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The Traitors in the Officer Corps of the German Armed Forces

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By Wilfried Heink-

Following World War I, Germany’s army was demoralized, reduced to groups of free lance mercenaries. Discipline, the core of any army, especially in the German/Prussian army, was no longer. This breakdown had already started in the last month of WWI, when German troops who had been exposed to the Bolshevik virus while on the eastern front, were transferred west after the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Soldier counsels (Soviets) were formed and Officers orders questioned or ignored (“The Kings Depart…”, by Richard M. Watt, pp.142ff). Strikes broke out in Germany which affected the war effort, the Kaiser, the Commander in Chief, forced to abdicate, in short, the Officers felt that they were stabbed in the back (Dolchstoss). Under the Versailles Diktat, Germany’s armed forces were reduced to 100 000 lightly armed forces. The Officer core, a proud clan, was devastated.

Many of the Officers, among them Ludwig Beck later to be appointed chief of staff, supported the NSdAP and Hitler, who promised to do away with Versailles (the communists also promised this, but the Officers, many of them aristocrats, could never site with them). Hitler, when appointed Chancellor in 1933, offered in a speech of May 17,1933 to disarm completely if all other states would do the same (H. Härtle, Die Kriegsschuld der Sieger, p.64, pp.102ff). He continued by saying that if the others are not willing to at least comply with conditions set out in Art. 8 of the Versailles Treaty and reduce their forces, Germany would be forced to rearm. Art. 8 was ignored by England and France, they kept arming themselves, as did Russia, thus forcing Hitler to abandon the Versailles Treaty since all other European sates ignored it. Accordingly, he broke a treaty that had never been adhered to by Britain of France. Hitler did what any other responsible states man would have done: finding himself surrounded by countries armed to the teeth, he ordered re-armament.

So far so good, no Officer who’s job depends on a strong army could disagree. But, there were conflicts, namely differences of opinion between Hitler and the army hierarchy. National Socialism as an ideology was a movement, a socialist movement, a peasant movement. Hitler, after realizing that other countries were engaged in an arms race, knew he needed a strong Germany able to defend itself, as well as a Germany able to sustain itself in case of war. The British blockade served as a constant reminder. The core of the officer caste never accepted NS ideology, they looked down at the party as peasant upstarts (W. von Oven, Finale Furioso, p.175), but for them anything was better than the Weimar chaos and they also hoped to be able to influence Hitler. Stalin solved the same problem by butchering or incarcerating scores of Czarist Officers, replacing them with the party faithful. Hitler never even considered this, as the National Socialists were proud of their largely bloodless revolution, as compared to those that had taken place in France and Russia. He may, however, had done well by doing some house cleaning. When von Hindenburg died, in August 1934, “the little corporal”, as Hitler was called by them, became Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, something the Officers, used to monarchist traditions, never believed possible.

Beck was against the Anschluss, the unification of Germany with Austria, he could not understand that this was part of National Socialist ideology. When all went well, he accepted it, but when the Czechoslovak crisis loomed, Ludwig Beck, on August 18,1938, resigned as chief of staff, to be replaced by Franz Halder. Beck cited the so-called Hoßbach-Protokoll (a topic to be discussed) as evidence of Hitlers intentions, the reason for his resignation, even though there is some proof that Hoßbach wrote what he did on the suggestion of Beck (A. v. Ribbentrop, Verschwörung gegen den Frieden, p.56). It is hard to tell when Beck started his treacherous activities, but Annelies von Ribbentrop provides evidence that in the spring of 1937 he already had contact with Goerdeler, one of the main conspirators (A. v. Ribbentrop, Die Kriegsschuld des Widerstandes, p.36). Beck tried hard to have Halder join the conspirators, however, no solid evidence exists to show that he was successful. That he was successful with other Officers is evident. In 1943 he told Wilhelm Leuschner, who was to be vice-chancellor to Goerdeler following the successful coup, that there were enough confidants in the command structures in the east that it will be possible to regulate the activities of the armed forces (Ibid, p.398).

