|Years of service January 1900 – 1944|
Name Georg Kuchler
|Born 30 May 1881
Philippsruhe castle in Hanau, Province of Hesse-Nassau, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire (1881-05-30) |
Died 25 May 1968(1968-05-25) (aged 86) Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire (1910–1918) Weimar Republic (to 1933) Nazi Germany
Commands held Army Group North (17 January 1942) Army Group North (January 1944)
Battles/wars World War II: Battle of the Netherlands, Battle of France, Siege of Leningrad
Georg Karl Friedrich Wilhelm von Kuchler (30 May 1881 – 25 May 1968) was a German Field Marshal during the Second World War. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. After the end of the war he was tried by a military court and on 27 October 1948 was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for his treatment of partisans in the Soviet Union. However, he served only eight years before being released in 1953 due to illness and old age.
Kuchler was born in Philippsruhe Castle in Hanau, Hesse-Nassau, on 30 May 1881. Little is known about Kuchler’s early life and childhood. After attending cadet school, he entered the Imperial Army in 1900 and served in the 25th Field Artillery Regiment. After being promoted to First Lieutenant, he spent three years at the Prussian Military Academy (from 1910 to 1913), before joining the General Staff in Berlin.
The First World War and interwar years
During the First World War he commanded an artillery battery on the Western Front and took part in the major offensives at the Somme and Verdun. In 1916 he became staff officer of the 206th Infantry Division. In 1919 Kuchler joined the Freikorps and fought the Red Army in Poland. After returning to Germany he joined the staff of the Juterbog Artillery School. Promoted to Colonel, Kuchler became Deputy Commander of the 1st Infantry Division in East Prussia in 1932. Kuchler succeeded Walther von Brauchitsch as commander of Wehrkreis I in 1937. The following year he supported Adolf Hitler in his removal of Werner von Blomberg and Werner von Fritsch from power. In March 1939 he took part in the occupation of the Lithuanian port of Memel.
The Second World War: in Poland and on the Western Front
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Kuchler was given command of the 3rd Army. During the invasion of Poland Kuchler’s troops captured Danzig. Although a committed supporter of the Nazi Party, Kuchler upset the Schutzstaffel (SS) by punishing soldiers who committed atrocities against civilians. In 1940 he became far more supportive of Nazi racial policy and ordered on 22 February a halt to any criticism of "ethnic struggle being carried out in the General Government, for instance that of the Polish minorities, of the Jews and those regarding Church matters". His order explained that the "Final ethnic solution" required unique and harsh measures.
In the Western Offensive he fought under Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock and commanded the Eighteenth Army, which invaded the Netherlands. In the invasion of neutral Netherlands, he was able to defeat the Dutch army at Moerdijk, Rotterdam, and the Hague. Afterwards Kuchler’s forces moved into Belgium and occupied Antwerp on 18 May 1940. Then he moved into France, attempting to cut off the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from the English Channel at Dunkirk, which ultimately ended in failure because of Hitler's decision to halt before reaching the channel. The 18th Army ended this phase of the war at Pas de Calais encircling Dunkirk. Kuchler’s role in this campaign earned him the rank of colonel-general.
After meeting Hitler in March 1941 to plan for Operation Barbarossa, Kuchler told his divisional commanders on 25 April 1941:
"We are separated from Russia, ideologically and racially, by a deep abyss. Russia is, if only by the mass of her territory, an Asian state...The Fuhrer does not wish to palm off responsibility for Germany's existence on to a later generation; he has decided to force the dispute with Russia before the year is out. If Germany wishes to live in peace for generations, safe from a threatening danger in the East, this cannot be a case of pushing Russia back a little-or even hundreds of kilometers-but the aim must be to annihilate European Russia, to dissolve the Russian state in Europe"
Kuchler went on to call Red Army commissars "criminals" who should all be shot.
The Second World War: on the Eastern Front
During Barbarossa the 18th Army forced its way to Ostrov and Pskov after the Soviet troops of the Northwestern Front retreated towards Leningrad. On 10 July 1941, both Ostrov and Pskov were captured and the 18th Army reached Narva and Kingisepp, from where advance toward Leningrad continued from the Luga River line. This had the effect of creating siege positions from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, with the eventual aim of isolating Leningrad from all directions. The Finnish Army was then expected to advance along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga.
On 17 January 1942, Kuchler became commander of Army Group North after Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb was relieved of his command. Kuchler, unlike his predecessor Leeb, was seen as politically compliant and was liked by Adolf Hitler, who hoped that Kuchler would succeed where he believed Leeb had failed.
Kuchler commanded Army Group North from December 1941 through January 1944 but was unable to achieve any victory at Leningrad. He maintained the siege of Leningrad, launching massive bombardments in an attempt to intimidate the Soviet Red Army into surrender. On 30 June 1942 Hitler promoted Kuchler to field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall). In January 1944 Soviet troops were able to break the blockade of Leningrad, and Kuchler was sacked when he demanded the withdrawal to the Luga River.
While in retirement Kuchler was approached by Carl Goerdeler who tried to persuade him to join the July Plot. Although sympathetic to the group's objectives, he refused to participate in the attempt to assassinate Hitler. At the end of the Second World War, Kuchler was arrested by American occupation authorities and tried by a military court in 1948 in the High Command Trial. On 27 October 1948 he was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for his treatment of partisans in the Soviet Union but only served eight years before he was released in 1953 due to illness and old age. He died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on 25 May 1968.