He also said, however, that he would do nothing to oppose it. Later he stayed some time at Grundlsee in Austria , and was received by Hitler at his summer house at Berchtesgaden , a sign of Hitler's continuing respect for him. Beck promoted Rundstedt as Fritsch's successor, but Rundstedt declined, and the post went to Brauchitsch.
European Convention on Consular Functions. European Convention on Information on Foreign Law. European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage. European Agreement on Au Pair Placement. European Agreement on continued Payment of Scholarships to students studying abroad. European Convention on the Repatriation of Minors. European Convention on State Immunity.
European Convention on the Calculation of Time-Limits. Convention on the Establishment of a Scheme of Registration of Wills. European Convention on Social Security. Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses.
European Convention on the Social Protection of Farmers. Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Extradition. European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter.
European Agreement on Transfer of Responsibility for Refugees. Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. European Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property. Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe. European Charter of Local Self-Government. European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.
Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter. Convention on Insider Trading. European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Protocol to the Convention on Insider Trading. Protocol to the Convention on the Elaboration of a European Pharmacopoeia. European Code of Social Security Revised. Protocol amending the European Social Charter. European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production. European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Protocol to the European Convention on Social Security. Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights. European Agreement relating to persons participating in proceedings of the European Court of Human Rights. European Social Charter revised.
Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine. European Convention on Nationality. Protocol amending the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Under Rundstedt's command, Army Group South actively participated in the policies outlined in the Hunger Plan , the Nazi racial starvation policy, by "living off the land" and denying food supplies to Soviet prisoners of war and civilians.
German troops "plundered huge quantities of livestock, grain and dairy produce", enough to feed themselves and to create substantial reserves for the Reich. As a consequence, mass starvation set in in urban areas, especially in Kiev and Kharkov.
But his position was to grow increasingly difficult. Hitler did not intend giving him real authority, seeing him as a dignified figurehead. He also had no control over the SS and Gestapo operations in France: Secondly, the internal situation in France had changed greatly since Rundstedt's departure in March The result was an escalating cycle of assassinations and reprisal killings that rapidly alienated the hitherto quiescent French population.
Rundstedt had no direct control over the Army's response to Resistance attacks. Nevertheless, many held him responsible, then and later. Rundstedt had more direct responsibility for the Commando Order of , which later served as the basis of war crimes charges against him. There were in fact two German orders concerning captured Allied commandos. The first was issued by Rundstedt in July , and stated that captured Allied parachutists were to be handed over to the Gestapo, whether in uniform or not , rather than made prisoners of war.
This was a response to the increasing number of British agents being parachuted into France by the Special Operations Executive. It stipulated that all captured Allied commandos were to be executed, again regardless of whether they were in uniform.
As a consequence, six British commandos captured in Operation Frankton , a raid on shipping at Bordeaux in December , were executed by the German Navy.
Although Rundstedt neither ordered nor was informed of this action, he was later held responsible as German commander in France. Meanwhile, the military situation for the Germans was deteriorating. The entry of the United States into the war in December raised the likelihood of an Allied invasion of France. Hitler's response was to order the construction of the Atlantic Wall , a system of coastal fortifications from Norway to the French-Spanish border, to be constructed by the Organisation Todt using slave labour.
There was also a steady build-up of German forces in France, despite the demands of the eastern front. By June Rundstedt commanded 25 divisions. When the Vichy authorities in Africa surrendered after token resistance, the Germans responded by occupying all of France and dissolving what remained of the French Army.
The catastrophe of Stalingrad prompted renewed efforts by dissident German officers to remove Hitler from power while there was still time, as they believed, to negotiate an honourable peace settlement. The conspirators were centered on Halder, Beck and Witzleben, but by all had been removed from positions of authority. The real movers were now more junior officers: Their strategy at this time was to persuade the senior field commanders to lead a coup against Hitler.
Their initial target was Manstein, now commanding Army Group Don , but he turned Tresckow down at a meeting in March Several sources say that Rundstedt was also approached, although they do not say specifically who approached him. Let Manstein and Kluge do it. It was true, however, that Rundstedt was well past his best. The military historian Chester Wilmot wrote soon after the war: He was old and tired and his once active brain was gradually becoming addled, for he had great difficulty in sleeping without the soporific aid of alcohol.
