October 28, 1897 – November 28, 1984
Place of birth Metzingen, Germany Place of death Bad Honnef, Germany Allegiance German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany (to 1944)
Years of service 1914 - 1963 Rank General Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross, German Cross Other work Commander-in-Chief of the Allied ground forces in Central Europe from April 1957 to September 1963
Hans Speidel (28 October 1897 - 28 November 1984) was a German general during World War II and during the Cold War.
Born in Metzingen, Speidel joined the German Army in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I and was quickly promoted to second lieutenant. He stayed in the German Army during the interwar period and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on the eve of World War II. Speidel served in the French campaign of 1940 and in August became Chief of Staff of the military commander in France. In 1942 Speidel was sent to the Eastern Front where he served as Chief of Staff of the 5th Army Corps, and as Chief of Staff of Army Group South in 1943, by which time he had been promoted to major-general. In April 1944, Speidel was appointed Chief of Staff to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Commander-in-Chief of Army Group B, responsible for the defense of the French Atlantic coast. When Rommel was wounded in an air attack on his staff car, Speidel continued as Chief of Staff for the new commander of Army Group B, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge.
Speidel was a German Nationalist and was happy with some Nazi policies (i.e. defeating France, reversing the Treaty of Versailles etc.), but was ashamed of Nazi Germany's racial policies. He was involved in the July 20 Plot to kill Adolf Hitler, but managed to evade Gestapo attempts to find all involved. He was suspected however and was eventually arrested on 7 September 1944 by the Gestapo and accused of being involved in the July Plot. Under interrogation he admitted nothing and did not betray anyone. Speidel appeared before an Army Court of honour but Gerd von Rundstedt, Heinz Guderian, and Wilhelm Keitel decided not to expel him from the German Army, thus meaning he would not appear before Roland Freisler's People's Court. Rommel, in his final letter to Hitler of 1 October 1944, appealed for Speidel's release, but received no answer. He was jailed for 7 months by the Gestapo, then tried to escape and went into hiding, waiting for the Allies. He was freed by French troops on 29 April 1945.
After the war Speidel served for some time as professor of modern history at Tübingen and in 1950 published his book Invasion 1944: Rommel and the Normandy Campaign before being involved in the development and creation of the new German Army (Bundeswehr) and reached the NATO rank of full general. He was Commander-in-Chief of the Allied ground forces in Central Europe from April 1957 to September 1963, an impressive achievement considering he had been a general under Hitler fifteen years before. Speidel was one of the inner circle of conspirators (the only one not to be executed or commit suicide), and had been delegated by anti-Hitler forces to recruit Rommel for the conspiracy - which he had cautiously begun to do prior to Rommel's injury in a Canadian strafing attack on 17 July 1944. Along with German, Speidel spoke fluent English and French.
Speidel died at Bad Honnef in 1984.
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