Erich von Manstein (24 November 1887 – 9 June 1973) was one of the most prominent commanders of the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces during World War II. Attaining the rank of Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal), he was held in high esteem as one of Germany's best military strategists.
Born into an aristocratic Prussian family with a long history of military service, Manstein joined the army at a young age and saw service on several fronts during World War I. He had risen to the rank of captain by the end of the war and was active in the inter-war period helping Germany rebuild her armed forces. During the invasion of Poland at the outbreak of World War II, he was serving as Chief of Staff to Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group South. He was one of the planners of Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), an offensive through the Ardennes during the invasion of France in 1940. Attaining the rank of general at the end of the campaign, he was active in the invasion of the Soviet Union and the Siege of Sevastopol and was promoted to Field Marshal in August 1942. Germany's fortunes in the war began to take an unfavourable turn after the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad, where Manstein commanded a failed relief effort. He was one of the primary commanders at the Battle of Kursk, one of the last major battles of the war and one of the largest battles in history. His ongoing disagreements with Hitler over the conduct of the war led to his dismissal in March 1944. He never obtained another command and was taken prisoner by the British in August 1945, several months after Germany's defeat.
Manstein gave testimony at the main Nuremberg Trials of war criminals in August 1946, and prepared a paper that, along with his later memoirs, helped contribute to the myth of a "clean Wehrmacht"—the myth that the German armed forces were not culpable for the atrocities of the Holocaust. In 1949 he was tried in Hamburg for war crimes and was convicted on nine of seventeen counts, including the poor treatment of prisoners of war and failing to protect civilian lives in his sphere of operations. His sentence of eighteen years in prison was later reduced to twelve, and he served only four years before being released in 1953. As a military advisor to the West German government in the mid-1950s, he helped re-establish the armed forces. His successful memoir, Verlorene Siege (1955), translated into English as Lost Victories, was highly critical of Hitler's leadership, and focused strictly on the military aspects of the war, ignoring the political and ethical context. Manstein died in Munich in 1973.
Read more about Erich Von Manstein: Early Life
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