Nikolaus von Falkenhorst

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Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2006-0529-501, Nikolaus v. Falkenhorst.jpg
Birth namePaul Nikolaus von Jastrzembski
Born(1885-01-17)17 January 1885
Breslau, Silesia, Prussia, German Empire
Died18 June 1968(1968-06-18) (aged 83)
Holzminden, Lower Saxony, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Years of service1903–1944
RankGeneraloberst (Wehrmacht) 8.svg Generaloberst
Commands heldArmy Norway (Wehrmacht)
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross
RelationsErich Dethleffsen (son-in-law)

Paul Nikolaus von Falkenhorst (17 January 1885 – 18 June 1968) was a German general and a war criminal during World War II. He planned and commanded the German invasion of Denmark and Norway in 1940, and was commander of German troops during the occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1944.

After the war, Falkenhorst was tried by a joint British-Norwegian military tribunal for war crimes. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1946. The sentence was later commuted to twenty years' imprisonment. Falkenhorst was released in 1953 and died in 1968.


Falkenhorst was born in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) into a noble family with military roots, the Jastrzembski family of Bad Königsdorff in Upper Silesia. In 1911 he changed this Polish-derived family name to the Germanized Falkenhorst (translated from German: "falcon's nest").[citation needed] He joined the army in 1903 and served in World War I in regimental and staff roles, including a stint in Finland. In 1919, after the end of the war, he joined the paramilitary group Freikorps[citation needed], and later the Reichswehr. On 1 July 1935, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the 3rd Army. In 1939 he commanded the XXI Army Corps during the Invasion of Poland.

Vidkun Quisling, Head of the SS Heinrich Himmler, Reichskommissar Josef Terboven, and Falkenhorst 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 it.[1] Hitler approved his plan.

The invasion was a success, aside from heavy losses inflicted upon the Kriegsmarine (navy). Allied forces tried to counter the German move, but Falkenhorst's troops drove them out of the country. For his part in the success, he was promoted to Generaloberst (Colonel General).

Between December 1940 and December 1944, von Falkenhorst remained commander of all German forces in Norway (Wehrmachtbefehlshaber Norwegen).

Von Falkenhorst with the sisters of the Lotta Svärd, a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organisation for women, in the summer of 1941 during the Continuation War

In December 1942, Falkenhorst made a plan for the invasion of Sweden if necessary (Operation Polarfuchs; "Arctic Fox")[citation needed] which required 10 German divisions. Falkenhorst thought it would succeed in 10 days.[2] Falkenhorst was dismissed from his command on 18 December 1944 and transferred to the Führerreserve. He did not receive a further assignment.

Trial and conviction[edit]

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 commandos to be shot. The evidence at trial included Falkenhorst's order that commandos, if kept alive for interrogation, should not "survive for more than twenty-four hours".[3] He distributed the order in 1942, then reminded his subordinates about it in 1943, insisting that the captured commandos be handed over to the SD, the intelligence service of the SS, for execution. The defense argued that Falkenhorst was acting under superior orders. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1946.[4]

The sentence was later commuted to 20 years imprisonment, after a successful appeal by Sven Hedin.[5][citation needed] Falkenhorst was released from Werl Prison on 23 July 1953, due to bad health. In 1968, following a heart attack, he died at Holzminden, West Germany, where his family had settled after fleeing from Lower Silesia.[6] He is buried in the Holzminden Cemetery.



  1. ^ Kersaudy, Francois, Norway 1940, pp. 45–47
  2. ^ Pierrejean, Claudine and Daniel, Les secrets de l'affaire Raoul Wallenberg ("The Secrets of the Raoul Wallenberg Affair"), L'Harmattan.
  3. ^ Blood 2006, p. 281.
  4. ^ The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice, pp. 964–965
  5. ^ Sven Hedin's German Diary 1935–1942, Dublin 1951, ss. 204–217
  6. ^ Milestones[permanent dead link], Time Magazine, 5 July 1968.
  • Blood, Philip W. (2006). Hitler's Bandit Hunters: The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe. Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1-59797-021-1.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
  • Milton, Giles (2017). Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. John Murray. ISBN 978-1-444-79898-2.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of 32. Infanterie-Division
1 October 1936 – 19 July 1939
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Franz Böhme
Preceded by
Commander of XXI Army Corps
10 August 1939 – 1 March 1940
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Commander of Army Group XXI
1 March 1940 - 19 December 1940
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Commander of Army of Norway
19 December 1940 – 18 December 1944
Succeeded by
absorbed by the 20th Mountain Army