Not much information available on outright traitor activities in the Poland war of 1939. That is not to say that Goerdeler, and others, including foreign office (AA) ministers, did not try to sabotage what had been decided by the government. A. v. Ribbentrop, as well as other authors, provide details. The officers also remained relatively quiet during the successful French campaign which Hitler helped to plan; “the little corporal was just lucky”, or so Officers assured themselves. But when Barbarossa dragged on and the initial successes turned into disaster, this situation changed. The battle for Moscow in December 1941 was perhaps the turning point (R. Sorge, Soviet’s spy in Japan, told Stalin that the Japanese would not open a front against Russia in the east, which allowed Stalin to move troops stationed there to Moscow). The Germans were exhausted, the supply lines destroyed by partisans, winter had set in and when attacked by the fresh Russian troops from the east, the Germans were beaten back. This is when “the little corporal” lost his aura of invincibility, and the jackals moved in.

Evidence of collaboration between German officers and Russians is scarce. In a meeting between the American General R. G. Tindall and von Moltke in Cairo in November 1943, the latter told the American that two groups of opponents exist in Germany. One of them, consisting of mostly military people, was trying to establish a good relationship with Russia, the other was sympathetic to the west (Valentin Falin, “Zweite Front”, p.395). There is little known about the activities of that first group, but Falin writes that Stauffenberg was not convinced that Germanys salvation, as he perceived it, lay exclusively in the west (Zweite Front, p. 429).

Here is what Allan W. Dulles wrote about Stauffenberg in “Germany’s Underground”, pp.170/71:

“At approximately the same time Count von Stauffenberg was acquiring influence among the conspirators. He had gathered around himself several younger army officers and civilians who were attracted by his forceful personality and by his determination to act. Among them was Count Fritz von der Schulenburg, a reformed Nazi and cousin of the Ambassador. Schulenburg’s great energy and administrative ability and his position as second in command of the Berlin police had made him an important member of the inner circle of those pressing for early action even before Stauffenberg appeared on the scene. Through his contacts with Trott, Yorck and others of their friends, he had brought the Kreisau Circle closer to the group of military conspirators.
Stauffenberg recognized the over-all leadership of Beck and Goerdeler, but had no sympathy with them politically. He was one of those who were attracted by the resurgence of the East, and believed liberalism to be decadent and the adjective “Western” a synonym for “bourgeois.” Gisevius told me Stauffenberg toyed with the idea of trying for a revolution of workers, peasants and soldiers. He hoped the Red Army would support a Communist Germany organized along Russian lines. His views were shared by other conspirators, particularly by certain of the younger men of the Kreisau Circle, including the Haeften brothers and Trott. In the case of some it was a matter of ideology, in other cases it was a question of policy. Some had reached the conclusion that nothing constructive could be worked out with the West. Soviet propaganda had influenced others.
The Free Germany Committee, although only a tool of psychological warfare, impressed many Germans. Germans captured by the Russians on the eastern front were sent back to Germany to spread the Communist gospel. “Free Germany” committees began to form in secret on the eastern front, and to a limited extent in Germany. While British and American planes ruined one German city after another, and London and Washington talked only of unconditional surrender, the Free Germany Committee broadcast on the Moscow radio:
“The Soviet Union does not identify the German people with Hitler. . . . Our new Germany will be sovereign and independent and free of control from other nations. . . . Our new Germany will place Hitler and his supporters, his ministers and representatives and helpers before the judgment of the people, but it will not take revenge on the seduced and misguided, if, in the hour of decision, they side with the people. . . . Our aim is: A free Germany. A strong powerful democratic state, which has nothing in common with the incompetence of the Weimar regime. A democracy which will suppress every attempt of a renewed conspiracy against the liberties of the people or the peace of Europe. . . . For people and fatherland. Against Hitler’s war. For immediate peace. For the salvation of the German people.”
The Russians kept up this propaganda to the end, and when we reached Berlin in May of 1945, the city was already placarded with Soviet propaganda, including these words of Stalin: “Hitlers come and go, but the German people, the German state, remain.”

