Wilhelm von Leeb
(1872 - 1956)
Wilhelm von Leeb was born in Landsberg, Germany,
on September 5, 1872. He joined the Imperial Army in 1895 as an officer
cadet and after being commissioned in the artillery served in China (1901-02). He attended the Bavarian War Academy in Munich (1907-09)
and on the General Staff in Berlin (1909-11). Promoted to captain he did a tour of duty as a battery commander
in the Bavarian 10th Field Artillery Regiment at Erlangen (1912-13).
At the outbreak of the First World War, Leeb was on
the General Staff of the Bavarian Army Corps. He was sent to the Western
Front were he served with the Bavarian 11th Infantry Division. Upon
promotion to major he was transferred to the Eastern Front in the summer
of 1916. The following year he was appointed to the staff of Prince
Rupprecht of Bavaria.
After the war, Leeb remained in the German Army and
in 1919 was appointed chief of department in the Reich Defence Ministry.
In 1920 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and the following year
he became chief of staff of Wehrkreis II. In February 1922, he returned
to Munich as chief of staff of Wehrkreis VII and, in 1923, he was involved
in putting down the Beer Hall
Leeb was appointed commander of the 2nd Mountain Artillery
Battalion of the 7th Artillery Regiment in 1924. Considered an authority
on defensive warfare Leeb became the head of Wehrkries VII in 1930.
A devout Roman Catholic, Leeb was opposed to the policies
of the Nazi Party.
After hearing Adolf Hitler make a speech to Germany's senior army officers on January 23, 1933,
Leeb commented: "A businessman whose wares are good does not need
to boost them in the loudest tones of a market crier."
Although the Gestapo were told to keep Leeb under surveillance, it did not stop him from
being promoted to General of the Artillery and in 1934 he was given command of Army Group 2. In 1937, Leeb published Die
Abweht where he argued that Germany could not defeat the Soviet
Union in a two-front war.
Hitler decided to purge the German Army of opponents and Leeb was forced
into retirement. However, he was recalled just before the outbreak of
the Second World War. Despite
his objections he took part in the invasion of Poland and commanded Army Group C during the Western Offensive. He was rewarded
by being promoted to field marshal on July 19, 1940.
Barbarossa he commanded Army Group North. He took part in the siege
of Leningrad but, on January 13, 1942,
he asked to retire from active service and was replaced by General George
von Kuechler. Wilhelm von Leeb died on April 29, 1956.