Werner von Blomberg

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Werner von Blomberg
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-W0402-504, Generaloberst Werner von Blomberg.jpg (cropped).jpg
Reichsminister of War
In office
21 May 1935 – 27 January 1938
Preceded byHimself
as Minister of Defense
Succeeded byWilhelm Keitel
as Chief of the High Command
Minister of Defence
In office
28 January 1933 – 21 May 1935
Preceded byKurt von Schleicher
Succeeded byHimself
as Reich Minister of War
Chief of the Troop Office
In office
27 January 1927 – 30 September 1929
Preceded byGeorg Wetzell
Succeeded byKurt von Hammerstein-Equord
Personal details
Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg

(1878-09-02)2 September 1878
Stargard, Province of Pomerania, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died13 March 1946(1946-03-13) (aged 67)
Nuremberg, Bavaria, Allied-occupied Germany
Cause of deathColorectal cancer
Resting placeBad Wiessee
Charlotte Hellmich
(m. 1904; died 1932)

Erna Gruhn
(m. 1938)
Military service
Nickname(s)Rubber Lion[1]
Allegiance German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Years of service1897–1938
Commands1st Infantry Division, Reichskriegsministerium
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsPour le Mérite

Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg (2 September 1878 – 13 March 1946) was a German General Staff officer and the first Minister of War of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. After serving at the Western Front in World War I, was appointed chief of the German Troop Office in the Weimar Republic. Following the Nazis' rise to power, he was named Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces. In this capacity, Blomberg played a central role in Germany's massive military build-up during the years leading to World War II. However, on 20 January 1938, he was ultimately forced to resign after his rivals, Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, presented Hitler with evidence that his wife posed in the past for pornographic photos.

Early life[edit]

Born in Stargard, Pomerania, Prussia (present-day Poland) into the illegitimate line[citation needed] of a Baltic German noble family, Werner von Blomberg joined the army in 1897 and attended the Prussian Military Academy in 1904. In April 1904, he married Charlotte Hellmich. The couple had five children. After graduating in 1907, Blomberg entered the German General Staff in 1908. Serving with distinction on the Western Front during the First World War, Blomberg was awarded the Pour le Mérite.[2]

In 1920, Blomberg was appointed chief of staff of the Döberitz Brigade, and in 1921 was made chief of staff of the Stuttgart Army Area. In 1925, Blomberg was made chief of army training by General Hans von Seeckt. By 1927, Blomberg was a major-general and chief of the Troop Office (German: Truppenamt), which was the thinly disguised German General Staff forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles.[3]

In the Weimar Republic[edit]

In 1928, Blomberg visited the Soviet Union, where he was much impressed by the high status of the Red Army, and left as a convinced believer in the value of totalitarian dictatorship as the prerequisite for military power.[4]

This was part of a broader shift on the part of the German military to the idea of a totalitarian Wehrstaat (transl. Defence State) which, starting in the mid-1920s, had become popular with officers. The German historian Eberhard Kolb wrote that:

...from the mid-1920s onwards the Army leaders had developed and propagated new social conceptions of a militarist kind, tending towards a fusion of the military and civilian sectors and ultimately a totalitarian military state (Wehrstaat).[5]

Blomberg's visit to the Soviet Union in 1928 had the effect of confirming his views about totalitarian powers being the greatest military powers. Blomberg believed the next world war, like the previous one, would become a total war, requiring the full mobilisation of German society and economy by the state, and that a totalitarian state would be most apt for effectively preparing society militarily and economically for war in peacetime.[3] Like the rest of Nazi Germany's military elite, Blomberg took it for granted that for Germany to achieve the "world power status" that it had sought (but failed to obtain) in the First World War would require another war, and that such a war would be a total war of a highly mechanised, industrial type.[6]

After arguing with General Kurt von Schleicher in 1929, however, Blomberg was removed from his post and made military commander of East Prussia. In 1929, Schleicher came into conflict with Blomberg at the Truppenamt. In early 1929, Schleicher had started a policy of "frontier defense" (Grenzschutz) under which the Reichswehr would stockpile arms in secret depots and start training volunteers in excess of the limits imposed by Versailles in the eastern parts of Germany facing Poland; in order to avoid incidents with France, there was to be no policy of Grenzschutz in the western parts of Germany.[7]

