Hitler and his Generals 2
In a previous chapter we
saw the relations
between Hitler and four
of his Generals : Arnim,
Beck, Blomberg and
Brauchitsch. In this
chapter we continue to
examine the relations
with four  other Generals
:  Dietrich, Fritsch,
Guderian and Halder
General of Panzer Troops
Hans Jurgen von Arnim
Colonel General
Ludwig  Beck
Josef  "Sepp"  Dietrich,  (picture left) was  born in
1892 in the
Allgaü. He went to primary school and
started an apprenticeship in the hotel business which he
concluded in Zurich. In 1911 he volunteered for the 4th
Bavarian field artillery regiment  (FAR)  and during WW1
he served with two different FARs before to join the 10th
infantry rifle unit and the 2nd assault battalion.

He joined the first German panzer  combat vehicles and
in March 1918 Sergeant Dietrich  drove the firts panzer
near St Quentin.  At the end of WW1, he had been
awarded the Iron Crosses 1st and 2nd Class,  The
Panzer Medal,  the Bavarian Cross for Distinguished
Service, the Austrian Medal for  Bravery and in 1921 the
Silesian Order of the Eagle. As troop leader he had been
involved in launching the totally new weapon called a

In 1919 he was discharged and joined the Freikorps !st
Defence Regiment in Munich and took part in the
overthrow of the Red régime in Bavaria.  Until 1926 he
was member of the Freikorps "Oberland". In May 1928,
he was accepted in the Schutzstaffel (SS) of the NSDAP,
membership #1177 and he was appointed by Hitler in
August Sturmbannführer of the SS.  He became Hitler's
confident and protégé and climbed the ladder of
success. In 1930 he was appointed Oberführer and
elected to the Reichstag.  

After 1933, he became  Hitlers constant associate and
by the end of the year was  commander of the Life Guard
SS (
Leibstandarte) Adolf Hitler and judge at the
Supreme & Disciplinary Court of Honour of the German
Labour Front. . He moved into a room of his own in the
Führer's suite at the Chancellery.  His Leibstandarte  
provided 8 members to shoot the SA leader Ernst Röhm
and some of his men during the Night of the Long
Knives in 1934. The day after he was promoted
Obergruppenführer of the Leibstandarte which marched
into Poland on the 1st September of 1939. After the
capture of  Warsaw Dietrich was awarded the bars to
both Iron Crosses. He was a cold-blooded  killer totally
devoted to his Führer.

During the campaign of France, the Leibstandarte
advanced towards Dunkirk, crossed the Oise and the
Aisne rivers, took Chateau-Thierry and reach St Etienne
in the South. In July 1940, Hitler personally pinned on
him the
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Dietrich then
entered into the legend. In 1941, he successful
triumphed over  the Greek  armies, obtained their total
capitulation and redeployed his troops in  Prague in
readiness for  
 operation Barbarossa.

As of June 1941, the "Sepp" Division as the
Leibstandarte was now known inside the 1st Panzer
Group  added tactical  prowesses to military successes,
attacked Rostov in temperatures  of -30C,  took
possession of it in November, but had to withdraw along
the river Mius where it stood ground during the winter
1941/42.  He was awarded the Oakleaf for the Knight's
Cross in December 1941. He was ruthless and gave
order to take no prisoners.

In 1942, his reorganized division received the order to
halt the attacking 6th Soviet Army but he could not
achieve total success and withdrew allowing his troops
to avoid total annihilation at least seven times.
Colonel General  
Heinz Guderian
In July 1943, Dietrich received  order to form the 1st
Panzer Corps Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and from June
1944 was engaged in  Normandy to fend off the  Allies'
invasion. He halted the advance of the British troops on
Caen and held the town for a long time.  In August,  he
received the
Diamonds to the Knight's Cross, he was
the 16th German soldier to be awarded it.

But his requests to Hitler for greater reinforcements
during the  Normandy battle were totally ignored  by Hitler.
As of November 1944,  he was in charge of a whole
panzer army - the 6th Panzer-  and was responsible to
lead the counter-attack in the Ardennes in December with
a force of 122,000 men of whom a third were soldiers of
the Waffen SS.  Unfortunately, he did not provide the
reserves asked for by the 5th Panzer Army and the
counter-attack was stopped in its track by the Americans.