Rundstedt was still capable of clear thought and decisive action. But his health was a matter of increasing concern to his staff and his family. His son Major Hans-Gerd von Rundstedt was posted to his command as an aide-de-camp, partly to monitor his health and report back to Bila in Kassel.
In one of his letters, Hans-Gerd referred to his father's "somewhat plentiful nicotine and alcohol consumption," but assured his mother that Rundstedt's health was basically sound.
Later he stayed some time at Grundlsee in Austria , and was received by Hitler at his summer house at Berchtesgaden , a sign of Hitler's continuing respect for him. He was back at work by July. The Allied invasion of Italy in September removed Rundstedt's fears that France would be invaded that summer, but he could not have doubted that the massive build-up of American troops in Britain meant that a cross-channel invasion would come in He placed no faith in the Atlantic Wall, seeing it merely as useful propaganda.
There were several problems with this, particularly the lack of fuel for rapid movements of armour, the Allied air superiority which enabled them to disrupt the transport system, and the increasingly effective sabotage efforts of the French resistance. Hitler was not persuaded: Characteristically, however, he told Rundstedt he agreed with him, then sent Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to France with orders to hasten the completion of the Atlantic Wall; while Rundstedt remained the commander in France, Rommel became the official commander of Army Group B.
Rundstedt was extremely angered by this decision; although he admired Rommel's tactical skill, he knew from his colleagues that Rommel was notoriously difficult to work with and would mostly be able to ignore Rundstedt's authority thanks to his patronage by Hitler and Goebbels. Rommel in fact agreed with Rundstedt that the Atlantic Wall was a "gigantic bluff", but he also believed that Allied air power made Rundstedt's proposed defense plan impossible.
By the spring of Rommel had turned the mostly nonexistent 'Wall' into a formidable defensive line, but since he believed the invasion would come somewhere between Dunkirk and the mouth of the Somme , much of his work was directed at strengthening the wrong area, although in late he had focused on Normandy.
As fears of an imminent invasion mounted, conflict broke out among the commanders. Rommel wanted the armoured divisions positioned close to the coast, mostly in the area he considered at highest risk.
The commander of armoured forces in France, General Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg , backed by Rundstedt, strongly disagreed, wanting his forces to be positioned inland to preserve their manoeuvrability. Eventually Hitler intervened, imposing a compromise: Hitler made matters worse by appointing Rommel commander of Army Group B, covering all of northern France. This unworkable command structure was to have dire consequences when the invasion came.
The invasion duly came before dawn on 6 June , in Normandy , far to the west of the sector where Rundstedt and Rommel had expected it. Rommel was on leave in Germany, many of the local commanders in Normandy were at a conference in Rennes , and Hitler was asleep at Berchtesgaden. But Rundstedt, now 68, was up before He immediately saw that the reported Allied airborne landings in Normandy presaged a seaborne invasion.
He contacted OKW and demanded that he be given authority to deploy the armoured reserves, but OKW could not agree to this without Hitler's approval.
Hitler's refusal came through at In mid-afternoon Rundstedt ordered that "the Allies [be] wiped out before the day's end, otherwise the enemy would reinforce and the chance would be lost",  but it was too late. Rundstedt's reasoning was sound, his actions decisive, his orders clear. Being right was little consolation to Rundstedt. By 11 June it was evident that the Allies could not be dislodged from their beach-head in Normandy.
Their total command of the air and the sabotage of roads and bridges by the Resistance made bringing armoured reinforcements to Normandy slow and difficult, but without them there was no hope of an effective counter-offensive. Supported by Rommel, he tried to persuade Keitel at OKW that the only escape was to withdraw from Normandy to a prepared defensive line on the Seine , but Hitler forbade any withdrawal.
Both Field Marshals argued that the situation in Normandy required either massive reinforcements which were not available or a rapid withdrawal. Remarkably, they both also urged that Hitler find a political solution to end the war, which Rommel told him bluntly was unwinnable.
Rommel warned Hitler about the inevitable collapse in the German defences, but was rebuffed and told to focus on military operations.
