OKW Kept in the dark?

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Lord Gort
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OKW Kept in the dark?

Post by Lord Gort » 14 Apr 2002 14:41

I have been reading a book called "World empire lost" By General Von Roon, I have gotten use to the Generals way of blaming of countries for getting themselves invaded by the Nazis, and even his way of blaming Churchill in a round about way for the Holocaust.

However one thing that his book and ithers I have read highlight is the way that Hitler kept hisChief of Staff Halder in the dark about everything, despised him, and to show his dislike even kept him form gaining a promotion after the fall of France despite all the others getting one. Hitler even created a rival command OKH,

Pople have any more info or views on this????

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 14 Apr 2002 23:04

Wasn't Halder eventually removed as Chief of Staff?

walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 15 Apr 2002 00:00

Lord Gort,

I'm afraid you have somewhat of a misconception as to the organization of the German military during WWII. At the head of the armed forces was the OKW ("Oberkommando der Wehrmacht" or Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) of which Hitler, as Führer, was the head. Formerly this position was held by Feldmarshal von Blomberg while he was Defense Minister, but Hitler assumed it himself in February, 1938 in the wake of the von Blomberg scandal, and Keitel was named Chief of Staff of the OKW although his function was primarily that of Hitler's office boy. The ascendency of the authority of the OKW during the Third Reich was something new and a departure from Prussian and Wilhelmine practice.

The OKW was made superior to and granted authority over the OKH ("Oberkommando des Heeres" or Army High Command), as well as the comparable organizations of the Navy and Air Force. The Commander in Chief of the Army was Walter von Brauchitsch and Franz Halder was Army Chief of Staff. In December, 1941 von Brauchitsch was dismissed and Hitler himself took over as C.-in-C. of the Army. In September, 1942 Halder was dismissed and Kurt Zeitzler appointed in his place, to be followed by Heinz Guderian and then Hans Krebs.

Although theoretically on par with its Navy and Air Force counterparts, for obvious reasons the OKH was considerably more important and came closest to playing the part of the old Prussian and Wilhelmine General Staff for planning and organizational purposes (although its role was significantly confused and eroded by the growth of the OKW.)

I think it is certainly true that Hitler's overall opinion of his old-line generals (and Halder in particular) became progressively critical and distrustful. IMHO there were many reasons for that - psychological, social, political and military - and it would take a large book to analyze them all (perhaps it has already been written, if not it should be.) As early as 1935 Hitler publicly announced his decision to introduce conscription, organize the Luftwaffe and increase the size of the army (all in violation of the Versailles Treaty) without consulting the military authorities. In 1936 Hitler informed the General Staff of his decision to occupy the Rhineland only one day before the troops marched in, and the OKH was horrified. The Army's opposition in 1938 to the Anschluss with Austria and the crisis with Czechoslovakia was vocal and vigorous, to the point where Halder (at least so he says) planned a coup d'etat.

Halder was supportive of Hitler's plans to invade Poland, although he feared the intervention of Russia (needlessly as it turned out). And he operated closely and generally effectively with Hitler during the invasion of the Benelux and France. And he was, contrary to your information, promoted by Hitler to Colonel-General after the French campaign. Halder's come-uppance came during the numerous setbacks on the Eastern Front, in the course of which he argued for tactical withdrawals while Hitler insisted on holding every foot of territory. I certainly do not claim enough military expertise to have an opinion as to who had the better of this argument; my best (and utterly uninformed) guess is that the war was lost for Germany at its beginning, and that the various tactical issues were relevant only to its shortening or prolongation.

For some background reading on this topic you might try Walter Görlitz, History of the German General Staff, Praeger, 1947 (factually pretty sound but heavily biased in favor of the General Staff); or Walter Warlimont, Inside Hitler's Headquarters 1939-45, paperback edition, Presidio Press 1964 (written by the Chief of the L Section OKW and also IMHO factually sound but biased in favor of the generals vs. Hitler.)

Hope this is of some help. Regards, Kaschner

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Scott Smith
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Generaloberst FRANZ HALDER and friends...

Post by Scott Smith » 15 Apr 2002 00:09

The rival command was OKW (Wehrmacht High Command) not OKH (Army High Command).

