Hans Speidel, 87, a retired West German general who as a leading staff officer in World War II took part in the 1944 plot to take Adolf Hitler's life and who later became the first German to command NATO troops, died Nov. 28 at his home in Bad Honnef, West Germany. The cause of death was not reported.
Gen. Speidel's army career was highlighted by his was the chief German representative at Supreme Allied Headquarters near Paris and in 1957 when his name was put forward by U.S. Gen. Lauris Norstad for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's ground forces command. The subsequent appointment prompted protests in Britain, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia by people who said their troops should never serve under a German.
Gen. Speidel was born Oct. 28, 1897, in Metzingen, Baden-Wuerrtemberg, and at 17 volunteered for the infantry and fought on the western front in World War I. He stayed in the army after the war and as a young officer studied at Tuebingen, receiving a doctorate in history and economics.
The young officer was picked for the general staff school and became an expert on France. At the outbreak of World War II, he served in a succession of staff posts and was chief of staff to the military commander in France in 1940.
He was later transferred to the Russian front where he headed the general staff of the 5th Army Corps and was involved in the first German retreat on the Moscow front in 1941.
Asked by a British historian after the war about the reason for Germany's defeat in the East, he replied, "Too many Russians and one German too many" -- a reference to Hitler.
By 1944, Gen. Speidel was involved in the soldier's plot on Hitler's life. He became chief of staff to the "Desert Fox," Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was commanding on the Western front, and drew Rommel into the plot.
Hitler survived the bomb the group planted at his headquarters in East Prussia to wreak a terrible revenge on the conspirators and their families. Both Rommel and Gen. Speidel were quickly linked to the conspiracy. Rommel took poison rather than face an inquiry, and some other plotters were executed.
Since his retirement, Gen. Speidel had lived with his wife, Ruth, in Bad Honnef, across the Rhine River from Bonn. They had two daughters and a son.