Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
|Nikolaus von Falkenhorst|
Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
|Birth name||Nikolaus von Jastrzembski|
17 January 1885|
Breslau, Silesia, in Prussia
|Died||18 June 1968
Holzminden, Lower Saxony, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1907–1944|
|Commands held||Army Norway (Wehrmacht)|
|Battles/wars||First World War
Second World War
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
|Relations||Erich Dethleffsen (son-in-law)|
Nikolaus von Falkenhorst (born Nikolaus von Jastrzembski; 17 January 1885 – 18 June 1968) was a German General in the Second World War. He planned and commanded the German invasion of Denmark and Norway in 1940, and was commander of German troops during the occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1944.
Falkenhorst was born in Breslau into an ancient Silesian military and noble family, the Jastrzembski of Bad Königsdorff-Jastrzemb in Upper Silesia; early in his career he voluntarily changed this Slavic Silesian-derived family name to the Kulturkampf-Germanized version of Falkenhorst, meaning "falcon's nest", and the change of name was confirmed by a decree of 6 June 1911. He joined the Imperial German army in 1907 and during the First World War was given various regimental and staff appointments, including a stint in Finland, which would later figure into his primary assignment in WW II. In 1919, after the end of the war, he served in the Freikorps, then transferred to the Reichswehr, and between 1925 and 1927 served in the Operations Division of the War Ministry.
Falkenhorst was promoted to Colonel on 1 October 1932, and between 1933 and 1935 was appointed as military attaché at the German embassies in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania. On 1 July 1935, he was promoted to Generalmajor (Brigadier General) and Chief of Staff of the Third Army, and in 1937 to Generalleutnant (Major General). In 1939 he commanded the XXI Army Corp during the Invasion of Poland, and was promoted to General der Infanterie (Lieutenant General).
On 20 February 1940, Hitler informed Falkenhorst that he would be ground commander for the invasion of Norway (Operation Weserübung), and gave him until 5 p.m. the same day to come up with a basic plan. With no time to consult military charts or maps, Falkenhorst picked up a Baedeker tourist guidebook of Norway at a stationery store on his way to his hotel room, where he planned the operation from maps he found in that book. Hitler promptly approved his plan.
The invasion was a success, aside from heavy losses inflicted upon the Kriegsmarine (navy). Allied forces tried to counter the German move, but Falkenhorst's troops drove them out of the country. For his part in the success he was promoted to Generaloberst (Colonel General).
Falkenhorst remained in charge of the Norwegian garrison. In contrast to the civilian administration, the military forces aimed to form an understanding with the Norwegian people, and Falkenhorst ordered his men to treat them with courtesy. An apocryphal story, which was much believed by both sides, told of a Norwegian woman who complained that a German soldier had stolen some of her jam. The next morning, she was invited to come to the local army post to see the man shot by a firing squad.
In December 1942, Falkenhorst made a plan for the invasion of Sweden if necessary (Operation Polarfuchs; "Arctic Fox") which required ten German divisions. Falkenhorst thought it would succeed in ten days.
Falkenhorst was dismissed from his command on 18 December 1944, for opposing certain radical policies of Josef Terboven, the Nazi Reich Commissioner for the civil authorities of German-occupied Norway. He was transferred to the Fuehrer's Reserve to wait for another assignment that would never come, a fate not uncommon for those who clashed with Hitler or other Nazi officials.
After the war, Falkenhorst was tried by a joint British-Norwegian military tribunal for violating the rules of war. He had passed on the Führerbefehl known as the "Commando Order" which required captured saboteurs to be shot as spies, and several were. He was therefore convicted and sentenced to death in 1946. The sentence was however later commuted to twenty years' imprisonment, after a successful appeal by Sven Hedin.
Falkenhorst was released from Werl prison on 23 July 1953, due to bad health. In 1968, following a heart attack, he died at Holzminden, West Germany, where his family had settled after fleeing from Lower Silesia. His daughter had married General Erich Dethleffsen.
- Iron Cross (1914) 2nd and 1st Class
- Military Merit Cross (Mecklenburg-Schwerin) 2nd Class
- Hanseatic Crosses of Hamburg and Bremen
- Wound Badge (1914) in Black
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- Clasp to the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class
- German Cross in Silver (20 January 1945)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (30 April 1940)
- War Merit Cross 2nd and 1st Class with Swords
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on 10 April 1940
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award, 4th to 1st class
- Order of the Cross of Liberty 2nd Class (Finland)
- Commemorative Medal of Freedom Cross (Finland)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose with swords and breast star (Finland)
- Knight of Justice of the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg)
- Order of the Double Dragon, 4th class (China)
- Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia, 3rd class
- Commander's Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania
References in the Wehrmachtbericht
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|Thursday, 10 April 1940||Die militärischen Maßnahmen zum Schutz der Neutralität von Dänemark und Norwegen wurden am 9. April von starken Einheiten des Heeres, der Kriegsmarine und die Luftwaffe unter dem Oberbefehl des Generals der Infanterie von Falkenhorst, von Seestreitkräften unter dem Befehl des Generaladmirals Saalwächter und des Admirals Carls und von zahlreichen Verbänden der Luftwaffe unter Führung des Generalleutnants Geißler in engster Zusammenarbeit durchgeführt.||The military measures for the protection of the neutrality of Denmark and Norway were carried out on 9 April from strong units in close cooperation of the Heer, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe under the high command of General of the Infantry von Falkenhorst, of naval forces under the command of Generaladmiral Saalwächter and Admiral Rolf Carls and from numerous Luftwaffe units under the leadership of Generalleutnant Geißler (sic).|
- Kersaudy, Francois, Norway 1940, pp. 45–47
- Pierrejean, Claudine and Daniel, Les secrets de l'affaire Raoul Wallenberg ("The Secrets of the Raoul Wallenberg Affair"), L'Harmattan.
- Milestones, Time Magazine, 5 July 1968.
- "Cross of the Royal Prussian Order of St.John". Antique Photos. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, pp. 101–102.
- 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.
- 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.
- Media related to Nikolaus von Falkenhorst at Wikimedia Commons
|Commander of 32. Infanterie-Division
1 October 1936 – 19 July 1939
Generalleutnant Franz Böhme
|Commander of 21. Armee
19 December 1940 – 18 December 1944
General der Infanterie Kurt von Tippelskirch