Erich Marcks

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This article is about the German World War II general. For the German educator and criminologist, see Erich Marks.
Erich Marcks
Erich Marcks.jpeg
Born (1891-06-06)6 June 1891
Died 12 June 1944(1944-06-12) (aged 53)
Hébécrevon, Saint-Lô
Buried at German War Cemetery Marigny
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1910–44
Rank General der Artillerie
Unit German LXXXIV Army Corps
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Relations Gerhard Marcks (cousin)

Erich Marcks (6 June 1891 – 12 June 1944) was a German general of artillery in World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Schöneberg, Marcks was the son of the famous German historian Erich Marcks and his wife Friederike, née von Sellin. Marcks had two brothers, Albert and Otto, and a sister named Gertrud. He began advanced studies in philosophy in Freiburg in 1909 and excelled in all subjects, especially with Professor Heinrich Rickert, a Neo- Kantian, who chose him as his Teaching Assistant. Against his professor's recommendation, Marcks broke off his studies after only three semesters and became a career officer of the Imperial German Army in October 1910. In the early 1930s, he was assigned as the chief of public affairs for the armed forces minister.

World War I[edit]

On 1 October 1910, Erich Marcks joined the Army of what was back then the Kingdom of Wurtemberg as an Officer Cadet and served with No 3 Battery, 5. Badischen Feld-Artillerie-Regiment No 76. On 11 December 1911 he was promoted to Sublieutenant of Artillery and transferred to Schleswigsches Feldartillerie-Regiment "Generalfeldmarschall Graf Waldersee" No 9. After the begin of World War I, he was deployed to the Western Front as Battalion Aide de Camp (Abteilungs-Adjutant) of Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiment 17. During the battles in the west, he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class. Badly wounded on 3 September 1914, he spent the next year in military hospitals. He was selected for General Staff Officer's Training and after completion of the necessary courses, was transferred to the Imperial General Staff Corps (Grosser Generalstab) in 1917. Efficient and hard working, he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class and was posted to the German Supreme Command (Oberste Heeresleitung). On 18 October 1918, he was promoted to Captain in the General Staff Corps (Hauptmann im Generalstab).

After the Armistice, Marcks fought with the Freikorps "Epp" against communist insurgents and was selected for the Army of the German Republic (Reichsheer). The new Reichsheer was limited to a 100.000 soldiers and was denied a General Staff, therefore in spring 1920, Marcks was transferred to Counter Intelligence and served with Reichswehr-Gruppenkommando 1, the Army High Command in Berlin. In October 1921, he was transferred to the Ministry of Defense (Reichswehrministerium) and served with Heeresabteilung (T 1) beim Truppenamt (TA) during 1924 and 1925. On October 1, 1925 he was transferred to the staff of 3rd Reichswehr Division as Executive Officer. 1927/28 he served as Battery Commander of 14th (mounted) Battery of 3rd (prussian) Artillery Regiment. On 1 October 1929 he was transferred back to the Reichswehrministerium in Berlin, where he served as head of the new founded press group of the Wehrmachtsabteilung (W). On 1 December 1929, he was promoted to Major. Having served in the inner cercles of power due to his work as the public affairs officer for chancellors Franz von Papen and former fellow officer and close friend Kurt von Schleicher, he was very pessimistic about Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

On 1 April 1933, after Hitler had come to power, he was transferred from the Ministry as having been too close to adversaries of the Nazis and took command of 1st Battalion, Artillery Regiment 6 (1. Abteilung vom Artillerie-Regiment 6). Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 October 1933, his apartment was searched during the Night of the Long Knives due to his friendship with Kurt von Schleicher who was murdered together with his wife by the SS. Marcks, who had avoided arrest by temporarily moving to a friend's summer house called the event a water shed to tyranny. Nonetheless promoted to Full Colonel on 1 September 1935, he from 1 October 1935 on, served as Chief of Staff of VIII Corps. On 1 April 1939 he was promoted to Brigadier General (Generalmajor). He was very pessimistic about the prospect of a war and privately called Hitler's politics irresponsible, dangerous and criminal.

World War II[edit]

As Chief of Staff VIII Corps, he took part in the attack on Poland. His excellent work, calm under stress and duress resulted in his promotion to Chief of Staff 18th Army (18. Armee). On this post, he took part in the Battle of France (Westfeldzug). During the 1940 Campaign in France, while serving as chief of staff of the 18th Army, Marcks altered German plans so as to prevent the bombardment of the city of Bruges and bombardment of bridges in Paris. He believed that the historical significance of these sites required their preservation, even in time of war.[1]

After the successful end of the campaign in France, Marcks was assigned to the working groups for the initial invasion plans of the Soviet Union.

