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Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb

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Wilhelm von Leeb (1872-1956) was a Generalfeldmarschall of the regular army (Reichsheer) of Nazi Germany. While he was tried as a war criminal in the High Command Case before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, he had opposed a good deal of Nazi activity, indeed being involved, as a midcareer officer, in putting down the Beer Hall Putsch. Recalled from retirement for the invasion of Poland, he again asked for, and received, retirement in 1942, after being promoted to Field Marshal for service in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in which he commanded Army group North. He received a minimal sentence of three years from the NMT.

Early years

Commissioned as an artillery cadet, he served in China, then spent the First World War in General Staff roles. After the war, he was assigned to Defense Ministry under the Weimar Republic, and then to district chief of staff.


A devout Catholic, he never showed support for the Nazis, but was a loyal German. In 1923 he was involved in putting down the Beer Hall Putsch. Subsequently, after listening to a January 23, 1933 speech to senior army officers by Adolf Hitler, he said "A businessman whose wares are good does not need to boost them in the loudest tones of a market crier." [1]

The State seemed to be unsure what to do with him. While he had been put under Gestapo surveillance, he still was promoted to General der Artillerie (lieutenant general) in 1934 and from October 1935 to February 1938, put in command of Army Group 2.

He wrote, in 1937, Die Abweht where he argued that Germany could not defeat the Soviet Union in a two-front war.

Second World War

Hitler purged the Army of anti-Nazis in 1938, and forced Leeb into retirement. He was recalled to command 12th Army for the invasion of Poland (September 1938 to May 1941).

In the Operation Barbarossa invasion of Russia, he was the initial commander of Army Group North in Operation Barbarossa (June 1941 to January 1942). Einsatzgruppe A was attached to it.

Nuremberg Military Tribunal

While he was acquitted of command responsibility for actions against soldiers, being able to prove he had actively opposed the Commissar Order, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for knowledge of reprisals against civilians under the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order. [2]