Generalder Artillerie Franz Halder

30 June 1884 – 2 April 1972

Franz Halder 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.

Early life

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

World War I

In 1914 during World War I, Halder became an Ordnance 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 6th Army (at that time commanded by Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria). During 1917 he served as a General Staff officer in the Headquarters of the 2nd Army, before being transferred to the 4th Army.

Interwar era

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 Halder 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, Halder 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. As such, they reviewed plans as to how to defend East Prussia.

After being promoted to Generalmajor, equal to a U.S./British Major general as the German Army had no brigades or Brigadier general rank (as neither did the Red Army) in October 1934, Halder served as the Commander of the 7th Infantry Division in Munich.

Recognized as a fine staff officer and planner, in August 1936 Halder was promoted to Generalleutnant (rank of a corps commander, hence equivalent to a US Army 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 Halder was promoted to General der Artillerie (which the German Army considered a full General, equivalent to a US Army four-star General). Around this date General Wilhelm Keitel was attempting to reorganize the entire upper leadership of the German Army. Wilhelm Keitel had asked Halder to become Chief of the General Staff (Oberquartiermeister of operations, training & supply O.Qu.I ) and report to General Walther von Reichenau. However, Halder declined as he felt he could not work with Walther von Reichenau very well, due to a personality dispute. As Wilhelm Keitel recognized Halder's superior military planning skills, Wilhelm Keitel met with Adolf Hitler and enticed him to appoint General 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 General Ludwig Beck.

A week later, Halder presented plans to Adolf Hitler on how to invade Czechoslovakia with a pincer movement by General Gerd von Rundstedt and General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. Instead, Adolf Hitler directed that Walther von 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 region of Sudetenland to Germany. Just before Chamberlain capitulated to Adolf Hitler, Halder in an attempt to avoid war discussed with several other generals the idea of removing Adolf Hitler from power. However, on September 29 Chamberlain gave in to Adolf Hitler's demands, and Halder's plot to remove Adolf Hitler died as peace had been preserved. Two days later, on October 1, German troops entered the Sudetenland.

Halder participated in the strategic planning for all operations of the first part of the war. For his role in the planning and preparing of the invasion of Poland he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 October 1939.

On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and thereby started World War II. On September 19 Halder noted in his diary that he had received information from the SS Commander Reinhard Heydrich that the SS was beginning its campaign to clean house in Poland of Jews, intelligentsia, Catholic Clergy, and the aristocracy. 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 Heydrich Himmler.

During November 1939, Halder conspired with General Walther von Brauchitsch. Halder declared that he would support Walther von Brauchitsch if he were to try to curtail Adolf Hitler's plans for further expansion of the war, but Brauchitsch declined (the so-called Zossen Conspiracy). Brauchitsch and Halder had decided to overthrow Adolf Hitler after the latter had fixed X-day for the invasion of France for November 12, 1939 an invasion that both officers believed to be doomed to fail.During a meeting with Adolf Hitler on November 5, Walther von Brauchitsch had attempted to talk Adolf Hitler into putting off X-day by saying that morale in the German Army was worse than what it was in 1918, a statement that enraged Adolf Hitler who harshly berated Brauchitsch for incompetence.After that meeting, both Halder and Walther von Brauchitsch told Carl Friedrich Goerdeler that overthrowing Adolf Hitler was simply something that they could not do, and he should find other officers if he that was what he really wanted to.Equally important, on November 7, 1939 following heavy snowstorms, Adolf Hitler put off X-Day until further notice, which removed the reason that had most motivated Walther von Brauchitsch and Halder to consider overthrowing Adolf Hitler. On November 23, 1939, Goerdeler met with Halder to ask him to re-consider his attitude.Halder gave Goerdeler the following reasons why he wanted nothing to do with any plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler.

