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Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross Iron Cross
Iron Cross
1st Class Iron Cross
Iron Cross
2nd Class

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Walter Karl Ernst August von Reichenau (8 October 1884 – 17 January 1942) was a field marshal in the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
during World War II. A professional soldier and veteran of World War I
World War I
and the Reichswehr, he was one of twelve officers promoted at the 1940 Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Ceremony, and the most junior. Although regarded by contemporaries and historians as one of Germany's most competent military officers, it was his early political affiliation with the Nazi political apparatus which was key to his rapid rise, something resented by many older and more senior officers in the Army. This resentment was a factor in his twice being denied promotion to head the Army, despite Hitler's support. An avid sportsman and athlete he was a member of the International Olympic Committee. He is widely cited for his support of genocidal policies on the Eastern front and for his Severity Order, which he issued while in command of the German 6th Army.

Contents

1 Early life and service

1.1 Interwar period

2 World War II 3 Nazi political activities and war crimes 4 References

4.1 Citations 4.2 Bibliography

5 External links

Early life and service[edit] The son of a Prussian General, Richenau was born in 1884, in Karlsruhe. He joined the Prussian Army as an artillery officer cadet in 1903. He married into the Silesian aristocracy and then attended the Prussian War Academy, going on to serve as a staff officer to Max Hoffmann in the First World War. Reichenau's early years are described in conflicting terms, as both progressively minded but also brutal, with a history of executing soldiers who were AWOL, even in times of peace. Greatly unconventional, he was an avid outdoors man, spoke English at home and, in contrast to his latter activities in Russia, insisted on supporting World War I
World War I
Jewish veterans' events in full military uniform, even after Hitler came to power. [1] Interwar period[edit] After the war, he joined the Grenzschutz Ost Freikorps. In 1919 Reichenau joined in the newly established Reichswehr
Reichswehr
of the Weimar Republic. The officer corps of the new armed forces' was limited to 4,000, and there was to be no German General Staff. Reichenau took a post in the Truppenamt, which was the "underground" equivalent of the General Staff formed by Hans von Seeckt. He was latter introduced to Hitler by his uncle, a diplomat. From 1931 Reichenau was appointed Chief of Staff to the Inspector of Signals at the Ministry of the Reichswehr. Extremely ambitious, he saw the Nazi Party
Nazi Party
as a revolutionary vessel in which he could propel his career and so broke with the pro-Monarchist politics of the Prussian military caste and became a devoted Nazi.[2]

Reichenau in 1933

As an outspoken ally and advocate of Hitler and the Nazi Party, Reichenau soon ran afoul of cabinet member and eventual Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, who used his authority to have him transferred out of his prestigious posting in Berlin
Berlin
to the headquarters of the military district of East Prussia, a relative backwater. In Prussia Reichenau served under General Werner von Blomberg, a fellow exile of Schleicher's. Reichenau and Blomberg became political allies within the army and it was Reichenau who introduced Blomberg to Hitler. Blomberg, who had a reputation of being manipulated by Reichenau, was captivated by Hitler and both men soon used their connections with the Nazi party to advance. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, Blomberg became Minister of War. One of his first acts was to promote Reichenau to head the powerful Ministerial Office, acting as liaison officer between the Army and the Nazi Party. He played a leading role in persuading Nazi leaders such as Göring and Himmler that the power of Ernst Röhm
Ernst Röhm
and the SA must be broken if the army was to support the Nazi-led government. This led directly to the "Night of the Long Knives" of 30 June 1934. In 1935 Reichenau was promoted to lieutenant general (Generalleutnant) and was also appointed to command the military forces in Munich. Reichenau was one of Hitler's favorite Generals and his first choice for commander-in-chief of the Heer in 1934, but internal army politics resulted in General Werner von Fritsch
Werner von Fritsch
getting the post.[3] Reflecting Reichenau's preference for assignments of political matter, Blomberg sent Reichenau to China in May 1934 to support General Alexander von Falkenhausen's existing military assistance mission. Konstantin von Neurath, the Foreign Minister, and German ambassador to Japan Herbert von Dirksen, raised objections to Reichenau's posting, fearing that the assignment of an officer of his stature could imperil Germany's relationship with Japan. In 1938, after the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, in which Fritsch was forced out of the Army command, Reichenau was again Hitler's first choice for head of the Heer, but older leaders such as Gerd von Rundstedt and Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck
refused to serve under Reichenau, and Hitler again backed down.[4] World War II[edit] In September 1939, Reichenau commanded the 10th Army during the German invasion of Poland and was the first German to cross the Vistula river, which he swam across.[4] After the campaign he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
for his role as commander of the 10th Army.[5]. In 1940 he led the 6th Army during the invasion of Belgium and France and later that year Hitler promoted him to field marshal during the 1940 Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Ceremony. During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, as commander of the 6th Army, he led his army into the heart of Russia during the summer of 1941. The 6th Army was a part of Army Group South, and captured Kiev, Belgorod, Kharkov and Kursk. During its offensive into the Soviet Union, the German army was confronted with a number of superior tank designs. Reichenau inspected the Soviet tanks he came across, entering each tank and measuring its armour plate. According to general staff officer Paul Jordan, after examining a T-34, Reichenau told his officers "If the Russians ever produce it on an assembly line we will have lost the war."[6] In November 1941 Hitler relieved Field Marshal
Field Marshal
von Rundstedt from his command of Army Group South
Army Group South
and promoted Reichenau to take his place. At his personal recommendation to Hitler, Friedrich Paulus, a mentee of Reichenau's and former member of his command staff, was promoted to take over his command of the 6th Army.[7] Reichenau was a habitual cross-country runner and suffered a stroke after a routine run in cold weather on 14 January 1942.[8] He then sustained severe head injuries when the flight carrying him back to Leipzig for medical attention crashed on landing in Lemberg. Whether he died from his stroke or from injuries sustained in the crash is unknown.[9] He was replaced at Army Group South by Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
and given a state funeral.[10][11] Nazi political activities and war crimes[edit]

