George Patton was a general of the US Army, remembered for his work as a commander of the Seventh United States Army during World War II. He is also remembered for commanding the Third Army in the Western Front in June 1944 after the Allied invasion of Normandy. His life and work inspired the 1970 epic biographical war film Patton.
Known as The Desert Fox, Nazi field marshal Erwin Rommel led the Axis forces during World War II. For his plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, he was given a choice to either commit suicide by consuming a cyanide pill or face a trial and execution. He chose the former.
Also known as Charles the Great, Charlemagne ruled as the king of the Franks, king of the Lombards, and emperor of the Romans at different time periods. Not surprisingly, he had a major impact during the Early Middle Ages as he went about uniting the majority of central and western Europe, for which he is called the Father of Europe.
German military general Heinz Guderian was part of World War II and led the successful invasions of Poland and France. He was dismissed after the failed Operation Typhoon. He used the blitzkrieg approach and was in charge of training the panzer forces. He wrote a bestselling memoir, following the war.
German military leader Erich Ludendorff gained fame with the victories at Liège and Tannenberg during World War I. He promoted the theory that Marxists, Jews, and Freemasons were responsible for Germany’s defeat in the war. He later became a military theorist, writing books such as The Total War.
German army officer Claus von Stauffenberg, a significant figure of the German Resistance Movement within the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany, attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944, but failed. He was executed by a firing squad soon after Operation Valkyrie. He had earlier actively participated in World War II.
Martin Bormann was a Nazi Party official. Bormann headed the Nazi Party Chancellery, and gained immense power after he was accepted into Adolf Hitler's inner circle. In 1935, he became Hitler's personal secretary and served as the minister of the Nazi Party after Hitler's suicide in 1945.
Hermann Goring was a German military and political leader. One of the most influential personalities in the Nazi Party, Göring oversaw the creation of the Gestapo. He also played a key role in the Holocaust, for which he was later convicted of crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.
Frederick III, German Emperor reigned as the king of Prussia and emperor of the German Empire from 9 March 1888 until his death on 15 June 1888. Although he played key roles during the Austro-Prussian, Second Schleswig, and Franco-Prussian wars, Frederick professed hatred for warfare and was willing to make the German Empire more liberal before his untimely death.
German politician Joachim von Ribbentrop was Nazi Germany’s minister of foreign affairs from 1938 to 1945. He let Hitler use his summer house, Schloss Fuschl, for secret Nazi meetings. Ribbentrop was eventually convicted of war crimes and became the first Nuremberg defendant to be hanged to death.
German politician, Konrad Adenauer, served as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963. He was also the co-founder and the first leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). He played a key role in leading his country from the ruins of World War II to becoming a prosperous nation.
Remembered as the most successful fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare, Erich Hartmann completed 1,400 missions in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 and shot down 352 Allied planes. Known for his dogfighting strategy, he inspired the popular biography The Blond Knight of Germany and became a flight instructor post-retirement.
Carl von Clausewitz was a Prussian military theorist and general. As a theorist, Clausewitz stressed the political aspects of war. His book Vom Kriege, which talks about military strategy, has been very influential despite the fact that it was unfinished at the time of his death. His ideas also influenced personalities like Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, and Leon Trotsky.
22 Alfred Jodl
Alfred Jodl was a German colonel-general who played an important role throughout World War II by serving as Chief of the Operations Staff of a German Armed Forces High Command called the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. After the war, Jodl was tried at the Nuremberg trials and was found guilty on charges, such as crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Gerd von Rundstedt was a Nazi field marshal during World War II. His army was part of the German campaigns in France and Russia. He was defeated at the Battle of Normandy. Following the war, he was charged with war crimes but was not tried due to old age.
Franz von Papen was a German politician, Prussian nobleman, diplomat, and General Staff officer. From 1933 to 1934, he served under Adolf Hitler as the Vice-Chancellor of Germany. After World War II, Franz von Papen was indicted alongside other war criminals in the Nuremberg trials. However, he was later acquitted of all charges.
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder was a Prussian field marshal who served as the chief of staff in the Royal Prussian Army for 30 years. Moltke, who commanded troops during Austro-Prussian War, Second Schleswig War, and the Franco-Prussian War, is credited with creating a new method of directing armies. He is also credited with pioneering the military usage of railways.
William I, German Emperor reigned as the king of Prussia from 1861 until his death in 1888. He also reigned as the first German emperor from 1871 to 1888. He is credited with overseeing the unification of Germany and establishing the German Empire. William's reign also witnessed the brilliance of Otto von Bismarck, who served as the former's minister president.
