15 February 1895|
|Died||2 May 1945
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Rank||General der Infanterie|
|Commands held||Infanterie-Regiment 529|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|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, Burgdorf was overheard by Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager saying, "When the war is over, we will have to purge, after the Jews, the Catholic officers in the army." Boeselager, a Roman Catholic Wehrmacht officer, vocally objected, citing his own decorations for heroism in combat. Boeselager then left before General Burgdorf could respond.
When the Soviet Army began their assault on Berlin, Burgdorf joined Hitler in the Führerbunker. On 28 April, when it was discovered that Heinrich Himmler was trying to negotiate a surrender to the western Allies via Count Folke Bernadotte, Burgdorf became part of a military tribunal ordered by Hitler to court-martial Himmler's SS liaison officer Hermann Fegelein. Fegelein, by that time was Eva Braun's brother-in-law. SS-General Wilhelm Mohnke presided over the tribunal which, in addition to Burgdorf and Mohnke, included SS-General Johann Rattenhuber and General Hans Krebs. However, Fegelein was so drunk that he was determined to be 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. The bodies of Krebs and Burgdorf were found when Soviet personnel entered 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
Portrayal in the media
Wilhelm Burgdorf has been portrayed by the following actors in film and television productions.
- Everett Sloane in the 1951 United States drama The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel.
- Erik Frey in the 1955 West German film Der Letzte Akt (Hitler: The Last Ten Days).
- Peter Jacob in the 1966 French/U.S. film Paris brûle-t-il? (Is Paris Burning?).
- Hector Ross in the 1973 British television production The Death of Adolf Hitler.
- Joss Ackland in the 1973 British film Hitler: The Last Ten Days.
- Justus von Dohnányi in the 2004 German film Downfall (Der Untergang).
- Paul Gustavson in the 2006 United States documentary Rommel and the Plot Against Hitler.
- Beevor 2002, p. 387.
- Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999) . The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends, The Evidence, The Truth. Brockhampton Press. p. 286. ISBN 1-86019-902-X.
- Wilhelm Keitel, Nuremberg Testimony
- Manfred Rommel, Nuremberg testimony
- von Boeselager, Philipp Freiherr (2009). Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler by its Last Member. Vintage Books. p. 177. ISBN 0-307-45497-5
- O'Donnell, James (1978). The Bunker. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 182, 183. ISBN 978-0-395-25719-7
- Bullock, Alan (1962), Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Penguin Books, p. 795, ISBN 0-14-013564-2
- Ryan, Cornelius (1966). The Last Battle. London: Collins. p. 398. ISBN 0-00-613267-7
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 150.
- "General Wilhelm Burgdorf (Character)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
- Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin: The Downfall 1945. London: Viking-Penguin Books. ISBN 0-670-03041-4.
- Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999) . The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends, the Evidence, the Truth. Trans. Helmut Bögler. London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 978-1-86019-902-8.
- 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.
- Lehrer, Steven (2002). Hitler Sites: A City-by-city Guidebook (Austria, Germany, France, United States). McFarland. p. 224. ISBN 0-7864-1045-0.
- 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.
- Lexikon der Wehrmacht. Personenregister. Burgdorf, Wilhelm.  This website is maintained by Volksbund Deutscher Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V., a non-governmental charity that cares for German World War II military graves and the remains of Hitler's soldiers, both in Germany and in other parts of the world. See Hitler Sites: A City-by-city Guidebook (Austria, Germany, France, United States) for further detail.