Georg von Küchler
|Georg von Küchler|
Georg von Küchler
30 May 1881|
Philippsruhe castle in Hanau, Province of Hesse-Nassau, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
|Died||25 May 1968
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, West Germany
|Years of service||January 1900 – 1944|
|Battles/wars||World War II: Battle of the Netherlands, Battle of France, Siege of Leningrad|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Georg Karl Friedrich Wilhelm von Küchler (30 May 1881 – 25 May 1968) was a German Field Marshal during the Second World War. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. After the end of the war he was tried by a military court and on 27 October 1948 was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for his treatment of partisans in the Soviet Union. However, he served only eight years before being released in 1953 due to illness and old age.
Küchler was born in Philippsruhe Castle in Hanau, Hesse-Nassau, on 30 May 1881. Little is known about Küchler’s early life and childhood. After attending cadet school, he entered the Imperial Army in 1900 and served in the 25th Field Artillery Regiment. After being promoted to First Lieutenant, he spent three years at the Prussian Military Academy (from 1910 to 1913), before joining the General Staff in Berlin.
The First World War and interwar years
During the First World War he commanded an artillery battery on the Western Front and took part in the major offensives at the Somme and Verdun. In 1916 he became staff officer of the 206th Infantry Division. In 1919 Küchler joined the Freikorps and fought the Red Army in Poland. After returning to Germany he joined the staff of the Jüterbog Artillery School. Promoted to Colonel, Küchler became Deputy Commander of the 1st Infantry Division in East Prussia in 1932. Küchler succeeded Walther von Brauchitsch as commander of Wehrkreis I in 1937. The following year he supported Adolf Hitler in his removal of Werner von Blomberg and Werner von Fritsch from power. In March 1939 he took part in the occupation of the Lithuanian port of Memel.
The Second World War: in Poland and on the Western Front
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Küchler was given command of the 3rd Army. During the invasion of Poland Küchler’s troops captured Danzig. Although a committed supporter of the Nazi Party, Küchler upset the Schutzstaffel (SS) by punishing soldiers who committed atrocities against civilians. In 1940 he became far more supportive of Nazi racial policy and ordered on 22 February a halt to any criticism of "ethnic struggle being carried out in the General Government, for instance that of the Polish minorities, of the Jews and those regarding Church matters". His order explained that the "Final ethnic solution" required unique and harsh measures.
In the Western Offensive he fought under Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock and commanded the Eighteenth Army, which invaded the Netherlands. In the invasion of neutral Netherlands, he was able to defeat the Dutch army at Moerdijk, Rotterdam, and the Hague. Afterwards Küchler’s forces moved into Belgium and occupied Antwerp on 18 May 1940. Then he moved into France, attempting to cut off the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from the English Channel at Dunkirk, which ultimately ended in failure because of Hitler's decision to halt before reaching the channel. The 18th Army ended this phase of the war at Pas de Calais encircling Dunkirk. Küchler’s role in this campaign earned him the rank of colonel-general.
After meeting Hitler in March 1941 to plan for Operation Barbarossa, Küchler told his divisional commanders on 25 April 1941:
"We are separated from Russia, ideologically and racially, by a deep abyss. Russia is, if only by the mass of her territory, an Asian state...The Führer does not wish to palm off responsibility for Germany's existence on to a later generation; he has decided to force the dispute with Russia before the year is out. If Germany wishes to live in peace for generations, safe from a threatening danger in the East, this cannot be a case of pushing Russia back a little-or even hundreds of kilometers-but the aim must be to annihilate European Russia, to dissolve the Russian state in Europe"
Küchler went on to call Red Army commissars "criminals" who should all be shot.
The Second World War: on the Eastern Front
During Barbarossa the 18th Army forced its way to Ostrov and Pskov after the Soviet troops of the Northwestern Front retreated towards Leningrad. On 10 July 1941, both Ostrov and Pskov were captured and the 18th Army reached Narva and Kingisepp, from where advance toward Leningrad continued from the Luga River line. This had the effect of creating siege positions from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, with the eventual aim of isolating Leningrad from all directions. The Finnish Army was then expected to advance along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga.
