Walter Warlimont

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Walter Warlimont
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1987-104-27, Walter Warlimont.jpg
Walter Warlimont in 1939.
Born 3 October 1894
Osnabrück, Germany
Died 9 October 1976 (aged 82)
Kreuth, Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Wehrmacht
Years of service 1914–1945
Rank General der Artillerie
Unit Deputy Chief of the Operations Staff (WFS)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II

Walter Warlimont (3 October 1894 – 9 October 1976) was a German officer and war criminal known for his role as a deputy chief in the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), Germany's Supreme Armed Forces Command during World War II.

World War I[edit]

Warlimont was born in Osnabrück, Germany. In June 1914, just before the start of World War I, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 10th Prussian Foot Artillery Regiment based in Alsace. During the war, he served as an artillery officer and battery commander in France and later in Italy. In late 1918, he served in General Ludwig Maercker's Freikorps Jäger rifle corps.

Interbellum[edit]

Between the world wars, Warlimont served in various military roles. In 1922, he served in the 6th Artillery Regiment and in 1926, as a captain, he was the second assistant to the Army's General Chief of Staff[who?]. In May 1929, Warlimont was attached to the U.S. Army for a year to study American industrial mobilization theory during wartime. This led to his service between 1930 and 1933 as a major on the staff of the Industrial Mobilization Section of the German Defence Ministry. He became the Section's chief in 1935.

Between August and November 1936, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Warlimont – now promoted to Lieutenant Colonel – served as the Reich War Minister (OKH General Staff)'s Wehrmacht Plenipotentiary Delegate to the government of Spanish General Francisco Franco in Spain. Reich War Minister Werner von Blomberg directed Warlimont to coordinate German aid in support of Franco's battle against the Spanish government forces. Before flying to Spain to meet with Franco, Warlimont met various Italian intelligence officials to discuss the Spanish Civil War.

Lieutenant-Colonel Warlimont became known as an up-and-coming staff officer when, in 1937, he wrote the Warlimont Memorandum calling for the reorganisation of the German armed forces under one staff unit and one supreme commander. The plan was to limit the power of the high officer caste in favour of Nazi Germany's "Führer" Adolf Hitler. On the basis of this memorandum, Hitler developed the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High command of the armed forces), with Hitler as supreme commander. Warlimont was rewarded in 1939 with a post as deputy to General Alfred Jodl.

In 1937, he served as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 34th Artillery Regiment, in Trier. In 1938 he was promoted to colonel and became commander of the 26th Artillery Regiment.

World War II[edit]

In late 1938, Warlimont became Senior Operations Staff Officer to General Wilhelm Keitel. This was a coveted position, and so between September 1939 and September 1944 he served as Deputy Chief of the Operations Staff (Wehrmachtführungsstab: WFSt: Armed Forces Operations Staff). General Jodl was his superior officer, who served as Chief of the Operations Staff, which was responsible for all strategical, executive and war-operations planning.

While serving on this military operations planning staff, in early 1939 he assisted in developing some of the German military invasion plans of Poland. On 1 September 1939, German military forces invaded Poland, thereby starting World War II.

1940 saw his promotion to Generalmajor, and he assisted in developing the invasion plans of France. In 1941, he continued to assist in developing invasion operations into Russia. This earned his promotion to Generalleutnant in 1942.

His meteoric advancement in rank almost sputtered out on 3 November 1942 when he was relieved of his job after a junior officer failed to process a message from Field Marshal Erwin Rommel sufficiently promptly. However, only five days later he was recalled to duty to visit the French Vichy Government in France to coordinate the defense of their colonial territories from possible occupation by the Allies.

In February 1943, Warlimont travelled to Tunis to confer with Rommel as to whether or not the Germans should abandon North Africa.

In early 1944, Warlimont was promoted to General der Artillerie. As Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, he continued to give almost daily briefings to Hitler regarding the status of German military operations.

On D-Day, when the Allies invaded Normandy, France, Warlimont telephoned General Jodl to request that the German tanks in Normandy should be released to attack the Allied invaders. Jodl responded that he did not want to make that decision; they would have to wait until Hitler awoke. Once Hitler awoke and authorised the release of the tanks for a counter-attack, it was too late to blunt the successful Allied invasion. The following day, Hitler sent Warlimont to inspect the German defences in Italy.

