Thursday, 30 May, 2024
05November 1939

German Chief of the General Staff considers removing Hitler from power

The commander of all German land forces, General Franz Halder, today considered overthrowing German leader Adolf Hitler.

General Halder held the position of Chief of Staff of the Army High Command (OKH) up until 1942. His direct subordinate was General Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the German Army. Halder’s thoughts of removing Hitler were triggered after von Brauchitsch had a disastrous meeting with the German Führer on 5th November 1939.

Whilst meeting with Hitler, General von Brauchitsch attempted to persuade the German chancellor to delay invading France. Hitler, incensed by the suggestion, responded by berating von Brauchitsch as incompetent.

[I know] the spirit of Zossen [OKH headquarters] and [I am] determined to crush it”

Hitler, berating General von Brauchitsch, 5th November 1939.

After the meeting, von Brauchitsch and Halder met to discuss their shared deep concerns over the planned invasion of France. Halder, upon hearing of Hitler’s comments regarding his headquarters, feared the German chancellor might know of his plans to remove him. The two generals continued to discuss the idea of removing Hitler, but Halder was sufficiently worried to decide not to go through with his plan. A few weeks later, General Halder was approached by German conservative politician Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, who tried to convince Halder to try and remove Hitler as originally planned. Halder refused, saying that Hitler was a great leader and “one does not rebel when face to face with the enemy”.

By coincidence, on this day, another group of senior German commanders were also considering what to do about Hitler and his plans to invade France. This second group was made up of General Gerd von Rundstedt, General Fedor von Bock and General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. The three commanders were in charge of Army Group A (facing the French border, commanded by von Rundstedt), Army Group B (north, facing Dutch and Belgian borders, commanded by von Bock), and Army Group C (south, facing the French border, commanded by von Leeb). All three commanders were, like Halder, concerned that Hitler planned to invade France in the winter, the season least suited to a quick and smooth invasion. They met not to discuss removing Hitler, but how best to persuade the Führer to delay his plans until the weather was better. Unlike von Brauchitsch, they were successful in persuading Adolf Hitler to delay an invasion.

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