Major General Henning Hermann Robert Karl von Tresckow (January 10, 1901 – July 21, 1944) was a Major General in the German Wehrmacht who organized German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He was described by the Gestapo as the "prime mover" and the "evil spirit" behind the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler.
Tresckow was born in Magdeburg into a Prussian noble family with a long military tradition; his father, a cavalry general, had been present at Versailles in 1871. He received most of his early education from tutors on his family's remote rural estate; from 1913–1917 he was a student at the Gymnasium in the town of Goslar. Tresckow fought as one of the youngest soldiers with the rank of Lieutenant during World War I on the Western Front. In the Second Battle of the Marne, he earned the Iron Cross 1st class. At that time, the commander of the 1st Guards Infantry Regiment, Count Siegfried von Eulenberg, predicted that "You, Tresckow, will either become chief of the General Staff or die on the scaffold as a rebel."
After World War I, Tresckow took part in the suppression of the Spartacist movement in January 1919, but resigned from the Weimar Republic Reichswehr Army in 1920 in order to study and pursue a career in banking. In 1924, he embarked on a world journey, visiting Brazil and the eastern United States before he had to abandon it to take care of family possessions back home. Like members of many prominent Prussian families, Tresckow married into another family with long-standing military traditions. In 1926, he married Erika von Falkenhayn, only daughter of the chief of the General Staff from 1914–16, Erich von Falkenhayn, and returned to military service.
Plots against Hitler
Although he initially sympathized with the Nazis due to their opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, Tresckow condemned the 1934 Night of the Long Knives, in which many loyal Nazis were executed on Hitler's orders. After studies at the Kriegsakademie, he graduated as the best of the class of 1936, and was appointed to the German General Staff's 1st Department. Studying the possible scenarios of war, he recognized the risks and weaknesses in Hitler's desire to prepare for war in 1940. Memorial plaque for Erich Hoepner and Henning von Tresckow in the Bundeshaus, Berlin.
The 1938 Blomberg-Fritsch Affair alienated Tresckow and others from Hitler. As a result, he sought out civilians and soldiers who opposed Hitler, such as Erwin von Witzleben.
Tresckow opposed Germany's involvement in having started World War II, but in the spring of 1939, he served as an infantry division chief of staff in the invasion of Poland. Later in 1939 and into 1940, he served as a general staff officer under Gerd von Rundstedt and Erich von Manstein in Army Group A, culminating in the invasion of France in the spring of 1940. From 1941-1943, he served under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, his uncle, and Field Marshal Günther von Kluge as chief operations officer of the German Army Group Center in the Soviet Union. Subsequently, he served in combat as the commanding officer of an infantry regiment defending the western bank of the Dnieper River in Ukraine. At the time of his death, he was serving as Chief of Staff of the 2nd Army, in areas which are now Belarus and eastern Poland. During his World War II service, he was awarded the German Cross in Gold and other decorations. When the mass shootings behind the lines were extended towards Jewish women and children, Treskow started to resume his resistance activities.
Tresckow planned several assassination plots against Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, but all failed. On March 13, 1943 for example, after the Führer visited troops on the Eastern Front, Tresckow concealed explosives on Hitler's Condor plane in a package that purportedly contained bottles of cognac. Tresckow asked Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Brandt who was traveling with Hitler to take the package to another officer named Helmuth Stieff at Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia, to pay up for a lost bet. After news was received that Hitler had returned safely to his East Prussian base, it was obvious that the bomb had failed to detonate (probably due to the extremely low temperature in the unheated luggage compartment, thereby preventing the fuse from working). Tresckow's cousin and military aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff, retrieved the package to prevent discovery of the plot.
After Claus von Stauffenberg's assassination attempt on Hitler and the following coup in Berlin (21 July 1944) had failed, Tresckow decided to commit suicide near the front on 21 July. To protect others, he pretended there was a partisan attack and killed himself with a hand grenade in Ostrow near Białystok. It blew his head off. He was buried in the family home in Wartenberg. When the Nazis learned about his connections in late August, his coffin was excavated and taken to the crematorium of Sachsenhausen concentration camp.