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Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List
|Birth name||Siegmund Wilhelm Walther List|
14 May 1880|
Oberkirchberg near Ulm, Kingdom of Württemberg, German Empire
|Died||17 August 1971
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, West Germany
|Buried at||Munich Waldfriedhof|
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1898–1942|
World War II
Wound Badge (1918) in black
Early life and career
List was born in Oberkirchberg (now a part of Illerkirchberg) near Ulm, Württemberg, Germany in 1880 and entered the Bavarian Army in 1898 as a cadet. In 1900, he was promoted to Leutnant (Lieutenant) and in 1913 he joined the general staff as a Hauptmann (Captain). He served as a staff officer in World War I.
After the war, List stayed in the Reichswehr and most of his assignments were as an administrator. In 1927, he was promoted to Oberst, in 1930 he was promoted to Generalmajor (Equivalent to a US Brigadier General) and in 1932 he was promoted to Generalleutnant (Major General). In 1938, after the Anschluss of Austria, List was made responsible for integrating the Bundesheer into the Wehrmacht.
In 1939, List commanded the German 14th Army in the invasion of Poland. From 1939–1941, he commanded the German 12th Army in France and Greece. In 1941, he was Commander-in-Chief South-East. In July 1942, he was Commander-in-Chief of Army Group A on the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union.
It was List’s task to advance his army into southern Poland immediately on the outbreak of hostilities, to form the extreme southern wing of an encircling manoeuver carried out by the German forces aimed at trapping the Polish field army in the general region of Warsaw. He didn’t fulfill this mission, although he met advance elements of the German XIX Panzer Corps—under General Heinz Guderian—a short distance south of Brest-Litovsk, on 17 September 1939. Following the conclusion of the fighting in Poland, which was accelerated by the occupation of the eastern part of the country by Soviet forces (as agreed to in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), List and his army remained posted as occupying forces on Polish territory.
During the huge German offensive against France and the Low Countries May to June 1940, the 14th army remained in Poland, but this was not the case with its commander. In May 1940 List commanded the 12th German army during the fall of France. The 12th army was a unit of the German Army Group A, under command of Gerd von Rundstedt. It was this Army Group that successfully forced the Ardennes and then made the imperative break-through on 15 May 1940, which spread panic in the French forces and cut the British expeditional forces off from their supply lines. After this successful campaign List was among the twelve generals that Hitler promoted to Generalfeldmarshall (Field Marshal) during the 1940 Field Marshal Ceremony. (This was the first occasion when Hitler appointed Field Marshals due to military achievement) In early 1941, German troops were being steadily massed on the Eastern Front of the Third Reich, in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. OKW believed that before Barbarossa could be launched it would be necessary to eliminate the possibility of interference from Greece by militarily subduing this country, in an operation codenamed Operation Marita. Field Marshal List was delegated to negotiate with the Bulgarian General Staff, and a secret agreement was signed allowing the free passage of German troops through Bulgarian territory. On the night of 28/29 February 1941, German troops—including List, who now commanded the 12th Army—took up positions in Bulgaria, which the next day joined the Tripartite Pact.
Greece and Yugoslavia, 1941
The invasion of Greece, and of Yugoslavia, started on 6 April 1941. List’s 12th Army consisted of four armored divisions and 11 motorized infantry divisions, and totally overmatched the defending forces. Belgrade was occupied by German forces on 13 April, and Athens on 27 April. The Balkan interlude ended with the evacuation of British forces on 28 April. In the Balkans he was implicated in mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians by having ordered hostage taking and reprisal killings.
Caucasus campaign and dismissal, 1942
In early July 1942, List took command of Army Group A, newly formed from the split of Army Group South during the Germans’ summer offensive named Case Blue. His orders were to take Rostov and then advance into the Caucasus as far as Baku to capture the oil-rich region. German forces made good progress for two months, advancing almost to Grozny, about 650 km (400 mi) from Rostov.
However, by the end of August their advance had ground to halt, chiefly due to considerably stiffened Soviet resistance, and also due to critical shortages of fuel and ammunition as the army group outran its supply lines. Matters were made worse for the Germans by the removal in mid-August of most Luftwaffe combat units to the north to support the 6th Army’s drive on Stalingrad.
Hitler was angered by the loss of momentum, and when List proposed moving some stalled spearhead units to another, less advanced portion of the front to assist in destroying stubborn Soviet forces, Hitler relieved him of command on 9 September and placed Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist in charge of Army Group A. List spent the rest of the war at his home and never returned to active duty.
Capture and trial
List was captured by the Allies after the war. In 1947, List and 11 former subordinates were brought before a U.S. military court, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity — primarily the reprisal killing of Serbian hostages in retaliation for partisan activity. List was convicted in this Hostages Trial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 1948. List was released from prison in December 1952, officially because of ill health. However, he lived for another 19 years, dying on August 17, 1971 at the age of 91.
Dates of rank
- Fähnrich – 8 February 1899
- Leutnant – 7 March 1900
- Oberleutnant – 9 March 1908
- Hauptmann – 22 March 1913
- Major – 26 September 1919
- Oberstleutnant – 1 October 1923
- Oberst – 1 March 1927
- Generalmajor (equiv. US Brigadier General) – 1 November 1930
- Generalleutnant (Major General) – 1 October 1932
- General der Infanterie (Lieutenant General of Infantry) – 1 October 1935
- Generaloberst (General) – 20 April 1939
- Generalfeldmarschall – 19 July 1940
- Wound Badge (1918) in black
- Iron Cross (1914), 1st and 2nd class
- Iron Cross (1939), 1st and 2nd class
- Knights Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 30 September 1939 as Generaloberst and commander-in-chief of the 14. Armee
- Military Merit Order, 4th class with Swords and Crown (Bavaria)
- Knight's Cross of the Friedrich Order (Württemberg)
- Military Merit Cross, 3rd class with war decoration (Austria-Hungary)
- Knight's Cross of the Order of Military Merit (Bulgaria) (Bulgaria)
- 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.
- Hayward, Joel S. A. Stopped At Stalingrad. University Press of Kansas; Lawrence: 1998. ISBN 978-0-7006-1146-1.
- 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.
|Commander of 12. Armee
13 October 1939 – 29 October 1941
General der Pioniere Walter Kuntze