I have been watching a TV show on the American Heroes channel. The first episode was called “Hitler, the opportunist”.
At first, I thought that this show must be a re-run from years ago. I recognized all the footage. But when I looked more closely, I recognized the name Thomas Weber. He appears to be making the controversial claim that he has “discovered” that Hitler was actually promoted to the rank of Private First Class. Weber is often quoted, in sensational media articles which trash Hitler’s service record in World War One, at least sometimes a little out of context.
When I watched the television program, the first time, I thought the show made it sound like someone had gone back and looked up Hitler’s military records, and discovered that his rank was actually not Corporal or Lance Corporal but rather Private First Class (PFC).
There was no rank with the name Private First Class in the German Imperial Army during World War One.
Many sources maintain that Hitler was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. There was no rank of Lance Corporal in the German Imperial Army either.
The truth is that the one promotion that Hitler received during the war was to the rank of Gefreiter.
The website, cited above, has an image of a Bavarian Gefreiter rank insignia near the bottom of the page, which I have copied. Letter B in the photo is the correct Bavarian badge of rank insignia that Hitler would have worn.
On the same page, the rank of Gefreiter can be seen in the NCO table, which translates the rank into English as Lance corporal. This is a rank in the British Army which roughly corresponds to Gefrieter in the German Imperial Army.
Note that a Lance Corporal in the British Army was, and still is, an NCO. A Gefrieter in the German Imperial army was the lowest rank of NCO, at least by some accounts. Again the table in the web site cited above lists Gefrieter as an NCO
The American Army currently has no rank of Lance Corporal; however, the American Marine Corp does have this rank.
A Lance Corporal in the American Marine Corp is NOT an NCO. In the modern Bundeswehr there are many classes of Gefrieter. The lowest class is closer to a buck private, and also not an NCO.
German ranks in World War One did not correspond with ranks in today’s German Army (Bundeswehr).
The following quote is from the Wikipedia page in the above link:
“Throughout the periods of the Royal Prussian Army, Imperial Army of the German Empire, Reichswehr and the German Wehrmacht, the rank of Gefreiter was considered in English the equivalent to a British Army Lance Corporal rank.
I will refrain from commenting on Weber’s book until I have read it. In the comment section of this blog post, Weber said that he agrees with me that Hitler was a Gefreiter, and notes that there is some difficulty in translating this word into English.
The TV show does not make Weber’s position clear. Before I ordered the book, I went in and read the 31 reviews on Amazon. The majority of the people who read Weber’s book either loved it or hated it. It got a lot of five star ratings, and a lot of one star ratings. While the people, who gave it a one star rating, criticized Weber’s methodology in reaching the conclusions that he reached, even his most virulent detractors admitted that the book was well researched.
Again, I will reserve further comment on Weber’s book until after I read it.