Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Bio of Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch

Germany's last professional Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Walther von Brauchitsch, was an artilleryman who had served throughout the Great War on the General Staff. When the Nazis achieved the discrediting and downfall of his predecessor, Colonel-General von Fritsch, it had been Hitler's wish and intention to get von Reichenau promoted in his place. But this the Army, led by von Rundstedt, would not accept, so the post went to von Brauchitsch who was acceptable to all and popular throughout the Army. He was several years junior in age and seniority of rank to von Rundstedt, but was promoted Colonel- General on the day of his appointment, 4 February 1938, and became Field-Marshal in the mass promotion Hitler ordained after the victory over France in July 1940.

Brauchitsch has been hardly, even severely, dealt with by many historians, particularly by Sir John Wheeler-Bennett ('a man of little moral courage and no strength of character'), Barry A. Leach, Walter Görlitz, and Colonel Albert Seaton, and his case has not been helped by the disloyalty to his Chief which Haider sometimes showed even during the war. It is time that at least a part of his reputation be re-established.

Brauchitsch was born in Berlin in 1881. In 1900 he became a subaltern in the 3rd Foot Guards, a famous regiment which nurtured one of his predecessors as Commander-in-Chief, Colonel-General Freiherr Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, and Field-Marshal von Manstein. But the next year Brauchitsch, despite promptings to the contrary from his friend in the cavalry, von Kleist, transferred to the 3rd Guards Field Artillery Regiment. A major at the end of the Great War, he served as a staff officer in the Truppenamt from late 1922, and in 1925 commanded an artillery battalion. By 1928 he was a colonel, followed by further spells of duty in the Truppenamt in 1930 as Director of Army Training, a departmental head, and in 1932 as Inspector of Artillery. He became a Major-General in 1930; a Lieu tenant-General in 1933, when commander of Wehrkreis I and the 1st Division at Königsberg; commander of I Army Corps at Königsberg from June 1935; a full General of Artillery in 1936, and commander of Gruppenkommando 4 in 1937.

An innovator in artillery methods and a thoroughly good gunner, Brauchitsch was not fenced in by traditional military beliefs and was, in fact, largely responsible for developing the formidable 88 mm. gun for dual-purpose work, that is as both an anti-tank and an anti-aircraft gun. The dual-purpose 88 mm. became the finest artillery piece of the war. As a former grammar-school boy he was not subservient to the tenets of the Junker class. When he was commanding in East Prussia Brauchitsch clashed with Gauleiter Erich Koch, an equivocal character, and with the S.S., elements of whom he ejected from Army manoeuvres. His appointment as C-in-C Army came as a great surprise, partly because he was by no means considered to be a Nazi sympathizer. Powerful though such an appointment might be, much of its strength was vitiated because Hitler chose the time of the demise of von Blomberg and von Fritsch to establish the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or O.K.W., under General Keitel, who had previously been head of the lesser Wehrmachtsamt and, in Blomberg's words, 'the man who runs my office'. Thus the new C-in-C Army became less of a power than he had been previously. His position with the Nazis was also weakened because in 1938 he divorced his first wife, and married a woman who was notoriously pro-Nazi. It was suggested at the time that possibly Hitler and certainly Goring had smoothed the way for this second marriage to take place, as conservative Army circles did not relish divorces in those days, and Brauchitsch was the son of a Prussian General of Cavalry.

Brauchitsch has been criticized for accepting his appointment before Fritsch's case was dealt with, for tamely accepting Hitler's new unification of command in the O.K.W., and for agreeing to some vital changes of personnel in the High Command. Jodl thought he would have accomplished most of the latter in his own interests anyway, but it remains true that more or less contemporaneously with Brauchitsch's promotion sixteen high-ranking generals lost their commands (though nearly all were to regain them within a year or so) and many others were transferred. In the view of Wheeler-Bennett, Brauchitsch was an appeaser who had sold the pass before he started his top job. Others may feel that he had a sincere desire to protect the Army from undue Nazi influence. He told Hitler in 1938 that the interference of civilians in military affairs invariably led to disastrous results, a warning which seems to have passed the Führer by; and he kept on von Fritsch's staff and remained on good terms with his predecessor. He did not think much of Keitel, and he was bold enough to threaten to challenge Dr Göbbels to a duel for spreading unpleasant rumours about his divorce.

