List was born in Oberkirchberg near Ulm, Württemberg, Germany in 1880 and entered the Bavarian Army in 1898 as a cadet. In 1900 he was promoted to Lieutenant and in 1913 he joined the general staff as a Hauptmann. He served as a staff officer in World War I.
After the war List stayed in the Reichswehr and most of his assignments were as an administrator. In 1927 he was promoted to Oberst, in 1930 he was promoted to General-Major and in 1932 he was promoted to General-Leutnant. In 1938 after the Anschluss of Austria he was made responsible for integrating the Bundesheer into the Wehrmacht.
During 1939 List commanded the German 14th Army in the invasion of Poland. From 1939 to 1941 he commanded the German 12th Army in France and Greece. During 1941 he was Commander-in-Chief South-East. In July 1942 he was Commander-in-Chief of Army Group A on the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union.
It was List's task to advance his army into southern Poland immediately on the outbreak of hostilities, to form the extreme southern wing of an encircling manoevre carried out by the German forces aimed at trapping the Polish field army in the general region of Warsaw. He fulfilled this mission, meeting advance elements of the German XIX Panzer Corps under the command of General Guderian a short distance south of Brest-Litovsk, on September 17 1939.
Following the conclusion of the fighting in Poland, which was accelerated by the occupation of the eastern part of the country by Soviet forces, as agreed to in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, List and his army remained posted as occupying forces on Polish territory. List was promoted to Field-Marshal on the conclusion of the campaign. In early 1941 German troops were being steadily amassed on the Eastern frontier of the Third Reich; in preparation, as is now known, for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. OKW believed that before Barbarossa could be launched it would be necessary to eliminate the possibility of interference from Greece by militarily subduing this country, in an operation codenamed Operation Marita. Field-Marshal List was delegated to negotiate with the Bulgarian General Staff, and a secret agreement was signed allowing the free passage of German troops through Bulgarian territory. On the night of February 28 1941 German troops, including List who now commanded the 12th army, took up positions in Bulgaria, which the next day joined the Tripartite Pact.
The invasion of Greece, and of Yugoslavia, started on April 6 1941. The 12th army, commanded by List, consisted of four armoured divisions and eleven motorised infantry divisions, and totally overmatched the defending forces. Belgrade was occupied by German forces on April 13 1941, and Athens on April 27 1941. The Balkan interlude ended with the evacuation of British forces on April 28 1941.
However, by the end of August their advance had ground to halt, chiefly due to critical shortages of fuel and ammunition as the army group outran its supply lines. Russian resistance had also stiffened considerably, and matters were made worse for the Germans by the removal in mid-August of most Luftwaffe combat units to the north to support to the Sixth Army's drive on Stalingrad.
Hitler was angered by the loss of momentum, and when List proposed moving some stalled spearhead units to another, less advanced portion of the front to assist in destroying stubborn Russian forces, Hitler relieved him of command on September 9 and placed himself in charge of Army Group A. List spent the rest of the war at his home and never returned to active duty.
List was captured by the Allies after the war. In 1947, List and 11 former subordinates were brought before a U.S. military court, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity - primarily the reprisal killing of hostages in retaliation for partisan activity. List was convicted in this Hostages Trial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 1948. List was released from prison in December 1952, officially because of ill health. However, he lived for another 19 years, dying on August 17 1971.
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