Franz Halder

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Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Adolf Hitler, a General Staff officer and General Franz Halder

Franz Ritter von Halder (June 30 1884- April 2 1972) was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.

Halder was born in Würzburg to General Max Halder. In 1902 he joined the 3rd Royal Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment in München (Munich). He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1904 upon graduation from War School in Munich, then he attended Artillery School (1906-1907) and the Bavarian Staff College (War Academy) (1911-1914), both in Munchen.


World War I Service

In 1914, Halder became an Ordinance Officer, serving in the Headquarters of the Bavarian 3rd Army Corps. In August 1915 he was promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) on the General Staff of the Crown Prince of Bavaria's 6th Infantry Division. During 1917 he served as a General Staff officer in the Headquarters of the 2nd Army, before being transferred to the 4th Army.

Pre-World War II Service

Between 1919 and 1920 Halder served with the Reichswehr War Ministry Training Branch. Between 1921 and 1923 he was a Tactics Instructor with the Wehrkreis VII in Munich.

In March 1924 he was promoted to Major and by 1926 he served as the Director of Operations (Oberquartiermeister of Operations: O.Qu.I.) on the General Staff of the Wehrkreis VII in Munich. In February 1929 he was promoted to Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel), and from October 1929 through late 1931 he served on the Training staff in the Reichswehr Ministry.

After being promoted to Oberst (Colonel) in December 1931, he served as the Chief of Staff, Wehrkreis Kdo VI, in Münster (Westphalia) through early 1934. During the 1930s the German military staff thought that Poland might attack the detached German province of East Prussia to regain this former Polish territory. As such, they reviewed plans as to how to defend East Prussia.

After being promoted to Generalmajor (Major-General) in October 1934, Halder served as the Commander of the 7th Artillery Division in Munich.

Recognized as a fine staff officer and planner, in August 1936 he was promoted to Generalleutnant (Lieutenant-General). He then became the director of the Manoeuvres Staff. Shortly thereafter, he became director of the Training Branch (Oberquartiermeister of Training, O.Qu.II), on the General Staff of the Army, in Berlin between October 1937 and February 1938. During this period he directed important training maneuvers, the largest held since the reintroduction of conscription in 1935.

On February 1, 1938 he was promoted to General der Artillerie. Around this date Gen. Wilhelm Keitel was attempting to reorganize the entire upper leadership of the German Army. Gen. Keitel had asked Halder to become Chief of the General Staff (Oberquartiermeister of operations, training & supply; O.Qu.I ) and report to Gen. Walther von Reichenau. However, Halder declined as he felt he could not work with Reichenau very well, due to a personality dispute. As Keitel recognized Halder’s superior military planning skills, Keitel met with Hitler and enticed him to appoint Gen. Walther von Brauchitsch as commander-in-chief of the German Army. Halder then accepted becoming Chief of the General Staff of the Army (Oberkommando des Heeres) on September 1, 1938, and succeeded Gen. Ludwig Beck.

A week later, Halder presented plans to Hitler on how to invade Czechoslovakia with a pincer movement by Gen. Gerd von Rundstedt and Gen. Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. Instead, Hitler directed that Reichenau should make the main thrust into Prague. Neither plan was necessary once British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain brokered the "Munich Agreement", by surrendering the Czech province of Sudetenland to Germany. Just before Chamberlain capitulated to Hitler, Halder -- in an attempt to avoid war -- discussed with several other generals the idea of removing Hitler from power. However, on September 29 Chamberlain gave in to Hitler’s demands, and Halder’s plot to remove Hitler died as peace had been preserved. Two days later, on October 1, German troops entered and reclaimed the Sudetenland.

World War II Service

During the spring of 1939, Halder began participating in drafting the invasion plans of Poland. Halder stated that he thought that Polish soldiers were stupid, and thought the war could be over within 2-3 weeks.

On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and thereby started World War II. On September 10 Halder noted in his diary that he had received information from the SS Commander Reinhard Heydrich that the S.S. was beginning its campaign to “clean house” in Poland of Jews and other intelligentsia. This led to future criticism by historians that Halder knew about the killings of Jews much earlier than he later acknowledged during post-World War II interviews, and that he failed to object to such killings. Halder noted in his diary his doubts “about the measures intended by Himmler.” (See: Hitler Strikes Poland, pgs. 22, 116 and 176.)

During November 1939, Halder conspired with Gen. Brauchitsch that he would support Brauchitsch if he were to try to curtail Hitler’s plans for further expansion of the war, but Brauchitsch declined (Zossen Conspiracy). While Halder opposed Hitler’s expanded war plans, Halder believed that as he had taken a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler, Halder could not actively support those who wanted to overthrow Hitler.

On July 19, 1940 Halder was promoted to Generaloberst (Colonel-General).

During the fall of 1940, Halder oversaw development of the invasion plans of France, the Low Countries, and the Balkans. Halder initially doubted that Germany could successfully invade France. However, he obeyed Hitler’s order that Halder follow Gen. Erich von Manstein's plan for invading France through the Ardennes Forrest -- which proved to be successful in leading to the capture of France. In August, Halder began working on the invasion plans into Russia. Shortly thereafter, to curtail Halder’s military-command power, Hitler limited Halder’s involvement in the war by restricting him to developing battle plans for only the Eastern front. Halder appeared on the June 29, 1942 cover of TIME magazine.

During the summer of 1942 Halder told Hitler that he was underestimating the number of Russian military units; Hitler argued that the Russians were nearly broken. Furthermore, Hitler did not like Halder’s objecting to Hitler’s decision to send Gen. Manstein’s 11th Army to assist in the attack against Leningrad, nor to Halder’s criticism that the German attack into the Balkans was ill advised. Finally, because of Halder’s disagreement with Hitler’s conduct of the war, Hitler decided that Halder no longer possessed an aggressive war mentality, and therefore retired Halder into the "Fuhrer Reserve" on September 24, 1942. Halder was the last Wehrmacht Chief of Staff; Hitler assumed the job.

On July 20, 1944 a group of German army officers attempted to assassinate Hitler. The following day Halder was arrested by the Gestapo, although he was not involved in the assassination attempt. As Hitler viewed Halder as a possible leader to overthrow Hitler, Halder was imprisoned at both the Flossenburg and the Dachau concentration camps. On January 31, 1945 Halder was officially dismissed from the army. He was released from prison on April 24. On May 4 he surrendered to U.S. troops in the Austrian Tyrol. Halder spent the next two years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

After World War II

During the 1950s, Halder worked as a war historian advisor to the U.S. Army Historical Division. He died in 1972 in Aschau im Chiemgau, Bavaria.


Halder authored Hitler as War Lord (1949) and The Halder Diaries (1976).

In reviewing Halder's personality, the British author Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote: "Halder is a military snob, believing that no amateur can ever understand the mysteries of war." Author Ken Macksey wrote: "Quick, shrewd and witty, he was a brilliant specialist in operational and training matters and the son of a distinguished general. He supported Beck's resistance to Hitler, but when it came to a crunch was no real help. Flirt as he did, in September, with those opposed to Hitler, he toed the party line when extreme pressure was exerted for the return of the Sudentenland and its German nationals by the Czechs to Germany."

For other insights regarding Halder's capabilities, see: Christian Hartmann and Sergei Slutsch, Franz Halder unde die Kriegsvorbereitungen im Fruhjahr 1939. Eine Ansprache des Generalstabschefs des Heeres in the journal Vierteljahrshefte fur Zeitgeschichte (July 1997); Christian Hartmann, Halder: Generalstabschef Hitlers: 1939-1942, (1991), and Hitler's Generals, edited by Correlli Halder pl:Franz Halder


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