Manstein: Paper Pusher or War Hero?


Erich was born in Berlin on 24 November, 1887. On this day the parents Eduard and Helene von Lewinski Immediately sent a telegraph to the sister of Helene, Hedwig von Manstein and her husband Georg: ”Today a son was born to you”. Both families had a special agreement: The tenth son of the Lewinskis, Erich, would be given to the von Mansteins and raised as their son, because they had no children at all.

Most of little Erich's male ancestors - of both families - had been soldiers, both his fathers made the rank of General - Fieldmarshall and later Reichspräsident von Hin-denburg was his uncle. In his autobiography Erich states that it was his wish also to become a soldier, but maybe he had simply no choice at all. By the age of 13 he went to the Kadettenanstalt in Berlin Lichterfelde. Erich liked the life there very much and stated that he was made a “Herr” by the education there. In contrast the captain of his class also wrote about the Kadettenanstalt in bitter words and called it a school for slaves.

All the cadets from noble families were required to function during the winter months as pages at the court of the Emperor William II. They had to help Ladies to climb down from their coaches and also had to serve food and wine. Erich got to know the high nobility of his time and was immensely impressed. This seems to be quite usual for a little boy, but it seems odd when a man of seventy devotes so many pages of his autobiography to the details of the gowns of the Ladies and the parties, but leaves out much more important events in his life. This however is a characteristic of Erich von Manstein's writings: to describe the pleasant but petty things in detail, while neglecting the less agreeable but more significant matters.

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