OKW was meant to unify the armed forces and bring the quasi-independent Prussian General Staff, outlawed by the Versailles treaty but in reality reconstituted as the Reichswehr's "Truppenamt" by the legendary Hans von Seeckt, under the more-direct political control of the Head of State, who was an "Austrian Corporal" and not a field marshal or hereditary German Kaiser. Before WWII, the Minister of War (von Blomberg and his successor, von Fritsche) had been previously removed from the cabinet by scandals and this role was thereafter accomplished directly by Hitler and Göring and not by Army seniority.

Hitler valued Halder's technical skill and organizational brilliance and could not easily remove a seasoned career General Staff Officer, but he despised him as an armchair soldier in the Great War, an Army bureaucrat with no political or strategic sense whatever. General Staff officers tended to be artillerists and not infantrymen with any real operational experience.

Halder was the chief obstacle to Hitler's successful plan to invade France with swift panzers through the Ardennes after a feint into the low countries, as per the old Schlieffen Plan. After the success of the Manstein-Hitler Plan, Halder became a mere yes-man until the Stalingrad debacle, where he was removed after many quarrels with Hitler. Hitler once noted that Halder was repsonsible for all his gray hairs.

After Halder, Kurt Zeitzler became OKH Chief-of-Staff, and when he had a nervous breakdown after the July plot, Heinz Guderian was appointed until almost the end. At some times Hitler even acted as his own OKH Stabschef.

Hitler dismissed GFM Walter von Brauchitsch, another lead-bottom, after the 1941 Russian winter debacle, and Hitler became his own OKH Commander-in-Chief as well as Kriegsminister and Head of State, which was not a wise organizational move. Also dismissed from command of his Army Group was Generaloberst Guderian, the panzer theorist, and like Halder he never made field marshal.

During the war the OKW Oberbefehlshaber was GFM Keitel and OKW Stabschef was Generaloberst Jodl, both hung by the victorious Allies at Nuremberg.

Halder was sent to a concentration camp after the July, 1944 Bomb Plot, as was Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was ultimately executed before the end of the war. Canaris headed the Abwehr, the OKW intelligence service, and was probably a British agent throughout the war. Halder wrote his apologue memoirs, and is one of Hitler's fiercest critics. Manstein and Guderian were also critical of Hitler's generalship but Halder was not half the general that they were.
:)

Looking very imperious and Prussian, Generaloberst Franz Halder was actually more like a Lutheran schoolmaster...

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walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 15 Apr 2002 03:43

Hi Scott,

Good post with most of which I am in agreement. But as usual I can't resist my pedantic impulses and have a few comments.

I don't believe that von Fritsch was von Blomberg's successor. The latter held the position of War Minister and as such Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht (Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces), which Hitler took over when von Blomberg was dismissed on account of his "scandalous" marriage with a known prostitute. Von Fritsch at the time was Oberbefehshaber des Heeres (Commander in Chief of the Army) and at the same time was forced out of office by false charges (supposedly trumped up by Göring) that he was a homosexual. He did not succeed von Blomberg, but was himself succeeded by von Brauchitsch. He was later exonerated and given a minor command, and was killed in action in the Polish campaign. (My father-in-law, who knew him, felt he was a model of the ideal German Army officer.)

Keitel was never Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht; Hitler never relinquished that position. Keitel was only Chief of Staff of the OKW, which was a far cry from the old Prussian-Wilhelmine position of Chief of General Staff which Hindenburg occupied in WWI. Keitel was simply Hitler's errand boy, and well deserved the nickname "Lakeitel" (lackey). Colonel-General Alfred Jodel was Chief of the Operations Staff of the OKW, which had responsibility for operational planning and thus a somewhat closer resemblance to the old Generalstab. There seemed to be an inordinate, but understandable, degree of confusion and conflict between the respective Staffs of the OKW and OKH when matters involving the Army were at issue.

Lastly, I'm not sure about this and too tired to look it up, but I don't believe Halder was a Prussian at all - I think he was originally from somewhere in South Germany and served in the Bavarian Army in WWI.

But apart from the above minor quibbles I quite agree with your post. I personally tend to take Halder's recollections (but not his contemporary War Diaries) cum grano salis.

