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The German Army "z.D." Officer Corps


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I have long been puzzled-- stymied, really--by the nature and status of the Wehrmacht "z.D." officer cadre. When Glenn discovered the secret 1 May 1940 Seniority List

it was finally possible to see the actual strength and assignments of this "invisible" (not shown on active duty regulars Lists) type of officer.

I've typed 'em all out, alphabetized 'em, and am now filling in personal details where possible trying to figure "who" they were-- and more important WHY they were "z.D>"... and not something else.

Under the old Imperial army, a z.D. officer was basically retired but continued coming to work every day-- often for DECADES--at the same never to be promoted rank. Their duties--most commonly heading local draft offices--meant most never received any decorations beyond what they held when they dropped from active duty status-- nor did they accumulate time even for the old XXV Years Long Service Cross if they didn't already have one.

Most of the Wehrmacht z.D. officers seem to have been similar types in similar jobs-- and yet they continued to accumulate military long service time as recognized by the new Wehrmacht long service awards-- even while fossilizing in their ranks.

But where the old Imperial army had ONE type of "z.D." service, the Wehrmacht had THREE--

1) fossilized, unpromotable job fillers like the old type z.D.

2) officers merely temporarily in this status-- some for as little as mere months before resuming active duty status

3) officers with z.D. suffixed rank who were actually what would be called "z.V." (zur Verf?gung") during the Second war

These categories should NOT be confused with officers on active or reserve duty whose ASSIGNMENTS were refrred to as "z.D." or "z.V." (for instrance, "special officers temporarily assigned to the High Command"-- "sonst. Offz. z.V. d. OKH") but ONLY to officers whose permanent rank carried the suffix z.D.

Confusing? :unsure: Ayuh.

These were NOT by any means "underachievers" who had wormed into a paycheck without being good for anything else. Here is one example--

Claudio's medal bar which belonged to Major z.D. Kurt Oertmann:

Born in 1883, Oertmann had an absolutely first rate war record, as his awards show.

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Yet here he was-- a man who had received every Order for bravery the Kingdom of Saxony could bestow-- "commanding" a local draft office with 8 years In Grade:

By all rights, officers like Oertmann SHOULD have been called back circa 1935 as Supplementary (Erg?nzungs) officers. By 1940, in that status, he'd have been an OBERST (E).

So why was anybody on the z.D. list? :banger::banger::banger:

That's what I'm working on now... filling in the ever-missing first names, figuring out ages and old Imperial careers...

to see if there is SOME common denominator for why anyone, voluntarily, would have CHOSEN to be in a Dead End Posting.

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The most senior z.D. officers, oddly enough, WERE "promotable" as the first 10 Colonels here show:

Information in red, (brackets) and blue added by me on a first run through. Note from their birth years that as might be expected, most of these officers were far overage and indeed many were only promoted General as a retirement pension gift. But some had been career Reichsheer officers, and others were "retired" only for mere months before being called back again-- NOT as (E) officers, but as z.D. officers! :speechless1::banger:

Johannes Freye, above, is a good example. He had technically retired... but only to move over into a Dead End Job as an ordnance specialist, where he remained in grade as Oberst for over a decade.

Here he is, as one of the few Wehrmacht 40 Years Service Cross recipients, on continuous active duty... and yet carried in this semi-retired category!

Since Freye is not wearing the fore-and-aft braid under his shoulder boards which distinguished retired and z.D. officers, this must have been taken after he was "re-activated" but I don't have the date when he was bumped back onto active duty status. He too had a distinguished First War record.

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Naturally, like most of my obsessions :unsure: this was all spurred by a stubbornly unidentifiable :banger: ribbon bar:

Like Freye, this STILL :banger: unknown officer was a W?rttemberger with a distinguished wartime record-- and he did something quite significant to pick up a 1936 Olympics Decoration 2nd Class in his 43 years + of service before the war.

To be continued....

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Another snippet--

what on EARTH did the Wehrmacht NEED with a Leutnant zD... in an active Regiment? :speechless::banger:

The rest of these officers were medical corps Colonels. Note from their ages at promotion to that rank that most were 48-50-- even if they remained fossilized in that rank afterwards! :speechless: Some of the older officers had left and then been called back to army duty, losing time there...

but in every case, these are precisely the sort of wandering career paths that SHOULD have put these men in among the "normal" (E) retreads. :banger:

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This just in from Glenn-- thanks Glenn! :cheers:

From Rudolf Absolon's "Wehrgesetz und Wehrdienst 1935-1945" describing the distinctions betwween various forms of "retread" recalled officers:

First up, Wehrmacht "z.D." was NOT "zur Disposition" as in the Old Days, but "zur Dienstleistung." Mea culpa. :blush: So the suffix translates best as "for Duty."

Absolon quoted regulations allowing former active officers up to the rank of full Colonel to be re-employed with their consent, for an indefinite period, to established positions with vacancies. That implies either forever and ever or-- that when they were no longer needed--as when an active officer COULD filll the position-- they simply left the service again.

Absolon reports here that these volunteer substitutes kept their final previous rank sand were not promoted during peacetime, with wartime advancement possible per the cited regulations.

In the case of virtually all the officers in zD positions in 1940, however, they had all been bumped up a rank before the war, and were still frozen there as of May 1940.

This acting stand-in sort of "by mutual understanding" service remains cloudy to me, though.

The top ranks as of 1940 were clearly simply passing through this status, almost as if they were active officers on the F?hrerresserve. "Excess to requirements" sort of.

The lower ranking officers were very definitely NOT just military "substitute teachers" since they were indeed serving full time and forever in the sort of local draft offices that Imperial z.D. officers always held. Nobody--clearly--was going to come along and take those jobs away from them! Unlike the Imperial z.D.s, Wehrmacht z.D.s were also accumulating longservice time (awards) which certainly suggests pension entitlements and all that went with that.

So the reality of Wehrmacht z.D. service does indeed diverge from the regulations that Absolon quoted in theory.

Neither age nor physical disability seems to have been an issue in whether an officer was (E) or z.D. For reasons now unknowable to us, these officers simply CHOSE to be "z.D." rather than (E).

So the mystery continues.... :catjava:

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Here's a section of the fossilized Majors zD, starting with Claudio's Major zD Oertmann:

"Thanks" to the wretched Prussian/Reichs lists omitting first names, it is quite a chore. About half can be identified, so far, as to their last Imperial army service... but SO MANY are not showing up as regulars--they can not ALL have been recently-Austrians-- that I will have to go back to see whether some of thee odder names can be tied to old imperial era retiured Reserve or Landwehr :Cat-Scratch::speechless1: officers!

Medal bars with Imperial LD2/LD1 and Wehrmacht awards would be Very Very Strange Indeed. Most would have been Beamten who had been dR or dL officers... but THESE guys could really confuse things.

A wholllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllle bunch of Wehrmacht 18 and 4 groups could well be these strange full time dead enders. That's why I'm noting awards.

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