The Wehrmacht: Disciplined Army to Criminal Enterprise
Traditionally, the German Army had always been strict with discipline and obedience. The Wehrmacht feared a potential breakdown like the one that happened at the end of WWI. They demanded loyalty from the soldiers above everything else. To top this off, every soldier, including generals, had to make an oath of loyalty to the Führer himself. It was the goal of the Wehrmacht to incorporate the old traditions of discipline and obedience while molding them to fit the new political ideals of the Nazi regime. Higher ranking officers of the army embedded fear into their subordinate men through the use of unreasonably cruel punishment to ensure that the soldiers would follow all orders, despite the trying conditions of war.
An awkward situation occurred in which discipline and ideological values met at a crossroads, complicating the discipline structure of the Wehrmacht. In addition to maintaining discipline within a conquered territory, the army also had to deal with the SS and their numerous acts of lawlessness which occurred inside the army’s jurisdiction. Further complication of the situation was due to the Wehrmacht not having the ability to put an end to the activities of the SS. Traditionally, the crimes committed by the SS would not have been allowed to continue past the point of discovery but with a new regime and ideology, it was justified as consequences of war. The army could thus either rebel against the regime or adapt itself to a new set of norms and values. When the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union, it with the understanding that this would be a war of opposing ideologies in which one would have to destroy the other.
The ideologies adopted by the Reich and the Wehrmacht to treat civilians and prisoners brutally were first introduced during the invasion of Poland in 1939. During this time, mal-treatment of civilians and prisoners was apparent, but not to the same extent that was established at a...