Fedor von Bock

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Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock; he was one of only 19 men who received the Pour le Mérite in WW I and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in WW II.[1]

Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor von Bock (ᛉ 3 December 1880 in Küstrin, West Prussia; ᛣ 4 May 1945 in Oldenburg, Holstein) was a German Generalfeldmarschall and a distinguished old-style Prussian officer[2] of the Imperial German Army[3] and the Reichswehr,[4] who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War.

Life

Von Bock and other Generals in Paris, 1940
Bock, Fedor von.jpg
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1977-120-11, Fedor von Bock.jpg

WWII

As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber" (literally, ambiguously, and ironically: "The Dier").[5] Bock served as the commander of Army Group North during the Poland campaign in 1939, commander of "Army Group B" during the during the Blitzkrieg (after France declared war on Germany) in 1940, and later as the commander of Army Group Center during the campaign against the Soviet Union in 1941; his final command was that of Army Group South in 1942.

Von Bock is best known for commanding Operation Typhoon, the ultimately failed attempt to capture Moscow during the winter of 1941. The Wehrmacht offensive was slowed by stiff Soviet resistance around Mozhaisk, and also by the Rasputitsa, the season of rain and mud in Russia. Once the full fury of the Russian winter struck, which was the coldest in over 50 years,[6] the German armies quickly became unable to conduct further combat operations, with more casualties occurring due to the cold weather than from battle. The Soviet counteroffensive soon drove the German army into retreat, and Bock — who recommended an earlier withdrawal — was subsequently relieved of command by Adolf Hitler.

A lifelong officer in the German military, von Bock was considered to be a very "by the book" general. He also had a reputation for being a fiery lecturer, earning him the nickname "Holy Fire of Küstrin".[7] von Bock was not considered to be a brilliant theoretician, but possessed a strong sense of determination, feeling that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die on the battlefield for the Fatherland.

Von Bock was also uncommonly outspoken, a privilege Hitler extended to him only because he had been successful in battle.[8]

Death

With the Russians closing in on Berlin in 1945, von Bock was informed by Erich von Manstein that Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz was forming a new government in Hamburg to negotiate with the invading Allies. Von Bock started off for that city immediately. He stayed the night in a mansion in Petersdorf, near Lensahn and left the next morning early. Von Bock's wife Wilhelmine, his young stepdaughter (Katharina von der Osten), her friend (Ingrid Jahr) and his Chauffeur (Unteroffizier Martin Kallinich) were killed by a strafing fighter-bomber from the RAF on 3 May 1945, only days before the war′s end in Europe, on the road from Kiel.

Bock survived severely injured (his body was bullet-ridden) and burned, he was brought to the Naval hospital in Oldenburg. Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein visited him in the evening, Bock's last words to his friend were: "Manstein, retten Sie Deutschland!" (Manstein, save Germany!). Fedor von Bock died the next day.

At age 64, Generalmarschall von Bock became the only one of Adolf Hitler′s field marshals to die from enemy fire. Days later, the war was already over, he was finally buried with full military honors, which the British occupiers allowed. Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock now lies on the Field of honor, of the St. Catharina cemetery in Lensahn,[9] next to his beloved wife Wilhelmine.

Family

In 1905, the young Leutnant von Bock married Mally Lonny Anna Marga Klara von Reichenbach, a young Prussian noblewoman, whom he had originally met in Berlin. They were married in a traditional military wedding at the Garrison Church in Potsdam. They had a daughter, Mally Lonny Anna Marga Ursula (ᛉ 15 August 1906), born two years after the marriage. Five years later his beautiful wife Mally became ill and died in 1910.

In 1936 General der Infanterie von Bock married his second wife, the widow Wilhelmine Gottliebe Jenny von der Osten, née von Boddin (1893–1945). She brought a daughter into the marriage, Katharina „Karin“ Elisabeth Sophie von der Osten, which von Bock considered his own.

Commands Held

  • Army Group North, 1939
  • Army Group B, 1940
  • Army Group Center, 1941
  • Army Group South, 1942

Battles

World War I

World War II

Awards and decorations (excerpt)

Promotions

  • Fähnrich — 15 March 1898
  • Sekondeleutnant — 1 May 1898
  • Oberleutnant — 10 September 1908
  • Hauptmann — 22 March 1912
  • Major — 30 December 1916
  • Oberstleutnant — 18 December 1920
  • Oberst — 1 May 1925
  • Generalmajor — 1 February 1929
  • Generalleutnant — 1 February 1931
  • General der Infanterie — 1 March 1935
  • Generaloberst — 15 March 1938
  • Generalfeldmarschall — 19 July 1940
  • Order of the Crown, 4th class (Prussia, 13 September 1911)
  • Iron Cross of 1914
    • 2nd class – 18 September 1914
    • 1st class – 30 October 1916
  • Fürstliches Hohenzollernsches Ehrenkreuz, 3rd Class with Swords, October 1914
  • Military Merit Cross, 3rd class with war decoration (Austria-Hungary, 24 June 1915)
  • Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (25 October 1916)
  • Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd class with war decoration (Austria, 9 February 1917)
  • Military Merit Cross, 2nd class (Mecklenburg-Schwerin, 3 August 1917)
  • Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg (19 September 1917)
  • Order of the Zähringer Lion, Knight 1st class with Swords (10 January 1918)
  • Order of the Crown, Knight's Cross with Swords (Württemberg 25 January 1918)
  • Hanseatic Cross of Bremen (30 January 1918)
  • Pour le Mérite on 1 April 1918 as Major and Ia in the General Staff of the Heeresgruppe „Deutscher Kronprinz“
  • Order of Military Merit, Commander's Cross (Bulgaria, 2 August 1918)
  • Prussian Long Service Cross (1920)
  • Silesian Eagle, 1st and 2nd class (15 April 1921)
  • Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award (Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung), 4th to 1st Class (25 years), 1936
    • Oak Leaves added on 12 September 1939 for 40 years
  • Anschluss Medal (Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 13. März 1938)
  • Sudetenland Medal (Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 1. Oktober 1938)
  • Order of the Yugoslav Crown, 1st class (1 June 1939)
  • Clasp to the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class (22 September 1939)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy (27 August 1940)
  • Viermalige namentliche Nennung im Wehrmachtbericht (reference in the Wehrmachtbericht) on 7 August 1941, 19 September 1941, 18 October 1941 and 30 May 1942
  • Order of Michael the Brave (Romania)
    • 3rd and 2nd Class – 29 July 1942
    • 1st Class – September 1942
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Kingdom of Hungary with Swords (27 November 1942)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 30 September 1939 as Generaloberst and Commander-in-Chief of Heeresgruppe Nord

