Wolfram Wette's book, "The Wehrmacht", is an attempt to take a simple question (Were all members of the Wehrmacht guilty of war crimes under international law?) and assert a simple answer (Yes. All but a dozen of the claimed 20 million members of the Wehrmacht were guilty of war crimes.).
The problem is sometimes there are no simple answers, only simple questions, as Mr. Wette uses too broad a brush to review and condemn equally the actions of each member of the Wehrmacht.
In one sense, all members of the Wehrmacht were equally responsible in that they were all engaged in wars of agression. But that does not take into account the individual actions, and responsiblities, of each member of the Wehrmacht. Nor does it take into account the fact that, beginning as early as 1935, Germany had universal conscription and most men had no choice but to serve in its armed forces in one capacity or another. Nor does it factor in that all members of the German population, including especially members of the Wehrmacht, were inundated daily with messages of hate and fear dissemininated by the first modern master of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. Nor does it make any allowance for the fact that after the war started in 1939 it was a crime against the state to criticize Hitler or the war effort, and later it became a crime of treason, punishable by death, for anyone, including members of the Wehrmacht, to mention appeasement in any form. Nor does it even mention that direct threats against the regime were dealt with summarily, e.g., the murder of S.A. leader Ernst Roehm (who at the time led a personal army of 2-3 million men), his associates, and others on 30 June 1934 in the "Knight of the Long Knives." Nor does it mention that by 1939 the regime had the current U.S. equivalent (i.e., by proportion of the population) of 1,000,000 people held in concentration camps or in "protective custody" for political crimes. Nor does it mention that all political parties were banned by 1935. In other words, life in Hitler's Germany was not the bastion of freedom of expression and freedom of choice the author would lead you to believe.
The inherent problem with the author's conclusions is that they stem from his faulty premises: Over and again he cites an example of how one officer (or even several) believed or acted, which he supports with a citation, but presumptuously, and too generously, he goes on to apply it to each and every member of the Wehrmacht, which conclusion he does not support with any authority other than his own opinion.
The author also repeatedly misstates the facts he does cite. For example, he refers to Rommel's memoirs as a post-war attempt by him to whitewash the Wehrmacht. Unfortunately, Rommel died before the end of the war so it's a bit of a stretch to claim he wrote them after the war. He also constantly refers to an exhibition of war crimes put on by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. But what he does not tell you is that the entire exhibition was withdrawn under claims of fraud and forgery, then put on again in a redacted, less conclusory format. In addition, he claims there was really only one attempt to assassinate Hitler, the July 20, 1944 plot, when in fact there were at least three dozen documented plans to assassinate Hiter. Further, he claims the Soviets treated German prisoners of war well, i.e., much better than the Germans, but the figure he provides for the number of German soldiers who died as Soviet prisoners of war is off by a factor of ten and does not even equal the number of German prisoners who died after surrendering at Stalingrad. I could go on.
Admittedly, the Wehrmacht's policies were racist, and the Wehrmacht participated in, and at times initiated, horrible acts. In addition, there was of course a coverup after the war by everyone who participated in such atrocities. Moreover, there was a reluctance by Germany after the war to come to grips with its past. Nonetheless, the author does not present a convincing argument why the acts of several hundred thousand, or even a million, men in either orchestrating or participating in wartime atrocities, should ipso facto condemn by association 19 million others.
While this book is useful to further discussion about the extent of the participation of the Wehrmacht in heinous acts and to what extent the blame for it should lie, it should not be viewed as the last word. That awaits a more thorough and probative examination, which may very well demonstrate that all 20 million members of the Wehrmacht are equally guilty for the crimes of any one member or group of members.
(This is an extremly well-written book, for which the translator, an historian in her own right, deserves special mention.)