Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch. ( 1881-1948 )
Walter von Brauchitsch was born in the German capital of Berlin on the 4th. of October 1881, the son of a Prussian Cavalry General, from that background presumably he was predestined for an Army career. In his youth he became a member of the Corps of Pages, and did serve as personal page to the Empress Augusta Victoria.
Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.At 18, on the 22nd. of March 1900 Walter was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the top flight 3rd. Foot Guards Regiment, but the next year found him transferred to the 3rd. Guards Field Artillery Regiment.
For the rest of his Army career he was to be associated with the artillery branch. He played a big role in the development of the 88mm gun, used both as an anti tank and anti aircraft gun, this gun went on to be mounted on the Tiger and Panther class tank, and was considered by many who came up against this weapon, to be the finest tank gun in WW2.
Promotion and Marriage.
After a spell at the War Academy he graduated in 1912 and became a General Staff Officer, and a Captain in 1913.
As Hitler became German Chancellor, von Brauchitsch took up a new position at Koenigsberg, Commander of Wehrkreis 1.
He had advanced in regular steps up the Army ladder, 1925, Lieutenant Colonel, 1928, Colonel, 1930, Major General, and to Lieutenant General in 1933.
But all was not well with our Lieutenant General, why? basically because of two women in his life.
Charlotte went on to marry a bank director named Schmidt, but he had drowned in his bath during a visit to Berlin, so when Walter returned from East Prussia in 1937, the pair resumed their affair.
By 1938 the general was again pestering his wife for a divorce, but she demanded a large lump sum cash settlement to give him his freedom. A divorce was bad enough in the the Prussian Officer Corps, without a cash inducement, his wife threatened to contest the annulment, disaster threatened.
A new Minister of War required.
The C-in-C of the Army, Colonel General Baron Werner Thomas Ludwig Fritsch was touted as a likely candidate, but he was a known anti Nazi, and disliked by Hitler. Goering also had his eye on this plum job, but needed to shunt Fritsch, so teaming up with Himmler, and the head of the Security Service Reinhard Heydrich, they conspired to frame Fritsch on homosexual activity charges.
He denied the false charges to Hitler, but a former ex convict testified that Fritsch had paid him blackmail money to keep quiet about it all, Himmler produced Schmidt who identified Fritsch as the man he had caught in a homosexual act. The C-inC was relieved of his command and sent on indefinite leave, another troublesome officer out of the way.
Hitler becomes Minister of War.
Goering steps in.
Brauchitsch sells out to Hitler.
It was Telford Taylor who summed it all up well: " To achieve his new position, Brauchitsch stooped to the meanest concessions and put himself under permament obligation to Goering, and Keitel, as well as Hitler. For his dismal surrender of principle, for position, the Officer Corps paid soon and dear."
Austria and Czechoslovakia fall to Germany.
Brauchitsch was against an invasion of Czech teritory, afraid of her Allies, Britain, and France, and their might, Generals Beck and Halder wanted their boss to front Hitler and forcibly put the Army view that it was strongly against Hitler and his plan.
Given the way the C-in-C gained his job and the ability to divorce his wife etc he was never going to face Hitler and argue the Army line. Beck began to work against Hitler but Brauchitsch warned him about Beck and his memorandum which he showed to Hitler.
Beck was getting nowhere in his campaign, and being told that Hitler demanded obedience from all his commanding generals, wrote out his resignation which was gratefully accepted, another troublesome general out of the way.
Divorce and Marriage.
His country no longer existed.
Once again Hitler achieved his ends by bluff, politics and diplomacy, he obviously now considered himself invincible and virtually unstoppable. Poland beckoned.
Invasion of Poland.
The Army C-in-C had 1,516,000 men under his control with Army Group North commanded by Field Martial Bock, and Rundstedt leading Army Group South. It was all over in 36 days with 694,000 Poles taken prisoner. It was the only campaign that Hitler gave his Army Commander a free hand, and did not interfere.
German Eyes Turn to the West.
It was a spectacular victory, and by the 21st. of June 1940, France had capitulated, Hiter's forces stood on the Channel in the West, and on Russia's border in the East, and the Fuhrer was at the peak of his militay success. But he was about to make a big mistake by planning and executing an invasion of the land of the Bear, Russia.
Not once did Brauchitsch query Hitler on the need or advisability of attacking Russia, or warn him of the danger of operating on two fronts, a task any prudent C-in-C would be expected to undertake.
22nd. of June 1941.
On the 10th. of November, Brauchitsch had a heart attack, and was informed he had a maligent cardiac disease, most likely incurable, but he went back to work, his aim to take Moscow.
Poised on the outskirts of Moscow, the Russian winter and Stalin's counter attack stopped the German Army in its tracks.
Fed up with constant arguments with Hitler, Brauchitsch wrote out his resignation on the 6th. of December, but the Fuhrer thought it not a good time to change Commanders.
On the 16th. of December, Hitler was informed that notwithstanding his orders that the German Army stand fast, his C-in-C had secretly discussed a limited withdrawal plan. Hitler cancelled these plans, he was finally fed up with Brauchitsch, and on the 19th. of December dismissed him, making him the scapegoat for his failure to capture Moscow, and assumed command of the Army himself.
His general health was poor, he was almost blind, spent time imprisoned at Nuremberg and then Hamburg, due to go on trial as a war criminal in front of a British Military Court in 1949, heart failure took his life on the 18th. of October 1948.
Despite conducting a brilliant campaign in Poland, he never stood up to Hitler, and failed to take Moscow, and was accordingly made the scapegoat. Dismissed as C-in-C, he died as a rather tragic POW.