Heinrich Brauchitsch

Heinrich Brauchitsch : Nazi Germany

Heinrich Brauchitsch was born in Berlin, Germany, on 4th October, 1881. He joined the German Army in 1900 and by the end of the First World War had reached the rank of major.

Brauchitsch remained in the army and in 1925 took command of an artillery battalion. Promoted to General Major in 1930 he was Inspector of Artillery in 1932. The following year he was given command of the 1st Army Corps at Koenigsberg.

Brauchitsch resented the power of the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) and clashed with Erich Koch, the president of East Prussia. Adolf Hitler valued Brauchitsch and he went to Koenigsberg to sort the dispute out. Hitler continued to promote Brauchitsch and in 1937 became General of the Artillery.

In February, 1938, General Werner von Fitsch was forced to resign and Brauchitsch became Commander in Chief of the German Army. Much to the displeasure of many senior officers, Brauchitsch appeared to allow Adolf Hitler to take personal control of the army. Aware that Ludwig Beck and others were involved in a conspiracy to stop Hitler starting a world war, Brauchitsch did nothing to help.

After the invasion of France Brauchitsch was one of twelve new field marshals created by Hitler. However, his health declined when Operation Barbarossa failed to achieve the surrender of the Soviet Union and in December 1941 he asked Hitler to be relieved of his duties.

Brauchitsch was arrested after the Second World War and testified at the Nuremberg War Trials. Heinrich Brauchitsch died on 18th October, 1948, while in a British military while awaiting to be tried as a war criminal.

Primary Sources

(1) William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959)

As Fritsch's successor to command the Army, Hitler, after some hesitation, picked General Walther van Brauchitsch, who enjoyed a good reputation among the generals but who was to prove as weak and as compliant as Blomberg when it came to standing up to the mercurial temperament of Hitler. For a few

days during the crisis it appeared that a problem of sex would prove Brauchitsch's undoing as it had that of Blomberg and Fritsch. For this officer was on the point of getting a divorce, an action frowned upon by the military aristocracy. The ever curious Jodi noted the complication in his diary. On Sunday, January 30, he recorded that Keitel had called in Brauchitsch's son 'in order to send him to his mother (he is to get her assent

to the divorce),' and a couple of days later he reported a meeting of Brauchitsch and Keitel with Goering 'for a discussion of the family situation'. Goering, who seemed to have made himself an arbiter of the sex difficulties of the generals, promised to look into the matter. On the same day, Jodi further noted, 'the son of Brauchitsch returns with a very dignified letter from his mother'. The inference was that she would not stand in her husband's way. Nor would Goering and Hitler disapprove of a divorce, which the new commander of the Army actually

obtained a few months after assuming his new post. For both of them knew that Frau Charlotte Schmidt, the woman he wanted to marry, was, as Ulrich von Hassell said, 'a two hundred per cent rabid Nazi'. The marriage took place in the following autumn and was to prove, as Jodi might have noted again, another instance of the influence of a woman on history.

(2) Heinz Guderian was interviewed by Basil Liddell Hart about tank warfare for his book The Other Side of the Hill (1948)

In regard to armoured forces Field-Marshal von Brauchitsch already showed understanding before the war-from the time when he became commander of Army Group 4, in Leipzig, which embraced the motorized and mechanized forces of the army. He had his own ideas on mechanized operations and tactics-without, however,

making full use of these. He liked to drive his car himself, and thus did not reject motorization as a whole. On the contrary, Halder was an officer of routine, of the old school. He did the inevitable, but nothing more. He did

not like panzer divisions at all. In his mind the infantry played the leading role now and for ever.