Scrapbookpages Blog

November 29, 2016

New TV show about Hitler, the opportunist…(updated)

Filed under: Germany, TV shows, Uncategorized, World War II — furtherglory @ 4:20 pm

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:

Begin quote

“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.

End quote

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.


  1. WWI German Ranks
    German Army Officers
    Generalfeldmarshall FM general of the armies
    Generaloberst GenObst general
    General der Infanterie GendInf __ (general of infantry
    General der Kavallerie GendKav __ (general of cavalry)
    General der Artillerie GendArt __ (general of artillery)
    Generalleutnant Genltn lieutenant general
    Generalmajor Genmaj Major general
    Oberst Obst colonel
    Oberstleutnant Obstltn lieutenant colonel
    Major Maj Major
    Hauptmann Hptm Captain
    Rittmeister Rittm __ (cavalry captain)
    Oberleutnant Obltn first lieutenant
    Leutnant Ltn Second lieutenant
    Fähnrich Fhn ensign/cadet
    Kadett Kdt Cadet

    German Army Enlisted Men
    Feldwebel-Leutnant Fwltn Sergeant Major Lieutenant (Warrant Officer)
    Offizierstellvertreter Offstv __ (acting or deputy officer)
    Feldwebel Fw sergeant major
    Wachtmeister Wtm sergeant major (cavalry, artillery)
    Vizefeldwebel Vzfw sergeant 1st class (vice sergeant major)
    Sergeant Sgt Sergeant
    Unteroffizer Uffz Corporal
    Oberjäger Objäg corporal (Jäger only)
    Obergefreiter ObGefr acting corporal (artillery only)
    Gefreiter Gefr private 1st Class *********************************************************************
    Flieger Flg private (flyer in army air service)
    Pionier Pion private (pioneer in Bavarian Flying Corps)

    Comment by Dennis Gannon — March 13, 2018 @ 4:52 pm

  2. I would invite you to have a look at my book on Hitler in WWI. You will find an extensive discussion about his rank, i.e. that he was a Gefreiter, that it is difficult to translate the term into English, that it would be misleading to translate the term to Lance Corporal, and that the American rank of Private 1st Class would come closest to describe what a Gefreiter was.
    And let’s please civil to each other.
    Kind regards, Tom Weber

    Comment by Thomas Weber — November 30, 2016 @ 3:28 am

    • You wrote: “let’s please [be] civil to each other.”

      I did not realize that I was being uncivil. I think that your shows are excellent.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 30, 2016 @ 6:46 am

  3. A British “Lance Corporal” is the equivalent of a US “Private First Class”. Hitler was promoted to what would be the equivalent of the British (Commonwealth) “Lance Corporal” and therefore the equivalent of a US “Private First Class”.
    “For the Commonwealth equivalent, see lance corporal”
    Lance Corporal (Gefreiter); up until 1918 the only rank (with exception of Obergefreiter in the foot artillery) to which an enlisted soldier could be promoted

    Comment by blake121666 — November 29, 2016 @ 5:28 pm

    • I should have added that he became “Fuehrer” in the Nazi party and the Third Reich and that wasn’t particularly unique among German political parties after the Franko-Prussian War (maybe even befoire for all I know). But it was somewhat unique for “Germany” itself to have a “Fuehrer”.

      Comment by blake121666 — November 29, 2016 @ 5:41 pm

  4. Donald Trump is being compared to Hitler. I wrote about this long ago at

    Comment by furtherglory — November 29, 2016 @ 4:34 pm

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