Franz Halder

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Franz Halder (1938)

Franz Halder (born June 30, 1884 in Würzburg , † April 2, 1972 in Aschau im Chiemgau ) was a German army officer ( Colonel General since 1940 ) and, as the successor to Ludwig Beck, from September 1938 to September 1942, Chief of the Army General Staff .



Halder came from a family that had been associated with the Bavarian military for over 300 years . He was the son of the later Bavarian major general Maximilian Halder (1853-1912) and his wife Mathilde, née Steinheil.

In 1907 Halder married Gertrud Erl, who also came from a military family. The marriage produced three daughters.

Kingdom of Bavaria

After graduating from a humanistic grammar school , he joined the 3rd field artillery regiment "Queen Mother" in Amberg on July 14, 1902 as an ensign . This regiment was under his father's command. In 1904 he was made lieutenant with a special commendation . This was followed by various assignments to the war school and the artillery and engineering school . From 1911 to 1914 Halder graduated from the War Academy , which he graduated as the best in his year and which gave him the qualification for the general staff and the subject.

At the beginning of the First World War Halder was an orderly officer at the General Command of III. Army Corps during the fighting in Lorraine and later on the Western Front in France. On January 6, 1915, he was appointed second general staff officer of the 6th Infantry Division and promoted to captain in this position on August 9, 1915 . In 1916 he was assigned to Army High Command 2 and was transferred to the staff of the 5th Infantry Division . Halder was then briefly at the disposal of the Upper East Commander on the Eastern Front in 1917 and was then employed by the Army Group "Crown Prince Rupprecht" until the end of the war. For his achievements during the war, Halder was awarded both classes of the Iron Cross , the Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords, the Bavarian Military Merit Order IV Class with swords, the Knight's Cross I Class of the Albrecht Order with Swords and the Austrian Military Merit Cross III . Class awarded with war decoration.

Weimar Republic

After the end of the First World War, Halder was adjutant at the central office of the General Staff in Munich in 1919 . After its dissolution, he was accepted into the provisional Reichswehr and transferred to the Reichswehr Ministry as a tactical advisor . After the formation of the Reichswehr, he was transferred to Landsberg am Lech in the 7th (Bavarian) Artillery Regiment in 1923 . Here Halder was promoted to major with seniority from April 1, 1923 . In 1925 he was transferred to the staff of the 7th (Bavarian) Division and in 1929 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel . In 1931 Halder was promoted to colonel as Chief of Staff of the 6th Division .

time of the nationalsocialism

Pre-war period

The seizure of power by the Nazis in early 1933 was Halder distanced approach. Halder's appointment as major general took place in March 1934 and on October 15, 1935 he became commander of the 7th Infantry Division in Munich . Halder made another career leap on August 2, 1936, when he was promoted to lieutenant general. This was followed by his employment as Oberquartiermeister I and II.

Halder met Adolf Hitler personally during a maneuver that was largely organized by him . This (or the good impression Hitler made of him) was of great use for his further advancement in the Wehrmacht . In February 1938 he was appointed general of the artillery . In September 1938, Colonel-General Ludwig Beck resigned as Chief of Staff of the Army in protest against Hitler's disempowerment of the Wehrmacht leadership. Beck's post was transferred to Halder on September 1, 1938. Halder and Beck belonged to a group of conspirators who had planned to oust Hitler in the event of a British military reaction to the Sudeten crisis in 1938. The Munich Agreement with Chamberlain's concessions to Hitler deprived the circle of conspirators, which consisted mainly of high-ranking military officials, of any plausible justification for a coup. “What else should we do? He's doing everything, ”Halder is said to have exclaimed at the time. Halder initially left the resistance group against Hitler. He justified his changed attitude with the ideal of Prussian discipline and military obedience to a head of state .

Second World War

General of the Artillery Franz Halder (l.) As Chief of the General Staff of the Army with the Commander in Chief of the Army, Colonel General Walther von Brauchitsch , during the attack on Poland in 1939.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Halder was involved in all strategic planning of the Wehrmacht. These included the attack on Poland , the 1940 campaign in the West ("Campaign in France") and the Barbarossa company ( war against the Soviet Union 1941–1945 ). On October 27, 1939, Halder was one of the first German soldiers to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his contribution to the preparations for the attack on Poland .

