Witzleben, Field Marshal Erwin von, 1881-1944

Witzleben belonged, with BECK, to the small group of German officers who consistently opposed HITLER and who began to plot his downfall before the outbreak of the war. His disaffection was not suspected, however, and he was given command in 1940 of the First Army, which penetrated the Maginot Line. He was promoted to Field Marshal at the victory celebrations of 18 July 1940 and appointed Commander in Chief West in May 1941, by then a backwater post. He retired sick in 1942 but kept in touch with the circle of military conspirators, who intended to appoint him Commander in Chief if their plans succeeded. Ironically it was a false report that Witzleben had been seen that morning in uniform which, on 20 July 1944, alerted the security forces in Berlin to the possibility of a Bomb Plot. He was present later in the day at the War Ministry, while the Berlin conspirators attempted to marshall army units in the city and was arrested by FROMM, after his escape from confinement, that evening. Arraigned before the People’s Court where he was systematically humiliated, he was sentenced to death and hanged in August.

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