Wilhelm List

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Wilhelm List
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S36487, Wilhelm List.jpg
List as General
Born(1880-05-14)14 May 1880
Ulm, German Empire
Died17 August 1971(1971-08-17) (aged 91)
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany
AllegianceFlag of the German Empire.svg  German Empire
Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg  Weimar Republic
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany
Years of service1898–1942
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Commands held 14th Army
12th Army
Army Group A
World War I

World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Signature Wilhelm List signature.svg

Wilhelm List (14 May 1880 – 17 August 1971) was a German field marshal during World War II who was convicted of war crimes by a US Army tribunal after the war. List commanded the 14th Army in the invasion of Poland and the 12th Army in the invasions of France, Yugoslavia and Greece. In 1941 he commanded the German forces in Southeast Europe responsible for the occupation of Greece and Yugoslavia. In July 1942 during Case Blue, the German summer offensive in Southern Russia, he was appointed commander of Army Group A, responsible for the main thrust towards the Caucasus and Baku.

Field marshal is a very senior military rank, ordinarily senior to the general officer ranks. Usually it is the highest rank in an army, and when it is, few persons are appointed to it. It is considered as a five-star rank (OF-10) in modern-day armed forces in many countries. Promotion to the rank of field marshal in many countries historically required extraordinary military achievement by a general. However, the rank has also been used as a divisional command rank and also as a brigade command rank. Examples of the different uses of the rank include Austria-Hungary, Prussia/Germany, India and Sri Lanka for an extraordinary achievement; Spain and Mexico for a divisional command ; and France, Portugal and Brazil for a brigade command.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

14th Army (Wehrmacht) German field army during World War II

The 14th Army was a World War II field army of the German Army.


Following the war, List was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity and stood trial in the Hostages Trial of 1947. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. List was released early, and died in 1971.

Crimes against humanity deliberate attack against civilians

Crimes against humanity are certain acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population. The first prosecution for crimes against humanity took place at the Nuremberg trials. Crimes against humanity have since been prosecuted by other international courts as well as in domestic prosecutions. The law of crimes against humanity has primarily developed through the evolution of customary international law. Crimes against humanity are not codified in an international convention, although there is currently an international effort to establish such a treaty, led by the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative.

Hostages Trial trial

The Hostages Trial was held from 8 July 1947 until 19 February 1948 and was the seventh of the twelve trials for war crimes that United States authorities held in their occupation zone in Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before US military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve US trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).

Early life and career

List was born in Oberkirchberg in 1880 and entered the Bavarian Army in 1898; in 1913 he joined the general staff and served as a staff officer in World War I. After the war, List stayed in the Reichswehr. By 1932, he was promoted to Generalleutnant. In 1938, after the Anschluss of Austria, List was responsible for integrating the Austrian Armed Forces into the Wehrmacht.

The Bavarian Army was the army of the Electorate (1682–1806) and then Kingdom (1806–1919) of Bavaria. It existed from 1682 as the standing army of Bavaria until the merger of the military sovereignty (Wehrhoheit) of Bavaria into that of the German State in 1919. The Bavarian army was never comparable to the armies of the Great Powers of the 19th century, but it did provide the Wittelsbach dynasty with sufficient scope of action, in the context of effective alliance politics, to transform Bavaria from a territorially-disjointed small state to the second-largest state of the German Empire after Prussia.

<i>Reichswehr</i> 1921–1935 combined military forces of Germany

The Reichswehr formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was united with the new Wehrmacht.

Generalleutnant, short GenLt, is the second highest general officer rank in the German Army (Heer) and the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).

World War II

In 1939, List commanded the German 14th Army in the invasion of Poland. It was List's task to advance his army into southern Poland immediately at the start of the invasion, to form the extreme southern wing of an encircling manoeuver carried out by the German forces aimed at trapping the Polish field army in the general region of Warsaw. He didn't fulfill this mission, although he met advance elements of the German XIX Panzer Corps under General Heinz Guderian a short distance south of Brest-Litovsk, on 17 September 1939. Following the conclusion of the fighting in Poland, which was accelerated by the occupation of the eastern part of the country by Soviet forces (as agreed to in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), List and his army remained posted in Poland as occupying forces.

Invasion of Poland Start of WWII in Europe

The invasion of Poland, marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.

Warsaw Capital of Poland

Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.78 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 8th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 517.24 square kilometres (199.71 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical old town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Heinz Guderian WW2 German general favoring blizkrieg

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. An early pioneer and advocate of the "blitzkrieg" approach, he played a central role in the development of the panzer division concept. In 1936, he became the Inspector of Motorized Troops.

Invasion of France

During the huge German offensive against France and the Low Countries May to June 1940, the 14th army remained in Poland, but this was not the case with its commander. In May 1940 List commanded the 12th German army during the fall of France. The 12th army was a unit of the German Army Group A, under command of Gerd von Rundstedt. It was this Army Group that successfully forced the Ardennes and then made the imperative break-through on 15 May 1940, which spread panic in the French forces and cut the British expeditionary forces off from their supply lines.

