Monday, December 9, 2019

Short Biography of Generalleutnant Artur Schmitt

By: Dr. Sandy Mitcham
Artur Schmitt was born at Albersweiler in the Rhineland Palatinate on July 20, 1888, he joined the Bavarian Army as a Fahnenjunker in 1907, and was commissioned Leutnant in the 18th Bavarian Infantry Regiment in 1909. He fought in World War I, where he earned both grades of the Iron Cross. Like so many excellent officers, however, Schmitt was not selected for the 4,000 officer "Treaty Army." Discharged in 1920, he joined the Bavarian State Police, and in 1934 was promoted to lieutenant colonel of police. The following year, Hitler renounced the Treaty of Versailles, and Schmitt applied to return to active duty. He joined the Reichsheer as a colonel on October 1, 1935.

Schmitt was named commander of the XI Field Ordnance Command in early 1937. He held this post until February 1940, when he assumed command of the 626th Infantry Regiment. This Stellungs (positional or static) unit, which was part of the 555th Infantry Division, was made up of Landesschuetzen--men from the older age groups--and was considered fourth class (capable of limited defensive missions only). The virtually immobile 626th occupied defensive positions on the Upper Rhine in the spring and summer of 1940, while more mobile German formations with younger soldiers overran France, Belgium and the Netherlands. After the fall of Paris, the 626th and its parent division moved to Bielefeld. In September 1940, Colonel Schmitt briefly served as acting commander of the 555th Infantry Division, which Hitler had already ordered disbanded. 31 When this process was completed on September 25, Schmitt resumed command of the XI Field Ordnance. He did so well in this post that he was named commander of the 2nd Higher Ordnance Staff on February 19, 1941, and was promoted to major general, effective February 1, 1941.

In the eyes of OKW, Schmitt had proven himself as a ordnance and field ordnance commander. The next step in his logical career progression was to direct a rear area command. He was given Korueck 556--the 556th Rear Area Command, which was subordinate to Panzer Group Afrika. He assumed his new post on September 9, 1941.

Due to British command of the air and sea, Schmitt's difficulties in his new post were insurmountable. The situation became so critical that Hitler transferred the 2nd Air Fleet from the Russian Front to Sicily in November 1941. It was able to relieve the pressure on Rommel's supply lines, but it was too late to help Panzer Group Afrika during Operation "Crusader," the major British winter offensive of 1941/42. In addition, Rommel was short of senior German officers, and he did not trust the Italians to defend "the Eastern Sector" (Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya Pass) to the utmost. He did, however, trust Schmitt to do so. For this reason, the Desert Fox named Artur Schmitt commander of the ad hoc Sector East on November 10. The Allied offensive began seven days later.

Schmitt headquartered at Bardia, where he had previously located his forward ordnance depot and shops. He was cut off when the 21st Panzer Division withdrew on November 26, and he lost effective control of the Sollum and Halfaya Pass garrisons. Shortly thereafter, his ad hoc command was given the designation Division Bardia. It consisted of 4,200 Italians from the Savona Division and 2,200 Germans, mostly from the administrative services. They were besieged by elements of the 2nd South African Infantry Division, the 1st Army Tank Brigade, the Polish Brigade, the artillery of the 2nd New Zealand Infantry Division, and strong elements of the Royal Navy and Air Force.

Despite the fact that he had few combat troops, Schmitt held his positions for more than a month. Then, about New Years Day, he lost his last water hole and did not have the resources to retake it. He surrendered the garrison on January 2, 1942. When the South Africans entered the city, they liberated 1,100 British prisoners

During the Siege of Bardia, Schmitt found his Italian forces to be of very little use. (The best part of the Savona Division was cut off in the desert with General di Giorgia.) After he surrendered, General Schmitt caused a bit of an international incident by publicly stating that he would have held out much longer if the Italians allies had performed better. The Italian government was highly offended, but Rommel sided with his general. At his recommendation, Artur Schmitt was awarded the Knight's Cross on February 5. It would be some time before he got to wear the decoration, however; at the time, he was on a the British transport ship Pasteur, in the Red Sea, headed for Canada.

Even as a prisoner-of-war, General Schmitt did not stop resisting. He, General von Ravenstein and Major Bach, among others, developed a plot to seize control of the ship and take it to Singapore, which was then occupied by the Japanese. Unfortunately, the British got wind of the plan, seized the leaders, and placed them in solitary confinement. They even considered throwing the ringleaders into the sea but, fortunately for Schmitt, von Ravenstein and Bach, cooler heads prevailed.

