Hitler and his Generals 1
The history of the relations
between Hitler and his
Generals is a complex one but
in 1938 after the Munich
agreement  the Fuehrer had
achieved complete  
dominance over the German
After the Fall of France, Hitler
was so self-confident that he
prevailed upon his Generals
for the invasion of Russia in
1941 in spite of the gloomy
foreboding of his senior
soldiers, like Brauchitsch,
Halder and Rundstedt.
General of Panzer Troops
Hans Jurgen von Arnim
But after the stalemate of the 1941 campaign the relations
changed and bitterness succeeded to support except for
some lackeys  like Keitel, Warlimont and Jodl.  The failure
before Moscow in 1941 led to the destruction of the German
Army's independence  : Hitler sacked Brauchisch and
assumed the post of Commander-in-Chief. For an ex
Corporal, it was an incredible lack of realism and the evidence
of Hitler's megalomania and paranoia. Hitler thought he
possessed the qualities of intellect, tenacity and iron nerves to
a much higher degree than any of his Generals.

Henceforth the Fuehrer could not trust anyone one among his
Generals.  Thus Hitler took precedence over any field
decisions leaving no initiative to his Generals and by 1942 the
headquarters of the Wehrmacht were the siege of very violent
outbursts and arguments between  Hitler and his Generals.  

After the failure of  Stalingrad in 1943, which showed the
mediocrity of General Paulus, a middle-class pro-nazi and not
a Prussian Junker- a new phrase of  the relations
Hitler-Generals began  : one of Hitler's complete refusal to
face the realities of the defeat. Consequently   Hitler entered
into a vision of himself as a military genius betrayed by his
incompetent Generals.

After 1943, the incompetence of Hitler as Commander in Chief
is  blatant :  discarding the advices of his Generals who
pleaded  for a
global retreat from Africa and the Balkans, he
condemned himself to a mere  strategy of ad hoc patching of
unravelling situations.  

He  pinned all his hopes on the conviction that the alliance
between the Anglo-Saxons and the Soviets would peter out
and that he would not have any longer to fight on two fronts.
It was not a military strategy any more but a political gamble.
His Generals refused to follow him in this bet.

In the field, the Generals did their best to  save lost
campaigns : Manstein's achievements in Russia,  
Kesselring's prowesses in Italy represent good examples of
the genius of some of  Hitler's Generals while confronted to
the deliriums of a mad Commander in chief.

But no genius could save the country and in 1944 the
Generals broke down : the 20th  of July coup showed that the
Army had enough and that a lot of high ranking soldiers were
ready to risk their lives to get rid of the  tyrant.  It failed because
it was too late. Their upsurge of   late  political consciousness
intervened at a moment where the dice had been rolling for
too long :  their refuse to be moved earlier by a wider sense of
political and social responsibility   had a price. Some were
hung with  piano wires, others were shot, others sent to
Konzentration Lager.  

In 1923, the Army had given a hand to Adolf Hitler in his
abortive Coup in Munich ;  in 1934 it had sworn total
allegiance to the new Chancellor of the Reich ;  in 1938, it had
applauded to the  bluff about Czechoslovakia ;  in 1940,  it  
basked in its glory about the
campagne de France.

In 1944, it realized that the game should be stopped but  the
fate decided  otherwise and Hitler remained a vengeful
murderer convinced until  the end that some miracle would
permit him to win the war. He even deceived his Generals with
false reports to make them accept his own line.

