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Salutes by Individuals & Units in Formation; 
Obligation to Salute
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:  

The image example of a German Military salute was added for this site & was taken from the book: Papers Please! by Ray & Josephine Cowdery.  This book is an outstanding source for those looking to learn more about WWII era German paperwork.


Salutes by Individuals

Individuals in uniform salute the following:
  • the Fuehrer & Chancellor of the Reich, Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht,
  • the Minister of War, Commander-In-Chief of the Wehrmacht, all superiors in uniform, including counterparts in the regional police, as well as former members of the Wehrmacht, the old army or the old navy who are in uniform,
  • the banners & standards of the old army & the former seagoing battalions,
  • the battle flags of the old navy as determined by the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, & the banners of the regional police.
by passing at attention, facing the superior & standing (or sitting) at attention, & with headgear: placing the right hand to the hat or helmet.1  Without headgear: giving the German greeting.2

If the soldier is prevented from saluting because he is carrying or holding objects, etc., the salute is indicated by walking past at attention & standing or sitting at attention.  Saluting while seated is allowed only if circumstances require it or if the salute cannot be given while standing, e.g., in an enclosed vehicle, in open moving vehicles, etc.  In all other cases, subordinates are required to stand while saluting.

Enlisted men must also salute uniformed civilian Wehrmacht officials, as well as military chaplains in vestments, including former officials of the Wehrmacht, the old army & the old navy who are in uniform.

All salutes should be quickly & crispy executed.  They begin five steps in front of the superior & end two steps past, or are given upon entering & leaving a room.

In rooms inside of barracks (including the canteen), official buildings, or other accommodations, the command for "Attention!" shall be given by the duty officer, etc., when officers & platoon sergeants (company sergeants) enter their own company's space, etc.  Everyone stands at attention facing the superior until the superior says "At ease!"  or leaves the room.  The person of most senior rank announces the superior.  In offices, "Attention!" is not commanded & the superior is not announced.  Salutes are performed from the seated position, as long as the superior does not speak to the subordinate.

In enclosed spaces other than barracks, such as public transportation, waiting rooms, boarding houses, garden cafés, theaters, concert halls, & lecture rooms, a salute is to be given if a superior & a subordinate approach within greeting distance of each other.  The salute should be performed as appropriate to the circumstances.

Whoever is the first to notice a superior informs his companions in a timely manner of the need to salute.

Before saluting, remove cigars from your mouth, hands from your pockets, etc.  Offering a greeting with a whip or similar item in the saluting hand is not permitted.

When on horseback, perform the salute at a walk if a duty-related task does not prevent it.  Subordinates wishing to overtake a superior on horseback must ask permission to do so (except during field exercises, maneuvers, etc.)  Cyclists, drivers, & riders salute by sitting at attention.

Salutes by individuals should not be performed:
  1. by drivers of motor vehicles or military driving instructors accompanying student drivers, while the vehicle is in motion;
  2. by cyclists, wagon-drivers, & horseback riders, or passengers in motor vehicles, if saluting compromises traffic safety or their own safety;
  3. by soldiers on duty in a unit. If such a soldier is spoken to by a superior, he stands or sits at attention: at shooting practice or on combat duty, & while drilling with equipment.
  4. While on bridle paths or in riding arenas by specific orders of the garrison leader or commanding officer.
  5. by mounted messengers.

Salutes by Units in Formation

Salutes are performed by units in formation only within the garrision area or billets, & by battalions under the leadership of (NCOs and) enlisted men, who salute:
  • the Fuehrer & Chancellor of the Reich,
  • the Minister of War,
  • all officers, including counterparts in the regional police who are in uniform, 
  • the banners & standards of the old army & the former seagoing battalions,
  • the battle flags of the old navy, as announced by the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, & the banners of the regional police.

Units in Formation with Headgear

Units marching on foot salute by parade-stepping.Command (while marching with route step):  "Quick step, march!" "Attention! Eyes right (left)!"  When the command "Attention!" is heard, begin to parade-step.  At the end of the salute, the command "Forward, march!" will be given, or "Route step, march!" if the route step is to be used.

For marching units on horseback or in vehicles, the command to salute is "Attention!  Eyes right (left)!"  When "Attention!" is heard, sit at attention as prescribed.  When the command "Eyes right (left)!" is given, personnel in the back seat of a vehicle turn their heads & look to the opposite4 side.  The salute ends when the command "Ready, front!" is given.

Marching units with vehicles salute upon a sign from the commander, which is to be repeated by any accompanying personnel except the driver of the vehicle.

