Walther von Brauchitsch: Wikis

  
  

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Walther von Brauchitsch
4 October 1881 – 18 October 1948 (aged 67)
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2004-0105-500, Walther v. Brauchitsch.jpg
Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch
Place of birth Berlin, Germany
Place of death Hamburg, Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Years of service 1900-1941
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Order of Michael the Brave
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch (4 October 1881 – 18 October 1948[1][2]) was a German field marshal and the Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht Heer in the early years of World War II.

Biography

Brauchitsch was born in Berlin as the fifth son of a cavalry general. He attended Berlin's best school, the Französisches Gymnasium. Brauchitsch was commissioned in the Prussian Guard in 1900. He was an outstanding officer. By World War I, he was appointed to the prestigious General Staff. He also married Elizabeth von Karstedt, a fabulously wealthy heiress to 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) in Pomerania.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power and began to expand the military. Brauchitsch was named Chief of the East Prussian Military District. His specialty was artillery. In 1937, he became commander of the Fourth Army Group.

Like many other German generals, Brauchitsch disliked or opposed much of the Nazi system, but also welcomed the Nazi policy of rearmament and was dazzled by Hitler's personality. He became largely reliant on Hitler as political patron and even for financial help. In February 1938, in the middle of the Munich Crisis, Brauchitsch left his wife Elizabeth after 28 years. He wanted to marry Charlotte Rueffer (later married Schmidt), the beautiful young daughter of a Silesian judge, and ardent admirer of the Nazis (Ulrich von Hassell, later part of the conspiracy against Hitler described her as "a 200 percent rabid Nazi"). Hitler set aside his usual anti-divorce sentiments and encouraged Brauchitsch to divorce and remarry. Hitler even lent him 80,000 Reichsmarks, which he needed since the family wealth was all his wife's. In the same month, Brauchitsch was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army, replacing General Werner von Fritsch, who had been dismissed on false charges of homosexuality.

Brauchitsch resented the growing power of the SS, believing that they were attempting to replace the Wehrmacht as the official German armed forces. He had disagreements with Erich Koch, the Gauleiter of East Prussia, and Adolf Hitler had to resolve the dispute between the two.

Like General Ludwig Beck, Brauchitsch opposed Hitler's annexation of Austria (the Anschluss) and Czechoslovakia (see Fall Grün), although he did not resist Hitler's plans for war, presumably due to the influence of his wife. He took no action when Beck asked him to persuade the whole General Staff to resign if Hitler proceeded in his invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In September 1938, a group of officers began plotting against Hitler and repeatedly tried to persuade Brauchitsch, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, to lead the anticipated coup, but the only assurance he gave them was: "I myself won't do anything, but I won't stop anyone else from acting." After the collapse of the 1938 coup attempt, Brauchitsch ignored all further appeals from Beck and the other plotters to use the army to overthrow Hitler before Germany was plunged into world war.

On 5 November 1939, the Army General Staff prepared a memorandum purporting to recommend against launching an attack on the Western powers that autumn. Brauchitsch reluctantly agreed to read the document to Hitler. The document's specific recommendations did not convey the dissent in the ranks of the General Staff, who were uneasy at having their planning and conduct of the Polish Campaign interfered with down to a regimental level. More generally, the unease at the army's position as the chief martial arbiter in the German State having been encroached upon since Hitler's ascendance to power was prevalent in the closing days of the 1930s. It was left to Brauchitsch to voice these doubts, which he did, stating that the "OKH would be grateful for an understanding that it, and it alone, would be solely responsible for the conduct of any future campaign." The suggestion was received in "an icy silence", whereupon on an impulse Brauchitsch went on to complain that "the aggressive spirit of the German infantry was sadly below the standard of the First World War... [there had been] certain symptoms of insubordination similar to those of 1917-18". Hitler responded by flying into a tremendous rage, accusing both the General Staff and Brauchitsch personally of disloyalty, cowardice, sabotage and defeatism. The Chief of the Army General Staff, Franz Halder, who was the main propagator of the memorandum's preparation, wrote that the scene was "most ugly and disagreeable". He returned to the Headquarters at Zossen where "he arrived in such poor shape that at first he could only give a somewhat incoherent account of the proceedings." Hitler then called a meeting of the General Staff to declare that he would smash the West within a year. He also vowed to "destroy the spirit of Zossen" - a threat that panicked Halder to such an extent that he forced the conspirators to abort their second planned coup attempt.