The French planned to withdraw from the Rhineland in June 1930—five years earlier than the Treaty of Versailles had called for—and Schleicher wanted no violations of Versailles that might seem to threaten France before the French left the Rhineland. When Blomberg, whom Schleicher personally disliked, insisted on extending Grenzschutz to border areas with France, in August 1929 Schleicher leaked the news to the press that Blomberg had attended armed maneuvers by volunteers in Westphalia.[8] Defence Minister General Wilhelm Groener, called Blomberg to Berlin to explain himself. Blomberg expected Schleicher to stick to the traditional Reichswehr policy of denying everything, and was shocked to see Schleicher instead attack him in front of Groener as a man who had recklessly exposed Germany to the risk of providing the French with an excuse to stay on in the Rhineland until 1935.[8]

As a result, Blomberg was demoted from command of the Truppenamt and sent to command a division in East Prussia.[8] Blomberg would later emerge as Schleicher's most powerful enemy within the Reichswehr.[citation needed] Since East Prussia was cut off from the rest of Germany and had only one infantry division stationed there, Blomberg—to increase the number of fighting men in the event of a war with Poland—started to make lists of all the men fit for military service, which further increased the attraction of a totalitarian state able to mobilise an entire society for war to him, and of an ideologically motivated levée en masse as the best way to fight the next war.[3] During his time as commander of Wehrkreis I, the military district which comprised East Prussia, Blomberg fell under the influence of a Nazi-sympathising Lutheran chaplain, Ludwig Müller, who introduced Blomberg to National Socialism.[9] Blomberg cared little for Nazi doctrines per se, his support for the Nazis being motivated by his belief that only a dictatorship could make Germany a great military power again, and that the Nazis were the best party to establish a dictatorship in Germany.[10]

Because he had the command of only one infantry division in East Prussia, Blomberg depended very strongly on Grenzschutz to increase the number of fighting men available. This led him to co-operate closely with the SA as a source of volunteers for Grenzschutz forces.[11] Blomberg's had excellent relations with the SA at this time, which led to the SA serving by 1931 as an unofficial militia backing up the Reichswehr. Many generals saw East Prussia as an model for future Army-Nazi co-operation all over Germany.[11]

Blomberg's interactions with the SA in East Prussia led him to the conclusion that Nazis made for excellent soldiers, which further increased the appeal of National Socialism for him.[11] But at the same time, Blomberg saw the SA only as a junior partner to the Army, and utterly opposed the SA's ambitions to replace the Reichswehr as Germany's main military force. Blomberg, like almost all German generals, envisioned a future Nazi-Army relationship where the Nazis would indoctrinate ordinary people with the right sort of ultra-nationalist, militarist values so that when young German men joined the Reichswehr they would be already half-converted into soldiers while at the same time making it clear that control of military matters would rest solely with the generals. In 1931, he visited the US, where he openly proclaimed his belief in the certainty and the benefits of a Nazi government for Germany.[12] Blomberg's first wife Charlotte died on 11 May 1932, leaving him with two sons and three daughters.[13][14]

In 1932, Blomberg served as part of the German delegation to the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva where, during his time as the German chief military delegate, he not only continued his pro-Nazi remarks to the press, but used his status as Germany's chief military delegate to communicate his views to Paul von Hindenburg, whose position as President of Germany made him German Supreme Commander in Chief.[12]

In his reports to Hindenburg, Blomberg wrote that his arch-rival Schleicher's attempts to create the Wehrstaat had clearly failed, and that Germany needed a new approach to forming the Wehrstaat.[15] By late January 1933, it was clear that the Schleicher government could only stay in power by proclaiming martial law and by authorizing the Reichswehr to crush popular opposition. In doing so, the military would have to kill hundreds, if not thousands of German civilians; any régime established in this way could never expect to build the national consensus necessary to create the Wehrstaat.[16] The military had decided that Hitler alone was capable of peacefully creating the national consensus that would allow the creation of the Wehrstaat, and thus the military successfully brought pressure on Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.[16] Blomberg served as one of the main channels by which the Reichswehr informed Hindenburg of their wish to see Hitler become Chancellor.[citation needed]

