Erwin von Witzleben ( 4 of December of 1881 – 8 of August of 1944 ) was a quarterback German during World War I and World War II . He was one of the most notable conspirators against Hitler since the beginning of the war and in the July 20 plot .
Witzleben was born in Breslau (now Wrocław , Poland ) into a family of great military tradition. His father, Joachim Albein, was a recognized military man. He attended the cadet schools of Wahlstatt and Lichterfelde . He entered the German army in March 1901 as lieutenant in the 7th Regiment of Grenadiers.
World War I
After the beginning of World War I , Witzleben was appointed deputy of the 19th Reserve Brigade. He served on the western front , thereby gaining the Iron Cross . In 1917 he assumed command of a battalion of the 6th Infantry . The following year he became a staff officer in the 108th Infantry Division.
After the war, Witzleben remained in the Reichswehr and in January of 1921 was given the control of the VIII Company of Machine guns . He was in the General Staff of the Wehrkreis IV (1922-1925), the XII Cavalry Regiment (1925-1926) and the III Infantry Command (1926-1928). Later he was appointed chief of the General Staff of the Wehrkreis IV (1929-1931) and commander of the VIII Infantry Regiment (1931-1933).
In 1934, Witzleben was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed commander of the Wehrkreis III , replacing General Werner von Fritsch appointed commander in chief of the army.
A strong opponent of Adolf Hitler and his government in Nazi Germany , Witzleben joined Erich von Manstein , Wilhelm Leeb and Gerd von Rundstedt to seek a military investigation following the murder of Kurt von Schleicher in Long Knife Night . However, the Minister of Defense , Werner von Blomberg , refused to carry out such an investigation.
Witzleben was enraged when his friend General Werner von Fritsch was relieved as commander-in-chief of the army under accusation of homosexuality . He became a fanatic antinazi, beginning to consider the possibility, along with other opposites to the regime like Ludwig Beck , Franz Halder , Wilhelm Canaris , Wolf von Helldorf , Kurt Hammerstein-Equord or Erich Hoepner , of giving a military coup against Hitler .
The Gestapo became aware of these plans, and in 1938 Witzleben was forced to accept a premature withdrawal from active service.
World War II
At the beginning of World War II von Witzleben was again called to the front and placed in command of the First German Army in 1939, commanding him the invasion of France in May 1940. His troops crossed the Maginot Line in June of that same year, occupying quickly Alsace and Lorraine . As a result of this action, Witzleben was appointed Field Marshal. Witzleben remained in France like commander in chief of Group of Armies D , being in charge of the theater of western operations.
In 1942, after the failure of Operation Barbarossa , he began again to conspire against Hitler. The Gestapo , again informed of such activities, informed the Führer, who relieved him of his charge and ordered him to return to Germany. For the next two years, Witzleben took refuge in his country house.
Attack on July 20, 1944 and execution
Witzleben maintained contact with the other conspirators of the Wehrmacht and in 1944 participated actively in Operation Valquiria , the attack executed by Claus von Stauffenberg of the 20 of July . After von Stauffenberg put the bomb and the conspirators believed that Hitler had died, Witzleben, who would have been commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht in the planned post- coup government , arrived at the Oberkommando des Heeres headquarters on the Bendlerstrasse (Today Stauffenbergstrasse) of Berlin , on July 20, 1944, to assume command of the coup forces.
He was arrested the following day and tried by the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) on 8 August 1944, being humiliated during the trial on being banned from wearing a belt and dentures by Nazi Judge Roland Freisler .
He was sentenced to death and hanged naked with a piano string that same day, at the Berlin Plötzensee prison .
This is the phrase that the Marshal pronounced to Judge Freisler and his assistants before they were taken to the gallows anticipated what would happen the following year on May 2, 1945.
“You can hand us over to the hangman, but in three months the people will be scolded and destroyed and drag you all among the filth in the streets”