Führer and Reich Chancellor of The German Reich
Former political post
Standarte Adolf Hitlers
Standard of the Führer and Reich Chancellor
Adolf Hitler Berghof-1936
Adolf Hitler, Der Führer
Predecessor Office established
Successor Office abolished
First officeholder Adolf Hitler
Last officeholder Adolf Hitler
Appointer Himself
Political office started 2 August 1934
Political office ended 30 April 1945
Current pretender Position abolished

Führer (German pronunciation: [ˈfyːʁɐ]; English: /ˈfjʊərər/), alternatively spelt Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also commonly referred to him as the "Führer" and used the "Sieg Heil"-salute.[1] The word Führer in the sense of guide remains common in German, but because of its strong association with Nazi Germany, it comes with some stigma and negative connotation when used as the meaning of leader. The word Leiter is therefore used instead.

In other languages, the word is used almost exclusively as the epithet for Hitler.

State and party leader HitlerEdit

Führer was the unique name granted by Hitler to himself, and this in his function as Vorsitzender (chairman) of the NSDAP. It was at the time common to refer to party leaders as "Führer", yet only with an addition to indicate the leader of which party was meant. No one but Hitler claimed to be the "Führer" without qualification.[citation needed]

After his appointment as Reichskanzler and the Enabling Law which allowed Hitler's government to promulgate laws by decree, Hitler was, following the death of the last Reichspräsident, Paul von Hindenburg, furthermore given the rights and duties of Head of State, but without occupying that office, which was kept vacant. Ostensibly this was done out of respect for Hindenburg's achievements as an heroic figure in World War I (though the law, rather impiously, was already passed before Hindenburg's death on August 2, 1934). Hitler instead used Führer und Reichskanzler, combining his positions in party and government, as his title.

In popular reception, the title of Führer and Chancellor was soon understood to mean Head of State and Head of Government – a view that becomes even more accurate seeing that he was given by propaganda the title of Führer des deutschen Reiches und Volkes (Leader of the German Reich and People), the name the soldiers had to swear to. However, it keeps some meaning as "Leader of Party and Head of Government" with reference to the confusing relationship of party and state, including posts in personal union as well as offices with the same portfolio Hitler wanted to fight for his favour. The style of the Head of State was changed on July 28, 1942 to Führer des Großdeutschen Reiches ("Leader of the Greater German Reich").

Nazi Germany cultivated the Führerprinzip (leader principle),[2] and Hitler was generally known as just der Führer ("the Leader"). One of the Nazis' most-repeated political slogans was Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer — "One People, One Nation, One Leader".

According to the Constitution of Weimar, the President was Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. Unlike “President”, Hitler did take this title (Oberbefehlshaber) for himself. When conscription was reintroduced in 1935, Hitler had himself promoted to the new title Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht (Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces), which meant then a presidential position over the Wehrmacht in fact led by another (newly instituted) Commander-in-chief, the Minister for War. Following the Blomberg–Fritsch Affair in 1938, Hitler took the responsibilities of this commander-in-chief for himself, though he kept on using the older formally higher title of Supreme Commander, which was thus filled with a somewhat new meaning. Combining it with "Führer", he used the style Führer und Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht ("Leader and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht"), yet a simple "Führer" since May 1942. Hitler's choice for this political epithet was unprecedented in German. Like much of the early symbolism of Nazi Germany, it was modeled after Benito Mussolini's Italian Fascism. Mussolini's chosen epithet il Duce or "Dux" if Latin ('the Leader') was widely used, though unlike Hitler he never made it his official title. Note that the Italian word Duce (unlike the German word Führer) is no longer used as a generic term for a leader, but almost always refers to Mussolini himself.

An additional title was adopted by Hitler on 23 June 1941, declaring himself the "Germanic Führer" (Germanischer Führer) in addition to his duties as Führer of the German state and people.[3] This was done to emphasize Hitler's professed leadership of what the Nazis described as the "Nordic-Germanic master race", which peoples such as the Norwegians, Danes, and Dutch, etc. were considered members of in addition to the Germans, and the intent to submerge these countries into the Third Reich. Waffen-SS formations from these countries had to declare obedience to Hitler by addressing him in this fashion.[4] On 12 December 1941 the Dutch fascist Anton Mussert also addressed him as such when he proclaimed his allegiance to Hitler during a visit to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.[5] He had wanted to address Hitler as Führer aller Germanen ("Führer of all Germanics"), but Hitler personally decreed the former style.[5] Historian Loe de Jong speculates on the difference between the two: Führer aller Germanen implied a position separate from Hitler's role as Führer und Reichskanzler des Grossdeutschen Reiches ("Führer and Reich Chancellor of the Greater German Reich"), while germanischer Führer served more as an attribute of that main function.[5] As late as 1944 occasional propaganda publications continued to refer to him by this unofficial title as well however.[6]

