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Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist
Generalfeldmarschall Ewald von Kleist (as a Generaloberst in 1940)
Born (1881-08-08)8 August 1881
Died 13 November 1954(1954-11-13) (aged 73)
Place of birth Braunfels an der Lahn, German Empire
Place of death Vladimir, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1900–1938; 1939–1944
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Commands held XXII.Armeekorps, Panzergruppe von Kleist, 1st Panzergruppe, 1st Panzer Army, Army Group A
Awards Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist (8 August 1881 – 13 November 1954) was a leading German field marshal during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (German language: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Early life and education

Born in Braunfels an der Lahn into an aristocratic family, Kleist was educated in a German military school and graduated in 1900. He served as a lieutenant of Hussars and a regimental commander in World War I. After the war he served as a commander of a cavalry division from 1932-35.


Kleist was semi-retired when, in August 1939, he was recalled to active duty at the age of fifty-eight.

In the invasion of Poland, Kleist commanded the XXII Panzer Corps. In the Battle of France he commanded Panzergruppe von Kleist, consisting of XLI Panzer Corps and XIX Panzer Corps (under Heinz Guderian), the two southernmost armoured corps in the drive to the English Channel. During this time he attempted to relieve Guderian of his command after he disobeyed orders to halt their advance toward the Channel; the Army Group A commander, Gerd von Rundstedt, refused to confirm the order, and the Franco-British armies were trapped.

In April 1941, Kleist commanded 1st Panzergruppe, comprising III, XIV and XLVIII Panzer Corps and XXIX Infantry Corps, which spearheaded the Blitzkrieg-style invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece. With this formation he also participated in the subsequent Operation Barbarossa as part of Army Group South.

In 1942 Kleist was sent to command troops in the Caucasus in order to capture important oil wells in the area. On 22 November 1942, he was placed in command of Army Group A. He was promoted to field marshal in 1943. He was relieved of his command in March 1944 for ordering the 8th Army to retreat when it was in danger of destruction by the Soviet Red Army, in explicit violation of Adolf Hitler's orders.

Kleist was captured by U.S. forces in 1945, and was sent to Yugoslavia to face war crimes charges in 1946. In 1948 he was extradited to the Soviet Union where he was given a 10 year sentence in 1952 for war crimes. He died in captivity in Vladimir Prison in 1954, the highest ranked German officer to die in Soviet captivity. Of note is the fact that Kleist was charged, among other things, with "alienating, through friendship & generosity, the peoples of the Soviet Union".[1]




  • Berger, Florian (1999) (in German). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War]. Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
  • 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. 
  • Kemp, Anthony (1990 reprint). German Commanders of World War II (#124 Men-At-Arms series). Osprey Pub., London. ISBN 0-85045-433-6.
  • Mitcham, Samuel (2003). Hitler's Generals.
  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2004) (in German). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe II Ihlefeld - Primozic [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color II Ihlefeld - Primozic]. Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-21-8. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). 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]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 


  1. "Hitler's Generals" by Samuel W. Mitcham Jr. (2003).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Scherzer 2007, p. 447.

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