Erich von Manstein: Wikis


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Erich von Manstein
24 November 1887(1887-11-24) – 9 June 1973 (aged 85)
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H01757, Erich von Manstein.jpg
Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein
Place of birth Berlin, Germany
Place of death Irschenhausen, Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Weimar Republic Federal Republic of Germany
Years of service 1906–1944
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Commands held 18th Infantry Division

38th Corps
56th Panzer Corps
11th Army
Army Group Don
Army Group South

Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Relations Eduard von Lewinski
Other work Served as senior defence advisor to the West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer

Erich von Manstein (November 24, 1887 – June 9, 1973) served the German military as a lifelong professional soldier. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Germany's World War II armed forces (Wehrmacht). During World War II he attained the rank of Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and was held in high esteem by his fellow officers as one of the Wehrmacht's best military strategists.

He was the initiator and one of the planners of the Ardennes-offensive alternative in the invasion of France in 1940. He received acclaim from the German leadership for the victorious battles of Perekop Isthmus, Kerch, Sevastopol and Kharkov. He commanded the failed relief effort at Stalingrad and the Cherkassy pocket evacuation. He was dismissed from service by Adolf Hitler in March 1944, due to his frequent clashes with Hitler over military strategy. In his memoirs, "Verlorene Siege (1955)," translated into English as "Lost Victories," he is silent on Nazi crimes, critical of Hitler, above all, for denying the Army flexible defensive maneuverability and for "over-reliance" on his "will," and critical of the attempt by other military officers on Hitler's life.[1]

In 1949 he was tried in Hamburg for war crimes and was convicted of "Neglecting to protect civilian lives" and using scorched earth tactics which denied vital food supplies to the local population. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, later reduced to 12 but he only served 4 years before being released. After release from a British prison in 1953, he became a military advisor to the West German Government.


Early life

Von Manstein was born Fritz Erich von Lewinski in Berlin, the tenth child of a Prussian aristocrat, artillery general Eduard von Lewinski (1829–1906), and Helene von Sperling (1847–1910). Hedwig von Sperling (1852–1925), Helene's younger sister, married Lieutenant General Georg von Manstein (1844–1913). The couple were not able to have children, so it was decided that this tenth, unborn child would be adopted by his uncle and aunt. When he was born, the Lewinskis sent a telegram to the von Mansteins which stated: You got a healthy boy today. Mother and child well. Congratulations.[2]

Not only were both Erich von Manstein's biological and adopted father Prussian generals, but his mother's brother and both his grandfathers had also been Prussian generals (one of them leading a corps in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71). In addition, he was closely related to Paul von Hindenburg, the future Generalfeldmarschall and President of Germany. Thus, his career in the Prussian army was assured from birth. He attended the Lycée in Strasbourg (1894–99), a territory which had been conquered by the German Empire after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. He spent six years in the cadet corps (1900–1906), in Plön and Groß-Lichterfelde and joined the Third Foot Guards Regiment (Garde zu Fuß) in March 1906 as an ensign. He was promoted to Lieutenant in January 1907, and in October 1913, entered the Prussian War Academy.

Middle years

World War

During World War I, von Manstein served on both the German Western Front (Belgium/France 1916: Attack on Verdun, 1917–18: Champagne) and the Eastern Front (1915: North Poland, 1915–16: Serbia, 1917: Estonia). In Poland, he was severely wounded in November 1914. He returned to duty in 1915, was promoted to captain and remained as a staff officer until the end of the war. In 1918, he volunteered for the staff position in the Frontier Defense Force in Breslau (Wroclaw) and served there until 1919.

Inter-war era

Von Manstein married Jutta Sibylle von Loesch, the daughter of a Silesian landowner in 1920. She died in 1966. They had three children: a daughter named Gisela, and two sons, Gero (b. December 31, 1922) and Rüdiger. Their elder son Gero, serving as a Lieutenant in the Wehrmacht, died on the battlefield in the northern sector of the Eastern Front on October 29, 1942.

