Georg von Boeselager

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Military People; World War II

Georg Freiherr von Boeselager
1915- 1944
Place of birth Kassel, Germany
Place of death Łomża, Poland
Allegiance Germany
Years of service 1934- 1944
Rank Oberst der Kavallerie
Unit 15th Cavalry
Commands "School for Shocktroops"
Third Cavalry Brigade
Cavalry Regiments Centre
Battles/wars Invasion of Poland
Battle of France
July 20 Plot
Eastern Front (World War II)
Awards Iron Cross Second Class
Iron Cross First Class
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Georg Freiherr von Boeselager (b. August 25, 1915 near Kassel - † August 27, 1944 near Łomża, Poland) was a German nobleman and officer of the Wehrmacht, who ultimately served as Colonel ( Oberst) of Cavalry.

Born to a Roman Catholic family, he chose military service over the priesthood and enlisted with the German armed forces in 1934. In World War II, he served in the Heer with distinction in several notable offensives, including the 1939 Invasion of Poland, the 1940 Battle of France, and 1941's Operation Barbarossa, and was awarded the Iron Cross multiple times. He ultimately achieved the rank of Oberst and was made Instructor of Tactics at the "School for Shocktroops" in Krampintz.

Along with his brother Philipp von Boeselager, he participated in the 1944 July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Returning to the front after the failed plot, Boeselager was killed in action against a heavily fortified Russian position on August 27, 1944. On August 29, he was posthumously promoted to full colonel and awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.


Education & early military career

From his youth, Boeselager was trained as an apprentice cavalryman; known in German as Turnierreiter — something like "tournament rider": an equestrian competitor in the German Turner tradition. He also enjoyed hunting and other outdoor spoorts. His was an old military family, but also a devoutly Catholic one, and young Georg wavered before finally settling on the military over the priesthood. Before this decision was final, young Boeselager attended secondary school at Aloysius College in Bad Godesberg. Beginning on April 1, 1934, he trained with the 15th Cavalry Regiment in Paderborn. When he completed his basic training in 1936, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant; then in March, 1939, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.

For his actions in the Invasion of Poland, Boeselager was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class. His service on the Western Front in 1940 was similarly distinguished: for his actions in bridging the Seine near Les Andelys on June 13, 1940, he was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class; and in January 1941, he won the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. By July of that year, he had risen to the rank of Rittmeister, or Captain of Cavalry. An efficiency report praised von Boeselager as "...a spirited cavalry officer, who thinks boldly and surely in taking decisions, but who is modest and unassuming, the idol of his men..."

In Operation Barbarossa, Boeselager again showed himself a courageous and exemplary officer. His unit performed reconnaisance for the double-pronged sweep around Brest-Litovsk to take Byalistok and Minsk, seized bridgheads over the Nema and Daugava rivers and participated in the Battle of Moscow. For accomplishing his duties with distinction, he was granted the Knight's Cross with Oak leaves on December 31, 1941. Afterwards, he was detached from his unit and made Instructor of Tactics at the "School for Shocktroops" in Krampintz. Boeselager was asked to instruct students in Panzer tactics, even though he preferred commanding traditional cavalry, which he felt still had a place on the modern battlefield. In his capacity as instructor, Boeselager made contacts among the military resistance, who had seen that things were not going well at the front.

The plot to kill Hitler

Von Boeselager worked with Romanian troops of the Romanian Third Army, training them to fight alongside the German Sixth Army which at first advanced deep into the Soviet Union, but was destined to surrender at Stalingrad.

After an audience with Field Marshall General Günther von Kluge, then the commander of Army Group Centre, Boeselager was assigned as Deputy Commander, Cavalry Regiments Centre, a freestanding cavalry unit fighting on the Eastern Front. Boeselager made frequent trips to confer with von Kluge, sometimes flying along with the field marshall's staff on his transport plane .

