Fritsch, General Werner von, 1880-1939

Fritsch was one of the few men in power who might have stood up to HITLER in 1938. He was Commander in Chief of the German Army in 1938 and would have succeeded General BLOMBERG as Minister of War. Blomberg was in disgrace for having married a woman who was reputedly a prostitute and he was forced out of office by pressure from GOERING and HIMMLER. Fritsch, who was next in line to succeed Blomberg, was then accused of being homosexual after the Gestapo had convinced a blackmailer, Schmidt, to name him as one of his customers. Fritsch maintained an indignant silence and resigned from his post. This gave Hitler his chance to subordinate the Army High Command to his authority: sixteen high- ranking Generals were prematurely retired including von LEEB and von RUNDSTEDT: a further 44 were transferred to new commands. Although Schmidt later admitted to a court of inquiry that he had lied because of Gestapo pressure, Fritsch was never reinstated. He was given an honorary colonelcy with Artillery Regiment 12 and while he was on duty in Poland in September 1939. Fritsch was killed by a stray bullet.

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