Werner von Fritsch
(1880 - 1939)
Werner von Fritsch was born in Benrath, Germany, on
August 4, 1880. He joined the German Army and served throughout the
First World War. He remained in the army and in May 1935 he became commander
in chief of the armed forces.
Fritsch occasionally spoke contemptuously of Adolf
Hitler to fellow officers. On one occasion, when a colleague enthusiastically
calls him to the balcony to watch a military parade for Hitler's birthday,
Fritsch snaps, "Why celebrate that!?" Fritsch was also outraged
by the Night of the Long Knives massacre in June 1934 but failed to vocalize his objections to Hitler.
Nevertheless, Hitler became aware of Fritsch's aversion
to Nazism and opposition to Hitler's grandiose schemes for the coming
military adventures. Hitler was determined to gain control of the army
and Heinrich Himmler was
asked to gain information on Fritsch. Eventually, Hans Schmidt, a male
prostitute, agreed to claim that he had a sexual relationship with Fritsch.
On January 24, 1938, Hitler told Fritsch about the
claims made by Schmidt. When it became clear that senior members of
the German Army were unwilling to support him against these false charges,
Fritsch retired from office. When it was later discovered that Schmidt
was lying, Hitler refused to reinstate Fritsch.
Recalled to the army on the outbreak of the Second
World War, Fritsch became an honorary colonel in his former regiment.
Werner von Fritsch was killed during the invasion of Poland on September
The Nazi regime's disgraceful behavior toward General
von Fritsch turned many like-minded officers such as Ludwig
Beck into sworn enemies. Other officers whose loathing for Hitler
and the regime now boiled over include Abwehr Chief Admiral Wilhelm Canaris,
his second in command Colonel-General Hans
Oster, Field Marshal Erwin
von Witzleben, and General Karl Heinrich von Stuelpnagel - all of
whom would play leading roles in the six-year conspiracy to overthrow
Sources: Joric Center;