Had he done so he would  have entered in the legend as
the victor of the Battle of the Bulge and might have
turned the tide of the war on the West.  After the failure of
the Bulge, he was sent to Hungary to smash the  
Russian advance, failed to do it, then went to Vienna with
the same  purpose but it was too late and Dietrich had to
fall back into Vienna. It was his last battle.

On 8 May 1945, the rest of the 6th SS Panzer Army laid
down their arms when Dietrich surrendered his army to
the American General Patton. He was taken POW ,
judged by a military tribunal in 1946 and sentenced to life
imprisonment on charges of "
offense against ethics of
r" for the alledged massacre of  US soldiers during
the Battle of the Bulge.  These charges were unfounded
but the Allies did not care about it and wanted an

In 1951, the sentence was commuted to 25 years in
prison and in 1955 he was released on parole.
But in 1957 a German Court sentenced  him to 18
months in prison for "being an accomplice to
manslaughter" in the execution of the SA leaders in 1934
although he had not been directly involved in the

When he was released in 1958, all his friends of the
former Waffen SS and also Army  officers converged on
Landsberg prison to  welcome him.  He died in 1966
from a heart attack, aged 74.  After his death, another
German military famous figure, Otto Skorzeny, compared
his Waffen SS to Napoleon's Imperial Guard.
General of Artillery
Alfred Jodl
Field Marshal
Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist
Field Marshal
Albert  Kesselring
Field Marshal
Erich  von Manstein
General of Panzer Troops
Hasso von Manteuffel
Field Marshal
Walter Model
Colonel General
Werner Freiherr
von Fritsch
Werner Freiherr von Fritsch,  was born a
Rhinelander in 1880, in a middle class family and had a
very isolated childhood.  He served in a Hessian
regiment and  entered the Kriegsakademie from 1907 to
1910 where he topped his class with the grades of 9 in
tactics and military history.  During WW1, he served as a
Staff officer but was wounded by a grenade in 1917. After
the war he served in several postings between
regimental duty and General Staff. He disliked the
Freikorps as a danger for the new Republic of  Weimar,
regarded Bolshevism as the chief danger and in 1924
was appointed Chief of Staff to the commander of the
First Military Division in East Prussia.

In 1926 he became head of the Operations Dpt of the
General Staff and in 1933 he was appointed to
command Wehrkreis III in Berlin.  He was a solitary man
although being able to be charming and stayed a
bachelor.  He was a perfectionist and felt more than
contempt for politicians and politics in the matter of
which   he was well aware of  his limitations. He was
then not likely to be a firm supporter of the Nazis and of
Adolf Hitler, seldom masking their contempt for them.

Hitler was intimidated by Fritsch and in his presence
seemed awkward and coy.  Both men used Blomberg
as  a go-between to sort things out although Fritsch was
always upset by the ease with which Blomberg allowed
himself to be overrun by Hitler.  When Beck became
Chief of the General Staff, the two men tried hard to
rebuild the Army on the old model, not as an arm of the
NSDAP.  But another group of high officers led by
Blomberg and Reichenau did not have such qualms
and this division split the Army and played into the
hands of the Führer :  the indoctrination of the Army was
a major concern for  Fritsch and Beck but there was little
they could do and step by step they gave up and the
Army became increasingly less able to control its own
future. The tension was so great on Fritsch that  his
health began to deteriorate in 1937.

After the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, a report titled
Blue Book of the Reichswehr  called for a change in
the government with Fritsch as vice-Chancellor but to no
avail. Himmler was convinced that Fritsch had planned a
putsch against the Nazis and that the date had been set
on 10 January 1935.  In the summer of this year the SS
and the Army had several clashes and  Fritsch did his
best to limit the growth of the Verfügungstruppe, the
forerunner of the Waffen SS.

But after the re-militarization of the Rhineland in 1936
that Fritsch opposed the prestige of  Hitler grew to such
a point that  Fritsch became almost a non-entity in the
Reich.  But when Hitler spoke of invading  Russia as of
1943 to give  
lebensraum to his people, Blomberg and
Fritsch did not oppose the move on moral grounds but
only on technicalities, giving Hitler the  impression that
he would get a free hand on those issues.

In early 1938, exhausted and weary of Hitler's  plans
towards the East,  he left for a two months trip to Egypt
and in his absence Himmler and Heydrich framed  him
with a fake charge of homosexuality.  On his return
Fritsch resigned but was cleared by the Special Court of
inquiry. He was not reinstated and Walter von
Brauchitsch got the job.  Fritsch went into a sad and
lonely retirement which was terminated by the war in
1939. Unfortunately he allegedly fell victim of a  Polish
sniper in front of Warsaw on 22 September 1939. He
was 59.  In his Diaries (1), Jewish-German author
Victor Klemperer reported that  rumors in Germany in
1939 had it  that  the lethal bullet was not Polish and the
sniper either.
Field Marshal
Fiedrich Paulus
Field Marshal
Erwin Rommel
Field Marshal
Gerd von Rundstedt
Lieutenant General
Dr Hans Speidel
Frido von Senger und Etterlin
Colonel General
Kurt Student
Field Marshal
Erwin von Witzleben
General of Artillery
Walter Warlimont
Heinz  Guderian  was a Prussian, born in 1888 at
Kulm on the Vistula, the son of a lieutenant in the élite
Jäger Battalion.  He  joined the Principal Cadet School
and in 1907 joined the unit commanded by his father, the
10th Hanoverian Jäger Battalion.  Before the Great War,
he was a qualified Signals Officer in charge of the
Wireless Detachment with 5th Cavalry Division.

He was involved in the 1st
Battle of  Ypres in 1914 and
saw how horrible was the fate of the infantry and the
prevailing conceptions of warfare. During the war he
attended many courses in Wireless Communications
and in 1918 Guderian was engaged in  logistic staff work
at Corps Level.  At the end of the  war he was upset by the
demoralization of the Army and the Bolshevik mobs taking
power in Bavaria and in Berlin. After the war, in 1919, he
was attached to a Freikorps acting on the Eastern border
but went into some insubordination against  General von
Seeckt himself and was posted to safety elsewhere. In
1922, he was charged to investigate motorization in the
Army forbidden (by the Treaty of Versailles)  tanks and
became an authority on the subject.  He developed a
philosophy of its own called "
Stosskraft"   (dynamic
punch) in which the dynamic punch of the future battles
would be given by the tank supported by airpower  and
coordinated by radio and not by the bayonet, the
machine-gun and the infantry.

His enthusiasm and energy worked miracles on the
horse-minded officers of the German Army while poor
General De Gaulle in France, in spite of the collaboration
of Marechal Petain  himself, could not convince anyone.
When Blomberg and Reichenau supported Hitler's rise to
power, he loyally followed these officers without being
himself particularly  pro-nazi or even pro-Hitler.  He was  
pro-Germany and ready to give his trust to the savior of  

However Hitler did not support very  much the panzer
approach as his strategy consisted of bluffing away
enemy nations  with arms of terror like the airforce that
could spread mayhem and havoc from the sky with little
losses. People like Göring took precedence  over
Guderian's ideas  while most Generals wished to create
formations not so dissimilar to those used in 1914-18
and which had lost the war. Hitler sided with those people
which says a lot about the would-be military genius of der
Führer. .

Guderian mounted a propaganda campaign to educate
the Army and even Germany to his views which  
culminated in 1937 with the publishing of
Achtung !
Panzer !   
But towards the end of the 30s, Guderian got
closer to Hitler whom he began to venerate.
Consequently  he rode to Hitler's side after the invasion of
 Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 when  he took
command of the 16th Corps with its panzer divisions
breeding the jealousy of more conservative  officers.  
Brauchitsch and Beck who vainly tried to promote  
Guderian in a position where he would have no power or

