How Much Do You Know About the Nazi Wehrmacht of WWII?

John Miller

Image: Riksarkivet (National Archives of Norway)

About This Quiz

Adolf Hitler was not exactly the kind of guy you could expect to follow the rule of law. So it’s no surprise that he began illegally building a huge army in the 1930s. Once he consolidated his political power, he had the ability to use that military force – the Wehrmacht – to do his evil bidding. In our quiz, we’ll see how much you really know about the Wehrmacht and its men during World War II.

By 1939, the Wehrmacht was one of the world’s best fighting forces. It had many advanced planes and armored vehicles, and just as important, well-trained men who understood how to use those weapons to quickly overwhelm Allied lines. Do you know the various military branches that made up the Wehrmacht?

Dozens of well-known Nazi commanders gained fame (and infamy) during the course of the Second World War. Some conducted themselves honorably in victory or defeat, while others committed atrocities in the name of the Third Reich. Can you name the bloodiest German generals of the conflict?

When Allied troops and civilians saw the flags of the Wehrmacht heading their way, they could only hope for the best. Take our WWII quiz now and see if you can withstand the blitzkrieg, or whether you’ll be blasted from the Earth by a deadly Panzer division!

What was the German "Wehrmacht" in WWII?

In WWII, "Wehrmacht" referrred to all of Germany's armed forces, including the Luftwaffe (air force), Kriegsmarine (navy), and Heer (army). It was the one of the best militaries in the world at the start of the conflict in 1939.

In the 1930s, Germany built up its Wehrmacht in a blatant violation of the Treaty of ______.

Following WWI, the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from rearming … but Hitler secretly began building up his forces, anyway. By the time the Allies found out, they waffled on a course of action, allowing Hitler to continue rearmamament.

True or false, were all German soldiers part of the Nazi party?

It would be like saying all American soldiers are Democrats. Not all German soldiers were associated with the Nazi party.

The Wehrmacht specialized in "blitzkrieg" battle tactics. What does that mean?

Using a lethal combination of high speed and firepower, the Wehrmact used blitzkrieg ("lightning war") tactics to simply overrun its enemies. Allied troops trembled at the idea of confronting the Wehrmacht when it was at full strength on the battlefield.

How many troops served in the Heer (army) in WWII?

Germany needed bodies on the battlefield, and it got them -- to the tune of about 13 million men in the Heer alone. Most of those troops were drafted into the Heer, forced to to the Nazis' bidding.

The Panzerwaffe was responsible for commanding which aspect of the Wehrmacht?

The Panzerwaffe commanded Germany's armored and motorized units in WWII. These units were among the most feared in the conflict, capable of devastating Allied lines in one crushing blow.

At the start of the war, Germany had nine Panzer divisions. How many tanks were in each division?

Germany illegally built huge forces before the war, including nine Panzer divisions of about 330 tanks each, more than enough to invade Poland in September 1939.

The Wehrmacht used "Gott mit uns" as its motto. What does that mean?

The Wehrmacht held on to a motto from earlier days: "Got mit uns," which means "God with us." But it's hard to believe that God wanted anything to do with Hitler's lunacy.

Did German soldiers partake in church ceremonies during WWII?

Germany was an overwhelmingly Christian country in the war era. And yes, even as troops stormed across Europe they took part in religious ceremonies and services.

Where did the Wehrmacht see its first combat action?

In the late '30s, Spain endured a horrifically bloody civil war. Hitler's Wehrmacht joined the fray, in large part to hone its tactics and equipment for future conflicts.

From 1941 to 1944, Germany was locked into a terrible fight with the Soviet Union. How many German troops died in this area of the war alone?

Hitler's invasion of the USSR in 1941 turned into a gory quagmire. By 1944, an unbelievable 2 million German troops were dead … not even counting those who were fighting the Allies on the Western Front.

Erwin Rommel was a German general renowned for which trait?

Erwin Rommel was the "Desert Fox," a general who knew exactly how to deploy his armored vehicles in battle. Time and again, he left Allied forces reeling.

At the war's outset, how did most German infantry troops move around the battlefront?