Like others who had thought that they might tame the tiger, von Brauchitsch was to find Hitler an impossible customer to deal with. The tragedy is that Brauchitsch progressively weakened and eventually lost control of his own organization, to become merely a figurehead. The reasons for this were a certain weakness of character, the unstoppable success and undeniable orders of an emphatic Hitler, a misguided sense of loyalty, and the very considerable influence upon him of his '200 per cent' Nazi wife. It was thus that he became, in von Manstein's words, 'demoted from the status of military adviser to the Head of State to that of a subordinate commander pledged to unquestioning obedience'.

In various ways Brauchitsch had a wider outlook than many of his colleagues. He was a well-educated man, spoke several foreign languages, and himself listed economic and political questions of the day as his outside interests. Like Raeder in the Navy, he tried to maintain the old religious traditions in the Army. He had very good manners, to those outside the Army as well as to his colleagues, and showed warmth and understanding towards his subordinates. As a result people liked to serve under him. He was particularly solicitous of the welfare of the troops, and paid attention to their housing and food. Militarily he had shown himself keen on new ideas in the 'twenties by organizing manoeuvres to test the co-operation of aircraft with motorized troops. Unfortunately, although not a Nazi in the sense that his more galvanic superior, von Blomberg, had been, he was when he came to his high post a warm personal admirer of Hitler.

Thus, in an order about the training of officers issued on 18 December 1938, he said: 'Adolf Hitler, our leader of genius, who has recast the great lesson of the front-line soldier in the form of the National Socialist philosophy, has built and secured for us the new Great-German Reich. Only he who can comprehend the yesterday, today and tomorrow in their full difficulty and immensity can appreciate the historic nature of the deeds of this man. The revolution has been stupendous in all fields. A new German being has grown up in the Third Reich, filled with ideas different from those of the generation which went before us. . . . Our loyalty to the man who has created all this, who by his faith and will has worked this miracle, is unshakeable, our confidence in him is firm. . . . The Armed Forces and National-Socialism are of the same spiritual stem. They will accomplish much for the nation in the future, if they follow the example and teaching of the Führer, who combines in his person the true soldier and National-Socialist.'

This was not at all the stuff to appeal to Colonel-General Ludwig Beck, Brauchitsch's first Chief of Staff, who, though he had resigned by the time of that order, had had to listen to much similar tub-thumping before. Beck was utterly against a war with the West, as indeed was Brauchitsch, but whereas Beck put his arguments in the most forceful way Brauchitsch managed only to convey weak protests to Hitler, though he himself had told a conference of senior generals that war would mean the end of German culture. Relations between the two men progressively worsened, and Beck finally did for himself in Hitler's eyes by a memorandum of 3 June 1938, in which he asserted that a war with Czechoslovakia would involve all Europe in a war, which Germany would lose. After several offers of resignation Beck finally went that August, to be succeeded by the Bavarian General Franz Halder.

In Hammerstein's view Brauchitsch had no political sense, and, owing to the deliberate reorganization by Hitler of the High Command, no power. The opinion of this most anti-Nazi and intelligent of German generals, interestingly one who achieved the reputation of being 'red', is recorded by Ambassador Ulrich von Hassell as early as December 1938, and should be respected.

It is evident that Brauchitsch, in many ways a reformer, had the opportunity to put the German Army on a new track, but followed the wrong one. Had he made common cause with Beck and decent and respected pillars of the old school such as Rundstedt, Witzleben, Leeb, and Blaskowitz, and had he tried to win over Goring, with whom he was on good terms, and some of the ex-Army officers in the Luftwaffe such as Kesselring and Sperrle, and Raeder, who as a traditionalist presented no great problems, it is just possible that a last chance to head off Hitler from his path to destruction might have been created. Whether Brauchitsch thought, like some Army generals before him, that Hitler could be used, and did not see the dangers in this false belief until too late; or whether he genuinely believed that the Army and Nazism must walk hand in hand, is not certain. At all events, either from weakness when confronted with the extraordinary forcefulness of Hitler, or from compliance, he proved lamentably unable to stand up to Hitler, and not the man to lead an Army revolt against him. Not that the idea did not occur to him, for though Beck had learned to put no faith in him and the conspirators did not include him in their plans, Brauchitsch was well aware that there was a conspiracy. Beck had tried to get him to act, and had sought at least a free hand to act himself before it was too late and the West flared into war, but Brauchitsch had never consented. Political events had conspired, it seemed, to give Hitler one triumph after another, in the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Brauchitsch, meanwhile, consoled himself with the trappings of office and a genuine but naive hope that all would turn out for the best.

