As World War I began in 1914, Burgdorf enlisted in the 'Royal Prussian Army.'
In 1915, he was appointed as an infantry officer in 'Grenadier Regiment 12.'
As the war progressed, not only did he move up the ranks of the force but was also honored for his exemplary service.
After the end of the war in 1918, he began serving in the 'Reichswehr.' This military organization existed from 1919 until it was merged with the 'Wehrmacht' in 1935, two years after the ‘Nazis’ seized power.
In 1930, he was made the captain of his army.
After the 'Reichswehr' united with the 'Wehrmacht,' he was promoted to the rank of major. In this capacity, he became a trainer of war strategy at the military academy in Dresden, presently the capital city of the state of Saxony in Germany.
Two years later, in 1937, he was made an adjutant on the staff of the ‘IX Corps.’ Not long after, in 1938, he rose to the position of lieutenant colonel.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he became busier and grew through the ranks of the German army.
For almost 2 years, between May 1940 and April 1942, he was appointed as the commander of the '529th Infantry Regiment.'
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In May 1942, he was made the “Chief of Department 2” of the 'Heerespersonalamt' (the ‘German Army Personnel Office’).
In less than 6 months (in October 1942), he rose to the rank of “Generalmajor,” which was equivalent to major general, and then became the deputy chief.
In October 1944, his impressive service record and staunch loyalty to Hitler earned him the posts of the chief of the ‘Army Personnel Office’ and the chief adjutant to Hitler.
While serving as Hitler's chief adjutant, he participated vigorously in executing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was part of 'Operation Valkyrie,' a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.
Adhering to Hitler's instructions, the chief of 'Oberkommando der Wehrmacht' (or ‘OKW,’ Armed Forces High Command), Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel, instructed Burgdorf on how to handle Rommel. According to the plan, on October 14, 1944, Burdorf reached Rommel's residence, accompanied by another senior officer from the force.
Burgdorf read out the charges and gave him three options: to plead not guilty before Hitler; to accept his guilt, consume poison, and be honored with a state funeral, obtaining immunity for his subordinates and family; or to face a trial for treason.
Rommel left along with Burgdorf, and a few minutes later, Rommel's family was informed of his death by suicide, over the telephone.
Not much later, he was promoted to the post of “Generalleutnant,” equivalent to lieutenant general, the second-highest rank in the 'German Army.' In November 1944, he was made the “General der Infanterie,” or the general of the infantry.
In March 1945, as the Russian army approached Berlin, the end of World War II seemed evident (with only Berlin left to be captured, eventually after the 'Battle of Berlin').
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Soon after the battle began, on April 28, 1945, Burgdorf moved into the ‘Fuhrerbunker,’ an air-raid shelter, joining Hitler.
The same day, Burdorf, along with Hitler, participated in the court-martial proceedings of the high-ranking officer Hans Otto Georg Hermann Fegelein.
Burgdorf and three other staunch ‘Nazi’ and Hitler loyalists witnessed and signed the last will and testament of Hitler on April 29, 1945, the day before Hitler killed himself.
Burgdorf's loyalty to Hitler was so strong that he followed Hitler's orders and avoided surrender even after Hitler's death on April 30, 1945. When he learned that Ministerialdirektor Hans Fritzsche was planning to surrender to the Russians, he unsuccessfully tried to shoot and kill him.
Awards & Honors
During World War I, he was honored with the 'Iron Cross’ (1914), ‘2nd Class’ (January 24, 1915), and ‘1st Class’ (August 14, 1916). He also received the 'Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords' (August 27, 1917), the 'Military Merit Cross, 3rd Class with War Decoration' (Austria-Hungary, February 27, 1918), the 'Knight's Cross, 2nd Class of the Friedrich Order with Swords' (July 18, 1918), and the 'Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg' (October 18, 1918).
During the period of uneasy peace between the two World Wars, he was decorated with the 'Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918' (December 20, 1934) and the 'Wehrmacht Long Service Award 2nd Class' (October 2, 1936).
As World War II progressed, he received the ‘Clasp to the Iron Cross’ (1939), ‘2nd Class’ (June 15, 1940), and ‘1st Class’ (June 17, 1940). He was also awarded the 'Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross’ on September 29, 1941 (as Oberst and commander of ‘Infanterie-Regiment 529').