Franz Ritter Halder (1884–1972) was a German General who served during the Second World War. From 1938 until September, 1942, he was chief of the Army General Staff, but he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.
Franz Halder was born in Würzburg, Germany, on June 30, 1884. His father was General Max Halder, a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. In 1902, when he was 18 years old, Franz Halder began his military career at the 3rd Royal Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment in Munich. In 1904, he graduated from the Military Academy of Munich and was promoted to Lieutenant. Between 1906 and 1907 he attended the Artillery School, and the Bavarian Staff College from 1911 to 1914.
At the outbreak of the Great War, Halder became an Ordnance Officer and served in the Headquarters of the Bavarian 3rd Army Corps. In 1915 Halder was promoted to Captain on the General Staff of the Crown Prince of Bavaria’s 6th Infantry Division. In 1917, before being transferred to the 4th Army, he served as a General Staff officer in the 2nd Army’s Headquarters.
After the war Franz Halder remained in the army and served in the War Ministry Training Branch. In Oct 1934, he was promoted to General Major and was appointed commander of the 7th Infantry Division in Munich. In August 1936, he was raised to the rank of lieutenant general as he was put in charge of mobilizing and training the new German Army, the Wehrmacht. In 1938, he was appointed the Chief of the General Staff of the Army.
Halder devised a plan on how to invade Czechoslovakia with a pincer movement by General Gerd von Rundstedt and General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. But his plan was never implemented due to Adolf Hitler’s political victory over the annexation of that country. When World War II began, Halder was responsible for overseeing the German military campaign in Poland in September 1939.
In December 1939, Halder supervised the development of the invasion plans of France, the Low Countries, and the Balkans. At the beginning he had doubts that Germany could successfully invade France, but General Erich von Manstein’s bold plan for invading France through the Ardennes Forest proved successful, and ultimately led to the capture of France. On July 19, 1940 Halder was promoted to Colonel-General. In August, he began working on Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.
In 1942, he began advising Hitler that Germany was underestimating the number of Soviet military units and the resilience of the Russian forces. These disagreements damaged his working relationship with Hitler, who finally forced Halder’s retirement in September 1942. After this time, Hitler continued to use Halder as a target of demeaning jokes behind his back. Keitel recalled one incident where Hitler made a joke at Halder’s expense and labeled him a "little fellow."
In 1944, after the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler had failed, Halder was arrested by the Gestapo. Although he was not involved in the assassination attempt, Hitler considered Halder a threat who could overthrow him. Thus, Halder was imprisoned at both the Flossenbürg and the Dachau concentration camps. Together with some members of the July 20 plot and other notable prisoners he was transferred to Tyrol, where he was liberated by US troops on May 4.
In the 1950s, Halder was a historian advisor to the US Army Historical Division. Although he waa a former enemy, his post-war contributions for the US Army led President John Kennedy to award him the Medal of Freedom. Franz Ritter Halder died on April 2, 1972. His memoirs, the Halder Diaries, were published in 1976.