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Günther "Hans" von Kluge
30 October 1882(1882-10-30) – 19 August 1944 (aged 61)
GFMKluge.jpg
Generalfeldmarshall Günther von Kluge
Nickname der kluge Hans
Place of birth Posen, Province of Posen, German Empire
Place of death Metz, France
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Years of service 1901 – 1944
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Unit Reichswehr 1916 – 1930
Wehrmacht 1930 – 1944
Commands held German Fourth Army
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards House Order of Hohenzollern
Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Günther “Hans” von Kluge (30 October 1882 – 19 August 1944) was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht.

Contents

Early career

During World War I he was a staff officer and in 1916 was at the Battle of Verdun. By 1936 he was a lieutenant-general and in 1937 took command of the Sixth Army Group

World War II

Invasion of Poland and France

As commander of the Sixth Army Group, which became the German Fourth Army, Kluge led the Sixth into battle in Poland in 1939. Though he opposed the initial German plan to attack westwards into France, he led the Fourth Army in its attack through the Ardennes that culminated in the fall of France. Kluge was promoted to field marshal in July 1940.

Soviet Union

On June 29, 1941, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge ordered, ‘Women in uniform are to be shot.’ [1]

In July 1941, Kluge commanded the Fourth Army in Operation Barbarossa, where he developed a strained relationship with Heinz Guderian over tactical issues in the advance, accusing Guderian of frequent disobedience of Kluge’s orders.

After Fedor von Bock was relieved of his command of Army Group Center in late 1941, Kluge was promoted and led that army group until he was injured in October 1943. Kluge frequently rode in an airplane to inspect the divisions under his command and sometimes relieved his boredom during the flights by hunting foxes from the air[2]—a decidedly non-traditional method.

On October 27, 1943, Kluge was badly injured when his car overturned on the MinskSmolensk road. He was unable to return to duty until July 1944. After his recovery he became commander of the German forces in the West (Oberbefehlshaber West) as Gerd von Rundstedt’s replacement.

France and the Western Front

In June and July 1944, during the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces, Rommel commanded Army Group B under Field Marshal von Rundstedt. Rommel was charged with planning German counterattacks intended to drive the Allied forces back to the beaches. On July 2, Kluge replaced Rundstedt, because Rundstedt was advocating negotiation with the Allies. Two weeks later, Rommel was wounded and Kluge took over as commander of Army Group B as well.

He found that German forces moving towards Normandy were constantly beset by Allied fighter-bomber attacks. The climax came with U.S. tanks advancing towards Granchiel and Avranches. "The enemy air superiority is terrific and smothers almost every one of our movements," phoned Field Marshal von Kluge to General Warlimont, Hitler's personal representative in the West. "Every movement of the enemy is prepared and protected by its air force. Losses in men and equipment are extraordinary." Kluge himself was not immune to personal danger. USAAF Group Commander Col. Howard F. Nichols and a squadron of his 370th Fighter Group's P-38 Lightnings blasted Kluge's headquarters; the Colonel skipped a bomb right through the front door.[3] The blast killed several men, though Kluge was not present at the time.

In August, after the failed coup attempt by Stauffenberg, Kluge was recalled to Berlin and replaced by Model.

Opposition to Hitler

Kluge's marshal baton (Deutsches Panzermuseum Munster)

A leading figure of the German military resistance, Henning von Tresckow, served as his Chief of Staff of Army Group Center. Kluge was somewhat involved in the military resistance. He knew about Tresckow’s plan to shoot Hitler during a visit to Army Group Center, having been informed by his former subordinate, Georg von Boeselager, who was now serving under Tresckow. At the last moment, Kluge aborted Tresckow's plan. Boeselager later speculated that because Himmler had decided not to accompany Hitler, Kluge feared that without eliminating Himmler too, it could lead to a civil war between the SS and the Wehrmacht.[4]

When Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Hitler on July 20, Kluge was Oberbefehlshaber West ("Supreme Field Commander West") with his headquarters in La Roche-Guyon. The commander of the occupation troops of France, General Karl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, and his colleague Colonel Cäsar von Hofacker - a cousin of Stauffenberg - came to visit Kluge. Stülpnagel had just ordered the arrest of the SS units in Paris. Kluge had already learned that Hitler had survived the assassination attempt and refused to provide any support. "Ja - wenn das Schwein tot wäre!" ("Well - if the pig were dead!)" he said.[5] He was recalled to Berlin for a meeting with Hitler after the coup failed; thinking that Hitler would punish him as a conspirator, he committed suicide by taking cyanide near the World War I battlefield at Verdun. He left Hitler a letter in which he advised Hitler to make peace and “put an end to a hopeless struggle when necessary...” Hitler reportedly handed the letter to Alfred Jodl and commented that “There are strong reasons to suspect that had not Kluge committed suicide he would have been arrested anyway.”[6]

Günther von Kluge’s nickname among the troops and his fellow officers was der kluge Hans (“Clever Hans”). Hans was not part of his given name, but a nickname acquired early in his career in admiration of his cleverness (klug is German for "clever"). It is a reference to "Clever Hans", a horse which became famous for its apparent ability to do arithmetic.

