main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Useful Notes: We Are Not the Wehrmacht
Well, they still made it further east than their grandfathers...

"Heil- hail the Wehrmacht- I mean the Bundeswehr..."

The military of West Germany and the reunified Germany. The Bundeswehr (Federal Defence Force) was founded in 1955 on initiative by the Western Allies/NATO and is most notable for two things: Not being the Wehrmacht and not appearing in fiction very often. Its primary purpose seems to be giving heart attacks to everyone in Europe, and being completely forgotten in the rest of the world.

During the Cold War, the Bundeswehr, like their East German counterpart, spent most of their time waiting for World War III to break out and occasionally helped out after natural disasters. They didn't see combat until The Nineties. Since the reunification, the Bundeswehr has undergone an extensive reform process from two land forces built to attack each other into one international crisis intervention force. Quite a task, considering its budget is steadily shrinking and among the lowest military budgets in the NATO (in terms of share of GDP) due to the low popularity of The War on Terror and the military in generalnote . It is currently engaged in a "situation similar to war" in Afghanistan. It is keen not to be seen as a successor to the Wehrmacht, and for this reason it is only permitted to consider the original freikorps who fought for Germany's freedom in the Napoleonic Wars and the July 20 plotters, who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler, as its political antecedents.

The Bundeswehr is split into the three main fighting branches (Army; Navy; Air Force) as well as several supportive and organisational braches. The commander-in-chief of the Bundeswehr is the Minister of Defense, currently Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position. She succeeded newly (as well as former) Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and his predecessor Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. When a state of emergency is declared, the chancellor takes over as CIC. Comparing the Bundeswehr to the Wehrmacht is a major Berserk Button for both members and the Germans at large. The Bundeswehr does not consider itself a continuation or replacement for the Wehrmacht (instead, it maintains it is an entirely standalone organization), and the only pre-existing German military figures it allows itself to emulate are the military reformers of the early 19th Century (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Clausewitz, etc.), its own traditions since 1955, and the German military resistance to Adolf Hitler, in particular the namesake Magnificent Bastard, Erwin Rommel.