We often think of the German war machine as ultra-advanced. But at the start of the war, most ground troops actually hopped into horse-drawn vehicles that moved them around the front.

The Wehrmacht used the Manstein Plan to capture which area?

In 1940, Germany used the Manstein Plan to invade and capture France. The plan utilized German forces masterfully, overruning French lines and capturing Paris in a matter of weeks.

On a man-for-man basis, how much deadlier were German troops than Allied soldiers?

German troops were trained to an exacting degree, and though Allied fanboys don't like to admit it, on average, German troops inflicted about 50% more casualties than their counterparts. That's true even whether they were defending or on the attack.

Albert Kesselring was a general of which part of the Wehrmacht?

Albert Kesselring was a Luftwaffe commander who conducted operations all over Europe and the USSR. He was extremely effective at his job, winning respect from Allied commanders throughout the war.

After conquering much of Western Europe, German troops relied heavily on which mode of transportation?

Europe's railroads were critical to infantry troop movements, especially for a German army suffering from a lack of trucks. Once the Allies bombed rail lines, the Heer had a difficult time moving its troops effectively.

About how many personnel served in the Kriegsmarine (navy) in WWII?

Compared to the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine was much smaller. But it was still a formidable force that had 1.5 million personnel in WWII.

In which branch of the Wehrmacht did "U-boats" serve?

In WWII, German U-boats (submarines) were a deadly weapon of the Kriegsmarine. They sank many Allied ships in the Atlantic, particularly early in the war.

Which army caused about 75% of the Wehrmacht's casualties in WWII?

Given the brutality they faced at the hands of the Germans, perhaps it's fitting that the USSR inflicted around 75% of casualties that the Wehrmacht endured. The Soviets killed millions upon millions of German troops who invaded the USSR.

"Wolfpacks" made a name for themselves in which part of the war?

German U-boats often fought in coordinated groups -- wolfpacks -- that roamed the Atlantic Ocean. Allied military and merchant sailors dreaded sailing into waters where wolfpacks prowled.

What was the "Clean Wehrmacht"?

As the war's atrocities came to light, a myth of the "Clean Wehrmacht" arose, essentially calling the army an apolitical unit that simply followed orders. But piles of documents showed that generals and troops alike knew about Nazi war crimes throughout the war.

As German casualties mounted, where did the Heer (army) get more men?

As Allied guns took their bloody toll, the Germans began redistributing personnel from the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe to the Heer, where they often become more cannon fodder.

True or false, was the Battle of the Bulge essentially the final time that American troops faced elite German units in major combat?

In December 1944, elite German troops mounted a last-ditch offensive in the Ardennes Forest, taking the Americans by surprise. The Allies held on, and from then until the end of the war, the Americans rarely faced top-level German troops in major combat.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was an important tool in which branch of the Wehrmacht?

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a vital fighter plane for the Luftwaffe in WWII. Germany built more than 33,000 of these planes, which shot down countless Allied bombers and fighters.

Heinz Guderian was famed for his effective use of which forces?

Heinz Guderian was a general whose armored tactics proved their worth during major invasions of Europe and the USSR. And long before many of his contemporaries he understood the value of radio for coordinating tank attacks.

True or false, did the German army have units made up of men from the USSR?

It's true, there were multiple Wehrmacht units made up of men from Soviet lands, men who saw Germany as the lesser of two evils. In some cases, Germany forced Soviets to fight against their will.

In the waning moments of WWII, Hitler created the Volkssturm to supplement the Wehrmacht. What was the Volkssturm?

The Volkssturm ("people's storm") was a militia of desperation, created to slow the USSR's counteroffensive. But the Volkssturm included the very young and the very old and was ineffective as a fighting force.

What happened to the ships of the Kriegsmarine after the Allies won the war?

Once the war was over, the Allies confiscated all of the Kriegsmarine's ships … and then they divvied them up, using them for various post-war tasks.

Why did the Allies allow the Feldjägerkommando III (a military police unit) to keep its weapons after Germany surrendered?

After Germany surrendered the Allies were inundated with prisoners, so they let some Germany military police remain active to keep the situation under control.

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