Valter Reyhenau

Valter Reyhenau

Field Marshal of the German Army.
Date of Birth: 08.10.1884
Country: Germany

Biography of Walter von Reichenau

Walter von Reichenau (16.8.1884, Karlsruhe - 17.1.1942) was a German general field marshal of the German army. He was born into a military family, with his father also serving as a general. Reichenau joined the 1st Guards Infantry Regiment in 1902 and was promoted to lieutenant on 18.8.1904. In 1914, he graduated from the Military Academy and participated in World War I on the Eastern Front as an officer of the General Staff. For his bravery in combat, he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class and the Order of the House of Hohenzollern.

After the demobilization of the army, Reichenau remained in the Reichswehr, serving as a staff officer. On 1.11.1927, he became the commander of the 5th Signal Battalion in Stuttgart. From the fall of 1929, he served as the chief of staff for the Inspectorate of Communication. On 1.2.1931, he became the chief of staff of the 1st Division and I Military District in Konigsberg, under the command of General Werner von Blomberg. In the fall of 1932, Reichenau met Adolf Hitler and became an active supporter of the Nazi party, primarily for careerist reasons. He soon became the main link between the army and the NSDAP leadership.

When Hitler's government was formed on 30.1.1933, Blomberg became the Minister of War. On 1.2.1933, Reichenau replaced General Friedrich von Broedow as the head of the Ministerial Office of the Ministry of War, the central unit of the ministry. On 1.2.1934, he was promoted to Major General. On 12.2.1934, the Office was transformed into the Wehrmacht High Command, with Reichenau remaining at its helm. He played a crucial role in the formation of the Wehrmacht and maintained close communication between the army command and the NSDAP leadership. He enjoyed unconditional support from Hitler, who consistently promoted him to influential positions in the army.

Reichenau was one of the initiators of the liquidation of the SA leadership during the "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934. He ensured that SS units participating in the purge were armed. After the death of President Paul von Hindenburg and Hitler's assumption of the presidency, Reichenau drafted the military oath to Hitler. On 1.10.1935, he was replaced by General Wilhelm Keitel and appointed as the commander of the VII Army Corps and the VII Military District in Munich. As a supporter of Hitler and his war plans, Reichenau was the most desirable candidate for the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Army, but senior army officers opposed this appointment. Nonetheless, Reichenau was promoted and became the commander of the 4th Army Command (Leipzig), which included the XIV, XV, and XVI Corps, encompassing all tank and motorized units in Germany. He was an advocate of strict discipline and harsh measures in maintaining order, actively supporting the development of tank forces.

In March 1938, the troops under Reichenau's command occupied the Sudetenland, and in March 1939, they occupied Prague. In August 1939, the 10th Army was formed based on his staff, with Reichenau leading it in the Polish campaign. His army's objective was to break through the border fortifications and capture Warsaw. After defeating the Polish forces, Reichenau destroyed the group in the Radom Pocket and surrounded the Lodz and Poznan armies. On 24th September, he handed over the siege of Warsaw to General Johannes Blaskowitz. At the same time, Reichenau protested against the actions of the SS in Poland. On 30.9.1939, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. On 5.10.1939, the army was renamed the 6th Army, and on 1.10.1939, Reichenau was promoted to General Colonel. He participated in the French campaign, where he played a significant role in defeating the Dutch and Belgian forces.

In June 1941, Reichenau's army was transferred to the Soviet-German front. He participated in the breakthrough of the Stalin Line, the capture of Kiev, Belgorod, Kharkov, and Kursk. On the territory under his command, Reichenau implemented a highly brutal policy towards the local population, particularly targeting Jews. He approved the mass extermination of Jews by the SS units in Kiev. He closely collaborated with the punitive detachments of the SS and SD, providing them with military support. He enacted an order concerning commissars, under which all Soviet political workers were subject to immediate execution. During his command, approximately 1 million Jews and other civilians were annihilated in the areas of his operation.

In early September 1941, Reichenau proposed the creation of national Belarusian and Ukrainian divisions. On 30.11.1941, he replaced Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt as the commander of Army Group Center. The next day, Reichenau began the withdrawal of troops, leaving Hitler no choice but to accept the situation. On 12.1.1942, Reichenau suffered a heart attack in Poltava, and on 17th January, he was transported by plane to Leipzig. However, the plane crashed during the journey, and Reichenau suffered a severe head injury. He was brought to Leipzig, where he was pronounced dead.