Von Manstein stayed in the military after World War I. In the 1920s, he participated in the formation of the Reichswehr, the German Army of the Weimar Republic (restricted to 100,000 men by the Versailles Treaty). He was appointed company commander in 1920 and later battalion commander in 1922. In 1927 he was promoted to Major and began serving with the General Staff, visiting other countries to learn about their military facilities. In 1933 the Nazi party rose to power in Germany thus ending the Weimar period. The new regime renounced the Versailles Treaty and proceeded with large scale rearmament and expansion of the military.

On July 1, 1935, von Manstein was made the Head of Operations Branch of the Army General Staff (Generalstab des Heeres), part of the Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres). During his tenure, he proposed the development of Sturmgeschütze, self-propelled assault guns that would provide heavy direct-fire support to infantry, relieving the mobile tank forces of this responsibility. In World War II, the resulting StuG series would prove to be one of the most successful and cost-effective German weapons.

He was promoted on October 1, 1936, becoming the Deputy Chief of Staff (Oberquartiermeister I) to the Chief of the Army General Staff, General Ludwig Beck. Von Manstein initially supported Beck in resisting the political influence of the Nazi Party in the army, at one point going so far as to issue a memorandum calling for an end to racial indoctrination in the army, but he soon changed tack. Later, von Manstein maintained that the OKH should refrain from interceding in political matters and even in matters of higher strategy, claiming that these matters were Hitler's responsibility. The General Staff's task, he argued, was to produce the operational planning necessary to realize Hitler's goals and no more. Beck was inevitably distressed by this and severed relations with von Manstein, dismissing him as "not a man of bad character, but a man of no character at all." On February 4, 1938, with the fall of Werner von Fritsch, von Manstein was demoted to commander of the 18th Infantry Division in Liegnitz, Silesia with the rank of Generalleutnant.[3]

World War II


On August 18, 1939, in preparation for Operation Fall Weiß, the German invasion of Poland, von Manstein was appointed Chief of Staff to Gerd von Rundstedt’s Army Group South. Here he worked along with von Rundstedt’s Chief of Operations, Colonel Günther Blumentritt in the development of the operational plan. Von Rundstedt accepted von Manstein’s plan calling for the concentration of the majority of the army group’s armored units into Walther von Reichenau’s 10th Army, with the objective of a decisive breakthrough which would lead to the encirclement of Polish forces west of the Vistula River. In von Manstein’s plan, two other armies comprising Army Group South, Wilhelm List’s 14th Army and Johannes Blaskowitz’s 8th Army, were to provide the flank support for Reichenau’s armored thrust towards Warsaw, the Polish capital. Privately, von Manstein was lukewarm about the Polish campaign, thinking that it would be better to keep Poland as a buffer between Germany and the Soviet Union. He also worried about an Allied attack on the West Wall once the Polish campaign started, thus drawing Germany into a two-front war.

Launched on September 1, 1939, the invasion began successfully. In Army Group South’s area of responsibility, armored units of the 10th Army pursued the retreating Poles, giving them no time to set up a defense. The 8th Army prevented the isolated Polish troop concentrations in Łódź, Radom and Poznań from merging into a cohesive force. Deviating from the original plan that called for heading straight for the Vistula and then proceeding to Warsaw, von Manstein persuaded von Rundstedt to encircle the Polish units in the Radom area. The plan succeeded, clearing the bulk of Polish resistance from the southern approach to Warsaw.


On September 27, 1939, Warsaw formally surrendered, although isolated pockets of resistance remained. That same day, Hitler ordered the Army High Command, led by General Franz Halder, to develop a plan for action in the west against France and the Low Countries. The different plans that the General Staff suggested were given to von Manstein and his staff, who, with Gerd von Rundstedt's approval, formalized an alternative plan for Fall Gelb (Case Yellow ). This plan received Hitler's attention in February 1940 and finally his agreement.

By late October, the bulk of the German Army was redeployed to the west. Von Manstein was made Chief of Staff of von Rundstedt’s Army Group A in western Germany. Like many of the army's younger officers, von Manstein opposed Fall Gelb, criticizing it for its lack of ability to deliver strategic results and the uninspired use of the armored forces, which may have come from OKH's inability to influence Hitler's planning. Von Manstein pointed out that a repeat of the Schlieffen Plan, with the attack directed through Belgium, was something the Allies expected, as they were already moving strong forces into the area. Bad weather in the area caused the attack to be canceled several times and eventually delayed into the spring.

