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General der Infanterie Friedrich Olbricht
4 October 1888|
Leisnig, German Empire
|Died||21 July 1944
Berlin, Nazi Germany
|Years of service||1907–44|
|Rank||General der Infanterie|
|Commands held||24. Infanterie-Division|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Friedrich Olbricht (4 October 1888 – 21 July 1944) was a German general and one of the plotters involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944.
Friedrich Olbricht was born in Leisnig, Saxony on the 4 October 1888; son of Emil Olbricht, an educator who had a PhD in Physics and later went on to become a Professor in addition to his doctorate. Olbricht did not venture through attending a cadet academy as did other future staff officers such as future Chief Of Staff of the Wehrmacht Alfred Jodl.
After his Abitur in 1907, Olbricht joined Infantry Regiment 106 in Leipzig as an ensign, in which capacity he fought in World War I. Afterwards, as a captain, he was taken into the Reichswehr by which time had been reduced in size under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
Olbricht was married to Eva Koeppel. The couple had a son and a daughter.
Role in the Resistance
Olbricht was one of few German military officers who supported the democratic Weimar Republic. His mistrust of the Nazis became apparent early on, particularly after the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, when he stood together with Hans Oster, Erwin von Witzleben and Georg Thomas, who all distanced themselves from the growing National Socialist movement, worried as they were at the allure that the Nazis seemed to have for a lot of military men.
In 1926, Olbricht was called into the Reich Defence Ministry as leader of the "Foreign Armies Bureau". In 1933, he became chief of staff of the Dresden Division.
In 1934, Olbricht managed to save several men from being shot in the wake of the Night of the Long Knives by having them assigned to military-political duties under army protection. They had already been arrested, and would have been put to death in fairly short order.
In 1935, Olbricht was appointed chief of staff of the Fourth Army Corps stationed in Dresden. In 1938, he took over leadership of the 24th Infantry Division. That same year, he unsuccessfully advocated the rehabilitation of Werner von Fritsch, who had been disgraced as a result of an accusation of homosexuality (see Blomberg-Fritsch Affair).
When World War II broke out in 1939, Olbricht commanded the 24th Infantry Division during the Invasion of Poland. He led the division from the front, in one case creating an improvised "motorized unit" by loading troops on his own staff car so he could rush ahead and secure important bridges before they could be demolished by the enemy. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his personal bravery and his dynamic leadership style. On 15 February 1940, Olbricht was promoted to General of the Infantry. He was appointed Chief of the General Army Office (Allgemeines Heeresamt) in the Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres). He was furthermore made Chief of the Armed Forces Replacement Office (Wehrersatzamt) at the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht.
Starting in the winter of 1941-1942, Olbricht developed the plan for Operation Valkyrie, a General Staff plan which was ostensibly to be used to put down internal unrest, but was in fact a blueprint for a coup d'état. Together with the resistance circles around Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and Major-General Henning von Tresckow, he worked to find a means of assassinating Adolf Hitler and using the coup plan to bring down the Nazi regime. In 1943, he asked that Colonel Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg come to work at his office; von Stauffenberg would later be the key man in the assassination attempt, with the job of actually planting the bomb near Hitler.
On the day of the attempted coup d'état, 20 July 1944, Olbricht and Colonel Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim initiated Operation Valkyrie by mobilizing the Replacement Army (Ersatzheer). It eventually became clear that Stauffenberg's briefcase bomb had failed to kill the Führer, however, and so the plan to seize key sites in Berlin using units from the reserve army began to falter. Many consider one of the overwhelming factors which prevented this coup from gathering any real pace was the failure of troops on the ground to gain control of the communications coming into and out of Berlin; Adolf Hitler and his commanders in the Wolfsschanze were able to broadcast a speech after the coup which in turn led to quick demise of the coup as a whole. As a result, the Nazi leadership was able to regain control using its own loyal troops within a few hours.
Arrest and execution
At 21:00, Olbricht was arrested at his headquarters in the Bendlerblock by soldiers from the Berlin garrison.
Later that evening, Colonel-General Friedrich Fromm held a hastily arranged court martial, supposedly in an attempt to protect himself from being exposed as a silent conspirator. Olbricht, Mertz von Quirnheim, von Stauffenberg, and his aide Werner von Haeften, were then taken outside to the courtyard and executed by firing squad, against Hitler's orders to take the would-be assassins alive (those who did get captured alive got more painful and prolonged means of execution). Olbricht was the first of the four to be shot.
Awards and decorations
|Knight Second Class of the Civil Order of Saxony with Swords|
|Knight's Cross, First Class of the Albert Order with Swords|
|Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd Class (1914)|
|Knight's Cross of the Military Order of St. Henry|
|Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918|
|Iron Cross (1939), 1st and 2nd Class|
|War Merit Cross with Swords, 1st and 2nd Class|
|Wehrmacht Long Service Award, 4th to 1st Class|
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 October 1939 as Generalleutnant and commander of 24. Infanterie-Division|
- German Cross in Silver (1 August 1943)
Portrayal in the media
Friedrich Olbricht has been portrayed by the following actors in film productions:
- Wilfried Ortmann in the 1971 Eastern Bloc co-production Liberation: Direction of the Main Blow.
- Michael Byrne in the 1990 United States television film The Plot to Kill Hitler.
- Rainer Bock in the 2004 German TV film Stauffenberg.
- Bill Nighy in the 2008 United States film Valkyrie.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) . Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [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.
- Georgi, Friedrich (1989). Soldat im Widerstand. General der Infanterie Friedrich Olbricht; 2. Aufl., Berlin u. Hamburg. ISBN 3-489-50134-9.
- Helena P. Page, General Friedrich Olbricht. Ein Mann des 20. Juli; 2. Aufl., Bonn u. Berlin 1994 (ISBN 3-416-02514-8) (Note the author of this book is better known under her married name Helena Schrader.)
- Helena Schrader, Codename Valkyrie General Friedrch Olbricht and the plot against Hitler; Haynes Publishing 2009 (ISBN 978-1844255337).
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Friedrich Olbricht in the German National Library catalogue
- Report from Olbricht's son-in-law Friedrich Georgi about the talk on 20 July, in which Olbricht explained his motivations, just before he was arrested.
Generalleutnant Sigisimund von Förster
|Commander of 24. Infanterie-Division
10 November 1938 – 15 February 1940
Generalleutnant Justin von Obernitz