It is significant of the weakness of his position that when the German- Soviet Pact was signed in late August 1939, Brauchitsch was not consulted, nor had he been given any hand in drawing up the 'Pact of
Steel' signed between Italy and Germany on 22 May 1939, though the latter was a military alliance containing military clauses, and there were pronounced military undertones in the former.

Brauchitsch was not against the invasion of Poland, but only because he believed Hitler's assurance that it would not lead to general war. He was in charge of the planning of the campaign, but in fact this closely followed plans that had been laid down by von Fritsch. Brauchitsch was more worried about Russian intervention than anything else, for he had consistently urged Hitler to come to an accommodation with the Russians. He was well-informed about the strength of the Red Army.

Hitler did not interfere with the conduct of the Polish campaign, but he very much resented it when Brauchitsch reported that many German infantry units had not shown the same dash and discipline as had been noteworthy in the Great War. Brauchitsch was against the Norwegian venture, because he did not believe that the Royal Navy would allow a German force to reach Norway; as things turned out the major planning was done by Raeder and his staff, and Brauchitsch was proved wrong. He was also against the invasion of France, for having been at Verdun and other Great War battles he tended, like most Germans of his age and experience, to over-estimate the qualities of the French Army and of Gamelin's leadership. He was also afraid that the full weight of the British Empire would be brought into the war and would not prove easy to deal with. He and Halder became responsible, however, for the detailed planning of the invasion of France, and he resisted the changes proposed by Rundstedt and Manstein which took away the main effort from the German right flank and put it towards the left. When, however, he was overruled he went even further than Rundstedt and Manstein so that the former ended up with more divisions and much greater armoured strength than had originally been proposed.

In the famous 'halt' dispute before Dunkirk Brauchitsch emerges well. On 24 May 1940 he ordered that encircling attacks should proceed, and, more important, that the whole 4th Army, which controlled all the panzer divisions and was attacking the B.E.F. and the 1st French Army from the south and west, should be removed from von Rundstedt's Army Group A and given to von Bock's Army Group B which was attacking the Allies, including the Belgians, from the east. This would place Bock in command of the final encirclement drive, and had the advantages of nominating one ground commander to finish off the Allies in the north, and of using troops who were fresher than those of von Rundstedt. Halder did not agree with Brauchitsch and, as was his right as Chief of Staff, expressed his disagreement by annotating the order to the effect that it went out without his signature 'to signify disapproval of the order and its timing'.

Hitler, however, heard Rundstedt's explanation of the 'halt and close up' order when he visited him on 24 May, and without bothering to consult Brauchitsch countermanded his order and endorsed that of Rundstedt. This was both high-handed and discourteous; worse, it was a grave tactical error. Not unnaturally the atmosphere at Hitler's headquarters was very unpleasant when next Brauchitsch saw the Führer. It is also regrettable that the personal war diary (not the official one) of Halder, kept throughout the French campaign, sometimes contains unpleasant references to Brauchitsch, to whom he owed absolute loyalty.

Brauchitsch had had many arguments after Poland with Hitler, Keitel and Jodl, some of which had been bitter; he had actually offered to resign when Hitler called for a Saarbrücken offensive, and according to Allen Welsh Dulles 'told the conspirators, with whom he was still in touch, that he did not know whether he would arrest Hitler or Hitler would arrest him'. But he had given no encouragement to Beck when the latter tried to get him to act before the real war in the west began.

About 'Sea-Lion' Brauchitsch had mixed feelings, but he did believe that, given the right circumstances—which included a triumphant Luftwaffe, good weather, and proper naval preparations—it might well be feasible. He was certainly more optimistic than Rundstedt, and he might have shared the feeling in some Army quarters that the Navy were dragging rather cold feet about the prospect of invading England. Raeder wrote on 22 June 1940, the day the French armistice was signed: 'I told the C-in-C [Brauchitsch] that the operation would involve very great dangers indeed.'

