Alexander von Falkenhausen

Alexander Ernst Alfred Hermann Freiherr von Falkenhausen (29 October 1878 – 31 July 1966) was a German general and military advisor to Chiang Kai-shek.[1][2][3] He was an important figure during the Sino-German cooperation to reform the Chinese Army. In 1938 Germany, under pressure from Japan, ended its support for China and Falkenhausen was forced to withdraw from China.[4] Back in Europe, he later became the head of the military government of Belgium from 1940–44 during its German occupation.

Alexander von Falkenhausen
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2008-0155, Alexander von Falkenhausen.jpg
Falkenhausen as General der Infanterie, 1940
Birth nameAlexander Ernst Alfred Hermann Freiherr von Falkenhausen
Born(1878-10-29)29 October 1878
Gut Blumenthal, Province of Silesia, German Empire
Died31 July 1966(1966-07-31) (aged 87)
Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Taiwan Republic of China (to 1938)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Imperial German Army
 National Revolutionary Army
 German Army
Years of service1897–1930, 1934–1944
RankWMacht H OF8 GenWaGtg h 1935-1945.svg General der Infanterie
AwardsPour le Mérite
Order of the Sacred Tripod

He was married twice, firstly to Paula von Wedderkop (8 October 1879 – 3 March 1950) and then in 1960, to Cecile Vent (16 September 1906 – 1977), both without issue. He was a nephew of Ludwig von Falkenhausen, who was the governor-general of Belgium during the German occupation, from 1917–1918, in the First World War and a direct male line descendant of Karl Wilhelm Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, by his mistress Elisabeth Wünsch.

Early life and military careerEdit

Alexander von Falkenhausen was born at Blumenthal, near Neisse (now Nysa, Poland) in the Prussian province of Silesia, one of seven children of Baron Alexander von Falkenhausen (1844–1909) and his wife, Elisabeth. He attended a Gymnasium in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) and then the cadet school at Wahlstatt (now Legnickie Pole). In his youth, Falkenhausen showed an interest in Eastern Asia and its societies. He travelled and studied in Japan, northern China, Korea and Indochina from 1909–1911.

In 1897 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 91st Oldenburg Infantry Regiment of the Imperial German Army, taking part in quelling the Boxer Rebellion, and served as a military attaché in Japan from 1900 up until the First World War.[5] He was awarded the prestigious Pour le Mérite award while serving with the Ottoman Army in Palestine. After the war, he remained in the Reichswehr (German Army) and in 1927 was appointed to head the Dresden Infantry School.

Adviser to Chiang Kai-shekEdit

Falkenhausen in 1933

In 1930, Falkenhausen retired from the service and in 1934 went to China to serve as Chiang Kai-shek's military advisor, as part of the Sino-German cooperation to reform the Chinese army.[6] During the reformation, von Falkenhausen was responsible for most of the military training. Original plans by von Seeckt called for a drastic reduction of the military to 60 elite divisions modelled on the Wehrmacht, but questions as to which factions would be axed remained a problem.

Some 80,000 Chinese troops, in eight divisions, were trained and formed the elite of Chiang's army. However, China was not ready to face Japan on equal terms, and Chiang's decision to pit all of his new divisions in the Battle of Shanghai, despite objections from his both staff officers and von Falkenhausen, would cost him one-third of his best troops.[7] Chiang switched his strategy to preserve strength for the eventual civil war.

Von Falkenhausen recommended that Chiang fight a war of attrition as Falkenhausen calculated that Japan could not win a long term war. He suggested that Chiang should hold the Yellow River line, and not attack until later in the war. Also, Chiang should give up a number of provinces in northern China including Shandong. He also recommended to construct a number of fortifications at strategically important locations to slow a Japanese advance.[8] Falkenhausen also advised the Chinese to establish a number of guerrilla operations behind Japanese lines.[9]

In 1937 Nazi Germany allied with the Empire of Japan, which with the Republic of China was fighting the Second Sino-Japanese War. As a goodwill gesture to Japan, Germany recognized the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, withdrew German support from China and forced Falkenhausen to resign by threatening to have his family in Germany punished for disloyalty. After a goodbye dinner party with Chiang Kai-shek's family, Falkenhausen promised that he would never reveal any of battle plans he had devised to the Japanese.

According to some sources (especially from Communist Chinese ones in the late 1930s), Falkenhausen kept in contact with Chiang Kai-shek and occasionally sent European luxury items and food to him, the Chiang household and his officers. On his 72nd birthday in 1950, Falkenhausen received a 12,000 U.S. Dollar cheque from Chiang Kai-shek as his birthday gift and a personal note declaring him a "Friend of China."[10]

On his 80th Birthday in 1958, Chinese ambassador to Belgium Wang Xiaoxi awarded Falkenhausen the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Tripod for his contributions in defending China.[10]

Military governor for BelgiumEdit

Recalled to active duty in 1938, Falkenhausen served as an infantry general on the Western Front, until he was appointed military governor of Belgium in May 1940, the same post his uncle Ludwig von Falkenhausen held 23 years prior during the First World War. Throughout his period of administration, Falkenhausen had co-operated with both Eggert Reeder and Dr Werner Best, to try to apply the rules of the Hague Convention in their region, often against the wishes and instructions of their Wehrmacht and SS superiors.[11]

Though opposed to Nazi extremism towards the Jewish population, he yielded to pressure from Reinhard Heydrich's RSHA, leading in June 1942 to the deportation of 28,900 Jews.[12] His deputy for economic affairs, Eggert Reeder, was in charge of the destruction of "Jewish influence" in the Belgian economy, leading to mass unemployment of Jewish workers, especially in the diamond business. While implementation of economic policy led to mass unemployment of Belgian Jewish workers, Reeder's efforts preserved existing national administrative structures and business relations within Belgium and northern France during the German occupation. 2,250 of these unemployed Belgian Jews were sent to forced labor camps in Northern France, in order to build the Atlantic Wall for Organisation Todt.

