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Behavior Toward Superiors
From Der Rekrut

Below you will find an excerpt from Regulations for Garrison Duty as applicable to enlisted men.  This was taken from an English translation of the 1935 German Army manual.  Thanks to Michael Bollow for giving us permission to use excerpts of Der Rekrut here on this site.  If you would like to purchase this manual, please visit his website at:  

Even before joining the Wehrmacht, every soldier has behaved in a particularly helpful, deferential, well-mannered way towards other individuals.  Parents, tutors, schoolmasters, etc. demand - & rightly so - that the young person under their care, whom they are training & instructing, in short, whom they want only to help, behave toward them as traditional good manners require.

The soldierly formalities we observe in interactions with our leaders have the very same purpose.  As the person who trains & instructs the soldier, a military superior continues the work begun in the parents' home.  He wants to train the soldier to be a man ready for combat, to become a full member of the German nation.

To be specific, the following principles are to be observed.  See also: Salutes by Individuals & Units


Act with Due Modesty & Restraint 

1. Do not interrupt superiors who are talking with someone else or who are busy by speaking to them.  Instead, stand at attention to indicate that you have something to ask or to communicate.
2. If the superior with whom you wish to speak is speaking with someone of even higher rank, the person of higher rank must be asked for permission to speak, e.g., "Captain, request permission to speak to Sergeant Mueller."
3. On beer nights or other occasions, do not invite a superior or drink to him first.  If a superior toasts a subordinate, the subordinate rises & drinks while standing at attention.  Do not follow civilian beer-drinking customs, such as shouting "Cheers!", clinking glasses, etc.
4. A subordinate always walks to his superior's left.  When a subordinate accompanies a superior on horseback, he remains in the rear until he is told to ride forward.
5. When conversing with a superior, do not interrupt him.  Do not insist that you are right.
6. In all cases, a good soldier will adhere to the limits prescribed by his tactfulness & good breeding.  Overdone courtesy & subservience are unsoldierly.  Do not try to curry favor with your superiors.  However, this does not change the old soldier's rule that any soldier can openly & trustingly confide in his superior in cases of personal or service-related difficulty.  His superior desires to help him in every situation, & can do so.

Military Speech

1. Speak loudly & clearly.  Do not use strange, long sentences, or foreign words when German words would do.
2. Instead of saying  "Yes," say "Yes, Sir!"
Instead of saying "Excuse me," stand at attention.
Instead of saying "Please explain," say "Please explain, sergeant."
When called by a superior officer, instead of saying "Yes?" say (for example) "Sergeant?"
3. Even when "at ease," do not use hand movements or other unsoldierly gestures to emphasize your own words.

Behavior When a Superior Enters or Leaves Quarters

1. Shout "Attention!" or "On your feet!"  Everyone should stand at attention facing the superior. (see also: Saluting)1
2. The barracks leader reports, e.g., "Barracks 35 occupied by one Lance Corporal & ten men."
3. All duty personnel announce themselves, e.g., "Private Mueller on barracks duty."  As soon as the superior commands "As you were!" everyone continues his activity while avoiding any inappropriate noise (whistling, arguments).
4. When the superior leaves the barracks, "Attention!" or "On your feet!" is shouted again.  Open the door, but do not block the way while doing so.

Behavior When You Meet a Superior
(In doorways, on the stairs, etc.)

1. Make way for your superior!
2. If several soldiers are standing together, one shouts "Attention!" when a superior approaches.
3. If a superior is blocking the way, ask for "permission to pass." For example, "Sergeant, request permission to pass!"  If several superiors are standing together, ask permission from the most senior.

Behavior in the Vicinity of a Unit on Duty Under the Supervision of a Superior

1. Avoid inappropriate noises (whistling, loud speech).
2. Pass the unit at an appropriate distance.
3. Never pass between a superior & his unit or pass through a unit.
4. No member of the unit may speak without the leader's permission.  Ask the leader, e.g., "Sergeant, request permission to collect the keys to the bomb sight room from Lance Corporal M."

Behavior When Given an Order by a Superior

1. Repeat the order without being asked.  This is the only way that the superior knows whether his order has been understood.  For example: "I am to go to the stable & inform Staff Sergeant M. that there will be a meeting of NCOs in the orderly room at 11:15."
2. Carry out the intent of the orders (act independently).


The soldier who was sent to the stable does not find the staff sergeant there.

Wrong: Report to your superior the "Staff Sergeant M. is not in the stable."
Right: Inquire where Staff Sergeant M. went & go find him there.  Then report to your superior.  For example: "I found Staff Sergeant M. at the smithy.  I delivered the order that an NCO meeting will take place in the orderly room at 11:15."
3. Behavior if a second order is issued while the first is being carried out.


On the barracks steps, the soldier who was sent to the stable is ordered by the duty officer to immediately take the drill-hall keys to the sentry.

Wrong: "I don't have time because I have to find someone."
Right: "I report that the Sergeant ordered me to summon Staff Sergeant M. to the orderly room."
If the duty officer orders you to carry out his order first, then naturally this order must be obeyed.  In principle, the soldier carries out the last order received.  However, he must then report the reason for the delay to the superior who gave him the first order.
4. Report the execution of each order.
Wrong: "Order obeyed."
Right: "I have given the gunnery field manual to Sergeant B."

Assisting Superiors

1. Hold your superior's coat, offer him a light, pick up dropped objects, offer him your place in crowded areas such as public transportation & shops, carry his luggage.
2. Hold his horse:
a) When he mounts & dismounts: Stand on the right side of his horse.  Hold the horse by the cheek strap with the right hand.  The left hand holds the stirrup leather firmly, so that the saddle cannot slide to the left.
b) Holding the horse: Raise the stirrups.  Lower the snaffle reins.  Hold the horse by the snaffle reins. Do not stand near teepee-shaped stacks of rifles.  Face the street.

Behavior When Entering or Leaving a Superior's Quarters

1. Have your uniform in order.  (Straighten your jacket before entering the quarters.)
2. If possible, announce yourself & the reason you are there.
3. Remove your hat.
4. Do not be shy if the superior asks you to sit or offers a cigarette, etc.
5. If the superior rises, do likewise.
6. When leaving the room, stand at attention again but do not about-face.  Close the door quietly.

Special Circumstances

1. When a superior offers a subordinate his hand (e.g., to wish him a happy birthday or to offer a prize for sports or shooting), the subordinate should stand at attention.  Do not bow.
2. Displaying good manners toward temporary superiors is an especially comradely duty.
3. The same rules apply for behavior toward a superior wearing civilian clothes.


1  In many units, it is customary for all personnel to step to their lockers in this case.




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