Looking forward to the German occupation of Britain, Brauchitsch produced a series of instructions, some in considerable detail, called 'Orders Concerning the Organization and Function of Military Government in England'. They included matters of law, order, requisition, deportation, work, etc., of which the keynote, in Peter Fleming's words, is 'a drab, impersonal ferocity'. On 9 September 1940 Brauchitsch signed a directive which provided that 'the able-bodied male population between the ages of 17 and 45 will, unless the local situation calls for an exceptional ruling, be interned and dispatched to the Continent'. In other words, the bulk of the adult male English population were to become slave labour for the Nazis, and would probably never see their homes again. It shows how far Brauchitsch had progressed along the slippery path of Nazism that he allowed himself to sign an order like this.

Brauchitsch had instructed Halder to examine the possibility of a war with Russia as early as 2 July 1940, though it was not until 31 July at the Obersalzberg that Hitler told Brauchitsch and Halder of his intention to attack the Soviet Union 'the sooner the better, and preferably this year. With Russia defeated, Britain's last hope will be gone'.

To start with, owing to surprise, good weather, and the aggressive dash of individual German generals and their troops, things went remarkably well. But at the end of July 1941 a serious difference of opinion arose between the Commander-in-Chief and Hitler, a dispute which was to become even more acrimonious in August. It involved Moscow. Brauchitsch was, after the capture of Smolensk, in favour of an all-out effort to take Moscow and thus finish off Stalin and the war, for he thought that if the capital went the country would collapse. His opinion was shared by Halder, Guderian, Bock, Hoth, and all the other leading commanders on the Eastern front. And as O.K.H. was charged with the conduct of the Russian war, it should have prevailed.

But Hitler disagreed. In his Directive No. 34 of 30th July 1941 he ordered Army Group Centre, which faced Moscow, to go over to the defensive. The main targets were given as, in the north, the encirclement of Leningrad and juncture with the Finnish Army; and, in the south-east, the destruction of strong enemy forces west of the Dnieper and the establishment of bridgeheads across that river. Hitler had always held that Leningrad should be captured before Moscow, and refused to consider a strike against the capital first. On 18 August Brauchitsch submitted his views on the conduct of future operations, but three days later Hitler replied tersely that they were not in accordance with his instructions.

'The most important aim to be achieved before the onset of winter is not to capture Moscow, but to seize the Crimea and the industrial and coal region on the Donets, and to cut off the Russian oil supply from the Caucasus area. In the north, the aim is to cut off Leningrad and to join with the Finns.'

Finally, on 23 August, Colonel-General Guderian, representing the views of Field-Marshal von Bock and Colonel-General Halder, flew to Rastenburg in East Prussia to put to Hitler the case for taking Moscow. Although forbidden by von Brauchitsch to broach the subject of Moscow himself, Guderian, when asked by Hitler if he thought his Panzer Group still capable of a major effort, found it easy to get on to the vital subject. Hitler heard him out in silence, then rejected the Moscow idea.

Brauchitsch was not present to protest, but it would have made no difference, for Hitler had ceased to consult him seriously. From the beginning of the Russian campaign he had opposed and then ignored the views of his General Staff, in particular their insistence that the best way to finish the war quickly was an all-out drive on Moscow to bring down the Soviet government. On 21 August Hitler had accused Brauchitsch of not conducting the offensive as he wished it, a fairly idle complaint since he was standing for no opposition to his own views.

In Directive No. 35, of 6 September 1941, the main objective was 'a decisive operation against the Timoshenko Army Group which is attacking on the Central Front'. On von Bock's front the attack against Timoshenko would take place at the end of September to destroy the Russian forces east of Smolensk and in the Vyazma area. Only when these had been defeated would his Army Group Centre be directed against Moscow 'with its right flank on the Oka and its left on the Upper Volga'. Von Bock's strength was raised to some seventy divisions by additions from Army Groups North and South, and the air forces covering him were also strengthened. Fourteen of his divisions were Panzer ones, and eight Panzer Grenadier ones.

