Alexander von Falkenhausen

General der Infanterie
Alexander von Falkenhausen
Falkenhausen in uniform, 1940
Birth name Alexander Ernst Alfred Hermann Freiherr von Falkenhausen
Born (1878-10-29)29 October 1878
Gut Blumenthal, Province of Silesia, German Empire
Died 31 July 1966(1966-07-31) (aged 87)
Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 China (to 1938)
 Nazi Germany
Years of service 1897–1930, 1934–1944
Rank General der Infanterie
Awards Pour le Mérite

Alexander Ernst Alfred Hermann Freiherr von Falkenhausen (29 October 1878 – 31 July 1966) was a German General and military advisor to Chiang Kai-shek.[1] [2] [3] He was an important figure during the Sino-German cooperation to reform the Chinese Army. In 1938 Germany, under pressure from Japan, ended its support for China and Falkenhausen was forced to withdraw from China.[4] Back in Europe, he later became the head of the military government of Belgium from 1940–44 during its German occupation.

He was married twice, firstly to Paula von Wedderkop (8 October 1879 – 3 March 1950) and then in 1960, to Cecile Vent (16 September 1906 – 1977), both without issue. He was a nephew of Ludwig von Falkenhausen, who was the governor-general of Belgium during the German occupation, from 1917–1918, in the First World War and a direct male line descendant of Karl Wilhelm Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, by his mistress Elisabeth Wünsch.

Early life and military career

Alexander von Falkenhausen was born at Blumenthal, near Neisse (now Nysa, Poland) in the Prussian province of Silesia, one of seven children of Baron Alexander von Falkenhausen (1844–1909) and his wife, Elisabeth. He attended a Gymnasium in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) and then the cadet school at Wahlstatt (now Legnickie Pole). In his youth, Falkenhausen showed an interest in Eastern Asia and its societies. He travelled and studied in Japan, northern China, Korea and Indochina from 1909–1911.

In 1897 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 91st Oldenburg Infantry Regiment of the Imperial German Army, taking part in quelling the Boxer Rebellion, and served as a military attaché in Japan from 1900 up until to the First World War.[5] He was awarded the prestigious Pour le Mérite award while serving with the Ottoman Army in Palestine. After the war, he remained in the Reichswehr (German Army) and in 1927 was appointed to head the Dresden Infantry School.

Adviser to Chiang Kai-shek

In 1930, Falkenhausen retired from the service and in 1934 went to China to serve as Chiang Kai-shek's military advisor, as part of the Sino-German cooperation to reform the Chinese army.[6] In the wake of the Japanese Invasion of China, Von Falkenhausen recommended that Chiang fight a war of attrition as Falkenhausen calculated that Japan could not win a long term war.

In 1937 Nazi Germany allied with the Empire of Japan, which with the Republic of China was fighting the Second Sino-Japanese War. As a goodwill gesture to Japan, Germany recognized the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, withdrew German support from China and forced Falkenhausen to resign by threatening to have his family in Germany punished for disloyalty. After a goodbye dinner party with Chiang Kai-shek's family, Falkenhausen promised that he would never reveal any of battle plans he had devised to the Japanese.

According to some sources (especially from Communist Chinese ones in the late 1930s), Falkenhausen kept in contact with Chiang Kai-shek and occasionally sent European luxury items and food to him, the Chiang household and his officers. On his 72nd birthday in 1950, Falkenhausen received a 12,000 U.S. dollar cheque from Chiang Kai-shek as his birthday gift and a personal note declaring him a "Friend of China."

