General Friedrich Olbricht (4 October 1888 – 21 July 1944) was a German general and one of the plotters involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944.
Olbricht was born in Leisnig, Saxony, and was the son of the mathematics professor Richard Olbricht.
After his Abitur in 1907, Olbricht joined Infantry Regiment 106 in Leipzig as an ensign. He then fought in the First World War from 1914 to 1918, and afterwards, as a captain, was taken into the Reichswehr, which had been reduced in size under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
Olbricht was married to Eva Koeppel. The couple had a son and a daughter.
Olbricht's mistrust of the Nazis became apparent early on, particularly after the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, when he stood together with Hans Oster, Erwin von Witzleben and Georg Thomas, who all distanced themselves from the growing national socialist movement, worried as they were at the allure that the Nazis seemed to have for a lot of military men.
In 1926, Olbricht was called into the Reich Defence Ministry as leader of the "Foreign Armies Bureau". In 1933, he became chief of staff of the Dresden Division.
In 1934, Olbricht managed to save several men from being shot in the wake of the Röhm affair by having them assigned to military-political duties under army protection. They had already been arrested, and would have been put to death in fairly short order.
In 1935 came Olbricht's appointment as chief of staff of the Fourth Army Corps stationed in Dresden. In 1938, he took over leadership of the 24th Infantry Division. That same year, he unsuccessfully advocated the rehabilitation of Werner von Fritsch, who had been disgraced as a result of an accusation of homosexuality (see Blomberg-Fritsch Affair). Memorial at Bendlerblock
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Olbricht commanded the 24th Infantry Division during the Invasion of Poland. He lead the division from the front, in one case creating an improvised "motorized unit" by loading troops on his own staff car so he could rush ahead and secure important bridges before they could be demolished by the enemy. For his personal bravery and his dynamic leadership style he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. On 15 February 1940, Olbricht was promoted to General of the Infantry. He was appointed Chief of the General Army Office (Allgemeines Heeresamt) in the Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres). He was furthermore made Chief of the Armed Forces Replacement Office (Wehrersatzamt) at the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht.
Starting in the winter of 1941-1942, Olbricht developed the plan for Operation Valkyrie, a General Staff plan which was ostensibly to be used to put down internal unrest, but was in fact a blue print for a coup d'état. Together with the resistance circles around Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and Major-General Henning von Tresckow, he worked to find a means of assassinating Adolf Hitler and using the coup plan to bring down the Nazi regime. In 1943, he asked that Colonel Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, who would later be the key man in the assassination attempt with the job of actually planting the bomb near Hitler, come to work at his office.
On the day of the attempted coup d'état, 20 July 1944, Olbricht and Colonel Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim initiated Operation Valkyrie by mobilizing the Reserve Army (Ersatzheer). But after it became clear that Stauffenberg's briefcase bomb had failed to kill the Führer, the plan to seize key sites in Berlin using units from the reserve army began to falter. The Nazi leadership was able to regain control using its own loyal troops within a few hours.
At 9pm Olbricht was arrested at his headquarters in the Bendlerblock by soldiers from the Berlin garrison.
Later that evening Colonel-General Friedrich Fromm - supposedly to cover himself - held a hastily arranged court martial. Olbricht, Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim, Werner von Haeften and Claus von Stauffenberg were then taken outside to the courtyard and executed by firing squad, against Hitler's orders to take the perpetrators of the failed attempt on his life alive.