Friedrich Fromm (8 October 1888 – 12 March 1945) was a German army officer. A recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, he was executed for failing to act against the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler.
Fromm was born in Charlottenburg. He served as a lieutenant during World War I.
Fromm played at the beginning of the Nazi era an important role in the power structure of the regime: From 1933, he was responsible for the human and material upgrade of the German army. Also from 1939 Chief of Army armour and commander of the Replacement Army (the Ersatzheer).
Head of the Reserve Army
When Operation Barbarossa stalled outside of Moscow in December 1941 and the Russian counter-attack started, Hitler took direct command of the Army and re-organized the armed forces command structure. The Office of the Chief of Army Armament and the Reserve Army under Generaloberst Friedrich Fromm was created, subordinate to the commander in chief, army (head of the OKH, i.e. Hitler). Fromm had enough power at his disposal to control the German state because his position controlled army procurement and production and commanded all army troops inside Germany.
At the start of 1942 Fromm, apparently, recommended going over to the defensive for the whole year; because of the exhausted army stockpiles and the diversion of production, after Barbarossa initial success in the summer of 1941.
20 July plot
In World War II, Fromm was Commander in Chief of the Reserve Army (Ersatzheer), in charge of training and personnel replacement for the German Army, a position he occupied for most of the war. Though he was aware that some of his subordinates—most notably Claus von Stauffenberg, his Chief of Staff—were planning an assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler, he remained quiet and agreed to have a part in it if he became a top official of the new government after the mutiny, though he didn't have any direct involvement in the conspiracy. When the attempt to proceed with the mutiny on 15 July failed, Fromm refused to have any further part in their mutiny.
However, on the 20 July the news broke out that Hitler and several officers of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) had been the victims of an explosion in the German military's headquarters on the Eastern Front, the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair), near Rastenburg, East Prussia (modern day Poland). Fromm quickly came to the conclusion that it was Stauffenberg and the plotters who were at fault, and when he attempted to arrest them, he was quickly overthrown and confined to a jail cell in the Bendlerblock, the Berlin headquarters of the Ersatzheer among other branches of the German Military.
When the mutiny failed, Fromm was found by men of the Ersatzheer and freed. Against Hitler's orders to take the conspirators alive, he only arrested the one who was, at that time, a civilian (retired Colonel-General Beck) while court-martialling and shooting the active soldiers immediately. As for General Beck, Fromm allowed him upon request to commit suicide and ordered to shoot him after his attempt failed, leaving only bad injuries. The reason, or reasons, for this are unclear: He might have wished to cover up potential allegations that he himself was involved; also, he might have wished to spare his comrades a humiliating trial and possible torture. In any case, the executions did not save him.
Trial and execution
After executing the top plotters, Fromm returned to his office for the night after a reported upcoming air-raid. There in his office he was met by various Nazi officers, Joseph Goebbels among them. Fromm tried to claim credit for ending the coup.
On the morning of 22 July 1944, Fromm was arrested by Nazi officials and locked in jail to await trial. Fromm was discharged from the German Army on 14 September 1944. The civilian Fromm was sentenced to death and considered unworthy for military duty by the Volksgerichtshof on 7 March 1945. Since the court failed to prove a direct association with the 20 July plotters, he had been charged and convicted for cowardice before the enemy. On 12 March 1945, Fromm was executed at the Brandenburg-Görden Prison by firing squad as part of the post-conspiracy purge. His last words before the firing squad were reported to be "I die, because it was ordered. I had always wanted only the best for Germany."
- Iron Cross (1914)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- Wound Badge (1914)
- in Black
- Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- Anschluss Medal
- Sudetenland Medal with Prague Castle Bar
- Memel Medal
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 6 July 1940 as General der Artillerie and chief of the Heeresrüstung (armament of the army) and commander in chief of the Ersatzheeres (replacement army)
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 188.