It was during the desperate German attempts to bring reserve units to the front that men of the Das Reich SS Panzer Division destroyed the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in central France, in retaliation for partisan attacks in the area. This was enough for the French government to demand after the war that he stand trial for the massacre at Oradour. On 29 June Rundstedt and Rommel were summoned to Berchtesgaden for a further meeting with Hitler, at which they repeated their demands, and were again rebuffed.
On his return to Saint-Germain, on 30 June, Rundstedt found an urgent plea from Schweppenburg, who was commanding the armoured force at Caen , to be allowed to withdraw his units out of range of Allied naval gunfire, which was decimating his forces.
Rundstedt at once agreed, and notified OKW of this decision. On 1 July he received a message from OKW countermanding his orders. In a fury, he phoned Keitel, urging him to go to Hitler and get the decision reversed. Keitel pleaded that this was impossible. Rundstedt is said to have replied "Macht Schluss mit dem Krieg, ihr Idioten! This literally means "End the war, you idiots!
Keitel conveyed to Hitler that Rundstedt felt unable to cope with the increased demands, and Hitler relieved him of his command, replacing him with Kluge.
It is likely that Hitler had already decided that Rundstedt should be replaced after the meetings of 17 and 29 June. It was officially given out that Rundstedt was retiring on the grounds of age and ill-health.
Hitler wrote him a "very cordial" letter, and awarded him the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross , one of the highest of the new decorations created in Rundstedt departed Saint-Germain for the last time on 4 July, accompanied by his son, and was driven back to the sanatorium at Bad Tölz, to be reunited with his wife. He told Rommel on departing that he would never hold another military command. Rundstedt had resisted all attempts to recruit him to the various conspiracies against Hitler that had been operating inside the German Army since Although he had not denounced or reported any of the officers who had approached him, he had shown no sympathy with their appeals.
By June the conspirators had given up on him and indeed on all the senior field commanders , because he was not approached by the group around Tresckow and Stauffenberg who hatched the unsuccessful plot to kill Hitler with a bomb at the Wolf's Lair Wolfsschanze , his headquarters in East Prussia , and had no inkling of what was planned.
A year later, in June , he told the investigating commission preparing for the Nuremberg Trials: He also argued, however, that the attempt to kill Hitler was pointless, because the German Army and people would not have followed the conspirators. Officers like Rundstedt who argued that a coup against Hitler would not have won support in the Army or among the German people were, in the view of most historians, correct.
Joachim Fest , writing of Tresckow, says: Rundstedt was thus above suspicion of involvement in the 20 July plot, but he could not escape entanglement in its bloody aftermath.
Many of these would have been known personally to Rundstedt. Witzleben was an old colleague, and Stülpnagel had been his subordinate in Ukraine and his colleague in France. Hitler was determined not only to punish those involved in the plot, but to break the power, status, and cohesion of the Prussian officer corps once and for all. Since traditionally German officers could not be tried by civilian courts, he decided that the Army must expel all those accused of involvement.
They could then be tried before the People's Court Volksgerichtshof , a special court established in to try political crimes and presided over by the fanatical Nazi Roland Freisler.
Hitler therefore ordered the convening of a Court of Honour Ehrenhof to carry out the expulsions, and appointed Rundstedt to head it. This court considered only evidence placed before it by the Gestapo. No defence counsel was permitted, and none of the accused was allowed to appear. On this basis, several officers were expelled from the Army, while others were exonerated.
Among those the court declined to expel were Halder who had no involvement in the plot , and Speidel, Rommel's chief of Staff who was deeply implicated. Rundstedt and Heinz Guderian have been singled out as the two who most contributed to Rommel's expulsion from the army, especially as both had good reason to dislike him; however, Rommel and Rundstedt had always had a grudging respect for one another, and Rundstedt later served as Hitler's representative at Rommel's state funeral.
No incident in Rundstedt's career has damaged his posthumous reputation as much as his involvement in this process. John Wheeler-Bennett wrote in Blumentritt, always loyal to his old Chef , complained in The aftermath of the 20 July plot coincided with the rout of the German armies in both the east and the west.
The German command in the west was reorganised following the suicide of Kluge, the arrest of Stülpnagel and the incapacitation of Rommel. At Blumentritt's urgent request, supported by Model, Hitler agreed to ask Rundstedt to resume his post as OB West, which at a meeting on 1 September he agreed to do, saying "My Führer, whatever you order, I shall do to my last breath.
