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Oberschütze is a German military rank which was first used in the Bavarian Army of the late 19th century. It was commonly introduced in the Reichswehr in 1920. Translated as “Senior Private”, the rank of Oberschütze and its equivalents (Oberkanonier, Oberpionier, Oberfahrer etc.) was created to give recognition to those common soldiers who had displayed military abilities but were not deemed eligible for promotion to the rank of Gefreiter. In the militaries of other nations, Oberschütze was considered the equivalent of a Private First Class.
In the peacetime German Wehrmacht, Oberschütze was also in use except from October, 1934 to October, 1936. This period there were no promotions to this rank. The use of Oberschütze reached its height in World War II when the Wehrmacht maintained the rank as both an Army and Air Force position. The rank was also used in the Waffen-SS where it was known as SS- Oberschütze.
Unlike its earlier counterparts, the World War II rank of Oberschütze was not bestowed based on leadership and ability but rather simply as recognition of time served in the military. Typically, a Schütze could be promoted to the position after six months to one year of military service, but a vast majority was promoted directly from Schütze to Gefreiter.
Generally, the rank was given to soldiers with little aptitude, as promotion to Gefreiter could normally be expected in the same time period. Oberschütze rank was generally given to those not expected to rise to non-commissioned rank (ie Unteroffizier or higher).
The modern German military no longer maintains the rank of Oberschütze.