During the autumn, Von Manstein, with the informal cooperation of Heinz Guderian, developed his own plan; he suggested that the panzer divisions attack through the wooded hills of the Ardennes where no one would expect them, then establish bridgeheads on the Meuse River and rapidly drive to the English Channel. The Germans would thus cut off the French and Allied armies in Belgium and Flanders. Von Manstein's proposal also contained a second thrust, outflanking the Maginot Line, which would have allowed the Germans to force any future defensive line much further south. This second thrust would perhaps have avoided the need for the Fall Rot (Case Red ) second stage of the Battle of France (Von Manstein, 2004). The plan was after the event nicknamed Sichelschnitt (sickle cut).

Oberkommando der Wehrmacht originally rejected the proposal. Halder had von Manstein removed from von Rundstedt's headquarters and sent to the east to command the 38th Army Corps. But Hitler, looking for a more aggressive plan, approved a modified version of von Manstein's ideas, which today is known as the Manstein Plan. This modified version, formulated by Halder, did not contain the second thrust. Von Manstein and his corps played a minor role during the operations in France, serving under Günther von Kluge's 4th Army. However, it was his corps which helped to achieve the first breakthrough during Fall Rot, east of Amiens, and was the first to reach and cross the River Seine. The invasion was an outstanding military success and von Manstein was promoted to full general and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for suggesting the plan.


In February 1941, von Manstein was appointed commander of the 56th Panzer Corps. He became involved in Operation Barbarossa, serving under General Erich Hoepner. Attacking on June 22, 1941, von Manstein advanced more than 100 miles in only two days and seized two vital bridges over the Dvina River at Dvinsk.

Crimea and the Battle of Sevastopol

In September 1941, von Manstein was appointed commander of the 11th Army. Its previous commander, Colonel-General Eugen Ritter von Schobert, had perished when his plane landed in a Russian minefield. The 11th Army was tasked with invading the Crimea, capturing Sevastopol and pursuing enemy forces on the flank of Army Group South during its advance into Russia [Von Manstein, (2004)].

After the initial German breakthrough, the rest of the Perekop area had to be secured. After ten days of fighting, the Soviet line was overrun on 28 October. The Germans quickly seized control over the whole peninsula, and by 17 November, only the city of Sevastopol held out.

The attack on Sevastopol began October 30, 1941 but failed and on December 21, just as the Germans were preparing for their last push, the Soviets launched a spoiling attack, forcing them back. Shortly thereafter the Soviet winter offensive began, producing the Wehrmacht's so-called "Winter Crisis".

Just over a week later, on December 26, 1941, the Soviets landed on the Kerch straits, and on December 30, executed another landing near Theodosia. Only a hurried withdrawal from the Kerch straits, in contravention of Manstein's orders, by 46 Infantry Division under General Hans Graf von Sponecks command prevented a collapse of the eastern part of the Crimea, although the division lost most of its heavy equipment. This situation forced von Manstein to cancel a resumption of the attack on Sevastopol and send most of his forces east to destroy the Soviet bridgehead. The situation was stabilised by late April 1942.

Operation Trappenjagd, launched on May 8, 1942, aimed at expelling the Russian forces from the Kerch peninsula. After feinting against the north, the 11th army attacked south, and the Soviets were soon reduced to fleeing for the Kerch straits. Three Soviet armies (44th, 47th, and 51st), 21 divisions, 176,000 men, 347 tanks, and nearly 3,500 guns were lost.[4] The remains of the force were evacuated and Trappenjagd was completed successfully on 18 May.

With months delay von Manstein turned his attention once more towards the capture of Sevastopol, a battle in which Germany would use some of the largest guns ever built. Along with large numbers of regular artillery pieces, super-heavy 600mm mortars and the 800mm "Dora" railway gun were brought in for the assault. The furious barrage began on the morning of June 7, 1942, and all of the resources of the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 4, commanded by Wolfram von Richthofen, descended on their targets, continuing for five days before the main assault began.

The outer defensive rings were breached by June 16, 1942, and on July 4, 1942 Sevastopol fell. Hitler, delighted at hearing the good news, phoned von Manstein and commended him as "The Conqueror of Sevastopol", informing him that he had ordered von Manstein's promotion to Generalfeldmarschall.