General notes about the Bundeswehr

  • The Bundeswehr was the first NATO member to get their hands on Warsaw Pact military equipment after reunification; and not just the cheap export versions, as the GDR got all the latest, coolest Soviet toys because of its key role in any potential World War III. Most of it has been decommissioned and scrapped or sold to other countries by now, although a squadron of MiG-29 fighters were kept for more than a decade. They were much appreciated in NATO manoeuvres for playing Team Red. Additionally, they were the most capable dog fighters until the Eurofighter arrived.
    • Western Germany was capable of supplying her own, sometimes quite fancy military equipment within the NATO standards. This has less to do with German thoroughness and reliability, as it has with the wish to please every major local weapons and equipment manufacturer. While other NATO militaries might envy the Germans for driving a Mercedes into battle, maintenance and supply was overly convoluted and notoriously difficult.
  • The GSG 9, Germany's elite counter-terrorist unit, is often lumped with the Bundeswehr, but is actually a part of the Bundespolizei (Federal Police). They are known to be very good at what they do and have turned up a lot in of military related fiction and Video Games such as Counter-Strike and served as the inspiration for Section 9. They even had their own TV series in Germany, GSG 9 - Ihr Einsatz ist ihr Leben. (GSG 9 - Their Mission Is their Life)
    • GSG 9 was formed in response to the fiasco at the Munich Olympics. The Bundeswehr was not allowed to act inside Germany and the police had no specialized anti-terror unit or even snipers.
    • Their first and most remembered Crowning Moment Of Awesome is the freeing of all 86 hostages from a hijacked Lufthansa plane in Somalia without any losses (except 3 of the hijackers).
      • The hijackers were armed with handguns and grenades, so the freeing of the hostages without losses is really quite impressive. This was done by luring the hijackers into the cockpit and shooting from the outside.
    • The German military counterpart to the GSG 9 is the KSK (Kommando Spezialkräfte). They are somewhat less known due to being founded several decades after the GSG 9 and being shrouded in secrecy.
  • Most medical personnel of all three fighting branches were assigned to a centralized support branch, the Joint Medical Service (Zentraler Sanitätsdienst).
  • Cool Guns everywhere. Before they got their cool guns, they were armed mostly with a combination of Wehrmacht and American arms.
    • The G3 is the German counterpart of the FAL (before that, the West Germans used the G1 or Gewehr 1, which were purchased FALs), created because FN (Belgian) either refused to let them make their own or were not willing to lower the licensing fees. It is still in service in modern countries such as Iceland and Norway, where its ruggedness and power are appreciated.
    • The MP5 is a miniaturized G3, which set the world standard for a CQB weapon until the advent of compact assault rifles.
    • The G11 was supposed to be the G3's successor and was the worlds' first assault rifle with caseless ammunition. While the technical issues were mostly solved, it was too expensive to procure after the unification, less than a thousand were actually fielded.
    • The G36 is the G3's successor. strangely, it often only shows up in fiction in its compact configuration. It's based on the AR18 and its futuristic appearance makes it a favorite of shows set in the future, or just want to make a point that they're on the cutting edge. It's also one of the most popular rifles for militaries that don't do much shooting and melts in direct sunlight on a summer day outside of northern Europe as well as after firing more than 30 shots..
    • The H&K USP is a very common fixture in modern war games, frequently a favorite of tactical operators. Its most common caliber is 9x19, although it's more commonly shown in the 45ACP version.
      • As with the UMP, in 9mm Luger or .45ACP, a submachinegun with the same design philosophy as the G36; more composite materials in its construction that are resistant to the elements. Like the G36, they are made with accessories in mind.
    • The H&K PSG-1 is a G3 with a silly load of metal added to it. It is an exceptionally accurate semiautomatic sniper rifle.
    • the MG3 is pretty much an update of the WW2 era MG42. Yes, the design was so good that even the stigma of Those Wacky Nazis couldn't kill it.
  • Like most Western militaries, German soldiers are obliged to refuse criminal orders and have the right to refuse any order that might violate human rights or dignity. This might have to to with aforementioned historic reasons.

Heer (Army)

Traditionally, the Heer is the strongest part of the German military and made up the backbone of the NATO's ground forces in Europe during the Cold War. It features many fancy tanks and other armored vehicles.
  • The first time German ground troops have been in combat against an organized enemy since World War II was 2002 in Afghanistan.
  • The Army's main infantry weapon is the G36. As a cool gun, it has appeared a few times in Speculative Fiction.
  • The army is also the primary user of the Leopard 2 tank, one of the best main battle tanks in the world, often considered equal to or even superior to the American Abrams, both descendants of the aborted MBT-70 tank project of the 1960s.
  • The Wiesel Armoured Weapons Carrier redefines the Light Tank lower limit (it's smaller than most European cars), being highly mobile on both a strategic and tactical level, allowing them to go where the Leopard can't. There are quite a few different variants, both prototypes and fielded, from anti-air to anti-armour and ambulance.

Marine (Navy)

The Marine was usually the least recognized part of the German military, except under the Kaiser where it was a Creator's Pet. Its main objective during the Cold War was to defend the access to the Baltic Sea against the Warsaw Pact and to escort the vessels of the "real" NATO navies.
  • Despite that, the Marine was actually the first part of the Bundeswehr to operate "out of area", clearing mines in the Persian Gulf in 1991.
  • Together with Italy, Germany developed the first class of non-nuclear submarines with hydrogen fuel cells and operates 4 of them.
    • An urban legend in the naval community concerns a one such German submarine not only sneaking up on a US Carrier Battle Group undetected but also taking a photograph of the ships with its periscope camera, and then mailing it to the Pentagon with a firing solution written on the back. Both sides remain tight-lipped, but if this really happened, it is a serious CMOA for the Germans.
    • Germany still exports rather good U-boats as well, producing the highly-capable 209 class exclusively for export. As part of the ongoing "We're really, really, really sorry" relationship the Germans have with Israel, the German government donated two highly-modified (for the better) 209s (the Type 800 or Dolphin class) to the Israel Defense Forces (Israel has since purchased four more, with one delivered), whose armament can be modified to carry nuclear weapons.
  • Due to political reasons, the German Navy nowadays avoids calling any of their post Cold War types of warships Destroyers. Instead the Type F124 and F125) are designated as the world's largest Frigates.

