Rudolph von Gersdorff, born 27-03-1905 Lüben, Silesia
as the second son of Baron Ernst von Gersdorff,
died 1926, and Countess Christine “Tina” von Dohna-Schlodien
, she died in 1944.
His father was during the first war the commander of the 6th
Reserve Infantry Regiment
. The von Gersdorff family lost thirteen members in the first war and another twenty in World War II. Rudolph joined the Reichswehr
as an officer cadet on 01-04-1923, age 18, with the 7th
Prussian Cavalry Regiment and in 1926 von Gersdorff was promoted to second leutnant, in 1938 to Rittmeister, cavalry Hauptmann. The following year he graduated from the Prussian Military Academy in Berlin.
He came to the Life Guard Cuirassiers squadron
in Breslau, where his father started his career. The commander was the then Oberstleutnant der Infanterie, Kommandeur 7th
Armeekorps, Hans von Felber
and the first squadron’s first lieutenant was Kommandant von Fort Cherbourg, Karl Wilhelm von Schlieben
, later Generalmajor der Infanterie,
Field Marshal von Mackensen’s 90th birthday Field Marshal von Mackensen celebrated his 90th birthday on December 6th on his estate in Brüssow. From right to left: Field Marshal von Mackensen, his Oberstleutnant Rudolph von Gersdorff, Ambassador von Mackensen, the marshal’s son, Frau von Mackensen and Generaloberst Walther von Brauchitsch, who brought the army congratulations to the jubilee.
In 1937 there came a turning point in his life . On the occasion of a formal dinner at the home of his uncle General der Panzertruppe, Kommandierend des XLVI. Panzerkorps, Baron Smilo Walther von Lüttwitz,
his wife was escorted into the dining room by the chief of staff of the VIII Army Corps under Generalfeldmarschal, Paul “Ewald” von Kleist.
Kleist died in Russian prison age 73, on 13-11-1954
, then Oberst in the General Staff, under General der Artillerie, Kommandeur LXXXIV Heeres Gruppe, Erich Marcks
He asked her whether she wouldn’t rather live in Berlin than in Brieg. When she innocently answered yes, he remarked that he had become irritated by my nonchalant attitude about taking the Wehrkreis-level examination for the Kriegsakademie. Therfore he would take pains to see that I attended the General Staff course at the Kriegsakademie. In 1939 von Gersdorff’s unit was deployed in the Wehrmacht’s invasion of Poland and he was subsequently in action as a General Staff officer in the Battle of France. In 1941, for Operation Barbarossa, he was transferred to Army Group Center, where he served as intelligence liaison with the Abwehr. His cousin Fabian von Schlabrendorff
had arranged this as a means to bring von Gersdorff into the resistance group active under Colonel Henning von Tresckow
Von Gersdorff declared himself ready to give his life for Germany’s sake in an assassination attempt that would entail his own death. He and von Treschkow tried to persuade Generalfeldmarschal, Heeresgruppe Mitten, Operatie Barbarossa, Fedor von Bock
in their assassination plans, but von Bock didn’t have the courage he said. On 21-03-1943, Hitler
(did you know)
visited the Zeughaus Berlin, the old armory on Unter den Linden,
to inspect captured Soviet weapons. A group of top Nazi and leading military officials, among them Martin Bormann
, Hermann Goering (see Goering Peter
) (did you know
), Heinrich “Reichsheini” Himmler
Field Marshall, Wilhelm Keitel
and Grand Admiral, Karl Dönitz
were present as well. As an expert, von Gersdorff was to guide Hitler on a tour of the exhibition.
Moments after Hitler entered the museum, von Gersdorff set off two ten-minute delayed fuses on explosive devices hidden in his coat pockets. His plan was to throw himself around Hitler in a death embrace that would blow them both up. A detailed plan for a coup d’état had been worked out and was ready to go, but, contrary to expectations, Hitler raced through the museum in less than ten minutes. After he had left the building, von Gersdorff was able to defuse the devices in a public bathroom “at the last second.” After the attempt, von Gersdorff was immediately transferred back to the Eastern Front where he managed to evade suspicion. In April 1943, while he was an Army Group Center intelligence staff officer, von Gersdorff by coincidence discovered the mass graves of the Katyn massacre,
which contained the remains of over 4.000 Polish officers shot by Soviet troops in 1940. He was commander of the 7th
, which was activated in Stuttgart on 25-08-1939 with SS Obergrupppenführer, Friedrich Dollmann
in command. At the outbreak of the war, the 7th
Army defended the German border and manned the Westwall in the Upper Rhine region.
Army Group C. On 14-06-1940, Army Group C attacked the Maginot Line after it had been cut off by armored units of the XXXXI Panzer Corps. Lead elements of the 7th
Army reached the area in front of Colmar and later pursued parts of the French 2nd
Army Group into Lorraine. At the conclusion of the campaign, the 7th
Army was in eastern France. From July 1940 until April 1941, the 7th
Army guarded a region of the coast in southwestern France. From 18 April 1941, the 7th
Army was responsible for coastal defense in Brittany and Normandy. By mid-1944, the 7th
Army was part of Feldmarschal, Erwin Rommel
Army Group B at the Atlantic Wall. Later that year he was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross
for his planning of the escape of the main German force from the Falaise pocket. Prior to the 20 July plot, Gersdorff also had hidden the explosives and fuses that another conspirator, Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven
, managed to procure from the Abwehr’s cache of captured British weapons and which Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
was to use in his attempt to kill Hitler. Thanks to the silence of his imprisoned and tortured co-conspirators, Gersdorff was able to escape arrest and certain execution. As a result, he was one of the few German military anti-Hitler plotters to survive the war, others included Axel Freiherr von dem Bussche-Streithorst
and Eberhard von Breitenbuch
. Freiherr von der Bussche died age 73 on 26-01-1993 in Bonn and Eberhard von Breitenbuch survived the war too and died age 70 on 21-09-1980 in Göttingen. Loringhoven committed suicide at Mauerwald in East Prussia, on 26-07-1944, age 43. After his death, Loringhoven’s wife was imprisoned along with relatives of the other members of the plot. Loringhoven’s four sons were separated from their mother. All were eventually liberated by Allied forces. A close cousin, Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven,
was not implicated only due to the intervention of General Heinz Guderian.
His cousin was an occupant of the Führerbunker in Berlin towards the end of World War II. Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven escaped Berlin, was captured by the British, and survived the war.
In 1945 von Gersdorff was promoted to Generalmajor, and was later captured by the Americans, he was released in 1947. After the war, Von Gersdorff tried to join the Bundeswehr, the armed forces of postwar West Germany. Despite his distinguished record and decorations, his attempts were opposed by Hans Globke,
Death and burial ground of Gersdorff, Rudolph Christoph Freiherr von.
A riding accident in 1967 left Von Gersdorff paraplegic for the last twelve years of his life, during which he wrote and published his military memoirs. He died in Munich, Bavaria, on 26-01-1980, at the age of 74 and is buried with his second wife Irmgard, born Löwe, who died age 86 on 02-09-1996, on the Ostfriedhof on Munich. Close by the graves of of Hitler’s WWI sergeant Max Amann
, Nazi doctor, Karl Gebhardt
, SS Gruppenführer, he stayed in the Führerbunker till the end
, Johan “Hans” Rattenhuber
Nazi Banker, Hjalmar Schacht
, Hitler’s adjutant SS Obergruppenfüher, Julius Schaub