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According to wiki, up until 1918, Gefreiter was the only rank to which an enlisted soldier could be promoted.

Sounds strange. Is it true?

Where did Germans take their Corporals, Sergeants and Feldwebels?

Couldn't a soldier that already had become a Gefreiter be promoted further even if he had accomplished something big? Even during the Great War?

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I don't know, but from reading that article - I would guess the NCO's were "Kapitulants", the Long-Term Volunteer Enlistee's who had elected to continue service beyond their initial conscription. – Kobunite May 29 '14 at 11:22
@Kobunite Thank you. I have read the article, too. The problem is, how erroneous is it. As for your message, I know that volunteers had special rights to become an officer later. But never had I read that you had to be a volunteer to become a corporal. – Gangnus May 29 '14 at 11:44
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Having done a bit more research I have found this page concerning Awards and Promotions on a website regarding Werner Voss.

The website states that, as would be standard, all soldiers started of with the rank of "Soldat" or a unit based equivalent.

It also states:

Furthermore German Soldiers progressed through the ranks at a very slow pace. Typically a Soldat would not be eligible for promotion to Obergefreiter until he had been in the Army for six years.

Given that wiki page you quoted mentions that the standard conscription period was 2-3 years it would appear that NCO's of a rank exceeding Gefreiter (Obergefreiter and above) would be drawn from the pool on Long-Term Volunteer Enlistee's, as I mentioned in my comment.

EDIT I have found the following quote on greatwar.com, which also states that only career soldiers could be promoted.

A private in the German Army made about $5.10 US per month(30- day month), whereas a US soldier made 30.00/month w/an extra $6.00 if on "foreign" service. This was comparable to other European Army pay, and it taught the soldier to spend his money on necessities and hardened them for tough times in the field. Promotions were reserved for the career soldiers. Seldom did a two year recruit receive any rank. The unit commander made all recommendations for promotions when a vacancy appeared, which was then approved by the regimental commanders. One year volunteers with excellent records and at least 9 months service could be promoted.

Elsewhere in the article it states that on the outbreak of war all conscripts were obliged to serve until their 45th birthday (A reasonably standard measure, the same happened elsewhere). This change effectively put them on a par with the long term volunteers, as far as term of service is concerned.

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I thought the same thing, to be honest, but this is all I could really find. It does say that it typically took 6 years, and WW1 was anything but typical. – Kobunite May 29 '14 at 15:22
So, it seems, the wiki errs: that rule worked only in peace times. So, it could not work till 1918, but only till 1914. – Gangnus Jun 3 '14 at 11:55
Yeah, that does seem to be the case. It might be that it took them until 1918 to formally change the rule and before that they just ignored it - but that's just a guess. – Kobunite Jun 3 '14 at 12:02
It should be so, because I remember from Hindenburg biography that he despised Hitler for reaching only Gefreiter rank in such a great war. I think, German marshal should know the rules... – Gangnus Jun 4 '14 at 10:29

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