The appointment of Rundstedt was at least in part a propaganda exercise. He was the most senior and one of the best known German Army commanders, both in Germany and abroad. His formidable reputation inspired confidence at home and trepidation among the enemy. His appointment was designed to impress the Allies, reassure the German people, and bolster the morale of the officer corps after the shock of 20 July and the subsequent purge.
Rundstedt, on the other hand, saw himself as the voice of experience, restraining the younger Model, whom he described as "courageous but impulsive. With the comforts of Saint-Germain no longer available, Rundstedt established his headquarters near Koblenz.
His chief of staff was now the capable General Siegfried Westphal. Under Rundstedt was Model, commanding Army Group B and facing the British and Canadians as they advanced through Belgium and into the Netherlands, and the Americans as they advanced into the Ardennes in southern Belgium and Luxembourg. In October, Army Group H in the north was split off from Model's very extended front, and was placed under the command of the paratroop General Kurt Student.
Rundstedt believed even at this stage that an effective defensive line could only be established on the Rhine , but this would have meant giving up large areas of German territory, and Hitler would not countenance it. He insisted that a stand be made on the West Wall known to the Allies as the Siegfried Line , a defensive system built along Germany's western frontiers in —40, but partly dismantled in —44 to provide materials for the Atlantic Wall. Instead the line was held by patched-up divisions escaping from the debacle in France, and Volksgrenadier divisions made up from transferred Navy and Air Force personnel, older men and teenagers: Nevertheless, the Germans now had certain advantages.
In military terms, it is easier to defend a fixed line than it is to take one by storm. They were now fighting in defence of their own frontiers, and this stiffened resolve.
They no longer had to deal with partisans sabotaging their supply lines, and they were close to their own sources of supply in Germany. The Allies on the other hand had severe logistical problems, with their supply lines running all the way back to the Normandy beaches.
The great port of Antwerp was in their hands, but the Germans still controlled the mouth of the Scheldt , so the Allies could not use it as a supply port.
In September the American tank armies in Lorraine literally ran out of fuel, and during October the Allied offensive gradually lost momentum and came to a halt on a line well west of the German border in most sectors, although the frontier city of Aachen fell on 21 October.
With the failure of the British attempt to force a crossing of the Rhine at Arnhem Operation Market Garden in late September, the chance of invading Germany before the winter set in was lost, and Rundstedt was given time to consolidate his position. Hitler, however, had no intention of staying on the defensive in the west over the winter. As early as mid-September he was planning a counter-offensive. On 27 October Rundstedt and Model met with General Alfred Jodl , chief of operations at OKW, and told him flatly that they considered this impossible with the available forces.
Jodl took their views back to Hitler, but on 3 November he told them that the Führer's mind was made up, and that he wanted the attack to begin before the end of November. Model persuaded Jodl that the deadline was unrealistic, and on 2 December he and Westphal went to Berlin to argue their case with Hitler.
Rundstedt refused to go, because, he said, he hated listening to Hitler's monologues. After the war he disowned all responsibility for the offensive: He gave orders directly to the army commanders, bypassing both Rundstedt and Model. Taking advantage of surprise and poor weather which helped neutralise the Allies' command of the air , the offensive made initial progress, breaking through the weak American formations in this quiet sector of the front.
But the Allies were quick to react, and the Germans were soon falling behind their ambitious timetables. To the north, Dietrich's 6th Panzer Army was blocked by stubborn defence at St.
Manteuffel, in the centre, did better, reaching Celles , a few kilometres short of the Meuse, on 25 December. The resistance of the American garrison at Bastogne greatly delayed the advance, making a forcing of the Meuse impossible. When the cloud cover lifted on 24 December, the Allied air forces attacked with devastating effect.
Rundstedt urged OKW to halt the offensive, lest the "bulge" created by the German advance become a "second Stalingrad", but Hitler was determined to press on. Waffen-SS units under Rundstedt's overall command committed war crimes during the campaign in the West, including the Malmedy massacre , which was perpetrated by troops under the command of Joachim Peiper. On 17 December, near Malmedy , a group of Peiper's men, opened fire on a large group of unarmed U.
