 — literally, "dog house", punishment hut.
*Indianer - Luftwaffe slang for an enemy fighter.
*Ivan — German slang for a Soviet soldier (similar to "Jerry" or "Kraut", the British and American slang terms for Germans).
*Jabo (Jagdbomber) — fighter-bomber.
*Jagdgeschwader (JG) — single-engine fighter wing/group.
*Jagdpanzer — "tank hunter"; armored self-propelled
*Jagd-Kommando — "hunting commando"; generally refers to a
commandooutfit that remained behind enemy lines when an area was overrun and would carry out sabotageand other guerrilla actions. These units did not generally operate as such and were later taken over by the SS and used as frontline combat troops in 1944-1945.
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".
*jawohl — simply the word "yes" with the emphatic "wohl", which one might translate as "Yes, indeed!" or "Absolutely yes!" Widely used in WWII, it became so strongly associated with the war, that it is not used in the modern
German Army(the "Heer").
*Junkerschule — officer academy.
*Kadavergehorsam — "absolute duty and blind obedience till death."; lit.: "carcass obedience"
*Kameradschaft — small military unit, or phrase for "comrade support amongst soldiers" (see "Volkgemeinschaft").
*Kampf — struggle, fight or conflict.
*Kampfgeist — fighting spirit.
*Kampfgeschwader (KG) —
Kampfgruppe— 1. an Army battlegroup or task force; formal designation of an "ad hoc" task force, or informal description of a combat unit at greatly reduced strength. 2. In the "Luftwaffe", a bomber unit equivalent to a US/French group or a British Commonwealth wing.
*Kampfmesser — combat knife.
*Kampfzone — battle zone.
*Kampfwunde — battle injury.
*Kapo — prisoner who acted as an "overseer" of his fellow inmates in the
Nazi concentration camps(see "Konzentrationslager").
*Ketten — track, such as a tank track; tracked vehicle.
*Kettenhund — "chained dog", slang for a
Military Policeman (derived from the metal gorgetworn 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 unit, comprising 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 — the notorious
6 June 1941" Commissar Order" to kill all political commissars in the Red Armyand civil government.
*Kompanie — company, unit.
*Konzentrationslager (KZL) — concentration camp.
*Knickebein — "crooked leg", also "bent leg" (in the sense of "dogleg"); German navigational system using radio beams to guide bombers.
*Krad (Kraft-Radfahrzeug) —
*Kradschütze(n) — motorcycle unit or soldier.
*Kraut — for "
sauerkraut"; slang term used by Americans to refer to Germans.
*Krieg or Krieg(s)- — "war" or "wartime-".
prisoner of war.
court-martial; slang for a war dish or poor meal.
Kriegsmarine— German Navy, 1935-1945.
*Kriegsneurose — battle fatigue.
*Kriegstagebuch — war diary.
*Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) — Criminal police.
*Krupp (Kp) — famous German steel producer, manufactured most of the tanks, howitzers and heavy mortars, as well as armor plates for battleships (notably and most famously the "Bismarck"). Later renamed "Krupps" and still active today in household appliances and various other domains.
*Krupp-Daimler (KD) — See Krupp.
*Kübel — literally, "bucket" or "tub", short for "
Kübelwagen", open-topped military utility cars.
*Kugel — "bullet" (also "ball").
*Kugelblitz — literally "
ball lightning", fireball.
*Küstenfischkutter (KFK) — patrol vessels constructed to a fishing-vessel design; (see "Vorpostenboote").
*KwK-abbreviation for "Kampfwagenkanone", the main (cannon) armament of a main battle tank.
*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, a type of militia.
*Latrinenparole — "latrine talk" slang for "rumor talk."
*laufende Nummer — serial number.
Lebensraum— "living space", or in Hitler-speak the minimum space the German people needed to live in.
*Lehr — "demonstration"; usually part of the name of an elite formation used as or mobilized from instructional troops (e.g., "
*leicht — "light", usually to refer a lighter type, such as light tank: "leichter Panzer". Several classes of divisions were also classified as "light".
*Lichtenstein — German airborne
radarused for nightfighting.