That General Erich von Ludendorff had launched the Kaiserschlacht in March 1918, which led directly to Germany's defeat in November 1918, yet most people in Germany still considered Erich von Ludendorff one of Germany's greatest heroes.By contrast, the men who staged the November Revolution and signed the armistice that took Germany out of a losing war were hated all over the Reich as the November Criminals.Even if Adolf Hitler were to launch an invasion of France that signally failed, most people would still support Adolf Hitler, just as the failure of the Kaiserschlacht had failed to hurt Erich von Ludendorff reputation as it should have, so the Army could do nothing to overthrow Adolf Hitler until the unlikely event that his prestige was badly damaged.Until Adolf Hitler was discredited, anyone who acted against him to end the war would be a new November Criminal.

That Adolf Hitler was a great leader, and there was nobody to replace him. Most of the younger officers in the Army were extreme National Socialists who would not join a putsch.

Adolf Hitler deserved a last chance to deliver the German people from the slavery of English capitalism.

Finally, one does not rebel when face to face with the enemy.

Despite all of Goerdeler's best efforts, Halder would not change his mind.

While Halder opposed Adolf Hitler's expanded war plans, like all officers he had taken a personal loyalty oath to Adolf Hitler. Thus, he felt unable to take direct action against the Führer. At one point, Halder thought the situation to be so desperate that he considered shooting Adolf Hitler himself. A colonel close to Halder noted in his diary that Amid tears, Halder had said for weeks that he had a pistol in his pocket every time he went to Emil cover name for Adolf Hitler in order to possibly gun him down.

At the end of 1939, Halder oversaw development of the invasion plans of France, the Low Countries, and the Balkans. In late 1939-early 1940 Halder was an opponent of Operation Weserübung, which he believed was doomed to failure, and made certain the OKH had nothing to do with the planning for Weserübung, which was entirely the work of OKW and the OKM.Halder initially doubted that Germany could successfully invade France. General Erich von Manstein's bold plan for invading France through the Ardennes Forest proved successful, and ultimately led to the capture of France. In early April 1940, Halder had a secret meeting with Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, who asked him to consider a putsch while the Phoney War was still on, while the British and French were still open to a negotiated peace.Halder refused Goerdeler's request. Goerdeler told Halder that too many people had already died in the war, and this refusal to remove Adolf Hitler at this point would ensure that the blood of millions would be on his hands.Halder told Goerdeler that his oath to Adolf Hitler and his belief in Germany`s inevitable victory in the war preluded his acting against the National Socialist Regime.Halder told Goerdeler that The military situation of Germany, particularly on account of the pact of non-aggression with Russia is such that a breach of my oath to the Führer could not possibly be justified, that only if Germany was faced with total defeat would he consider breaking his oath, and that Goerdeler was a fool to believe that World War II could be ended with a compromise peace.

On July 19, 1940 Halder was promoted to Generaloberst literally colonel general rank of a senior Army or Heeresgruppen commander, used in peacetime only for the C-in-C of the German Army and having no exact U.S. Army equivalent. In August, he began working on Operation Barbarossa, the invasion plan for the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, to curtail Halder's military-command power, Adolf Hitler limited the General's involvement in the war by restricting him to developing battle plans for only the Eastern Front. On March 17, 1941 Adolf Hitler in a secret meeting with Halder and the rest of the most senior Generals stated that for Barbarossa, Germany was to disregard all of the rules of war, and the war against the Soviet Union was to be a war of extermination.Halder, who was so vocal in arguing with Adolf Hitler about military matters, made no protest. On March 30, 1941 in a secret speech to his leading generals, Adolf Hitler described the sort of war he wanted Operation Barbarossa to be according to the notes taken by Halder as:

Struggle between two ideologies. Scathing evaluation of Bolshevism, equals antisocial criminality. Communism immense future danger...This a fight to the finish. If we do not accept this, we shall beat the enemy, but in thirty years we shall again confront the Communist foe. We don't make war to preserve the enemy...Struggle against Russia: Extermination of Bolshevik Commissars and of the Communist intelligentsia...Commissars and GPU personnel are criminals and must be treated as such. The struggle will differ from that in the west. In the east harshness now means mildness for the future.

