Hans Speidel

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Hans Speidel
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2004-0024, Hans Speidel.jpg
Lieutenant-General Dr. Hans Speidel in 1944
Born (1897-10-28)28 October 1897
Metzingen, Germany
Died 28 November 1984(1984-11-28) (aged 87)
Bad Honnef, Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany (to 1944)
 West Germany
 NATO
Service/branch Flag of the German Empire.svg Imperial German Army
Flag of Weimar Republic (war).svg Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.svg Wehrmacht
Bundeswehr Kreuz Black.svg Bundeswehr
Years of service 1914–45
1955–63
Rank General
Battles/wars

World War I


World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
German Cross
Other work Commander-in-Chief of the Allied ground forces in Central Europe from April 1957 to September 1963
Signature Spiedel Unterschrift.jpg

Hans Speidel (28 October 1897 – 28 November 1984) was a German general during World War II and the Cold War. The former chief of staff to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Speidel was a nationalist conservative who agreed with the territorial aspects of the Nazi regime's policies, but strongly disagreed with their racial policies. This led him to participate in the 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler, after which he was jailed by the Gestapo. At the end of the world war, he escaped from Nazi prison and went into hiding.

After the world war, Speidel emerged as one of the leading German military figures during the early Cold War. He served as Supreme Commander of the NATO ground forces in Central Europe from 1957 to 1963, as the first German NATO commander during the Cold War, and with headquarters at the Palace of Fontainebleau in Paris. He was also a military historian.

Early career[edit]

General Speidel (left) in 1943, with Oberstleutnant Josef Graßmann from the 326th Grenadier Regiment on the Eastern Front.

Speidel was born in Metzingen. He joined the German Army in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I and was quickly promoted to second lieutenant. During the war he was a company commander at the Battle of the Somme and an adjutant. He stayed in the German Army during the interwar period and also studied history and economics at different universities. In 1926 he received his Ph.D. degree magna cum laude.

World War II[edit]

Speidel was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on the eve of World War II. He served in the French campaign of 1940 and in August became Chief of Staff of the military commander in France. In 1942 Speidel was sent to the Eastern Front where he served as Chief of Staff of the 5th Army Corps, and as Chief of Staff of 8th Army in 1943, by which time he had been promoted to major-general. A further promotion to lieutenant general followed on 1 January 1944. In April 1944, Speidel was appointed Chief of Staff to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Commander-in-Chief of Army Group B, responsible for the defense of the French Atlantic coast. When Rommel was wounded in an air attack on his staff car, Speidel continued as Chief of Staff for the new commander of Army Group B, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge.

On 26 August 1944, Speidel answered the phone when Alfred Jodl, the Fuhrer's chief of staff, called Field Marshal Model, commander in chief of the western front, with Hitler's order to start bombing Paris immediately with V1 and V2 rockets. Model was not in. Speidel never did pass on the order to his superior.[1]

The 20 July Plot[edit]

Speidel with Rommel, April 1944

Speidel, a professional soldier and German nationalist, agreed with those aspects of Hitler's policy that returned Germany to its place as a world power, but disagreed with the Nazis' racial policies. He was involved in the 20 July Plot to kill Adolf Hitler and had been delegated by anti-Hitler forces to recruit Rommel for the conspiracy, which he had cautiously begun to do prior to Rommel's injury in a Canadian strafing attack on 17 July 1944. Speidel managed to become Rommel's confidant, purely by chance: Lucie Rommel, after having an argument with the wife of Alfred Gause (Rommel's then Chief-of-Staff) about who had gotten the more honourable place at a wedding, decided to not only evict the Gause couple out of her house but to order her husband to dismiss Alfred Gause as well. Rommel chose Speidel, a fellow Swabian, as his new Chief-of-Staff. [2][3]

