Rundstedt, Karl Rudolf Gerd von, born 12-12-1975 in Aschersleben, in the Province of Saxony, into an aristocratic Prussian family, joined the German Army in 1892, then entered Germany’s elite military academy. His father later said that he would have been a “lousy soldier”. On 22-01-1902 he married Luise “Bila” Agathe Marie, born von Götz, who died age 73, on 04-10-1952 in Hanover and had one son Leutnant Hans Gerd on 21-01-1903
. Hans Gerd was married with Editha “Ditha” von Oppens in September 1935 and they had five children, Barbara, 1936, Gerd, 1938, Eberhard, 1940, Editha 1942, and Paul 1945. Ditha von Oppens died age 47 in April 192 and Hans Gerd died of throat cancer 12-01-1948 in Hanover age 45 During World War I Gerd rose in rank until 1918 when he was a major and was Chief of Staff of his division. After the war, von Rundstedt rose steadily in the small 100.000 man Reichswehr and in 1932, was appointed commander of the 3rd Infantry Division . Later that year he threatened to resign when Franz “Fränzchen” von Papen declared martial law and ordered his troops to eject members of the Nazi Party from state government offices. In 1938 he was appointed commander of the 2nd Army that occupied the Sudetenland, but he retired after it was understood that Generaloberst der Infanterie, Werner Freiherr von Fritsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army (OKH), was framed by the Gestapo in the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair
. After the Affair, in which General Werner von Fritsch was forced out of the Army command, Walther von Reichnau
was Hitler’s first choice to succeed him, but older leaders such as von Rundstedt and Ludwig Beck refused to serve under Reichenau, and Hitler backed down. Upon his retirement he was given the honorary appointment of Colonel-in-Chief of the 18th Infantry Regiment; thereafter, von Rundstedt frequently wore an infantry colonel’s uniform and collar patches, with his Field Marshal’s shoulder insignia, until the end of his career.
On occasion, he was mistaken for a colonel, but he simply laughed at the notion. In September 1939 World War II began and von Rundstedt was recalled to active service to lead Army Group South during the successful invasion of Poland, with Generaloberst der Infanterie, commader of the Eleventh Army, Eugen von Schobert as leader of the VII Army Corps. Turning to the West, he supported Generalfeldmarschall der Infanterie, Erich Manstein
“armoured fist” approach to the invasion of France, and this was eventually selected as Fall Gelb. During the battle he was placed in command of seven Panzer divisions, three motorized infantry divisions, and 35 regular infantry divisions. By 14-05-1940, the armoured divisions led by Generaloberst der Panzertruppe, Heinz Wilhelm Guderian
had crossed the Meuse and had opened up a huge gap in the Allied front. General von Rundstedt had doubts about the survivability of these units without infantry support, and asked for a pause while the infantry caught up; the halt allowed the British to evacuate their forces to Dunkirk. Later Rundstedt forbade an attack on the Dunkirk beachhead, allowing the British to fully evacuate it.This turn of events has raised eyebrows over the years. Von Rundstedt and others subsequently argued that the decision was Hitler’s and stemmed from his belief that Britain would more readily accept a peace treaty if he magnanimously spared what remained of her expeditionary force. However, this was no more than a face-saving rationalization. Rundstedt had wanted to preserve his motorized units for the final push to the south to conclude the campaign against the French while Hermann Goering (did you know) (see Goering Peter) had convinced Adolf Hitler (did you know) the Luftwaffe could finish the job.
