Walther von Reichenau
|Born||16 Aug 1884|
|Died||17 Jan 1942|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Walther von Reichenau was born to a Prussian general and followed his father's footsteps by joining the German Army in 1902. By 1904, he was an officer with the 1st Guards Field Artillery Regiment. He entered War Academy in 1914, and then fought in WW1 on the Western Front, earning an Iron Cross. He remained in the army after Germany's defeat. In 1931, after two years as the commander of 5th Signal Battalion at Stuttgart, he became the Chief of Staff to the Inspector of Signals at the Reichswehr Ministry, then served with General Werner von Blomberg in East Prussia. He was introduced by his uncle, Friedrich von Reichenau, to Adolf Hitler in 1932, and very soon after joined the Nazi Party. In 1933, after Hitler's rise to power, Blomberg became Minister of War, and Reichenau was appointed head of the Ministerial Office as liaison between the Army and the Nazi Party. He played a role in the Night of the Long Knives in Jul 1934 which purged the Nazi Party. In 1935, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and commanded the army garrison in Munich, and in 1938 he nearly became the commander in chief of the German Army but Hitler's advisors recommended against it. Wilhelm Keitel was one such advisor, who said Reichenau was "not thorough enough, not a hard worker, a busybody, too superficial, little-loved, and a soldier who sought satisfaction for his ambitions more in the political than in the purely military nature." Keitel, along with many other top military officials in Germany, knew Reichenau only held the high position he held because of his support for the Nazi Party; he was not as capable a general as his rank and influence suggested.
In Sep 1939, Reichenau commanded the 10th Army during the invasion of Poland, then in 1940 he led the 6th Army during the invasion of Belgium and France. For the victories in the western campaign, he was awarded the title Field Marshal in Jul of that year. He continued to lead the 6th Army during Operation Barbarossa, and the 6th Army was credited for the capture of Kiev and Kharkov. In his conquered territories, Reichenau implemented anti-Semitic policies, allowing (and at times encouraging) his soldiers to commit atrocities against Jews and other ethnicities. In Nov 1941, Hitler once again proposed to promote him to become the commander in chief of the German Army, but once again Hitler's advisors persuaded Hitler. Reichenau eventually succeeded Gerd von Rundstedt as the head of German forces near Rostov, but achieved little success.
In Jan 1942, Reichenau suffered a heart attack, and was placed on a plane for hospitalization in Leipzig, Germany. He died when his plane crashed during landing.
Sources: In the Service of the Reich, Wikipedia.
Walther von Reichenau Timeline
|16 Aug 1884||Walther von Reichenau was born.|
|10 Oct 1941||German Field Marshal Walther von Reichenau issued the "Severity Order" in which he ordered the annihilation Bolshevism and the extermination of Jews.|
|30 Nov 1941||Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau replaced Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt as the commanding officer of German Army Group South in the Caucasus region of southern Russia.|
|12 Jan 1942||Walther von Reichenau suffered a stroke in Poltava, Ukraine.|
|17 Jan 1942||Walther von Reichenau passed away from either a cerebral hemorrhage or a heartattack near Poltava, Ukraine.|
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