To ensure that all the Belgian people co-operated in the German occupation, Reeder negotiated an agreement to allow native Belgian Jews to remain in Belgium. Part of this was the non-enforcement of the Reich Main Security Office order for all Jews to be marked by wearing a yellow Star of David at all times, until Helmut Knochen's conference in Paris on 14 March 1942.[13]

He intervened twice to prevent the execution of Belgians for resistance against the Germans, at the request of Qian Xiuling, a Chinese-Belgian woman whose elder cousin, Lieutenant General Qian Zhuolun, was a good friend of Falkenhausen during his time in China and in the post-war trial Qian Xiuling spoke in his defense, saying: "Nothing I did could have been accomplished without General von Falkenhausen's help. Even though he might not deserve an award, neither should he be put on trial, definitely not."[14] [15]

Bomb plotEdit

Falkenhausen was a close friend of the anti-Hitler conspirators, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben and soon came to detest Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. He offered his support to Witzleben for a planned coup d'état against Hitler, but did not take any part in the coup. After the failure of the 20 July Plot to kill Hitler in 1944, Falkenhausen was relieved of his command and later arrested.[16] Falkenhausen spent the rest of the war being transferred from one concentration camp to another. In late April 1945 he was transferred to Tyrol with about 140 other prominent inmates of the Dachau concentration camp.

The SS fled, leaving the prisoners behind and he was captured by the Fifth U.S. Army on 5 May 1945.[17]

Trial and pardonEdit

Falkenhausen and Reeder were sent to Belgium for trial in 1948, where they were held on remand for three years. A trial for their role in the deportation of Jews from Belgium but not for their deaths in Auschwitz, began in Brussels on 9 March 1951 and they were defended by the lawyer Ernst Achenbach.

During the trial, Falkenhausen was vouched for by Qian Xiuling, former French Prime Minister Léon Blum and a number of Belgian Jews, who gave evidence that Falkenhausen and Reeder had tried to save Belgian and Jewish lives.[14] Nevertheless, on 9 July 1951 they were convicted and sentenced to twelve years hard labour in Germany. On their return to West Germany three weeks after the end of the trial,[18] having served one third of their sentence, as required by Belgian law, they were pardoned by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

Later lifeEdit

On return to Germany, he first lived near the then inner German border on the estate of his friend Franz von Papen and then, fearing kidnapping by East German agents, in Nassau an der Lahn.

In 1950, Falkenhausen became a widower; in 1960 he married his second wife, Cécile Vent (1906-1977), who had been a Belgian resistance fighter.[19] He had met her during his imprisonment in 1948, when Vent was a member of the administrative commission of the prisons of Verviers.[20]

Dates of rankEdit

Decorations and awardsEdit


  1. ^ "The Road to Paris". Time. 1950-12-11. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  2. ^ "General Alexander von Falkenhausen - Oxford Reference". Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  3. ^ Yu, Maochun (2013-07-31). The Dragon's War: Allied Operations and the Fate of China, 1937-1947. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9781612514376.
  4. ^ "Foreign News: Recalled". Time. 1938-07-18. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  5. ^ German Military Mission to China 1927-1938. Retrieved 11 February 2017
  6. ^ Liang, Hsi-Huey (1978). The Sino-German Connection: Alexander Von Falkenhausen Between China and Germany 1900-1941. Van Gorcum. ISBN 9789023215547.
  7. ^ C., Kirby, William (1984). Germany and republican China. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804712093. OCLC 10921336.
  8. ^ Liang, Hsi-Huey (1978). The Sino-German Connection: Alexander Von Falkenhausen Between China and Germany 1900-1941. Van Gorcum. ISBN 9789023215547.
  9. ^ "Generalmajor Hermann Voigt-Ruscheweyh". 2009-10-29. Archived from the original on 2009-10-29. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  10. ^ a b Liang, Hsi-Huey (1978). The Sino-German Connection: Alexander Von Falkenhausen Between China and Germany 1900-1941. Van Gorcum. ISBN 9789023215547.
  11. ^ Mikhman, Dan (1998). Belgium and the Holocaust: Jews, Belgians, Germans. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9789653080683.
  12. ^ Wistrich, Robert S. (2013-07-04). Who's Who in Nazi Germany. Routledge. ISBN 9781136413810.
  13. ^ "The Destruction of the Jews of Belgium". Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  14. ^ a b "A Story of World War II Heroism Comes Home to China". April 2002. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  15. ^ "A Story of World War II Heroism Comes Home to China". Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  16. ^ Jr, Samuel W. Mitcham (2007-01-23). Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944. Stackpole Books. ISBN 9781461751557.
  17. ^ Peter Koblank: Die Befreiung der Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge in Südtirol, Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (in German)
  18. ^ "Alexander von Falkenhausen : Nazi Germany". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved Aug 6, 2020.
  19. ^ "Cecile Vent, * 1906 |". (in German). Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  20. ^ Frei, Norbert (2006). Transnationale Vergangenheitspolitik: der Umgang mit deutschen Kriegsverbrechern in Europa nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (in German). Wallstein Verlag. ISBN 9783892449409.

External linksEdit