Responsibility for this crime ran from Peiper to Mohnke to Dietrich to Model to Rundstedt, although none of them had been present and none had ordered such action. When Rundstedt heard about it, he ordered an investigation, but in the chaos of the failing offensive nothing came of this. Although such occurrences were commonplace on the Eastern Front from both sides, they were a rarity in the West, and the outraged Americans were determined to prosecute all those with responsibility for this massacre.
Here Rundstedt's problem was his reputation. The Ardennes offensive was known to the Allies as "the Rundstedt offensive", and the Allied press routinely described him as being in charge of it. Rundstedt is the best German general I have come up against. On 8 January, Hitler authorised Manteuffel to withdraw from the tip of the bulge, and on 15 January he gave up the whole enterprise and returned to Berlin. By the end of January the Germans were back where they had started.
But the offensive had burned up the last of Rundstedt's reserves of manpower, equipment and fuel, and as a result neither the West Wall nor the Rhine could be properly defended. On 18 February, as the Allies entered Germany, Rundstedt issued an appeal to the German Army to resist the invader, urging the troops to "gather round the Führer to guard our people and our state from a destiny of horror. Despite fierce resistance in places, the Germans were forced back from the West Wall during February, and a series of Allied offensives, rolling from north to south, drove across the Rhineland towards the great river.
Rundstedt had been aware as early as September of the importance of the many bridges over the Rhine, and of the necessity of denying them to the enemy. He made careful plans for the bridges to be blown up if the enemy reached the Rhine. This could hardly be blamed on Rundstedt, but he was the commander and Hitler needed a scapegoat. On 9 March Hitler phoned Rundstedt and told him he was to be replaced by Albert Kesselring , to be transferred from Italy. That was the end of Gerd von Rundstedt's military career after 52 years.
On 11 March Rundstedt had a final audience with Hitler, who thanked him for his loyalty. He then returned to his home in Kassel, but bombing and the Allied advance into western Germany made him decide to move his family, first to Solz, a village south of Kassel, then to Weimar , then to Bayreuth , and finally back to the sanatorium at Bad Tölz where he had stayed several times before.
Rundstedt's heart condition had worsened and he also suffered from arthritis. There was no attempt at further escape: Rundstedt, accompanied by Bila and Hans Gerd and a few staff, stayed at Bad Tölz until it was occupied by American forces on 1 May, the day after Hitler's suicide in Berlin.
That evening he was made a prisoner of war by troops from the 36th Infantry Division. Out of consideration for his rank and state of health, Hans Gerd was allowed to accompany him. At the end of May they were moved to an American detention centre at Wiesbaden.
Here Rundstedt was extensively questioned by U. Army interrogators about his career and actions during the war. During this period decisions were being made about which German leaders were to be put on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials. Rundstedt was the most senior German officer in Allied custody.
He was accused of responsibility for war crimes in Poland the shooting of surrendered soldiers in , the Soviet Union the actions of the Einsatzgruppen in , Britain the Commando Order of and France the Oradour massacre of In July Rundstedt was handed over to British custody. The British climate badly affected his arthritis, making him increasingly lame. His heart condition became worse and he was periodically depressed.
Liddell Hart and Rundstedt developed a close rapport, and the relationship was to prove very valuable to Rundstedt over the next few years. Liddell Hart wrote of him: He is dignified without being arrogant, and essentially aristocratic in outlook.
When Rundstedt learned that he was not to be tried personally at Nuremberg, he wrote to the Tribunal asking permission to appear as a defence witness for the Army high command. In May he was summoned to appear. When he left Island Farm , all the senior officers being held there lined up to salute him. Rundstedt was adamant that the high command played no part in the decisions to invade Poland, Norway, France or the Soviet Union.
He insisted that the Army had obeyed the laws of war and was not responsible for the actions of the Einsatzgruppen. He also denied that the Army had deliberately starved three million Soviet prisoners-of-war to death in — He insisted that military law was "always binding for us older leaders", and that officers who broke these laws were court-martialled.
We lived and acted according to them, and we endeavoured to hand them down to the younger officers. Senior commanders discussed only operational matters, he said: Rundstedt made a good impression as a witness. He did this well — or anyway successfully. Keitel and Jodl were to hang, but the Army high command as a whole was acquitted. The Tribunal does not find that they were an organisation They were only an aggregation of those who happened to hold high rank in a certain period These men have, however, been a disgrace to the profession of arms, and they have made a mockery of obedience to orders.