Though General Halder's notes did not record any mention of Jews, the German historian Andreas Hillgruber argued that because Adolf Hitler's frequent statements at the same time about the coming war of annihilation against Judeo-Bolshevism, that his generals would have implicitly understood Adolf Hitler's call for the total destruction of the Soviet Union as also comprising a call for the total destruction of the Jewish population of the Soviet Union.

In 1941, Halder, contrary to what he was to claim after the war did not oppose the Commissar Order, and instead welcomed it writing that Troops must participate in the ideological battle in the Eastern campaign to the end. As part of the planning for Barbarossa, Halder in a directive declared that in the event of guerilla attacks, German troops were to impose collective measures of force by massacring entire villages.In December 1941, Halder was not happy when Adolf Hitler fired von Walther von Brauchitsch and assumed the command of OKH himself, but chose to stay on as the best way of ensuring that Germany won the war.Halder appeared on the June 29, 1942 cover of Time magazine.

During the summer of 1942 Halder told Adolf Hitler that he was underestimating the number of Russian military units Adolf Hitler argued that the Russians were nearly broken. Furthermore, Adolf Hitler did not like Halder's objections to sending General Erich von Manstein's 11th Army to assist in the attack against Leningrad. Halder also had thought that the German attack into the Caucasus was ill advised. Finally, because of Halder's disagreement with Adolf Hitler's conduct of the war, Adolf Hitler decided that the General no longer possessed an aggressive war mentality, and therefore retired Halder into the Führer Reserve on September 24, 1942.

On July 20, 1944 a group of German army officers attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The following day Halder was arrested by the Gestapo, although he was not involved in the assassination attempt. As Adolf Hitler considered Halder a possible leader who could overthrow him, Halder was imprisoned at both the Flossenbürg and the Dachau concentration camps. On January 31, 1945 Halder was officially dismissed from the army. Together with some members of the July 20 plot and other notable prisoners he was transferred to Tyrol, where he was liberated by US troops on May 4 after the SS guards fled. 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, for which he was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1961. During the early 1950s Halder advised on the redevelopment of the post-World War II German army (see: Searle's "Wehrmacht Generals"). He died in 1972 in Aschau im Chiemgau, Bavaria.


Ÿ Iron Cross (1914)

Ÿ 1st Class (14 September 1914)

Ÿ 2nd Class (22 December 1915)

Ÿ Saxon Albert Order, Knight 1st Class with Swords (8 April 1917)

Ÿ Bavarian Military Merit Order, 4th Class with Crown and Swords

Ÿ Austro-Hungarian Military Merit Cross, 3rd Class with War Decoration

Ÿ Prussian Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight's Cross with Swords (2 October 1918)[22]

Ÿ Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 (Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer) (15 December 1934)

Ÿ Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th to 1st Class (2 October 1936)

Ÿ Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st Class

Ÿ Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 October 1939 as General der Artillerie and Chief of the General-Staff of the German Army (Chef des Generalstabes des Heeres)

Ÿ Finnish Order of the Cross of Liberty 1st Class with Swords, Star and Oak Leaves (25 March 1941)

Ÿ Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure 1st Class (12 August 1943)

Ÿ U.S. Meritorious Civilian Service Award (1961)


Halder wrote Hitler als Feldherr in German (1949) which was translated into English as Hitler as War Lord (1950); and The Halder Diaries (1976). The latter diaries were used, before being published, by American historian William Shirer, as a major primary source for his monumental work The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, along with other confidential documents and manuscripts.

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 Kenneth 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 Sudetenland and its German nationals by the Czechs to Germany." Many see Halder as a soldier of the older Prussian school variety. Like General Field Marshal von Manstein, an officer "bound to duty and oath."

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

The historians Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies II in The Myth of the Eastern Front (Cambridge University Press, 2008) argue that, after 1945, Halder played a key role in creating a false and mythic view of the Nazi-Soviet war in which the Wehrmacht was largely blameless for both Germany's military defeat and its war crimes.

Searle, Alaric. Wehrmacht Generals, West German Society, and the Debate on Rearmament, 1949–1959, Praeger Pub., 2003.

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