Generaloberst, in English Colonel General, was, in Germany and Austria-Hungary—the German Reichswehr and Wehrmacht, the Austro-Hungarian Common Army, and the East German National People's Army, as well as the respective police services—the second highest general officer rank, ranking above full general but below general field marshal. It was equivalent to Generaladmiral in the Kriegsmarine until 1945, or to Flottenadmiral in the Volksmarine until 1990. The rank was the highest ordinary military rank and the highest military rank awarded in peacetime; the higher rank of general field marshal was only awarded in wartime by the head of state. In general, a Generaloberst had the same privileges as a general field marshal.
A literal translation of Generaloberst would be "uppermost general", but it is often translated as "colonel-general" by analogy to Oberst, "colonel", including in countries where the rank was adopted, e.g. in Russia (генерал-полковник, general-polkovnik). "Oberst" derives from the superlative form of Germanic ober (upper), cognate to English over, thus "Superior General" might be a more idiomatic rendering. The rank was created in 1854, originally for Emperor William I—then Prince of Prussia—because traditionally members of the royal family were not promoted to the rank of field marshal. During the 19th century the rank was largely honorary and usually only held by members of the princely families or the Governor of Berlin. Regular promotion of professional officers to the grade did not begin until 1911. Since the rank of Generalfeldmarschall was also reserved for wartime promotions, the additional rank of a "supreme general in the capacity of a field marshal" — the Generaloberst im Range eines Generalfeldmarschalls— was created for promotions during peacetime. Such generals were entitled to wear four pips on their shoulder boards, compared to the normal three. As such, Generaloberst could be a peacetime equivalent of the general field marshal rank.
Generaloberst was the second highest general officer rank—below field marshal—in the Prussian Army as well as in the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1921–33), the Wehrmacht (which included the Luftwaffe, established in 1935) of Nazi Germany (1933–45), and the East German Nationale Volksarmee (1949–1991). As military ranks were often used for other uniformed services, the rank was also used by the Waffen-SS and the Ordnungspolizei of Nazi Germany, and the Volkspolizei and Stasi of East Germany. In East Germany, the rank was junior to the general of the army (Armeegeneral), as well as to the briefly extant, and never awarded, rank of Marschall der DDR.