There is some evidence that Henning von Tresckow (a traitor), chief of staff of army group center (Heeresgruppe Mitte) since November 1943, was responsible for the early collapse of that group because of his traitorous activities (Friedrich Georg, “Verrat in der Normandie”, p.315).

The Stalingrad catastrophe, starting in the middle of November 1942, was the next big setback for the Wehrmacht and here we have the first signs of, if not sabotage, then insubordination, of intentionally ignoring the little corporals orders. Hitler had studied maps found in a Russian archive about the civil war following the October revolution in which the “Whites” tried to defeat the Bolsheviks. Stalin with the Red Army had crossed the river Don between Zarizyn (later Stalingrad) and Rostov and consequently defeated Denikin of the “Whites”. Hitler feared that this maneuver would be repeated and ordered Halder to station heavy artillery as well as anti-tank cannon behind the Hungarians guarding this section. He also “wished” (quotation marks in the original) to have the 22nd tank division brought into position. Halder followed those orders weeks later, partially, and ignored the tank order completely. Neither Gehlen, head of German Armies East (the jury is still out on whether he was a traitor) nor anyone else recognized this danger, Hitler did. In the middle of November the Red Army broke through at precisely that area and with overwhelming men- and material power succeeded in surrounding the 6th army. Zhukov, the hero of Stalingrad (Suvorov differs) later admitted that Gehlen had helped him (Werner Maser, “Fälschung, Dichtung und Wahrheit über Hitler und Stalin”, pp. 281-284). Goebbels held that the Generals wanted defeats, not to loose the war, but to loose battles to make the Germans realize that Hitler was a bad leader and thus prepare them for the coup (Finale Furioso, pp. 176ff). This was because the Officers turned traitors faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, namely the fact that the German people still stood firmly behind Hitler.

Now to the west, but first a brief observation on the games played by Churchill and Roosevelt, according to Falin in Zweite Front (Second Front). I have to admit that Falin, even though he tries to convince us that Stalin did everything to preserve peace, and thereby discredits himself, provides a new perspective in regards to the conflicts of interest in the Anti-Hitler coalition of Winston and Franklin Delano (The full title of his book: Zweite Front, Die Interessenkonflikte in der Anti-Hitler-Koalition [Second Front: The conflicts of interest in the anti-Hitler coalition]). He shows that Churchill was quite contend to let the Russians and Germans wear each other out, kill each other, regardless of the fact that assistance had been promised to the Russians by opening a second front in the west. Roosevelt, who in my opinion was a communist sympathizer, made an efforts to establish that second front, but Churchill sabotaged it according to Falin, and he makes a fairly convincing case. Friedrich George, in his “Verrat in der Normandie”, is of the opinion, and backs this up with evidence, that “D-Day” happened when it did because of the German advances towards an atomic bomb, not to help Stalin.

The English and Americans used the German traitors, be they military men or other officials, to their advantage but never promised them anything. This co-operation went so far, by April 1944, as to have the traitors viewed by Dulles et al as agents of the western powers (Zweite Front, p.429). The west-leaning military brass wanted to make peace with the western allies to concentrate their efforts on the eastern front (and here a conflict of interest must have existed between that group and the Russian sympathizers). They offered, and did their best, to allow the Normandie invasion to succeed, and all they wanted in return was a guaranty to be allowed to continue the fight in the east , whereas other details were to be worked out later.

A partial list of the traitors in the military (Ibid, p.423): Field Marshall’s Rommel and Witzleben, the military commander in occupied France General Heinrich von Stülpnagel, Paris commandant General Boineburg-Lengsfeld, commander of the troops in Belgium and Northern-France Alexander von Falkenhausen, generals Tresckow, Hammerstein, Thomas, Wagner, Olbricht (Field Marshall Rundstedt refused to join, but remained silent). To this list we must add: General Hans Speidel, Rommel’s Chief of Staff (F. George does not believe that Rommel was part of it, but his case is weak), Admiral Wilhelm Franz Canaris, head of military intelligence, Hans Oster, number two in the Abwehr and Walther Friedrich Schellenberg, SS intelligence officer and later head of intelligence. The number one of this group: Ludwig Beck. There are many more, including the afore mentioned Claus von Stauffenberg, but this will do to show that high ranking officers were part of the treachery.