In late January 1933, President Hindenburg—without informing the chancellor, Schleicher, or the army commander, General Kurt von Hammerstein—recalled Blomberg from the World Disarmament Conference to return to Berlin.[17] Upon learning of this, Schleicher guessed correctly that the order to recall Blomberg to Berlin meant his own government was doomed.[17] When Blomberg arrived at the railroad station in Berlin on 28 January 1933, he was met by two officers, Adolf-Friedrich Kuntzen and Oskar von Hindenburg, adjutant and son of President Hindenburg. Kuntzen had orders from Hammerstein for Blomberg to report at once to the Defence Ministry, while Oskar von Hindenburg had orders for Blomberg to report directly to the Palace of the Reich President.[18]

Over and despite Kuntzen's protests, Blomberg chose to go with Hindenburg to meet the president, who swore him in as defence minister.[18] This was done in a manner contrary to the Weimar constitution, under which the president could only swear in a minister after receiving the advice of the chancellor. Hindenburg had not consulted Schleicher about his wish to see Blomberg replace him as defence minister because in late January 1933, there were wild (and untrue) rumours circulating in Berlin that Schleicher was planning to stage a putsch.[19] To counter alleged plans of a putsch by Schleicher, Hindenburg wanted to remove Schleicher as defence minister as soon as possible.[19]

Two days later, on 30 January 1933, Hindenburg swore in Adolf Hitler as Chancellor, after telling him that Blomberg was to be his defence minister regardless of his wishes. Hitler for his part welcomed and accepted Blomberg. Hitler told Blomberg, much to his satisfaction, that he wanted the Army to continue to be the main military force of the Reich.[citation needed]

Minister of Defence[edit]

In 1933, Blomberg rose to national prominence when he was appointed Minister of Defence in Hitler's government. Blomberg became one of Hitler's most devoted followers, working feverishly to expand the size and power of the army. Blomberg was made a colonel general for his services in 1933. Although Blomberg and his predecessor, Kurt von Schleicher, loathed each other, their feud was purely personal, not political, and in all essentials, Blomberg and Schleicher had identical views on foreign and defence policies. Their dispute was simply over who was best qualified to carry out the policies, not the policies themselves.[20]

Blomberg was chosen personally by Hindenburg as a man he trusted to safeguard the interests of the Defence Ministry and as a man who could be expected to work well with Hitler.[20] Above all, Hindenburg saw Blomberg as a man who would safeguard the German military's traditional "state within the state" status dating back to Prussian times under which the military did not take orders from the civilian government, headed by the chancellor, but co-existed as an equal alongside the civilian government because of its allegiance only to the head of state, not the chancellor, who was the head of government.[20] Until 1918, the head of state had been the emperor, and since 1925, it had been Hindenburg himself.[20] Defending the military "state within the state" and trying to reconcile the military to the Nazis was to be one of Blomberg's major concerns as a defence minister.[20] On 20 July 1933, Blomberg had a new Army Law passed that ended the jurisdiction of civil courts over the military and extinguished the theoretical right for the military to elect councils, but this right, guaranteed by the Weimar constitution in 1919, had never been put into practice.[21]

Blomberg's first act as defence minister was to carry out a purge of the officers associated with his hated archenemy Schleicher.[12] Blomberg sacked Ferdinand von Bredow as chief of the Ministeramt and replaced him with General Walter von Reichenau, Eugen Ott was dismissed as chief of the Wehramt and sent to Japan as a military attaché and General Wilhelm Adam was sacked as chief of the Truppenamt (the disguised General Staff) and replaced with Ludwig Beck.[22] British historian Sir John Wheeler-Bennett wrote about the "ruthless" way that Blomberg set about isolating and undermining the power of the army commander-in-chief, a close associate of Schleicher's, General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, to the point that in February 1934 Hammerstein finally resigned in despair, as his powers had become more nominal than real.[21] With Hammerstein's resignation, the entire Schleicher faction which had dominated the army since 1926 had all been removed from their positions within the High Command. Wheeler-Bennett commented that as a military politician Blomberg was every bit as ruthless as Schleicher had been.[21] The resignation of Hammerstein caused a crisis in military-civil relations when Hitler attempted to appoint as his successor Reichenau, a man who was not acceptable to the majority of the Reichswehr.[23] Blomberg supported the attempt to appoint Reichenau, but reflecting the power of the "state within the state", certain Army officers appealed to Hindenburg, leading to Werner von Fritsch being appointed instead.[23]

