The Full Wiki

More info on Gerd von Rundstedt

Gerd von Rundstedt: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt (December 12, 1875 - February 24, 1953) was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war. Some under his command nicknamed him "Black Knight".

Early life

Born in Ascherslebenmarker in the Province of Saxonymarker into an aristocratic Prussian family, von Rundstedt joined the German Army in 1892, then entered Germany's elite military academy in 1902 – an institution that accepted only 160 new students annually and weeded out 75% of the students through exams. During World War I he rose in rank until 1918 when he was a major and was chief of staff of his division.

After the war, von Rundstedt rose steadily in the small 100,000-man army (the Reichswehr) and in 1932, was appointed commander of the 3rd Infantry Division. Later that year he threatened to resign when Franz von Papen declared martial law and ordered his troops to eject members of the Nazi Party from state government offices. In 1938 he was appointed commander of the 2nd Army that occupied the Sudetenland, but he retired after it was understood that Werner von Fritsch - Commander-in-Chief of the German Army (OKH) - was framed by the Gestapo. Upon his retirement he was given the honorary appointment of Colonel-in-Chief of the 18th Infantry regiment; von Rundstedt frequently wore an infantry colonel's uniform with his Field Marshal's tabs until the end of his career. On occasion, he was mistaken for a colonel, but he simply laughed at the notion.

World War II

In September 1939 World War II began, and von Rundstedt was recalled to active service to lead Army Group South during the successful invasion of Poland. Turning to the West, he supported Manstein's "armoured fist" approach to the invasion of France, and this was eventually selected as Fall Gelb. During the battle he was placed in command of seven panzer divisions, three motorized infantry divisions, and 35 regular infantry divisions.

By May 14, 1940, the armoured divisions led by Heinz Guderian had crossed the Meusemarker and had opened up a huge gap in the Allied front. General von Rundstedt had doubts about the survivability of these units without infantry support, and asked for a pause while the infantry caught up; the halt allowed the British to evacuate their forces to Dunkirkmarker. Later Rundstedt forbade an attack on the Dunkirk beachhead, allowing the British to fully evacuate it. This turn of events has raised eyebrows over the years. Von Rundstedt and others subsequently argued that the decision was Hitler's and stemmed from his belief that Britain would more readily accept a peace treaty if he magnanimously spared what remained of her expeditionary force. However, this was no more than a face-saving rationalization. Rundstedt had wanted to preserve his motorized units for the final push to the south to conclude the campaign against the French while Göring had convinced Hitler the Luftwaffe could finish the job.

Von Rundstedt was promoted to field marshal on July 19, 1940 and took part in the planning of Operation Sealion. When the invasion was called off, von Rundstedt took control of occupation forces and was given responsibility to develop the coastal defenses in the Netherlandsmarker, Belgiummarker and France.

Operation Barbarossa

In June 1941 von Rundstedt took part in Operation Barbarossa as commander of Army Group South, where he led 52 infantry divisions and five Panzer divisions into the Soviet Unionmarker. At first his progress was slow, but in September AG South captured Kievmarker in a double encirclement operation made possible by Stalin's unreasoning refusal to abandon it, even though the Dnieper had been crossed both north and south of it. The Germans claimed a fantastic haul of 665,000 Russian prisoners based on the encircled divisions' nominal, pre-combat strength as revealed by captured Soviet records. The Soviets reported that owing to previous losses - also exaggerated by the Germans, yet not subtracted by them from their tally of Soviet prisoners - the encircled divisions possessed merely 452,000 men and that, of those, 150,541 made their way out of the pocket before the lumbering German infantry divisions caught up with the armour and the ring of encirclement was consolidated. Thus "only" 300,000 men were permanently trapped, whether captured or killed. After this von Rundstedt moved east to attack Kharkovmarker and Rostovmarker. He strongly opposed continuing the advance into the Soviet Union during the winter and advised Hitler to call a halt, but his views were rejected.

In November, 1941 von Rundstedt had a heart attack, but he refused to be hospitalized and continued the advance, reaching Rostov on November 21. A counter-attack forced the Germans back. When von Rundstedt demanded to be allowed to withdraw, Hitler became furious and replaced him with General Walther von Reichenau.