Warm regards, Kaschner

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Scott Smith
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CORRECT...

Post by Scott Smith » 15 Apr 2002 04:56

Walter, you are correct on all counts as always!

I forgot that Jodl was actually the OKW Ia (Operations officer) and Keitel the OKW Stabschef. You're right also that von Fritsch did not succeed von Blomberg but was next in line, and charges may have been trumped up against him by the Nazis, although the military moral code was very severe. Yes, Halder was not actually a Prussian. I could not remember if he was a Swabian like Rommel or a Bavarian. Also, as you note, technically Halder was dismissed in September, 1942, when Case Blue started to bog down, and not when it became the Stalingrad debacle as I stated.

Best Regards,
Scott

With a Grain of Salt, these books can be purchased from Amazon to support this very site! But, judging from the prices of these classics, better try the library first.
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[url=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0813301955/qid=1010138619/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_3_1/103-3519615-9151021]History of the German General Staff, 1657-1945 (Westview Encore Edition),
by Walter Gorlitz.
[/url]

[url=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891581065/qid=1010138619/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_3_1/103-3519615-9151021]The Halder Diaries: the private war journals of Colonel General Franz Halder,
by Franz Halder.
[/url]

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Post by James » 16 Apr 2002 00:45

Halder was born in Bavaria (Wuerzberg) in a family with long service in the Bavarian military.

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Scott Smith
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HALDER

Post by Scott Smith » 16 Apr 2002 02:28

James wrote:Halder was born in Bavaria (Wuerzberg) in a family with long service in the Bavarian military.


Thanks, I meant to imply that he looked (and maybe acted) Prussian but actually wasn't. Sorry for the confusion. I think he was from a pious background though, if not Lutheran then perhaps Catholic, since he was Bavarian.
:)

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WHOA!

Post by MKSheppard » 16 Apr 2002 02:40

http://www.joric.com/Conspiracy/Halder.htm

From 1948 to 1961, Halder serves with the U.S. Army Historical Division.

In November 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy rewards his services
with the Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the highest American
civilian decoration for services to the state.


8O 8O

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 16 Apr 2002 03:02

Heh, nice one Halder :)

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 16 Apr 2002 14:59

Scott and Walter - excellent posts.

I'd just like to add one or two nuances. Although the arrangement looks clear cut enough with the OKW as the supreme command and the service commands subordinate to it, reality was considerably more blurred.

The OKH, as the traditional supreme command of the German war effort, fought the OKW tooth and nail from its inception, and rather than any clear resolvation of the issue there was a series of compromises regarding authority and competencies, as evidenced by the strange division between OKH and OKW theatres. A large part of the problem was that the OKW was severely understaffed and in practice had to rely on the various agencies of the OKH, particularly for planning.

Francis P. Megargee's "Inside hitler's High Command", a recent publication, goes into this at considerable length.

cheers

J von B
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Post by J von B » 16 Apr 2002 16:52

Lord Gort wrote:I have been reading a book called "World empire lost" By General Von Roon


Is this from the Herman Wouk books Winds of War and War and rememberance?

Regards
/Johan

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Post by James » 17 Apr 2002 01:04

I think that the von Roon book "World Empire Lost" quoted in "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" was just a fictional device used by Wouk to make a pass at presenting "the German side" of the historical events. I do not think there really was a General Armin von Roon.

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Corruption in the Senior Ranks of the German Military

Post by Geheime Feldpolizei » 17 Apr 2002 02:53

During the Third Reich corruption was a serious problem not only for the Nazi elite, but also the senior military commanders. In discussing OKW/OKH, I briefly remembered an article I read on the subject of Hitler's corruption of his senior military officers. Norman Goda (Ph.D. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) wrote an excellent article on the subject utilizing a multitude of primary source documents. Unfortunately, I do not have the citation handy, but for those who are interested, an internet search based on the subject or author's name should yield some results.

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INSIDE HITLER'S HIGH COMMAND...

Post by Scott Smith » 17 Apr 2002 03:28

Qvist and all,

I would also like to recommend the Megargee work, although I am not completely finished with mine yet.

It looks to be superior scholarship, IMHO.
:)

And, if you click on my image, you can buy it from Amazon to support this very site!

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