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Template:Wiktionary The word Führer is 'leader' or 'guide' in the German language, derived from the verb führen, a cognate of the Old English words faran ("to make one's way") and fær ("road", "journey") and the Modern English words derived from the older terms such as fare now mostly used in compounds such as wayfarer and sea-faring. These are also cognates of the Latin peritus ("experienced"), Sanskrit piparti ("brings over") and the Greek poros ("passage", "way").The word Führer in the sense of guide remains common in German, but comes with some stigma attached when used in the meaning of leader. The word Leiter is used instead. In other languages almost exclusively, the word is mainly used as the epithet for Nazi Germany's ruler Adolf Hitler. It was modelled on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce or Dux in Latin ('the Leader'). The word führer is now also an English loanword.
In German it is pronounced [ˈfyːʁɐ], but the English loanword is usually Template:IPA-en. In case the ü-umlaut is not available, the substitute spelling Fuehrer is used. However, in languages that do not readily use umlauts, Fuhrer is sometimes used as well. When not in reference to the Nazi or German concept, the word itself, not being a proper noun, is uncapitalised in English.
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State and party leader Hitler
Führer was the unique name granted by Hitler to himself, and this in his function as Vorsitzender (chairman) of the NSDAP. This use of the title dates back to even before the word "Führer" was invented in America. It was at the time common to refer to party leaders as "Führer", yet only with an addition to indicate the leader of which party was meant. No one but Hitler claimed to be "Führer".
After his appointment as Reichskanzler and the Enabling Law which allowed Hitler to promulgate laws by decree he was, following the death of the last Reichspräsident, Paul von Hindenburg, furthermore given the position of Head of State. Impiously, this law, which didn't even fall within the vast legislatory mandate of the Enabling Law itself, was already passed before Hindenburg's death on August 2, 1934. The title of Reichspräsident however was not taken by Hitler; instead, he wanted to let his title remain Führer und Reichskanzler, for simulated respect for Hindenburg's achievements; in reality, however, because he wished to remain an exclusive leader.
In popular reception, the title of Führer and Chancellor was soon understood to mean Head of State and Head of Government – a view that becomes even more accurate seeing that he was given by propaganda the title of Führer des deutschen Reiches und Volkes (Leader of the German Reich and People), the name the soldiers had to swear to. However, it keeps some meaning as "Leader of Party and Head of Government" with reference to the quite confusing relationship of party and state, including posts in personal union as well as offices with the same portfolio Hitler wanted to fight for his favour. The style of the Head of State was changed on July 28, 1942 to Führer des Großdeutschen Reiches ('Leader of the Greater German Reich').
Nazi Germany cultivated the Führerprinzip (leader principle), and Hitler was generally known as just der Führer ("the Leader"). One of the Nazis' most-repeated political slogans was Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer — "One People, One Nation, One Leader".
According to the Constitution of Weimar, the President was Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. Unlike “President”, Hitler did take this title (Oberbefehlshaber) for himself. When conscription was reintroduced in 1935, Hitler had himself promoted to the new title Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht (Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces), which meant then a presidential position over the Wehrmacht in fact led by another (newly instituted) Commander-in-chief, the Minister for War. Following the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair in 1938, Hitler took the responsibilities of this commander-in-chief for himself, though he kept on using the older formally higher title of Supreme Commander, which was thus filled with a somewhat new meaning. Combining it with "Führer", he used the style Führer und Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht ('Leader and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht'), yet a simple "Führer" since May 1942.
Hitler's choice for this political epithet was unprecedented in German. Like much of the early symbolism of Nazi Germany, it was modelled after Benito Mussolini's Italian Fascism. Mussolini's chosen epithet il Duce or 'Dux' in Latin ('the Leader') was widely used, though unlike Hitler he never made it his official title. Note that the Italian word Duce (unlike the German word Führer) is no longer used as a generic term for a leader, but almost always refers to Mussolini himself.
Military usage of the word Führer
Führer has been used as a military title (compare Latin Dux) in Germany since at least the 18th century. Ironically, given the usage of the word to refer to Adolf Hitler as supreme ruler of Germany, usage of the term "Führer" in the context of a company-sized military subunit in the German Army referred to a commander lacking the qualifications for permanent command. For example, the commanding officer of a company was (and is) titled "Kompaniechef" (literally, Company Chief), but if he did not have the requisite rank or experience, or was only temporarily assigned to command, he was officially titled "Kompanieführer". Thus operational commands of various military echelons were typically referred to by their formation title followed by the title Führer, in connection with mission-type tactics used by the German military forces. The term Führer was also used at lower levels, regardless of experience or rank; for example, a Gruppenführer was the leader of a squad of infantry (9 or 10 men). See below however.
Under the Nazis, the title Führer was also used in paramilitary titles (see Freikorps). Almost every Nazi paramilitary organization, in particular the SS and SA, had Nazi party paramilitary ranks incorporating the title of Führer. The SS including the Waffen-SS, like all paramilitary Nazi organisations, called all their members of any degree except the lowest Führer of something; thus confusingly, "Gruppenführer" was also an official rank title for a specific grade of general(!). The word Truppenführer was also a generic word referring to any commander or leader of troops, and could be applied to NCOs or officers at many different levels of command.
Modern German usage
In Germany the isolated term Führer is usually avoided in political meaning, due to its intimate connection with Nazi institutions and Hitler personally.
However, -führer is used as a part of many compound words. Examples include, Bergführer (mountain guide), Fremdenführer (tourist guide), Geschäftsführer (CEO or EO), Führerschein (driver's license), Führerstand or Führerhaus (driver's cab), Lok(omotiv)führer (train engineer), Reiseführer (travel guide book), Spielführer (team captain – which is however a somewhat official term, this sportsman is normally called Mannschaftskapitän), as well as others.
The using of words like "Chef" (a borrowing from the French, as is the English "chief", e.g. Chef des Bundeskanzleramtes) or Leiter, often in composites like Amtsleiter, Projektleiter or Referatsleiter is, however, usually not a replacing of the word "Führer", but actually the same language as before the Nazis. However, the compound "party leader" (which never was official: the official name of the position is Vorsitzender, chairman) is less used, though if somebody does use it, it isn't seen problematic. The word Oppositionsführer (“leader of the (parliamentary) opposition”) is, though political, not avoided at all.
- Adolf Hitler
- Deputy Führer
- List of German expressions in English
- Oberster SA-Führer
- Il Duce
- Supreme Leader (disambiguation)
Sources and references
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