German Rank Structure

The German Army was very formal and “correct”-- almost to an extreme. It also had a very rich heritage of traditions. Of course, one of the prerequisites to learning these traditions and customs would be learning about the heirarchy and organization of the military.

Dienstgrad (Rank)

The primary method of identifying rank was the Schulterklappen (shoulder strap). For men under the rank of Unteroffizier, the straps were plain with only the Waffenfarbe (arm-of service piping) on them, and for Gefreiters, there was a chevron patch in the middle of the left sleeve. For NCOs, a border of Tresse (a type of flat ribbon; early war was generally shiny silver, grey subdued Tresse was introduced later on) was added to the edge of the collar and around the edge of the Schulterklappen. For the various grades of NCOs, the collar Tresse stayed the same, but the pattern on the straps and number of pips varied. For officers, the Tresse was removed from the collar but the Litzen (collar patches) became larger and fancier, with the arm-of-service color in them. The straps were composed of silver braid, and pips were added, just as with the NCO ranks. 

Sleeve insignia for Mannschaften (Grades of Private)

  Unteroffiziere (Non-Commissioned Officers shoulderboards)

Offiziere (Company-Grade Officers shoulderboards)

Offiziere (Field-Grade Officers shoulderboards)