Brauchitsch was made a field marshal in 1940 and was key in Hitler's "blitzkrieg" war against the West, making modifications to the original plan to overrun France. After France was conquered, Operation Sealion, the invasion of Britain, was planned. Had it succeeded, Hitler intended to place Brauchitsch in charge of the new conquest.[3] However, the Luftwaffe could not gain the requisite air superiority, and the plan was abandoned. Brauchitsch agreed with harsh measures against the Polish population claiming they were inevitable for securing the German Lebensraum and ordered to his army and commanders that criticism of Nazism racist policy should cease as Nazi policy was needed for "forthcoming battle of destiny of the German people" [4] When Germany turned east and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Army's failure to take Moscow earned Hitler's enmity. Things went further downhill for Brauchitsch as he endured a serious heart attack, and Hitler relieved him on 10 December. Brauchitsch spent the last three war years in the Tři Trubky hunting lodge in the Brdy mountains southwest of Prague. One of the few public comments he made after his retirement was a statement condemning the attempt on Hitler's life.

After the war, Brauchitsch was arrested and charged with war crimes, but died in Hamburg in 1948 before he could be prosecuted.[5]

Brauchitsch was the uncle of Manfred von Brauchitsch, a 1930s Mercedes-Benz "Silver Arrow" Grand Prix driver. Brauchitsch was a strong admirer of Field Marshal von Moltke and used to linger in his former office that was made into a museum at a later date.

Dates of Rank

References

  1. ^ general editor, I. C. B. Dear; consultant editor, M. R. D. Foot.; I.C.B Dear, M.R.D. Foot (2005). Oxford Companion to the Second World War (paperback ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1928-0666-1.  
  2. ^ "Britannica entry on Von Brauchitsch". http://deskreference.britannica.com/ebc/article-9357957. Retrieved 2007-01-07.  
  3. ^ History Channel show Hitler's Britain
  4. ^ The Origins of the Final Solution Christopher R. Browning, Jürgen Matthäus page 76 University of Nebraska Press, 2007
  5. ^ "Island farm site". http://www.islandfarm.fsnet.co.uk/Generalfeldmarschall%20Walther%20von%20Brauchitsch.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-06.  

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The German Army is tired. The vain effort to defeat Russia's armies has used up its equipment and reduced its morale.

Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch (October 4, 1881October 18, 1948) was an aristocratic German field marshal and the Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht Heer in the early years of World War II. Brauchitsch was made a field marshal in 1940 and was key in Hitler's "blitzkrieg" war against the West, making modifications to the original plan to overrun France. After the war, Brauchitsch was arrested and charged with war crimes, but died in Hamburg in 1948 before he could be prosecuted.

Sourced

  • Soldiers! The great battle in the Vistula sector is finished. The Polish Army is annihilated. The operations against Poland are thus concluded.
    • To his troops. Quoted in "The World almanac and book of facts" - 1869 - Page 54
  • The German Army is tired. The vain effort to defeat Russia's armies has used up its equipment and reduced its morale.
    • Quoted in "Kaltenborn Edits the War News" - Page 25 - by Hans Kaltenborn - 1942
  • I myself won't do anything, but I won't stop anyone else from acting.
    • September 1938. Quoted in "Plotting Hitler's Death: The Story of German Resistance" - Page 128 - by Joachim C. Fest - 1997
  • Hitler is still such a popular man; we are afraid of the Hitler myth. We want to give to the German people and to the world the final proof by means of the Supreme Court-Martial and its verdict.
    • Quoted in "Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal" - Page 203 - Nuremberg, Germany - 1947

External links

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