There were certainly non-Nazi German soldiers in World War II (WWII), although many members of the German armed forces were ideologically supportive of or even affiliated with Nazism and Hitler. From one perspective, however, because members of the German armed forces weren’t allowed to affiliate with a political party, one could say all German soldiers in WWII were non-Nazis. The Nazi political party, however, had its own armed soldiers in the Waffen-SS and these soldiers therefore were Nazi soldiers.
The term Nazi is used to denote members of the National Socialist party, the political party Hitler rode to power and that eventually became the dominant political party in Germany during the war. The term, however, is often generalized to refer to all German combatants in WWII, as a way of differentiating that era of soldier from other German soldiers. By noting the fact that many soldiers in WWII were not Nazis, some people believe it seems to impugn all Germans at the time, some of whom were not directly supporting Hitler or the policies of Nazism.
The armed forces in Germany, consisting largely of non-Nazi German soldiers, was called the Wehrmacht. It was made up of three main branches: the navy (Kriegsmarine), the air force (Luftwaffe), and the army (Heer). Later, a fourth branch, the Waffen-SS, fell under its general jurisdiction, although it was also under the Schutzstaffel, or SS, which was controlled by the Nazi political party. Following World War I, strong limits were set on Germany’s military, the Reichswehr, restricting the amount of members it could have, and the equipment they could use. By the 1920s, Germany had begun to circumvent these restrictions covertly, growing their military strength and acquiring new equipment.
When Hitler took power in 1934, he began to grow the military even more. He reinstituted conscription, and began the work of building Germany’s military might dramatically. One way he did this was to create a new military body, the Wehrmacht, which would eventually become a mighty force. Many view the Wehrmacht as a Nazi group because it was created by Hitler and because members had to take an oath of loyalty to the Führer.
Though many link the Wehrmacht to Nazism, it can also be viewed as being made up exclusively of non-Nazi German soldiers in WWII, as the rules of the Weimar Republic’s constitution disallowed soldiers from holding political affiliations or voting. In fact, many members of the Wehrmacht in later years were staunchly opposed to Hitler and the Nazi policies, especially after Hitler began displaying dangerous tendencies towards throwing away strategic intelligence in favor of an emotionally driven hostility.
If the Wehrmacht can be looked at as consisting largely of non-Nazi German soldiers, then we have to look elsewhere to find the majority of Nazi soldiers. That’s where the Schutzstaffel, or SS, becomes important. The SS was a paramilitary organization that grew to the scope of a full blown army under Hitler’s leadership, and consisted entirely of Nazi party members. It was the SS that was responsible for the majority of the worst atrocities committed, while the non-Nazi German soldiers in WWII were primarily fighting on the different fronts of the war against foreign militaries.