Franz Halder

Franz Halder : Nazi Germany

Franz Halder was born in Germany in 1884. He joined the German Army and during the First World War he was a member of the staff of the Crown Prince of Bavaria.

In 1938 Halder replaced General Ludwig Beck as Chief of General Staff. Halder organized the offensive against Poland but warned Adolf Hitler against the Invasion of France. Halder also helped plan the eventually abandoned Operation Sealion and Operation Barbarossa.

After the resignation of Walter von Brauchitsch Halder took over as Commander in Chief of the German Army. He was replaced by General Kurt Zeitzler in September, 1942 after a disagreement with Adolf Hitler.

Halder was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 and accused of being involved in the July Plot. He was sent to Dachau Concentration Camp and was freed in 1945 by the USA Army.

In 1946 Halder gave evidence against leading members of the Nazi Party at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. His critics have pointed out that Halder's objections to Hitler were based on military differences rather than a rejection of Nazi philosophy. For example, he became involved in the July Plot because he believed that Hitler no longer had the ability to win the war. Franz Halder died in 1972.

Primary Sources

(1) Robert Boothby, Boothby: Recollections of a Rebel (1978)

It was Nicky Kaldor, now Lord Kaldor, who first told me about it the plot of the German generals in 1938. After the war he interrogated Halder, who was the Chief of the German General Staff in 1938. The plan was to arrest the Nazi leaders in Berlin, and proclaim a military government. All the leading German generals were in, or connived at, the plot: Brauchitsch, the Commander-in-Chief; von Rundstedt; Beck; Stulpnagel; Witzleben, Commander of the Berlin Garrison; and also Graf Helldorf, who was chief of the Berlin police. Nicky Kaldor gave me full details of the plot, which I passed on to Churchill who printed them in full, without acknowledgement, in The Gathering Storm. Halder said that he called off the plot at the eleventh hour when Chamberlain's flight to Berchtesgaden was announced. He decided that if Hitler could get away with this he could get away with anything. Of Munich he said: "Never in history has there been such a betrayal. A country, at least equal to ours, forced to give up the strongest defence line in Europe. How could I have foreseen it?" In his view Germany would have been defeated in three weeks in the event of war.

(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.

(3) General Franz Halder, German chief of staff, kept a diary during May, 1940.

18th May, 1940: Every hour is precious. F H.Q. sees it quite differently. Führer keeps worrying about south flank. He rages and screams that we are on the way to ruin the whole campaign. He won't have any part in continuing the operation in a westward direction, let alone to the south-west, and still clings to the plan for the north-westerly drive.

24th May, 1940: The left-wing, which consists of armoured and motorized forces and has no enemy in front of it, will be stopped dead in its tracks upon direct order from the Führer. The finishing off of the encircled enemy army is to be left to the Luftwaffe.

26th May, 1940: Brauchitsch is very nervy. I can sympathize with him, for these orders from the top make no sense. In one area they call for a head-on attack against a front retiring in orderly fashion, and elsewhere

they freeze the troops to the spot where the enemy rear could be cut into at any time. Von Rundstedt, too, cannot stand it, and has gone up forward to Hoth and Kleist to look over the land for the next armoured moves.

30th May, 1940: Bad weather has grounded the Luffwaffe and now we must stand by and watch countless thousands of the enemy getting away to England under our noses.

(4) General Franz Halder, diary (July, 1940)

13th July: The Führer is is greatly puzzled by Britain's persisting unwillingness to make peace. He sees the answer (as we do) in Britain's hope on Russia, and therefore counts on having to compel her by main force to agree to peace. Actually that is much against his grain. The reason is that a military defeat of Britain will bring about the disintegration of the British Empire. This would not be of any benefit to Germany. German blood would be shed to accomplish something that would benefit only Japan, the United States, and others.

14th July: The Führer confirms my impressions of yesterday. He would like an understanding with Great Britain. He knows that war with the British will be hard and bloody, and knows also that people everywhere today are averse to bloodshed.