They were a ruthless military caste, and where guilty of crimes should be brought to trial as individuals. Rundstedt returned to Island Farm to await developments.
Otto John , a German lawyer who had been active in the German resistance, arrived in October to interview the prisoners and make recommendations on possible future war crimes prosecutions. John and Rundstedt got on well, and in November John arranged for Hans Gerd von Rundstedt, who was suffering from the early stages of throat cancer, to be released and sent home.
All four were in British custody. In August Telford Taylor , the U. The grounds for the prosecution would be the Commissar Order of , the Commando Order of , the murder of Soviet prisoners-of-war, the conscription and deportation of civilians in occupied countries as forced labour , and the responsibility of the named officers for the invasions of Poland, France, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and other countries.
The British, however, were extremely reluctant to act. British public opinion had rapidly shifted as it did after World War I away from anti-German sentiment towards a desire for reconciliation. There was a strong feeling that putting elderly and sick men on trial three years after the war was unjust.
There was also the fact that many of the events referred to by the Americans had taken place in the Soviet Union and Poland, which were now, with the onset of the Cold War , political adversaries and no longer co-operating with western war crimes investigations. I frankly do not like this. I feel that if the Americans wish to be critical in our inaction in trying war criminals, I should prefer that they should continue to criticise rather than that we should commit an injustice in order to avoid their criticism.
Rundstedt and the other officers knew nothing of the proposed prosecutions. In June his son Hans Gerd had been admitted to hospital and it soon became apparent that his cancer was inoperable.
In December Rundstedt was granted compassionate leave by the British government to visit the hospital in Hannover where Hans Gerd was being treated. On Christmas Day he saw his wife for the first time since May , and his grandchildren for the first time since Hans Gerd died on 12 January The doctors reported "a markedly senile general physique", chronic arterio-sclerosis, osteo-arthritis in most of his joints, and failing memory.
The examiners advised that to put him on trial would "adversely affect his health. Bevin was put in a quandary, fearing the reactions of countries such as France and Belgium if Rundstedt were to be released. Meanwhile, the Americans had requested that Rundstedt and Manstein be brought to Nuremberg to appear as a witness in the High Command Trial , in which a number of prominent generals, including Leeb, Blaskowitz who committed suicide during the trial , Hugo Sperrle , Georg von Küchler and Hermann Hoth were on trial for war crimes.
On 22 July Rundstedt left the hospital and the next day he and Manstein were flown to Nuremberg. But the presiding judge in the case ruled that he would not allow Rundstedt or Manstein to testify unless they were first informed whether they were themselves in danger of prosecution. Thus Rundstedt and Manstein discovered for the first time that the Americans had requested their indictment. As a result, they refused to testify.
They were then transferred to a military hospital near Munster. Here conditions were so bad that Brauchitsch went on a hunger strike. In August the matter become public when Liddell Hart launched a press campaign to have the four officers released.
On 27 August the government responded by formally announcing that the four would be tried by a British military court in Hamburg. Items in Rundstedt's indictment included: It was here that Brauchitsch died suddenly of heart failure on 18 October. This led to a renewed outcry in Britain for the trial to be abandoned.
Nevertheless, Bevin was determined to press ahead, and on 1 January Rundstedt, Manstein and Strauss were formally charged.
Hugo Laternser was engaged as Rundstedt's counsel, and Liddell Hart and others in Britain collected material for the defence. The Bishop of Chichester, George Bell , announced that he would bring in a motion in the House of Lords critical of the government. This was a serious threat since the Lords had the power to compel the government to produce documents.
By April the public debate in Britain was becoming so damaging that the government decided that the best option was to back down as gracefully as it could. The government's resolve was stiffened by the refusal of the Soviet government to provide any evidence for the trial. Further medical reports were commissioned, with varying results.
