The Wehrmacht was the official designation for the three German Armed Forces during the Third Reich, replacing the Reichswehr. Created in 1935, the Wehrmacht was composed of the Army (Heer, in German), the Navy (Kriegsmarine), and the Air Force (Luftwaffe). It did not include the Waffen-SS, which was the armed branch of the SS and the Nazi Party. The German term “Wehrmacht” is composed of two words: “Wehr”, which means defense, and “macht”, which means power.
In the 1920s, during the Weimar Republic, the name of the German Armed Forces was Reichswehr, whose strength was limited to 100,000 men by the Treaty of Versailles. In 1933, when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, all officers and soldiers of the Reichswehr had to swear a personal oath of loyalty to the Führer. In March 1935, military service was reestablished in Germany, violating what had been stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles. When this new Conscription Law was passed by the Reichstag, the name Wehrmacht was introduced. Officially, the creation of the Wehrmacht was announced on October 15, 1935.
The supreme commander of the Wehrmacht was Adolf Hitler. At the beginning, administration and military authority lay with the war ministry under Generalfeldmarschall Werner von Blomberg, but in 1938 the ministry was dissolved and was replaced by the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) under Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel. The Supreme Command of the Army, the Supreme Command of the Navy, and the Supreme Command of the Air Force lay under the military jurisdiction of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht.
After the war, in 1945, the Wehrmacht was abolished by the Allies, but in 1955, when the western Federal Republic of Germany came into existence, its armed forces were renamed the Bundeswehr.