Luftwaffe (Air Force)

The Bundeswehr in fiction

  • Red Storm Rising. Well, the Warsaw Pact does invade West Germany. They kick some serious ass.
  • Featured several places in John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata. The German military as a whole, from World War II to Twenty Minutes into the Future, gets special attention from Tom Kratman, a co-writer in the series.
  • Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 features German Tank Destroyers on the Allied side, and at least one mission requires you to cross from Germany into Poland to destroy some Soviet nukes. Skirmish battles allow you to fight as Germany, granting you the Tank Destroyer.
    • In Red Alert 1, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces was a general of the alternative WWII Wehrmacht, since in the Red Alert Verse, the Soviets, and not the Germans, were the bad guys.
  • The Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality featured the Bundeswehr as a playable faction in version 0.95.
    • The Battlefield 2 mod Point Of Existence Two was initially about the Bundeswehr vs. the Ukrainian army, but added the USMC later on.
  • Michael Bay wanted to have Bundeswehr troops appear as part of NEST in the Transformers sequel. The Bundeswehr was supposedly eager to do it too, but the idea was shot down by the German government.
  • The Knight Templar villain Herr Starr in Preacher is a former member of GSG 9, although by the time he appears in the story he's a member of a completely unrelated organization.
  • ARMA 2: Operation Arrowhead featured the Bundeswehr operating in the fictional Afghanistan-like Takistan, in a likely parallel to its real-world operations in Afghanistan. Turns out that it's also a thank you to German fans who supported ARMA 2. Same goes for the Czech fans, with Czech military units appearing in-game.
  • World in Conflict. The NATO faction features quite a few Bundeswehr units, from Leopard 2 tanks to Tornado jets.
  • In Red Army the Bundeswehr are the principle adversary the Reds have to overcome. The Soviets manage to thrash them.
  • In one Episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Section 9 assists German military intelligence in capturing an international terrorist in Berlin. While the Germans are wearing contemporary Bundeswehr uniforms, such operations would actually be handled by the Federal Police. But being a Crapsack World, there might have been some considerable changes to the German constitution, not unlike the changes that occurred in Japan as well.
  • The Bundeswehr gets brief but moving mention in World War Z.
  • Bundeswehr forces are present in the wargame People's General.
  • In a surprising turn of events, in Modern Warfare 3 the Americans fight alongside the modern German military. This is the first time in the Call of Duty series that Germans are allies instead of enemies, against Russia no less which is now the opposing side.
    • The German soldiers themselves aren't seen and only appear in one segment where a German tank column attacks Russian soldiers in Berlin. Gratuitous German is spoken without translation or subtitles. Unfortunately, their involvement ends in about 2 minutes because the Russians literally decide to drop a building on them.
  • The German movie Kein Bund fürs Leben (also known by the comparatively unimaginative international title Military Academy) takes a humorous look into the lives of some average Bundeswehr soldiers (during the time when conscription was still in action). Also many War Tropes get spoofed when American soldiers from a nearby base come for a visit for a competitive maneuver exercise.
  • The Bundeswehr is a playable NATO country in both Wargame: European Escalation and AirLand Battle.
  • Combat Mission: Shock Force added the Bundeswehr as a playable faction in the NATO expansion pack.

Warriors of Desert WindsForces with FirepowerOssis with Osas
The Presidents of GermanyUsefulNotes/GermanyThe Thin Formerly Green Line
Ukrainians with Depleted UraniumUsefulNotes/EuropeFranco-Prussian War
The Ultimate ResistanceUseful NotesNazis with Gnarly Weapons

alternative title(s): Bundeswehr; We Are Not The Wehrmacht
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy