Kluge, Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von, born 30-10-1882 in Posen, into a Prussian military family. His father was Oberleutnant Max Kluge. Max, a Generalmajor in 1913 and his sons were exalted to nobility and their name became, von Kluge. Günther von Kluge on 02-10-1907 married Mathilde Marie, born Briesen, from another old nobility family von Briest/von Briesens. The couple had one son Günther and two daughters, Ester and Marie Louise. Mathilde von Kluge died 05-09-1965 in Überlingen. From 1909 until 1912 Günther Kluge joined the Kriegsakademie, the War School
and in 1913 assigned in the Großen Generalstab, Staff of the High Command. He as a Hauptmann was on the battlefields, Verdun, of the first war with the 46th
Niedersächsischen Field Artillery Regiment. Von Kluge was allowed in the Reichswehr and in this inter-war period, he rose quickly through the ranks to Oberst in 1930, Generalmajor in 1933 and Generalleutnant the following year. After 1936, Kluge was given command of an army corps. His interest in mobile warfare soon won Hitler’s
(did you know
) esteem and assured Kluge’s continued ascendance. Kluge disliked Hitler’s gangster like Nazi entourage and was appalled at the persecution of the Jews. (see Simon Wiesenthal
and Settela Steinbach
the Sinti girl in the Westerbork train.
He was among those many officers of the General Staff who feared Hitler’s warmongering would lead Germany to disaster. But like others, Kluge soon succumbed to Hitler’s spell as the Teflon Fùhrer won one spectacular victory after another. When it came to Poland, Kluge had for years bitterly resented the Versailles Treaty’s compensation of West Prussia to Poland and believed Germany was entitled to reclaim its eastern territories. As commander of the Sixth Army Group
, which became the German Fourth Army
, Kluge led the Sixth into battle in Poland in 1939. Though he opposed the initial German plan to attack westwards into France, he led the Fourth Army in its attack through the Ardennes that culminated in the fall of France. Kluge was promoted to Field Marshal on 10-07-1940.
Kluge commanded the Fourth Army at the opening of Operation Barbarossa, where he developed a strained relationship with Heinz Wilhelm Guderian
over tactical issues in the advance, accusing Guderian of frequent disobedience of his orders. On June 29 von Kluge ordered that, ‘Women in uniform are to be shot.’ After Fedor von Bock
was relieved of his command of Army Group Center in late 1941, Kluge was promoted and led that army group until he was injured in October 1943. Kluge frequently rode in an airplane to inspect the divisions under his command and sometimes relieved his boredom during the flights by hunting foxes from the air, a decidedly non-traditional method. On 30-10-1942, Kluge was the beneficiary of an enormous bribe from Hitler who mailed a letter of good wishes together with a huge cheque made out to him from the German treasury and a promise that whatever improving his estate might cost could be billed out to the German treasury. Kluge took the money, but after receiving severe criticism from his Chief of Staff, Henning von Tresckow
who upbraided him for his corruption, he agreed to meet Carl Goedeler
in November 1942. Goedeler was beheaded age 60 in the Plötzensee prison on 02-02-1945
. Kluge promised Goerdeler that he would arrest Hitler the next time he came to the Eastern Front, but then receiving another “gift” from Hitler, changed his mind and decided to stay loyal. Hitler, who seems to have heard that Kluge was dissatisfied with his leadership regarded his “gifts” as entitling him to Kluge’s total loyalty. Kluge was awarded with the 181st
Oak Leaves on 18-01-1943 for his successful retreating battles. On 27-10-1943, Kluge was badly injured when his car overturned on the Minsk-Smolensk road. He was unable to return to duty until July 1944 and recovered on his estate in Böhne. He was temporary replaced by Generalfeldmarschall, Commander 16th
Army, Ernst Busch
After his recovery he became commander of the German forces in the West as he succeeded Generalfeldmarschall der Panzer, Gerd von Rundstedt’s.
He was awarded with the 181st
Oak Leaves on 18-01-1943 for his successful retreating battles. Kluge replaced Rundstedt, because Rundstedt was advocating negotiation with the Allies. Two weeks later, Generalfeldmarschall, Erwin Rommel
was wounded and Kluge took over as commander of Army Group B as well, where Von Kluge’s forces around the town of Falaise were encircled by combined U.S., Canadian, British, and Polish armies. In August, after the failed coup attempt by Oberst der Kavallerie, Graf Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg
, Kluge was recalled to Berlin and replaced by Generalfieldmarschall, Walter Model
Günther von Kluge’s nickname among the troops and his fellow officers was “der kluge Hans” “Clever Hans”. Hans was not part of his given name, but a nickname acquired early in his career in admiration of his cleverness, klug is German for “clever”. The recall to Berlin for a meeting with Hitler after the coup failed; thinking that Hitler would punish him as a conspirator, he committed suicide by taking cyanide near Metz that same day.
Death and burial ground of Kluge, Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von.
Von Kluge left Hitler a letter in which he advised Hitler to make peace and “put an end to a hopeless struggle when necessary…” Hitler reportedly handed the letter to Generaloberst der Wehrmacht, Chef der Wehrmacht
, Alfred Jodl
and commented that “There are strong reasons to suspect that had not Kluge committed suicide he would have been arrested anyway.” His close and also involved cousin Obersleutnant Ernst Rahtgens
was arrested in Belgrado in August 1944 and hanged in the Plötzensee prison, age 36, on 30-08-1944. Von Kluge was buried on the small cemetery of Böhne, on 01-09-1944,
with military honor and the complete local people von Böhne, in a field grave near an oak grove, next to the von Briest/von Briesen Mausoleum, as his wished. After the war the East Germans abandoned the mausoleum and gravestones of the whole cemetery and leveled it. Jan Heitman, historian of the “After the Battle” magazine, made local enquiries and finally found an old women who remembered the burial of the Generalfeldmarschall in 1944. She led Jan to another place outside the village, the site of the old village cemetery. Adjacent was an oak grove and she said that a mausoleum was once located there and that von Kluge’s grave lay just alongside, The only trace that Jan could find was some broken stonework. Meanwhile there is a stone placed on the spot of the old grave as Wolfgang Linke aus Frankfurt am Main reported me and sent me the pictures to prove.
Clever Hans remains are maybe forgotten in this small wood. Daniel Vlad from Romania reported that the wife of von Kluge, Mathilde, born Brieser, lived and died at the age of 80, in 1965, in the town of Überlingen, near the Bodensee. She is buried on the Stadtfriedhof of Überlingen and there is also a Remembrance stone for the General Field Marshal Günther von Kluge. He sent the photos below. On the same cemetery are also buried Hitler’s photographer, Walter Frentz
and the Generalmajor der Flieger, Commander of Command station of Luftwaffe Catch Staff West with Air Region Command VI
, Wolfgang Wieland.
Copyright After the Battle magazine.