Wehrmacht refers to the German Armed Forces under the Third Reich. The Wehrmacht was a replacement for the Reichswehr. The NSDAP came to power in 1933, and by 1935 it had assumed control of most all aspects of Germany, all under Adolf Hitler. The Wehrmacht was officially established by Reichskanzler Hitler in May 1935 under the "Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defense Forces" - completely dismissing the provisions of the Versailles treaty, which limited Germany to a defense force of only 100,000 men.

The Wehrmacht was composed of Three Branches, technically:
Many consider the misunderstood Waffen-SS (the Armed SS) to be the fourth arm of the Wehrmacht. Even though it was a major military force, accumulating to over 600,000 men by the end of World War II, the control of Waffen-SS formations rested with the Reichsführer der SS, Heinrich Himmler, and not under the OKW.

The command of the other three branches did however rest under the authority of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, often abbreviated as OKW. The Chef OKW was from 1 Sep 1939 right up until 8 May 1945, Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel. Directly above Keitel was the Führer, who also held the title of "Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht" (Highest Commander of the Wehrmacht). This, of course, was Adolf Hitler, up until his suicide on April 30, 1945. After this, Großadmiral Karl Dönitz was appointed to this position until the surrender.

The Wehrmacht was officially ended by the unconditional surrender of Germany to the Allies on May 8, 1945.

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