A team of British Army doctors eventually reported that Rundstedt and Strauss were unfit to stand trial, and the government used this as a pretext to abandon the trial. On 28 April Cabinet considered the medical reports, and asked the Lord Chancellor, Lord Jowitt , to prepare a report for its next meeting. On 5 May Cabinet accepted his recommendation that Rundstedt and Strauss be released, but that Manstein's trial should go ahead. Rundstedt was now a free man after four years in custody, but it brought him little joy.
He had no home, no money and no income. The family home in Kassel had been requisitioned by the Americans, and the Rundstedt estate in Saxony-Anhalt was in the Soviet Zone and had been confiscated. His wife was living in Solz , but this was in the American Zone, where he could not travel because the Americans who were displeased by the British decision to release him still regarded him as a Class 1 war criminal under the denazification laws then in force.
Likewise, his money, in a bank account in Kassel, was frozen because of his classification, which also denied him a military pension. The British had assured him that he would not be arrested or extradited if he stayed in the British Zone, but the Americans had made no such guarantee. Meanwhile, Rundstedt was in a hospital in Hannover with nowhere to live, and the new SPD administration in Lower Saxony had no interest in helping ex-Field Marshals of the Third Reich at a time when there was an acute housing shortage across Germany.
In Rundstedt was granted a military pension by the West German government. In the last years of his life Rundstedt became a subject of increasing interest and was interviewed by various writers and historians. His former chief of staff, Günther Blumentritt, visited him frequently, and began work on an apologetic biography, which was published in In he was portrayed sympathetically by Leo G.
Carroll in a film about Rommel, The Desert Fox. Blumentritt and Liddell Hart raised money to provide nursing care for the Rundstedts. Bila died on 4 October ; Rundstedt died of heart failure on 24 February in Hannover. He had already been at retirement age when the Second World War began. He was buried in the Stöckener Friedhof. Rundstedt's defence at the trial was that as a soldier he had a duty to obey the orders of the legitimate government, whoever that was, and whatever the orders were.
He would have fully agreed with Manstein's remark to Rudolf von Gersdorff: Since the charges brought against Manstein were almost identical to those brought against Rundstedt, it is worth quoting the remarks made by the prosecutor at Manstein's trial, Sir Arthur Comyns Carr: Many of these have made a mockery of the soldier's oath of obedience to military orders. When it suits their purpose they say they had to obey; when confronted with Hitler's brutal crimes which are shown to have been within their general knowledge, they say they disobeyed.
The truth is they actively participated in all these crimes, or sat silent and acquiescent, witnessing the commission of crimes on a scale larger and more shocking than the world has ever had the misfortune to know. Rundstedt was left in no doubt by Hitler and Himmler what German occupation would mean for the people of Poland and the Soviet Union, yet he applied his military talents to the conquest of both countries. He approved of the Reichenau Order or Severity Order and must have known what it portended for the Jews of Ukraine, yet "sat silent and acquiescent" while the Einsatzgruppen did their work.
He claimed that the Army would have liked to feed the three million Soviet POWs, yet he apparently took no interest in their fate once they were taken to the rear. He asserted that he had an absolute duty as an officer to obey orders, yet claimed to have disobeyed both the Commissar Order in Russia and the Commando Order in France.
These inconsistencies were exposed both at Nuremberg, in the trials of the Einsatzgruppen leaders who also claimed they had a duty to obey distasteful orders and in the trials of senior officers, and in Manstein's trial in They would certainly also have been exposed if Rundstedt had come to trial. On this basis his biographer concludes: Edit Read in another language Gerd von Rundstedt. Invasion of Poland Edit Rundstedt's retirement did not last long.
German mistreatment of Soviet prisoners of war. Severity Order Bribery of senior Wehrmacht officers. Volume 21 , Nizkor.
See also Wilmot p. Evil on Trial , Headline Review , p. Fritsch was eventually exonerated by a Court of Honour, but was not re-instated. This quote is a paraphrase of Hitler's actual words, as recorded in General Halder's diary. Liddell-Hart's views were based on extensive interviews with former German Army commanders, notably Rundstedt, with whom he developed a close relationship.
Rundstedt was actually in Ukraine, not Russia, but like most Germans of this period he drew no distinction. The Soviets had suffered many more, but they had a larger population to recruit from, and could train new recruits quicker and more cheaply.
Rundstedt's letter was not a resignation, but an invitation to Hitler to dismiss him if he had lost confidence in him.