Military usage of the word FührerEdit

Führer has been used as a military title (compare Latin Dux) in Germany since at least the 18th century. The usage of the word to refer to Adolf Hitler as supreme ruler of Germany, usage of the term "Führer" in the context of a company-sized military subunit in the German Army referred to a commander lacking the qualifications for permanent command. For example, the commanding officer of a company was (and is) titled "Kompaniechef" (literally, Company Chief), but if he did not have the requisite rank or experience, or was only temporarily assigned to command, he was officially titled "Kompanieführer". Thus operational commands of various military echelons were typically referred to by their formation title followed by the title Führer, in connection with mission-type tactics used by the German military forces. The term Führer was also used at lower levels, regardless of experience or rank; for example, a Gruppenführer was the leader of a squad of infantry (9 or 10 men). See below however

Under the Nazis, the title Führer was also used in paramilitary titles (see Freikorps). Almost every Nazi paramilitary organization, in particular the SS and SA, had Nazi party paramilitary ranks incorporating the title of Führer. The SS including the Waffen-SS, like all paramilitary Nazi organisations, called all their members of any degree except the lowest Führer of something; thus confusingly, "Gruppenführer" was also an official rank title for a specific grade of general. The word Truppenführer was also a generic word referring to any commander or leader of troops, and could be applied to NCOs or officers at many different levels of command.

Hitler's honorary titlesEdit

Nazi propaganda occasionally used a number of honorary titles when referencing Hitler.

  • Supreme Judge of the German People (German: Oberster Richter des Deutschen Volkes) - Announced by Hitler on 30 June 1934 after the "Röhm-Putsch"[7]
  • First Soldier of the German Reich (German: Erster Soldat des Deutschen Reiches) - This title was assumed by Hitler at the start of World War II on 1 September 1939. Addressing the Reichstag in the Kroll Opera House, Hitler appeared in a gray military uniform, declaring that he wanted "to be nothing but the first soldier of the German Reich", and pledging not to take it off until after victory had been achieved.[8]
  • First Worker of the New Germany (German: Erster Arbeiter des neuen Deutschland)[9]

Parallel titlesEdit

There were many fascist, nazi, and right-wing leaders and dictators before and during the Second World War who assumed personal and/or political titles modelled after Führer or il Duce.

Modern German usageEdit

In Germany the isolated word Führer is usually avoided in political contexts, due to its intimate connection with Nazi institutions and with Hitler personally.

However, the term -führer is used in many compound words. Examples include Bergführer (mountain guide), Fremdenführer (tourist guide), Geschäftsführer (CEO or EO), Führerschein (driver's license), Führerstand or Führerhaus (driver's cab), Lok(omotiv)führer (train driver), Reiseführer (travel guide book), and Spielführer (team captain—also referred to as Mannschaftskapitän).

The use of alternate terms like "Chef" (a borrowing from the French, as is the English "chief", e.g. Chef des Bundeskanzleramtes) or Leiter, (often in compound words like Amtsleiter, Projektleiter or Referatsleiter) is usually not the result of replacing of the word "Führer", but rather using terminology that existed before the Nazis. The use of Führer to refer to a political party leader is rarely used today and Vorsitzender (chairman) is the more common term. However, the word Oppositionsführer ("leader of the (parliamentary) opposition") is more commonly used. Also, the U. S. President is styled Führer der freien Welt[10], if the epithet is not left untranslated.

See alsoEdit


  1. Mitchell, Arthur H. (2007). Hitler's Mountain: The Führer, Obersalzberg, and the American Occupation of Berchtesgaden. Macfarland & Company Inc., Publishers, p. 15. [1]
  2. Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression Volume I Chapter VII
  3. De Jong, Louis (1974) (in Dutch). Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de tweede wereldoorlog: Maart '41 - Juli '42, p. 181. M. Nijhoff.
  4. Bramstedt, E. K. (2003). Dictatorship and Political Police: the Technique of Control by Fear, pp. 92-93. Routledge.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 De Jong 1974, pp. 199-200.
  6. Adolf Hitler: Führer aller Germanen. Storm, 1944.
  7. Münchener Studien zur Politik, Nr. 9 1969
  8. Toland, John (1977). Adolf Hitler, pp. 569-570. Book Club Associates, Doubleday & Company, Inc.
  9. Kerschbaumer 1988, Faszination Drittes Reich: Kunst und Alltag der Kulturmetropole Salzburg, p. 53, ISBN 3701307326
  10. [2]

External linksEdit


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