Famous German Leaders

The leaders of a nation are vested with power which they can use to guide the masses on the path of development or lead to their doom, like the infamous dictator Adolf Hitler. Similar to the dictator, the history of Germany has witnessed the rise and fall of many great leaders. These leaders have made significant contribution to the changes in socio-economic conditions both for the better and worse. Had it not been for Kaiser Frederick III, or the dictator Paul von Hidenburg, or even the great politician Helmut Kohl, the history of revolution, war and politics would have remained incomplete. It is not an easy task to motivate the masses on this magnitude for a cause but these famous German leaders have endured the tests of time and have helped attain the cumulative objective of the nation through their strength of character, determination and tenacity. The legacy is carried forward by the leaders of the modern day like Willy Brandt, Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schroder, who like their predecessors are trying to steer the nation on the path of development.Browse through the collection of biographies of some of the most famous German leaders. Read them for more information on their life stories, timeline along with some interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 George Patton

George Patton.
39
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: November 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Gabriel, California, United States
Died: December 21, 1945

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.

 2 Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck.
28
Famous As: German Statesman
Birthdate: April 1, 1815
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Schönhausen
Died: July 30, 1898
Otto von Bismarck was a German statesman. Bismarck is credited with masterminding the unification of Germany and served as its first chancellor. He is also credited with creating the first modern welfare state in the world. Regarded as a hero by German nationalists, Otto von Bismarck's life has inspired a couple of TV series.
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 3 Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel.
20
Famous As: General
Birthdate: November 15, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Heidenheim an der Brenz, Germany
Died: October 14, 1944

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.

 4 Charlemagne

Charlemagne.
9
Famous As: King of the Frank
Birthdate: April 2, 0742
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Herstal
Died: January 28, 0814

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.

 5 Karl Dönitz

Karl Dönitz.
8
Famous As: Naval Officer
Birthdate: September 16, 1891
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Grünau, Berlin, Germany
Died: December 24, 1980
Karl Dönitz was the supreme commander of the German Navy and played a crucial role in World War II. Hitler made Dönitz his successor before committing suicide. Dönitz officially surrendered after Germany’s loss in World War II and was convicted as a war criminal at the 1946 Nuremberg Trials.

 6 Heinz Guderian

Heinz Guderian.
8
Famous As: German General
Birthdate: June 17, 1888
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chełmno
Died: May 14, 1954

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.

 7 Erich Ludendorff

Erich Ludendorff.
9
Famous As: General of German Army
Birthdate: April 9, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
Died: December 20, 1937

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.

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 8 Helmut Kohl

Helmut Kohl.
8
Famous As: Former Chancellor of Germany
Birthdate: April 3, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ludwigshafen
Died: June 16, 2017
Christian Democratic Union politician Helmut Kohl was the Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998. He had also served as the chairman of the CDU earlier. His tenure witnessed the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the formation of the European Union.
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 9 Rudolf Hess

Rudolf Hess.
10
Famous As: Deputy Führer
Birthdate: April 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Alexandria
Died: August 17, 1987
Nazi Party member Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s Deputy Führer and helped in the passage of the Nuremberg Laws. While on a trip to Scotland to initiate peace talks with the U.K. during World War II, he was arrested, and then convicted of war crimes. He eventually committed suicide in prison.

 10 Claus von Stauffenberg

Claus von Stauffenberg.
7
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: November 15, 1907
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jettingen-Scheppach, Germany
Died: July 21, 1944

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.

 11 Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen.
5
Famous As: President of the European Commission
Birthdate: October 8, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ixelles, Belgium
Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen is currently serving as the first president of the European Commission. Named to Time 100 in 2020, she has previously been the first female defense minister of Germany, and has held positions such as the deputy leader of the CDU and the minister of labor.

 12 Paul von Hindenburg

Paul von Hindenburg.
17
Famous As: General, Second President of Weimar Republic
Birthdate: October 2, 1847
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Posen, Duchy of Posen, Kingdom of Prussia (now Poznań)
Died: August 2, 1934
Paul von Hindenburg served as the second president of the German Weimar Republic, from 1925 to 1934. In 1933, he appointed Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany, and also signed the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler total administrative powers. Following his death, Hitler declared himself the Führer.

 13 Martin Bormann

Martin Bormann.
9
Famous As: Private Secretary of Adolf Hitler
Birthdate: June 17, 1900
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wegeleben, Germany
Died: May 2, 1945

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.

 14 Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg.
9
Famous As: Marxist Theorist
Birthdate: March 5, 1871
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Zamos'c'
Died: January 15, 1919
Polish Marxist and socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg was a member of parties such as the SPD, the USPD, and the KPD. Luxemburg was an anti-war activist and taught economics and Marxism at SPD's Berlin training center. She was assassinated by the Freikorps troops during the German Revolution

 15 Hermann Goring

Hermann Goring.
18
Famous As: German Military Leader
Birthdate: January 12, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rosenheim, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
Died: October 15, 1946

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.

 16 Frederick III, German Emperor

Frederick III, German Emperor.
4
Famous As: King
Birthdate: October 18, 1831
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Palace, Potsdam, Germany
Died: June 15, 1888

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.

 17 Joachim von Ribbentrop

Joachim von Ribbentrop.
6
Famous As: Nazi Minister
Birthdate: April 30, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wesel
Died: October 16, 1946

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.

 18 Konrad Adenauer

Konrad Adenauer.
5
Famous As: Former Chancellor of Germany
Birthdate: January 5, 1876
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cologne
Died: April 19, 1967

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.

 19 Erich Hartmann

Erich Hartmann
4
Famous As: Aviator, Officer
Birthdate: April 19, 1922
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Weissach
Died: September 20, 1993

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.