After the capture of Sevastopol the German high command felt that any city could be taken with a determined enough attack, and von Manstein was seen as the right man to finally break Leningrad, which had been under siege from autumn the previous year. Von Manstein, with elements of the 11th Army, was transferred to the Leningrad front to lead Operation Nordlicht, which was hoped to be the final capture of the city, set to launch on September 15, 1942. Hitler was confident that with considerable amounts of artillery and the new Tiger tank this operation would finally break the determined Soviet defense; von Manstein, on the other hand, was more pessimistic, arguing that a simultaneous attack in the north by the Finns would be needed.

On August 27, 1942 the Soviets launched a spoiling attack against Georg Lindemann’s 18th Army in the narrow German salient west of Lake Ladoga. Von Manstein was forced to divert his forces in order to avoid catastrophe. A series of bitter battles ensued, in which von Manstein's smaller forces managed to outmaneuver the larger Soviet forces, which lost over 60,000 men over the course of the next few months. This meant, however, that the Germans were not able to execute a decisive assault on Leningrad, and the siege continued into 1943.


On February 17, 1943, under heavy security, Hitler flew in to Army Group South's headquarters at Zaporozh'ye, Ukraine; just 30 miles away from the front line. Seen here, Generalfeldmarschall von Manstein is greeting Hitler on the local airfield; on the right are Hans Baur and the Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram von Richthofen

On November 21, 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, Adolf Hitler appointed von Manstein commander of the newly created Army Group Don (Heeresgruppe Don), consisting of a hastily assembled group of tired men and machines, and ordered him to lead Operation Wintergewitter (Winter Storm), the rescue effort by Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer Army and auxiliary Romanian troops to relieve the 6th Army of Friedrich Paulus trapped inside Stalingrad. Wintergewitter, launched on December 12, achieved some initial success and von Manstein got his three panzer divisions and supporting units of the 57th Panzer Corps (comprising the 23rd Panzer Grenadier Division, and the 6th and 17th Panzer Divisions) within 30 miles of Stalingrad by December 20. However, the corps was halted at the town of Aksay, and strong Russian forces eventually pushed them back.

At this point, von Manstein recommended Paulus to break out of the city, despite Hitler's refusal to allow a break out attempt. Erich von Manstein did however not dare to give the break out order himself, even though he could have, since he was Paulus's superior.[5]

Operation Saturn, a massive Red Army offensive in the southernmost part of the front, aimed at capturing Rostov and thus cutting off the German Army Group A, which was still withdrawing from the Caucasus, forced von Manstein to divert his forces to help hard-pressed Army Group A, in its retreat to Ukraine, thus avoiding the collapse of the entire front. The attack also prevented the 48th Panzer Corps (comprising the 336th Infantry Division, the 3rd Luftwaffe Field Division, and the 11th Panzer Division), under the command of General Otto von Knobelsdorff, from joining up with the 57th Panzer Corps as planned. Instead, the 48th Panzer Corps held a line along the River Chir, beating off successive Russian attacks. General Hermann Balck used the 11th Panzer Division to counterattack Russian salients. But the Romanian, Italian, and Hungarian armies on the flanks were overwhelmed, and the 48th Panzer Corps was forced to retreat. As a result, the remnants of the 4th Panzer Army retreated, as its northern flank was exposed by the loss of the Don.

Kharkov Operation

By early February, the German forces began to regroup. Von Manstein's Army Group Don combined with Army Group B and was made into the new Army Group South (Heeresgruppe Süd), which was led by von Manstein. On February 21, 1943, he launched a counteroffensive into the overextended Soviet flank. The assault proved a major success; von Manstein's troops advanced rapidly, isolating Soviet forward units and forcing the Red Army to halt most of its offensive operations. By March 2, tank spearheads from Hoth's 4th Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf met, cutting off large portions of the Soviet Southwest Front, and by March 9, the Wehrmacht had inflicted a heavy defeat on the Soviets at Krasnograd and Barvenkovo. An estimated 23,000 Soviet soldiers were killed and a further 9,000 were captured. Additionally, 615 Soviet tanks and 354 guns were captured.

Von Manstein then pushed forward, his effort spearheaded by Paul Hausser's 2nd SS Panzer Corps, recapturing Kharkov on March 14, after bloody street fighting in what is known as the Third Battle of Kharkov. In recognition for this accomplishment, von Manstein received the Oak Leaves for the Knight's Cross. The 2nd SS Panzer Corps then captured Belgorod on March 21. Von Manstein proposed a daring action for the summer nicknamed the "backhand blow", which was intended to outflank the Red Army into the Sea of Azov at Rostov, but Hitler instead chose the more conventional Operation Citadel aimed at crushing the Kursk salient.

Operation Citadel

During Operation Citadel, von Manstein led the southern pincer, and despite losses, he managed to achieve most of his initial goals, inflicting far more casualties than he sustained. In his memoirs, Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who led the Soviet defense at Kursk, praised von Manstein. But due to the almost complete failure of the northern sector's pincer led by Günther von Kluge and Walther Model, chronic lack of infantry support and an operational reserve, as well as Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, Hitler called off the offensive. Von Manstein protested, asserting that the victory was almost at hand as he felt he had achieved local superiority, and that with a little more effort, he could crack the Soviet defenses before they could bring up their reserves. After the failure of Citadel, the Soviets launched a massive counterattack against the exhausted German forces.

A German victory in the sense of annihilating the surrounded Soviet forces required both the completion of the encirclement (that is the linking of the northern and southern German pincers) and holding the encirclement long enough to overcome the encircled Soviet forces. Even if the first had been accomplished it does not follow that the second would automatically follow. The German forces post-Stalingrad were never able to force the Soviets into significant retreats, except for temporary reversals like Kharkov. After halting the German offensive at Kursk, the Soviets had enough strength to launch immediate counterattacks.

Dnieper Campaign

In September 1943, von Manstein withdrew to the west bank of the river Dnieper, inflicting heavy casualties on the Red Army. From October to mid-January 1944, von Manstein stabilized the situation on the South Front. However, The Soviets established a salient from Kiev, and were within reach of the crucial town of Zhitomir. The Germans launched a successful counteroffensive, in which 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler and 2nd SS Division Das Reich, together with 1st, 7th, 19th, and 25th Panzer Divisions and 68th Infantry Division (part of 4th Panzer Army), wheeled around the flank of the Russians in front of Zhitomir. Several notable victories were won, at Brussilov, Radomyshl, and Meleni, under the guidance of General Hermann Balck. Balck, and his chief of staff, had wanted to attack the base of the salient and go for Kiev, but General Raus favored a more prudent approach.[6] In late January 1944, von Manstein was forced to retreat further westwards by the Soviet offensive. In mid-February 1944, he disobeyed Hitler's order and ordered 11th and 42nd Corps (consisting of 56,000 men in six divisions) of Army Group South to break out from the "Korsun Pocket", which occurred on February 16–17, 1944. Eventually, Hitler accepted this action and ordered the breakout after it had already taken place.


Von Manstein continued to argue with Hitler about overall strategy on the Eastern Front. Von Manstein advocated an elastic, mobile defense. He was prepared to cede territory, attempting to make the Soviet forces either stretch out too thinly or to make them advance too fast so that they could be attacked on the flanks with the goal of encircling them. Hitler ignored Manstein's advice and continued to insist on static warfare. Because of these frequent disagreements, von Manstein publicly advocated that Hitler relinquish control and leave the management of the war to professionals, starting with the establishment of the position of commander-in-chief in the East (Oberbefehlshaber Ost). Hitler, however, rejected this idea numerous times, fearing that it would weaken his hold on power.

This argument also alarmed some of Hitler's closest henchmen, such as Göring and the SS chief Himmler, who were not prepared to give up any of their powers. Himmler started to question von Manstein's loyalty openly and insinuated that he was a defeatist unsuitable to command troops. Von Manstein's frequent arguing combined with these allegations resulted in Hitler relieving von Manstein of his command in March 1944. Instead, on April 2, 1944, Hitler appointed Walther Model, a firm supporter, as commander of Army Group South. Nevertheless, von Manstein received the Swords for his Knight's Cross, the third highest German military honour.

After his dismissal, Von Manstein entered an eye clinic in Breslau, recuperated near Dresden and then retired. Although he did not take part in the attempt to kill Hitler in July 1944, he had been contacted by Henning von Tresckow and others in 1943 about the plot. While von Manstein did agree that change was necessary, he refused to join them as he still considered himself bound by duty. (He rejected the approaches with the statement "Preussische Feldmarschälle meutern nicht" – "Prussian Field Marshals do not mutiny.") He also feared that a civil war would ensue. Though he didn't join the plotters, he did not betray them either. In late January 1945, he collected his family from their homes in Liegnitz and evacuated them to western Germany. He surrendered to British Field Marshal Montgomery and was arrested by British troops on August 23, 1945.



During the Nuremberg trials in 1946, von Manstein was only called as a witness for the defense. Von Manstein was subsequently interned by the British as a prisoner of war in "Special Camp 11" in Bridgend. Later, because of pressure from the Soviets, who wanted him extradited to stand trial in the USSR, the British accepted their indictments and charged him with war crimes, putting him on trial before a British Military Tribunal in Hamburg in August 1949. In part, because of the Soviet demands in the Cold War environment and respect for his military exploits, many in the British military establishment, such as Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and the military strategist B. H. Liddell Hart, openly expressed sympathy for von Manstein's plight and, along with the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, donated money for the defense. Churchill saw the trial as yet another effort of the then-ruling Attlee government to appease the Soviets.

In court, von Manstein's defense, led by the prominent lawyer Reginald Thomas Paget, argued that he had been unaware that genocide was taking place in the territory under his control. It was argued that von Manstein didn't enforce the Commissar order, which called for the immediate execution of Red Army Communist Party commissars. According to his testimony at the Nuremberg trials, Volume 20, pp. 608–609 (August 10, 1946) [1], he received it, but refused to carry it out. He claimed that his superior at the time, Field Marshal von Leeb, tolerated and tacitly approved of his choice, and he also claimed that the order was not carried out in practice.

However, von Manstein did issue an order on November 20, 1941: his version of the infamous "Reichenau Order" [2], which equated "partisans" and "Jews" and called for draconian measures against them. Hitler commended the "Reichenau Order" as exemplary and encouraged other generals to issue similar orders. Von Manstein was among the minority that voluntarily issued such an order. It stated that:

"This struggle is not being carried on against the Soviet Armed Forces alone in the established form laid down by European rules of warfare.
Behind the front too, the fighting continues. Partisan snipers dressed as civilians attack single soldiers and small units and try to disrupt our supplies by sabotage with mines and infernal machines. Bolshevists left behind keep the population freed from Bolshevism in a state of unrest by means of terror and attempt thereby to sabotage the political and economic pacification of the country. Harvests and factories are destroyed and the city population in particular is thereby ruthlessly delivered to starvation.
Jewry is the middleman between the enemy in the rear and the remains of the Red Army and the Red leadership still fighting. More strongly than in Europe they hold all key positions of political leadership and administration, of trade and crafts and constitutes a cell for all unrest and possible uprisings.
The Jewish Bolshevik system must be wiped out once and for all and should never again be allowed to invade our European living space.
The German soldier has therefore not only the task of crushing the military potential of this system. He comes also as the bearer of a racial concept and as the avenger of all the cruelties which have been perpetrated on him and on the German people."
"The soldier must appreciate the necessity for the harsh punishment of Jewry, the spiritual bearer of the Bolshevik terror. This is also necessary in order to nip in the bud all uprisings which are mostly plotted by Jews."
(Nuremberg trials proceedings, Vol. 20, pp. 639–645 [3])

The order also stated: "The food situation at home makes it essential that the troops should as far as possible be fed off the land and that furthermore the largest possible stocks should be placed at the disposal of the homeland. Particularly in enemy cities a large part of the population will have to go hungry."(ibid.) This also was one of the indictments against von Manstein in Hamburg; not only neglect of civilians, but also exploitation of invaded countries for the sole benefit of the "homeland", something considered illegal by the then current laws of war.

The order additionally stated that "severe steps will be taken against arbitrary action and self interest, against savagery and indiscipline, against any violation of the honor of the soldier" and that "respect for religious customs, particularly those of Muslim Tartars, must be demanded." (ibid.) The evidence for this order was first presented by prosecutor Telford Taylor on August 10, 1946, in Nuremberg. Von Manstein acknowledged that he had signed this order of November 20, 1941, but claimed that he didn't remember it. This order was a major piece of evidence for the prosecution at his Hamburg trial.

While Paget got von Manstein acquitted of many of the seventeen charges, he was still found guilty of two charges and accountable for seven others, mainly for employing scorched earth tactics and for failing to protect the civilian population (Src.: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives), and was sentenced on December 19, 1949, to 18 years imprisonment. This caused a massive uproar among von Manstein's supporters and the sentence was subsequently reduced to 12 years. However, he was released on May 6, 1953 for medical reasons.

Von Manstein, one of the highest ranking generals in the Wehrmacht, claimed ignorance of what was happening in the concentration camps. In the Nuremberg trials, he was asked "Did you at that time know anything about conditions in the concentration camps?" to which he replied "No. I heard as little about that as the German people, or possibly even less, because when one was fighting 1,000 kilometers away from Germany, one naturally did not hear about such things. I knew from prewar days that there were two concentration camps, Oranienburg and Dachau, and an officer who at the invitation of the SS had visited such a camp told me that it was simply a typical collection of criminals, besides some political prisoners who, according to what he had seen, were being treated severely but correctly." [4])

Senior advisor

Called on by the West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, von Manstein served as his senior defense advisory and chaired a military sub-committee appointed to advise the parliament on military organization and doctrine for the new German Army, the Bundeswehr and its incorporation into NATO. He later moved with his family to Bavaria. His war memoirs, Verlorene Siege (Lost Victories), were published in Germany in 1955, and translated into English in 1958. In them, he presented the thesis that if the generals had been in charge of strategy instead of Hitler, the war on the Eastern front could have been won.

Never having been a member of the Nazi party, he had no trouble in West Germany, unlike some of the Reich's more notorious Hitler supporters. Because of his influence, for the first few years of the Bundeswehr, he was seen as the unofficial chief of staff. Even later, his birthday parties were regularly attended by official delegations of Bundeswehr and NATO top leaders, such as General Hans Speidel who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied ground forces in Central Europe from 1957 to 1963. This was not the case with pro-Nazi Field Marshals such as Milch, Schörner, von Küchler, and others, who were disregarded and forgotten after the war.

Erich von Manstein suffered a stroke and died in Munich on the night of 9 June 1973. He was buried with full military honors. His obituary in The Times on June 13, 1973, stated that "His influence and effect came from powers of mind and depth of knowledge rather than by generating an electrifying current among the troops or 'putting over' his personality."


  1. ^ Erich von Manstein, "Hitler as Supreme Commander," in Lost Victories, transl. by Anthony G. Powell (Minneapolis, MN, 2004), pp. 273-288.
  2. ^ E. Manstein. Soldat im 20. Jahrhundert, 5th Ed., Bernard & Graefe, 2002, p. 10. ISBN 978-3763752140
  3. ^ Manstein, Lost Victories, p. 21
  4. ^ Erickson, p.349, and I.Malashenko, Military Thought, Vol. 12, No.4, 2003 (Eastview Press translation)
  5. ^ Stalingrad, Anthony Beevor
  6. ^ Mellenthin, Panzer Battles, pp. 305–306


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  • von Manstein, Erich (2002). Soldat im 20. Jahrhundert (in German). Bernard & Graefe. ISBN 3-7637-5214-5
  • von Manstein, Erich; Powell, Anthony G.; Hart, B. H. Liddell; Blumenson, Martin [1955] (2004). Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General. Zenith Press. ISBN 0-7603-2054-3
  • von Mellenthin, Friedrich W. (1956). Panzer Battles. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Megargee, Geoffrey P. (2000) Inside Hitler's High Command. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0700610150.
  • Muller, Rolf-Dieter and Uebershar, Gerd R. [1997] (2002) Hitler's War in the East: A Critical Assessment. 2nd ed., New York: Berghahn. ISBN 978-1571812933.
  • Paget, Baron Reginald Thomas (1957). Manstein: His Campaigns and His Trial. London: Collins.
  • Stahlberg, Alexander (1990). Bounden Duty: The Memoirs of a German Officer, 1932–1945. London: Brassey’s. ISBN 3-548-33129-7
  • Stein, Marcel (2007). The Janushead: Field Marshal Von Manstein, A Reappraisal. Solihill, West Midlands, England: Helion and Company. ISBN 1906033021.
  • Wood, James A. Captive Historians, Captive Audience, The German Military History Program, 1945–1961. The Journal of Military History, 69/I (January 2005), pp. 123–147.
  • The British records of the Manstein Trial are now housed in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, at King’s College, London.
  • Von Manstein's whole testimonial at Nuremberg is spread out over three files at the Yale Avalon project: [5], [6] (contains von Manstein's order of November 20, 1941), and [7].
  • Obituary of Manstein by The Times published on June 13, 1973 [8]

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Generaloberst Eugen Ritter von Schobert
Commander of 11. Armee
September 21, 1941 – November 21, 1942
Succeeded by
Army Group Don
Preceded by
11. Armee
Commander of Army Group Don
November 21, 1942 – February 12, 1943
Succeeded by
Army Group South
Preceded by
Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian von Weichs
Commander of Army Group South
February 12, 1943 – September 23, 1944
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Johannes Frießner
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
George Marshall
Cover of Time Magazine
10 January 1944
Succeeded by
Oveta Culp Hobby


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A war is not lost until you consider it lost.

Erich von Manstein (November 24, 1887June 9, 1973) served the German military as a lifelong professional soldier. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Nazi Germany's armed forces (Wehrmacht). During World War II he attained the rank of Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and was held in high esteem by his fellow officers as one of the Wehrmacht's best military minds. He was dismissed from service by Adolf Hitler in March 1944, due to his frequent clashes with Hitler over military strategy. In 1949, he was brought on trial in Hamburg for war crimes, which convicted him of "Neglecting to protect civilian lives" and for using scorched earth tactics denying vital food supplies to the local population. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, which was later reduced to 12. After release from British prison in 1953, he became a military advisor for the West German Government. Manstein suffered a stroke and died in Munich on the night of 9 June 1973. He was buried with full military honors.



  • If Paulus's army had capitulated before the end, the Russians would have had the advantage of withdrawing forces against Paulus and against the southern front, where I had only two Romanian armies. Therefore, the resistance of the Sixth German Army, even to the death of the last man, was necessary.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (14 June 1946). Quoted in "The Nuremberg Interviews" - by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • I tried at that time to relieve the Sixth Army, of which I was supreme commander, above Paulus, by counterattacks - but it was not possible. I gave the order finally for the Sixth Army to break out, but then Paulus said it was too late and not possible. Hitler did not want the Sixth Army to break out at any time, but to fight to the last man. I believe that Hitler said if the Sixth Army tried to break out, it would be their death.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (14 June 1946). Quoted in "The Nuremberg Interviews" - by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004


  • A war is not lost until you consider it lost.

About Manstein

  • He was not only the most brilliant strategist of all our generals, but he had a good political sense. A man of that quality was too difficult for Hitler to swallow for long. At conferences Manstein often differed from Hitler, in front of others, and would go so far as to declare that some of the ideas which Hitler put forward were nonsense.
  • The general verdict among the German generals I interrogated in 1945 was that Field-Marshal von Manstein had proved the ablest commander in their Army, and the man they had most desired to become its Commander-in-Chief. It is very clear that he had a superb sense of operational possibilities and equal mastery in the conduct of operations, together with a greater grasp of the potentialities of mechanized forces than any other commander who had not been trained in the tank arm. In sum, he had military genius.
  • Manstein despised Göring and loathed Himmler. To his most trusted colleagues he admitted to Jewish antecedents. He could also be scathing about Hitler. As a joke, his dachshund Knirps had been trained to raise his paw in salute on the command "Heil Hitler". On the other hand, his wife was a great admirer of Hitler, and more importantly, Manstein, as already mentioned, had even issued that order to his troops mentioning "the necessity of hard measures against Jewry"
  • He had utter disdain for the Nazis and had no time for their racial purity agenda.
    • Nuremberg Trial transcripts

External links

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