*Lorenz Schlüsselzusatz — German
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 version of the
*Leuchtkugel — signal flare.
*Luftadler — "air eagle"; the "Luftwaffe's" eagle insignia.
*Luftangriff — air attack, air raid.
Luftwaffe— "air force"; the German Air Force.
*Luftschutzpolizei — air raid protection police.
*MAN — German armed anti-Nazi resistance group named after the MAN engineering works in
*Mannschaften — enlisted personnel
*Maus — "mouse"; nickname for a large, super-heavy tank that never passed beyond prototype stage.
Maybach(M) — a company that manufactured engines for many of the German panzers.
*Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (M.A.N.) — Augsburg-Nuremberg Machine Factory; a German engineering works and truck manufacturer. Now called
*Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen Hannover (MNH) — weapon (tank) development and production firm.
*Maschinengewehr (MG - pronounced 'em-gay') —
machine gun, as in the MG-42.
*Maschinenpistole (MP) —
submachine gun, as in the MP40.
*Milchkuh - "milk cow", nickname for the Type XIV resupply U-boat
*Mine (pl. Minen) — an anti-personnel, tank or ship 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".
*Nachricht(en) — signals / news / communication.
*Nachschubtruppen — supply troops.
*Nacht und Nebel — "night and fog"; code for some prisoners that were to be disposed of, leaving no traces.
*Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) —
*Nahkampfmesser — close-combat fighting knife.
Nahverteidigungswaffe— "close defense weapon"; an attachment to Panzers to combat close-assaulting infantry.
Nashorn— "rhinoceros", nickname for a type of 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.
*NSKK — the "Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrerkorps", or National Socialist Motor Corps.
*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".)
*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
*Ostmark — post-"
*Ostpreußen — province of
*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; literally, "tank defence cannon".
*Panzerbefehlswagen (Pz. Bef.Wg) — the commanding tank of any panzer detachment.
Panzerfaust— a light disposable infantry anti-tank weapon, a small recoilless gunfiring a shaped chargegrenade.
Panzerschreck— a heavy re-usable infantry anti-tank weapon firing a rocket-propelled shaped chargegrenade. Modelled on the U.S. bazooka. Also called "Offenrohr" ("stovepipe") for its appearance.
Panzergrenadier— mechanized infantry.
Panzerjäger— "tank hunter", anti-tank weapon (e.g., the " Elefant").
Panzerkampfwagen(Pzkpfw.) — " armored fighting vehicle"; usually a reference to a type of tank.
*Panzerschiffe — "armored ships"; i.e., "pocket battleships".
*Panzertruppen — tank forces.
*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.
*Quist — one of several manufacturers of German
helmets both during and after WWII.
*Radikale Niederwerfung — ruthless suppression.
*Rasputitsa — slang for watery, mud-filled trenches or landscape in Russia.
*Räumboote (R-boot) — 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" or "Reich Security Central Office"; organization created by Himmler to coordinate all German security and police departments, including the
Gestapo, Kripoand SD ("Sicherheitsdienst der SS").
Reichswehr— name for the German Armed Forces under the Weimar Republic, from 1919 to 1935.
*Reissen und scheissen — slang for aches and bowel runs.
*Reiter — cavalryman.
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes— Knight's Cross (of the Iron Cross); award for valorous 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 Wallwith the intention of preventing paratroop and glider landings.
*Rotes Kreuz —
*SA — see "
*S-Mine — a common type of anti-personnel landmine.
*die Sahnefront - (cream front) occupied Denmark WWII, a lot of food, minuscule fighting.
*Sanität — (1) medical unit; (2) medical personnel.
*Sanka — acronym for "Sanitätskraftfahrtzeug", a term for German field ambulances.
*Saukopf — "pig's head", used to refer to the shape of a
gun mantletor mount.
entrenching tool; slang term for fork and knife.
*Scharfschütze — "sharpshooter";
*Schatten — "shadow"; used to describe division headquarters that controlled just a few combat assets, usually for the purpose of misleading enemy intelligence.
*Scheisskommando - latrine detail as referred to by survivors of the Konzentrationslager.
*Schlacht — battle.
*schnell — "fast".
