Family | Erwin von Witzleben

Erwin von Witzleben
“It’s as if he saw the heart of every person”[1]  

"In the past, almost all members of our family had a spiritual connection to this land."[1] This sentence from the von Witzleben family history denotes the link between Hude and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben. The memorial at Hude is meant not only as a marker of the family burial place, but also as a symbol conveying that such a connection should be a mutual one.

Job Wilhelm Georg Erdmann Erwin von Witzleben, was born in 1881, the son of a military family in Breslau (now Wroclaw/Poland), and belonged to the Elgersburger line of an extended family that has its origin in 11th century Thuringia. His training and education saw him in cadet schools in Wahlstatt, Silesia, and Berlin-Lichterfelde.

He would become a member of the Prussian Army continuing a tradition that began with the service of his great-great grandfather, Albrecht von Witzleben, under Frederick the Great. After entering the Prussian Army, as a staff officer in World War I, he took over as captain in 1919, where he would continue his career in various stations and ultimately as commander of the army’s 1st regiment and the army Group D as Field Marshal. On July 21st, 1944, he was arrested as a "co-conspirator" to an assassination attempt on Hitler and sentenced on the 8th of August of that year as the highest ranking soldier of Roland Freisler.
Erwin von Witzleben
The execution occurred on the same day at Plötzensee, Berlin. What sets Erwin von Witzleben apart can be summarized by Rüdiger von Voss: "…he had a personality that stood on the foundation of his faith, his conscience, and all parts of his responsibilities are marked by this. The sentence from Hannah Arendt, that under conditions of terror most people flee, but others do not. The latter quality is a shining example of Erwin von Witzleben"[1]

Erwin von Witzleben was not one of those that cheered at the rise of the Nazi Regime. In 1934, Erwin became part of an organized resistance in the so called Night of Long Knives. He used his position to make numerous connections and build a network of fellow resistors. His struggles were described by George von Witzleben in his biography as being against "Satan Hitler". Witzleben was reputed to have been for many hours with Nazi leaders at great pain.[2] His motto, which he gained during his times as a cadet, was "loyalty is the mark of honor". Thus, he had brought to life the loyalty and traditional values of his Prussian history.

The circle closed here, in that tradition is a part of the family legacy that Erwin von Witzleben helped coin. In this family spirit, the von Witzleben Clan was gathered in 1963 to commemorate Erwin von Witzleben at the family burial site, a final objection to the Nazi Regime after his and his comrades’ execution.

Text: Michael E.W. Ney

[1] G.v.Witzleben: "Wenn es gegen den Satan Hitler geht…"
[2] Hermann Job Wilhelm v. Witzleben: „Geschichte des Geschlechts von Witzleben“
[3] G.v.Witzleben: "Wenn es gegen den Satan Hitler geht…"
[4] G.v.Witzleben: "Wenn es gegen den Satan Hitler geht…"


  • Georg von Witzleben: "Wenn es gegen den Satan Hitler geht…" – Erwin von Witzleben im Widerstand, Osburg Verlag Hamburg 2013
  • Hermann Job Wilhelm von Witzleben: "Geschichte des Geschlechts von Witzleben"-Band III 1869 – 1963, München  1972
  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger: "Hammerstein oder der Eigensinn", Suhrkamp Frankfurt/M 2008
  • Stephan Malinowski: "Vom König zum Führer- Deutscher Adel und Nationalsozialismus", Fscher Taschenbuchverlag Frankfurt / M 2004
  • Hans Mommsen: "Alternative zu Hitler – Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Widerstandes", Beck Reihe München 2000
  • Wolfgang Benz / Walter H. Pehle (Hg.): "Lexikon des deutschen Widerstandes", Fischer Taschenbuchverlag Frankfurt / M 2001
Press article:

Contact for the estate of Erwin von Witzleben is his great-granddaughter Beate Reimer.