For units on foot that have halted, the commander says "Attention! Eyes right (left)!"  For units on horseback or in vehicles that have halted, the command is [also] "Attention! Eyes right (left)!"  Look at the superior officer.  If he is walking or riding along the unit, every head should be turned toward him & every gaze should rest on him until he is two steps past, then the head & eyes should automatically face forward.  If units are dismounted, they step to their horses or vehicles when the command "Attention" is given.  The leaders go to their prescribed positions.  The salute ends when the command "At ease!" is given.

Units in Formation Without Headgear

Units in formation without headgear give the same salute as those with headgear.  However, in this case, the unit commander gives the German greeting if he is also hatless (in a sports uniform, for example).  

For Units in Formation, Salutes are Not to Be Performed...
  1. off post or outside of billets.
  2. when on the march after the command "At ease!" has been given or during a halt.  When a troop is marching past a commander, each individual looks at him while at attention.  Foot soldiers tighten their rifle slings on command.
  3. by fatigue details with work tools.  Only the commander salutes or greets. 
  4. by street patrols.  The commander & men of the patrol salute or greet individually.

Wehrmacht personnel to whom no salute is owed by the unit in formation are merely saluted or greeted by the commander.  When marching with the route step (or when at ease), any soldier is free to greet civilians.

Obligation to Salute

There is a mutual obligation to salute between:
  1. Wehrmacht personnel among themselves, as long as the regulations concerning salutes are not in question, including personnel of the regional police & former personnel of the Wehrmacht, the old army, or the old navy who are uniform.
  2. Wehrmacht personnel. the police & the local police (gendarmes); forestry officials in public service & the railway police, the members of the DLV & RLB, the SA & its organizations, the SS, the NSDFB, the FAD & the political leaders of the NSDAP.
Individuals are further required to salute:
  1. the banners & ensigns of the police, the DLV & RLB, the SA & its branches, the SS, the NSDFB ("Steel Helmets"), the Reichstreubund, the Kyffhaeuserbund veterans' association, the FAD, the Hitler Youth, & the political organizations of the national socialist movement, when they are marching in formation.  Exceptions are SA & SS command-post flags & the pennants of the Bund Deutscher Maedel (BDM) & Jungvolk youth leagues.  
  2. while the German national anthem or the Horst Wessel Song are played.
  3. when approaching or entering memorials.
  4. at all funerals.
  5. superiors in civilian cloths, if they are known to the soldier.

For soldiers in uniform & wearing headgear, the type of salute to use is summarized in the regulations on saluting.

Soldiers in uniform who are not wearing headgear or who are dressed in civilian clothes use the German greeting.

The soldier with a lower rank or less seniority should salute first.  It is a matter of honor among soldiers - even if the person who is being saluted is not part of the Wehrmacht - to execute each salute in a crisp & soldierly manner.

Under the same conditions discussed previously, the obligation to salute does not apply to certain individuals (e.g. drivers of motor vehicles, mounted messengers, etc.)

Voluntary Salute

A voluntary salute is expected when members of foreign armed forces salute first.  Units in formation do not salute.  If a salute is to be given, the senior officer of the post or the naval commander will so order.

Return Salute

If a superior returns a soldier's salute by answering "Heil!" or "Good morning," etc., the greeting is answered using the same wording & adding "(superior's rank), Sir!"  

Superiors greet units in formation by saying "Heil!" & adding the branch of service or force.  The unit answers "Heil!" & adds "(superior's rank), Sir!"  The Minister of War is answered with "Heil, General, Sir!"  The Fuehrer & Chancellor of the Reich is answered with "Heil to the Feuhrer!"


1  Following the July 20th assassination attempt on Hitler, the military salute was changed.  The traditional "Military Salute" of the hand to the cap visor or rim of the helmet, was then forbidden.  The "German greeting" or "Party salute" was ordered to become the official salute of the Wehrmacht.  Many soldiers viewed the "German greeting" as ridiculous & impractical.  One veteran commented that after this new order, "it was not uncommon to observe entire companies carrying their mess tins in their right hands to avoid being compelled to demonstrate their 'loyalty to the party.'"
  "German greeting" (Deutscher Gruß) - the German name for the Nazi salute [Translator]. Even though this was an official regulation, it is advised that reenactors do not do this salute due to its political affiliation. 
3  "Parade-stepping" (Exerziermarsch) - the German name for goose-stepping. [Translator]
  "Opposite side" - Apparently, passengers in the rear seat faced in the opposite direction [Translator]




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