General Field Marshal, Erwin von Witzleben, leading conspirator in the 20 July plot,


Erwin von Witzleben  was born in Breslau, on 4th December, 1881. He joined the German army in March 1901 as a second lieutenant in the 7th Grenadier Regiment.

On the outbreak of the First World War von Witzleben he was appointed Adjutant of the 19th Reserve Brigade. He served on the Western Front where he won the Iron Cross . In April 1917, Witzleben assumed command of a battalion in the 6th Infantry. The following year he became General Staff Officer to the 108th Infantry Division.

Von Witzleben remained in the army and in January 1921 was given command of the 8th Machine Gun Company. He was on the General Staff of the Wehrkries IV (1922-25), 12th Cavalry Regiment (1925-26) and Infantry Command III (1926-28). W became Chief of Staff of Wehrkries IV (1929-31) and commander of the 8th Infantry Regiment (1931-33).

In 1934 von Witzleben was promoted to Generalmajor and appointed commander of Wehrkries III, replacing General Werner von Fritsch who was named Commander in Chief of the Army.

An opponent of Adolf Hitler and his government in Nazi Germany, von Witzleben joined with Erich von Manstein, Wilhelm von Leeb and Gerd von Rundstedt to demand a military inquiry into the death of Kurt von Schleicher following the Night of the long Knives . However, the Defence Minister, Werner von Blomberg, refused to allow it to take place.

Von Witzleben was furious when his friend, General Werner von Fritsch, was dismissed as Commander in Chief of the Army on a trumped up charge of homosexuality. He was now a staunch anti-Nazi who began considering the possibility of a military coup against Hitler. The Gestapo  became aware of his criticisms of Hitler and in 1938 he was forced to take early retirement. Von Witzleben plotted with anti-Nazis such as Ludwif Beck, Franz Halder, Wilhelm Canaris, Hans Oster, Wolf-Heinrich Graf  von Helldorf, Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord and Erich Hoepnerr

   and they considered the possibility of a military coup. Hoepner was implicated in the failed 20 July Plot against Adolf Hitler and executed on 08-08-1944, age 57..

On the outbreak of the World War II von Witzleben was recalled to the Herman Army. In the invasion of France von Witzleben commanded the 1st Army. His troops broke through the Maginot Line  in June, 1940 and then occupied Alsace-Lorraine. As a result of this action von Witzleben was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal.

Von Witzleben remained in France and after the failure of the Operatoion Barbarossa

  he once again began plotting against Adolf Hitler. The Gestapo was informed that he was once again being critical of the government and in 1942 von Witzleben was called back to Germany and retired.

Von Witzleben spent the next two years at his country estate. He kept in touch with anti-Nazis and in 1944 became involved in the 20 July Plot. After Graf Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg  planted the bomb the conspirators thought that Hitler had been killed and von Witzleben was installed as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Erich Hoepner as Commander of the Home Army.

On 21st July, 1944, age 57, von Witzleben was arrested   and during his trial by jurist Roland Freisler  he was humiliated by being forced to appear in court without his belt and false teeth. Erwin von Witzleben was found guilty of treason and on 8th August, 1944 was executed by being hung by piano wire from a meat hook.




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