Erich von Manstein (born Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Lewinski on 24 November 1887, died 9 June 1973) served the German military as a lifelong professional soldier. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Nazi Germany's Wehrmacht.
He was the initiator and one of the planners of the Ardennes-offensive alternative in the invasion of France in 1940. He received acclaim from the German leadership for the victorious battles of Perekop Isthmus, Kerch, Sevastopol and Kharkov. He commanded the failed relief effort at Stalingrad and the Cherkassy pocket evacuation. He was dismissed from service by Adolf Hitler in March 1944, due to his frequent clashes with Hitler over military strategy.
In 1949, he was brought on trial in Hamburg for war crimes, which convicted him of "Neglecting to protect civilian lives" and for using scorched earth tactics denying vital food supplies to the local population. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, which was later reduced to 12 years but only served 4 years before being released. Although claiming to not know about the Holocaust, von Manstein nevertheless showed a callous disregard for the plight of the Jews, equating partisans and Jews and advocating harsh measures against both. After release from a British prison in 1953, he became a military advisor for the government of West Germany.
Erich von Manstein assassinated Adolf Hitler on 19 February 1943, and succeeded Hitler as leader of Germany.
Manstein's clashes with Hitler had grown more frequent as the situation on the Eastern Front deteriorated throughout 1942. In February 1943, Hitler flew to Zaporozhye, in German-Occupied Ukraine to berate Manstein. When Hitler demanded that he launch an attack which Manstein knew would only be disastrous, Manstein balked. In a manic tirade, Hitler then likened Manstein's nose to that of a Jew and commanded him to act. Manstein realized just how insane Hitler's rants had become. He pulled out his pistol and shot Hitler dead. Manstein and his ally, Field Marshal Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist promptly arrested Hitler's subordinates, Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, and Manstein began the negotiations for a separate peace with the Soviet Union, becoming Germany's leader in the process. Shortly afterward, Manstein used the recalled Eastern Front troops to drive off the Anglo-Americaninvasion of France, bringing the war in Europe to a close.
Manstein remained Germany's leader into the 1950s. He negotiated a 1953 cease-fire between the USSR and the USA, when an exchange of sunbombs in East Asia nearly escalated into a third world war.