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Johannes Blaskowitz

(1883 - 1948)

Johannes Blaskowitz was born July 10, 1883, in Peterswalde in the County of Wehlau, East Prussia.

A professional soldier of the old school, who served in World War I, Blaskowitz rose rapidly under the Third Reich. In 1935, he was promoted to Lieutenant-General and Commander of Defence District II, Stettin. In 1938 he was appointed Field Commander of Army Group 3 (Dresden), and took part in the invasion of Austria and Bohemia, leading the Third Army into the Sudetenland in March 1939.

Blaskowitz worked out the plan of attack for the invasion of Poland and commanded the Eighth Army there. On September 27, 1939, Blaskowitz received the surrender of Warsaw and on October 22, 1939, he was made Military Governor of the German occupying forces in Poland.

Blaskowitz gained notoriety for expressing his outrage with the atrocities being committed against Polish Jews behind army lines by Reinhard Heydrich's S.D. units. He produced two detailed memoranda on their activities and those of the Einsatzkommandos against both Jews and the Polish intellectual elite between November 1939 and February 1940, which were addressed to Army Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch. They documented many instances of raping, horsewhipping, murder and looting of Jewish and Polish shops, warning that the SS “might later turn against their own people in the same way.”

Hitler was reportedly infuriated by Blaskowitz's “childish attitude,” and he was relieved of command. Nevertheless, he served later on many fronts, never again questioning Hitler's policies. In 1944, he was given command of Army Group under von Rundstedt which was preparing to defend against the expected Allied invasion in France. Relieved of his command after the defeat in Lorraine, he was transferred to the Netherlands in early 1945, where he surrendered to the British. He committed suicide on February 5, 1948, in Nuremberg prison, shortly before his trial as a minor war criminal was due to begin. Fellow prisoners believed that he had been murdered by SS men, but this has never been substantiated.

Sources: Joric Center; "Who's Who in Nazi Germany," Wiederfield and Nicolson, London, 1982.