Quotes

  • "Our profession should always be crowned by heroic death in battle."[10]

See also

Literature

  • Klaus Gerbet and David Johnston: Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock: The War Diary 1939-1945,[12] Schiffer Publishing (1996), ISBN 978-0764300752
  • David Stahel: Operation Typhoon: Hitler's March on Moscow, October 1941,[13] Cambridge University Press (2013), ISBN 978-1107035126

References

  1. Ritter des Ordens „Pour le Mérite“ mit dem Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
  2. Von Bock belonged to a Prussian Protestant Aristocratic family whose military heritage is traceable to the time of the Hohenzollerns. His father, Karl Moritz von Bock, commanded a division in the Franco-Prussian War, and was decorated for bravery at the Battle of Sedan. His great-grandfather served in the armies of Frederick the Great, and his grandfather was an officer in the Prussian Army who fought against Napoleon at Jena. His mother, Olga Helene Fransziska Freifrau von Falkenhayn von Bock, was of both German and Russian aristocratic heritage.
  3. By the time World War I began in 1914, von Bock was a Hauptmann. He served with the 4th Foot Guards Regiment as a battalion commander in January and February 1916, and was decorated with the coveted Pour le Mérite for bravery. Major von Bock was assigned as a divisional staff officer in von Rupprecht′s army group on the Western Front and became a friend of the Crown Prince of Germany. Two days before the Armistice, he met with Kaiser Wilhelm II at Spa, Belgium, in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Kaiser to return to Berlin to crush the mutiny at Kiel.
  4. After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, limiting the German Army to 100,000 troops, Bock stayed on as an officer of the post-treaty Reichswehr, and rose through the ranks. In the 1920s, von Bock was together with Kurt von Schleicher, Eugen Ott, and Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord a member of a secret group known as Sondergruppe R selected by and responsible to Hans von Seeckt that was in charge of helping Germany evade the Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, which had disarmed Germany. The officers of Sondergruppe R formed the liaison with Major Bruno Ernst Buchrucker, who led the so-called Arbeits-Kommandos (Work Commandos), which was officially a labor group intended to assist with civilian projects, but were in reality thinly disguised soldiers that allowed Germany to exceed the limits on troop strength set by Versailles. Buchrucker′s so-called "Black Reichswehr" became infamous for its practice of murdering all those Germans who were suspected of working as informers for the Allied Control Commission, which was responsible for ensuring that Germany was in compliance with Part V. The killings perpetrated by the "Black Reichswehr were justifed under the so-called Femegerichte (secret court) system. These killings were ordered by the officers from Sondergruppe R.
  5. "Death on the Approaches", TIME Magazine, 8 December 1941
  6. Stug III and IV Assault Guns — German War Files. Artsmagic Ltd. 16 February 2004
  7. Turney, Disaster at Moscow, (1971) pg.6
  8. Battle of Russia, Battlefield: Battles that Won the Second World War — Series 2. Universal Pictures Video. 2 May 2005
  9. Lensahn is a municipality in the district of Ostholstein, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is situated approximately 9 km south of Oldenburg in Holstein, and 40 km northeast of Lübeck.
  10. "Two Men, Two Faces". Time Magazine. 1942-09-21. https://web.archive.org/web/20170925122210/http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,773573,00.html. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  11. Von Bock was related to Erich von Falkenhayn (11 September 1861 – 8 April 1922), his mother was a Freifrau von Falkenhayn, Erich von Falkenhayn was therefore Karl Moritz von Bock's brother-in-law.
  12. The Von Bock memoirs, which appear here for the first time, allow the reader to see the entire drama of the Second World War through the eyes of one of Germany's most important military commanders.
  13. In October 1941 Hitler launched Operation Typhoon the German drive to capture Moscow and knock the Soviet Union out of the war. As the last chance to escape the dire implications of a winter campaign, Hitler directed seventy-five German divisions, almost two million men and three of Germany's four panzer groups into the offensive, resulting in huge victories at Viaz'ma and Briansk - among the biggest battles of the Second World War. David Stahel's groundbreaking new account of Operation Typhoon captures the perspectives of both the German high command and individual soldiers, revealing that despite success on the battlefield the wider German war effort was in far greater trouble than is often acknowledged. Germany's hopes of final victory depended on the success of the October offensive but the autumn conditions and the stubborn resistance of the Red Army ensured that the capture of Moscow was anything but certain.