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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, political scientist, and revolutionary socialist. Along with Karl Marx, Engels helped develop Marxism, which has had a profound impact on fields like philosophy and anthropology. Engels is credited with helping Marx publish Das Kapital, a foundational theoretical work in politics, economics, and materialist philosophy. He also co-authored influential political documents like The Communist Manifesto.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, known for his ruthlessness, not only united the German empire by crushing all rebellious vassals, but also put an end to the attacks by the Magyars of Hungary. His strategy of making the German bishops feudal lords helped his cause of stabilizing his empire.
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.
Adolf Galland was a German flying ace and Luftwaffe general who served during World War II in Europe. He flew as much as 705 combat missions and fought in the Defence of the Reich and on the Western Front. During the course of his illustrious career, Adolf Galland achieved 104 aerial victories against the Western Allies.
Prince Rupert of the Rhine was a German-English admiral, army officer, colonial governor, and scientist. Renowned for his energy and quick-thinking, Rupert made long-lasting and impressive contributions to the doctrine and development of the Royal Navy. He is also credited with shaping modern Canada's political geography.
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.
Hitler’s legal advisor Hans Frank was made the governor-general of Poland after World War II broke out. Known as the Butcher of Poland for his atrocities against the Jews, he was hanged at the end of the Nuremberg Trials. He penned his autobiography while awaiting his execution.
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.
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.
One of the most powerful leaders of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler was a German dicator whose policies started the WWII that resulted in the death of millions of people. He had a visceral hatred for Jews and during his regime nearly six million Jews were killed in Holocaust.
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.
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.
Erich Raeder was a German admiral best remembered for his role in World War II. In 1939, Raeder became the first person since Henning von Holtzendorff to hold the rank of Grand Admiral, the highest possible naval rank. Raeder led the Kriegsmarine, the navy of Nazi Germany, for the first half of the Second World War before resigning in 1943.
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.
Franz Halder, the son of an army officer, became the Chief of General Staff of the German army, replacing General Ludwig Beck. He later became the Commander in Chief but was replaced due to disagreements with Hitler. He later testified against major Nazi officials in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.
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.