Walter von Reichenau

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Generalfeldmarschall von Reichenau

Walter Gustav Karl August Ernst von Reichenau (often written wrongly as Walther; b. 8 October 1884 in Karlsruhe, Grand Duchy of Baden; d. 17 January 1942 between Poltawa and Lemberg) was a German officer of the Prussian Army, the Imperial German Army, the Freikorps, the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, at last Generalfeldmarschall and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in WWII.


Birth certificate
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-W0408-503, Walter v. Reichenau.jpg
Walter Gustav Karl August Ernst von Reichenau.jpg
Walter Gustav Karl August Ernst von Reichenau II.jpg

Walter was born in Prussia in 1884. His father was a Prussian General. On 14 March 1903, Reichenau enlisted in the German Army (1. Garde-Feldartillerie-Regiment/1. Garde-Infanterie-Division/Garde-Korps) and served in the First World War. By 1918 he had been awarded the Iron Cross and attained the rank of Hauptmann.

After the war Walter stayed enlisted in the Army in the Weimar Republic until 1932 when his uncle introduced him to Hitler, in which he became a supporter and joined the NSDAP, which was in violation, forbidding Army personnel to join political parties. In 1933, Hitler appointed him to act as a liaison between the Army and the NSDAP.

Von Reichenau was instrumental in voicing the concerns about the Army working with the Party, and was a leading figure in convincing Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler that in order for the two to work together, the SA had to be abolished. These action may have contributed to what is commonly known as The Night of the Long Knives.


By 1939, Reichenau was commanding the 10th Army during the Poland campaign and in 1940, after renaming, commanded the 6th Army during the Western Campaign 1940 in Belgium and France. He also commanded the 6th Army during the Operation Barbarossa, winning victories in both Kiev and Kharkov. His chief of the general staff (Chef des Generalstabes) was Friedrich Paulus from 26 August 1939 until 3 September 1940.


On 15 January 1942, von Reichenau suffered a stroke during a forest run in the Soviet Union and died on 17 January 1942 en route to a German hospital in Leipzig (Professor Dr. Hochreins) due to brain hemorrhage on the plane between Poltawa and Lemberg.


Walter was the son of Major in the 1. Badisches Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 14 and later Generalleutnant Ernst August Friedrich Ludwig Nikolaus Wilhelm von Reichenau (1841–1919) and his wife Elisabeth "Elisa" Bernhardine, née Greve (b. 13 December 1853 in Flatow, Kremmen, Brandenburg).


Hauptmann von Reichenau married in April 1919 his fiancée Alexandrine "Alix" Charlotte Marie Gräfin Maltzan, Freiin zu Wartenberg und Penzlin (1895–1984), the daughter of Andreas Joachim Mortimer Reichsgraf von Maltzan, Freiherr zu Wartenberg und Penzlin (1863–1921) and his wife Elisabeth, née Gräfin von der Schulenburg-Oefte (1869–1934).[1] They had four children: Karl Friedrich (b. 1921), Joachim (b. 1925), Erika (b. 1928) and Britta (b. 1932).


  • Fahnenjunker - 14 March 1903
  • Leutnant - 18 August 1904 with patent/commission backdated to 19 August 1903
  • Oberleutnant - 18 August 1912
  • Hauptmann - 28 November 1914
  • Major - 1 June 1924 with patent/commission backdated to 1 July 1923
  • Oberstleutnant - 1 April 1929
  • Oberst - 1 February 1932
  • Generalmajor - 1 February 1934
    • other sources note 18 January 1934 with rank seniority from 1 Januar 1934[2]
  • Generalleutnant - 1 October 1935
  • General der Artillerie - 1 October 1936
  • Generaloberst - 1 October 1939
  • Generalfeldmarschall - 19 July 1940

Awards and decorations

Further reading

  • 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

External links


  1. Andreas von Maltzan, Reichsgraf
  2. Dieter Zinke: Walter von Reichenau,
  3. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 352.