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Erich von Manstein
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H01757, Erich von Manstein.jpg
Erich von Manstein in 1938
Birth name Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Lewinski
Born (1887-11-24)24 November 1887
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 9 June 1973(1973-06-09) (aged 85)
Irschenhausen, Bavaria, West Germany
Dorfmark, Bad Fallingbostel
Service/branch Imperial German Army
Wehrmacht Heer
Years of service 1906–44
Rank Wehrmacht GenFeldmarschall 1942h1.svg Generalfeldmarschall
Commands held
  • 18th Infantry Division
  • XXXVIII Army Corps
  • LVI Panzer Corps
  • 11th Army
  • Army Group Don
  • Army Group South
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Jutta Sibylle von Loesch
(m. 1920; died 1966)
Children 3
  • Eduard von Lewinski (biological father)
  • Albrecht Gustav von Manstein (adoptive grandfather)
  • Paul von Hindenburg (uncle)
Other work Served as military advisor to the West German government
Signature Erich von Manstein signature.svg
Criminal conviction
Erich von Manstein
Conviction(s) War crimes
Penalty 18 years

Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Manstein (24 November 1887 – 9 June 1973) 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 (1914–18). 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 ("sickle cut")—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 (1941–1942) 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 ("Operation Winter Storm") in December. Later known as the "backhand blow", Manstein's counteroffensive in the Third Battle of Kharkov (February–March 1943) 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 (July–August 1943). 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 (1955), 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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