The question has to be asked: How were they able to operate, quite openly, without getting caught? Louis Kilzer provides a partial answer in his “Hitler’s Traitor” when he writes that officials, whose job it was to uncover this sort of thing, were part of the conspiracy. This is true, but differences of ideology as well as distain for “the little corporal” also played a big part. Did Hitler not realize what was happening? Was he so removed from reality, living in the Wolfsschanze, with information possibly fed to him by conspirators? Or did he know and realized that at this stage he was powerless to do anything about it? We will perhaps never know.

The efforts of the traitors were not limited to contacting the enemy and sabotaging Hitlers orders. There were 42 attempts on Hitler’s life, according to Felix Kellerhoff in an article in “Die Welt” of March 3, 2009. The number originates with Will Berthold, Kellerhoff believes it to be much too high, but provides ten examples. Following an example of one of those attempts, mentioned by Kellerhoff, I copied this from “Hitler’s Traitor”, by L. Kilzer, p.168/69:

“Conspiracy returns
But such was the case with the conspiracy against Hitler that, following this great victory
(Manstein in the east in 1943. Wilf), the participants finally decided to assassinate the Führer. Former chief of staff Ludwig Beck was the motivating force. He had earlier declined assassination on moral principles but now had resolved this internal conflict. Carl Goerdeler, former Leipzig mayor and a major leader of the civilian resistance, made the same moral choice (Gisevius, Hans Bernd, “To the Bitter End”, 1989, p.468). But it would be men and armies in the field that would have to carry out the coup. The ever-traitorous Hans Oster, number-two man in the Abwehr, prevailed upon Field Marshal Günther von Kluge to provide the services of assassination host. Goerdeler had also worked Kluge, commander of Army Group Center, in December, and Kluge’s continued acquiescence in the Operation seemed assured.
As originally planned, the assassination was to take place on March 13.(1943) after Hitler flew into the army group on Kluge’s invitation. Lieutenant Colonel Freiherr von Boeselager and other officers in the 23d Cavalry Regiment were to shoot Hitler
(Clark, Alan, “Barbarossa: The Russian German Conflict, 1941-1945, 1965, p.308). Oster and Olbricht (chief of the Heeresamt) were to orchestrate simultaneous takeovers in Berlin, Munich, and Vienna.
But once Hitler and his SS entourage were on the ground Kluge got cold feet. Because of Manstein, Hitler once again was seen as a victor. Kluge thought that the German people would not accept the coup, stressing that “we ought to wait until unfavorable military developments made the elimination of Hitler a evident necessity”
The conspirators were not deterred. Perhaps they couldn’t shoot down Hitler while Kluge was nearby, but they could certainly bomb him into oblivion when he left on his plane. General Erwin Lahousen agreed to supply the means: small blocks of trotetramethanium. General Henning von Tresckow would deliver the device in the form of two bottles of brandy.
When Hitler’s departure approached, Treschkow walked over to a colonel standing beside Hitler’s plane and asked if he would be so kind as to take the brandy back to a friend at Rastenburg. The colonel said “of course,” and the two bombs, each separate fused, were loaded on board
(Ibid, p.309).
As usual, Hitler’s would be assassins came up short. The fuses failed, and Hitler arrived back home knowing nothing of the mortal danger that had traveled with him. To the relief of the conspirators, no one discovered the bottles, which were delivered to their staged designee, who was part of the plot[…]”

In November 1942, Allan Dulles set up shop in Bern, to co-ordinate the actions of the agent networks of Germany and the US (Zweite Front, p.336). Aside from that, connections via the Vatican, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and South-America remained intact (Ibid). Canaris met Donovan from the OSS, they maintained personal contact for three years (Ibid, p.391/92), Menzies from M-6 was also in on it (Ibid). Helmuth von Moltke traveled to Turkey in 1943, as Canaris’s emissary to meet an American contact (Ibid, p.394), etc., etc. All sorts of information was exchanged and plans discussed. In the view of the allies, Hitler had to be eliminated and they would not have minded if he was replaced by Himmler (Ibid, p.420). Himmler, as contact person, is mentioned often.

