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War Ensign of the Vorläufige (preliminary) Reichswehr (1919–1921)
War Ensign of the Reichswehr after 1921

The Reichswehr (English: Imperial Defence) formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was united with the new Wehrmacht (English: Defence Force).


Due to the Versailles Treaty, the Reichswehr was limited to a standing army of 100,000 men and a navy of 15,00. Heavy weapons such as armoured vehicles, submarines and capital ships were forbidden, as were aircraft of any kind.

The Reichswehr was a unified organization composed of the following (as was allowed by the Versailles Treaty):

  • The Reichsheer, an army consisting of:
    • seven infantry divisions, and
    • three cavalry divisions.
  • The Reichsmarine, a navy with a limited number of certain types of ships and boats.

Despite the limitations, the Reichswehr conducted analysis of the loss of World War I, research and development, and secret testing abroad in co-operation with the Soviet Union. See also Soviet offensive plans controversy. After the NSDAP came to power in 1933, the Reichswehr began a secret program of expansion, which became public in 1935.

See also