Zeitzler, General Kurt, 1895-1963

Proof of exceptional ability in staff appointments at Corps level in the Polish and French campaigns led to Zeitzler’s promotion to Chief of Staff of First Panzer Army, with KLEIST’s command, in the invasion of Russia. On HALDER’s dismissal in September 1942, he succeeded him as Chief of Staff of the Army, with responsibility for the prosecution of the war on the Russian front. He and HITLER at first worked well together, since Zeitzler admired the Fuhrer greatly, but they fell out over the management of the Stalingrad operation. Zeitzler wanted to allow PAULUS to retire from the city once he was encircled, but Hitler adamantly refused permission for the necessary orders to be given. When the wrongness of Hitler’s judgment was demonstrated by Paulus’ capitulation, Zeitzler’s position was constantly strengthened and he exercised considerable powers of command during 1943. He was first of all, able to make Hitler agree to ‘adjustments of the front,’ that is withdrawals, in the spring and then in the summer to a strategic counteroffensive at Kursk in July. Because Hitler took little part in the debate over Kursk, Zeitzler wasted time persuading his fellow generals to accept his plan, and the attack was eventually launched too late for it to succeed. The failure weakened his position, and it was further undermined by the defeats in Russia in spring and summer 1944. On 1 July 1944, he and Hitler had a bitter dispute, Zeitzler left his headquarters and succumbed to a complete physical and nervous collapse. He was succeeded by GUDERIAN.

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