But Hitler had, by ignoring the advice of Brauchitsch and the experts, left it too late. In west and central Russia summer ends by early September at the latest, the autumn is short, and the weather breaks up—and so do the roads—in October, with heavy rains, hard frosts, thaws, and mud. By mid-November Hitler's Moscow offensive had ground to a halt, held up more by bad weather than by Russian resistance. At a conference at Orsha on 13 November the representatives of von Leeb and Rundstedt advocated going over to the defensive in the sectors of Army Groups North and South; Leeb, indeed, had already done so. Von Bock was in favour of resuming the Moscow offensive at once, and since Brauchitsch, Haider and Guderian had long striven without result for the Moscow objective, they too wanted to press on now that it at last was a reality. Even Brauchitsch's bad heart attack on 10 November did not change his views.

It was decided at Orsha that the attack on Moscow would be resumed on 19 November. It was, and in the face of fierce Russian resistance and further bad weather 'Operation Typhoon', as it was now called, made progress but at very heavy cost in casualties. Some advanced units and reconnaissance troops managed to reach the farthest of Moscow's outlying suburbs, but could get no farther. Exhausted, lacking winter clothing, and short of supplies, the troops of Guderian's Panzer Army could get no farther than a general line twenty miles from the capital, and there were no reinforcements now to make the breakthrough. On 5/6 December Guderian recalled his advance units and went over to the defensive. The attack on Moscow had failed. Two days later even Hitler realized this, though he put it down to 'the surprisingly early winter and the consequent difficulties in bringing up supplies'. Heads now began to fall. Rundstedt had already gone; Brauchitsch was to be next, at an acrimonious meeting on 19 December 1941. The dismissal of Brauchitsch was a watershed. Never again now was there to be a Professional head of the German Army during Hitler's war. Instead, contemptuous of the General Staff and convinced of his own military far-sightedness, Hitler himself assumed the chief command. He became Commander-in-Chief, in tide as well as in effect, thus brooking even less interference or guidance than before. In fact the position of Brauchitsch had long been eroded, and since the summer of 1941, with the O.K.W. ventures in Yugoslavia and Greece, over which he was not consulted, and then Africa, Russia had been the only proving ground where' the Army could have recovered its old authority. But even here, though it was officially an O.K.H. theatre of war, Hitler had constantly interfered, so that Brauchitsch was never able to fulfil his function as Commander-in-Chief, certainly not to the extent that he had in Poland and France.

It is facile to criticize him for weakness in not standing up to Hitler. This was more difficult than it sounds, not only because the danger of dismissal, disgrace, and even prison always loomed in the background, but because it was simply not possible to argue with Hitler. On various occasions Brauchitsch had been prepared to resign, or offered his resignation, but either Halder persuaded him that they could best serve their colleagues—and their country—by remaining where they were, or Hitler
contemptuously rejected it. His constant bullying and rudeness would have worn down most men—they were infinitely worse than anything Field-Marshal Sir Alan Brooke ever had to endure from Winston Churchill in his worst moments. Moreover, Brauchitsch genuinely suffered from a bad heart. It could not have been improved by the knowledge that in the east by December 1941, Germany had suffered three million casualties in soldiers dead, wounded, ill, or frostbitten. These figures were not disclosed to the public, but they weighed heavily on Brauchitsch, who was a decent man. A final cause of his dismissal was his belief that the German Army should conduct a large scale withdrawal to a safe winter line in 1941-2, west of Smolensk, to the Baltic states in the north, and to the west Ukraine in the south. Here he was only in agreement with his Army Group commanders. But, as always, Hitler would not concede ground.

For the remainder of the war von Brauchitsch was to be in sad retirement, though he was not forgotten, least of all by Hitler, who even on 15 March 1942 was referring to him as 'a nincompoop and a coward'. Assuredly Brauchitsch was neither. Göbbels, taking a leaf from his master's book, wrote in his diary on 20 March 1942 of the grievous German losses in the Russian winter of 1941-2: 'Brauchitsch bears a great deal of responsibility for this. The Führer spoke of him only in terms of contempt A vain, cowardly wretch who could not even appraise the situation, much less master it. 'By his constant interference and consistent disobedience he completely spoiled the entire plan for the eastern campaign as it was designed with crystal clarity by the Führer. The Führer had a plan that was bound to lead to victory. Had Brauchitsch done what was asked of him and what he really should have done, our position in the east today would be entirely different.