Hitler and Reichenau in September 1941

Reichenau's uncle was an ardent Nazi and introduced him to Adolf Hitler in April 1932. Reichenau joined the Nazi Party, although doing so was a violation of the army regulations laid down by Seeckt to insulate the army from national politics.[12] Reichenau was an anti-Semite who equated Jewry
Jewry
with Bolshevism
Bolshevism
and a perceived Asian threat to Europe. Having died in 1942, Reichenau was never convicted of war crimes, but he was part of the German General Staff
German General Staff
and High Command of the Armed Forces collectively indicted at Nuremberg.[13] Specifically cited in the indictment was his "Reichenau Order", commonly known as the Severity Order of October 1941, which supported Nazi genocidal policies:[14] The only objection Reichnenau raised to the activities of the Einsatzgruppen in his sector was when they were killing so many Jews, so quickly, that they began to create ammunition shortages in his sector of operations, an issue he addressed by recommending that the SS and SD limit themselves to two bullets per Jew.[9] Reichenau was in charge of the area of operations in which SS, Einsatzgruppen, and Ukrainian auxiliaries committed the massacre of over 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar. Later that year in August, Reichenau also directly acted to ensure the execution of ninety Jewish children in the 1941 Bila Tserkva massacre, after Helmuth Groscurth
Helmuth Groscurth
petitioned him to avert the killings.[15]

References[edit] Citations[edit]

^ MitchamRise 2008, p. 23. ^ MitchamRise 2008, p. 24. ^ Weinberg 2010, pp. 323-324. ^ a b MitchamRise 2008, p. 183. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 352. ^ Knopp 1998. ^ Mitcham 2012, pp. 71-74. ^ Glantz & House 2009, p. 192. ^ a b Mitcham 2012, p. 74. ^ Mitcham 2012, p. 39. ^ Adam 2015. ^ Hart 1948, p. 13. ^ Nuremberg 1946. ^ Stein 1941. ^ Kuhne 2010.

Bibliography[edit]

Adam, Wilhelm; Ruhle, Otoo (2015). With Paulus at Stalingrad. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473833869.  Craig, William (1974). Enemy at the Gates. The Battle for Stalingrad. Victoria: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-139017-4.  Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.  Glantz, David M.; House, Jonathan (2009). To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1630-5.  Görlitz, Walter (1989). "Reichenau," in Correlli Barnett ed., Hitler's Generals. New York: Grove Weidenfeld. pp. 208–18. U.S.A., et al., 4 (International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg 7 January 1946). Knopp, Guido (1998). Hitler's Warriors. Paulus the Defector. Mainz, Germany: ZDF.  Liddell Hart, B.H., The German Generals Talk. New York, NY: Morrow, 1948. Mayer, Arno J. (1988). Why Did The Heavens Not Darken?. Lanham, Maryland: Pantheon.  Mitcham, Sameul W.; Mueller, Gene (2012). Hitler's Commanders: Officers of the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine, and the Waffen-SS. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442211544.  Mitcham, Sameul W. (2008). The Rise of the Wehrmacht: Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780275996413.  Scherzer, Veit (2007). The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.  Reichenau, Walter von (10 October 1941). "Secret Field Marshal
Field Marshal
v. Reichenau Order Concerning Conduct of Troops in the Eastern Territories". Stuart D. Stein, University of the West of England. Archived from the original on 27 December 2009.  Kühne, Thomas (2010). Belonging and Genocide: Hitler's Community, 1918-1945. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300168570.  Weinberg, Gerhard L. (2010). Hitler's Foreign Policy 1933-1939: The Road to World War II. Oxford, United Kingdom: Enigma Books. ISBN 9781936274840. 

External links[edit]

The "Reichenau Order" from October 12, 1941 (in German) English translation of the "Reichenau Order" Biography at DHM.de (in German)

Military offices

Preceded by none Commander of 10th Army 6 August 1939 - 10 October 1939 Succeeded by General Heinrich von Vietinghoff
Heinrich von Vietinghoff
otherwise Scheel

Preceded by none Commander of 6th Army 10 October 1939 - 29 December 1941 Succeeded by Feldmarschall Friedrich Paulus

v t e

German Field Marshals and Grand Admirals of World War II

Marshal of the Realm (Reichsmarschall)

Wehrmacht

Hermann Göring

Field Marshals (Generalfeldmarschall)

Heer

Werner von Blomberg Fedor von Bock Eduard Freiherr von Böhm-Ermolli (honorary) Walther von Brauchitsch Ernst Busch Wilhelm Keitel Ewald von Kleist Günther von Kluge Georg von Küchler Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb Wilhelm List Erich von Manstein Walter Model Friedrich Paulus Walther von Reichenau Erwin Rommel Gerd von Rundstedt Ferdinand Schörner Maximilian von Weichs Erwin von Witzleben

Field Marshals

Luftwaffe

Robert Ritter von Greim Albert Kesselring Erhard Milch Wolfram von Richthofen Hugo Sperrle

Grand Admirals

Kriegsmarine

Karl Dönitz Erich Raeder

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 52595613 LCCN: n2009027010 ISNI: 0000 0001 0972 1080 GND: 123390699

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