On 17 January 1942, Küchler became commander of Army Group North after Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb was relieved of his command. Küchler, unlike his predecessor Leeb, was seen as politically compliant and was liked by Adolf Hitler, who hoped that Küchler would succeed where he believed Leeb had failed.
Küchler commanded Army Group North from December 1941 through January 1944 but was unable to achieve any victory at Leningrad. He maintained the siege of Leningrad, launching massive bombardments in an attempt to intimidate the Soviet Red Army into surrender. On 30 June 1942 Hitler promoted Küchler to field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall). In January 1944 Soviet troops were able to break the blockade of Leningrad, and Küchler was sacked when he demanded the withdrawal to the Luga River, which was vital to the survival of Army Group North.
While in retirement Küchler was approached by Carl Goerdeler who tried to persuade him to join the July Plot. Although sympathetic to the group's objectives, he refused to participate in the attempt to assassinate Hitler. At the end of the Second World War, Küchler was arrested by American occupation authorities and tried by a military court in 1948 in the High Command Trial. On 27 October 1948 he was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for his treatment of partisans in the Soviet Union but only served eight years before he was released in 1953 due to illness and old age. He died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on 25 May 1968.
- Iron Cross (1914)
- Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords
- Knight's Cross, First Class of the Friedrich Order with Swords (Württemberg)
- Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg
- Friedrich Cross (Anhalt)
- Hesse Bravery Medal
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award, 4th to 1st class
- Memel Medal
- Eastern Front Medal
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mentioned twice in the Wehrmachtbericht (21 October 1941 and 12 August 1943)
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|12 August 1943||In der dritten Schlacht südlich des Ladogasees haben die unter Führung des Generalfeldmarschalls Küchler, des Generalobersten Lindemann und des Generals der Infanterie Wöhler stehenden deutschen Truppen, unterstützt von den durch General der Flieger Korten geführten Luftwaffenverbänden, in der Zeit vom 22. Juli bis 6. August den Ansturm der 8. und 67. sowjetischen Armee in heldenmütigen Kämpfen abgeschlagen und damit die Durchbruchsabsichten des Feindes vereitelt.||In the third battle south of Lake Ladoga have German troops standing under the command of Field Marshal Küchler, Colonel General Lindemann and General of Infantry Wöhler, supported by Air Force organizations led by the Luftwaffe General Korten, in the period of 22 July to 6 August heroically thwarted the assault of the 8th and 67th Soviet army and prevented the breakthrough intensions of the enemy.|
- Lexikon der Wehrmacht
- The Origins of the Final Solution Christopher R. Browning, Jürgen Matthäus page 79 University of Nebraska Press, 2007
- Förster, Jürgen "The German Military’s Image of Russia" pp 117–129 from Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy edited by Ljubica and Mark Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 page 125.
- Förster, Jürgen ”The German Military’s Image of Russia” pp 117–129 from Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy edited by Ljubica and Mark Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 page 125.
- Хомяков, И (2006). История 24-й танковой дивизии ркка (in Russian). Санкт-Петербург: BODlib. pp. 232 с.
- Thomas 1997, p. 421.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 277.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 71.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 538.
- Britannica Online Encyclopedia "Georg von Küchler".
- 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.
- Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham – Huppertz [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color I Abraham – Huppertz] (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-20-1.
- 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.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
|Commander of 1. Infanterie-Division
October 1, 1934 – April 1, 1935
Generalleutnant Walther Schroth
|Commander of 3. Armee
September 1, 1939 – November 5, 1939
|Commander of 18. Armee
November 5, 1939 – January 16, 1942
Generaloberst Georg Lindemann
Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb
|Commander of Heeresgruppe Nord
January 17, 1942 – January 9, 1944
Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model