Johannes Blaskowitz

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Johannes Albrecht Blaskowitz
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2004-004-05, Johannes Blaskowitz.jpg
Johannes Blaskowitz
Born (1883-07-10)10 July 1883
Paterswalde, Kreis Wehlau, Province of East Prussia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire (now the settlement of Bolshaya Polyana in Gvardeysky District of Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia)
Died 5 February 1948(1948-02-05) (aged 64)
Nuremberg, American Zone of Occupation, Allied-occupied Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Wehrmacht
Years of service 1901–1945
Rank Generaloberst
Commands held 8. Armee
9. Armee
1. Armee
Heeresgruppe G
Heeresgruppe H
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Johannes Albrecht Blaskowitz (10 July 1883 – 5 February 1948) was a German general during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or outstanding military leadership.

Early years[edit]

Johannes Blaskowitz was born on July 10, 1883, in Paterswalde, Kreis Wehlau (East Prussia), now in Kaliningrad Oblast. He was the son of Protestant pastor Hermann Blaskowitz and his wife Marie Blaskowitz, née Kuhn. In 1894, Blaskowitz joined cadet school at Köslin (Koszalin) and also afterwards at Berlin Lichterfelde. In 1901, he started his military career as a Fähnrich in an East Prussian regiment in Osterode (Ostróda).

World War I[edit]

During World War I, Blaskowitz served on the Eastern and Western Front and was employed in the Generalstab. He rose to command an infantry company by 1918, and was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery.

Interwar Period[edit]

Blaskowitz's war service secured him a place in the postwar Reichswehr during the Weimar Republic, through whose ranks he rose until 1938, when Adolf Hitler sacked virtually all the other senior generals. His attitude towards the Nazis' seizure of power (Machtergreifung) was reportedly indifferent because he believed that the armed forces should be "politically neutral".

In early 1939 he commanded the German forces that occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia, and was promoted to General of Infantry and given command of the 8th Army just prior to the outbreak of World War II

Poland 1939[edit]

During the Invasion of Poland that began World War II, the 8th Army under Blaskowitz's command participated in the Battle of the Bzura. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), was promoted to Colonel-General, and was installed as Commander-in-Chief East (Oberbefehlshaber Ost) in Poland on 20 October 1939.

As a traditional soldier, Blaskowitz kept a firm control on the men under his command in their dealings with civilians, and was opposed to the Army committing war crimes with the SS. Between November 1939 and February 1940 he wrote several memoranda to higher command, in which he detailed SS atrocities in Poland, their effects on Wehrmacht soldiers, and the insolent attitude of the SS to the army. However, his protests produced no condemnations of such behavior, and merely earned him the enmity of Hans Frank, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Hitler, while Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl dismissed them as naive and "uncalled for".[1]

Commander-in-Chief Walther von Brauchitsch forwarded Blaskowitz's first memorandum to Hitler on 18 November, who launched a tirade against Blaskowitz, denouncing his concerns about due process as "childish" and poured scorn on his "Salvation Army attitude".[2] As a result, Blaskowitz found himself placed on a blacklist, and he was relieved of his command on 29 May 1940.

Occupation of France[edit]

Following the Fall of France in May 1940, Blaskowitz was initially slated to command the 9th Army for occupation duties, but the appointment was blocked by Hitler and instead he was appointed to a relatively minor position as Military Governor of Northern France, a position he held until October 1940, when he was transferred to the command of the 1st Army, on the southwest coast between Brittany and the Spanish border.

In May 1944, following the appointment of Gerd von Rundstedt as Commander-in-Chief in the West, Blaskowitz was appointed head of Army Group G. This comparatively small command, consisting of the 1st Army and the 19th Army, was given the task of defending southern France from the imminent Allied invasion.

The invasion of southern France commenced on 15 August 1944, with Operation Dragoon, when Allied forces landed on the Riviera between Toulon and Cannes. Blaskowitz, badly outnumbered and lacking air superiority, brought up units, stabilized his front, and led a fighting withdrawal to the north to avoid encirclement. US army units pursued Blaskowitz up through the Vosges mountains before pausing to regroup. There, Blaskowitz's forces were reinforced by the 5th Panzer Army under Hasso von Manteuffel. Blaskowitz wanted to entrench his forces, but Hitler ordered him to immediately counterattack the US Third Army. Both Manteuffel and Blaskowitz realized the futility of such an action, but obeyed their orders, and their attack caught the US forces in disarray and pushed them back to near Lunéville on 18–20 September 1944, at which point resistance stiffened and the attack was suspended. Furious over this failure, Hitler summarily relieved Blaskowitz, replacing him with Hermann Balck.

