Erich von Manstein (24 November 1887 - 9 June 1973) was a German commander of the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces during the Second World War. He attained the rank of field marshal.
Born into an aristocratic Prussian family, Manstein joined the army at a young age and served in the First World War (1914-18). He rose to the rank of captain by the end of the war and was active in the inter-war period. In September 1939, during the invasion of Poland at the beginning of the Second World War, he was serving as Chief of Staff to Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group South. Adolf Hitler chose Manstein's strategy for the invasion of France of May 1940, a plan later refined by Franz Halder and other members of the OKH, the Sichelschnitt ("sickle cut"). Attaining the rank of general at the end of the campaign, he was a senior commander in the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. He led the Axis forces in the Siege of Sevastopol (1941-1942) and the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, and was promoted to field marshal on 1 July 1942, after which he participated in the Siege of Leningrad.
Germany's fortunes in the war had taken an unfavourable turn in December 1941, and in the following year during the catastrophic Battle of Stalingrad, Manstein commanded a failed relief effort, Operation Winter Storm, in December. Later known as the "backhand blow", Manstein's counteroffensive in the Third Battle of Kharkov (February-March 1943) resulted in the defeat of the overstretched Soviet offensive. He was one of the primary commanders at the Battle of Kursk (July-August 1943). Following Germany's defeat in the Battle of the Dnieper, he was dismissal in March 1944. Following the end of the war, he was interned by the British.
Manstein gave testimony at the main Nuremberg trials of the "major war criminals" in August 1946, and prepared a memorandum that, along with his later memoirs, helped cultivate the myth of the clean Wehrmacht--the myth that the German armed forces were not culpable for the atrocities of the Holocaust. In 1949, he was tried for war crimes and was convicted on nine of seventeen counts, including the maltreatment of prisoners of war and failing to protect civilian lives in his sphere of operations. His sentence of eighteen years in prison was later reduced to twelve, and he served only four years before being released in 1953. As a military advisor to the West German government in the mid-1950s, he helped re-establish the armed forces. His exculpatory memoir, Verlorene Siege (1955), translated into English as Lost Victories, was highly critical of Hitler's leadership and dealt with only the military aspects of the war, ignoring its political and ethical contexts. Manstein died near Munich in 1973. (Read more)