Far more serious than dealing with the followers of Schleicher was Blomberg's relations with the SA. Blomberg was an ardent supporter of the National Socialist dictatorship, but he was resolutely opposed to any effort to subject the military to the control of the Nazi Party or that of any of its affiliated organisations such as the SA or the SS, and throughout his time as a minister he fought fiercely to protect the institutional autonomy of the military.[24]

By the autumn of 1933, Blomberg had come into conflict with Ernst Röhm who made it clear that he wanted to see the SA absorb the Reichswehr, a prospect that Blomberg was determined to prevent at all costs. In December 1933, he made clear to Hitler his displeasure about Röhm being appointed to the Cabinet.[24] In February 1934, when Röhm penned a memo about the SA absorbing the Reichswehr to become the new military force, Blomberg informed Hitler the Army would never accept this under any conditions.[25] On 28 February 1934, Hitler ruled the Reichswehr would be the main military force while the SA was to remain a political organisation.[26] Despite the ruling, Röhm continued to press for a greater role for the SA. Beginning March 1934, Blomberg and Röhm openly fought each other at cabinet meetings, exchanging insults and threats.[27] As a result of his increasingly heated feud with Röhm, Blomberg warned Hitler that he must curb the ambitions of the SA, or the Army would do that job themselves.[28]

Werner von Blomberg inspects a parade in honor of the 40th anniversary of his joining the army. Soldiers with Guns stand to attention.
War minister and OKW commander Werner von Blomberg followed by the three armed forces chiefs inspects a parade in honor of the 40th anniversary of his joining the army.

To defend the military "state within the state", Blomberg followed a strategy of Nazifying the military more and more in a paradoxical effort to persuade Hitler that it was not necessary to end the traditional "state within the state", to prevent Gleichschaltung being imposed by engaging in what can be called a process of "self-Gleichschaltung".[29]

In February 1934, Blomberg, on his own initiative, had all of the men considered to be Jews serving in the Reichswehr given an automatic and immediate dishonorable discharge.[30] As a result, 74 soldiers lost their jobs for having "Jewish blood".[30] The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, enacted in April 1933, had excluded those Jews who were First World War veterans and it did not apply to the military, so Blomberg's discharge order was his way of circumventing the law, going beyond what even the Nazis wanted at the time; the German historian Wolfram Wette called the order "an act of proactive obedience".[31]

German historian Klaus-Jürgen Müller [de] wrote that Blomberg's anti-Semitic purge in early 1934 was part of his increasingly savage feud with Röhm, who since the summer of 1933 had been drawing unfavourable comparisons between the "racial purity" of his SA, which had no members with "Jewish" blood, and the Reichswehr, which did.[32] Müller wrote that Blomberg wanted to show Hitler that the Reichswehr was even more loyal and ideologically sound than was the SA, and that purging those Reichswehr members who could be considered Jewish without being ordered to do so was an excellent way to demonstrate loyalty within the National Socialist system.[32] As both the German Army and Navy had long-standing policies of refusing to accept Jews, there were no Jews to purge within the military; instead, Blomberg used the Nazi racial definition of a Jew in his purge.[32] None of the men given dishonourable discharges themselves practiced Judaism, but all were the sons or grandsons of Jews who had converted to Christianity, and thus were considered to be "racially" Jewish.[33]

Blomberg ordered every member of the Reichswehr to submit documents to their officers, and that anyone who was a "non-Aryan" or refused to submit documents would be dishonourably discharged. As a result, seven officers, eight officer cadets, thirteen NCOs and 28 privates from the Army, and three officers, four officer candidates, three NCOs and four sailors from the Navy were dishonourably discharged, together with four civilian employees of the Defence Ministry.[34] With the exception of Erich von Manstein, who complained that Blomberg had ruined the careers of some seventy men for something that was not their fault, there were no objections.[35] Again, on his own initiative as part of "self-Gleichschaltung", Blomberg had the Reichswehr in May 1934 adopt Nazi symbols into their uniforms.[28] In 1935, Blomberg worked hard to ensure that the Wehrmacht complied with the Nuremberg Laws by preventing so-called Mischlings from serving.[36]

