Erich von Manstein (November 24, 1887-June 10, 1973) was a lifelong professional soldier who rose to become one of the most prominent commanders of Nazi Germany's armed forces (Wehrmacht) during World War II; he attained the rank of Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall), although he was never a member of the Nazi Party himself. Von Manstein thought on an idea which led eventually to the approval of Sichelschnitt ('Sickle Cut') plan to the conquest of France; later, he was commander of armies in the Crimea and at Leningrad before becoming the commander of Army Group South. In this post, Manstein achieved one of the greatest victories in modern warfare when, despite the numerical and material superiority of the Soviets, he was able to halt the Red Army’s offensive fresh from the victory at Stalingrad and went on to capture the city of Kharkov with his own successful counteroffensive.
Though he never questioned Hitler's final authority as commander-in-chief of the German army, he was famous for repeatedly standing up to Hitler on various issues, often with the rest of the General Staff watching. Although this would have normally led to his swift removal, Manstein was one of a very few generals who had repeatedly proved themselves in Hitler's eyes. Eventually, his differences with Hitler over matters of strategy led to his being dismissed in 1944.
In 1949, a British military tribunal sentenced him to 18 years imprisonment for war crimes, but he was released after only four years for medical reasons. He subsequently served as a senior advisor to the West German government, helping to shape the new Bundeswehr and was its honorary chief of staff.