 20 Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
4
Famous As: Politician, Writer, Officer
Birthdate: March 20, 1870
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saarlouis
Died: March 9, 1964

 21 Karl Von Clausewitz

Karl Von Clausewitz.
4
Famous As: General
Birthdate: July 1, 1780
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Burg bei Magdeburg
Died: November 16, 1831

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.
5
Famous As: Military Commander, Nazi War Criminal
Birthdate: May 10, 1890
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Würzburg
Died: October 16, 1946

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.

 23 Gerd von Rundstedt

Gerd von Rundstedt.
5
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: December 12, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Aschersleben, Province of Saxony, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died: February 24, 1953

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.

 24 Franz von Papen

Franz von Papen.
4
Famous As: Former Vice-Chancellor of Germany
Birthdate: October 29, 1879
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Werl, Westphalia, Prussia, Germany
Died: May 2, 1969

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.

 25 Hermann Fegelein

Hermann Fegelein.
4
Famous As: Nazi Leader
Birthdate: October 30, 1906
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ansbach
Died: April 28, 1945
Nazi commander Hermann Fegelein, a proficient horseback rider, was in charge of Germany’s preparation for the equestrian category at the Berlin Olympic Games. He was married to Eva Braun’s sister, Gretl, but had numerous affairs. He was executed by Hitler's men for treason jut 2 days before Hitler's suicide.

 26 Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder.
4
Famous As: General, Historian
Birthdate: October 26, 1800
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Died: April 24, 1891

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. 

 27 William I, German Emperor

William I, German Emperor
4
Famous As: King
Birthdate: March 22, 1797
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: March 9, 1888

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.

 28 Wilm Hosenfeld

Wilm Hosenfeld.
6
Famous As: Army Officer
Birthdate: May 2, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mackenzell, Prussia, German Empire
Died: August 13, 1952

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.

 29 Friedrich Paulus

Friedrich Paulus.
7
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: September 23, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guxhagen, Germany
Died: February 1, 1957

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.

 30 Heinrich Himmler

Heinrich Himmler.
22
Famous As: Nazi Commander
Birthdate: October 7, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany
Died: May 23, 1945

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.
6
Famous As: Former Chancellor of Germany
Birthdate: December 18, 1913
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lübeck
Died: October 8, 1992

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.

 32 William, German Crown Prince

William, German Crown Prince
5
Famous As: Military commander
Birthdate: May 6, 1882
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Marmorpalais, Potsdam, Germany
Died: July 20, 1951

 33 Heinrich Müller

Heinrich Müller
7
Famous As: Police officer
Birthdate: April 28, 1900
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Munich
Died: April 30, 1945

 34 Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel.
56
Famous As: Chancellor of Germany
Birthdate: July 17, 1954
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hamburg, 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.

 35 Kurt Georg Kiesinger

Kurt Georg Kiesinger
6
Famous As: Politician, Lawyer, Judge
Birthdate: April 6, 1904
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ebingen
Died: March 9, 1988

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.

 36 Michael Wittmann

Michael Wittmann.
7
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: April 22, 1914
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vogelthal, Dietfurt, Germany
Died: August 8, 1944

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. 

 37 Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Frank-Walter Steinmeier
7
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 5, 1956
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Detmold, Germany

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.

 38 Erich Honecker

Erich Honecker.
6
Famous As: General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Birthdate: August 25, 1912
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Neunkirchen, Germany
Died: May 29, 1994
Erich Honecker led East Germany from 1971 until prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He had been the General Secretary of the SED and had chaired the National Defense Council. He was pardoned from a human rights abuses trial due to his struggle with liver cancer.

 39 Kurt von Schleicher

Kurt von Schleicher.
4
Famous As: Former Chancellor of Germany
Birthdate: April 7, 1882
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brandenburg, Germany
Died: June 30, 1934

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.

 40 Julius Streicher

Julius Streicher.
5
Famous As: A Member of National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)
Birthdate: February 12, 1885
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fleinhausen, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
Died: October 16, 1946
Julius Streicher went from being an elementary school teacher to establishing the anti-semitic Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer. He led an adulterous life and even spread rumors about his rival party members, which eventually led him to lose all party posts. He was eventually hanged after the Nuremberg trials.

 41 Walter Model

Walter Model.
6
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: January 24, 1891
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Genthin, Germany
Died: April 21, 1945

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
4
Famous As: Medic
Birthdate: December 4, 1921
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Troisdorf, Germany
Died: April 24, 2010

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.

 43 Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt.
6
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: December 23, 1918
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Died: November 10, 2015

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.

 44 Erich von Manstein

Erich von Manstein.
5
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: November 24, 1887
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: June 9, 1973

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.

 45 Wilhelm Canaris

Wilhelm Canaris.
6
Famous As: Admiral
Birthdate: January 1, 1887
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Aplerbeck
Died: April 9, 1945

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.

 46 Anton Drexler

Anton Drexler.
3
Famous As: Political Leader
Birthdate: June 13, 1884
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
Died: February 24, 1942

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.

 47 Friedrich Ebert

Friedrich Ebert.
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: February 4, 1871
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Heidelberg, Germany
Died: February 28, 1925

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.

 48 Henning von Tresckow

Henning von Tresckow.
3
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: January 10, 1901
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Magdeburg, Germany
Died: July 21, 1944

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. 

 49 Frederick William III of Prussia

Frederick William III of Prussia
3
Famous As: King
Birthdate: August 3, 1770
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Potsdam, Germany
Died: June 7, 1840

 50 Friedrich Fromm

Friedrich Fromm.
3
Famous As: German Army officer
Birthdate: October 8, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: March 12, 1945

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.