After Rommel's accident, he tried to recruit "Hans" Günther von Kluge and after that, Kluge's successor Walter Model, but was told by Model that they should leave the political thing alone.[4] Following the attempt the Gestapo rounded up, tortured and executed some five thousand Germans, including many high-ranking officers. Speidel's involvement was suspected by the Gestapo, and he was arrested on 7 September 1944. Rommel, in his final letter to Hitler of 1 October 1944, appealed for Speidel's release, but received no answer. Speidel appeared before an Army Court of honour, but Gerd von Rundstedt, Heinz Guderian and Wilhelm Keitel refused to expel him from the German Army. Thus he was not compelled to appear before Roland Freisler's People's Court, which would have been a death sentence. He was jailed for seven months by the Gestapo. As Allied forces approached the location where he was held, he slipped from his captors and went into hiding. He was freed by French troops on 29 April 1945.

Cold War[edit]

In 1950, Speidel was one of the authors of the Himmerod memorandum which addressed the issue of rearmament (Wiederbewaffnung) of the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II, and as an important military adviser to the government of Adenauer, was instrumental in the creating of the Bundeswehr, and later as a four-star general (the first to be awarded this rank by the Bundeswehr, together with Adolf Heusinger), oversaw the smooth integration of the Bundeswehr into NATO.[5][6]

November 1955 : left to right, Adolf Heusinger, Chief of Staff (nominated in 1957), the Federal Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Germany; Theodor Blank, Minister of Defence, Minister of Labour, CDU, Federal Republic of Germany; and Hans Speidel, General, Supreme Commander of NATO Forces Central Europe (nominated in 1957), Germany

According to an article in Der Spiegel, which cited documents released by the Bundesnachrichtendienst in 2014, Speidel may have been part of the Schnez-Truppe, a secret illegal army that veterans of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS established up from 1949 in Germany.[7]

After the war Speidel served for some time as professor of modern history at Tübingen and in 1950 published his book Invasion 1944: Rommel and the Normandy Campaign before being involved in both the development and creation of the new German Army (Bundeswehr) which he joined, reaching the NATO rank of full general. He was subsequently appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied NATO ground forces in Central Europe in April 1957, a command that he held until retirement in September 1963. His headquarters were at the Palace of Fontainebleau in Paris.

In 1960, Speidel took legal action against an East German film studio which portrayed him as having been privy to the assassinations of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou in 1934, as well as having betrayed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to the Nazis after the 20 July Plot in 1944. He successfully claimed damages for libel; see Plato Films Ltd v Speidel [1961] AC 1090.

Grave of Hans Speidel at the Pragfriedhof in Stuttgart

In addition to his native German, Speidel spoke fluent English and French. Hans Speidel died in 1984 at Bad Honnef, North Rhine-Westphalia, aged 87.

Promotions[edit]

See also[edit]

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Lapierre, Dominique, A Thousand Suns,Warner Books, 1997, p.129
  2. ^ Butler, Daniel Allen (2015). Field Marshal: The Life and Death of Erwin Rommel. Casemate. p. 469. ISBN 9781612002972. 
  3. ^ Remy, Maurice (2002). Mythos Rommel. Econ UllsteinList Verlag GmbH. p. 251. ISBN 3-471-78572-8. 
  4. ^ Range, Clemens (1990). Die Generale und Admirale der Bundeswehr. E.S. Mittler. p. 33. ISBN 9783813203509. 
  5. ^ Large, David Clay (2000). Germans to the Front: West German Rearmament in the Adenauer Era. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807862742. 
  6. ^ König, Guntram (2008). Das grosse Buch der Nationalen Volksarmee: Geschichte, Aufgaben, Ausrüstung. Das Neue Berlin. p. 23. ISBN 9783360019547. 
  7. ^ Wiegrefe, Klaus, "Files Uncovered: Nazi veterans Created Illegal Army", Spiegel Online, 14 May 2014
  8. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 450.
  9. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 404.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. 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. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • 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. 
  • Searle, Alaric (2003). Wehrmacht Generals, West German Society, and the Debate on Rearmament, 1949–1959. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0-275-97968-3. 
  • Speidel, Hans (1950). Invasion 1944: Rommel and the Normandy Campaign. Chicago: Henry Regnery. 

External links[edit]