Erich Fellgiebel

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Erich Fellgiebel
Erich Fellgiebel opt.jpg
Erich Fellgiebel
Born(1886-10-04)4 October 1886
Pöpelwitz, Silesia
Died4 September 1944(1944-09-04) (aged 57)
Berlin, Germany
Allegiance German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Years of service1905–44
RankGeneral der Nachrichtentruppe
Commands heldChief of Wehrmacht communications, Chief of Army communications
(German: Chef of Wehrmacht-Nachrichten-Verbindunger) (abbr. Chef WNV),
(German: Chef of Heeres-Nachrichten-Wesen) (abbr. Chef HNW)
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
RelationsWalther-Peer Fellgiebel (son)

Fritz Erich Fellgiebel (4 October 1886 – 4 September 1944) was an anti-Nazi German Army general and a conspirator in the 20 July plot to assassinate Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. In 1929, Fellgiebel became head of the (German: Chiffrierstelle) cipher bureau of the Reichswehrministerium, which would eventually become the OKW/Chi. He was a signals specialist and was instrumental in introducing a common enciphering machine, the Enigma machine. However, he was unsuccessful in promoting a single cipher agency to coordinate all operations, as was demanded by OKW/Chi and was still blocked by Joachim von Ribbentrop, Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring until autumn 1943. It was not achieved until General Albert Praun took over the post.[1]

Military career[edit]

Fellgiebel was born in Pöpelwitz[2] (Present-day Popowice in Wrocław, Poland) in the Prussian Province of Silesia. At the age of 18, he joined a signals battalion in the Prussian Army as an officer cadet. During the First World War, he served as a captain on the General Staff. After the war he was assigned to Berlin as a General Staff officer of the Reichswehr. His service had been exemplary, and in 1928 he was promoted to the rank of major.

Fellgiebel was promoted lieutenant colonel in 1933, and became a full colonel (Oberst) the following year. By 1938, he was a major general. That year, he was appointed Chief of the Army's Signal Establishment and Chief of the Wehrmacht's communications liaison to the Supreme Command (OKW). Fellgiebel became General der Nachrichtentruppe (General of the Communications Troops) on 1 August 1940.

In 1942, Fellgiebel was promoted to Chief Signal Officer of Army High Command and of Supreme Command of Armed Forces (German: Chef des Heeresnachrichtenwesens), a position he held until 1944 when he was arrested.[3]

Adolf Hitler did not fully trust Fellgiebel; Hitler considered him too independent-minded, but Hitler needed Fellgiebel's expertise. Fellgiebel was one of the first to understand that the German military should adopt and use the Enigma encryption machine. As head of Hitler's signal services, Fellgiebel knew every military secret, including Wernher von Braun's rocketry work at the Peenemünde Army Research Center.

Resistance activities[edit]

Through his acquaintance with Colonel General Ludwig Beck, his superior, and then Beck's successor, Colonel-General Franz Halder, Fellgiebel contacted the anti-Nazi resistance group in the Wehrmacht armed forces. In the 1938 September Conspiracy on the eve of the Munich Agreement, he was supposed to cut communications throughout Germany while Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben would occupy Berlin.

Fellgiebel was again involved in the preparations for Operation Valkyrie and during the attempt on the Führer's life on 20 July 1944[4] tried to cut Hitler's headquarters at Wolf's Lair in East Prussia off from all telecommunication connections. He only partly succeeded, as he could not prevent the informing of Joseph Goebbels in Berlin via separate SS links. When it became clear that the attempt had failed, Fellgiebel had to override the communications black-out he had set up.

Fellgiebel's most famous act that day was his telephone report to his co-conspirator General Fritz Thiele at the Bendlerblock, after he was informed that Hitler was still alive: "Etwas Furchtbares ist passiert! Der Führer lebt!" ("Something awful has happened! The Führer lives!").

Fellgiebel was arrested immediately at Wolf's Lair and tortured for three weeks, but did not reveal any names of his co-conspirators.[5] He was charged before the Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court"). On 10 August 1944, he was found guilty by Roland Freisler and sentenced to death. He was executed on 4 September 1944 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.


The Bundeswehr's barracks, a signals and intelligence school ("Führungsunterstützungsschule") in Pöcking-Maxhof is named the General-Fellgiebel-Kaserne in his honour.

Fictional portrayals[edit]

Holger Petzold portrayed General Fellgiebel in the miniseries War and Remembrance in 1989.

Vernon Dobtcheff portrayed him in the 1990 television film The Plot to Kill Hitler.

Fellgiebel was portrayed by Harald Krassnitzer in the 2004 German TV film Stauffenberg.

He was portrayed by actor and comedian Eddie Izzard in the 2008 Bryan Singer thriller Valkyrie.

Awards and decorations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bauer, Friedrich L. (24 November 2006). Decrypted Secrets: Methods and Maxims of Cryptology. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 32. ISBN 978-3-540-48121-8. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  2. ^ Adams, Jefferson (1 September 2009). Historical Dictionary of German Intelligence. Scarecrow Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-8108-6320-0. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Volume 4 - Signal Intelligence Service of the Army High Command" (PDF). NSA. Retrieved 1 August 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ Adam, Wilhelm; Ruhle, Otto (2015). With Paulus at Stalingrad. Translated by Tony Le Tissier. Pen and Sword Books Ltd. pp. 34–35. ISBN 9781473833869.
  5. ^ Hoffmann, Peter (8 October 1996). History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 514. ISBN 978-0-7735-6640-8. Retrieved 2 January 2018.


  • Brown, Anthony Cave, Bodyguard of Lies, Harper & Row, 1975.
  • Macksey, Kenneth: Without Enigma: the Ultra & Fellgiebel riddles. Shepperton: Allan, 2000. – ISBN 0-7110-2766-8.
  • Stahlberg, Alexander, Bounden Duty: The Memoirs of a German Officer 1932-45, 1990.
  • Wildhagen, Karl Heinz (Hrsg.): Erich Fellgiebel, Meister operativer Nachrichtenverbindungen. – Wenningsen: Selbstverl., 1970.


External links[edit]