15 February 1895|
|Died||2 May 1945
|Rank||General der Infanterie|
|Commands held||Infanterie-Regiment 529|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Burgdorf joined the German Army (Reichsheer) at the outbreak of World War I as an officer cadet and was commissioned as an infantry officer in Grenadier Regiment 12 in 1915. Between the wars he served in the Reichswehr and was promoted to captain in 1930. In 1935 he became an instructor in tactics at the military academy in Dresden with the rank of major and was appointed an adjutant on the staff of the IX corps in 1937. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1938 and served as the commander of the 529th Infantry Regiment from May 1940 to April 1942. In May 1942, he became Chief of Department 2 of the Army Personnel Office. Burgdorf became the Deputy Chief in October 1942, when he was promoted to Generalmajor. Burgdorf was promoted to Chief of the Army Personnel Office (Heerespersonalamt) and Chief Adjutant to Adolf Hitler in October 1944. At that time, he was further promoted in rank to Generalleutnant. Burgdorf retained that rank and position until his death.
As part of Burgdorf's function as Hitler's chief adjutant, he played a key role in the death of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Rommel had been implicated as having a peripheral role in the bomb plot of 20 July 1944, in which an attempt was made to assassinate Hitler. Hitler recognised that to haul the most popular general in Germany before a People's Court would cause a scandal throughout Germany and accordingly arranged a face-saving maneuver.
On 14 October 1944, Burgdorf, with General Ernst Maisel, arrived at the Rommel household. Burgdorf had been instructed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel to offer Rommel a choice – take poison, receive a state funeral, and obtain immunity for his family and staff, or face a trial for treason. Rommel drove away with Burgdorf and Maisel. Rommel's family received a telephone call 10 minutes later informing them that Rommel had committed suicide.
Shortly before the Battle of Berlin, Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager overheard Burgdorf say: "When the war is over, we will have to purge, after the Jews, the Catholic officers in the army." Boeselager was a Roman Catholic Wehrmacht officer and vocally objected, citing his own decorations for heroism in combat. He left before Burgdorf answered.
Burgdorf joined Hitler in the Führerbunker when the Soviets assaulted Berlin. On 28 April, Hitler discovered that Heinrich Himmler tried to negotiate a surrender to the western Allies via Count Folke Bernadotte. Burgdorf took part in Hitler's court-martial against Hermann Fegelein, Himmler's SS liaison officer and Eva Braun's brother-in-law. SS-General Wilhelm Mohnke presided over the tribunal, which included SS-General Johann Rattenhuber and General Hans Krebs. Fegelein was drunk and in no condition to stand trial: Mohnke closed the proceedings and turned Fegelein over to Rattenhuber and his security squad.
On 29 April 1945, Burgdorf, Krebs, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann witnessed and signed Hitler's last will and testament. On 2 May, following the earlier suicides of Hitler and Goebbels, Burgdorf and his colleague Chief of Staff Hans Krebs committed suicide by gunshot to the head. Soviet personnel found the bodies of Krebs and Burgdorf in the bunker complex.
Awards and decorations
- Iron Cross (1914)
- 2nd Class (24 January 1915)
- 1st Class (14 August 1916)
- Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (27 August 1917)
- Military Merit Cross, 3rd class with war decoration (Austria-Hungary, 27 February 1918)
- Knight's Cross, 2nd class of the Friedrich Order with Swords (18 July 1918)
- Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg (18 October 1918)
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 (20 December 1934)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class (15 June 1940)
- 1st Class (17 June 1940)
- Eastern Front Medal
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 29 September 1941 as Oberst and commander of Infanterie-Regiment 529
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- von Boeselager, Philipp Freiherr (2009). Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler by its Last Member. Vintage. ISBN 0-307-45497-5.
- Bullock, Alan (1962). Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-013564-2.
- 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.
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- Lehrer, Steven (2006). The Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker Complex: An Illustrated History of the Seat of the Nazi Regime. McFarland. p. 214. ISBN 0-7864-2393-5.
- Burgdorf, Wilhelm at Lexikon der Wehrmacht