Heinz Guderian

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General Heinz Guderian

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (17 June, 1888-14 May, 1954) was a military theorist and General of the German Army during the Second World War. Germany's panzer forces would be raised and fought according to his works, best-known among them Achtung! Panzer! He held posts as Panzer Corps commander, Panzer Army commander, Inspector-General of Armored Troops, and Chief of OKH.



Guderian was born in the German West Prussian town of Kulm, now inside Poland. From 1901 to 1907 Guderian attended various military schools. He entered the Army in 1907 as an ensign-cadet in the 10th Hanoverian Jger Battalion commanded by his father. In 1911 Guderian joined the 3rd Telegraphen-Battalion (Wireless-Battalion) in the army signal corps and in October of 1913 married Margarete Goerne, with whom he had two sons.

During the First World War he served as a Signals and General Staff officer. After the war, Guderian stayed in the newly reorganized 100,000-man German Army (Reichswehr) of the Versailles Treaty, where he came to specialize in armored warfare. Fluent in both English and French, he was influenced by the British maneuver warfare theorists J.F.C. Fuller and, to a lesser extent, B.H. Liddell Hart. Their works were translated into German by Guderian. Achtung! Panzer!, was written in 1936-37 as an explanation of Guderian's theories on the tank and aircraft's role in modern warfare. The panzer force he created would become the core of the German Army's power during the Second World War, and fight according to what became known as blitzkrieg doctrine.

In the Second World War he first served as the commander of the XIX Army Corps in the invasion of Poland and the invasion of France. Guderian personally led the attack that traversed the Ardennes Forest, crossed the Meuse River and broke through the French lines at Sedan. Guderian's panzer group led the "race to the sea" that encircled the bulk of the Allied armies. He commanded Panzergruppe Guderian in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, and from October 5 1941 the redesignated Second Panzer Army. During the Barbarossa campaign he led his panzer forces in rapid advances as according to the Blitzkrieg doctrine and he earned the nickname "Schneller Heinz" (Fast Heinz) among his troops. His armored spearhead captured Smolensk in a remarkably short time and were poised to launch the final assault on Moscow when he was ordered to turn South towards Kiev. He was relieved of command on 25 December 1941 for ordering a withdrawal in contradiction of Hitler's "standfast" order, and transferred to the Oberkommando des Heeres' reserve pool.

General Guderian with General  at a war conference. (Guderian is wearing a black  uniform.)
General Guderian with General Walther Wenck at a war conference. (Guderian is wearing a black Panzer uniform.)

After the German defeat at Stalingrad, Guderian was recalled to active service and on 1 March, 1943 became the Inspector-General of the Armoured Troops. Here his responsibilities were to oversee the training, production, and use of Germany's panzer forces. On 21 July, 1944 he became the Chief of the OKH. Hitler dismissed him on 28 March, 1945 after an argument over the failed counterattack of an army commander, ending a long series of disagreements between them.

Despite Soviet and Polish government protests, Guderian was not charged with any war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials, as his actions and behavior were considered consistent with that of a professional soldier. Poland argued that at the Battle of Wizna, Guderian had threatened the Polish commander with shooting prisoners of war if he did not order remaining forces to surrender. Guderian was also known for his corrupt nature, as he accepted bribes and took property in German occupied Poland from Poles.

Guderian's son, Heinz Gnther Guderian became a prominent General in the post-war German Bundeswehr and NATO.

Books by Heinz Guderian


External links

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