Georg von Boeselager

Georg von Boeselager

Georg von Boeselager
Born (1915-08-25)25 August 1915
Kassel, Kingdom of Prussia
Died 27 August 1944(1944-08-27) (aged 29)
Łomża, General Government
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Years of service 1934–44
Rank Oberst der Kavallerie
Battles/wars Invasion of Poland
Battle of France
20 July Plot
Eastern Front (World War II)
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Relations Philipp von Boeselager

Georg von Boeselager (25 August 1915 – 27 August 1944) was a German nobleman and an officer of the Wehrmacht, who ultimately reached the rank of Colonel (Oberst) of Cavalry.

Along with his younger brother Philipp von Boeselager, he participated in the 1944 20 July Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Returning to the front after the plot failed, Boeselager was killed in action against a heavily fortified Russian position in 1944. He was posthumously promoted to full colonel and awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.


Early years

Boeselager was born near Kassel into the noble Roman Catholic Boeselager family. He attended secondary school at Aloysius College in Bad Godesberg and considered becoming a priest. However, he finally decided to follow a military career. Enlisting on 1 April 1934, he trained with the 15th Cavalry Regiment in Paderborn. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1936, and in March 1939 was promoted to First Lieutenant.

When World War II began, he took part in the Invasion of Poland and was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class. His service on the Western Front in 1940 was equally distinguished. For his actions in bridging the Seine near Les Andelys on 13 June 1940, he was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class. The following January, he won the coveted Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. By July, he had been promoted to Rittmeister (Captain of Cavalry). An efficiency report praised Boeselager as "...a spirited cavalry officer, who thinks boldly and surely in taking decisions, but who is modest and unassuming, the idol of his men."[1]

In Operation Barbarossa, Boeselager's company performed reconnaissance for the double-pronged sweep around Brest-Litovsk to take Białystok and Minsk, seized bridgeheads over the Neman and Daugava rivers, and participated in the Battle of Moscow. For accomplishing his duties with distinction, he was granted the Knight's Cross with Oak leaves on 31 December 1941.

He was then detached from his regiment and made Instructor of Tactics at the "School for Shocktroops" in Krampintz. Boeselager was assigned to instruct students in Panzer tactics, though he preferred commanding traditional horsed cavalry, which he felt still had a place on the modern battlefield. While an instructor at the school, Boeselager became acquainted with members of the military resistance, who realised the war was not going well.

Anti-partisan operations in Soviet Union

Boeselager took part in anti-partisan operations conducted within the territory of Soviet Union. On 23 June 1943 as commander of cavalry regiment of Army Group Centre he sent a report to Henning von Tresckow regarding tactics of partisans and ways to reduce "risk of gangs", including his ideas on the subject; in the report he wrote:

It is impossible for a German soldier to distinguish between partisans and non-partisans... The regiment's view is that the area must be subdivided into a) pacified areas, b) areas threatened by gangs, c) gang infested areas. In areas threatened by gangs the men should be permitted to leave town and work only in groups; all males passing through such areas alone or in small groups must be shot or imprisoned at once... The bandit infested area must be swept clean of all males. Up to specific point in time, males up to the age of 50 will be seized and turned over to the economic office as laborers. After the deadline, men in this area will be shot.

Tresckow warmly received Boeselager's proposals and on 27 June he personally sent copies of Boeselager's ideas to all the armies within Army Group Centre, High Command of the Army and the Commanding Officer of the Eastern Troops.[2]

The plot to kill Hitler

Boeselager next was assigned to train troops of the Romanian Third Army to fight alongside the German Sixth Army, which at first advanced deep into the Soviet Union but was destined to eventual capture at Stalingrad.

After an audience with Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge, commander of Army Group Centre, Boeselager was assigned as Deputy Commander, Cavalry Regiments Centre, a freestanding cavalry force fighting on the Eastern Front. Boeselager made frequent trips to confer with Kluge, sometimes flying along with the field marshal's staff on his transport plane.[3]

At a 1943 field conference, the feasibility of an assassination of German dictator Adolf Hitler was discussed among some of the officers present. It was proposed to kill Hitler with a pistol, but no officer could be found willing to attempt it. Many who would have willingly given their lives in battle abhorred the idea of going alone to assassinate an unarmed head of state. One year earlier, a Luftwaffe officer had waited in ambush for Hitler while the Führer was out walking in the woods, but found he was unable to move his arms when the moment came. Boeselager confided to his new friend and future superior, Major General Henning von Tresckow, that he would likely freeze up as well.[4] Another suggestion was that a bomb be smuggled into Hitler's plane. This last idea was adopted, with a bomb being placed by lawyer Fabian von Schlabrendorff. The device failed to detonate and Boeselager returned to the front.