Von Rundstedt was promoted to Field Marshal on 19-07-1940 and took part in the planning of Operation Sealion. When the invasion was called off, von Rundstedt took control of occupation forces and was given responsibility to develop the coastal defenses in the Netherlands, (see About) Belgium and France. In June 1941, von Rundstedt took part in Operation Barbarossa as commander of Army Group South, where he led 52 infantry divisions and five Panzer divisions into the Soviet Union. His Chief of Staff was then Generalmajor Kurt Zeitzler. At first his progress was slow, but in September AG South captured Kiev in a double encirclement operation made possible by Josef Stalin unreasoning refusal to abandon the city, although the Dnieper had been crossed both north and south of it. The Germans claimed a fantastic haul of 665.000 Russian prisoners based on the encircled divisions’ nominal, pre-combat strength as revealed by captured Soviet records. The Soviets reported that owing to previous losses -also exaggerated by the Germans, yet not subtracted by them from their tally of Soviet prisoners – the encircled divisions possessed merely 452.000 men and that, of those, 150.541 escaped the pocket before the German infantry divisions caught up with the armour and the ring of encirclement was consolidated. Thus, according to the Soviets, “only” 300.000 men were permanently trapped, whether captured or killed. After this, von Rundstedt moved east to attack Kharkov and Rostov. He strongly opposed continuing the advance into the Soviet Union during the winter and advised Hitler to halt the offensive, but his views were rejected. In November, 1941 von Rundstedt had a heart attack, but he refused to be hospitalized and continued the advance, reaching Rostov on November 21. A counter-attack forced the Germans back. When von Rundstedt demanded to be allowed to withdraw, Hitler became furious and replaced him with General Walther von Reichenau. In mid-August 1944, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge committed suicide after being implicated in the July 20 Plot
and General Field Marshal der Panzertruppe, Walter Model, von Rundstedt called him the the “Little Marschal”, “Bubi Marschall, was given command of OB West; Model held the post for eighteen days before von Rundstedt was reappointed to command Germany’s forces in the west. He rallied them in time to fight off Operation Market Garden, with Model’s Army Group B at the center of the German defense. Model would be the only German Marshal to commit suicide. Although von Rundstedt was in command of the German forces on the Western front throughout Operation Wacht am Rhein, the Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Runstedt Offensive, he was opposed to that offensive from its inception, and essentially washed his hands of it. He was relieved of command for the last time in March 1945, after telling General Field Marshal der Artillerie, Wilhelm Keitel
once again that Hitler should make peace with the Allies, rather than continue to fight a hopeless war. Gerd von Rundstedt, together with his only son Lieutenant Hans Gerdt von Rundstedt were captured in Bad Tölz, by the US 36th Infantry Division, nickname “Arrowhead” under General, Alexander “Sandy” Patch on 01-05-1945.
German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (with his back to the camera) speaks to American prosecutor Robert Kempner left and interpreter Gerald Schwab during a pause at the IMT Nuremberg commission hearings investigating the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces, 19-06-1946. During his captivity, he was reportedly asked by Soviet interrogators which battle he regarded as most decisive. They expected him to say “Stalingrad”, but von Rundstedt replied “The Battle of Britain” organized by Bomber Harris. Annoyed, the Soviets “put away their notebooks and left. ” While being interrogated, he suffered another heart attack, and was taken to Britain, where he was held in a prisoner of war camp in Bridgend, South Wales and at Redgrave, Suffolk.
Death and burial ground of Rundstedt, Karl Rudolf Gerd von.
He was released in July 1948, and lived in Hannover with his wife Luise “Bila”. Rundstedt was now a free man after four years in custody, but it brought him little joy. He was 73, frail and in poor health. He had no home, no money and no income. In January 1952 Bila suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed, and Rundstedt himself could hardly walk. General Günther von Blumentritt who died age 75, on 12-10-1967, Munich and Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart
an English soldier, military historian and leading military theorist, who wrote his biography and died age 74, on 29-01-1970, raised money to provide nursing care for the invalid couple, whose main pleasure in life was by then visits from their grandchildren. Bila died on 04-10-1952, and after her death Rundstedt felt he had little left to live for, and declined rapidly, didn’t leave his house and bed anymore, he died of a heart attack, age 77, on 24-02-1953. Gerd von Rundstedt is buried, in full uniform, with his wife Luise “Bila” in Hannover, suburb Stöcken, Cemetery. The ceremony was attended by over 2.000 people, mainly Army veterans. His son Lieutenant Hans Gerd, who during the war was assigned to the Army High Command Histroical Section in Berlin, died young age 44 from throat cancer, on 12-01-1948.