The German High Command knew exactly when the allies were going to land on “D-Day”, the ‘where’ became apparent when the armada approached Normandie (Normandie, p.25). German intelligence was, in spite of Canaris and Oster, up to their task and had informed headquarters of all allied movements, including the direction the invasion fleet was taken. Some historians claim that German meteorologists did not predict the clearing of the skies in the night of June 6, but they are wrong (Ibid, p.55). Hitler decided on Normandie on March 4, ignoring the many allied subterfuges, landing at Calais one of them. General Speidel, however, ignored all of this information on June 6, telling commanders that this was only a deception, and the real invasion will happen in Calais (closest point to England), this despite the fact that intelligence had told headquarters about the size of the armada approaching. Rommel was home in Germany, celebrating his wife’s 50th birthday (Ibid, p.229), other field commanders were also on leave. The allies landed and although they met with some resistance, it was not co-ordinated. It was as if the Germans, who were offering stiff resistance against overwhelming odds on the eastern front, had forgotten how to fight a war. Orders were given, countermanded, divisions send to the wrong areas, etc., etc. (Zweite Front, p.424). F. Georg provides some 300 pages of details in “Verrat in der Normandie”. The invasion succeeded but the traitors did not achieve what they set out to do, or did they?


The authors of the books I have used as source all frequently state that archives are still locked and documents inaccessible. It is therefore impossible to know the full extent of what really happened, but many agree that the traitor issue has not been adequately addressed. However, those who wish that the issue be addressed and cleared are forgetting the elephant in the living room, “The Holocaust”. For, when this issue is dealt with, it will become apparent that this crime, if it really was committed, could not have been concealed from the brass of the armed forces.

The conspirators tried hard to get rid of Hitler, but were at the end afraid of the reaction from the German people, they knew that Hitler was very popular right to the end. Why not then, to discredit Hitler, provide evidence of the alleged mass murder of Jews? Something like that could not have been kept secret with some 400 000 participating (“Der Spiegel”, 10.3.08). Stauffenberg, when talking to other traitors, spoke of the so-called commissar order, the starving of Russian POW’s and the forced labor program as crimes committed by Hitler (Zweite Front, p.422), but not one word was uttered about what has become known as “The Holocaust”. In 1944, the conspirators planned to inform the German people about the hopeless state German forces were in and also about the crimes committed by Hitler, stating them as reason for his removal, but “The Holocaust” is not mentioned (Zweite Front, p.428). There are many more examples. In the end, the people were not informed of anything. Why not? What were those non-specified crimes that were mentioned? Why not refer to the single most horrific alleged crime, “The Holocaust”, if it then happened? Himmler, the arch villain, or so we are ordered to believe, was used as contact person, even though the allies were allegedly informed about “The Holocaust”! At Nürnberg, not one of the high ranking officers knew anything about “The Holocaust”. This is being interpreted as self defense, but when looking at how many of those Officers were traitors who were looking for an excuse to justify the removal of Hitler to the German people, this excuse falls flat on its face.

If “The Holocaust” really happened, German army brass would have known about it and would have used this knowledge to topple Hitler. The German people would not have supported Hitler any longer if such a horrendous crime had become known. But since this was not done, and since details about “The Holocaust” only emerged following the war, we can surmise that “The Holocaust” never happened.

Wilfried Heink

Written by Wilfried Heink in: National Socialism,Spy/Traitor Dilemma,World War II | Tags: