Heinz Guderian

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Heinz Guderian

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian, master of the Blitzkrieg and father of modern tank warfare, by Tita Binz[1]

Chief of the General Staff
of the German Army High Command
In office
21 July 1944 – 28 March 1945
Leader Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Adolf Heusinger
Succeeded by Hans Krebs

Born 17 June 1888(1888-06-17)
Culm, West Prussia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 14 May 1954 (aged 65)
Schwangau, Bavaria, West Germany
Relations ∞ 1 October 1913 in Goslar
Margarete Christine Goerne, daughter of Generalarzt Dr. med. Ernst Ludwig Goerne (1856–1936)
Children Heinz Günther Fritz Ernst Guderian
Oberstleutnant i. G. and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, [2] Generalmajor of the Bundeswehr
Kurt Bernhard Georg Guderian
(1918 – 1984)
Hauptmann (Wehrmacht) and later a wealthy merchant; [3] His son is the German American Brigadier General and United States Representative (Alaska) Klaus Guderian (Archive)
Military service
Nickname(s) Schneller Heinz (fast Heinz)
Hammering Heinz
Heinz Brausewetter (Hurricane Heinz)
Allegiance  German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 National Socialist Germany
Service/branch War and service flag of Prussia (1895–1918).png Prussian Army
Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
Freikorps Flag.jpg Freikorps
War Ensign of Germany (1921–1933).png Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
Years of service 1907–1945
Rank Generaloberst
Commands 2nd Panzer Division
XVI Army Corps
XIX Army Corps
2nd Panzer Army
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (1888–1954) was a German officer since 1908, finally a Generaloberst of the Wehrmacht, a pioneer of tank warfare and the recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves in World War II. Returning from captivity in 1948, Guderian took part in the discussion about the rearmament of the Federal Republic of Germany as a writer in the last years of his life from 1950 onwards.

Career (chronology)

Leutnant Guderian, 1908
Walter Model (left) and Heinz Guderian on the front
Heinz Guderian during an award ceremony for recipients of the Gold Close Combat Clasp
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian I.jpg
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian II.png
  • 1888 Born as son of Generalleutnant Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Matthias Guderian (1858–1914)[4] and his wife Irtha Ottilie Clara, née Kirchhoff (1865–1931).[5]
  • Entered the cadet house in Karlsruhe and later moved to the main cadet institute in Berlin (1 April 1901)
  • Entered Army Service (28 Feb 1907)
    • Fähnrich (Cadet Officer) in the 10th Jäger-Battalion / Hannoversches Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 10 in Goslar (28 Feb 1907-10 Apr 1907)
  • Detached to War School in Metz (10 Apr 1907-14 Dec 1907)
  • Detached to the 10th Pioneer-Battalion (28 Jun 1910-28 Jul 1910)
  • Detached to the 3rd Telegraph-Battalion, Koblenz (01 Oct 1912-01 Oct 1913)
  • Detached to the War Academy, Berlin (01 Oct 1913-02 Aug 1914)
  • Leader of heavy Radio-Station 3 of the 5th Cavalry-Division (02 Aug 1914-04 Oct 1914)
  • Leader of the heavy Radio-Station 14 of the 4th Army (04 Oct 1914-17 May 1915)
  • Auxiliary-Officer of the Secret Signals Service with Army High Command 4 (17 May 1915-27 Jan 1916)
  • Detached then later Transferred to Army High Command 5 (27 Jan 1916-09 Feb 1916)
  • Transferred as Auxiliary-Officer of the Secret Signals Service to Army High Command 5 (09 Feb 1916-18 Jul 1916)
  • Signals-Officer with Army High Command 4 (18 Jul 1916-03 Apr 1917)
  • Transferred as Chief Supply Officer (Ib) in a General-Staff-Office of the 4th Infantry-Division (03 Apr 1917-27 Apr 1917)
  • Detached as standing General-Staff-Officer to Army High Command 1 as Supply Officer (27 Apr 1917-00 May 1917)
  • Detached as standing General-Staff-Officer to the 52nd Reserve-Division during the Aisne Battle as Supply Officer (Ib) (00 May 1917-00 Jun 1917)
  • Detached to the General-Command of the Guards-Corps as Quartermaster (00 Jun 1917-00 Jul 1917)
  • Detached to the General-Command of the X. Reserve-Corps as Chief Intelligence Officer (Ic) (00 Jul 1917-11 Aug 1917)
  • Transferred back into the General-Staff of the 4th Infantry-Division (11 Aug 1917-00 Sep 1917)
  • Leader II, 14th Infantry-Regiment (00 Sep 1917-24 Oct 1917)
  • Chief of Operations (Ia) in the General-Staff of Army-Detachment C (24 Oct 1917-27 Feb 1918)
  • Detached to 6th General-Staff-Course Sedan (10 Jan 1918-08 Feb 1918)
  • Transferred to the Army General Staff, while retaining previous position (27 Feb 1918-23 May 1918)
  • Transferred as Quartermaster in the General-Staff of the XXXVIII. Reserve-Corps (23 May 1918-20 Sep 1918)
  • Transferred as Chief Of Operations (Ia) into the General-Staff of the Representatives in Occupied Italy (20 Sep 1918-08 Nov 1918)
  • Officer Of The Army and Transferred to the Replacement General-Command of the X. Army-Corps (08 Nov 1918-22 Nov 1918)
  • Transferred to the Chief Of The General Staff of the Field Army, Replacement General-Command of the I. Army-Corps for Special Use while retaining Officer Of The Army Status (22 Nov 1918-26 Nov 1918)
  • Detached to the Command of Homeland-Protection East (26 Nov 1918-17 Dec 1918)
  • Transferred to the War Ministry – with the Staff of the Central-Office Border-Protection East (17 Dec 1918-10 Jan 1919)
  • In the General-Staff of Army High Command Border-Protection (Grenzschutz) South, Breslau (10 Jan 1919-16 Apr 1919)
  • Assigned, by Order of the War Ministry under transferred to the 10th Jäger-Battalion, to the Supreme-Command Border-Protection North, Bartenstein, for Special Use (16 Apr 1919-30 May 1919)
  • Supply-Officer (Ib), temporarily also Chief Of Operations (Ia) in the Staff of the Eiserne Division (Baltic) (Riga, later Mitau) (30 May 1919-24 Aug 1919)
  • In the General-Staff of the High-Command Border-Protection North (24 Aug 1919-30 Oct 1919)
  • Transferred to the Processing-Office of the 10th Jäger-Battalion and Detached to the 10th Reichswehr-Brigade, Hannover (30 Oct 1919-16 Jan 1920)
  • Company-Chief of the 3rd Company in the 10th Jäger-Battalion, Goslar (16 Jan 1920-16 May 1920)
  • Company-Chief in the 20th Reichswehr-Infantry-Regiment (16 May 1920-08 Sep 1920)
  • Company-Chief in the III. Battalion of the 17th Infantry-Regiment (08 Sep 1920-16 Jan 1922)
  • Detached to the 7th Motor-Transport-Battalion, Munich (16 Jan 1922-01 Apr 1922)
  • In the RWM/Department for Motor Transport Troops In 6 (K) (01 Apr 1922-01 Oct 1924)
  • In the General-Staff of the 2nd Division, Stettin, as Instructor for Subsidiary-Leadership-Courses (01 Oct 1924-01 Oct 1927)
  • In the RWM/Troop-Office/Army-Department (T1T) (01 Oct 1927-01 Feb 1930)
  • At the same time, Tactics Instructor with the Motor-Transport-Instruction-Staff, Berlin (01 Oct 1928-31 Jan 1930)
  • Commander of the 3rd Motor-Transport-Battalion (01 Feb 1930-01 Oct 1931)
  • Chief Of Staff of the Inspection Of Motor Transport Troops (In 6) (01 Oct 1931-01 Jul 1934)
  • Chief Of Staff of the Command of Motorised Combat Troops (01 Jul 1934-27 Jun 1935)
  • Chief Of the General Staff of the Command of Panzer Troops (27 Sep 1935-15 Oct 1935)
  • Commander of the 2nd Panzer-Division, Würzburg (15 Oct 1935-04 Feb 1938)
  • Commander of the Command of Panzer Troops (04 Feb 1938-01 Apr 1938)
  • Commanding General of XVI. Army-Corps (Motorised) (01 Apr 1938-24 Nov 1938)
  • Chief Of Fast Troops (24 Nov 1938-26 Aug 1939)
  • Commanding General of XIX. Army-Corps (Motorised) (26 Aug 1939-01 Jun 1940)
  • Commander of Panzer-Group Guderian (01 Jun 1940-30 Jun 1940)
  • Commanding General of XIX. Army-Corps (Motorised) (01 Jul 1940-16 Nov 1940)
  • Commander of Panzer-Group 2 (16 Nov 1940-28 Jul 1941)
  • Commander of Army-Group Guderian (28 Jul 1941-03 Aug 1941)
  • Commander of Panzer-Group 2 (03 Aug 1941-05 Oct 1941)
  • Commander-in-Chief 2nd Panzer-Army (05 Oct 1941-26 Dec 1941)
  • Relieved of Command and Führer-Reserve OKH (26 Dec 1941-16 Jan 1942)
  • Assigned to the Staff of the Replacement General Command of the III. Army-Corps, Berlin (16 Jan 1942-28 Feb 1943)
  • General-Inspector of Panzer Troops (28 Feb 1943-28 Mar 1945)
  • At the same time, Acting-Chief Of The General Staff of the Army (21 Jul 1944-28 Mar 1945)
  • Granted Leave (28 Mar 1945-01 May 1945)
  • With the Staff of the General-Inspection of Panzer Troops at Tyrol (01 May 1945-10 May 1945)
    • In combat in the East, the Volkssturm formations were at the disposal of Guderian.
  • In American Captivity with the Staff of the General-Inspection of Panzer Troops (10 May 1945-16 Jun 1948)
  • Released (16 Jun 1948)[6]

Father of the Panzerwaffe

Guderian ist often considered the father or founder of the Panzer or tank weapon, but this is not absolutely correct. Especially Ernst Volckheim, but also General der Artillerie Alfred von Vollard-Bockelberg, Oswald Lutz, the first General der Panzertruppe and early promoter of the Kraftfahrtruppe as well as Inspekteur der Verkehrstruppen, Panzerreferent Ludwig Ritter von Radlmaier and others, had a significant influence on the development before him. Other facts are, on the other hand, indisputable, his main merit was the creation of the Panzerdivision and with it the operational use of the Panzer as Schwerpunkt (main emphasis) weapon together with the supporting other weapons, therefore the title "father of modern mechanized warfare" is appropriate.

Between the wars, Heinz Guderian was a lecturer in tactics and military history at the officers' school in Stettin for a number of years. From 1932, he succeeded Generalmajor Lutz as head of the secret tank school (Panzerschule) Kama in the Soviet Union as a major and was a driving force behind the development of the German tank force. In addition, Guderian is considered the inventor of two very important tactical concepts of the German armed forces in World War II, without which the Blitzkrieg would not have been possible:

  • Just a few years after WWI, Hans von Seeckt, the then chief of the army command of the Reichswehr, developed the regulations for the “combined arms leadership and combat”. This was replaced in 1933 by a regulation by General Ludwig Beck on troop leadership. But Heinz Guderian had a decisive influence on the tactical interpretation. The "combined arms battle" was the combination of different types of weapons to maximize the battle value. The interaction of tanks and motorized or mechanized infantry, supported by the Luftwaffe, was particularly important. Together they pushed forward at high speed and protected each other. In addition, the Germans relied heavily on air support for ground offensives during World War II. Guderian is known for the words: "You hit someone with your fist, not with your fingers spread."
  • "Leadership from the front" was the positioning of the commander at the most effective point on the front line. This had the advantage that a commander could better follow the course of the battle and pass on instructions directly to subordinates. In addition to Heinz Guderian, the later Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel practiced this leadership from the front with great success. The high speed of the tank attacks carried out repeatedly overwhelmed the enemy. It was able to risk exposed flanks when making deep advances into enemy territory. During the Battle of France, the French in particular were simply not fast enough to effectively exploit such temporary gaps in the German lines. A major disadvantage was that the own communication suffered under the management from the front. During the Battle for France, even the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) did not know at times exactly where individual armored divisions were located.

From 1935, Heinz Guderian built up the first three armored divisions for the Wehrmacht on Hitler's instructions. At the same time he was given command of the 2nd Panzer Division. In 1936, he was promoted to major general. He retained direct command of the 2nd Panzer Division until 31 January 1938. The expansion of the armored forces then accelerated more and more: At the beginning of the Second World War, the Wehrmacht already had six armored divisions.

In 1937, Generalmajor Guderian published a book about motorized warfare called “Achtung – Panzer!” In it he first traced the development of armored cars and trench warfare in the First World War. Building on this, he dealt with the developments of the interwar period. He also pointed out the now anachronistic character of cavalry: horses simply didn't stand a chance against machine guns. Instead, Heinz Guderian advocated the concentrated use of tanks, infantry and the Luftwaffe. Finally, he promoted the expansion of German armored forces and outlined proposals.

Heinz Guderian and his Panzer units were already involved in the Anschluss of Austria and the liberation of the Sudetenland. During the Poland Campaign from 1 September 1939, he commanded the XIX. Army Corps of Army Group North under the command of Fedor von Bock. At this time, the formation was comprised of two motorized infantry divisions and one armored division. On the first evening, the XIX. Army Corps built an important bridge over the River Brahe, forming a bridgehead on the eastern bank. The Polish army attempted what was then known as the Battle of the Tucheler Heide. The battle of arms lasted until 5 September 1939 and ended with a heavy defeat of the defenders. Heinz Guderian was then again very successful with rapid advances of the tanks. On 6 September 1939, Adolf Hitler arrived to personally congratulate him. A few weeks later, Heinz Guderian was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

After the occupation of Poland, Denmark and Norway were conquered in April 1940. Both campaigns were carried mainly by other branches of arms. But as early as 10 May 1940, the western campaign marked the beginning of the next heyday for German armored forces. Moreover, the attack on France was militarily much more demanding than the attack on Poland. In order to avoid years of trench warfare, Erich von Manstein had drawn up a very risky, but above all completely unexpected plan of attack: strong armored formations were to advance through the impassable Ardennes and then via Sedan to the Channel coast. This "sickle cut" cut the supply line of the French main force in Belgium. Heinz Guderian was at the heart of the action as commander of three armored divisions. Guderian formed the left wing of the attack wedge of Army Group A. Hermann Hoth's corps was on the right wing.

During the attack on Sedan and the way across the Meuse, he belonged to the 1st Panzer Army (Panzergruppe „von Kleist“) under the command of Ewald von Kleist, whose instructions Guderian consistently ignored. The "fast Heinz" advanced at breakneck speed and risked open flanks in favor of the Blitzkrieg. These were later closed by advancing infantry. For this reason, von Kleist relieved Heinz Guderian of his command on 16 May 1940. The commander of the army group Gerd von Rundstedt in turn canceled the dismissal and reinstated Guderian. After the Battle of Dunnkirchen, Heinz Guderian's corps was expanded into a Panzer Group. They encircled remaining French formations in the Maginot Line. After the western campaign, Heinz Guderian was promoted to Generaloberst and was actually supposed to lead the victory parade in Paris. But the next job took him east: preparations for the Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union began.

The task was rapid advances into the heart of the Soviet Union: first to Minsk, from there to Smolensk and then on to Moscow. Heinz Guderian was able to encircle large Soviet units several times. During the Battle of Smolensk on 17 June 1941, he received the oak leaves to his Knight's Cross. After the victory in this encirclement battle around Smolensk, Adolf Hitler ordered him south to the battle around Kiev. Towards the end of 1941, Guderian and a few other high-ranking officers got into a conflict with Hitler: After many losses, the military wanted to retreat to advantageous positions and regroup there. There was also a counter-offensive by Georgi Zhukov. Hitler saw things differently and Heinz Guderian was removed from active service for almost a year and a half as a result of the dispute.

After the German defeat at Stalingrad on 1 March 1943, Hitler reactivated Heinz Guderian as inspector of armored forces. As a result, he worked very closely with Albert Speer. As part of the "Adolf Hitler tank program" they were supposed to quadruple the production of tanks. However, the armament project had constant competition with a program for the German Air Force and the production of so-called vengeance weapons (V-Waffen). After a dispute with Adolf Hitler, Heinz Guderian was granted leave on 28 March 1945, and was then taken prisoner by the Americans in May 1945. Like Erich von Manstein, Heinz Guderian was a military adviser in the early stages of the young Federal Republic. He worked for the predecessors of the Ministry of Defense and the BND (Organisation „Gehlen“).


  • "Klotzen, nicht Kleckern!" (Clog, don't spill! / Slog away, don't fiddle about!) – Guderian's favourite quotation, and Adolf Hitler was so impressed by it, that he used it himself often.
  • "Es gibt keine verzweifelten Lagen, es gibt nur verzweifelte Menschen." (There are no desperate situations, there are only desperate people.)
  • "Fahrkarte bis zur Endstation." (Ticket to the last station/final destination) – Shouting to his Panzertroops when they were roaring past him, meaning that they should go as far as they could.
  • "Man schlägt jemanden mit der Faust und nicht mit gespreizten Fingern." (You hit someone with your fist, not with your fingers spread.) – Meaning that you should concentrate your Panzers for one mighty push in one direction and not distribute them.
  • "Der Motor des Panzers ist ebenso seine Waffe wie die Kanone." (The engine of the Panzer is a weapon just as the main-gun.)
  • "Der Kampf gegen die eigenen Oberen macht manchmal mehr Arbeit als gegen die Franzosen." (It is sometimes tougher to fight my superiors than the French.) – When he got orders to stop and wait for the following infantry and tried to persuade his superiors that this would mean to throw away victory.[7]


Familiengrab der Guderians auf dem Friedhof Hildesheimer Straße in Goslar.jpg
  • Fähnrich (28 February 1907)
  • Leutnant (27 January 1908 with patent backdated to 22 June 1906)
  • Oberleutnant (8 November 1914)
  • Hauptmann (18 December 1915)
  • Major (1 February 1927)
  • Oberstleutnant (1 February 1931)
  • Oberst (1 October 1933)
  • Generalmajor (1 August 1936)
  • Generalleutnant (10 February 1938)
  • General der Panzertruppe (23 November 1938 with rank seniority from 1 November 1938)
  • Generaloberst (19 July 1940)

Awards and decorations

Panzer Leader.jpg


  • Panzerkampftruppen, in: Militärwissenschaftliche Rundschau, Jahrgang 1936, S. 52–77.
  • Achtung – Panzer! Die Entwicklung der Panzerwaffe, ihre Kampftaktik und ihre operativen Möglichkeiten. Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 1937.
    • Achtung – Panzer! Original 1937. Cassell PLC, England, ISBN 0-304-35285-3 (englisch).
  • Die Panzertruppen und ihr Zusammenwirken mit den anderen Waffen. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1937 (Naval and Military Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84342-509-0).
  • (Hrsg.): Mit den Panzern in Ost und West. Volk und Reich, Berlin 1942.
  • Die Panzerwaffe. Ihre Entwicklung, ihre Kampftaktik und ihre operativen Möglichkeiten bis zum Beginn des großdeutschen Freiheitskampfes. 2nd Edition. Union deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 1943.
  • Merkblatt 47a/27 Schießanleitung und Schulschießübungen für den Panzerkampfwagen Tiger, 1944, ISBN 978-3-7534-8196-8.
  • Kann Westeuropa verteidigt werden? Plesse, Göttingen 1950.
  • So geht es nicht! Ein Beitrag zur Frage der Haltung Westdeutschlands. Vowinckel, Heidelberg 1951.
  • Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, Autobiografie. Original 1951 im K. Vowinckel Verlag, Reprint 18th Volume, Motorbuch, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-87943-693-2.
  • Panzer – Marsch! Schild, München 1956

Further reading

  • Karl J. Walde: Guderian. Eine Biographie, Ullstein Verlag, 1978
  • Heinz Guderian – Memories
  • Gerhard von Seemen:Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 – Die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung (in German), Podzun-Verlag, Friedberg 1976 ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4
  • Franz Thomas: Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945, Band 1: A–K (in German), Biblio-Verlag, Osnabrück 1998, ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6
  • Walther-Peer Fellgiebel: Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German), Podzun-Pallas, Wölfersheim 2000, ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6
    • English: The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches, expanded edition, 2000
  • Veit Scherzer: Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German), Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag, Jena 2007, ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2
  • Günter Wegmann: Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945; Teil VIIIa: Panzertruppe Band 2 F–H, 2009
  • Early Reichswehr Mobile Force Doctrine, 2019


  1. Several pictures of Heinz Guderian
  2. Heinz Günther Guderian was born on August 23rd of 1914 and in 1933, started his officer career. In 1935, he became a Lieutenant and in 1942, began staff training and was assigned to lead small Panzer recon units of 116th Panzer Division. In 1943, Heinz Günther became Lieutenant Colonel in General Staff and then First Staff Officer of 116th Panzer Division. During the course of war, he was wounded three times and was awarded Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. Also during the war, he wrote few essays for books dealing with the Panzertruppe. After the war he served in the Organisation „Gehlen“. In 1956, Heinz Günther became Lieutenant Colonel in the Bundeswehr and in 1958, Commanding Officer of the Panzer Battalion. He also performed some various staff assignments. In 1967, he became an Inspekteur der Panzertruppen (same as his father did) and in 1972, Major-General. He retired in 1974. In 1994, Heinz Günther wrote a conservative divisional history of 116th Panzer Division (The Greyhound/Windhund-Division: The last war year in the West. Geschichte der 116. PzDiv 1944-45 / Das letzte Kriegsjahr im Westen. Story of the 116. PzDiv 1944-45, also available in English). He has five kids and one of his sons in 1972 was a Lieutenant in a Jägereinheit.
  3. Guderian, Kurt Bernhard Georg
  4. Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Matthias Guderian
  5. Irtha Ottilie Clara Kirchhoff
  6. Generaloberst Heinz Guderian
  7. Generaloberst Heinz Wilhelm Guderian
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 Wegmann 2009, p. 204.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Wegmann 2009, p. 205.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 354.
  11. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 206.
  12. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 55.