Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach in the Stalingrad cauldron (1943) was the only one to defy Hitlers orders (he was dropped naturally).He joined the Nazi Party as an early supporter of Hitler, using his secret membership to give the future dictator vital strategic information as early as 1931.
When it became clear to him in Mid‐January of 1943 that the Germans had walked into a trap set for them by the Russians, General von Seydlitz urged Marshal von Paulus to try to break out of the trap without informing Hitler of his plans. But Hitler had ordered the Wehrmacht not to retreat an inch, and Marshal von Paulus chose to act as instructed.
On Jan. 25, 1943, General von. Seydlitz abandoned the cause, telling his officers they were free to flee a hopeless battle and try to escape. He was captured by the Red Army on Jan. 31.
Field Marshal von Paulus hung on until Feb. 2, when he surrendered along with 90,00C men in his freezing, halfstarved army. It was later estimated that the German Sixth Army suffered 150,000 casualties in the battle, a decisive one in the war.
Born in Hamburg, General von Seydlitz was a career officer who was wounded four times in World War I. He is said to have joined the Nazi Party in 1929, despite the fact that his fellow officers in the Reichswehr had for the most part resisted Hitler until he came to power in 1933, and did not become party members until then.
With the outbreak of World War II, General von Seydlitz became an important commander in the Polish campaign, and it was said that he bore much of the responsibility for the deportation of 3,000 Jews from Crakow. He also served on the French front, as leader of the 12th Infantry Division in the German invasion.
Assigned to the Russian front with the German Sixth Army, General von Seydlitz was chief deputy to Field. Marshal Friedrich von Paulus in the—for the Germans — catastrophic Battle of Stalingrad.
After his capture at Stalingrad, he became president of the Free Germany Committee in Moscow, formed by the Russians to conduct anti‐Nazi propaganda.
And after the war, he refused to cooperate with the Communists in the Soviet occupation zone in Germany.
August 22, 1888 – April 28, 1976
Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach
In the summer of 1943, high-ranking Soviet officers and leading communist emigrants, along with military members of the board of the National Committee “Free Germany,” (NKFD) attempted to persuade the German officers captured in Stalingrad, especially the generals, to publicly reject Hitler. After some hesitation, a number of the captured generals declared that Hitler had betrayed them.
In view of the lost war and out of concern for the existence of the German Reich, they decided to work with the Soviets and the NKFD. The founding meeting of the Federation of German Officers took place in Lunevo in September 1943, chaired by the artillery general Walther von Seydlitz, who was considered a particularly skilled military man. Seydlitz had realized in the late fall of 1942 that the German troops would be unable to hold Stalingrad.
For him, however, the defeat of the Sixth Army was not only the turning point of the war, but also proved the lack of responsibility and the incapability of Germany’s leaders. He no longer felt bound to honor his oath to Hitler. Many people regarded his call to overthrow Hitler to put an end to the war as a “dishonorable betrayal.” Seydlitz was sentenced to death in absentia by the Reich Court Martial in 1944.
His family was put into “Sippenhaft” (imprisonment for families held responsible for the oppositional political activities of a family member). He refused to declare loyalty to Stalin, and was sentenced to death as a war criminal in the Soviet Union in 1950. His sentence was commuted to 25 years’ imprisonment, and he was released in 1955.
General von Seydlitz finally wound up spending five years of a 25‐year prison term following his war crimes conviction in 1955, then went to West Germany. There, he was formally accused of high treason, but the charges were later dropped. He died in obscurity.