Special designations of ranks of German military personnel

As a rule abbreviations of special designations (Zusätze) were placed after rank titles to distinguish those officers from their colleagues on the active duty list (aktive Offiziere) including three special categories, i.e. medical officers (Sanitätsoffiziere), veterinary officers (Veterinäroffiziere) and ordnance officers (Waffenoffiziere). 

1. “a.D.”: “außer Dienst”, i.e. “out of service”. This designation put after rank signified a retired serviceman classified as unavailable for further military service.

2. “Char.”: “Charakter als / Charakterisiert”, i.e. “qualified as”. This designation put before rank signified honorary officer rank granted upon retirement from active service but without pay of that higher rank. Such officers wore insignia of their honorary ranks but still remained junior on rank lists to all military personnel of regular officers corps with the same rank. An officer could even have been promoted afterwards within that honorary category. Being recalled to military service an officer could have been granted same rank of regular officers corps or a rank one grade lower. 

3. “Char. z.V.”. This combination signified a retired officer being promoted to a honorary rank and recalled to military service afterwards but without transfer to regular officers corps. In that case designation “Char.” was put before rank while “z.V.” after such.

4. “d.L.”: “der Landwehr”, i.e. “of Landwehr”. This designation put after rank signified a second-line reserve officer. The very notion of Landwehr existed in Prussia and subsequently in the German Empire since March 17, 1813 until June 28, 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. It was reestablished in the Third Reich on May 21, 1935.

5. “d.R.”: “der Reserve”, i.e. “of reserve”. This designation put after rank signified a reserve officer or NCO.

6. “i.G.”: “im Generalstab”, i.e. “of General Staff”. As appears from decoding, this designation was put after rank of a German General Staff officer (Generalstabsoffizier). In post-WWII Germany decoding was changed to “im Generalstabsdienst”, i.e. “on service with the General Staff”.

7. “kom.”: “kommandiert zur Dienstleistung”, i.e. “commanded for further military service”. This designation meant that an officer was commanded to another Army unit for a certain period of time, e.g. several weeks or months, for instruction purposes, advanced training, tutoring, etc.

8. “z.D.”: “zur Disposition”, i.e. “at disposal [of command authority]”. This designation put after rank signified a retired officer (a.D.) subject to active service in recalled status, i.e. with a possibility of further reinstatement in case such a necessity occurs, e.g. in time of war. Although such an officer had a right to change his domicile and earn his living at his own discretion, he still remained at a disposal of headquarters and could have been recalled at any moment. Being recalled he could have been promoted within that category (z.D.) or transferred to regular officers corps with further promotion there. Senior z.D. officers were normally recalled to service to fill staff or logistics positions that didn’t provide participation in combat operations. In wartime it was used to designate an officer whose qualification was unconfirmed and thus whose status, be it active or reserve was not determined yet.

Note. One more designation needs to be mentioned here to make the picture complete though it doesn’t relate to military service. That is the issue of “i.R.” (“im Ruhestand”) designation that literally meant “on the retired list”. In fact it was a designation indicating a retired civil servant or official.