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Erich von Manstein

Birthdate: 24. November 1887
Date of death: 10. June 1973

Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Manstein was a German commander of the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces during the Second World War. He attained the rank of field marshal.

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 both the Western and Eastern Front during the First World War . He rose 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. In September 1939, during the invasion of Poland at the beginning of the Second World War, he was serving as Chief of Staff to Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group South. Adolf Hitler chose Manstein's strategy for the invasion of France of May 1940, a plan later refined by Franz Halder and other members of the OKH.

Anticipating a firm Allied reaction should the main thrust of the invasion take place through the Netherlands, Manstein devised an innovative operation—later known as the Sichelschnitt —that called for an attack through the woods of the Ardennes and a rapid drive to the English Channel, thus cutting off the French and Allied armies in Belgium and Flanders. Attaining the rank of general at the end of the campaign, he was active in the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. He led the Axis forces in the Siege of Sevastopol and the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, and was promoted to field marshal on 1 July 1942, after which he participated in the Siege of Leningrad.

Germany's fortunes in the war had taken an unfavourable turn in December 1941, and in the following year during the catastrophic Battle of Stalingrad, Manstein commanded a failed relief effort in December. Later known as the "backhand blow", Manstein's counteroffensive in the Third Battle of Kharkov regained substantial territory and resulted in the destruction of three Soviet armies and the retreat of three others. He was one of the primary commanders at the Battle of Kursk . 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 cultivate the myth of the 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 memoir, Verlorene Siege , translated into English as Lost Victories, was highly critical of Hitler's leadership, and dealt with only the military aspects of the war, ignoring its political and ethical contexts. Manstein died near Munich in 1973.

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