Hitler and His Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January-June 1938

By Harold C. Deutsch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
The Elevation of Walther von Brauchitsch

That the hour had struck when he could rid himself conclusively of Werner von Fritsch probably flashed through the Fuehrer's mind as he listened to Goering's argument that the old charges should disqualify him from consideration as successor to Blomberg. Whether or not such accusations could be made to stick, it was imperative to exploit them in such fashion as to eject him from office and close the door to his return. The surest -- perhaps the only -- way to make his dismissal irreversible was to establish firmly another general in his place.


An Offer to Beck?

The circumstances of the new appointment demonstrate at every stage how determined Hitler was to make the departure of Fritsch irrevocable. This emerged unmistakably in the course of his two meetings with Beck during the night of January 26-27. According to Beck's biographer, Wolfgang Foerster, the dictator went so far as to attempt a cynical assault on Beck's loyalty to his chief by proposing that he step into Fritsch's shoes.1

____________________
1
The sole source on this reported aspect of the two Hitler-Goering-Beck meetings is Foerster's recollection of a statement prepared by Beck and entrusted to him for safekeeping. The document was lost "through circumstances associated with the war." Foerster, 87. Hossbach account ( Zwischen Wehrmacht und Hitler, 115) of what passed between Hitler and Beck provides nothing on this point and he cannot believe that such an offer could have been made. Interview, July 1, 1971. General Engel is convinced that Foerster's memory of the Beck statement must be at fault in this particular. The dictator, he maintains, at this stage of affairs already felt about Beck in a fashion that would make even a gesture of offering him the Army command unthinkable. Interview, May 11, 1970. Gisevius points out that the entire experience made so deep an impression on Beck's mind that he returned to it repeatedly in the following years; yet he never mentioned what would seem to have been so significant an aspect of the story. Recording, July 1971. In sum, this part of Foerster's account can be accepted only with reservations.

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