At a 1943 field conference the feasiblity of an assassination of Hitler was discussed among some of the officers present. Some suggested killing Hitler with a pistol, but no officer could be found who would dare attempt it. Many who would gladly give their lives in battle in the company of their comrades abhorred the idea of going alone assassinate an unarmed head of state. One year earlier, a Luftwaffe officer had lain in wait for Hitler while the Führer was out walking in the woods, but found he was unable to move his arms when the critical moment came. Von Boeselager confided to his new friend and future superior, Major General Henning von Tresckow, that he would likely freeze up as well. It was qualms about the method, not the fact of the killing itself, that perturbed von Boeselager. In fact, Boeselager had come to believe that he had a duty to God and his fellowmen to kill Hitler, who was the antithesis of all that his religious upbringing represented. Instead of a lone assassination , Boeselager envisioned a scenario where, in command of a cavalry honour guard, he would overwhelm Hitler's SS bodyguard and shoot the Führer in a fair fight; this course was rejected because von Kluge did not like the prospect of a large numbers of German soldiers fighting each other. Boeselager later offered to charge the Wolf's Lair with a full battalion of cavalry; this was rejected because of the extremely high casualties the unit would likely suffer and because it was impossible to transfer the unit from Prussia. Another suggestion was that a bomb be smuggled into Hitler's plane. This last idea was indeed attempted, with the bomb being placed by lawyer Fabian von Schlabrendorff, but the device failed to detonate. Rittmeister Boeselager, meanwhile, returned to the front.

On June 1, 1943, Boeselager was promoted to Major. In a subsequent campaign of October 1943 he was wounded. On December 1, he was promoted to Oberstleutnant. After receiving another wound in February 1944, Boeselanger, still not fully recuperated in June, was assigned to a rear echelon squadron. There he began to plot a new attempt on Hitler in league with von Tresckow.

Boeselager was dispatched by von Tresckow to urge his old commander, von Kluge, to change his strategy and to join the conspiracy against Hitler. Von Kluge was now Commander-in-Chief in the West; in the East, German lines were spread so thin that multiple Russian breakthroughs were inevitable. Tresckow wanted von Kluge to open the front in the West, begin negotiations with the British and Americans, and transfer assets to the Eastern Front to fight the " Bolsheviks", viewed as a much crueler and uncompromising enemy. Hitler and his cronies, all obstacles to sound military strategy and peacemaking, would be eliminated. In the plan that von Tresckow envisioned, Von Kluge would arrange for the former's transfer so that he could help consolidate the coup. However, Von Kluge felt that the Americans and British would be "opening up" his front for him soon no matter what he actions he took, did not trust most of his staff to keep silent about the conspiracy, and therefore declined to participate in the plot or any other planning. Von Boeselager returned to von Tresckow empty-handed, but he still had a contribution to make.

In support of the German resistance, von Boeselager would bide with the greater part of his brigade in the Prussian hinterlands, then advance to take Berlin and hold it. Von Boeselager also helped Wessel Freiherr von Freytag-Loringhoven in procuring the British Hexogen plastic explosive and other parts used in the bomb that would be used to kill Hitler - a fact that his friends who were tortured by Hitler's security services never revealed . At the appointed time, von Boeselager and his brother began marching their columns on Berlin. But before he and his men could reach Berlin, he was informed by about the unsuccessful bombing carried out on July 20 by Claus von Stauffenberg. Boeselager accordingly led his troops back to the front with great celerity and doing the utmost to camouflage the reason for the troop movement; thus, he and his brother Phillip were not implicated in the plot. Approximately 5,000 others were not so lucky, and were executed for their roles, however minor.

Death and legacy

Although the brothers von Boeselager had escaped initial suspicion, investigators sent a message to one of Georg's old units in France requesting that "First Lieutenant von Boeselager" be detained for questioning; his old comrades replied (semi-truthfully, since Boeselager had long since been promoted) that they knew no such officer. Even though he was now a field-grade officer, Georg continued his hard-charging junior cavalryman's ways. Perhaps Georg was aware that his life was in danger and he wished to die a hero, reasoning that his family would be less liable to Nazi persecution, or else he was despondent about the failure of the plot and the future of Germany under Hitler or under Russian occupation. Unfortunately for historians, Oberst von Boeselager carried the knowledge of his motivations to the grave, falling in an assault against a heavily fortified Russian position near Łomża on the River Bug on August 27, 1944. On August 29, he was posthumously promoted to full colonel and awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords — one of only 159 German soldiers so decorated in the history of the award.

The Bundeswehr's Freiherr von Boeselager Kaserne ("Baron von Boeselager Barracks") near Munich are named for him, as are the Georg-von-Boeselager-Strasse ("George von Boeselager Street") and the Georg-von-Boeselager-Schule ("George von Boeselager Primary School") in Bonn.

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