|During the Nuremberg trials in 1946, von Manstein was only called as a witness for the defense. Von Manstein was subsequently interned by the British as a prisoner of war in "Special Camp 11" in Bridgend. Later, because of pressure from the Soviets, who wanted him extradited to stand trial in the USSR, the British accepted their indictments and charged him with war crimes, putting him on trial before a British Military Tribunal in Hamburg in August 1949.|
Third Reich Organization and people GERMAN ARMY WW2 ORDER OF BATTLE Adolf (Adolph) Hitler WW2 Victory Defeat Power Luftwaffe History Axis Powers WW2 Pact of Steel Gestapo, SS Panzer Divisions Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, Werner Von Braun, Wilhelm Canaris, Albert Sper, Walter Schellenberg, Von Rundstedt, Heinz Guderian, Wilhelm Keitel Field Marshal Erwin Rommel - Desert Fox German Africa Corps Otto Skorzeny (Skorceny) WW2 Commandos Rundstedt WW2 Field Marshal Nazism Fascism WW2 V1 Rocket - Flying Bomb V-1 V2 Rocket V-2 Fuhrerbunker - WW2 Forifications Maginot Line WW2 Iron Cross Flak
von Manstein (November 24, 1887 - June 11, 1973) was a
general, and later a Field Marshal, in the German Army
during World War II. He was famous for repeatedly
standing up to Hitler on various issues, often with the
rest of the General Staff watching. Although this would
normally lead to his swift removal, Manstein was one of a
very few generals who had repeatedly proved themselves in
Hitler's eyes. Eventually even Hitler had enough of him,
and he was dismissed in 1944.
In February 1941, Manstein was
appointed commander of the 56th Panzer Corps. He was
involved in Operation Barbarossa where he served under
General Erich Hoepner. Attacking on 22nd June 1941,
Manstein advanced more than 100 miles in only two days
and was able to seize the importance bridges at Dvinsk.
The following month he captured Demyansk and Torzhok.
Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
|Because of the Soviet demands in
the Cold War environment and respect for his military
exploits, many in the British military establishment,
such as Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and the
military strategist B. H. Liddell Hart, openly expressed
sympathy for von Manstein's plight and, along with the
likes of Sir Winston Churchill, donated money for the
defense. Churchill saw the trial as yet another effort of
the then-ruling Attlee government to appease the Soviets.
In court, von Manstein's defense, led by the prominent lawyer Reginald Thomas Paget, argued that he had been unaware that genocide was taking place in the territory under his control. It was argued that von Manstein didn't enforce the Commissar order, which called for the immediate execution of Red Army Communist Party commissars. According to his testimony at the Nuremberg trials, Volume 20, pp. 608609 (August 10, 1946) , he received it, but refused to carry it out. He claimed that his superior at the time, Field Marshal von Leeb, tolerated and tacitly approved of his choice, and he also claimed that the order was not carried out in practice.
However, von Manstein did issue an order on November 20, 1941: his version of the infamous "Reichenau Order", which equated "partisans" and "Jews" and called for draconian measures against them. Hitler commended the "Reichenau Order" as exemplary and encouraged other generals to issue similar orders. Von Manstein was among the minority that voluntarily issued such an order. It stated that:
"This struggle is not being carried on against the Soviet Armed Forces alone in the established form laid down by European rules of warfare.
Behind the front too, the fighting continues. Partisan snipers dressed as civilians attack single soldiers and small units and try to disrupt our supplies by sabotage with mines and infernal machines. Bolshevists left behind keep the population freed from Bolshevism in a state of unrest by means of terror and attempt thereby to sabotage the political and economic pacification of the country. Harvests and factories are destroyed and the city population in particular is thereby ruthlessly delivered to starvation.
Jewry is the middleman between the enemy in the rear and the remains of the Red Army and the Red leadership still fighting. More strongly than in Europe they hold all key positions of political leadership and administration, of trade and crafts and constitutes a cell for all unrest and possible uprisings.
The Jewish Bolshevik system must be wiped out once and for all and should never again be allowed to invade our European living space.
The German soldier has therefore not only the task of crushing the military potential of this system. He comes also as the bearer of a racial concept and as the avenger of all the cruelties which have been perpetrated on him and on the German people."
"The soldier must appreciate the necessity for the harsh punishment of Jewry, the spiritual bearer of the Bolshevik terror. This is also necessary in order to nip in the bud all uprisings which are mostly plotted by Jews."
The order also stated: "The food situation at home makes it essential that the troops should as far as possible be fed off the land and that furthermore the largest possible stocks should be placed at the disposal of the homeland. Particularly in enemy cities a large part of the population will have to go hungry."(ibid.) This also was one of the indictments against von Manstein in Hamburg; not only neglect of civilians, but also exploitation of invaded countries for the sole benefit of the "homeland", something considered illegal by the then current laws of war.
The order additionally stated that "severe steps will be taken against arbitrary action and self interest, against savagery and indiscipline, against any violation of the honor of the soldier" and that "respect for religious customs, particularly those of Muslim Tartars, must be demanded." (ibid.) The evidence for this order was first presented by prosecutor Telford Taylor on August 10, 1946, in Nuremberg. Von Manstein acknowledged that he had signed this order of November 20, 1941, but claimed that he didn't remember it. This order was a major piece of evidence for the prosecution at his Hamburg trial.
While Paget got von Manstein acquitted of many of the seventeen charges, he was still found guilty of two charges and accountable for seven others, mainly for employing scorched earth tactics and for failing to protect the civilian population (Src.: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives), and was sentenced on December 19, 1949, to 18 years imprisonment. This caused a massive uproar among von Manstein's supporters and the sentence was subsequently reduced to 12 years. However, he was released on May 6, 1953 for medical reasons.
Von Manstein, one of the highest ranking generals in the Wehrmacht, claimed ignorance of what was happening in the concentration camps. In the Nuremberg trials, he was asked "Did you at that time know anything about conditions in the concentration camps?" to which he replied "No. I heard as little about that as the German people, or possibly even less, because when one was fighting 1,000 kilometers away from Germany, one naturally did not hear about such things. I knew from prewar days that there were two concentration camps, Oranienburg and Dachau, and an officer who at the invitation of the SS had visited such a camp told me that it was simply a typical collection of criminals, besides some political prisoners who, according to what he had seen, were being treated severely but correctly."
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Manstein - WW2 German Generals