Kluge, Field Marshal Gunther von, 1882-1944

Kluge was a respected figure in the German Army who commanded the Fourth Army with great success in the Polish and French campaigns. In 1941 he led that Army in its advance in the USSR as part of Army Group Center, but he was technically superior to GUDERIAN, who refused to act as his subordinate and did not consult Kluge concerning his actions. Kluge feared HITLER’s wrath and in the wake of the Soviet counter-offensive in December 1941 he evolved a technique for dealing with Hitler about the latter’s prohibition on retreat. He would telephone Hitler repeatedly and negotiate a limited retreat. A series of repeated ‘little retreats’ eventually constitutes a full retreat. He managed to keep Hitler’s confidence and he was appointed Commander in Chief of Army Group Center, distinguishing himself in the defensive battles to keep his front stable. On 1 July 1944 he became Commander in Chief of the West after Hitler had lost confidence in RUNDSTEDT. Kluge worked hard to mount a counterattack at Avranches but he did not have sufficient forces to stop the US VII Corps breaking out. Kluge became very depressed about the situation on the Western Front and at the same time he was under pressure from STULPNAGEL to join the Generals’ Plot against Hitler. On the day of the July Plot Kluge refused to commit himself until he had absolute proof of Hitler’s death and when this was not forthcoming he refused to join. Hitler was suspicious about his participation and thought that Kluge had tried to negotiate with the Allies. On 17 August Kluge was dismissed and recalled to Berlin but he swallowed poison on the way back leaving a testament in which he affirmed his loyalty to Hitler.

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