Blomberg had a reputation as something of a lackey to Hitler. As such, he was nicknamed "Rubber Lion" by some of his critics in the army who were less than enthusiastic about Hitler.[1] One of the few notable exceptions was during the run-up to the Night of the Long Knives, June 30–July 2, 1934.[37] In early June, Hindenburg decided that unless Hitler did something to end the growing political tension in Germany, he would declare martial law and turn over control of the government to the army. Blomberg, who had been known to oppose the growing power of the SA, was chosen to inform Hitler of this decision on the president's behalf.[37] When Hitler arrived at Hindenburg's estate at Neudeck on 21 June 1934, he was greeted by Blomberg on the steps leading into the estate.[37] Wheeler-Bennett described wrote that Hitler was faced with "...a von Blomberg no longer the affable 'Rubber Lion' or the adoring 'Hitler-Junge Quex', but embodying all the stern ruthlessness of the Prussian military caste".[37] Blomberg bluntly informed Hitler that Hindenburg was highly displeased with the recent developments, and was seriously considering dismissing Hitler as Chancellor if he did not rein in the SA at once.[38] When Hitler met Hindenburg, the latter insisted that Blomberg also attend the meeting as a sign of his confidence in the Defense Minister, and during the meeting that lasted half an hour the president repeated the threat to dismiss Hitler.[39]

Blomberg was aware of least in general of the purge that Hitler began planning after the Neudeck meeting.[40] The fact that the conversations between Blomberg and Hitler in late June 1934 were generally not recorded makes it difficult to determine how much Blomberg knew, but he was definitely aware of what Hitler had decided to do. On 25 June 1934, the military was placed in a state of alert, and on 28 June Röhm was expelled from the League of German Officers.[40] The decision to expel Röhm was part of the Blomberg's effort to maintain the "honor" of the German military because if Röhm was executed as a traitor while being a member of the League that would besmirch the honor of the reputation of the League in general; the same thinking later led to those officers involved in putsch attempt of 20 July 1944 to be dishonorably discharged before they were tried for treason as way of upholding military "honor".[41] Wheeler-Bennett wrote that the fact that Blomberg instigated the expulsion of Röhm from the League just two days before he was arrested on charges of high treason proved he knew what was coming.[42] Röhm had been quite open about being gay ever since he was outed in 1925 following the publication in a newspaper of his love letters to a former boyfriend. For this reason, Wheeler-Bennett found Blomberg's claim that an openly gay man could be not a member of the League of German Officers highly implausible.[42] On 29 June 1934, an article by Blomberg appeared in the official newspaper of the Nazi Party, the Völkischer Beobachter stating that the military was behind Hitler and would support him in whatever he did.[42]

In the same year, after Hindenburg's death on 2 August, as part of his "self-Gleichschaltung" strategy, Blomberg personally ordered all soldiers in the army and all sailors in the Navy to pledge the oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler[43][page needed] not to People and Fatherland, but to the new Führer, which is thought to have limited later opposition to Hitler. The oath was the initiative of Blomberg and the Ministeramt chief General Walther von Reichenau. The entire military took this oath, who was most surprised at the offer; the popular view that Hitler imposed the oath on the military is incorrect.[44] On the other hand Hitler had long expected Von Hindenburg’s death, and had planned on taking power anyhow, so could have very well convinced Von Blomberg to implement such an oath long before the actual implementation took place.[45][page needed]

The intention of Blomberg and Reichenau in having the military swear an oath to Hitler was to create a personal special bond between Hitler and the military, which was intended to tie Hitler more tightly towards the military and away from the Nazi Party (Blomberg later admitted that he did not think through the full implications of the oath at the time).[44] As part of his defence of the military "state within the state", Blomberg fought against the attempts of the SS to create a military wing.[46]

Heinrich Himmler repeatedly insisted that the SS needed a military wing to crush any attempt at a Communist revolution before Blomberg conceded that the SS could form a military one, which eventually become the Waffen-SS.[46] Blomberg's relations with the SS were badly strained in late 1934-early 1935 when it was discovered that the SS had bugged the offices of the Abwehr chief, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, which led Blomberg to warn Hitler the military would not tolerate being spied upon. In response to Blomberg's protests, Hitler gave orders that the SS could not spy upon the military; all members of the military could not be arrested by the police; and cases of suspected "political unreliability" within the military were to be investigated solely by the military police.[47]

