Walther von Brauchitsch
Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch (4 October 1881-18 October 1948) was a German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Commander of the Heer (Army)) in the early years of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...



Brauchitsch was born in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 as the fifth son of a cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 general. He attended the Französisches Gymnasium Berlin
Französisches Gymnasium Berlin
The Französisches Gymnasium — Collège Français Berlin is a long-existing francophone gymnasium in Berlin, Germany.-History:It was founded in 1689 by Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg for the children of the Huguenot families who had settled in Brandenburg-Prussia by his invitation, being...

. Brauchitsch was commissioned in the Prussian Guard in 1900. By World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, he was appointed to the General Staff
German General Staff
The German General Staff was an institution whose rise and development gave the German armed forces a decided advantage over its adversaries. The Staff amounted to its best "weapon" for nearly a century and a half....

. In 1910, he married Elizabeth von Karstedt, a wealthy heiress to 300000 acre (1,214.1 km²) in Pomerania.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 and the Nazi Party came to power and began to expand the military. Brauchitsch was named Chief of the East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

n Military District. His specialty was artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. In 1937, he became commander of the Fourth Army Group.

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
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

, Brauchitsch left his wife Elizabeth after 28 years. He wanted to marry Charlotte Rueffer (later married Schmidt), the daughter of a Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

n judge, and ardent admirer of the Nazis (Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell was a German diplomat during World War II. A member of the German Resistance against German dictator Adolf Hitler, Hassell was executed in the aftermath of the failed July 20 plot.- Family :...

—later part of the conspiracy against Hitler—described her as "a 200 percent rabid Nazi"). Hitler set aside his usual anti-divorce
Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

 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 Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Commander of the Heer) as a replacement for General Werner von Fritsch
Werner von Fritsch
Werner Thomas Ludwig Freiherr von Fritsch was a prominent Wehrmacht officer, member of the German High Command, and the second German general to be killed during World War II.-Early life:...

, who had been dismissed on false charges of homosexuality.

Brauchitsch resented the growing power of the SS
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

, believing that they were attempting to replace the Wehrmacht as the official German armed forces. He had disagreements with Erich Koch
Erich Koch
Erich Koch was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945. Between 1941 and 1945 he was the Chief of Civil Administration of Bezirk Bialystok. During this period, he was also the Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine from 1941 until 1943...

, the Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

of East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, and Adolf Hitler had to resolve the dispute between the two.

Like General Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck
Generaloberst Ludwig August Theodor Beck was a German general and Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime in Germany before World War II....

, Brauchitsch opposed Hitler's annexation of Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 (the Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

) and Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 (see Fall Grün
Fall Grün
Fall Grün was a pre-World War II German plan for an aggressive war against Czechoslovakia. The plan was first drafted late in 1937, then revised as the military situation and requirements changed...

), although he did not resist Hitler's plans for war. 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 of the Heer—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.

In early November 1939, Brauchitsch and Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

 started to consider overthrowing Hitler. Brauchitsch and Halder had decided to overthrow Hitler after the latter had fixed "X-day" for the invasion of France for November 12, 1939; an invasion that both officers believed to be doomed to fail. 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. In the meeting with Hitler on November 5, Brauchitsch had attempted to talk Hitler into putting off "X-day" by saying that morale in the German Army was worse than what it was in 1918, a statement that enraged Hitler who harshly berated Brauchitsch for incompetence. 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
Oberkommando des Heeres
The Oberkommando des Heeres was Nazi Germany's High Command of the Army from 1936 to 1945. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht commanded OKH only in theory...

 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
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, 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
Zossen is a German town in the district of Teltow-Fläming in Brandenburg, south of Berlin, and next to the B96 highway. Zossen consists of several smaller municipalities, which were grouped together in 2003 to form the city.-Geography:...

 where "he arrived in such poor shape that at first he could only give a somewhat incoherent account of the proceedings." After that meeting, both Halder and Brauchitsch told Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was a monarchist conservative German politician, executive, economist, civil servant and opponent of the Nazi regime...

 that overthrowing Hitler was simply something that they could not do, and he should find other officers if he that was what he really wanted to. 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
Zossen is a German town in the district of Teltow-Fläming in Brandenburg, south of Berlin, and next to the B96 highway. Zossen consists of several smaller municipalities, which were grouped together in 2003 to form the city.-Geography:...