In the run-up to the western campaign , a conspiracy against Hitler broke out in the winter of 1939/1940, in which Halder was involved. The trigger was Hitler's plan to attack France as early as November 1939. The top of the Wehrmacht considered this project to be absolutely impracticable. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Colonel-General Walther von Brauchitsch , and Franz Halder as his Chief of Staff declared themselves ready to arrest Hitler as soon as he gave the order to attack. After the conclusion of the Western campaign ( June 1940 ) Halder became the Colonel-General conveyed.

As can be seen from Halder's war diary, on June 25, 1940, he emphasized a “new point of view: Striking power in the East”, which the General Staff of the Army approved. On July 3, he instructed his staff to examine "how a military strike against Russia is to be carried out in order to force it to recognize Germany's dominant role in Europe". Under the keyword “ Otto ”, the “expansion of the railroad and road network in the east” began on July 25, 1940. On July 21st, Hitler asked the OKH to “tackle the Russian problem” and “make mental preparations” for it. According to the plan initiated by Halder, it should be assumed that in four to six weeks the Red Army with 80 to 100 divisions would be defeated in a blitzkrieg and Russia's ability to attack would be destroyed with the aim of bringing the Ukraine , the Baltic States and Finland under German control . On December 5, 1940, Halder presented to Hitler what the other plans that had taken place and coordinated by Friedrich Paulus had resulted. Then he noted in his war diary: "Otto": Prepare fully in accordance with the basics of our planning. On December 18, 1940, this became the " Barbarossa Case " signed by Hitler . After Hitler's speech in front of around 200–250 military leaders in the Reich Chancellery on March 30, 1941, Halder noted the following:

Russia's Role and Opportunities. Justification of the need to rectify the Russian situation. Only in this way will we be able to master our tasks in the air and on the oceans, materially and personally, in two years, if we finally and thoroughly resolve the land issues. Our tasks towards Russia: smash the armed forces. Dissolve the state. […] Question of Russian evasion. Not likely, as it is linked to the Baltic Sea and Ukraine. If the Russian were to leave, he would have to do it very early, otherwise he would be out of order. After solving the tasks in the east, 50–60 divisions (tanks) will suffice. Some of the land power will be released for armament work for the Air Force and Navy, some will be needed for other tasks, e.g. B. Spain. Colonial tasks! Battle of two worldviews against each other. A crushing verdict on Bolshevism equals anti-social crime. Communism enormous danger for the future. We must move away from the standpoint of soldierly comradeship. The communist is not a comrade beforehand and not a comrade afterwards. It is a battle of annihilation. If we don't take it that way, then we will indeed beat the enemy, but in 30 years we will be faced again with the communist enemy. We are not at war to preserve the enemy. Future image of the state: Northern Russia is part of Finland. Protectorates of the Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus. Fight against Russia: destruction of the Bolshevik commissioners and the communist intelligentsia. The new states must be socialist states, but without their own intelligence. A new intelligence must be prevented from being formed. A primitive socialist intelligence suffices here. The struggle must be waged against the poison of decomposition. It is not a question of courts-martial. The leaders of the force need to know what is going on. You have to lead the fight. The troops must defend themselves by whatever means are used to attack them. Commissioners and GPU people are criminals and should be treated as such . Therefore the troops need not come out of the hands of the leaders. The Fiihrer must make his arrangements in accordance with the sentiments of the troops. The fight will be very different from the fight in the west. In the east, hardship is mild for the future. The leaders must ask the sacrifice of themselves to overcome their concerns. "

Halder was then involved in the formulation of the criminalcommissioner's order ” that preceded the attack on Russia with “significant responsibility”.

According to the research results of the Colonel and historian at the Military History Research Office of the Bundeswehr, Gerhard P. Groß , Halder neglected logistical questions in his operational planning, such as how the expected supply problem could be solved. “Seldom has a German Chief of Staff misjudged the situation as blatantly as Halder,” said Groß, when Halder made the statement in his war diary on July 3, 1941, “It is probably not too much to say when I say that the Campaign against Russia was won within 14 days ”.

