Walter Warlimont

Walter Warlimont : Nazi Germany

Walter Warlimont, the son of a publisher, was born in Osnabrueck, Germany, on 3rd October 1894. An artillery cadet he was commissioned into the German Army in June 1914. During the First World War he fought on the Western Front as a battery officer. He was promoted several times and progressed to become an brigade adjutant and battery commander.

After the war Warlimont was active in the right-wing Freikorps group. He remained in the army and in 1922 was selected for general staff training. This included spending time in England (1926) and the United States (1929).

Promoted to major Warlimont sent to Spain in September 1936 where he worked as a military adviser to General Francisco Franco during the early stages of the Spanish Civil War. Warlimont returned to Nazi Germany in 1937 where he was given command of the 26th Artillery Regiment at Duesseldorf.

In September 1938 Warlimont became head of Home Defence. The following year he worked under Alfred Jodl as deputy head of the operations office in Berlin. In this role he attended Hitler's military conferences and drafted most of Germany's major operational plans and directives. Warlimont was seriously injured by the bomb placed by Claus von Stauffenberg on 20th July 1944.

After the war Warlimont was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes. However he was released in 1957. His book Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939-45 was published in 1964. Walter Warlimont died at Kreuth in Upper Bavaria on 9th October 1976.

Primary Sources

(1) Walter Warlimont was interviewed by Basil Liddell Hart about Operation Sea Lion in his book The Other Side of the Hill (1948)

There is no doubt in my mind as to the long-cherished and almost guiding political principle of Hitler's to come to terms with England, on a world-wide and lasting basis. Also I think it true that after the collapse of France he returned to this scheme - but far a short while only, and for the last time. It was during this short period, late in June and early in July, 1940, that he showed himself at first entirely unwilling and later on rather reluctant in taking up the problem of the invasion of England. The only explanation of this unusual attitude came to me at the time from a Foreign Office member of his entourage - he told me about Hitler's intentions of approaching England once more by way of a public peace

offer. Hitler's speech, when delivered in the Reichstag on 19th July, seemed to me disappointing. But Hitler in turn

may have been still more disappointed that his endeavour met with no response from the British side.

After this renewed disillusion his further steps were certainly no longer guided by political considerations. On the contrary, it seems to me that subsequent events can be understood only by the underlying idea of how to defeat England in the quickest and most effective way. Hitler pursued this aim in four different ways: the combined air and sea attack against British trade and industry; the air attack as a preparatory step to the invasion of the British Isles; the plan of attacking the British positions in the Mediterranean; and finally the initial preparations for a campaign against Russia, which was deemed England's last resort on the Continent.

It was Jodi who had a considerable share in killing off the 'sea-lion' when, in the late summer, he summarized his views in a memorandum to Hitler. The plan for an invasion of England, he wrote, would mean from the start a great risk - which had been further increased by the unsatisfactory results of the air offensive, due to the bad weather. If the landing did not succeed, this failure would endanger the whole of the achievements of the war thus far obtained. The invasion should therefore be executed only if there were no other way of forcing England to her knees. Such a way, however, offered itself by attacking and usurping the British positions in the Mediterranean - of which Jodi enumerated Gibraltar, Malta and the Suez Canal. The loss of these positions, he concluded, would bring the war to an end.

Hitler apparently was only too willing to endorse these considerations against the invasion. From this time

on no more serious efforts were made. Early in December the plan was altogether abandoned - the 'sea-lion' was definitely dead.

(2) Walter Warlimont, order issued to the German Army about the occupation of the Soviet Union (12th May, 1941)

1. Political officials and leaders are to be liquidated.

2. Insofar as they are captured by the troops, an officer with authority to impose disciplinary punishment decides whether the given individual must be liquidated. For such a decision the fact suffices that he is a political official.

3. Political leaders in the troops (Red Army) are not recognized as prisoners of war and are to be liquidated at the latest in the prisoner-of-war transit camps.

(3) Walter Warlimont was critical of Adolf Hitler's decision not to attack Leningrad in 1941.

Hitler gave another fateful halt order just when the armoured vanguards of Army Group North had reached the outskirts of Leningrad. Apparently he thereby wanted to avoid the losses of human life and material to be expected from fighting in the streets and squares of this Soviet metropolis against an outraged population, and hoped to gain the same ends by cutting off the city from all lines of supply.

(4) Walter Warlimont was interviewed by Basil Liddell Hart about Operation Sea Lion in his book The Other Side of the Hill (1948)

The organization of Intelligence was a source of rivalry and ambitions, and consequently of heavy mistakes on our side. Originally and up to 1944 the 'Office Foreign Affairs and Counter-Intelligence', incorporated in the O.K.W. and conducted by Admiral Canaris, assembled the intelligence and furnished it to the three forces for evaluation. Thus the Armed Forces Operations Staff, in its capacity as the operations branch for the Western theatre, was dependent mainly on the O.K.H. section 'Foreign Armies West', and in addition on the corresponding sections of the Navy and Air Force. Early in 1044 the office of Canaris was dissolved by order of Hitler, chiefly for political reasons, and he himself dismissed. The Intelligence now became a part of the Reichs Security Central Office, headed by the S.D. - Chief, Kaltenbrunner. He, for personal reasons, often deviated from the prescribed official way and sent or delivered important

news, or what he deemed such, directly to Hitler or Jodl. In the end, as a natural consequence of such a system, there was much trouble and little intelligence. When finally, on the afternoon of the 5th June, 1944, Kaltenbrunner believed he had sure indications of the impending invasion, and reported them to Jodl, Jodl paid no attention to it - or, at least, informed neither his staff nor Hitler.

As regards the site of the landing. Hitler was the first who came to the conclusion that Normandy was the most probable spot. On May 2nd and he ordered that anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons were to be reinforced throughout that sector on that calculation. Hitler's view was based on intelligence received as to troop movements in Britain. Two main troop concentrations had been observed there - one in the south-east, consisting of British troops, and the other in the south-west consisting of American troops. The situation of the Americans, in particular, led Hitler to anticipate an attack launched against the western part of Normandy. Besides his deductions from troop movement!, Hitler based his conclusions on the consideration that the Allies, from the outset, would need a big port which had to be situated in such a way as to be quickly protected by a rather short front line. These conditions would be essentially met by the port of Cherbourg and the Cotentin Peninsula. We were not quite convinced that Hitler was right, but he kept harping on it, and demanded more and more reinforcements for the Normandy sector. We generals figured along the lines of our regular military education whereas Hitler figured, as he always did, out of intuition.