Alexander von Falkenhausen
|Alexander von Falkenhausen|
Falkenhausen in uniform, 1940
|Birth name||Alexander Ernst Alfred Hermann Freiherr von Falkenhausen|
29 October 1878|
Gut Blumenthal, Province of Silesia, German Empire
|Died||31 July 1966
Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
China (to 1938)
|Years of service||1897–1930, 1934–1944|
|Rank||General der Infanterie|
|Awards||Pour le Mérite|
Alexander Ernst Alfred Hermann Freiherr von Falkenhausen (29 October 1878 – 31 July 1966) was a German general and a pardoned war criminal. He was an important figure during the Sino-German cooperation to reform the Chinese Army. During World War II Germany ended its support for China and Falkenhausen was forced to withdraw from China. Back in Europe he later became the head of the Nazi military government of Belgium from 1940–44 during its German occupation. He was responsible for ordering the execution of hostages and deportations of Jews in Belgium.
He was married twice, firstly to Paula von Wedderkop (8 October 1879 – 3 March 1950) and then in 1960, to Cecile Vent (16 September 1906 – 1977), both without issue. He was a nephew of Ludwig von Falkenhausen, who was the governor-general of Belgium during the German occupation, from 1917–1918, in the First World War and a direct male line descendant of Karl Wilhelm Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, by his mistress Elisabeth Wünsch.
Early life and military career
Alexander von Falkenhausen was born at Blumenthal, near Neisse (now Nysa, Poland) in the Prussian province of Silesia, one of seven children of Baron Alexander von Falkenhausen (1844–1909) and his wife, Elisabeth. He attended a Gymnasium in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) and then the cadet school at Wahlstatt (now Legnickie Pole). In his youth, Falkenhausen showed an interest in Eastern Asia and its societies. He travelled and studied in Japan, northern China, Korea and Indochina from 1909–1911.
In 1897 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 91st Oldenburg Infantry Regiment of the Imperial German Army, taking part in quelling the Boxer Rebellion, and served as a military attaché in Japan from 1900 up until to the First World War. He was awarded the prestigious Pour le Mérite award while serving with the Ottoman Army in Palestine. After the war, he remained in the Reichswehr (German Army) and in 1927 was appointed to head the Dresden Infantry School.
Adviser to Chiang Kai-shek
In 1930, Falkenhausen retired from the service and in 1934 went to China to serve as Chiang Kai-shek's military advisor, as part of the Sino-German cooperation to reform the Chinese army. In 1937 Nazi Germany allied with the Empire of Japan, which with the Republic of China was fighting the Second Sino-Japanese War. As a goodwill gesture to Japan, Germany recognized the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, withdrew German support from China and forced Falkenhausen to resign by threatening to have his family in Germany punished for disloyalty. After a goodbye dinner party with Chiang Kai-shek's family, Falkenhausen promised that he would never reveal any of battle plans he had devised to the Japanese. According to some sources (especially from Communist Chinese ones in the late 1930s), Falkenhausen kept in contact with Chiang Kai-shek and occasionally sent European luxury items and food to him, the Chiang household and his officers. On his 72nd birthday in 1950, Falkenhausen received a 12,000 U.S. dollar cheque from Chiang Kai-shek as his birthday gift and a personal note declaring him a "Friend of China".
Military governor for Belgium
Recalled to active duty in 1938, Falkenhausen served as an infantry general on the Western Front, until he was appointed military governor of Belgium in May 1940. During his time as military governor, Falkenhausen signed seventeen decrees against the Jewish population of Belgium as preparatory measures leading in June 1942 to the deportation of 28,900 Jews. His deputy for economic affairs, Eggert Reeder, was in charge of the destruction of "Jewish influence" in the Belgian economy, leading to mass unemployment of Jewish workers, especially in the diamond business. Some 2,250 of these unemployed people were sent to forced labour camps in Northern France, to build the Atlantic Wall for Organisation Todt. Some 43,000 non-Jewish Belgians were also deported to Nazi concentration camps, where about 13,000 of them died. Hundreds of captured resistance fighters were shot during the occupation.