'The Führer had no intention whatever of going to Moscow. He wanted to cut off the Caucasus and thereby strike the Soviet system at its most vulnerable point But Brauchitsch and his general staff knew better. Brauchitsch always urged going to Moscow. He wanted prestige successes instead of factual successes. The Führer described him as a coward and a nincompoop. He also had tried to weaken the plan of campaign in the west. But the Führer was able to intervene in t i m e . . . .'

After the war von Brauchitsch gave evidence at Nuremberg, and was himself listed as a war criminal. In the sense that every general staff has to prepare contingency plans for attacking other countries, it is hard to see how he could have been convicted, for he had steadfastly done his best to maintain the old traditions of the German Army, and to prevent excesses by the S.S., of whom he disapproved. But he never came to trial, as he died in 1948. Brauchitsch never joined or countenanced the anti-Nazi generals or their conspiracy, of which he was well aware. Equally, he never betrayed them although he once threatened to have General Georg Thomas, the Chief of War Economy and Armament, arrested if he did not cease his persistent intrigues against Hitler. Later, however, shortly before his dismissal, in November 1941 he seems to have relented, for Hassell records on 1 November 1941: 'Falkenhausen and General Thomas have visited Brauchitsch and report that he comprehends what beastliness is rampant. He is also gradually awakening to the fact that a share of the responsibility is his. If Hitler should be eliminated, he has decided to take action. This at least indicates some progress.' According to Hassell, Brauchitsch intervened to save von Falkenhausen from being dismissed from his post as C-in-C of occupied Belgium and north-western France, and Falkenhausen was one of the most consistent anti-Hitler plotters. Brauchitsch was Commander-in-Chief for nearly four years. He is the classic example of the man who thought that, by going along with Hitler, he could save the Army and Germany. The result was failure and bitterness, and when he went the position of the Army became weaker than ever before. Now there was no one to intervene between Hitler and disaster, for Halder's days were numbered and he himself already a broken reed.

Brauchitsch cannot be rated in the high ranks as a Hofgeneral. This small, wiry, upright man, whose speech and actions were rapid and brisk, came to his high rank with the full support of the Army; when he left it, he had lost the goodwill of some and the respect of others, but he still maintained the confidence of a large body of his colleagues. Because he did not exercise strict personal control over the campaigns in which he was engaged, his abilities as a general are hard to assess. It must be granted, however, that as Commander-in-Chief of the mightiest Army that Europe had ever seen, the huge successes it achieved from 1939 to 1941 reflect no little credit on his own pre-war preparations as a professional soldier.

His tactical decisions, had they been freely carried out, seem to have been the right ones, notably his wish to push on in France in 1940, his desire to concentrate on the capture of Moscow in the summer of 1941, and his wish to withdraw to a safe winter line in 1941—2. Had he been an outstanding personality, he might just have been able to stand out against Hitler. But whilst having the intelligence, he lacked the character. Hermann Rauschning gives a somewhat different judgement: 'I make no secret of the fact that I esteemed and sympathized with this man . . . but his features did not bear the stamp of any extraordinary ability.'

Brauchitsch himself, paraphrasing words of von Fritsch, has summed up most vividly his quandary. 'Hitler was the fate of Germany, and this fate could not be stayed.'


Source :
"Hitler's Generals" by Richard Brett-Smith

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Ritterkreuz Action of Heinrich-Anton Deboi

Heinrich-Anton Deboi (6 April 1893 - 5 July 1955) received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 10 September 1942 as Generalmajor and Kommandeur 44. Infanterie-Division. On 22 June 1942 the 44. Infanterie-Division was ordered to open a path through the Soviet defenses towards Kupjansk (on the Oskol river) for General der Kavallerie Eberhard von Mackensen’s III. Panzerkorps. Under Deboi’s masterful leadership the Division succeeded in breaking through the Soviet position to a depth of 8 km a mere four hours after the start of the attack, and by doing so a way was opened up for the Panzer-Korps to commence a relentless pursuit battle all the way to the Don river. Deboi would be awarded the Ritterkreuz for executing such a successful assault.

Source :

Friday, July 16, 2021

Bio of General der Artillerie Erwin Engelbrecht

General der Artillerie Erwin Engelbrecht
Born: 12 Nov 1891 in Wildpark, District Potsdam
Died: 08 Apr 1964 in Munich (München)

Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier (17 Jun 1910); Fähnrich (16 Nov 1910); Leutnant (18 Aug 1911); Oberleutnant (20 Aug 1915); