The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary German Military Personnels of all time. This list of famous German Military Personnels is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of German Military Personnels.
With an HPI of 85.58, Erwin Rommel is the most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 85 different languages on wikipedia.
Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel (pronounced [ˈɛʁviːn ˈʁɔməl] (listen)) (15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944) was a German field marshal during World War II. Popularly known as the Desert Fox (German: Wüstenfuchs, pronounced [ˈvyːstn̩ˌfʊks] (listen)), he served in the Wehrmacht (armed forces) of Nazi Germany, as well as serving in the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, and the army of Imperial Germany. Rommel was a highly decorated officer in World War I and was awarded the Pour le Mérite for his actions on the Italian Front. In 1937, he published his classic book on military tactics, Infantry Attacks, drawing on his experiences in that war. In World War II, he commanded the 7th Panzer Division during the 1940 invasion of France. His leadership of German and Italian forces in the North African campaign established his reputation as one of the ablest tank commanders of the war, and earned him the nickname der Wüstenfuchs, "the Desert Fox". Among his British adversaries he had a reputation for chivalry, and his phrase "war without hate" has been uncritically used to describe the North African campaign. A number of historians have since rejected the phrase as myth and uncovered numerous examples of war crimes and abuses towards both enemy soldiers and native populations in Africa during the conflict. Other historians note that there is no clear evidence Rommel was involved or aware of these crimes, with some pointing out that the war in the desert, as fought by Rommel and his opponents, still came as close to a clean fight as there was in World War II. He later commanded the German forces opposing the Allied cross-channel invasion of Normandy in June 1944. With the Nazis gaining power in Germany, Rommel gradually came to accept the new regime, with historians giving different accounts on the specific period and his motivations. He was a supporter of Adolf Hitler, at least until near the end of the war, if not necessarily sympathetic to the party and the paramilitary forces associated with it. In 1944, Rommel was implicated in the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler. Because of Rommel's status as a national hero, Hitler desired to eliminate him quietly instead of immediately executing him, as many other plotters were. Rommel was given a choice between committing suicide, in return for assurances that his reputation would remain intact and that his family would not be persecuted following his death, or facing a trial that would result in his disgrace and execution; he chose the former and committed suicide using a cyanide pill. Rommel was given a state funeral, and it was announced that he had succumbed to his injuries from the strafing of his staff car in Normandy. Rommel has become a larger-than-life figure in both Allied and Nazi propaganda, and in postwar popular culture, with numerous authors considering him an apolitical, brilliant commander and a victim of Nazi Germany, although this assessment is contested by other authors as the Rommel myth. Rommel's reputation for conducting a clean war was used in the interest of the West German rearmament and reconciliation between the former enemies – the United Kingdom and the United States on one side and the new Federal Republic of Germany on the other. Several of Rommel's former subordinates, notably his chief of staff Hans Speidel, played key roles in German rearmament and integration into NATO in the postwar era. The German Army's largest military base, the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks, Augustdorf, is named in his honour. The longtime mayor of Stuttgart, Germany and namesake of Stuttgart Airport, Manfred Rommel, was his son.
With an HPI of 85.11, Karl Dönitz is the 2nd most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.
Karl Dönitz (sometimes spelled Doenitz; German: [ˈdøːnɪts] (listen); 16 September 1891 – 24 December 1980) was a German admiral who briefly succeeded Adolf Hitler as head of state in May 1945, holding the position until the dissolution of the Flensburg Government following Germany's unconditional surrender to the Allies days later. As Supreme Commander of the Navy beginning in 1943, he played a major role in the naval history of World War II. He began his career in the Imperial German Navy before World War I. In 1918, he was commanding UB-68, and was taken prisoner of war by British forces. While in a POW camp, he formulated what he later called Rudeltaktik ("pack tactic", commonly called "wolfpack"). By the start of the Second World War, Dönitz was supreme commander of the Kriegsmarine's U-boat arm (Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote (BdU)). In January 1943, Dönitz achieved the rank of Großadmiral (grand admiral) and replaced Grand Admiral Erich Raeder as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. Dönitz was the main enemy of Allied naval forces in the Battle of the Atlantic. From 1939 to 1943 the U-boats fought effectively but lost the initiative from May 1943. Dönitz ordered his submarines into battle until 1945 to relieve the pressure on other branches of the Wehrmacht (armed forces). 648 U-boats were lost—429 with no survivors. Furthermore, of these, 215 were lost on their first patrol. Around 30,000 of the 40,000 men who served in U-boats perished.On 30 April 1945, after the suicide of Adolf Hitler and in accordance with his last will and testament, Dönitz was named Hitler's successor as head of state, with the title of President of Germany and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. On 7 May 1945, he ordered Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations Staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), to sign the German instruments of surrender in Reims, France. Dönitz remained as head of the Flensburg Government, as it became known, until it was dissolved by the Allied powers on 23 May. By his own admission, Dönitz was a dedicated Nazi and supporter of Hitler. Following the war, Dönitz was indicted as a major war criminal at the Nuremberg trials on three counts: conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; planning, initiating, and waging wars of aggression; and crimes against the laws of war. He was found not guilty of committing crimes against humanity, but guilty of committing crimes against peace and war crimes against the laws of war. He was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment; after his release, he lived in a village near Hamburg until his death in 1980.
With an HPI of 84.94, Adolf Eichmann is the 3rd most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.
Otto Adolf Eichmann ( EYEKH-mən, German: [ˈɔtoː ˈʔaːdɔlf ˈʔaɪçman]; 19 March 1906 – 1 June 1962) was a German-Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust – the so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" in Nazi terminology. He was tasked by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics involved in the mass deportation of millions of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II. Eichmann was captured by Mossad agents in Argentina on 11 May 1960 and subsequently found guilty of war crimes in a widely publicised trial in Jerusalem, following which he was executed by hanging in 1962. After doing poorly in school, Eichmann briefly worked for his father's mining company in Austria, where the family had moved in 1914. He worked as a travelling oil salesman beginning in 1927, and joined both the Nazi Party and the SS in 1932. He returned to Germany in 1933, where he joined the Sicherheitsdienst (SD, "Security Service"); there he was appointed head of the department responsible for Jewish affairs – especially emigration, which the Nazis encouraged through violence and economic pressure. After the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Eichmann and his staff arranged for Jews to be concentrated in ghettos in major cities with the expectation that they would be transported either farther east or overseas. He also drew up plans for a Jewish reservation, first at Nisko in southeast Poland and later in Madagascar, but neither of these plans was carried out. The Nazis began the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, and their Jewish policy changed from emigration to extermination. To coordinate planning for the genocide, Reinhard Heydrich, who was Eichmann's superior, hosted the regime's administrative leaders at the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942. Eichmann collected information for him, attended the conference, and prepared the minutes. Eichmann and his staff became responsible for Jewish deportations to extermination camps, where the victims were gassed. Germany invaded Hungary in March 1944, and Eichmann oversaw the deportation of much of the Jewish population. Most of the victims were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, where about 75 per cent were murdered upon arrival. By the time the transports were stopped in July 1944, 437,000 of Hungary's 725,000 Jews had been killed. Dieter Wisliceny testified at Nuremberg that Eichmann told him he would "leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction."After Germany's defeat in 1945, Eichmann was captured by US forces, but escaped from a detention camp and moved around Germany to avoid re-capture. He ended up in a small village in Lower Saxony, where he lived until 1950, when he moved to Argentina using false papers he obtained with help from an organisation directed by Catholic bishop Alois Hudal. Information collected by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, confirmed his location in 1960. A team of Mossad and Shin Bet agents captured Eichmann and brought him to Israel to stand trial on 15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Jewish people. During the trial, he did not deny the Holocaust or his role in organising it, but said he was simply following orders in a totalitarian Führerprinzip system. He was found guilty on all of the charges, and was executed by hanging on 1 June 1962. The trial was widely followed in the media and was later the subject of several books, including Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe Eichmann.
With an HPI of 82.42, Erich von Manstein is the 4th most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.
Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Manstein (born Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Lewinski; 24 November 1887 – 9 June 1973) was a German Field Marshal of the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces during the Second World War, who was subsequently convicted of war crimes. Born into an aristocratic Prussian family with a long history of military service, Manstein joined the army at a young age and saw service on both the Western and Eastern Front during 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 helping Germany rebuild its armed forces. 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. Anticipating a firm Allied reaction should the main thrust of the invasion take place through the Netherlands, Manstein devised an innovative operation – later known as the Sichelschnitt ("sickle cut") – that called for an attack through the woods of the Ardennes and a rapid drive to the English Channel, thus cutting off the French and Allied armies in Belgium and Flanders. Attaining the rank of general at the end of the campaign, he was active 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) regained substantial territory and resulted in the destruction of three Soviet armies and the retreat of three others. He was one of the primary commanders at the Battle of Kursk (July–August 1943). His ongoing disagreements with Hitler over the conduct of the war led to his dismissal in March 1944. He never obtained another command and was taken prisoner by the British in August 1945, several months after Germany's defeat. Manstein gave testimony at the main Nuremberg trials of war criminals in August 1946, and prepared a paper 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 in Hamburg for war crimes and was convicted on nine of seventeen counts, including the poor treatment 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 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.
With an HPI of 82.01, Wilhelm Keitel is the 5th most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel (German pronunciation: [ˈkaɪ̯tl̩]; 22 September 1882 – 16 October 1946) was a German field marshal and war criminal who held office as chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), the high command of Nazi Germany's Armed Forces, during the Second World War. In that capacity, Keitel signed a number of criminal orders and directives that led to numerous war crimes. Keitel's rise to the Wehrmacht high command began with his appointment as the head of the Armed Forces Office at the Reich Ministry of War in 1935. Having taken command of the Wehrmacht in 1938 Hitler replaced the ministry with the OKW and Keitel became its chief. He was reviled among his military colleagues as Hitler's habitual "yes-man". After the war, Keitel was indicted by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg as one of the "major war criminals". He was found guilty on all counts of the indictment: crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, criminal conspiracy, and war crimes. He was sentenced to death and executed by hanging in 1946.
With an HPI of 81.92, Friedrich Paulus is the 6th most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.
Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus (23 September 1890 – 1 February 1957) was a German field marshal during World War II who is best known for commanding the 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942 to February 1943). The battle ended in disaster for the Wehrmacht when Soviet forces encircled the Germans within the city, leading to the ultimate defeat and capture of about 265,000 German personnel, their Axis allies and collaborators. Paulus fought in World War I and saw action in France and the Balkans. He was considered a promising officer; by the time World War II broke out he had been promoted to major general. Paulus took part in the Poland and Low Countries campaigns, after which he was named deputy chief of the German Army General Staff. In that capacity, Paulus helped plan the invasion of the Soviet Union. In 1942, Paulus was given command of the 6th Army despite his lack of field experience. He led the drive to Stalingrad but was cut off and surrounded in the subsequent Soviet counter-offensive. Adolf Hitler prohibited attempts to break out or capitulate, and German defence was gradually worn down. Paulus surrendered in Stalingrad on 31 January 1943, the same day on which he was informed of his promotion to field marshal by Hitler. Hitler expected Paulus to commit suicide, repeating to his staff that there was no precedent of a German field marshal ever being captured alive. While in Soviet captivity during the war, Paulus became a vocal critic of the Nazi regime and joined the Soviet-sponsored National Committee for a Free Germany. In 1953, Paulus moved to East Germany, where he worked in military history research, having a decisive role in the development of the myth of the clean Wehrmacht. He lived out the rest of his life in Dresden.
With an HPI of 80.60, Baron Munchausen is the 7th most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.
Baron Munchausen (; German: [ˈmʏnçˌhaʊzn̩]) is a fictional German nobleman created by the German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe in his 1785 book Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. The character is loosely based on a real baron, Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Münchhausen. Born in Bodenwerder, Electorate of Hanover, the real-life Münchhausen fought for the Russian Empire in the Russo-Turkish War of 1735–1739. Upon retiring in 1760, he became a minor celebrity within German aristocratic circles for telling outrageous tall tales based on his military career. After hearing some of Münchhausen's stories, Raspe adapted them anonymously into literary form, first in German as ephemeral magazine pieces and then in English as the 1785 book, which was first published in Oxford by a bookseller named Smith. The book was soon translated into other European languages, including a German version expanded by the poet Gottfried August Bürger. The real-life Münchhausen was deeply upset at the development of a fictional character bearing his name, and threatened legal proceedings against the book's publisher. Perhaps fearing a libel suit, Raspe never acknowledged his authorship of the work, which was only established posthumously. The fictional Baron's exploits, narrated in the first person, focus on his impossible achievements as a sportsman, soldier, and traveller; for instance: riding on a cannonball, fighting a forty-foot crocodile, and travelling to the Moon. Intentionally comedic, the stories play on the absurdity and inconsistency of Munchausen's claims, and contain an undercurrent of social satire. The earliest illustrations of the character, perhaps created by Raspe himself, depict Munchausen as slim and youthful, although later illustrators have depicted him as an older man, and have added the sharply beaked nose and twirled moustache that have become part of the character's definitive visual representation. Raspe's book was a major international success, becoming the core text for numerous English, continental European, and American editions that were expanded and rewritten by other writers. The book in its various revised forms remained widely read throughout the 19th century, especially in editions for young readers. Versions of the fictional Baron have appeared on stage, screen, radio, and television, as well as in other literary works. Though the Baron Munchausen stories are no longer well-known in many English-speaking countries, they are still popular in continental Europe. The character has inspired numerous memorials and museums, and several medical conditions and other concepts are named after him.
With an HPI of 80.46, Arminius is the 8th most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 66 different languages.
Arminius (German: Hermann, ; 18/17 BC – 21 AD) was a Roman officer and later chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci tribe who is best known for commanding an alliance of Germanic tribes at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, in which three Roman legions under the command of general Publius Quinctilius Varus were destroyed. His victory at Teutoburg Forest would precipitate the Roman Empire's permanent strategic withdrawal from Germania Magna. Modern historians have regarded Arminius' victory as one of Rome's greatest defeats. As it prevented the Romanization of Germanic peoples east of the Rhine, it has also been considered one of the most decisive battles in history, and a turning point in world history.Born a prince of the Cherusci tribe, Arminius was part of the Roman friendly faction of the tribe. He learned Latin and served in the Roman military, which gained him Roman citizenship and the rank of eques. After serving with distinction in the Great Illyrian Revolt, he was sent to Germania to aid the local governor Publius Quinctilius Varus in completing the Roman conquest of the Germanic tribes. While in this capacity, Arminius secretly plotted a Germanic revolt against Roman rule, which culminated in the ambush and destruction of three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest. In the aftermath of the battle, Arminius fought retaliatory invasions by the Roman general Germanicus in the battles of Pontes Longi, Idistaviso, and the Angrivarian Wall, and deposed a rival, the Marcomanni king Maroboduus. Germanic nobles, afraid of Arminius' growing power, assassinated him in 21 AD. He was remembered in Germanic legends for generations afterwards. The Roman historian Tacitus designated Arminius as the liberator of the Germanic tribes and commended him for having fought the Roman Empire to a standstill at the peak of its power.During the unification of Germany in the 19th century, Arminius was hailed by German nationalists as a symbol of German unity and freedom. Following World War II, however, Arminius was omitted from West German textbooks due to his association with militaristic nationalism; the 2,000th anniversary of his victory at the Teutoburg Forest was only lightly commemorated in Germany.
With an HPI of 80.35, Ernst Röhm is the 9th most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.
Ernst Julius Günther Röhm (German: [ɛʁnst ˈʁøːm]; 28 November 1887 – 1 July 1934) was a German military officer and an early member of the Nazi Party. As one of the members of its predecessor, the German Workers' Party, he was a close friend and early ally of Adolf Hitler and a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung (SA, "Storm Units"), the Nazi Party's militia, and later was its commander. By 1934, the German Army feared the SA's influence and Hitler had come to see Röhm as a potential rival, so he was executed during the Night of the Long Knives.
With an HPI of 80.12, Alfred Jodl is the 10th most famous German Military Personnel. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl (German: [ˈjoːdl̩] (listen); 10 May 1890 – 16 October 1946) was a German Generaloberst who served as the chief of the Operations Staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht – the German Armed Forces High Command – throughout World War II. After the war, Jodl was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Allied-organised Nuremberg trials. The principal charges against him related to his signature of the criminal Commando and Commissar Orders. Found guilty on all charges, he was sentenced to death and executed in Nuremberg in 1946.
Pantheon has 234 people classified as military personnels born between 17 BC and 1922. Of these 234, none of them are still alive today. The most famous deceased military personnels include Erwin Rommel, Karl Dönitz, and Adolf Eichmann. As of October 2020, 51 new military personnels have been added to Pantheon including Josef Harpe, August Hirt, and Heinz Lammerding.
1891 - 1944
1891 - 1980
1906 - 1962
1887 - 1973
1882 - 1946
1890 - 1957
1720 - 1797
17 BC - 21
1887 - 1934
1890 - 1946
1875 - 1953
1891 - 1945
1887 - 1968
1898 - 1945
1905 - 1971
1921 - 2000
1906 - 1984
1894 - 1939
1704 - 1730
1891 - 1957
1921 - 1993
1891 - 1963
1905 - 1946
1886 - 1976
Which Military Personnels were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Military Personnels since 1700.