Albert Schnez ( born August 30, 1911 in Abtsgmuend, † April 26, 2007 in Bonn) was a senior officer of the Reichswehr, the Wehrmacht, the Bundeswehr and most recently, from 1968 to 1971, served as inspector of the army with the rank of lieutenant-general. Schnez had established a clandestine shadow army, the "Schnez troup" (Schnez-Truppe), which was foreseen to fight against the Soviet Union in case of an armed confrontation. Then chancellor Konrad Adenauer learned of the organization and its head Schnez at the latest in 1951 - and did nothing. Schnez was involved in the debate on the internal leadership of the newly formed German Army (Bundeswehr) and belonged to the closer environment of the defense minister Franz Josef Strauss.
Reichswehr and Wehrmacht
In 1930 Schnez joined the Infantry Regiment 13 of the Reichswehr. After his training as officer, and active service as platoon leader, battalion adjutant, company commander and regimental adjutant, Schnez was captain and company commander in a mountain infantry regiment of the Wehrmacht at the outbreak of World War II. After graduating from the general staff training program, he was transferred to the High Command of the Army (Oberkommando des Heeres) and served in the Department of Transportation. Subsequently, he was First General Staff Officer of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division under General of Infantry Anton Grasser. From 1943 Schnez led as a lieutenant colonel a regiment of this division on the eastern front. From 1944 he was Colonel General of Transport in southern Ukraine. When the war ended, he served as Colonel General of Transport in Italy. After the German surrender Schnez became "Chief Representative of the German Railway Troops" on instructions of the Allies, and thus was responsible for the reconstruction of parts of the northern Italian railway network.
According to documentation provided by the Bundesnachrichtendienst, the German Federal Intelligence Service, in May 2014, Schnez founded, together with some 2,000 former Wehrmacht members and Waffen-SS officers, a secret organization called the Schnez-Truppe, with the aim to activate around 40,000 troops in the event of a Soviet attack on the Federal Republic, or for activities directed against communists in the event of a civil war. The organization of the secret army began in 1949 behind the back of the Federal Government, the public and the Western Allies. The organization had also its own intelligence service, the so-called "defense apparatus," that spied on politically left citizens, using categories such as "half Jew," and also on politicians, such as the later SPD parliamentary leader Fritz Erler.1
Then chancellor Konrad Adenauer learned of the existence of the conspiratorial group at the latest in 1951, and commissioned the Gehlen Organization with its "care and supervision."2 A crackdown of the organization, reports Der Spiegel, had not happened out of fear of a conflict with the old Nazi network. It is unclear what eventually became of the secret army. With the establishment of Germany's official army, the Bundeswehr, it became obsolete. From 1955 the first soldiers, among them many former Nazis, served in the Bundeswehr.
Reactivation in the Armed Forces
In November 1957, Schnez was reactivated as a Brigadier General in the newly created Bundeswehr and served as Deputy Logistics Director in the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces (Führungsstab der Streitkräfte, FüS) in the Federal Ministry of Defence in Bonn. Three years later, in 1960, he took over the post from Werner Panitzki as Chief of Staff in the Bundeswehr under Generals Adolf Heusinger and Friedrich Foertsch.
On October 1, 1962, now promoted to Major General, Schnez took over the command of the 5th Panzer Division in Diez which he headed until March 31, 1965. Subsequently Schnez was appointed Lieutenant General and from April 1, 1965, to September 30, 1968, became Commanding General of the III. Corps in Koblenz.
In 1968, Jürgen Bennecke was intended as a successor to Josef Moll to the post of Inspector of the Army, and Schnez should follow Johann Adolf von Kielmansegg at the NATO post of Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Central Europe. However, the Dutch government opposed the appointment of Schnez because he had written before his entry into the Bundeswehr that he could only be a soldier again if the question of "those convicted of war crimes" would be dealt with in an "honorable way." Thereupon the Dutch NATO partners accused Schnez of Nazism and rejected him as candidate for the post.3 In October 1, 1968, he then followed Josef Moll as Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr after Bennecke took over the NATO post.
Following the 1968 protest wave, a growing number of conservative officers began to demand the military should respond to the social and political attacks on their profession. Among other things, they asked for a more "traditional" cultivation of the military heritage.4 In December 1969, a secret study commissioned by Schnez, entitled "Thoughts to improve the internal organization of the army" became known. However, Heinz Karst is suspected to be the real author of the study.5 It was perceived as a manifesto of a traditionally minded generation of officers who largely rejected the social changes in the Federal Republic and the principles of its leadership development. The study lamented the "lack of defense will of the people" and called for a reform "from head to toe of the Bundeswehr and society in general," in order to elevate the low enthusiasm of the army decisively.6 In addition, the study criticized an "exaggerated parliamentary control" of the military.7 In this regard it made far-reaching demands of the civil society, including changes to the constitution to strengthen the authority of the military in times of crisis and war.8 Furthermore, the German army should remember its values of an "alliance of warfare, fate and emergency."9
Despite calls for his resignation, Schnez remained head of the army until his retirement on September 30, 1971. He was awarded with the Great Cross of Merit with star.
- 1. "Ehemalige Offiziere der Wehrmacht und SS planten Geheimarmee," Zeit Online, May 12, 2014, https://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2014-05/bnd-akten-geheimarme.
- 2. "Weltkriegsveteranen bauten geheime Armee auf," Der Spiegel, May 11, 2014, https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/veteranen-von-wehrmacht-und-ss-gruendeten-laut-bnd-geheime-armee-a-968727.html.
- 3. Clemens Range, Die Generale und Admirale der Bundeswehr (Bonn, 1990), 95.
- 4. Donald Abenheim, Bundeswehr und Tradition. Die Suche nach dem gültigen Erbe des deutschen Soldaten (München 1989), 175ff.
- 5. Martin Kutz, Deutsche Soldaten. Eine Kultur- und Mentalitätsgeschichte (Darmstadt, 2006), 206-207.
- 6. "50 Jahre Bundeswehr," Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, May 18, 2005, http://www.bpb.de/apuz/29038/50-jahre-bundeswehr.
- 7. "Die Bundeswehr: Eine rechtskonforme Parlamentsarmee?," imi-online.de, http://www.imi-online.de/download/Skandalkalender.pdf.
- 8. Donald Abenheim, Bundeswehr und Tradition. Die Suche nach dem gültigen Erbe des deutschen Soldaten (München, 1989), 179.
- 9. Detlef Bald, Johannes Klotz, Wolfram Wette, Mythos Wehrmacht. Nachkriegsdebatten und Traditionpflege (Berlin, 2001), 45.