Walther von Brauchitsch

Walther von Brauchitsch

Infobox Military Person
name=Walther von Brauchitsch
lived=4 October 1881 – 18 October 1948
placeofbirth=Berlin, Germany
placeofdeath=Hamburg, Germany


caption="Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch"
nickname=
allegiance=flagicon|German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
flagicon|Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
flagicon|Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
serviceyears=
rank=Field Marshal
commands=
unit=
battles=World War I
World War II
awards=Order of Michael the Brave
Knight's Cross
laterwork=

Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch (4 October 1881 – 18 October 1948cite book|coauthors=I.C.B Dear, M.R.D. Foot|title=Oxford Companion to the Second World War|edition=paperback|publisher=Oxford University Press|date=2005|id=ISBN 0-1928-0666-1] cite web|title=Britannica entry on Von Brauchitsch|url=http://deskreference.britannica.com/ebc/article-9357957|accessdate=2007-01-07] ) was an aristocratic 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 convert|300000|acre|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 Schmidt, the beautiful young daughter of a Silesian judge, and ardent admirer of the Nazis. 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. 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 5th 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. [History Channel show "Hitler's Britain"] However, the Luftwaffe could not gain the requisite air superiority, and the plan was abandoned.

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 19 December. Brauchitsch spent the last three war years in the Tři Trubky hunting lodge in the Brdy mountains southwest of Prague.

After the war, Brauchitsch was arrested and charged with war crimes, but died in Hamburg in 1948 before he could be prosecuted.cite web|url=http://www.islandfarm.fsnet.co.uk/Generalfeldmarschall%20Walther%20von%20Brauchitsch.htm|title=Island farm site|accessdate=2007-01-06]

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.

References


*April 1, 1940, "Life"
*Citation
last =
first =
author-link =
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
title =Blitzkrieger
newspaper =Time
pages =
year =1939
date =September 25 1939
url =http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,761969-3,00.html


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