With the invasion of Poland in September 1939, Guderian
definitively proved the superiority of his strategy versus a
horse-ridden Polish Army that was not a match for
Guderian panzer light divisions. His triumph was
complete  and  the Führer was converted to panzer power
and radio-controlled units and bestowed on Guderian the
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.  A few days later, he
proposed to the OKW to pass the mass of fast divisions
through the Ardennes when Yellow Plan (invasion of
France) would  be launched.  In February 1940, he told
Hitler that after having passed the Meuse at Sedan with
his panzers he would try to corner the Allies into the
English Channel. .  
Field Marshal
Walter von Reichenau
Field Marshal
Gunther von Kluge
Enthusiastic crowds at the 6st
party congress in Nuremberg
rally in 1934. The rallies served
to demonstrate the might of the
German people. The visitors of
the rallies by their
own free will were subordinate
to the discipline and order in
which they should be reborn as a
new people.
Hitler acclaimed by the crowd
after his appointment as Reich
Chancellor in 1933
Winter burial, likely in the
severe winter of 1941/42.
21 gun salute during burial
ceremony. Approximatelty 3.2
million German soldiers were
killed in Russia
And it is what happened on the 14 May 1940 while the
French troops in disarray  began to flee and started  a
shameful retreat. When he tried to achieve his plan of
cornering the Allies at Dunkirk he was halted by the OKW
and Hitler, giving to the French and the British the time
they needed to evacuate the bulk of the BEF to England.  
Hitler would have beaten England if Guderian had got  his

Nevertheless he was promoted to Colonel General but  
expressed disgust at a war on two fronts when Hitler
decided to put into action operation Barbarossa.  He
worked his best to achieve some success in the
beginning of the campaign but disagreed with  Hitler over
the decision to direct the armies towards  Leningrad and
the Ukraine instead of rushing to Moscow. However he
did not dare to confront the Führer over this and fell in line
with the  OKW.  His Panzer Group plunged deeper into the
Ukraine and in September 1941 came too late the order
to seize Moscow.  On  6 October, his panzers were
stopped in their tracks by more powerful Soviet T-34 and
Guderian was suddenly on the defensive side and as  
winter closed in, on the withdrawal side despite Hitler's

By Christmas time he had suffered a mild heart attack
and  for the next fourteen months slowly recovered.  In
February 1943, he was recalled into service  as
Inspector-General of Armoured Troops with status of
Commander-in-Chief of an Army. In spite of huge
difficulties,  he achieved a great job and had good results
in the organization of the defense of the Army. In the end if  
step by step he grew disillusioned with Hitler, he refused
however to take part in the  conspiracy plot of July 1944.  
Hitler summoned him to Berlin to take over the post of
Chief Army Staff.  His relations with Hitler during the last  
months of the war deteriorated rapidly and  he is probably
the only General to have had furious rows with the Führer.

From February to March 1945,  he dominated the daily
Führer's conference by his brave resistance.  Hitler
respectd him and he got away with it. Eventually in March,
Hitler asked  Guderian to go on sick leave and to come
back in six weeks when he would need him.  Six weeks
later Hitler was dead and Guderian taken into custody by
the Americans. He was not charged with any war crimes,
published remarkable Memoirs   and died in his bed in
1954. A great soldier and an extraordinary man mourned,
like "Sepp"  Dietrich by thousands of his old comrades.
The grim reality of the Russian
front was soon enveloping  
Guderian's panzer divisions
Yet other fallen soldiers  to add
to the long list of those who died
on Russian soil
The morbid fascination with  
death was overwhelming on
the Russian front
Franz  Halder ,  born in 1884 at  Würzburg in a  Protestant family who served Bavarian  army for
over 300 years, son of a futur Major General, passed  his Abitur in 1902 and entered Theresien
Gymnasium  and the
3rd Royal Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment in Munich.. In 1904 on
completion of his course at the military school  he was  promoted   Lieutenant and until 1907
attended the artillery school in Munich.  At the beginning of  WW1 he was Ordnance Officer in the 3rd
Bavarian Army Corps and was employed  on different staffs including that of Crown Prince
Rupprecht's Army Group.  As   Guderian he convinced himself that war demanded  "movement".        