Gerd von Rundstedt German Field Marshal during World War II

Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a German field marshal in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Ardennes low mountain range in Belgium

The Ardennes, also known as the Ardennes Forest or Forest of Ardennes, is a region of extensive forests, rough terrain, rolling hills and ridges formed by the geological features of the Ardennes mountain range and the Moselle and Meuse river basins. Geologically, the range is a western extension of the Eifel, and both were raised during the Givetian age of the Devonian, as were several other named ranges of the same greater range.

After this successful campaign List was among the twelve generals that Hitler promoted to Field Marshal during the 1940 Field Marshal Ceremony. In early 1941, German troops were being steadily massed on the Eastern Front of the Third Reich, in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. OKW believed that before Barbarossa could be launched it would be necessary to eliminate the possibility of interference from Greece by militarily subduing this country, in an operation codenamed Operation Marita. List was delegated to negotiate with the Bulgarian General Staff, and a secret agreement was signed allowing the free passage of German troops through Bulgarian territory. On the night of 28/29 February 1941, German troops—including List, who now commanded the 12th Army—took up positions in Bulgaria, which the next day joined the Tripartite Pact.

1940 Field Marshal Ceremony

The 1940 Field Marshal Ceremony refers to a promotion ceremony held at the Kroll Opera House in Berlin in which Adolf Hitler promoted twelve generals to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall on 19 July 1940. It was the first occasion in World War II that Hitler appointed field marshals due to military achievements.

Operation Barbarossa 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation put into action Nazi Germany's ideological goal of conquering the western Soviet Union so as to repopulate it with Germans. The German Generalplan Ost aimed to use some of the conquered as slave labour for the Axis war effort, to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories, and eventually to annihilate the Slavic peoples and create Lebensraum for Germany.

<i>Oberkommando der Wehrmacht</i> High Command of the Wehrmacht (armed forces) of Nazi Germany during World War II

The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was the High Command of the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany. Created in 1938, the OKW replaced the Reich War Ministry and had nominal oversight over the German Army, the Kriegsmarine (navy), and the Luftwaffe.

Invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia

List (right) with Waffen-SS general Sepp Dietrich (left) in Greece, April 1941 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L26888, Griechenland, Vorverhandlungen uber Kapitulation.jpg
List (right) with Waffen-SS general Sepp Dietrich (left) in Greece, April 1941

On 6 April 1941 the Wehrmacht launched invasions both of Greece and of Yugoslavia. List's 12th Army, consisting of four armored divisions and 11 motorized infantry divisions, totally outmatched the defending forces. German forces occupied Belgrade on 13 April and Athens on 27 April. The mainland Balkans campaign ended with the evacuation of British forces on 28 April. In the Balkans List became implicated in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians by having ordered hostage-taking and reprisal killings.

Summer campaign of 1942 and dismissal

In early July 1942, List took command of Army Group A, newly formed from the split of Army Group South during the Germans’ summer offensive named Case Blue. [1] His orders were to take Rostov and then advance into the Caucasus as far as Baku to capture the oil-rich region. German forces made good progress for two months, advancing almost to Grozny, about 650 km (400 mi) from Rostov.

However, by the end of August their advance had ground to a halt, chiefly due to considerably stiffened Soviet resistance, and also due to critical shortages of fuel and ammunition as the army group outran its supply lines. Matters were made worse for the Germans by the removal in mid-August of most Luftwaffe combat units to the north to support the 6th Army’s drive on Stalingrad.

Hitler was angered by the loss of momentum, and when List proposed moving some stalled spearhead units to another, less advanced portion of the front to assist in destroying stubborn Soviet forces, Hitler relieved him of command on 9 September and tried to command the Army Group himself from OKH. On 22 November 1942, he placed Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist in charge. List spent the rest of the war at his home and never returned to active duty.

Hostages trial

Wilhelm List (left) and Walter Kuntze (right) take a walk in the prison yard during the Hostage Case. List&Kuntze.jpg
Wilhelm List (left) and Walter Kuntze (right) take a walk in the prison yard during the Hostage Case.

List was arrested by the Allies after the war. In 1947, List and 11 former subordinates were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity—primarily the reprisal killing of Serbian hostages in Yugoslavia. List was tried in front of a U.S. military court in the Hostages Trial, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in February 1948. List was released from prison in December 1952, officially because of ill health. However, he lived for another 19 years, dying on 17 August 1971 at the age of 91.


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  1. Adam, Wilhelm; Ruhle, Otto (2015). With Paulus at Stalingrad. Translated by Tony Le Tissier. Pen and Sword Books Ltd. p. 25. ISBN   9781473833869.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Rangliste des Deutschen Reichsheeres (in German). Berlin: Mittler & Sohn. p. 184.
  3. Scherzer 2007, p. 510.
  4. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 294.


  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile[The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN   978-3-7909-0284-6.
  • Hayward, Joel S. A. Stopped At Stalingrad. University Press of Kansas; Lawrence: 1998. ISBN   978-0-7006-1146-1.

(In German)

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of 12th Army
13 October 1939 – 29 October 1941
Succeeded by
General der Pioniere Walter Kuntze