*Schnellboot (S-Boot) —
motor torpedo boat(British term: "E-boat", for "enemy").
*Schnelltruppen — mechanized troops (whether armor or infantry).
*Schrecklichkeit — dreadfulness; the use of terror against civilians.
*Schutzpolizei — uniformed police.
Schutzstaffel(SS) — protective squads; operated the Nazi 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".
*Schürze — "skirting", armor skirting added to tanks to give additional protection
Schütze— rifleman; see also "Scharfschütze".
*Schützenpanzerwagen (SPW) — armored
*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.
*Schwadron (plural: Schwadrone) — "
squadron"; used in the cavalry, a 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 successfully assassinating him on 20 July 1944.
*Schweinereien — "scandalous acts" – crimes against civilians.
*schwer — (1) adjective meaning "heavy", the word "gross" (large) can mean the same; (2) hard/difficult.
*Schwerer Kreuzer —
*Schwimmpanzer — amphibious or "swimming" tank.
*SD — see "Sicherheitsdienst".
*Seekriegsleitung (SKL) — directorate of the Naval War.
*Selbstfahrlafette — self-propelled gun carriage.
*Selbstschutz — ethnic German civilian
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 Kripoand Gestapo; the Nazi Party's own internal intelligence and security service.
*Sicherungsflottillen — (1) escort ships, (2)
paramilitaryorganization 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" runes used by the SS.
*Sipo — see "Sicherheitspolizei".
*Sippenverhaftung — the practice of arresting members of a person's family for political crimes or
treasoncommitted 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, who were responsible for the liquidation of persons not desirable to the Nazi government; ALSO: Jewish inmates of
extermination camps, assigned to clear gas chambers of corpses, etc.
*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.
*Sperrlinie - blocking line.
*Sperrschule — Mine Warfare School at Kiel-Wik.
*Spieß — spear; colloquial name for the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in a company, usually a "Hauptfeldwebel". He exercised more authority than his American counterpart (Sergeant-Major).
*SS — see "
*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) — "staff", sometimes HQ.
Stabsfeldwebel— Staff Sergeant.
*Stadtkommandant — military commander of a city.
squadron; the smallest operational air unit.
Stahlhelm— (1) literally "steel helmet"; (2) inter-war nationalist organization.
*Stalag — acronym for "Stammlager", German
prisoner-of-war campfor ranks other than officers.
*Standarte — SS unit equivalent to a
*Stielhandgranate — stick hand grenade: the "potato masher"
Model 24 grenade.
*Stellung — position.
*Stoßtruppen — shock or attack troops.
Stuka— acronym for "Sturzkampfflugzeug", literally, "dive-bombing aircraft". Used to designate the German Ju-87 dive bombers which were prevalent early in the war.
*Stukageschwader — a Ju-87 wing/group.
*Stupa — a Sturmpanzer IV
*Sturm — assault.
Sturmabteilung(SA) — storm troopers, not part of the army, basically, in the beginning Hitler's praetorian guard (bodyguard) of "Brown Shirts" as a 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— also known as "Hakenkreuz".
*Tauchpanzer — submersible tank.
*Teilkommando — a small, section-sized 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 "Jerry" or "Kraut", the British and American slang terms for Germans).
*Tropenhelm — pith helmet; a wide-rimmed helmet used in tropical areas, most notably by the
*tot — dead.
Totenkopf— "death's head".
Totenkopfverbände— "Death's Head units", employed earlier as guards in Nazi concentration camps, they later became the first unit of the Waffen-SS, the " SS Division Totenkopf".
*Totenkopfwachsturmbanne — Death's Head Guard battalions; units of the SS that guarded concentration camps during the war.
Truppenamt— "Troop Office", the disguised Army General Staffafter the Versailles Treatyabolished the German Army General Staff.
*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 Nazis derided as "subhuman" (see "Entmenscht").
Unteroffizier— non-commissioned officer.
Unterführer— non-commissioned officer.
Unterseeboot(U-boat) — submarine.
*Urlaub — furlough; also:
*V1 — 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 an 850 kg (1875 lb) high-explosive
warhead. They had a range of up to 200 km. Nicknamed "buzz bombs" by Allied troops ("doodlebug" by Australians) 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.