On 20 July 1944, Warlimont was wounded during the ill-fated assassination bombing against Hitler in a war-briefing building in Rastenburg. He suffered a mild head concussion. Later in the day he telephoned Field Marshal Günther von Kluge and convinced him that Hitler was alive; this prompted von Kluge not to continue in the anti-Hitler coup. Even though Warlimont was wounded alongside Hitler, nonetheless, he was wrongly viewed as possibly having been involved in the anti-Hitler conspiracy. In spite of this, he belatedly received the special 20th of July Wound Badge, which was awarded only to those few wounded or killed in the 20 July explosion.

On 22 July, Warlimont travelled to France to meet with Field Marshal Rommel (who had been wounded a week earlier by an Allied aeroplane attack), and Rommel's naval aide Vice Admiral Friedrich Ruge, to discuss the deteriorating battlefield situation in Normandy.

Even though Hitler (in Wolfsschanze) ordered Warlimont to travel to Paris on 1 August to study the German military situation there with Field Marshal von Kluge, Hitler thought that Warlimont might have been involved in the conspiracy to have him assassinated (an action which Warlimont denied). On 2 August, Warlimont met outside Paris with General Günther Blumentritt and advised him that Hitler wanted the Germans to regain the attack initiative against the Allies through Operation Lüttich/Liege. Later, Warlimont urged General Heinrich Eberbach to continue his attacks in the Falaise pocket region. Although all the German generals informed Warlimont that they believed the attack would fail, he cabled Hitler that the generals were "confident of success".

Even Warlimont's boss, General Jodl, believed similarly of Warlimont's possible untrustworthiness. But Warlimont was not involved with the anti-Hitler movement. Warlimont still carried out Hitler's directives, but he was becoming disillusioned with Hitler and realised that Germany would be defeated.

Despite his doubts about Warlimont's trustworthiness, during September 1944 General Jodl considered making Warlimont his Chief of Staff. However, at Warlimont's request, due to his dizzy spells resulting from the 20 July assassination bombing against Hitler, he was transferred and retired to the OKH Command Pool (the Führer Reserve), and was not further employed during the war. Throughout the war, Warlimont and his boss, General Jodl, had a very strained working relationship.

War crimes[edit]

Warlimont at the Nuremberg Trials, 1948.

With the German defeat in May 1945, Warlimont was held as a prisoner-of-war.

In October 1948, Warlimont was tried as a war criminal before a United States military tribunal in the High Command Trial because he passed on Hitler's directive that Allied commandos should be executed instead of being held as prisoners-of-war, the so-called Commando Order. Although he argued that he had tried to dilute Hitler's directive, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in 1951 his sentence was reduced to 18 years. In 1957 there was an amnesty for certain prisoners, and he was finally released from Landsberg Prison. After the war he engaged in writing various war-historical studies.

In 1962, Warlimont wrote Inside Hitler's Headquarters 1939–1945.

In an appraisal of Warlimont's military capabilities, German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein wrote:

Keitel, Jodl and Warlimont had never been in the war....Their lack of fighting experience tended to make them underrate practical difficulties, and encourage Hitler to believe that things could be done that were quite impossible.....

— as noted in The Battle of the Bulge: The German View by Danny Parker

From an Allied perspective, Hugh Thomas (in his The Spanish Civil War) opined:

Warlimont became renowned, with Keitel and Jodl, as one of the German officers most loyal to Hitler and was accordingly sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment in 1949 as a minor war criminal....

Warlimont was interviewed for two episodes of The World at War: #3 "France Falls" (May–June 1940) and #5 "Barbarossa" (June–December 1941). He died in Kreuth near the Tegernsee.

Quotes[edit]

Had the 20th of July bomb plot against Hitler succeeded there would have been strikes and civil war within Germany... Already there were fanatic National Socialists in the army with ranks of captain and major; in the air force the doctrine was even at the highest levels, and the SS was entirely a party group - a state within a state. There were even divisions among the people who for 12 years had heard the same party line and had been affected either favorably or unfavorably from the NSDAP. Out of all this chaos there was not a single person who could have brought these factions together and achieve a peace and a democratic government.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Hitler's Generals: Authoritative Portraits of the Men Who Waged Hitler's War, edited by Correlli Barnett.
  • Inside Hitler's Headquarters: 1939–1945, Walter Warlimont (1962).
  • "The Decision in the Mediterranean 1942" by Gen. W. Warlimont in The Decisive Battles of WWII: The German View, edited by H. A. Jacobsen (1965).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]