Military Wiki

Heinz Kessler
Born January 26, 1920(1920-01-26) (age 102)
Place of birth Lubań in Silesian
  • Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).svg Deutsches Reich - 1941
  • Red Army badge.gif 1945 Soviet army
  • Flag of East Germany.svg GDR - 1990
  • Flag of Germany.png FRG
Years of service
  • War Ensign of Germany 1938-1945.svg 1940 - 1941 Wehrmacht
  • Red Army badge.gif 1941 - 1945 Soviet army
  • Flag of NVA (East Germany).svg 1950 - 1989 NPA
  • Rank Armeegeneral
    Commands held

    GDR Marks-order bar.png GDR Hero of Labor BAR.png
    Ehrenspange.png Złoty Order Za Zasługi dla Narodu i Ojczyzny.png Ribbon bars of the Fatherland's Orde of Merit.png Order october revolution rib.png Order gpw1 rib.png GDR Scharnhorst-Order bar.png GDR Scharnhorst-Order bar.png GDR Scharnhorst-Order bar.png GDR Combat-Order for Merit for the Nation and Fatherland - Gold BAR.png GDR Order of Banner of Labor 1Class BAR.png GDR Medal for Fighters agains Fashism BAR.png GDR Meritorious Member of National People's Army BAR.png GDR Meritorious Member of Border Troops BAR.png GDR Meritorious Member of Civil Defense BAR.png GDR Meritorious Policeman BAR.png GDR Decoration of German Police BAR.png GDR Medal for Exemplary Border Service BAR.png GDR Engels Prize bar-G.png GDR Brotherhood in Arms Medal - Gold BAR.png GDR Brotherhood in Arms Medal - Gold BAR.png OrdenZnam.png Order redstar rib.png CombatCooperationRibbon.jpg 100 lenin rib.png 30 years of victory rib.png 40 years of victory rib.png 50 years saf rib.png 60 years saf rib.png
    GDR Ehrenmedaille 30 Jahre National Volksarmee BAR.png Order of the Red Banner (CSSR) Rib.png POL Order Zaslugi PRL kl3 BAR.png POL Odznaka Braterstwa Broni BAR.png
    File:Badge GenStaffCol SU.pdf

    Heinz Kessler (or Heinz Keßler; born 26 January 1920) was an Armeegeneral in the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee - NVA) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR); Minister of Defense of the GDR; a member of the Politbüro of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED); and a deputy of the GDR's Volkskammer (parliament). Convicted for his role in the crimes of the SED regime, he was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison after German reunification. He served his sentence in Hakenfelde Prison, and was released from prison in 1998.


    Generalleutnant Keßler with Walter Ulbricht in 1966

    Kessler was born into a communist family in Lauban, Lower Silesia. He joined the Red Young Pioneers, the youth organization of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), at age 6. He later apprenticed as a motor mechanic.

    Drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1940, he deserted to the Soviet Red Army shortly after the German invasion of the USSR. Upon returning to Germany in 1945, Kessler joined the KPD in the Soviet occupation zone, which merged with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Soviet zone in 1946 to form the SED. Also in 1946, Kessler became a member of the SED Central Committee.

    He was appointed Chief of the Air Forces and Air Defense (Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung) of the NVA in 1956, and as deputy minister of defense in 1957. He became Chief of the NVA Main Staff (Hauptstab - General Staff) in 1967, with the rank of Generaloberst (Colonel General). Simultaneously, he also became a member of the Military Council of the United High Command of the Warsaw Pact.

    Kessler was promoted from Chief of the Main Political Administration (Chef der Politischen Hauptverwaltung) of the NVA to Defense Minister (with the rank of Armeegeneral) on 3 December 1985 after his predecessor, Armeegeneral Heinz Hoffmann, died of a heart attack.[1]

    Shortly after German reunification on 3 October 1990, Kessler was tried in a German court for incitement to commit intentional homicide, for his role in the deaths of people who tried to flee the GDR between 1971 and 1989. On 16 September 1993, Kessler was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

    Kessler filed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that his actions were in accordance with GDR law and meant to preserve the existence of the GDR. However, his appeal was denied largely on the basis that the GDR's policies violated international human rights.[2]

    Kessler served his sentence in Berlin-Hakenfelde prison from 1993 to 1998, and was released after serving nearly five years.

    Kessler was expelled from the Party of Democratic Socialism in 1990. In 2009, he joined the German Communist Party (DKP).


    1. Flow, V.B.. "A New Defense Minister for the GDR." December 23, 1985. (accessed September 8, 2007).
    2. Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. JUDGMENTS IN THE CASES OF STRELETZ, KESSLER AND KRENZ v. GERMANY AND K.-H. W. v. GERMANY. Strasbourg: Registry of the European Court of Human Rights, 22 March 2001.

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