He intervened twice to prevent the execution of Belgians for resistance against the Germans, at the request of Qian Xiuling, a Chinese-Belgian woman whose elder cousin, Lieutenant General Qian Zhuolun, was a good friend of Falkenhausen during his time in China and in the post-war trial Xiuling spoke in his defense. In other circumstances, he ordered execution of 240 Belgian civilian hostages in reprisal for resistance against the Nazi occupation.
Falkenhausen was a close friend of the anti-Hitler conspirators, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben and soon came to detest Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. He offered his support to Witzleben for a planned coup d'état, but did not take any part in the coup. After the failure of the 20 July Plot to kill Hitler in 1944, Falkenhausen spent the rest of the war being transferred from one concentration camp to another. In late April 1945 he was transferred to Tyrol with about 140 other prominent inmates of the Dachau concentration camp. The SS fled, leaving the prisoners behind and he was captured by the Fifth U.S. Army on 5 May 1945.
Trial and pardon
Falkenhausen and Reeder were sent to Belgium for trial in 1948, where they were held on remand for three years. A trial for their role in the deportation of Jews from Belgium but not for their deaths in Auschwitz, began in Brussels on 9 March 1951 and they were defended by the lawyer Ernst Achenbach. Falkenhausen was vouched for by Qian Xiuling and a number of Belgian Jews, who gave evidence that Falkenhausen and Reeder had tried to save Belgian and Jewish lives. Nevertheless, on 9 July 1951 they were convicted and sentenced to twelve years hard labour in Germany. On their return to West Germany three weeks after the end of the trial, having served one third of their sentence, as required by Belgian law, they were pardoned by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Falkenhausen died in Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, in 1966.
Dates of rank
- Sekondeleutnant, March 1897
- Leutnant, January 1899
- Hauptmann, March 1910
- Major, March 1915
- Lieutenant Colonel, Ottoman Army, June 1916
- Oberstleutnant, Imperial German Army, December 1920
- Oberst, April 1924
- Generalmajor, April 1928
- Generalleutnant, October 1929
- General der Infanterie, September 1940
Decorations and awards
- Order of the Crown, 4th class with Swords (Prussia)
- Knight's Cross of the Friedrich Order, 2nd class with Swords (Württemberg)
- Iron Cross of 1914, 1st and 2nd class
- Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords 
- Knight of Honour of the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg)
- Service Award (Prussia)
- Military Merit Order, 3rd class with Swords (Bavaria)
- Knight's Cross of the Order of the Crown with Swords (Württemberg)
- Honorary Knight's Cross, First Class of the House and Merit Order of Peter Frederick Louis with swords and laurel (Oldenburg)
- Friedrich August Cross, 1st and 2nd class (Oldenburg)
- Bravery Medal (Hesse)
- Hanseatic Cross (Hamburg)
- Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd class with War Decoration (Austria)
- Military Merit Cross, 3rd class with War Decoration (Austria-Hungary)
- Order of Osmanieh, 3rd class with sabre (Ottoman Empire)
- Order of the Medjidie, 2nd class with swords (Ottoman Empire)
- Imtiyaz Medal in Silver with Sabres (Ottoman Empire)
- Liakat Medal in Gold with sabre (Ottoman Empire)
- Gallipoli Star ("Iron Crescent", Ottoman Empire)
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award
- War Merit Cross, 1st and 2nd class with Swords (1939)
- German Cross in Silver (20 April 1943)
- German Military Mission to China 1927-1938. Retrieved 11 February 2017
- "A Story of World War II Heroism Comes Home to China". China.org.cn. April 2002. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
- The 'nazification' and 'denazification' of the Courts in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands: The Belgian, Luxembourg and Netherlands Courts and Their Reactions to Occupation Measures and Measures from Their Governments Returning from Exile, Joeri Nicolaas Maria Elisabeth Michielsen Universitaire Pers Maastricht, 2004, Belgium
- Peter Koblank: Die Befreiung der Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge in Südtirol, Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (German)
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