*Verfügungstruppen — "units-available branch"; developed from various SS counter-revolutionary or counter-terrorist units.
*Vergeltungsmaßnahmen — reprisals; retaliatory punitive measures.
*Vernichtungskrieg — (1) "war of annihilation" against USSR civilians; (2) dogmatic offensive.
Vichy France— French regime set up in the city of Vichyunder Marshal Philippe 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 derived from "Volk" meaning "people" used to describe the racist, nationalist
ideologywhich 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 honorificgiven 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-boot) — coastal escort vessels with anti-submarine and minesweeping gear. Also called "Küstenfischkutter" (KFK), as they were patrol vessels constructed to a fishing-vessel design.
*Wabos — in U-boat terminology, the nickname for "Wasserbomben", literally "depth charges".
*Wach- — guard (in conjunction).
*Waffe (plural: Waffen) — "weapon", or can be an adjective meaning "armed".
*Waffenamt — "weapons office" — arms inspection stamp or mark.
Waffen-SS— militarized combat branch of the SS.
*Wagen — vehicle, car.
*Wehrkraftzersetzung — undermining the fighting spirit of the troops.
*Wehrkreis — Geman military district centered on an important city.
Wehrmacht— German armed forces under the Third Reich consisting of three branches: the "Heer" (Army), the " Luftwaffe" (Air Force), and the " Kriegsmarine" (Navy).
*Wehrmachtführungsstab — Armed Forces Operations Staff.
*Wehrmachtsadler — the
Wehrmacht's eagle insignia.
*Wehrmachtgefolge — 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 Conventionand/or militarized. The armed forces auxiliaries consisted in part of the " Reichsarbeitsdienst", NSKK, " Organisation 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 Goebbelsto represent the general rising up of the German people to defend against foreign invasion. It was not well organized or widely effective, 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").
Wolfsschanze— "Wolf's Lair"; code name for Hitler's headquartersnear Rastenburgin East Prussia.
*Wotan — alternative name for the Y-Gerät
Würzburg radar— German air defense radar that went into service in 1940; over 3,000 of all variants were built.
*X-Gerät — "X-device" or "X-equipment";
radio navigationequipment used on German aircraft.
*Y-Beam — German aircraft navigational system which utilized a single station that radiated a directional beam plus a ranging signal which the
bomberpicked 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 — "Y-device" or "Y-equipment";
radio navigationequipment used on German aircraft.
*Z3 — pioneering
computerdeveloped by Konrad Zusein 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 ponchoor 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 a 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.
*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. Zyklon-B actually consisted of crystals of potassium cyanide, normally used as rat poison. Breathing the dust of these crystals made them dissolve in the water of the mouth, nose, throat and stomach, which hydrolysed the cyanide into hydrocyanic acid and resulted in death by paralysis of the respiratory muscles.
List of German military ranks
Approximate ranks relative to US ranks:
Reichsmarschall– "Marshal of the Empire," the highest rank in the German armed forces during World War II (specifically created for Hermann Göringto distinguish him from the other field marshalls.) No U.S. equivalent.
Generalfeldmarschall– General of the Army
*Generaloberst – General
*General der Infanterie, Kavallerie, etc. – Lieutenant-General
*Oberst – Colonel
Oberstleutnant– Lieutenant Colonel
Oberleutnant– First Lieutenant
Unterleutnant– second Lieutenant
Stabsfeldwebel– Master Sergeant
Oberfeldwebel– Technical Sergeant
Feldwebel– Staff Sergeant
Unterfeldwebel– no equivalent
Gefreiter– Private First Class
Obergrenadier/ Oberschütze– Private
Grenadier/Schütze – Private
For additional comparisons, see
Comparative military ranks of World War II.
List of code names for major German military operations
The German term for "Operation" is "Unternehmen", literally "undertaking".
*""'Adlerangriffe" ("Eagle Attack") series of raids against
Royal Air Force(RAF).
*"Adlertag" — "Eagle Day"; day one of intense raiding against RAF
13 August 1940known as Operation Eagle Attack (postponed from 10 August).
*"Anton" — occupation of Vichy France, November
1942; later known as "Atilla".