But  who were Hitler's main Generals and what were their
particular relations with der Fuehrer ?  You will find below a
detailed  résumé of every one of them (in alphabetical order)  
along with a short presentation of their principal
achievements.According to Albert Speer,  Keitel, Jodl,
Warlimont, Dönitz were subservient Generals, Zeitler and
Guderian tired to contradict and had to go, Rommel, Model,
Kesselring always submitted in Hitler's presence and only
occasionally spoke their minds.
Field Marshal
Werner von Blomberg
Colonel General
Werner Freiherr von Fritsch
Colonel General  
Heinz Guderian
Colonel General Franz  Halder
General of Artillery
Alfred Jodl
Field Marshall
Wilhelm Keitel
Field Marshal
Albert  Kesselring
Hans Jurgen von Arnim,  (picture left) born in a
ancient Prussian house that had produced officers since
the XIVth century,  went to WW1 as Second Lieutenant  and
ended it as Captain decorated with the Hohenzollern
House Order and  the Iron Cross 1st Class.
After the war, he disapproved ot the Nazis but he had
sworn an oath of loyalty to the  Fuehrer and in 1938 he was
ousted of his command and sent to command a depot by
a higher ranking officer who did not want anti-nazis officers
in the Army.   The next year, he was ordered to assume
command of the 52nd  Division and promoted to
Generalleutnant  in December.
In 1940, he took command of the 17th Panzer Division.  In
1941, he was wounded on the Russian front and after his
recovery he distinguished himself when his  Division  
captured once 667,000 Russians, then 663,000 and again
33,000 in October of this year.  In 1942, he was given
command of the 39th Panzer Corps and fought extremely
well the Russians until  he was  promoted
Colonel-General and Commander of 5th Panzer Army in
November.  Summoned by Hitler to help Rommel in Africa
with a new 5th Panzer Army,  he won initially a series of
important local  victories but failed to coordinate his
activities  with Rommel whom he disliked. This failure
would play a major role in the defeat of the Axis forces in
North Africa even if Arnim's cause in Tunisia was doomed  
from the start.  If he conducted the last battles in Tunisia
with great skill,  he could not prevent the fall of the Afrika
Korps amidst a lack of the supplies promises by Hitler :  in
may 1943 his 5th Panzer Division surrendered and he was
taken POW. He was released in 1947 when he found his
land confiscated  by the  Communists. He was granted a
pension in 1949 and died a forgotten figure in 1962 in a
nursing home in Bad Widungen in 1962. aged 73.
General of Panzer
Hans Jurgen von
Field Marshal
Erich  von Manstein
General of Panzer Troops
Hasso von Manteuffel
Field Marshal
Walter Model
Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck was  born in an upper-class family near
Wiesbaden and entered the 15th Prussian Field Artillery
Regiment  in 1898.  During WW1, he was Staff Officer  and
achieved some spectacular responsibilities, notably the
planning of the withdrawal of ninety German divisions at
the end of the war.  Shy and withdrawn particularly after the
sudden death of  his wife in 1917, he was a sort of ascetic  
keeping his distances from the pleasures of life and
In 1929, he became Commander of the 5th Artillery
Regiment and had a brief flirt with the Nazis but soon he
recanted. In 1933, he published the
Die Truppenfuhrung  
which marked him as a military thinker and was appointed
as Deputy Chief of the General Staff by General
Hammerstein.  He was basically a conservative and no
match for the fast play of the Nazis who gradually
indoctrinated the Army, a policy that Beck opposed from the
beginning.  In 1938, appointed Chief of the General Staff
and convinced that  Hitler was geared to a war that
Germany once more would lose,    he criticized the
planned  annexation of Czechoslovakia and predicted that
France,  Russia and the Anglo-saxons would join forces
against Germany. He was wrong but only by a  year or two.
In August 1938, he resigned and Hitler accepted this act of
defiance.  He then went off to obscurity but played a major
role in the attempted coup of July 20th  1944.  Gravely
implicated, he choosed to commit suicide the very same
day at the age of 64.
Field Marshal
Fiedrich Paulus
Field Marshal
Erwin Rommel
Field Marshal
Gerd von Rundstedt
Werner von
Werner von Blomberg,  was educated in the Cadet
Corps like  his father and his famous uncle Herman von
Blomberg (1836-1924) who was not from noble descent
but claimed the
particule. In 1911, he joined the General
Staff on account of his outstanding intelligence. During
WW1, he made a career as such, stayed in the
Reichswehr of Weimar  in 1919 and served until 1929 as
Chief of the troop office, the disguised small General Staff.
Impressed by the new Red Army, he failed to notice the
purge of 1929-30 by Stalin of the  ancient Tsarist officers
who had sworn allegiance to the Red Flag.

He displayed
democratic tendencies which did not appeal  
to Schleicher, future Chancellor, who was a  monarchist
and he was sent to East Prussia as commander of the 1st
Infantry Division.   He lost his wife aged 43 only in 1932, a
severe blow. He was then sent to the League of Nations in
Geneva for the discussions about disarmament and in
1933 was called  back to Berlin as Defence Minister as
counter-weight to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Ernst Rohm,
leader of the SA.

Blomberg very quickly won Hitler's confidence and at the
request of Hitler  published an article in the
stating how party and army should constitute
the two pillars of the new 3rd Reich.  In 1934, he let the SS
massacre their rivals of the SA and did not comment on
blood purge  prefering to let the things come to rest on
their own for the benefit of the

In 1937, he represented the Reich for the coronation  of
King George VI in London and made the funeral speech for
Marshal Hindenburg's  burial in December of this year.  But
the widower fell in love with a woman of humble
background, a certain Margarethe Gruhn, laundress in new
Cologne and expert in "l' amour", and decided to marry her.
They were married in January 1938 but two weeks later the
vice squad revealed that Margarethe had previously been
charged of dealing with   pornographic pictures.  Overnight
Blomberg was persona non grata in the Hitler's Reich.
Arrested in 1945, he died in interment in 1946. His two
sons of his first marriage died on the battlefield.
Lieutenant General
Dr Hans Speidel
Colonel General
Kurt Student
Frido von Senger und Etterlin
General of Artillery
Walter Warlimont
Field Marshal
Erwin von Witzleben
Field Marshal
Walter von
Walter von Brauchitsch, was  born in Berlin into an
upper-class family of outstanding Prussian officers.  
Before 1914, he gained entry to the War Academy and
served on the General Staff. In WW1, he won the
Hohenzollern  House Order and the Iron Cross, 1st class,
as a Staff Officer.