After WW1, he made himself known as an expert on training and manoeuvres  and  he   was
remarked by Hitler in 1937 for his direction of the Wehrmacht manoeuvres.   On February 1, 1938 he
was promoted to General der Artillerie.  Around this date Gen. Wilhelm Keitel was attempting to
reorganize the entire upper leadership of the German Army. Keitel had asked Halder to become
Chief of the General Staff (Oberquartiermeister of operations, training & supply; O.Qu.I ) and report
to Gen. Walther von Reichenau. However, Halder declined as he felt he could not work with
Reichenau very well, due to a personality dispute. As Keitel recognized Halder’s superior military
planning skills, Keitel met with Hitler and enticed him to appoint Gen. Walther von Brauchitsch as
commander-in-chief of the German Army. Halder then accepted becoming Chief of the General Staff
of the Army (
Oberkommando des Heeres) on September 1, 1938, and succeeded Gen. Ludwig
Beck. However Halder's antipathy towards Hitler whom he used to call "Emil" was ancient and
dated back to the 20s.

A week later, Halder presented plans to Hitler on how to invade Czechoslovakia with a pincer
movement by Gen. Gerd von Rundstedt and Gen. Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. Instead, Hitler violently
rejected the idea and directed that Reichenau should make the main thrust into Prague. Neither
plan was necessary once British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain brokered the "Munich
Agreement", by surrendering the Czech region of Sudetenland to Germany.

During November 1939, Halder conspired with Gen. Brauchitsch and Admiral Canaris that he
would support Brauchitsch if he were to try to curtail Hitler’s plans for further expansion of the war,
but Brauchitsch declined (Zossen Conspiracy). While Halder opposed Hitler’s expanded war plans,
he  believed that as he had taken a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler and  could not actively support
those who wanted to overthrow Hitler. After the successful campaign of France,  in July 19, 1940
Halder was promoted to Generaloberst (Colonel-General). In August, Halder began working on the
invasion plans into Russia. Shortly thereafter, to curtail Halder’s military-command power, Hitler
limited Halder’s involvement in the war by restricting him to developing battle plans for only the
Eastern Front.  In 1941, Gal Franz Halder, as chief-of-staff or the Army, drew up instructions for the
Barbarossa campaign demanding "iron severity" in dealing with a civilian population deluded by the
exponent of the Jewish-Bolshevik ideology."

During the summer of 1942 Halder told Hitler that he was underestimating the number of Russian
military units; Hitler argued that the Russians were nearly broken. Furthermore, Hitler did not like
Halder’s objecting to Hitler’s decision to send Gen. Manstein’s 11th Army to assist in the attack
against Leningrad, nor to Halder’s criticism that the German attack into the Caucasus was ill
advised : he once said that Hitler's chronic tendency  to underestimate the Russians was
grotesque and dangerous."  Finally, because of Halder’s disagreement with Hitler’s conduct of the
war, Hitler decided that Halder no longer possessed an aggressive war mentality, and therefore
retired Halder into the "Fuhrer Reserve" on September 24, 1942.

After the  20th July 1944 coup against Hitler,  Halder was arrested by the Gestapo, although he was
not involved in the assassination attempt. As Hitler viewed Halder as a possible leader to overthrow
the regime, Halder was imprisoned at both the Flossenbürg and the Dachau concentration camps.
On January 31, 1945 Halder was officially dismissed from the army. He was released from prison
on April 24. On May 4 he surrendered to U.S. troops in the Austrian Tyrol. Halder spent the next two
years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

During the 1950s, Halder worked as a war historian advisor to the U.S. Army Historical Division. He
subsequently received the highest U.S. civilian honor, the
Meritorious Civilian Service Award,
from President John F. Kennedy. He died in 1972 in Aschau im Chiemgau, Bavaria. Halder
Hitler as War Lord (1949) and The Halder Diaries (1976).

(1) "I will l bear witness 1933-1941" by
Victor Klemperer


Colonel General Franz  
Field Marshal
Werner von Blomberg
SS Colonel General
Josef  "Sepp"  Dietrich
General of Infantry
Karl Heinrich von Stulpnagel
Field Marshal
Walter von Brauchitsch
Colonel General
Werner Freiherr von Fritsch
Colonel General Franz  Halder
Field Marshall
Wilhelm Keitel
Colonel General  
Heinz Guderian
Two Russian KV2 52 ton heavy
tanks being inspected by
curious German troops