Wilm Hosenfeld was a German Army officer, best remembered for rescuing many Polish people in Nazi-German occupied Poland. His efforts to help save the life of Jewish composer and pianist Władysław Szpilman were depicted in the 2002 biographical war drama film, The Pianist, in which Hosenfeld was portrayed by actor Thomas Kretschmann.
Friedrich Paulus was a German field marshal who played a major role in World War II. He is best remembered for his role in the Battle of Stalingrad, where he commanded the 6th Army. As German General Staff's deputy chief, he also helped plan Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
From being one of Hitler's most trusted confidante to getting termed as a back-stabber by Hitler himself, Heinrich Himmler had an interesting role in history. A powerful man in Nazi Germany, he is considered the main architect of the Holocaust, which killed six million Jews. During World War II, he betrayed Hitler and committed suicide after Hitler ordered his arrest.
31 Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt was a German statesman and politician. From 1964 to 1987, he led the Social Democratic Party of Germany. From 1969 to 1974, Brandt served as chancellor of West Germany. In 1971, he was honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve reconciliation between the countries of Eastern Europe and West Germany.
The current chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel is widely described as the world's most powerful woman. Also considered the de facto leader of the European Union (EU), Angela Merkel has played an important role in strengthening international trade agreements. In 2020, she was named in Time magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People.
Kurt Georg Kiesinger was a German politician. Nicknamed Silver Tongue, Kiesinger is best remembered for his outstanding skills as a mediator and orator. While serving as Baden-Württemberg's Minister President, Kiesinger founded the universities of Ulm and Konstanz. He is also credited with writing several books and poetry.
Michael Wittmann was a German Waffen-SS tank commander during World War II. While commanding a Tiger I tank, he destroyed up to 14 tanks and 15 personnel carriers, all within 15 minutes. Owing to this, he became a cult figure in Nazi Germany. He was killed during an ambush in 1944. Several books and websites are dedicated to him.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current president of Germany, has also been his nation’s Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs. A Social Democratic Party of Germany member, he went from being a factory worker’s son to studying law and politics and then eventually stepping into politics. He has also worked for the German military.
German general Kurt von Schleicher was the last Chancellor of the German Reich, or Weimar Republic, before Adolf Hitler came to power. He was killed on Hitler’s orders during the purge called the Night of the Long Knives. He had attempted to form an anti-Hitler coalition called the Querfront.
41 Walter Model
One of Hitler’s favorite military generals during World War II, Walter Model is remembered for his defensive warfare and for his exploits in Operation Market Garden. The commander of the Ninth Army, he guarded the Eastern Front, but after Germany’s defeat in the Battle of the Bulge, he committed suicide.
42 Paul Schäfer
Paul Schäfer Schneide was a Nazi era German colonel, who at the end of WWII founded an orphanage in West Germany. Charged with child molestation, he fled to Chile, where he established an isolated colony. But charged with child abuse, he had to flee once more before being arrested and convicted on twenty-five counts. He died while serving his term.
Helmut Schmidt, who had once been the chancellor of Germany, was also an avid art connoisseur and a talented pianist. The SPD member had also been associated with the DIE ZEIT magazine and is remembered for his efficient management of the Hamburg storm flood as the police senator of Hamburg.
Erich von Manstein was a German commander of the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces. He joined the army at a young age and was active during both World War I and World War II. Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, he was taken prisoner by the British. He was tried for war crimes and convicted on several counts.
While Wilhelm Canaris became one of Hitler’s most trusted secret agents, he was actually supplying information to Britain all along. He went down in history as a man who was hanged twice for treason, first as part of torture for a few moments, and then for good.
Anton Drexler was a German political leader who founded the anti-Semitic and pan-German German Workers' Party (DAP), which served as a precursor to the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Drexler is best remembered for mentoring Adolf Hitler when the latter was still learning the tricks of the trade.
Friedrich Ebert was a German politician who served as the president of Germany from 1919 to 1925. He played an important role during the German Revolution of 1918–19, which helped replace the federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary republic, which came to be known as the Weimar Republic. Friedrich Ebert also worked towards restoring peace in Germany.
Henning von Tresckow was a German Army officer who played a key role in organizing German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He drafted the Valkyrie plan for a coup against the German government and even attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1943. The next year, he once again plotted to kill Hitler and failed again, upon which he committed suicide.
Friedrich Fromm was a German Army officer who served as the Replacement Army's Commander in Chief during the Second World War. He is best remembered for his decision not to act against the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, for which he was executed on 12 March 1945. In the 2008 thriller movie Valkyrie, Friedrich Fromm was played by Tom Wilkinson.