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of War[edit]

In 1935, the Ministry of Defence was renamed the Ministry of War; Blomberg also took the title of commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In 1936, the loyal Blomberg was the first Generalfeldmarschall appointed by Hitler. He was also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the Wehrmacht, although Hitler was the Supreme Commander of the military due to his dictatorial position as the Führer of Germany.[citation needed]

In December 1936, a crisis was created within the German decision-making machinery when General Wilhelm Faupel, the chief German officer in Spain started to demand the dispatch of three German divisions to fight in the Spanish Civil War as the only way for victory, a demand strongly opposed by the Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath, who wanted to limit German involvement in Spain.[48]

At a conference held at the Reich Chancellery on 21 December 1936 attended by Hitler, Hermann Göring, Blomberg, Neurath, General Werner von Fritsch, General Walter Warlimont and Faupel, Blomberg argued against Faupel, arguing that an all-out German drive for victory in Spain would be too likely to cause a general war before Germany had rearmed properly, and if even it did not, would consume money better spent on military modernization. Blomberg prevailed against Faupel.[49]

Blomberg with Joseph Goebbels, 1937

Unfortunately for Blomberg, his position as the ranking officer of Nazi Germany alienated Hermann Göring, Hitler's second-in-command, and Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Germany's air force and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, the security organization of the Nazi party, and concurrently the chief of all police forces of Germany, who conspired to oust him from power. Göring, in particular, had ambitions of becoming Commander-in-Chief himself of the entire military.[citation needed]

On 5 November 1937, the conference between the Reich's top military-foreign policy leadership and Hitler recorded in the so-called Hossbach Memorandum occurred. At the conference, Hitler stated that it was the time for war, or, more accurately, wars, as what Hitler envisioned were a series of localised wars in Central and Eastern Europe in the near future. Hitler argued that because these wars were necessary to provide Germany with Lebensraum, autarky and the arms race with France and Britain made it imperative to act before the Western powers developed an insurmountable lead in the arms race.[50][51]

Of those invited to the conference, objections arose from the Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, Blomberg and the Army Commander in Chief, General Werner von Fritsch that any German aggression in Eastern Europe was bound to trigger a war with France because of the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, the so-called cordon sanitaire, and if a Franco-German war broke out, then Britain was almost certain to intervene rather than risk the prospect of France's defeat. Moreover, it was objected that Hitler's assumption that Britain and France would just ignore the projected wars because they had started their re-armament later than Germany was flawed.[52]

Accordingly, Fritsch, Blomberg and Neurath advised Hitler to wait until Germany had more time to re-arm before pursuing a high-risk strategy of localised wars that was likely to trigger a general war before Germany was ready (none of those present at the conference had any moral objections to Hitler's strategy, with which they were in basic agreement; only the question of timing divided them).[53]

Following the Hossbach Memorandum meeting of November 1937, Blomberg was one of the few who criticised Hitler's plans to go to war no later than 1942, much to Hitler's displeasure, though by early 1938 he changed his mind on this issue.[citation needed]

Scandal and downfall[edit]

Göring and Himmler found an opportunity to strike against Blomberg in January 1938, when the general, then 59, married his second wife, Erna Gruhn (1913–1978, sometimes referred to as "Eva" or "Margarete"). Blomberg had been a widower since the death of his first wife Charlotte in 1932.[54] Gruhn was a 25-year-old typist and secretary, but the Berlin police had a long criminal file on her and her mother, a former prostitute. Among the reports was information that Erna Gruhn had posed for pornographic photos in 1932.[55]

This was reported to the Berlin police chief, Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorf, who went to Wilhelm Keitel with the file on the new Mrs. Blomberg. Helldorff said he was uncertain about what to do. Keitel in his turn, seeing a chance to destroy Blomberg's career, told Helldorf to take the file to Göring, which he did.[56]

Göring, who had served as best man to Blomberg at the wedding, used the file to argue Blomberg was unfit to serve as a war minister.[57] Göring then informed Hitler, who had been present at the wedding. Hitler ordered Blomberg to annul the marriage to avoid a scandal and to preserve the integrity of the army. The upcoming wedding of one of Blomberg's daughters, Dorothea, would have been threatened by scandal. She was engaged to Karl-Heinz Keitel, eldest son of Wilhelm Keitel. Blomberg refused to end his marriage but, when Göring threatened to make public the pasts of Erna Gruhn and her mother, Blomberg was forced to resign his posts to avoid this, which he did on 27 January 1938. His daughter was married in May the same year.[58]