" — a threat that panicked Halder to such an extent that he forced the conspirators to abort their second planned coup attempt. Equally important, on November 7, 1939 following heavy snowstorms, Hitler put off "X-Day" until further notice, which removed the reason that had most motivated Brauchitsch and Halder to consider overthrowing Hitler.

Brauchitsch was promoted to Generalfeldmarshall in 1940 and was key in Hitler's "blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

" war against the West, making modifications to the original plan to overrun France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

. After France was conquered, Operation Sea Lion—the invasion of Britain—was planned. Had it succeeded, Hitler intended to place Brauchitsch in charge of the new conquest. 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
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

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". When Germany turned east and invaded the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 in 1941, the Army's failure to take Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 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
Brdy are hills in the Czech Republic, forming a long massif stretching for cca.60 km from Prague in the direction of southwest. The northern section of the Brdy is called "Hřebeny" and features one narrow ridge . The Brdy proper starts south of the Litavka river gorge and consists of several...

 mountains southwest of Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

. 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 crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s, but died in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 in 1948 before he could be prosecuted.

Brauchitsch was the uncle of Manfred von Brauchitsch
Manfred von Brauchitsch
Manfred Georg Rudolf von Brauchitsch was a German auto racing driver who drove for Mercedes-Benz in the famous "Silver Arrows" of Grand Prix motor racing in the 1930s....

, a 1930s Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz is a German manufacturer of automobiles, buses, coaches, and trucks. Mercedes-Benz is a division of its parent company, Daimler AG...

 "Silver Arrow" Grand Prix
Grand Prix motor racing
Grand Prix motor racing has its roots in organised automobile racing that began in France as far back as 1894. It quickly evolved from a simple road race from one town to the next, to endurance tests for car and driver...

 driver, and Hans Bernd
Hans Bernd von Haeften
Hans-Bernd August Gustav von Haeften was a German jurist and member of the German Resistance against Adolf Hitler....

 and Werner von Haeften
Werner von Haeften
- See also :* German Resistance* List of members of the July 20 plot...

, both members of the German resistance
German Resistance
The German resistance was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany to Adolf Hitler or the National Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime...

 against Hitler. Brauchitsch was a strong admirer of Feldmarshal Helmuth von Moltke
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke was a German Field Marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field...

 and used to linger in his former office that was made into a museum at a later date.

Dates of Rank

  • Leutnant - 22 March 1900
  • Oberleutnant
    Oberleutnant is a junior officer rank in the militaries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In the German Army, it dates from the early 19th century. Translated as "Senior Lieutenant", the rank is typically bestowed upon commissioned officers after five to six years of active duty...

    - 18 October 1909
  • Hauptmann
    Hauptmann is a German word usually translated as captain when it is used as an officer's rank in the German, Austrian and Swiss armies. While "haupt" in contemporary German means "main", it also has the dated meaning of "head", i.e...

    - 18 December 1913
  • Major
    Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

     - 15 July 1918
  • Oberstleutnant
    Oberstleutnant is a German Army and Air Force rank equal to Lieutenant Colonel, above Major, and below Oberst.There are two paygrade associated to the rank of Oberstleutnant...

    - 1 April 1925
  • Oberst
    Oberst is a military rank in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, equivalent to Colonel. It is currently used by both the ground and air forces of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. The Swedish rank överste is a direct translation, as are the Finnish rank eversti...

    - 1 April 1928
  • Generalmajor - 1 October 1931
  • Generalleutnant
    Lieutenant General
    Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

    - 1 October 1933
  • General der Artillerie - 20 April 1936
  • Generaloberst - 4 February 1938
  • Generalfeldmarschall - 19 July 1940
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