Western battlefield

Gerd von Rundstedt with Erwin Rommel, Alfred Gause, and Bodo Zimmermann.
Hitler recalled von Rundstedt to duty in March 1942, placing him once again in command of the west. There he proved complacent, so much so that as late as the autumn of 1943, no fortifications worthy of mention existed along the entire Atlantic shore. It was only after Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's appointment as von Rundstedt's ostensible subordinate in November 1943 that fortification work began in earnest. During the debates preceding the landing, von Rundstedt insisted that the armoured reserves should be held in the operational rear so that they could all be rushed to whatever sector the Allies happened to land in. General Geyr von Schweppenburg, the armoured commander, supported him, but Rommel insisted that the armoured forces must be deployed very near the shoreline, just beyond the reach of the Allied naval bombardment. Badly affected by his experiences in Africa, Rommel believed that Allied air operations would prohibit movement during the day and even at night gravely inhibit movement. But von Rundstedt was convinced that a landing as far west as Normandy was out of the question and that very little armour should be committed there. Ultimately, the armoured divisions were dispersed and only two were spared to the Channel coast west of the Seine with one assigned to the Normandy sector, a deployment that would have disastrous consequences once the invasion began. After the D-Day landings in June 1944, von Rundstedt urged Hitler to negotiate a settlement with the Allies, his frustration culminating in his outburst, "Make peace, you idiots!" Hitler responded by replacing him with Field Marshal Günther von Kluge.

As a result of the July 20 Plot, which outraged von Rundstedt, he agreed to join OKW chief Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and Guderian on the Army Court of Honour that expelled hundreds of officers suspected of being opposed to Hitler, often on the flimsiest of evidence. This judgement removed the suspected dissidents from the jurisdiction of the military and turned them over to the Volksgerichtshof and its presiding judge, Roland Freisler. Many of these men were executed after brief trials in what amounted to a kangaroo court.

In mid-August 1944, von Kluge committed suicide after being implicated in the July 20 Plot and Field Marshal Walter Model was given command of OB West; Model held the post for eighteen days before von Rundstedt was reappointed to command Germany's forces in the west. He rallied them in time to fight off Operation Market Garden, with Model's Army Group B at the center of the German defense. Although von Rundstedt was in command of the German forces on the Western front throughout Operation Wacht am Rhein (the Battle of the Bulge), he was opposed to that offensive from its inception, and essentially washed his hands of it. He was relieved of command for the last time in March 1945, after telling Keitel once again that Hitler should make peace with the Allies, rather than continue to fight a hopeless war.

After the war

Gerd von Rundstedt
Rundstedt was captured by the US 36th Infantry Division on May 1, 1945. During his captivity, he was reportedly asked by Soviet interrogators which battle he regarded as most decisive. They expected him to say "Stalingrad", but von Rundstedt replied "The Battle of Britain". Annoyed, the Soviets "put away their notebooks and left." While being interrogated, he suffered another heart attack, and was taken to Britain, where he was held in a Prisoner-of-War Camp in Bridgend, South Wales, and at Redgrave, Suffolk. The British authorities charged him with war crimes. These concerned allegations of his involvement in mass murders in occupied Soviet territories. On October 10, 1941, his subordinate, Walther von Reichenau, the 6th Army's commander, had issued his infamous "Reichenau Order".[24362], which von Rundstedt allegedly approved. Ultimately, he never faced trial, citing poor health reasons. He was released in July 1948, and lived in Hanovermarker until his death.


On January 22, 1902 von Rundstedt married Luise Bila von Götz (d. 1952) and they had one child Hans Gerd von Rundstedt (1903-1948).

Summary of the military career

Dates of rank

Notable decorations

See also


  • Bungay, Stephen. The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain. London: Aurum Press 2000. ISBN 1-85410-721-6(hardcover), ISBN 1-85410-801-8(paperback 2002).
  • Blumentritt, Günther, Von Rundstedt: The Man and the Soldier, London: Odhams Press, 1952
  • Liddell Hart, B. H., The German Generals Talk, New York: William and Morrow, 1948, chap. 7
  • Messenger, Charles, The Last Prussian: A Biography of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, 1875-1953, London: Brassey's, 1991 ISBN 0-08-036707-0
  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2005). Eichenlaubträger 1940 - 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe III Radusch - Zwernemann (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 3-932381-22-X.
  • Ziemke, Earl, "Gerd Von Rundstedt" in Hitler's Generals, ed. Correlli Barnet, New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1989


  1. Kershaw, Ian, Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941, London: Penguin Books, 2008, page 27.
  2. Bungay 200, p. 386

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address