Dates of Rank

Awards

Notes

  1. ^ Nor, Johnathan, Soviet Prisoners of War: Forgotten Nazi Victims of World War II, http://www.historynet.com/wars_conflicts/world_war_2/3037296.html
  2. ^ The History of the German Resistance, 1939–1945, p. 276
  3. ^ Achtung Jabos! The Story of the IX TAC,, Information and Education Division, Special and Informational Services, ETOUSA, Stars and Stripes Publications (1944)
  4. ^ Die Wehrmacht: Eine Bilanz, p. 226.
  5. ^ Die Wehrmacht: Eine Bilanz, p. 251.
  6. ^ Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp. 1076–77
  7. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 451.

References

  • Berger, Florian (2000). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 3-9501307-0-5.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Hoffman, Peter, (tr. Richard Barry) (1977). The History of the German Resistance, 1939–1945. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0773515313.
  • Knopp, Guido (2007). Die Wehrmacht: Eine Bilanz. C. Bertelsmann Verlag. München. ISBN 978-3-570-00975-8.
  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2004). Eichenlaubträger 1940 - 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe II Ihlefeld - Primozic (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 3-932381-21-1.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Shirer, William L. (1990). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0671728687.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
none
Commander of 4. Armee
1 December 1938 – 19 December 1941
Succeeded by
General of Mountain Troops Ludwig Kübler
Preceded by
Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock
Commander of Heeresgruppe Mitte
19 December 1941 – 12 October 1943
Succeeded by
Generalfeldmarschall Ernst Busch
Preceded by
Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt
Commander of Heeresgruppe D
2 July 1944 – 15 August 1944
Succeeded by
Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt
Preceded by
Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt
Oberbefehlshaber West
2 July 1944 – 16 August 1944
Succeeded by
Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model
Preceded by
Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel
Commander of Heeresgruppe B
19 July 1944 – 17 August 1944
Succeeded by
Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I cannot bear the reproach that I have sealed the fate of the West through faulty measures, and I have no means of defending myself. I draw a conclusion from that and am dispatching myself where already thousands of my comrades are. I have never feared death.

Günther "Hans" von Kluge (October 30, 1882August 19, 1944) was a German military leader. After Stauffenberg's attempt on Hitler's life, Kluge committed suicide, thinking that Hitler would punish him as a conspirator.

Contents

Sourced

  • In spite of intense efforts, the moment has drawn near when this front, already so heavily strained, will break. I consider it my duty to bring these conclusions to your notice...my Fuhrer.
    • July 1944. Quoted in "Why the Allies Won" - Page 170 - by R. J. Overy - History - 1995
  • Well — If the pig [Hitler] were dead!
    • Answering to officials who asked if they had his support, after learning of the failed assassination attempt. Quoted in "Die Wehrmacht: Eine Bilanz" - by Guido Knopp - 2007 - Page 251

Unsourced

  • When you receive these lines I shall be no more. I cannot bear the reproach that I have sealed the fate of the West through faulty measures, and I have no means of defending myself. I draw a conclusion from that and am dispatching myself where already thousands of my comrades are. I have never feared death. Life has no more meaning for me, and I also figure that I'm on the list of war criminals who are to be delivered up. Our applications were not dictated by pessimism but by sober knowledge of the facts. I do not know if Field-Marshal Model, who has been proved in every sphere, will still master the situation. From my heart I hope so. Should it not be so, however, and your cherished new weapons do not succeed, then, my Fuhrer, make up your mind to end the war and put an end to a hopeless struggle when necessary. The German people have received such untold suffering that it is time to put an end to this frightfulness. There must be ways to attain this end, and above all, to prevent the Reich from falling under the Bolshevist heel.
    • A letter Kluge left for Hitler when committing suicide, August 19, 1944.
  • Moscow, at the same time, represents the heart and the head of the Soviet regime. Beyond this understanding as its perception, it constitutes also an important military center. Furthermore, it is the main node of the Russian railway net, especially with regard to the lines that connect the west with Siberia. The Russians will surely employ massive forces in order to prevent us fro storming the capital. Therefore, I believe that we would have to aim at Moscow, all the available troops, via the Minsk, Orsha and Smolensk. If we are to conquer this zone before winter, we would have done enough for this year. Then we would have to think about further plans for 1942.
    • About preparing the attack against Russia, 1941.
  • Well, gentlemen, this matter has been a fiasco.
    • About the failed assassination attempt on Hitler's life, July 1944.

About Kluge

  • There are strong reasons to suspect that had Kluge not committed suicide he would have been arrested anyway.
    • Adolf Hitler to Alfred Jodl

External links

Wikipedia
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