In the years after World War I, Heinz Guderian, a German officer who was interested in tanks and read British literature about them, developed and presented new ideas about using tanks for mobile warfare. Initially he was blocked by conservatism, but in 1933,when Adolf Hitler saw his demonstration of mobile tank warfare, he understood the potential of the tanks and Guderian's ideas were given high priority. Under Guderian's leadership, Germany built a powerful "Panzer" (armor) force that was, together with strong air support tactics, the basis for its overwhelming Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactic.
Between 1933 and 1945, the German industry developed and produced a series of tank types which were called "Panzerkampfwagen" which means "Armored Fighting Vehicle". In short they were called "Panzer" (armor).
When World War 2 started the German army had nearly 1500 Panzer I tanks. They participated in the Blitzkrieg invasion of Poland in 1939, although it was known that they are not suitable for front line fighting because of their lack of firepower and very thin armor. In the Blitzkrieg invasion of France in 1940 only 500 of them participated. The others remained in Germany and Poland.
By the end of 1941 they were no longer used in front line service, except a command tank version, which contained a small map table and extra radio equipment for use by Panzer unit commanders. The chassis of the obsolete tanks was converted for carrying ammunition or an anti-tank gun, but these also became obsolete and were phased out.
The Panzer II was also the basis for several special tank types: a fast recon tank, an amphibious tank, equipped with a propeller, developed for the intended invasion of England in 1940, and a flamethrower tank ( called Flammpanzer II ) equipped with two flamethrowers (100 were in service by 1942).
When the Panzer II tank became obsolete, it was converted to a self-propelled anti-tank gun, using captured Russian 76mm guns ( called Marder I ) and German 75mm guns ( Marder II ). A self-propelled 105mm artillery gun version ( called Wespe ) was produced in occupied Poland.
9,000 Panzer IV's were produced, and more would have been produced as Guderian recommended, if it was not for Hitler's obsession for complex and very expensive advanced weapons, the Panther, Tiger, and King Tiger heavy tanks in that case, which reduced the production of the Panzer IV even before they were fully developed and tested.
The problems were later fixed, and the Panther is considered the best German tank of the war. The Panther tank initially fought in the battle of Kursk in July 1943, the greatest tank battle of the war, and served in all fronts until the end of the war. It was widely used in Normandy after D-Day .
Variants of the Panther included a mobile observation post, a tank destroyer, and a command tank.
So a year later, when Germany invaded France, three full German Panzer divisions were equipped with Czech tanks. One division was equipped with the Czech type 35 light tank (10 tons) which was renamed Panzer 35, and two divisions were equipped with the type 38 light tank (10 tons) which was renamed Panzer 38.
The Panzer 35 had a crew of four and carried a Czech 37mm gun (with 72 rounds) and two machine guns, one coaxial and one in the front (with 1800 rounds). It remained in front line service until 1942, when they were converted for other roles.
The Panzer 38 had a crew of four and carried a Czech 37mm gun (with 90 rounds) and two machine guns, one coaxial and one in the front (with 2550 rounds). It was developed as the successor of the type 35 but did not yet enter service when the Germans invaded. 1400 tanks were produced for the German army in 1939-1942. When it became obsolete as a tank, it was used as a recon vehicle. There were many other variants which used its excellent chassis, including the Hetzer, an excellent tank destroyer with a 75mm gun, which remained in production even after the war, for the new Czech military, and was even exported to the Swiss army where it remained in service until the late 1960s !