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Walther von Brauchitsch

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Walther von Brauchitsch

Walther von Brauchitsch (October 4, 1881, Berlin - October 18, 1948, Hamburg) was commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht in the early years of World War II.

Brauchitsch was commissioned in the Prussian Guard in 1900. By World War I, he was an officer on the general staff. When Adolf Hitler came to power and began to expand the military, Brauchitsch was named chief of the East Prussian military district. In 1937, he became commander of the Fourth Army Group. Even though he was personally opposed to Nazism in many ways, he became largely reliant on Hitler, and was forced to borrow 80,000 Reichmarks from him in order to divorce and re-marry. He replaced General Werner von Fritsch as Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht after the latter's dismissal on charges of homosexuality in 1938.

Brauchitsch resented the growing power of the Schutz Staffel (SS), believing that they were attempting to replace the Wehrmacht as the official German Armed forces. He had disagreements with the President of Prussia, Erich Koch, and Adolf Hitler had to resolve the dispute between the two.

Like General Ludwig Beck, he opposed Hitler's invasion of Austria and Czechoslovakia, although he did not resist Hitler's plans for war and took no action when Beck asked him to persuade the whole General Staff to resign, if Hitler proceeded in his invasion of Czechoslovakia. Instead, he allowed Hitler proceed with his plans.

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 is his famous reply: "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 November 1939, prodded by Franz Halder and the conspirators, Brauchitsch sought an audience with Hitler to persuade him that Germany could never win a protracted general European war and to beseech him to abandon his plans for conquest. Hitler flew into a rage and submitted the Commander-in-Chief to a tirade of insults and abuse. Halder was horrified to see Brauchitsch emerge from the meeting "chalk white with fear." 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 Marshall in 1940 and was key in Hitler's "blitzkrieg" war against the West, making modifications to the original plan to overrun France. He failed, however, to take Moscow in the war against the Soviet Union that he and many German Generals believed would be a quick war, earning Hitler's emnity. Hitler relieved him on December 19, 1941.

After the war, he was arrested and tried at Nuremberg for war crimes, but died in 1948 before he was actually prosecuted.


 
German Field Marshals (Generalfeldmarschall) of World War II

Werner von Blomberg | Hermann Göring | Walther von Brauchitsch | Albert Kesselring | Wilhelm Keitel | Günther von Kluge | Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb | Fedor von Bock | Wilhelm List | Erwin von Witzleben | Walther von Reichenau | Erhard Milch | Hugo Sperrle | Gerd von Rundstedt | Erwin Rommel | Georg von Küchler | Erich von Manstein | Friedrich Paulus | Ewald von Kleist | Maximilian von Weichs | Ernst Busch | Wolfram von Richthofen | Walther Model | Ferdinand Schörner | Robert Ritter von Greim

Honorary: Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli

 
German Grand Admirals (Großadmiral) of World War II

Erich Raeder | Karl Dönitz

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