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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Walter Karl Ernst August von Reichenau

Walter Karl Ernst August von Reichenau

Career:

Branch: Kaiserliche Heer / Reichsheer / Heer
Born: 8 October 1884 in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
Died: 17 January 1942 in Poltava, Ukraine.

Ranks:
Generalfeldmarschall 19 July 1940
Generaloberst 1 October 1939
General der Artillerie 1 October 1936
Generalleutnant 1 October 1935
Generalmajor 1 February 1934
Oberst 1 February 1932
Oberstleutnant 1 April 1929
Major 1 July 1923
Hauptmann 28 November 1914
Oberleutnant 18 August 1912
Leutnant 18 August 1904
Fähnrich

Decorations:
Prussian Crown Order 4th Class
Iron Cross 1914
1st Class
2nd Class
Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords
Knight's Cross of the Friedrich Order
Hamburg Hanseatic Cross
Military Merit Cross 3rd Class with War Decoration
Clasp to the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 30 September 1939

Commands:
10. Armee
Takes command on 6 August 1939
Ends command on 10 October 1939

6. Armee
Takes command on 10 October 1939
Ends command on 29 December 1941

Personal Information:

Walter Karl Ernst August von Reichenau was born on 8 October 1884 and became a German Generalfeldmarschall during the Second World War. Walter von Reichenau was born in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany to a Prussian general and joined the Kaiserliche Heer in 1903. During the First World War Walter von Reichenau served on the Western Front. Walter von Reichenau was awarded the Iron Cross First Class, and by 1918 had been promoted to the rank of Hauptmann.

Walter von Reichenau stayed in the Reichswehr as a General Staff officer. By 1931 Walter von Reichenau was chief of staff to the Inspector of Signals at the Reichswehr Ministry, and he later served with General Werner von Blomberg in East Prussia. Walter von Reichenau uncle, an enthusiastic national socialist, acquainted him to Adolf Hitler in 1932 and Walter von Reichenau became a convert, joining the national socialist party soon after. In doing so was an offence of army regulations, which prohibited army members from joining political parties.

Walter von Reichenau's family was quite affluent, descended from a long line of German aristocracy. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the Walter von Reichenau family owned and controlled one of the biggest furniture factories in Germany. In 1938, records suggest, the Reichenau's gave the factory to the national socialist cause, transforming it into a armaments factory. During an Allied air raid in 1945, the armaments factory was destroyed. Walter von Reichenau family's wealth and prominence wiped out in the air raid.

Walter von Reichenau was wedded to Alix, daughter of Silesian Count Andreas von Maltzan. During the Second World War, Alix's sister Maria hid her Jewish lover Hans Hirschel from the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in her flat in Berlin, Germany. Walter von Reichenau acknowledged this, and visited them now and again. Maria also tried to conceal Jews and political dissidents, by helping them escape from Germany.

Once Adolf Hitler came to power in January 1933, Werner von Blomberg became Minister of War and Walter von Reichenau was appointed head of the Ministerial Office, performing as liaison officer between the Army and the national socialist party. Walter von Reichenau played a major role in swaying national socialist leaders such as Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler that the power of Ernst Röhm and the Sturmarbeiteilung must be destroyed if the Army was going to support the national socialists. This led directly to the Night of the Long Knives of 30 June 1934.

Walter von Reichenau was promoted in 1935 to Generalleutnant and was appointed commandant in Munich. Through 1938, after the Werner von Blomberg-Fritsch Affair in which General Werner von Fritsch was dismissed, Walter von Reichenau was Adolf Hitler first choice to succeed him, but older leaders such as Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt and Generaloberst Ludwig Beck refused to serve under him, and Adolf Hitler backed down. Walter von Reichenau was a passionate national socialist which repulsed many of the generals who would not oppose Adolf Hitler but who didn't care for the national socialist ideology.

During September 1939, Walter von Reichenau was commandant of the 10. Armee during the invasion of Poland. And in 1940 Walter von Reichenau was commandant of the 6. Armee during the invasion of Kingdom of Belgium and France, and in July, Adolf Hitler promoted him to Generalfeldmarschall.

In June 1941 the invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics began, Walter von Reichenau was again Commandant of the 6. Armee, which captured Kiev and Kharkov. During the offensive, Walter von Reichenau scrutinised every single Russian tank he came upon. Walter von Reichenau would get in every tank and, using a ruler, he would analyse the thickness of the armour. According to an account by general staff Paul Jordan, upon analysing a T-34 tank, Walter von Reichenau told his officers, If the Soviet Union ever manufacture the T-34 on an production line, we'll have lost the war.

Walter von Reichenau was an anti-Semite who compared Jewry with Bolshevism and the perceived Asian threat to Europe. The notorious October 1941 Reichenau Order.

All Jews were henceforth to be treated as de facto partisans, and commanders were directed that they be either summarily shot or handed over to the Einsatzgruppen execution squads of the SS-Totenkopfverbände as the situation dictated. Upon hearing of the Severity Order, Walter von Reichenau's superior Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt expressed complete agreement with it, and sent out a circular to all of the Army generals under his command urging them to send out their own versions of the Severity Order, which would impress upon the troops the need to exterminate Jews. Some historians such as Walter Görlitz have sought to defend Walter von Reichenau, summarising the above order as demanding that the troops keep their distance from the Russian civilian population.

Walter von Reichenau collaborated with SS Einsatzgruppen in eradicating the Jews in the occupied Russian territories. On 19 December 1941 Adolf Hitler dismissed Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch as Commander-in-Chief and tried to appoint Walter von Reichenau to the post. But again the senior Army leaders disapproved Walter von Reichenau as being too political and Adolf Hitler appointed himself instead.

During January 1942 Walter von Reichenau suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, and it was selected to fly him from Poltava to a hospital in Leipzig, Germany. Walter von Reichenau is often said to have been killed in a plane crash in Soviet Union, although Görlitz writes that the plane merely made an forced landing in a field, and that Walter von Reichenau in reality died of a heart attack. His death coincided in time with a propaganda action conducted by the Polish underground Operation Reichenau, whose goal was to disgrace Walter von Reichenau, in the eyes of the German leadership, as a individual who allegedly had been plotting to overthrow the national socialist regime, to sow distrust between the national socialist political leadership and its armed forces command, and penalise one of the German generals responsible for war crimes in Poland. These coincidence became a productive ground for conspiracy theories, which allege that Walter von Reichenau might really have been killed by the national socialist secret services.

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