With regard to the course of the German summer offensive in 1942 , Halder accused Hitler of splitting up his own forces and thus overstretching them by splitting Army Group South into Army Groups A and B in order to tackle operational goals simultaneously and not subsequently. Because of this dispute, he was deposed as chief of staff on September 24, 1942 and retired to Berlin and Aschau im Chiemgau . Halder's functions were taken over by Kurt Zeitzler .

As a result of the failed assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944 by Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg , there were extensive arrests and interrogations. The SS systematically tortured . This is how the names of the 1938 conspiratorial circle were determined. As a result, Halder, his wife and his eldest daughter were arrested and interned in the Flossenbürg concentration camp . On January 31, 1945 Halder was officially discharged from the Wehrmacht . During his detention, shortly before the end of the war, he was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp , and from there, along with other so-called special prisoners, including members of the Stauffenberg and Goerdeler families, the SS deported him to South Tyrol . Halder and his wife Gertrud were freed there on May 4, 1945 by Wehrmacht soldiers under the leadership of Captain Wichard von Alvensleben (see Liberation of the SS hostages in South Tyrol ). He spent some time in American captivity in Italy and was released in the summer of 1945.

post war period

Franz Halder in Nuremberg

In the Nuremberg trial against the Wehrmacht High Command , Halder was heard as a witness for the prosecution.

From 1946 to 1961 Halder worked as the head of the German department of the war history research group of the United States Army , the Operational History (German) Section of the Historical Division in Königstein im Taunus and in Karlsruhe . Here he had a significant influence on the war history of the Second World War . This was judged very critically in 1995 by the military historian Bernd Wegner . Because according to Halder's guidelines, the war was either interpreted as a fate or even as a necessary preventive strike , but in any case "as the work of a demonic, basically ahistorical exceptional personality - just as 'Hitler's war'". The responsibility for war, crime and defeat was attributed to Hitler and his closest circle and, as Halder put it in 1953, “a memorial was to be placed on the superhuman achievement of the German soldier in the last world war”.

In connection with his leading position in the Operational History (German) Section of the Historical Division , Halder was denazified . The procedure was originally supposed to take place at a special judgment chamber for German officers employed by the Historical Division , which was set up in Neustadt (Hessen) . However, since this was dissolved in May 1948, Halder was now transferred to Spruchkammer X in Munich . The chamber classified Halder on October 26, 1948 as "not encumbered". After evaluating Halder's war diaries, the Bavarian general plaintiff appealed the judgment, as he had come to the conclusion that Halder had been involved in bringing about the criminal orders of the Wehrmacht, in particular the martial law decree and the commissioner's order . The first instance discharge judgment was overturned. Attempts to summon Halder to an appeal chamber failed repeatedly, however, as the Historical Division held Halder back as indispensable because of his war history work. Finally, on September 6, 1950, the Bavarian Ministry of Liberation decided to withdraw the appeal, whereby Halder was considered “not encumbered” according to the ruling of October 1948.

The establishment of the working group for military research (AfW) operated by Halder in 1954, about which his three volumes "Daily records of the chief of the General Staff of the Army 1939–1942" were published, took place against the background of military historiography in the Historical Division and meant their transfer to civil research and publications. The group of authors of former Wehrmacht officers won by Halder for the AfW had exclusive access to the military files of the Wehrmacht that had been confiscated by the Americans through their work for the war history department of the US Army, which was only gradually made possible for civil historians from the end of the 1950s. This exclusive access to the files gave Halder and his group of authors advantages in their efforts to assert their own interpretations of the Wehrmacht's actions in the war.

In 1961 he received the second highest civilian award of the US Army, the Meritorious Civilian Service Award, for his many years of work in the German department of the War History Research Office .


