Military Wiki
Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
Born (1885-01-17)17 January 1885
Died 18 June 1968(1968-06-18) (aged 83)
Place of birth Breslau, Silesia, in Prussia
Place of death Holzminden, Lower Saxony, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1907–1944
Rank Generaloberst
Commands held Army Norway (Wehrmacht)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Relations Erich Dethleffsen (son-in-law)

Nikolaus von Falkenhorst (born Nikolaus von Jastrzembski, 17 January 1885 – 18 June 1968) was a German General in World War II. He planned and commanded the German invasion of Denmark and Norway in 1940, and was commander of German troops in the Arctic from 1941 to 1944.


Falkenhorst was born in Breslau into an ancient Silesian military and noble family, the nobles von Jastrzembski (see Bad Königsdorff-Jastrzemb in Upper Silesia); he voluntarily changed this Slavic Silesian-derived family name to the Kulturkampf-Germanized version Falkenhorst ("falcon's eyrie") early in his career; the change of name was confirmed by a decree of 6 June 1911. He joined the Imperial German army in 1907 and during World War I was given various regimental and staff appointments. He served in the Freikorps in 1919. He was transferred to the Reichswehr, and between 1925 and 1927 served in the Operations Division of the War Ministry.

Falkenhorst was promoted to Colonel on 1 October 1932, and was military attaché in the German embassies in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the kingdom of Romania between 1933 and 1935. On 1 July 1935, he was promoted to Major General and Chief of Staff of the Third Army and in 1937 to Generalleutnant. In 1939 he commanded the Twentyfirst Army Corps during the Invasion of Poland, and was promoted to General der Infanterie.

Ministerpresident Vidkun Quisling, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, Reichskommissar Josef Terboven, Generaloberst Nikolaus von Falkenhorst and officers from Waffen-SS, Wehrmacht Heer and Luftwaffe in Norway 1941.

On 20 February 1940, Hitler informed Falkenhorst that he would be ground commander for the invasion of Norway (Operation Weserübung), and gave him until 5 p.m. the same day to come up with a basic plan. With no time to consult military charts or maps, Falkenhorst picked up a Baedeker tourist guidebook of Norway at a stationery store on his way to his hotel room, where he planned the operation from maps he found in that book.[1] Hitler promptly approved his plan.

The invasion was a success, aside from heavy losses inflicted upon the German Navy. Allied forces tried to counter the German move, but Falkenhorst's troops drove them out of the country.

Falkenhorst remained in charge of the Norwegian garrison. In contrast to the civilian administration, the military forces aimed to form an understanding with the Norwegian people, and Falkenhorst ordered his men to treat them with courtesy. An apocryphal story, which was much believed by both sides, told of a Norwegian woman who complained that a German soldier had stolen some of her jam. The next morning, she was invited to come to the local army post to see the man shot by firing squad.

In December 1942, he made a plan for the invasion of Sweden if necessary (Operation Polarfuchs; "Arctic Fox"). This plan required ten German divisions. Falkenhorst thought it would succeed in ten days.[2]

Falkenhorst was dismissed from his command on 18 December 1944, for opposing certain radical policies of Josef Terboven, the Nazi Reich Commissioner for the civil authorities of German-occupied Norway. He held no other commands during the war.

War crimes

After the war, Falkenhorst was tried by a joint British-Norwegian military tribunal for violating the rules of war. He had passed on the Führerbefehl known as the "Commando Order" which required captured saboteurs to be shot as spies (several were), and was therefore convicted and sentenced to death in 1946. The sentence was however later commuted to twenty years' imprisonment, after successful appeal by Sven Hedin.

Falkenhorst was released from Werl prison on 23 July 1953, due to bad health. He died in Holzminden (in West Germany where his family had fled to from Lower Silesia) in 1968, following a heart attack.[3] His daughter was married to General Erich Dethleffsen.


References in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Thursday, 10 April 1940 Die militärischen Maßnahmen zum Schutz der Neutralität von Dänemark und Norwegen wurden am 9. April von starken Einheiten des Heeres, der Kriegsmarine und die Luftwaffe unter dem Oberbefehl des Generals der Infanterie von Falkenhorst, von Seestreitkräften unter dem Befehl des Generaladmirals Saalwächter und des Admirals Carls und von zahlreichen Verbänden der Luftwaffe unter Führung des Generalleutnants Geißler in engster Zusammenarbeit durchgeführt.[4] The military measures for the protection of the neutrality of Denmark were carried out on 9 April from strong units in close cooperation of the Heer, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe under the high command of General of the Infantry von Falkenhorst, of naval forces under the command of Generaladmiral Saalwächter and Admiral Rolf Carls and from numerous Luftwaffe units under the leadership of Generalleutnant Geißler (sic).


  1. Kersaudy, Francois. Norway 1940 pp. 45–47.
  2. Pierrejean, Claudine and Daniel. Les secrets de l'affaire Raoul Wallenberg ("The Secrets of the Wallenberg Affair"), L'Harmattan.
  3. Milestones, Time Magazine, 5 July 1968.
  4. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, pp. 101–102.
  • (in German) 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]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of 32. Infanterie-Division
1 October 1936 – 19 July 1939
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Franz Böhme
Preceded by
Commander of 21. Armee
19 December 1940 – 18 December 1944
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Kurt von Tippelskirch

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).