On 1 June 1943, Boeselager was promoted to Major. In a campaign during October 1943, he was wounded. On 1 December he was promoted to Oberstleutnant. After being wounded again in February 1944, Boeselager, still not fully recuperated, was assigned in June to a rear echelon squadron. He began to plot a new attempt on Hitler with Tresckow.

Boeselager was dispatched by Tresckow to urge his old commander, Kluge, to change his strategy and to join the conspiracy against Hitler. Kluge was now Commander-in-Chief in the West. In the East, German lines were spread so thin that multiple Soviet breakthroughs were inevitable. Tresckow wanted Kluge to open the front in the West, begin negotiations for peace with the British and Americans, and transfer units to the Eastern Front to fight the Soviets, rightly viewed as a much more cruel and uncompromising enemy. Hitler and his national socialists would be eliminated. As Tresckow envisioned it, Kluge would arrange for the former's transfer so that he could help consolidate the coup. However, Kluge felt the Americans and British soon would be "opening up" his front no matter what he actions he took. He did not trust most of his staff to keep silent about the conspiracy, and therefore declined to participate in the plot or any planning. Boeselager returned to Tresckow empty-handed, but he still had a contribution to make.[5]

In support of the German resistance, Boeselager would wait with the greater part of his brigade in the Prussian hinterlands, then advance to take Berlin and hold it. Boeselager also helped Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven in procuring the British Hexogen plastic explosive and other parts used in the bomb meant to kill Hitler (a fact that his friends who were tortured by Hitler's security services never revealed).[6] At the appointed time, Boeselager and his brother began marching their columns on Berlin. But before they could reach Berlin, they were informed about the unsuccessful bombing carried out by Claus von Stauffenberg. Boeselager accordingly led his troops back to the front, doing the utmost to camouflage the reason for the troop movement. Thus, he and his brother were not implicated in the plot. About 5,000 others were arrested and approximately 200 executed for their roles, however minor.

In a review of the book written by Boeselager's younger brother Philipp about their experiences in the resistance to Hitler, the historian István Deák has expressed doubts whether the ride west actually took place. He wrote he could not help feeling that it was an account not of what Philipp von Boeselager did, but of what he longed to do.[7]


Although the Boeselager brothers escaped initial suspicion, investigators sent a message to one of Boeselager's old units in France requesting that "First Lieutenant von Boeselager" be detained for questioning. Boeselager was killed in action leading an assault against a heavily fortified Soviet position near Łomża on the Narew River on 27 August 1944. Two days later, he was posthumously promoted to full colonel and awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords — one of only 159 German soldiers so decorated in the history of the award.


The Bundeswehr's Freiherr von Boeselager Kaserne ("Baron von Boeselager Barracks") in Munster is named for him, as are Georg-von-Boeselager-Straße ("George von Boeselager Street") and Georg-von-Boeselager-Schule ("George von Boeselager Secondary School") in Swisttal.

For many years, the Bundeswehr conducted an annual (then a semi-annual) armoured reconnaissance competition composed of eight events open to all NATO nations. The competition was called the "Boeselager Cup". It was cancelled in 1998 as pressure from operational commitments on the NATO countries restricted their ability to participate.





    1. Zeller 1969, p. 153.
    2. Men of 20 July and the War in the Soviet Union Christian Gerlach in War Of Extermination: The German Military In World War II Berghahn Books 2004 page 137
    3. Hoffman 1977, p. 276.
    4. von Schlabrendorff 1965, p. 262.
    5. von Schlabrendorff , p. 279.
    6. Hoffman 1977, p. 334.
    7. "Valkyrie: The Story Of The Plot To Kill Hitler, By Its Last Member".
    8. 1 2 Thomas 1997, p. 62.
    9. 1 2 Berger 1999, p. 41.
    10. 1 2 3 Scherzer 2007, p. 231.


    • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
    • Hoffman, Peter; trans. Richard Barry (1977). "31". The History of the German Resistance, 1939-1945. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 276. 
    • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
    • von Schlabrendorff, Fabian; trans. Hilda Simon; fwd. John J. McCloy (1965). The Secret War against Hitler. New York, Toronto, London: Pitman. 
    • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6. 
    • Zeller, Eberhard; trans. Oswald Wolff (1969). The Flame of Freedom: The German Struggle against Hitler. Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami Press. 
    • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
    • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
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