*"Atilla" — occupation of Vichy France, November 1942 (previously, "Anton").
*"Aufbau Ost" — "Eastern Buildup"; build-up of arms prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union.
*"Barbarossa" — 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" — scheme to counterfeit British bank notes and put them into circulation; begun in 1942.
*"Bestrafung" — "punishment" air attacks on
Belgrade, April 1941.
*"Bodenplatte" — "Base Plate"; air offensive against Allied airfields in north-western Europe, January
*"Eiche" — "Oak"; mission to rescue
Mussoliniby Fallschirmjäger led by Skorzeny.
Fall Gelb" — "Case Yellow"; invasion of the Netherlands, Belgiumand France.
Fall Grün" — "Case Green"; intended invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Fall Rot" — "Case Red"; counterstrike against France in the event of an attack from the West.
*"Fall Weiß" — "Case White"; invasion of
*"Felix" — plan to capture
Gibraltarin 1941. It never took place.
*"Fischfang" — "Fish Trap"; counterattack on the Allied beachhead at Anzio in February
*"Greif" — "Griffin"; dropping of English-speaking troops wearing American uniforms behind the Allied lines in the
Ardennes, prior to the Battle of the Bulge.
*"Herbstnebel" — "Autumn Mist"; offensive in the Ardennes, December 1944. Better known as the Battle of the Ardennes.
*"Herkules" — projected invasion of Malta by "Fallschirmjäger" and the Navy. Never executed.
*"Kathrin" — Plan to help the Irish Republican Army to commit terrorism and disrupt British internal security.
*"Merkur" - "Mercury" (the planet or the Roman god, not the metal); airborne invasion of Crete 1941.
*"Nordlicht" — "Northern Lights"; attack on Leningrad in
*"Paukenschlag" — "Drumroll" or "Drumbeat"; offensive against Allied shipping in US and
Caribbeanwaters in the first half of 1942.
*"Pastorius" — U-boat operation involving U-202 and U-548 setting 8 agents ashore in the USA in June 1942.
*"Reinhard" — covername for the entire process of building extermination camps, deportation of Jews first to
ghettos, then to the concentration camps for extermination and incineration. Named for SD chief Reinhard Heydrich.
*"Seelöwe" — "Sea Lion"; projected amphibious assault on Great Britain in 1940/41. It never took place.
*"Taifun" — "Typhoon"; push towards
Moscowin September 1941.
*"Tiger" — advance through the
Maginot Lineon the French border in June 1940.
*"Walküre" — "Valkyrie" Officially a Reserve Army contingency plan to restore law and order in the event a disruption caused by the Allied bombing of German cities caused a breakdown in law and order, or a rising by the millions of forced laborers German factories. Was, in fact, a major part of the failed
July 20 Plotto arrest SSand other Naziofficials and seize control of the German government.
*"Weserübung" — "Weser Exercise" (commonly, "Water Exercise"); invasion of Denmark and Norway,
9 April 1940
*"Wintergewitter" — "Winter Gale"; unsuccessful attempt to relieve the 6th Army at
Stalingradin December 1942.
*"Zitadelle" — "Citadel"; attack on Soviet salient at
Kursk, July 1943.
* Stösser-parachute drop on evening of
16 December 1944; purpose was to seize a crossroads for Kampfgruppe Peiper during the Germans' Ardennes Offensive.
Glossary of the Third Reich
Weimar paramilitary groups
Ranks and insignia of the Schutzstaffel
Comparative military ranks of World War II
List of SS personnel
*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 0-7006-1122-3.
*Sajer, Guy; "The Forgotten Soldier". Brassey's Inc. (2001): ISBN 1-57488-286-4. 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 0-671-72868-7.
* [http://www.AFRIKAKORPS.Org/germanabreviations.htm AFRIKAKORPS.Org German WWII Abbreviation List]
* [http://www.luftarchiv.de/index.htm?/luftwaffe/anhang.htm Luftarchiv.de List of Luftwaffe abbreviations]
* [http://www.xs4all.nl/~rhorta/jgrank.htm Luftwaffe Ranks & their abbreviations]
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