According to the terms of the Versailles Treaty at the end of the First World War, Germany's military was limited to a force so tiny as to be utterly irrelevant in any major conflicts. When Hitler came to power, he began to rebuild the military in secret, in direct contravention of the Treaty.

When and how did the larger portion of the German population learn that their country had a massive, well equipped, and powerful military again?

Hitler's saber rattling and belligerence in the years leading up to the war terrified many of his citizens, to say nothing of his potential adversaries, but this would likely have been true regardless of whether or not the full scale of the rearmament was public knowledge. I imagine that, some time around the invasion of Poland, Hitler must have revealed his achievements, whether the revelation was intended to intimidate his enemies or reassure his subjects.

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    It was a completely open secret - the whole world knew of most of Hitler's violations well before his assistance to Franco in 1938. Nov 12, 2015 at 3:20
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    Germany was always in violation of the Versailles treaty, well before the Nazis came to the German military were always doing things to get around the treaty, the Frei Korps had some relationship to the German army, the co-opertaion with Soviet Russia to get experience with Aircraft and Tanks. The Nazis just went all the way see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Reichswehr
    – pugsville
    Nov 12, 2015 at 4:28

2 Answers 2


If people were paying attention, March 1929 when Die Weltbühne published an account of secret German rearmament. If they weren't, rearmament was officially revealed in a speech by Hitler on March 16, 1935.

Here's a list of public violations of the Versailles Treaty and public displays of military power.

The Spanish Civil War demonstrated that Germany now possessed a capable, modern military in violation of Versailles.

When and how did the larger portion of the German population learn that their country had a massive, well equipped, and powerful military again?

A footnote on that "massive, well equipped, and powerful military" part. The early German conquests were part bluff, part brilliance, part incompetence on the part of their enemies. Their army size was often equal to their enemies and their equipment often inferior.

Germany didn't have a "massive, well equipped, and powerful military" until probably Summer 1941 when they initiated Operation Barbarossa, arguably later. The war was started with inadequate tanks (mostly Panzer I and II), too few U-Boats (about 50 and mostly short ranged Type II), aircraft, and a serious lack of motorized transport. Germany had some very good weapons (Panzer III & IV), but never enough of them.

  • Good, but the part of the inferiority of the PZ I and Pz II is a bit disingenuous. These vehicles were used primarily as armoured recon vehicles in Poland and France, and as such were not unreasonably outfitted for the age. Nov 13, 2015 at 22:55
  • @PieterGeerkens The greatly inferior PzI and II light tanks made up 60% of the armor of Panzer divisions in the Battle of France. Only 25% were PzIII and PzIV mediums with the remaining 15% being adequate Czech Pz35 and Pz38 light tanks. Half your armored force can't be recon. Allied tanks were generally superior in number, armor and armament, but inferior in tactical and strategic deployment. Point is, German Panzer divisions of 1940 were neither "massive" nor "well equipped" but they were "powerful".
    – Schwern
    Nov 14, 2015 at 0:37
  • We could really get into the weeds here and have an interminable "tank" battle concerning the merits of the various tanks of WWII. With any complicated weapons system, you cannot simply assign a quality number to it so that a Char B is a 55 while a Panzer II only gets a 30. F
    – user15284
    Nov 14, 2015 at 3:09
  • @PieterGeerkens We could have an immense 'Tank battle" concerning the merits and weaknesses of French and German armor in 1940. You have already linked to an article mentioning Frieser's excellent "The Blitzkrieg Legend" (2005). Combine that with May "Strange Victory" (2000) and you can get a pretty fair rundown of the relative merits of each. In WWII, an army usually had a mix of obsolescent and state of the art tanks and never enough of the state of the art tanks because once they had enough, they were already obsolescent.
    – user15284
    Nov 14, 2015 at 3:36

what is not cosidered here are when hitler came to power in 33,he asked the worlds leading powers that if they thought that german armed forces of 100 000 soldiers and no air force allowed peace to be maintained,then why dont all the world powers reduce their armed forces tothe same levels,then peace be assured.only after being rebuffed several times by the powers that be hitler ordered german re-armament.

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    This answer would be improved with sources/citations and punctuation.
    – MCW
    May 5, 2016 at 10:32

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