Walter von Reichenau

Walter von Reichenau ( Karlsruhe , 16 of August of 1884 – Poltava , 17 of January of 1942 ) was a German field marshal .


Son of a Prussian general , he enlisted in the German army in 1902. In 1904 he was officer of the 1st Field Artillery Regiment. In May 1914 he entered the War Academy in Berlin .

At the beginning of World War I (1914-1918) was sent to the western front . He was decorated with the Iron Cross and promoted to captain in 1918. In 1920 was named commander of the 8th Company of Machine guns. In 1923 he obtained the rank of mayor , being assigned as commander of the 5th Battalion of Transmissions in Stuttgart between 1927 and 1929 and head of section of the Inspectorate of Transmissions in the Ministry of the Reichswehr between 1929 and 1931.

In February 1931 he was appointed section chief in Zone I, in East Prussia , serving under the command of General Werner von Blomberg . In 1932 he was introduced to Adolf Hitler by his uncle Friedrich von Reichenau , great admirer of the Fuehrer. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, Blomberg was appointed Minister of War, and Reichenau was placed at the head of the Reichswehr Ministerial Office, becoming the liaison between the Nazi Party and the German Army . That same year, Von Blomberg and Von Reichenau began to worry about the great political power that the SA commander , Ernst Röhm was acquiring, initiating a conspiracy against him – accompanied by Göring and Himmler -. The latter commissioned Reinhard Heydrich to make a case against Röhm. It was believed that Röhm had paid DM 12 million to the French for a coup d’etat against Hitler.

Although at first Hitler did not believe the proofs, the 29 of June of 1934 arrived at Wiesse accompanied by the SS . There he personally arrested Röhm, and with him another 200 SA officers fell within 24 hours. Ernst Röhm was killed by two SS officers, when he refused to commit suicide.

In August 1935, Reichenau was promoted to lieutenant general and designated commander of Zone VII in Munich . In February 1938 he replaced Walther von Brauchitsch as commander in chief of the Fourth Army Corps . In September of 1939 , he was in command of the X Army when exploding the Invasion of Poland .

He was assigned the command of the Sixth Army during the French campaign , being promoted to field marshal the 19 of July of 1940 . Accompanied by his deputy, General Friedrich Paulus , General Von Reichenau received the surrender of Belgium from the hands of his king, Leopold III .

Although he opposed Operation Barbarossa , he took part in it under the command of the Sixth Army and involved the soldiers under his command in collaboration with SD and SS troops in the execution of Jews, especially when he conquered the cities of Kiev , Belgorod , Kharkov and Kursk . He promoted the assassination of Jews by the troops under his command (such as the Babi Yar Barrank Slaughter in Kiev ), where 30,000 Ukrainian Jews died.

On November 30, 1941, Field Marshal Von Reichenau took command of the Southern Army Group , replacing Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt . Hitler confirmed him in office at the end of December and the command of the VI Army was taken over by his chief of staff , the tragically known Friedrich Paulus .

The December of January of 1942 , with 57 years, after jogging through the snowy forest Poltava (Ukraine), at -20 ° C, suffered a brain hemorrhage that produced a coma. Two days later, at Hitler’s insistence, he was put on a plane to Lviv (Ukraine). Von Reichenau is often said to have died when his plane crashed in the Soviet Union. However Walter Görlitz 1 wrote that the plane was limited to making an emergency landing on a field in the Soviet Union, and that Reichenau actually died of a cardiac arrest. His death coincided with a propaganda offensive – the Reichenau operation – carried out by the Polish resistance, whose aim was to discredit Reichenau in the eyes of the German leaders, as a man who had allegedly perpetrated a plot to overthrow the Nazi regime, Sowing distrust between the Nazi political leadership and its military command and to punish one of the German generals responsible for war crimes in Poland. The coincidence of this type of propaganda with the death of Reichenau became a fertile ground for the hypotheses of conspiracy , which claim that Reichenau could actually have been murdered by the Nazi secret services.

On January 23, 1942 his funeral was performed with the usual pomp of the Third Reich. Hitler did not attend his funeral and sent Gerd von Rundstedt as a representative. Walter von Reichenau is buried in the historic cemetery of the Invalides in Berlin.


  1. Back to top↑ Görlitz, Walter (1989): “Reichenau”, in Correlli Barnett (ed.): Hitler’s Generals . New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1989. pgs. 208-218.