Ewald von Kleist: the mystery of the death of field Marshal of the Wehrmacht in the Soviet captivity

History 17/01/20 Ewald von Kleist: the mystery of the death of field Marshal of the Wehrmacht in Soviet captivity

Ewald von Kleist was among the three German field marshals, after the war held in Soviet captivity. But he only was destined to die in the USSR – in the walls of the famous Vladimir Central.

White crow

field Marshal Ewald von Kleist was a Scion of an old family of Prussian aristocrats. The military profession was hereditary for him. He was noted even in the First world, taking part in the battle of Tannenberg. As a staunch monarchist, Kleist never accepted the Nazi ideology. He has always been a very uneasy relationship with Hitler, however, the severe sanctions it passed. In 1938, during the purge he was dismissed from the army, but with the outbreak of the Second world Fuhrer brought him into the ranks of the commanders of the Wehrmacht, as needed experienced generals.

on 22 June 1941, von Kleist led the three Panzer corps of the first invaded the territory of the Soviet Union. Noted for successful operations in Ukraine and Northern Caucasus. In particular, in September 1941, field Marshal, together with Guderian surrounded near Kiev from five Soviet armies, captured more than 600 thousand soldiers.

Disagreeing with the General line of the NSDAP was already evident while von Kleist in Ukraine, where he came into conflict with the Reichskommissar Erich Koch and Fritz Sauckel, responsible for the supply to Germany of labor. Both complained to Berlin that field Marshal prevents the removal of Ukraine’s “voluntary labor resources.” Samuel Mitchell in the book “Hitler’s Field marshals and their battles” writes Kleist strongly warned and Koch, Sauckel, and that it will not tolerate any excesses on the territory occupied by his troops.

the Military campaign against the Soviet Union for Ewald von Kleist ended in April 1944. He was never able to move on the Taman Peninsula. And after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler that took place on 20 July 1944, he was among the other suspects fell into the hands of the Gestapo. However, the prosecution consisted only in the fact that the field Marshal was aware of the existence of a conspiracy, not warned of this the führer. Soon he was released.

on April 25, 1945, while in the Bavarian village Mittelfeld visiting his youngest son, von Kleist was taken prisoner by the advancing American units. In mid-may, the Americans gave the German commander the British, who sent him to the British Isles. The field Marshal was needed in London to participate in the Nuremberg trials.

Guilt does not recognize

Von Kleist passed the fate of the convicted by an international Tribunal, but it was handed over to the Yugoslav government, which accused field Marshal in the atrocities committed by them during the capture of Hitler’s invasion of the Balkans. In August 1948 he heard the sentence of 15 years hard labor. But to serve his sentence he was not destined. In March 1949, by prior arrangement, were transferred to Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union.

Moscow had its own field Marshal. He was accused of propaganda activities, which he held among the population of the Kuban and Northern Caucasus in summer-autumn of 1942. The Soviet government believed that thanks to German propaganda the enemy has moved thousands of Ingush, Kabardians, Ossetians, don and Kuban Cossacks.

the Prosecution also insisted that administered Kleist parts were shot, suffocated by gas and destroyed otherwise hundreds of thousands of civilians. Only in the Krasnodar region, according to the investigation, have killed more than 63 thousand people of civil population. In addition, with the approval of the field Marshal was looted farm property, the farmers selected livestock, poultry and grain.

the Investigation into Kleist continued until the end of 1951. Of course, the field Marshal denied his involvement in crimes against humanity, dumping all the blame on Rundstedt and Prowhich, whose orders he will take outEden was to perform. He called himself an officer in the Wehrmacht, who fought not with the population, and with the red Army.

However, von Kleist admitted his guilt in the fact that during the retreat from the Caucasus subordinate troops undermined bridges, railway stations, steel plants, but only for fear that all of this can be used by the red army against him. In his final statement before sentencing the defendant said: “I believe that by the Soviet authorities to me can’t be presented no complaints for the atrocities of the troops subordinate to me”.

the Verdict Ewald von Kleist was handed down on 21 February 1952. The military Collegium of the USSR Supreme court sentenced a former field Marshal in the aggregate of his crimes to correctional labour work for a period of 25 years with confiscation of property.

the difference

the Fate of Kleist in Soviet captivity was more dramatic than other high-ranking German prisoners – of field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, Ferdinand Schoerner. Paulus generally avoided the court. In the USSR he provided a more than decent living conditions, highlighting a personal chef and a doctor. After Stalin’s death, Paulus allowed to leave the GDR. Until the end of his days he lived in a guarded Villa in the exclusive district of Dresden, having at its disposal a car, a aide-de-camp and personal weapons.

the Schemer, who, like Kleist was sentenced to 25 years in the camps, shortly mowed up to 12.5 years. And in 1955, he was released in Germany. True justice got him and Germany: he was sentenced to 4.5 years for death sentences imposed on the soldiers of the Wehrmacht who refused to fight on the side of the Reich. Scherner is dead last of all Hitler’s field marshals at the age of 81 years.

Kleist before his death managed to pass through a whole series of Soviet prison – the detention center of the Ministry of state security, the Butyrka, Lefortovo, and Vladimir finally prison. In Vladimir Central he was transferred after Stalin’s death in March 1954. There are no special conditions in the conclusion he had, and died 13 Nov 1954 according to the official version “of the total of atherosclerosis and arterial hypertension”.

However, there is an alternative version of the death of field Marshal Kleist, in which he was killed by someone from the group of Gregory Mayranovskiy involved in the testing of toxic substances on prisoners. Proponents of this version argue that the Soviet leadership did not want to Kleist as one of the main initiators of the establishment of Cossack units of the Wehrmacht, could ever return to Germany.

suppose that the main difference Kleist from Paulus. The latter, though listed as co-author of the plan “Barbarossa”, but in the eyes of the Soviet leadership as a war criminal was not. In addition, Kleist was not in any way to cooperate with the Soviet authorities and refused to admit his guilt. Paulus on the other hand showed full remorse and took an active anti-Nazi stance, calling on soldiers of the Wehrmacht to the side of the Soviets.

Buried Ewald von Kleist was very simple. No honors: he was wrapped in a sheet and threw the earth in the pit in the cemetery of Prince Vladimir. However, forever in the Russian land, he left. As the head of the Museum of the history of the Vladimir prison Igor zakurdaev, at the initiative of the German authorities Kleist’s body exhumed, dressed in field Marshal’s uniform, and sent home.

Taras Repin

© Russian Seven

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