Stalag XVII B

The Wehrkreis System

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Map of Wehrkreise (Military Districts)

A Wehrkreis was a German military district. The Weimar Republic established the Wehrkreis system of military service in 1919 to rebuild the German Army after World War I. Each Wehrkreis was responsible for recruiting, drafting, training and mobilizing German soldiers for an army division. It was a very efficient method of military draft and training. It also provided the divisions with trained replacements. After World War I, the German army was intended to be a purely defensive force, and the Wehrkreis system was intended to provide a supply of able-bodied men to maintain Germany's defensive force.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he dissolved the Weimar Republic and the Reichswehr, and formed the Third Reich (The Third German Empire) and the Wehrmacht (The German Army). However, realizing the value of the Wehrkreis system with its established plans for a large, rapid and continued expansion of the army, Hitler kept it intact. Using the Wehrkreis system, the German army was mobilized in large groups of infantry, armored and mixed divisions throughout World War II. From 1934 to 1945 there were thirty-eight mobilization groups. Initially, the Wehrkreis system operated directly under the Oberkommando des Heeres (Army High Command), but in 1938 the Home (Replacement) Army was created to oversee and coordinate all Wehrkreis operations, although operations changed very little until late 1942.

Before the General Mobilization Plan of June 1939, each Wehrkreis had two headquarters components. One headquarters was a tactical component that became a corps headquarters unit and was sent into combat after mobilization. The other headquarters was a deputy command component that stayed in the Wehrkreis to coordinate conscription, training and replacement activities. The deputy component was made up of older soldiers, many of whom were WWI veterans and competent military administrators.

The number of Wehrkreise increased from seven in 1932 to nineteen in 1943. Although the Wehrkreise lost some of their training responsibilities from late 1942 until 1944, the German army divisions still depended on the Wehrkreise for some basic training and for providing replacements to depleted divisions.