A Short History of the Heereswaffenamt (HwaA)
The Third Reich

As Hitler had promised, his military rearmament and conscription programs soon engendered a dramatic reversal of Germany's unemployment problem. By the end of 1936, the number of registered unemployed had dropped to 1,098,000, and by June 1938 there were only 292,000 persons out of work. Soon there were none, and the shortage of work was rapidly replaces by a shortage of manpower.

Industry met this challenge head-on by increasing the number of working hours in a day. By the outbreak of World War II, the workers in many German armaments factories were working ten and twelve hour days. Eliminating unemployment by firing up Germany's armament industries to full production capacity did not come cheaply: over 90 billion RM would be spent for this rearmament from 1933 to 1937.

The task of overseeing this gigantic rearmament process was given to the Heeresabnahmestelle (the Army Acceptance Organization, commonly referred to as the Abnahme), a subsidiary of the Heereswaffenamt (the Army Weapons Office). As shown in the following table, the Abnahme quickly outgrew its small initial size:



















By 1940 the Abnahme consisted of 25,000 men in five departments in 16 inspection areas, augmented by specially selected plant personnel who were assigned to assist the Waffenamt inspectors in each manufacturing facility. Later, in the middle of 1944, approximately 8,000 of these Abnahme inspectors were "freed for service at the front".

Organization and Responsibilities of the WaA

The Heeres-Abnahmewesen was responsible for the testing and acceptance of all weapons, equipment and ammunition before delivery to the Wehrmacht. Inspections were carried out according to detailed guidelines called "Technische Lieferbedingungen" (TLs) prepared by the various Waffenprufamter (WaPruf) departments as follows:

Army Weapon Department (WaA)   Chief: Artillery General Leeb
Dept. for Development and Testing(WaPruf)   Chief: Lt. Gen. John

Wa Pruf No.





Inf Abt: pistols, rifles, telescopes, Oberst Dr. Hadlen

sights, auto. pistols, Leader: Oberst Kittel

machine guns, self loaders, Ministeralrat Dr. Peter

assault rifles and accessories  

Wa Pruf 2 I

Rifles and revolvers Leader: Major Eiserbeck

  Oberamtmann von Einsiedel

Wa Pruf 2 II

Machine Guns Leader: Obersteutnant Breitenbach

  Dipl. Ing. Maushart

  Dipl. Ing. Eckart

Wa Pruf 2 III

General Equipment Leader: Oberstleutnant Haenel




Pioniere (Engineer) Equipment  


Fortress Weapons and Equipment  


Vehicles and Panzerkampfwagen (tanks)  


Signal Equipment  


Optical and Observation Equipment  


Chemical Weapons (smoke, etc)  






Forschung (research)  


In addition to the inspections the Waffenamt Prufwesen was charged with the design and development of practically everything the Army used, except food, clothing and housing. Lt Gen. Richard John headed this office during almost the entire war.

The inspection officers and officials of the Abnahme assigned to the various armament factories were originally Army armourers who had been given civil service status with the rank of Leutnant (Waffenamt Second Lieuenant). When the rearmament program began, Waffenamt inspection departments were established in each factory and armourers were encouraged to apply for positions there. In preparation for their new duties they were given a four-week course at the Heereswaffenmeisterschule (Army Armourers School). The course ended with a test for Technical Inspector which raised the rank of each successful applicant to that of Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant). At the beginning of 1935, all inspection officials in the newly created program started on an equal footing as Technical Inspectors, but by the start of the war in 1939 nearly all of them had been promoted to Technical Inspector First Class with a rank of Hauptmann (Captain).

On the average, ten officials were employed in the inspection department of each factory manufacturing weapons. Several Ordnance and Technical sergeants were also assigned to each contractor by the Waffenamt organization. At the Mauser Werke plant in Obernfdorf, for example, the head of the inspection team was a Technical Administrator with the rank of Major.

The team's duty encompassed inspection of the entire production activity within the plant; not only final acceptance of the finished product, but all ongoing inspections of each individual part. As this was beyond the capability of the ten-man team itself, some of Mauser personnel were assigned to assist the team in its inspection; however, all test firings, which were performed by factory personnel remained under the strict supervision of the Abnahme inspectors.

When a Waffenamt officer assumed command of an inspection team he received a commission number and a correspondingly numbered set of Abnahmestempel or acceptance stamps, commonly known as the Waffenamt Stamps. If the officer was transferred to another factory he took his stamps with him, but left the rest of the inspection team for the next officer. These transfers were not uncommon, and this can be seen by the change in the Waffenamt Stamp number change in those used on the P.08 pistol during its manufacture at the Mauser Werke Plant. As we know, the Heereswaffenamt personnel, and in particular the members of the Abnahme, were intimately involved with every phase of P.08 production.

Instructions to the Waffenamt inspectors assigned to the various plants were first issued in early 1936. During the course of the production history of the P.08, these instructions were continually updated or changed, and many additions were inserted. As is standard practice with this type of military manual, changes to individual pages were accomplished by issuing a new page with the changes, with the date of issue noted at the bottom. The OKH declared these manuals Staatsgeheimnis (State Secrets), although not all pages were so stamped. These changes allowed the inspectors to lower the standards of finish we see on the P.08, and the P.38 as the war progressed and still provide the German Wehrmact with a quality product. These standards were utilized until the very end of the war to assure the weapons reaching the troops were safe to use.

Courtesy of Marvin