After 1919, he continued to serve into the substitute of the
abolished General Staff, known as the
Truppenamt  and
until 1925  organized manoeuvres to test the joint
utilization of panzers divisions and aircraft.  He had some
admiration for Hitler but hated the NSDAP.  However he
had a reserved and sensitive personality and was not of
the kind to openly  oppose the Nazis or even to take
important decisions on his own.  Furthermore he was
indebted to the Fuehrer who financially helped him  out of
a first marriage and into a second one with a fanatical
Nazi woman who undermined his position by constantly
reminding him "
how much we owe to the Fuehrer."
In  1938, he accepted the post of Commander-in-Chief of
the Army -even before his predecessor General Fritsch
who was charged with homosexuality- was tried and
sentenced. He then became the hostage of Hitler.  After
Fritsch was found innocent,  he refused to confront Hitler
with the evidence of  the framing of Fritsch by the SS and
the Gestapo.

He feebly tried to oppose the  invasion of Czechoslovakia
but after its success he published a praise of  Hitler's
great gifts and urged  the officer corps to support the
National Socialist thought. He had the same ambivalent
attitude during the polish question but Hitler gave him a
free hand during the  blitzkrieg against Poland.  He did not
bulge when Hitler started deporting the Polish Jews and
just begged Hitler not to involve the Army into the
expulsion process.

Eventually Hitler nourished some contempt for
Brauchitsch  and referred to him as "
my coward #1"  and
to the "Spirit of  Zossen (the location of the OKH)(1) but it
is due to his lack of support that the onset on France
planned as "Fall Gelb (Yellow Plan) for September 1939
was postponed to a better date. Later he let down his
Chief of Staff, Halder, who was leading the conspiration
against Hitler and told him not to plan anymore the
removal of Adolf Hitler that would be useless."
Field Marshal
Walter von Reichenau
Field Marshal
Gunther von Kluge
General of Infantry
Karl Heinrich von Stulpnagel
He had the same attitude concerning the  invasion of  Denmark and Norway which led Hitler to
completely by-pass the OKH.  During the campaign of France,  Brauchitsch acted valiantly and was
even very supportive of the planned  invasion (coded Sealion)  of England or pleaded for a preemptive
attack (coded Barbarossa) on the  Soviet Union. But the preparation of the attack was ill organized
between the OKH (Army General Staff) and the OKW (Armed Forces General Staff) (2) and eventually
Hitler's  views overrode the conceptions of the OKH that advised for a frontal assault on Moscow. This
mistake cost  Germany the war.  Brauchitsch did not argue with Hitler about the Barbarossa's  
strategy nor  about its implications :  
legal mass murder of the Jews and the  Bolsheviks.  Still he
was optimistic about the result of the attack in June 1941. He knew about the extermination of the
Soviet Commissars and lied about it at Nuremberg.
In November 1941, he pleaded  Hitler to withdraw from Russia before the onset of the winter and
Hitler heaped on his head flows of insults. He suffered a heart attack some days later and was teh a
broken man. The OKH became little more than a post-box. In December 1941, Hitler relieved him of
his duties and assumed himself the job of Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
In his diary, Goebbels compared Brauchitsch to a "
vain, cowardly wretch".  In July 1944, he
condemned the attempted coup against Hitler, in 1946 he testified at Nuremberg and perjured
himself. He waas then sent to a POW camp to be  judged by a British Tribunal but he died before his
trial in 1948.
He can be remembered as a man who failed to preserve  the independence of the Army and the
integrity of the OKH against the encroachments of Hitler and the OKW.  This failure had the most
dramatic consequences for himself, the German army and the war in general.

(1) OberKommando des Heeres
(2) OberKommando der Wehrmach
Continued on page  Hitler and his Generals 2
Colonel General
Ludwig  Beck
Field Marshal
Walter von Brauchitsch
SS Colonel General
Josef  "Sepp"  Dietrich
Field Marshal
Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist
All writing   on this site is Copyright MC  2003-2100 unless indicated otherwise. All rights reserved. Questions to All Experts
First and before all, for those who want to witness a
bit of  war propaganda to the glory of the German
navy made in 1940, please
click here and
understand why the German Generals were so proud
at this time to  fight for their beloved Führer.