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Summary: Suspended between Sword and Pen

Dieter H. Kollmer

Since 1806, Prussian-German Officer Training was an ever changing mix of theory and practice. As a rule, the cadet first learned the practical skills of his branch on all military echelons and afterwards deepened his experience with the theoretical knowledge he gained in specific officer training courses.

The Prussian army reformers of 1808, above all Gerhard von Scharnhorst, realized the importance of general knowledge for the officer and made it part of German officer training. However, the revised officer training, in the sense of Scharnhorst, principally contradicted the ideas of the Prussian Officer Corps that mainly consisted of landed gentry and was intent on keeping up its traditions. This led to a dualism between highly theoretical and a purely practical officer training, which ultimately resulted in an extremely heterogeneous Prussian Officer Corps.

In the German Empire of 1871-1918 education was considered an achievement of the bourgeoisie that considered practical military matters to be incompatible with the aristocratic officer. This way, the work of the reform-oriented officers who considered academic training as important part of officer training was pretty soon brought to an end. The bill for that was presented during the First World War, when commanding officers were unable to make military decisions in the sense of anticipating future developments. Most officers had been insufficiently prepared for the complexity of the war operations in the industrial age - flexibility and creativity in command, in the sense of Clausewitz, remained the exception.

The Weimar Republic of 1921-1933 saw a reformed force structure, though more than 80 percent of the cadets had university entry qualifications. In stark contrast to that, the required level of the cadet’s political and general knowledge was reduced to a minimum, which did not exactly enhance the ability to estimate the political situation in Germany.

After the National Socialists took over, they immediately started to rigorously enlarge the officer corps, which gained social stratums access to officer careers that were previously considered unfit to become officers. During WWII, after more and more national socialist ideology had infiltrated officer training, merely the proof of having military stance granted access to an officer career.

After 1955, the politicians of the Second German Republic wanted to prevent a force structure that had no connection to the political situation, as had been the case during the Weimar Republic. For that reason they developed the concept of ”inner leadership" that considered the soldier as citizen in uniform and put emphasis on political education, leadership, the defense law, and disciplinary order. As of the mid-60s university entry qualification became a prerequisite for being admitted and in 1973 the two Bundeswehr academies were founded. Today the successful completion of academy studies is a precondition for a position in command. In the future it will be of importance that officer training in the Bundeswehr will not be purely practice oriented, due to the alleged ”demands of the operations". In order to be able to analyze complex situations adequately, professional and expert training on the highest possible level will be necessary, i.e. excellent military competence will have to be supplemented by comprehensive theoretical training and intellectual competence. Only he who can foresee the consequences of his actions is in a position to make appropriate decisions.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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