German Field Marshals

A chronological review of the German field marshals of World War 2

Twenty four men were promoted by Adolf Hitler to the highest military rank during World War 2. Some of them were fanatic Nazis, some were not. Some were brilliant military leaders, the final product of two centuries of Prussian-German militarism, and some were not. In order to better understand their roles in World War 2, let's review them in the chronological order of their promotion, in the context of the war's progress :

At the summit of success

In the summer of 1940, four weeks after France capitulated, adding to Hitler's then unbroken series of swift conquests, and with Great Britain in "hopeless military situation", as Hitler defined it then, the exuberant Hitler decided that it was the right moment to reward a dozen of his top generals for their achievements so far, to further motivate them for the victories to come, and to increase their loyalty, by promoting them to the highest military rank of Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall in German).

Nine of the new field marshals, seen in the picture above with Hitler and Goering, were from the Army :

And three were from the Luftwaffe (Air Force):

At the tipping point

In the middle of 1942, Hitler's Germany had already failed in its two main efforts, the effort to defeat Great Britain in the West front in summer 1940, and the effort to defeat the Soviet Union (Russia) in the East front in summer 1941. Now, a year later, and with the harsh Russian winter over, Hitler was making a 2nd major effort against these two great enemies, but this time in secondary areas of the vast war front, and with smaller forces. At that time, optimistic and hopeful of success, and after he already sacked several field marshals, Hitler promoted some of his most brilliant and most successful generals to field marshals. That didn't change the course of the war, which was already unstoppably turning against Germany.

Fighting a lost war

Just seven months later, when the German forces in Stalingrad surrendered, in what was the most catastrophic German military defeat ever, it became clear to all that Germany was fighting a lost war. In response, Hitler promoted new field marshals, but this time not to motivate them for future victories, but rather to reward them for heroic failed efforts, for what was his fault.

Just before the end

At the last month of his war, and of his life, and with few dispersed and beaten remains still fighting, Hitler made the vain gesture of promoting the two last German field marshals of World War 2.

Related essays:
Adolf Hitler - Biography
Blitzkrieg
Hermann Goering
World War 2 Leaders
Russia In World War 2
The Battle Of Stalingrad
World War 2 Submarines
The Turning Points In World War 2
When Did Hitler Lose The War ?

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