Once they reached shore, Ravenstein and Schmitt temporarily roomed together in a POW camp. This did not work out well for the sophisticated Ravenstein, who disliked the simpler, less education and more dogmatic Schmitt. He was pleased when they were separated.

Hitler and OKH were also obviously unoffended by the outspoken Schmitt's remarks. On January 1, 1943, they promoted him to lieutenant general. After the Pasteur incident, Schmitt's time as a POW was uneventful, and he was released on October 5, 1947. He retired to Munich, where he died on January 15, 1972.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Color Photo of Heinrich Wittmer

Oberst im Generalstab Heinrich Wittmer (28 February 1910 - 27 June 1992) is a Luftwaffe bomber ace who received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 12 November 1941 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur III.Gruppe / Kampfgeschwader 55 (KG 55) "Greif". He was awarded the prestigious medal for his success as a bomber pilot in missions against England in 1940 (where his bombers particularly distinguished themselves in an attack on the Westland aircraft factory in Yeovil) and against the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. He flew a total of 184 combat missions in his entire active military career.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Color Photo of Ernst-Hasse von Langenn-Steinkeller

Oberst Ernst-Hasse von Langenn-Steinkeller (7 December 1916 - 5 September 2004) received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 9 June 1944 as Rittmeister and Kommandeur Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 24 / 24.Panzer-Division. Previously, he also got the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold on 25 January 1943 as Kommandeur Kradschützen-Abteilung 4 / 24.Panzer-Division.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Heinrich Eberbach with Retouched Ritterkreuz

Heinrich Eberbach as Oberstleutnant and Commander of Panzer-Regiment 35 / 4.Panzer-Division, after receiving the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 4 July 1940. This picture is actually showing Eberbach still as a Major in 1935, but then it retouched with added Ritterkreuz in his neck and rangstern on his schulterklappen.

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Color Picture of SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Priess

SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Hermann Priess posed proudly for a color studio picture after he received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern #65 on 24 April 1944 as SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS and commander of the 3. SS-Panzer-Division "Totenkopf".

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Georg Lindemann Riding a Horse

Generaloberst Georg Lindemann riding a horse while holding a goblet. He is wearing a stahlhelm M18 Kavalleriehelm. In 1936, Lindemann was promoted to Generalmajor and given command of the 36th Infantry Division which took part in the Invasion of France. Lindemann was promoted to full General and given command of the L Army Corps. In June 1941, at the launch of Operation Barbarossa, Lindemann's Corps was a part of Army Group North. Lindemann commanded the corps during the advance towards Leningrad. His unit was briefly shifted to the command of Army Group Centre during the Battle of Smolensk. Lindemann's corps was then shifted back to Army Group North. On 16 January 1942, Lindemann took the command of the 18th Army, a part of Army Group North. In the summer of 1942, he was promoted to Generaloberst. Lindemann commanded the 18th Army throughout the campaigns around Leningrad and during the January 1944 retreat from the Oranienbaum Bridgehead to Narva. He was promoted to command of Army Group North on 31 March 1944. On 4 July 1944, he was relieved and transferred to the Reserve Army. On 1 February 1945, he was appointed to the command of all German troops in Denmark as the "Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in Denmark". Germany surrendered unconditionally in northwest Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark on 5 May 1945. Lindemann was then given the task of dismantling the German occupation of Denmark until 6 June 1945, when he was arrested at his headquarters in Silkeborg. He was held in American custody until 1948. Lindemann died in 1963 in Freudenstadt, West Germany

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Monday, June 10, 2019

A Colorized Picture of Luftwaffe Ace Egon Mayer

A colorized picture of Egon Mayer by Mihaly Gherman. Mayer (19 August 1917 – 2 March 1944) was a Luftwaffe wing commander and fighter ace of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was credited with 102 enemy aircraft shot down in over 353 combat missions. His victories were all claimed over the Western Front and included 26 four-engine bombers, 51 Supermarine Spitfires and 12 P-47 Thunderbolts. Mayer was the first fighter pilot to score 100 victories entirely on the Western Front.

