Rank Comparison

In the table below the ranks of the German Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Waffen-SS and their groupings are shown as they compared during the Second World War.

Because military ranks in different countries were not standardized during the Second World War it is not possible to make a completely accurate rank conversion table. Some ranks did not have equivilants in other armies, or might not exist any longer. An approximate comparison to the current NATO and the Second World War US rank scales have been used for comparison. The rank of Reichführer-SS has been omitted, as it was not a military rank, but rather an administrative rank created when the SS was still a paramilitary organization.

Medical (Arzt), veterinary (Veterinär), and music officers had separate rank paths that were aligned with the regular ranks. For simplicity, the ranks of the different rank paths have been combined for each rank class below.

Heer Luftwaffe Kriegsmarine Waffen-SS NATO US Army
Generals
Reichmarschall
Generalfeldmarschall Generalfeldmarschall Großadmiral OF-10 General of the Army
Generaloberst Generaloberst Generaladmiral Oberstgruppenführer OF-9 General
  • General der Infanterie
  • General der Gebirgstruppe
  • General der Kavallerie
  • General der Artillerie
  • General der Pioniere
  • General der Panzertruppe
  • General der Nachrichtentruppe
  • Generaloberstabsarzt
  • Generaloberstabsveterinär
  • General der Flieger
  • General der Flakartillerie
  • General der Luftnachrichtentruppe
  • Generaloberstabsarzt
Admiral Obergruppenführer OF-8 Lieutenant General
  • Generalleutnant
  • Generalstabsarzt
  • Generalstabsveterinär
  • Generalleutnant
  • Generalstabsarzt
  • Vizeadmiral
  • Admiralstabsarzt
Gruppenführer OF-7 Major General
  • Generalmajor
  • Generalarzt
  • Generalveterinär
  • Generalmajor
  • Generalarzt
  • Konteradmiral
  • Admiralarzt
Brigadeführer OF-6 Brigadier General
Staff officers
  • Oberst
  • Oberstarzt
  • Oberstveterinär
  • Oberst
  • Oberstarzt
  • Kapitän zur See
  • Flottenarzt
Oberführer OF-5 Colonel
Standartenführer
  • Oberstleutnant
  • Oberfeldarzt
  • Oberfeldveterinär
  • Oberstleutnant
  • Oberfeldarzt
  • Fregattenkapitän
  • Geschwaderarzt
Obersturmbannführer OF-4 Lieutenant Colonel
  • Major
  • Oberstabsarzt
  • Oberstabsveterinär
  • Major
  • Oberstabsarzt
  • Korvettenkapitän
  • Marineoberstabsarzt
Sturmbannführer OF-3 Major
Captains and cavalry captains
  • Hauptmann
  • Rittmeister
  • Stabsarzt
  • Stabsveterinär
  • Hauptmann
  • Stabsarzt
  • Kapitänleutnant
  • Marinestabsarzt
Hauptsturmführer OF-2 Captain
Lieutenants
  • Oberleutnant
  • Oberarzt
  • Oberveterinär
  • Oberleutnant
  • Oberarzt
  • Oberleutnant zur See
  • Marineoberassistenzarzt
Obersturmführer OF-1 First Lieutenant
  • Leutnant
  • Assistenzarzt
  • Veterinär
  • Leutnant
  • Assistenzarzt
  • Leutnant zur See
  • Marineassistenzarzt
Untersturmführer Second Lieutenant
Music inspectors and bandmasters
Obermusikinspizient
Musikinspizient
Stabsmusikmeister
Obermusikmeister
Musikmeister
Fortress masters and farrier instructors
  • Festungsoberwerkmeister
  • Oberhufbeschlaglehrmeister
  • Festungswerkmeister
  • Hufbeschlaglehrmeister
Non-commissioned officers with portfolio
  • Stabsfeldwebel
  • Stabswachtmeister
  • Stabsbeschlagmeister
  • Stabsfeuerwerker
  • Stabsschirrmeister
  • Stabsfunkmeister
  • Stabsbrieftaubenmeister
Stabsfeldwebel1 Stabsoberfeldwebel2 Sturmscharführer OR-8 Master Sergeant
  • Oberfähnrich3
  • Unterarzt
  • Unterveterinär
  • Oberfähnrich
  • Unterarzt
1
Oberfähnrich zur See23 Hauptscharführer OR-7 Technical Sergeant
  • Oberfeldwebel
  • Oberwachtmeister
  • Oberbeschlagmeister
  • Oberfeuerwerker
  • Oberschirrmeister
  • Oberfunkmeister
  • Oberbrieftaubenmeister
Oberfeldwebel1
  • Oberfeldwebel
  • Oberbootsmann
2
Hauptscharführer OR-7 Technical Sergeant
Stabsfeldwebel
  • Feldwebel
  • Wachtmeister
  • Beschlagmeister
  • Feuerwerker
  • Schirrmeister
  • Funkmeister
  • Brieftaubenmeister
  • Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel4
Feldwebel1
  • Feldwebel
  • Bootsmann
2
Oberscharführer OR-6 Staff Sergeant
Non-commissioned officers without portfolio
  • Fähnrich
  • Fähnrich für Sanitätskorps
  • Fähnrich für Veterinärkorps
  • Fähnrich für Ingenieurkorps
3
Fähnrich13 Fähnrich zur See23
  • Unterfeldwebel
  • Unterwachtmeister
Unterfeldwebel Oberbootsmannsmaat2 Scharführer OR-5 Sergeant
  • Unteroffizier
  • Oberjäger
  • Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier
Unteroffizier Bootsmannsmaat2 Unterscharführer OR-4 Corporal
Enlisted
Stabsgefreiter Stabsgefreiter Oberstabsgefreiter
Matrosenstabsgefreiter
Hauptgefreiter Matrosenhauptgefreiter
Obergefreiter Obergefreiter Matrosenobergefreiter Rottenführer OR-3 Private First Class
  • Gefreiter
  • Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter
Gefreiter Matrosengefreiter Sturmmann OR-2 Private
  • Oberschütze
  • Oberreiter
  • Oberkanonier
  • Panzeroberschütze
  • Oberpionier
  • Oberfunker
  • Oberkraftfahrer
  • Oberfahrer
  • Sanitätsobersoldat
  • Bauobersoldat
Oberschütze OR-1
  • Schütze
  • Jäger
  • Grenadier
  • Füsilier
  • Reiter
  • Kanonier
  • Panzerschütze
  • Pionier
  • Funker
  • Kraftfahrer
  • Fahrer
  • Sanitätssoldat
  • Bausoldat
  • Fahnenjunker
Flieger5 Matrose Schütze

Rank Authority Structure

The German 1940 field manual on ranks described which ranks held authority over others:

Common superiority regulation

Both in and outside service, officers of all brances, music inspectors, and bandmasters of the armed forces have superioriority over non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel of the armed forces.

Both in and outside service, officers of higher rank classes have superiority over all officers, music inspectors, and bandmasters of lower ranks.

Between officers of the same rank class, music inspectors, and bandmasters, a higher service position or seniority (rank seniority) does not generally convey any superiority, however, all officers with lower seniority and all music inspectors and bandmasters are to salute officers with seniority. In no case can a music inspector or bandmaster have superiority over an officer.

Both in and outside service, non-commissioned officers of the armed forces have superiority over all enlisted personnel of the armed forces.

There is no general superiority between the individual rank classes of the non-commissioned officers of the armed forces. However, those of a lower rank must salute those of a higher rank. Both in and outside of service, fortress masters and farrier instructors (rank class B III 1) and non-commissioned officers with portfolio (rank class B III 2) have superiority over ensigns and non-commissioned officers with in their own unit.

There is no general superiority between the individual ranks of the enlisted personnel.

Superiority due to specific positions

Soldiers who have command over other soldiers due to general service regulations or by specific circumstances have superiority for the duration of the position, even when they have a lower class than those whom they are commanding, however only within the scope of the position.

The following superiority constellations are not to be created:

  • Music inspectors, bandmasters, non-commissioned officers, or enlisted personnel over officers;
  • Non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel over music inspectors and bandmasters;
  • Enlisted personnel over non-commissioned officers.

Notes

  1. Generic ranks followed those of the Army while specialist Air Force ranks had their own paths. Back
  2. Additional Navy-specific ranks existed. Back
  3. Only in peacetime. Back
  4. Only in wartime. Back
  5. Additional Air Force-specific ranks existed. Back

Sources

  1. Bestimmungen über Rang- und Vorgesetztenverhältnis der Soldaten des Heeres (R. u. V.). Berlin : Allgemeines Heeresamt, 1940. 9 p. H Dv 82/9. NARA T78 R875.
  2. KEITEL, Wilhelm. Wehrmacht-Gebührnisse; Einsatzgebührnisse - Amtlische Texte. Berlin : Führer-Hauptquartier, 1945. 10 p.
  3. SCHULLZE, Erich. Gesetz zur Befreiung von Nationalsozialismus und Militarismus. Munich : Biederstein Verlag, 1947. 372 p.
  4. THOMAS, Nigel & ANDREW, Stephen. Men-At-Arms 311 - The German Army 1939-45 (I) : Blitzkrieg. Oxford : Osprey Publishing, 1997. 56 p. ISBN 1-85532-639-6.