Military governor for Belgium

Recalled to active duty in 1938, Falkenhausen served as an infantry general on the Western Front, until he was appointed military governor of Belgium in May 1940. Throughout his period of administration, Falkenhausen had co-operated with both Eggert Reeder and Dr Werner Best, to try to apply the rules of the Hague Convention in their region, often against the wishes and instructions of their Wehrmacht and SS superiors.[7]

During his time as military governor, Falkenhausen signed seventeen decrees against the Jewish population of Belgium as preparatory measures leading in June 1942 to the deportation of 28,900 Jews. His deputy for economic affairs, Eggert Reeder, was in charge of the destruction of "Jewish influence" in the Belgian economy, leading to mass unemployment of Jewish workers, especially in the diamond business. While implementation of economic policy led to mass unemployment of Belgian Jewish workers, Reeder's efforts preserved existing national administrative structures and business relations within Belgium and northern France during the German occupation. 2,250 of these unemployed Belgian Jews were sent to forced labor camps in Northern France, in order to build the Atlantic Wall for Organisation Todt.

To ensure that all the Belgian people co-operated in the German occupation, Reeder negotiated an agreement to allow native Belgian Jews to remain in Belgium. Part of this was the non-enforcement of the Reich Main Security Office order for all Jews to be marked by wearing a yellow Star of David at all times, until Helmut Knochen's conference in Paris on 14 March 1942.[8]

He intervened twice to prevent the execution of Belgians for resistance against the Germans, at the request of Qian Xiuling, a Chinese-Belgian woman whose elder cousin, Lieutenant General Qian Zhuolun, was a good friend of Falkenhausen during his time in China and in the post-war trial Qian Xiuling spoke in his defense, saying: "Nothing I did could have been accomplished without General von Falkenhausen's help. Even though he might not deserve an award, neither should he be put on trial, definitely not."[9] [10]

Bomb plot

Falkenhausen was a close friend of the anti-Hitler conspirators, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben and soon came to detest Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. He offered his support to Witzleben for a planned coup d'état, but did not take any part in the coup. After the failure of the 20 July Plot to kill Hitler in 1944, Falkenhausen was relieved of his command and later arrested.[11] Falkenhausen spent the rest of the war being transferred from one concentration camp to another. In late April 1945 he was transferred to Tyrol with about 140 other prominent inmates of the Dachau concentration camp. The SS fled, leaving the prisoners behind and he was captured by the Fifth U.S. Army on 5 May 1945.[12]

Trial and pardon

Falkenhausen and Reeder were sent to Belgium for trial in 1948, where they were held on remand for three years. A trial for their role in the deportation of Jews from Belgium but not for their deaths in Auschwitz, began in Brussels on 9 March 1951 and they were defended by the lawyer Ernst Achenbach. Falkenhausen was vouched for by Qian Xiuling and a number of Belgian Jews, who gave evidence that Falkenhausen and Reeder had tried to save Belgian and Jewish lives.[9] Nevertheless, on 9 July 1951 they were convicted and sentenced to twelve years hard labour in Germany. On their return to West Germany three weeks after the end of the trial,[13] having served one third of their sentence, as required by Belgian law, they were pardoned by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Falkenhausen died in Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, in 1966.

Dates of rank

Decorations and awards


  1. "The Road to Paris". Time. 1950-12-11. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  2. "General Alexander von Falkenhausen - Oxford Reference". doi:10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095809131. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  3. Yu, Maochun (2013-07-31). The Dragon's War: Allied Operations and the Fate of China, 1937-1947. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9781612514376.
  4. "Foreign News: Recalled". Time. 1938-07-18. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  5. German Military Mission to China 1927-1938. Retrieved 11 February 2017
  6. Liang, Hsi-Huey (1978). The Sino-German Connection: Alexander Von Falkenhausen Between China and Germany 1900-1941. Van Gorcum. ISBN 9789023215547.
  7. Mikhman, Dan (1998). Belgium and the Holocaust: Jews, Belgians, Germans. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9789653080683.
  8. "The Destruction of the Jews of Belgium". Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  9. 1 2 "A Story of World War II Heroism Comes Home to China". April 2002. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  10. "A Story of World War II Heroism Comes Home to China". Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  11. Jr, Samuel W. Mitcham (2007-01-23). Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944. Stackpole Books. ISBN 9781461751557.
  12. Peter Koblank: Die Befreiung der Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge in Südtirol, Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (in German)
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