  • Hitler as a general. Munich Cathedral Publishing House, Munich 1949.
  • War diary. Daily records of the Chief of the Army General Staff 1939–1942. Edited by the working group for defense research , edited by Hans-Adolf Jacobsen . 3 volumes. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1962–1964.
    • Volume 1: From the Polish Campaign to the End of the Western Offensive. August 14, 1939-30. June 1940. 1962.
    • Volume 2: From the planned landing in England to the beginning of the Eastern campaign. July 1, 1940-21. June 1941. 1963.
    • Volume 3: The Russian campaign up to the march on Stalingrad. June 22, 1941-24. September 1942. 1964.


Web links

Commons : Franz Halder  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Othmar Hackl : The Bavarian War Academy (1867-1914). Beck, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-406-10490-8 , p. 461.
  2. Othmar Hackl: The Bavarian War Academy (1867-1914). Beck, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-406-10490-8 , p. 460.
  3. a b c d Award dates and appointment dates according to the information on the estate in the Federal Archives, viewed May 4, 2010.
  4. Franz Halder. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
    Ernst Willi Hansen, Karl-Volker Neugebauer , Michael Busch: The Age of World Wars. 1914 to 1945. Peoples in arms. (= Basic course in German military history 2) Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58099-0 , p. 250.
    Klaus W. Tofahrn: The Third Reich and the Holocaust. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-631-57702-8 , p. 206.
  5. Quoted from: Michael Grüttner : Brandstifter und Biedermänner. Germany 1933-1939, Stuttgart 2015, p. 510.
  6. ^ Gerd R. Ueberschär: Colonel General Franz Halder . In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.): Hitler's military elite. Vol. 1. Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 1998, ISBN 3-89678-083-2 , p. 82.
  7. ^ Reprinted in Carl Dirks, Karl-Heinz Janßen : The war of the generals. Hitler as a tool of the Wehrmacht . Propylaea, Berlin 1999, p. 266.
  8. ^ Franz Halder: Kriegstagebuch , Volume 2, p. 211 (December 5, 1940).
  9. ^ Halder's diary
  10. Wolfram Wette : The Wehrmacht. Enemy images, war of extermination, legends . S. Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 2002, p. 99.
  11. Gerhard P. Groß: Myth and Reality. History of operational thinking in the German army by Moltke d. Ä. to Heusinger . Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2012, pp. 230-235 (quotation p. 232).
  12. ^ Gerd R. Ueberschär: Colonel General Franz Halder . In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (Ed.): Hitler's military elite , vol. 1. Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 1998, p. 83.
  13. Peter Koblank: The Liberation of Special Prisoners and Kinship Prisoners in South Tyrol , online edition Mythos Elser 2006.
  14. Bernd Wegner: Written victories. Franz Halder, the 'Historical Division' and the reconstruction of the Second World War in the spirit of the German General Staff , p. 291 f. In: Ernst Willi Hansen, Gerhard Schreiber, Bernd Wegner (eds.): Political change, organized violence and national security. Contributions to the recent history of Germany and France . Festschrift for Klaus-Jürgen Müller. Munich 1995, pp. 287-302.
  15. Esther-Julia Howell: Learn from the vanquished? The war-history cooperation between the US Army and the former Wehrmacht elite 1945–1961. De Gruyter Oldenbourg, Berlin 2015, p. 254 f. (Quote) u. P. 304 f.
  16. Esther-Julia Howell: Learn from the vanquished? The war-history cooperation between the US Army and the former Wehrmacht elite 1945–1961. De Gruyter Oldenbourg, Berlin 2015, pp. 176–178.
  17. ^ Jost Dülffer: Political historiography of the "45 generation". From the military history of World War II to critical contemporary history (1950-1970) . In: Christoph Cornelißen (ed.): History in the spirit of democracy. Wolfgang J. Mommsen and his generation . Akadademie-Verlag, Berlin 2010, p. 51.
  18. Esther-Julia Howell: Learn from the vanquished? The war-history cooperation between the US Army and the former Wehrmacht elite 1945–1961. De Gruyter Oldenbourg, Berlin 2015, p. 270 and p. 278.
  19. Esther-Julia Howell: Learn from the vanquished ?: The historical cooperation of the US Army and the former Wehrmacht elite 1945–1961. De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2016, prologue p. 1.