As a consequence, Hitler took personal command of the military; he retained the title of Supreme Commander, abolished the Ministry of War and in its place, created the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW) under his control, to be the supervisory body of the Wehrmacht (armed forces).[citation needed] Keitel, who would be promoted to the rank of field marshal in 1940, and Blomberg's former right-hand man, would be appointed by Hitler as the Chief of the OKW of the Armed Forces. Keitel thus became the de facto Minister of War.[citation needed]

A few days later, Göring and Himmler accused Generaloberst Werner von Fritsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, of being a homosexual. Hitler used these opportunities for a major reorganisation of the Wehrmacht. Fritsch was later acquitted; together the events became known as the Blomberg–Fritsch Affair.

Generalfeldmarschall von Blomberg and his wife subsequently went on a honeymoon for a year to the island of Capri. Admiral Erich Raeder decided that Blomberg needed to commit suicide in order to atone for his marriage, and dispatched an officer to Italy, who followed the Blombergs around on their honeymoon, persistently and unsuccessfully trying to force Blomberg to commit suicide.[59] The officer at one point even tried to force a gun into Blomberg's hands; but he declined to end his life.[60] Spending World War II in obscurity, Blomberg was arrested by the Allies in 1945. Later he gave evidence at the Nuremberg trials.

Imprisonment and death[edit]

Blomberg's health declined rapidly while he was in detention at Nuremberg, facing the contempt of his former colleagues and the intention of his young wife to abandon him. It is possible that he manifested symptoms of cancer as early as 1939. On 12 October 1945, he noted in his diary that he weighed slightly over 72 kilograms. He was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on 20 February 1946. Resigned to his fate and gripped by depression he spent the final weeks of his life refusing to eat.[61]

Blomberg died on 13 March 1946.[62] His body was buried without ceremony in an unmarked grave. Later on his remains were cremated and interred in his residence in Bad Wiessee.[63]


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  2. ^ Schäfer 2006, pp. 25–29.
  3. ^ a b c Paehler 2009.
  4. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, pp. 295–96.
  5. ^ Kolb 2005, p. 173.
  6. ^ Müller 1987, p. 26.
  7. ^ Patch 2006, p. 50.
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  18. ^ a b Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 284.
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  33. ^ Wette 2006, p. 72.
  34. ^ Wette 2006, pp. 71-72.
  35. ^ Wette 2006, p. 73.
  36. ^ Förster 1998, p. 268-69.
  37. ^ a b c d Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 319.
  38. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 319-320.
  39. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 320.
  40. ^ a b Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 320-321.
  41. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 321-322.
  42. ^ a b c Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 322.
  43. ^ Carruthers 2013.
  44. ^ a b Kershaw 1998, p. 525.
  45. ^ Dupuy 1984.
  46. ^ a b Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 341.
  47. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, pp. 341-42.
  48. ^ Weinberg 1970, p. 296–297.
  49. ^ Weinberg 1970, pp. 297-98.
  50. ^ Messerschmidt 1990, pp. 636–637.
  51. ^ Carr 1972, pp. 73–78.
  52. ^ Weinberg 1970, pp. 39-40.
  53. ^ Weinberg 1970, p. 342.
  54. ^ Nicholls 2000, p. 29.
  55. ^ Glasman 2005, pp. 120–121.
  56. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 366.
  57. ^ Faber 2008, pp. 46–75.
  58. ^ Keitel & Görlitz 1966, pp. 41, 77.
  59. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 368.
  60. ^ Shirer 1960, p. 314.
  61. ^ Schäfer 2006, pp. 200, 206-07.
  62. ^ Times 1946.
  63. ^ Mitcham 2011, pp. 34, 35, note 23.