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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Ritterkreuzträger Franz Schmitz and SS Medic Officer

From left to right: Sanitätsfeldwebel Franz Schmitz and SS-Obersturmbannführer Dr.-med. Ferdinand Berning (Führer beim Sanitätsdienst im SS-Hauptamt). Schmitz received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 13 September 1943 as a Sanitäts-Unteroffizier and Gruppenführer in 3.Kompanie / I.Bataillon / Grenadier-Regiment 279 / 95.Infanterie-Division. In this picture, Schmitz is wearing a Tätigkeitsabzeichen des Heeres (Specialist-badge of the Army) of Sanitätsunter- personal (Medic Personnel). The picture was taken in April 1944.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

SS-Brigadeführer Sylvester Stadler

 An Austrian, like many of the brave soldiers of the Waffen-SS, Sylvester Stadler (30 December 1910 – 23 August 1995) was born in the Steiermark region. He entered the SS in 1933 before his homeland was annexed into the Reich. In August 1940, SS-Hauptsturmführer Stadler assumed command of SS-Regiment Der Führer. In the summer of 1941, SS-Division Reich was attacking in full force at Jelnja, Minsk, Orscha, Kiev and Smolensk, where Stadler and his company proved themselves. Stadler then participated in the difficult and bloody fighting outside of Moscow, before he was part of the famous defensive action of the regiment at Cholm and Welikje Luki. Together with some of the best divisions on the Eastern Front, SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Das Reich participated in fighting to retake Kharkov in early 1943. For repeated demonstrations of bravery at the head of his battalion and for his outstanding leadership during the Kharkov battles, Stadler was awarded the Ritterkreuz on April 6 1943. A few weeks later SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser informed him that he was being designated the regimental commander of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment Der Führer. Stadler could only stammer: Aren´t I too young for that? Hausser replied with a smile: Nonsense, Stadler! Think of the great Napoleon. He wasn´t much older than you… Stadler, of course, proved to be more than up to the job. Promoted SS-Obersturmbannführer on 20 April 1943, Stadler excelled in all of the engagements and battles through his initiative, bravery and loyalty to his men. During the next few months, Stadler led his battalions west of Kharkov and during the offensive against Kursk itself. He received the Eichenlaub for his Ritterkreuz only five months after having been awarded the Ritterkreuz! He was the 17th member of the Waffen-SS to be so honored. The award of at least one, possible two, Tank Destruction Strips also demonstrated the impressive personal commitment to duty far beyond the duty description of a battalion or regimental commander. On 12 December 1943, SS-Obersturmbannführer Stadler became the 35th soldier of the German armed forces to receive the Nahkampfspange in Gold when he hit the threshold of 50 days of close combat.
On 30 January 1944 he was promoted SS-Standartenführer and on 10 July 1944 he was made commander of the elite 9.SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen. At the age of 33, he was one of the youngest officers in the Waffen-SS to hold this rank! At the end of 1944, Stadler´s panzers participated in the Ardennes Offensive. During the offensive, the SS-Oberführer Sylvester Stadler once again demonstrated his sense of military fairness, in which he exchanged wounded U.S. soldiers for captured soldiers of his division. A short while later, Hohenstaufen was dispatched to the 6.SS-Panzer-Armee west of Budapest. When he received order to pull back to the west in the face of the sheer hopelessness of the situation he did not carry out the order. Instead, he launched a risky relief attack on Stuhlweißenburg, which allowed the withdrawal of the German forces encircled there. The first-class frontline SS-officer Sylvester Stadler received the Schwerter to the Ritterkreuz, as the 23rd officer of the Waffen-SS. Shortly afterwards he was promoted SS-Brigadeführer. On 4 May 1945 he negotiated a ceasefire with American forces and received assurances that 9.SS-Panzerdivision Hohenstaufen would go into U.S. captivity. He was released from captivity in 1948 and started a life as a businessman. The family man with two sons died on 23 August 1995 in Augsburg.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Eberhard Kinzel and German Delegation at Lüneburg Heath

The first arrival of the German delegation to the headquarters of the British 21st Army Group in the Lüneburger Heide (Luneburg Heath), east of Hamburg, to discuss a ceasefire on May 3, 1945. The Germans offer to surrender the Heeresgruppe Vistula - who was surrounded by Soviet troops - to the Allies, was rejected by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (Commander of the 21st Army Group), because he wanted the unconditional surrender of German troops in the north-west Germany, as well as in the Netherlands and Denmark. The German delegation replied that they were not given the power to determine this, and had to negotiate it first with their leader, Großadmiral Karl Dönitz (the successor to Hitler who committed suicide a few days earlier). Finally Montgomery allowed them to return home, and gave 24 hours for the answers to be given. This photo was taken by Captain E.G. Malindine (British No. 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit) and shows Marshal Montgomery standing second from the left, while the German delegation starts with their leader Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg (Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine) who holding the document in the middle, followed to the right as follow: General der Infanterie Eberhard Kinzel (Chef des Generalstabes Operationsstab Nord), Konteradmiral Gerhard Wagner (Admiral z.b.V. Beim Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine), and Major i.G. Hans Jochen Friedel (half visible, Stabsoffizier Operationsstab Nord).

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