Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch was born October 4th, 1881 in Berlin, son of General der Kavalerie Bernhard von Brauchitsch and his wife Charlotte, born Von Gordon. He trained as a Kadett from 1895 to 1899 in the Kadettenkorps and served as squire to Empress Augusta Viktoria. After graduation, Von Brauchitsch entered service in the Königin Elisabeth Garde-Grenadier-Regiment of the Prussian army as Leutnant on March 22nd, 1900. From December 1st, 1900 onwards he was temporarily posted to 3. Garde-Feldartillerie-Regiment until his posting became definite on May 18th, 1901. Between February 10th and May 31st, 1903, Von Brauchitsch participated in II. Instruktion der Feldartillerieschule and from May 1st to 13th, he was temporarily posted to the Spandau gun factory. His appointment to adjutant to the II. Batallion 3. Garde-Feldartillerie-Regiment followed on February 5th, 1906 and to Regimentsadjudant on April 13th, 1909. On October 18th, 1909 he was promoted to Oberleutnant.
On December 29th, 1910, he married Elizabeth von Karstedt. April 1st, 1912, Von Brauchitsch was recruited by the Great General Staff in Berlin where he was promoted to Hauptmann on December 18th, 1913. During World War One he served as staff officer in various units. He thus switched to the General Staff of XVI Armeekorps on August 2nd, 1914, and on October 17th, 1915 to the General Staff of 34. Infanterie Division. He served in various staff functions until he was promoted to Major on July 15th, 1918. In 1921 he was incorporated in the Reichswehr where he held the functions of both commander and staff officer and where he was deployed in the training of troops. April 1st, 1925, a promotion to Oberstleutnant followed and on April 1st, 1928 to Oberst. In 1929 he became department head in the leadership of the army at the Department of War and in 1931 he travelled to the Soviet Union in the rank of Generalmajor where he supported the cooperation between the Soviet and the German armies. As successor to Werner von Blomberg – appointed Minister of War by Adolf Hitler (Bio Hitler) – he became commander in eastern Prussia. His promotion to Generalleutnant followed in 1933.
On April 20th, 1936, he was promoted to General der Artillerie. Although he was no Nazi, he enjoyed Hitler’s confidence and he was appointed supreme commander of the German army in 1938. This after the Blomberg affair and the retirement of Blomberg and Werner Freiherr von Fritsch. A while before, Von Brauchitsch had more or less tied himself to Hitler by means of a loan of 80,000 Reichsmark he needed to divorce Elizabeth von Karstedt and to marry his second wife Charlotte Rüfer.
In a certain sense he shared Ludwig Beck’s – chief of the general staff – opposition against Hitler’s plans to invade Austria and Czechoslovakia but he did not share Beck’s opposition to Hitler himself. On February 4th, 1938, Von Brauchitsch was promoted to Generaloberst. From 1939 to 1941 he commanded military operations in Poland, France and Russia. As Von Brauchitsch rejected Hitler’s strategic and political decisions more and more, he frequently asked to be discharged which was rejected by Hitler each and every time. On July 19th, 1940, he was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall.
At the start of Operation Barbarossa Hitler forced Von Brauchitsch to cosign the notorious Kommandobefehl and his order against guerilla warfare. This action actually meant a death sentence for all captured Soviet soldiers and civilians behind enemy lines, which led to the mass murders that would continue to haunt him up to the Nuremberg trials. In December 1942, Hitler blamed Von Brauchitsch for his own mistakes during the campaign against Russia. He sacked Von Brauchitsch as commander of the army and took command himself. After the failed attempt on Hitler of July 20th, 1944, Von Brauchitsch condemned the action led by Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (Bio Von Stauffenberg) in an article in the Völkische Beobachter. Later he defended himself by claiming he could save the life of a relative that way.
On May 8th, 1945, Von Brauchitsch was arrested in his home in Schleswig-Holstein. In the years 1945 and after he was called as a witness before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and was indicted himself by another court for conspiring with Hitler and crimes against humanity. In his defense, he told lie after lie. Eventually he was sent to a prison camp in southern Wales. On October 18th, 1948, prior to the start of a trial before a British court, he died in a hospital in Hamburg while in British captivity.
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