  • Bartov, Omer (1999). "Soldiers, Nazis and War in the Third Reich". In Leitz, Christian (ed.). The Third Reich: The Essential Readings. London: Blackwell. pp. 129–150.
  • Carr, William (1972). Arms, Autarky and Aggression. London, United Kingdom: Edward Arnold.
  • Carruthers, Bob (2013). World War Two from original sources: Handbook on German military forces. Great Britain: Pen & Sword Military.
  • Dupuy, Trevor (1984). A genius for war: the German army and general staff 1807-1945. United Kingdom: Hero Books Ltd.
  • Feuchtwanger, Edgar (1993). From Weimar to Hitler. London: Macmillan.
  • Förster, Jürgen (1998). "Complicity or Entanglement? The Wehrmacht, the War and the Holocaust". In Berenbaum, Michael; Peck, Abraham (eds.). The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Reexamined. Bloomington: Indian University Press.
  • Geyer, Michael (1983). "Etudes in Political History: Reichswehr, NSDAP and the Seizure of Power". In Stachura, Peter (ed.). The Nazi Machtergreifung. London: Allen & Unwin. pp. 101–123.
  • Glasman, Gabriel (2005). Objetivo: Cazar al Lobo (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain: Ediciones Nowtilus, S.L. ISBN 970-732-177-6.
  • Görlitz, Walter (1989). "Blomberg". In Barnett, Corelli (ed.). Hitler's Generals. Grove Press. pp. 129–139. ISBN 0-8021-3994-9.
  • Keitel, Wilhelm; Görlitz, Walter (1966). The memoirs of Field-Marshal Keitel. Stein and Day.
  • Kershaw, Ian (1998). Hitler Hubris. New York City: Norton.
  • Kolb, Eberhard (2005). The Weimar Republic. London: Routledge.
  • Messerschmidt, Manfred (1990). "Foreign Policy and Preparation for War". The Build-up of German Aggression. Germany and the Second World War. I. Oxford, Oxfordshire: Clarendon Press.
  • Mitcham, Samuel (2011). "Generalfeldmarschall Werner von Blomberg". In Ueberschär, Gerd (ed.). Hitlers militärische Elite. 68 Lebensläufe (in German) (2nd ed.). Darmstadt: Primus Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89678-727-9.
  • Nicholls, David (2000). Adolf Hitler: a biographical companion. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0-87436-965-7.
  • Paehler, Katrin (June 2009). "General ohne Eigenschaften?" (in German). H-Net Online. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  • Patch, William L. (2006). Heinrich Bruning and the Dissolution of the Weimar Republic. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-052102541-6.
  • Schäfer, Kirstin A. (2006). Werner von Blomberg: Hitlers erster Feldmarschall: Eine Biographie (in German). Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh. ISBN 978-3506713919.
  • Shirer, William (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Weinberg, Gerhard (1970). The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany: Diplomatic Revolution in Europe. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-039103825-7.
  • Wette, Wolfram (2006). The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, John (1967). The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918–1945. London, UK: Macmillan.
  • "Von Blomberg Dies in Army Hospital; Dies of Heart Attack". timesmachine.nytimes.com. Associated Press. 14 March 1946. Retrieved 3 May 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Deutsch, Harold C. Hitler and his Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January–June 1938 (1974), pp. 78–215. ISBN 978-0-8166-0649-8; the standard scholarly monograph on the scandal
  • Faber, David (2008). Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Heiber, Helmut; Glantz, David M., eds. (2005). Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942–1945. New York City: Enigma Books. ISBN 1-929631-09-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Kane, Robert B. (2008). Disobedience and Conspiracy in the German Army, 1918-1945. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786437443.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Müller, Klaus Jürgen (1987). The Army, Politics and Society in Germany, 1933–1945: Studies in the Army's Relation to Nazism. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0719010713.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Schäfer, Kirstin A. (2006). Werner von Blomberg: Hitlers erster Feldmarschall: Eine Biographie (in German). Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh. pp. 25–29. ISBN 978-3506713919.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918–1945 Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1953, 1964, 2005.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalmajor Georg Wetzell [de]
Chief of the German Troop Office
1927– 1929
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Baron Kurt von Hammerstein–Equord
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Friedrich Freiherr von Esebeck
Commander of Wehrkreis I
1929 – 1933
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Walter von Brauchitsch
Preceded by
Paul von Hindenburg
as Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr
Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces
Succeeded by
Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler
Political offices
Preceded by
Kurt von Schleicher
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
as Minister of War
Preceded by
as Minister of Defence
Minister of War
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Wilhelm Keitel
as Chief of the Armed Forces High Command