Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach

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Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-070-73, Russland, Paulus und v. Seydlitz-Kurzbach.jpg
Seydlitz-Kurzbach (left) and Friedrich Paulus in Soviet Union, 1942
Born (1888-08-22)22 August 1888
Eppendorf, Hamburg, German Empire
Died 28 April 1976(1976-04-28) (aged 87)
Bremen, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany (to 1943)
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1908–43
Rank General der Artillerie
Commands held 12. Infanterie-Division
LI Corps
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves

Walther Kurt von Seydlitz-Kurzbach (22 August 1888 – 28 April 1976) was a German general. He was born in Hamburg, Germany, into the noble Prussian Seydlitz family. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub).[Note 1] He was relieved of his command in early 1943 and then abandoned the German army lines under German fire to surrender to the Red Army. He became a Soviet collaborator while a prisoner of war. After the war he was convicted by the Soviet Union of War Crimes. In 1996, he was posthumously pardoned by Russia.


During World War I he served on both fronts as an officer. During the Weimar Republic, he remained a professional officer in the Reichswehr; from 1940 to 1942 he commanded the 12th Infantry Division of the German Army. When the division was encircled in the Demyansk Pocket, Seydlitz was responsible for breaking the Soviet cordon and enabling German units to escape from encirclement; for this action he was promoted to General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie) and appointed commander of the LI Corps.

The corps was subordinated to the Sixth Army during the Battle of Stalingrad.[1] When the entire Army was trapped in the city in the course of the Soviet Operation Uranus, Seydlitz was one of the generals who argued most forcefully in favor of a breakout or a surrender, in contravention of Hitler’s orders.[1]:126-127,132-133 On 25 January 1943, he told his subordinate officers that they were free to decide for themselves on whether to surrender. Paulus immediately relieved him of command of his three divisions (the 100th, 71st and 295th Infantry Divisions).[2][1]:199

A few days later, Seydlitz fled the German lines under fire from his own side with a group of other officers.[3] He was taken into Soviet custody, where he was interrogated by Captain Nikolay Dyatlenko.[4] He was identified by the interrogations as a potential collaborator. In August 1943, he was taken with two other Generals to a political re-education center at Lunovo.[5] A month later, he was sent back to prisoner of war camps to recruit other German officers.

He was a leader in the forming under Soviet supervision of an anti-Nazi organization, the League of German Officers (German: Bund deutscher Offiziere) and was made a member of the Communist-dominated National Committee for a Free Germany (German: Nationalkomitee Freies Deutschland). He was condemned by many of his fellow generals for his collaboration with the Soviet Union. He was sentenced to death in absentia by Hitler's government. His idea of creating an anti-Nazi force of some 40,000 German POWs to be airlifted into Germany was never seriously considered, while in Germany his family was taken into Sippenhaft, detention for the crimes of a family member. Seydlitz was ultimately exploited by both Soviet and German propaganda: he was used by the former in broadcasts and literature to encourage German soldiers to surrender, while the latter cultivated the idea of "Seydlitz troops" (German: Seydlitztruppen). His role in Soviet propaganda was largely equivalent to that of Andrey Vlasov in German propaganda.

In 1949 he was charged with war crimes. He was specifically put on trial for responsibility for actions against Soviet POWs and the civilian population while in Wehrmacht service. In 1950, a Soviet tribunal sentenced him to 25 years’ imprisonment, but in 1955 he was released to West Germany, where in 1956 his Third Reich death sentence was nullified.

Seydlitz died on 28 April 1976 in Bremen. On 23 April 1996 a posthumous pardon was issued by Russian authorities.

Awards and decorations

Ribbon bar

Iron Cross with 1939 Clasp Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords Hamburg Hanseatic Cross The Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 Wehrmacht Long Service Award 1st Class Wehrmacht Long Service Award 3rd Class


  1. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Adam, Wilhelm; Ruhle, Otto (2015). With Paulus at Stalingrad. Translated by Tony Le Tissier. Pen and Sword Books Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 9781473833869.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Beevor 1998, p. 381.
  3. Beevor 1998, p. 382.
  4. Beevor 1998, p. 396.
  5. Beevor 1998, p. 423.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Thomas 1998, p. 319.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 703.
  8. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 399.
  9. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 56.


  • Beevor, Antony (1998). Stalingrad. Viking, London. ISBN 978-0-14-103240-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Ludwig von der Leyen
Commander of 12. Infanterie-Division
March 10, 1940 – January 1, 1942
Succeeded by
Oberst Karl Hernekamp