Campaign in the West 1944–45[edit]

Blaskowitz remained unoccupied for some time, until in December 1944 he was suddenly recalled and ordered to attack in the vicinity of Alsace-Lorraine in support of the ongoing Ardennes offensive. On 1 January 1945 Army Group G hit the US 7th Army during Operation Nordwind, forcing them to withdraw. Blaskowitz was subsequently transferred to Holland, where he succeeded Kurt Student as commander of Army Group H. For the following three months he conducted a fighting withdrawal against the British 2nd Army, being awarded the Swords to his Knights Cross. This command was redesignated in early April 1945 and Blaskowitz became commander-in-chief of the northern (still occupied) part of the Netherlands. Despite ruling the troops under his command with an iron hand, and threatening to execute deserters, from April 29, Blaskowitz allowed Allied airdrops of food and medicine to the Dutch civilian population.

Blaskowitz surrenders to the Canadians.

On May 5, Blaskowitz was summoned to the Hotel de Wereld (The World Hotel) in Wageningen by General Charles Foulkes (commander of I Canadian Corps) to discuss the surrender of the German forces in the Netherlands. Prince Bernhard, acting as commander-in-chief of the Dutch Interior Forces, attended the meeting as well. Blaskowitz agreed with all proposals by Foulkes. However, nowhere in the building - some sources claim nowhere in the whole town - could a typewriter be found. Thus, the surrender document could not be typed. The next day, both parties returned and, in the presence of both General Foulkes and Prince Bernhard, Blaskowitz signed the surrender document which, in the meantime, had been typed.[1]

Post war[edit]

Blaskowitz was charged with war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials in the High Command Trial (Case No. XII), but died on February 5, 1948 by committing suicide. After breaking away from his guards he threw himself off a balcony into the inner courtyard of the court building.

Summary of his military career[edit]

Ranks[edit]

Notable decorations[edit]

Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Wednesday, 27 September 1939 Der Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres hat den General Blaskowitz beauftragt, die Übergabeverhandlungen zu führen.[6] The Commander-in-Chief of the Army has instructed general Blaskowitz to lead capitulation negotiations.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Robert B., Kane (2002). Disobedience and conspiracy in the German Army, 1918-1945. McFarland. p. 161. ISBN 0-7864-1104-X. 
  2. ^ Kitchen, Martin (2008). The Third Reich: Charisma and Community. Pearson Education. p. 247. ISBN 1-4058-0169-7. 
  3. ^ a b c d Thomas 1997, p. 49.
  4. ^ Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 537.
  5. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 224.
  6. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 40.

References[edit]

  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
  • Blaskowitz, Johannes - German reaction to the invasion of southern France - (ASIN B0007K469O) - Historical Division, Headquarters, United States Army, Europe, Foreign Military Studies Branch, 1945
  • Blaskowitz, Johannes - Answers to questions directed to General Blaskowitz - (ASIN B0007K46JY) - Historical Division, Headquarters, United States Army, Europe, Foreign Military Studies Branch, 1945
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Giziowski, Richard - The Enigma of General Blaskowitz (Hardcover) (ISBN 0-7818-0503-1) - Hippocrene Books, November 1996
  • Kemp, Anthony (1990 reprint). German Commanders of World War II (#124 Men-At-Arms series). Osprey Pub., London. ISBN 0-85045-433-6.
  • Information on his death - The New York Times, February 6, 1948, p. 13
  • Information on his death - The Times, February 8, 1948, p. 3
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham – Huppertz [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color I Abraham – Huppertz] (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-20-1. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6. 
  • Ueberschär, Gerd R. (2011). "Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz". In Friedrich-Christian, Stahl. Hitlers militärische Elite (in German). Primus Verlag. pp. 20–27. ISBN 978-3-89678-727-9. 
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
Government offices
Preceded by
none
Supreme commander of German armies in the Protectorate
15 March 1939–18 March 1939
Succeeded by
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath
Military offices
Preceded by
none
Commander of 8. Armee
1 September 1939–20 October 1939
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Otto Wöhler
Preceded by
none
Commander of 9. Armee
15 May 1940–29 May 1940
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Adolf Strauß
Preceded by
General Erwin von Witzleben
Commander of 1. Armee
24 October 1940–2 May 1944
Succeeded by
General Joachim Lemelsen
Preceded by
none
Commander of Heeresgruppe G
8 May 1944–20 September 1944
Succeeded by
General Hermann Balck
Preceded by
General Hermann Balck
Commander of Heeresgruppe G
24 December 1944–29 January 1945
Succeeded by
General Paul Hausser
Preceded by
Generaloberst Kurt Student
Commander of Heeresgruppe H
30 January 1945–15 April 1945
Succeeded by
General Feldmarschall Ernst Busch