The Marcks Plan for the invasion of the Soviet Union: August 5th 1940

Very pessimistic about the Russian potential with his warnings unheard, he requested transfer to a combat leadership position and on December 10, 1940 received command of 101. Light Infantry Division (101. leichte Infanterie-Division). Promoted to Major General (Generalleutnant) on 1 March he successfully led his Division during the Balkans Campaign. Known as a commander who led from the very front line, he was well liked by his troops and gave orders to respect the needs of the civilian population as well as avoid collateral damages to infrastructure and sites of historical significance as much as possible. In summer 1941, his Division was transferred to the buildup for Operation Barbarossa, the Invasion of Russia. Two of his three sons would subsequently lose their lives during the Russo-German War. Taking part in Operation Barbarossa as the commander of the 101st Jäger Division, he was badly wounded during the battles of Medyka in Ukraine on 26 June 1941, resulting in the loss of a leg. In hospital, he was awarded the Wound Badge, gold class (Verwundetenabzeichen in Gold) and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes).

After almost a year of convalescence, his leg replaced with a wooden prosthesis, he was placed in the reserves (Führerreserve) and could have avoided front line service for the rest of the war. Still, against the wishes of his wife, Marcks lobbied heavily for a posting on the front and returned to active duty despite his disability, commanding the 337th Infantry Division in Paris, from 25 March 1942 until 20 September 1942, when he was made Commanding General of LXVI Army Corps at Clermont-Ferrand. Promoted to Lieutenant General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie) on 1 October 1942 he was appointed Commanding General of LXXXVII Army Corps in northern Brittany. When his Corps was transferred to Italy on 1 August 1943 he was appointed to his final assignment, LXXXIV Army Corps. From 6 June 1944 on, he led his Corps during the battles for the Cotentin Peninsula against the Allies' Normandy Invasion. He was one of the few Wehrmacht generals who believed an invasion in Normandy was a serious possibility and who tried to raise awareness concerning this possible theater of operations. The D-Day invasion took place on his 53rd birthday during the worst storms in years. His suspicions of the true intention of the Allies to land at Normandy, and his birthday, are dramatized in the film The Longest Day. While on a daily round of troop unit inspections, he was mortally wounded on 12 June 1944 by an Allied fighter-bomber attack near Hébécrevon (near Marigny), several kilometers northwest of Saint-Lô. A 20mm projectile struck General Marcks to the upper groin rupturing an artery. His driver, who remained unharmed couldn't do anything to help, but carry him to a nearby ditch to protect him from further strafing. Erich Marcks died of the hemorrhage around 09.45hrs. General Marcks is buried in the Marigny War Cemetery, Block 2, Grave 1478. He shares a headstone with Gefreiter Gebhart Eberhard, his longtime batman, who was killed in an air raid on the very same day. Posthumously, he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (24 June 1944) and mentioned in the dispatches (Nennung im Wehrmachtsbericht).

'He was of Spartan-like, old Prussian simplicity', wrote one of his admiring officers. On one occasion, when whipped cream was served at dinner, he said, 'I do not wish to see this again as long as our country is starving'.[2]


Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
13 June 1944 Der kommandierende General eines Armeekorps, General der Artillerie Marcks, der tapferer Verteidiger der Halbinsel Cherbourg, fand bei den schweren Kämpfen in vorderster Linie der Heldentod.[7] The commanding general of an Army Corps, General der Artillerie Marcks, the brave defender of the Cherbourg Peninsula, found a hero's death in the heavy fighting at the front line.

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Marcks biography in French
  2. ^ D-Day, Antony Beevor, page 40. ISBN 978-0-670-88703-3
  3. ^ a b c d Thomas 1998, p. 58.
  4. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 526.
  5. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 302, 497.
  6. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 84.
  7. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 126.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [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. 
  • Keilig, Wolf (1957). Das Deutsche Heer 1939-1945. Part 211, Page 211. Bad Nauheim: Podzun Verlag.
  • 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 (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9. 
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Kurt Pflieger
Commander of 337. Infanterie-Division
15 March 1942 – 5 October 1942
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Otto Schünemann
Preceded by
Commander of LXXXVII. Armeekorps
5 November 1942 – 1 August 1943
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Gustav-Adolf von Zangen
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Gustav-Adolf von Zangen
Commander of LXXXIV. Armeekorps
1 August 1943 – 12 June 1944
Succeeded by
General der Artillerie Wilhelm Fahrmbacher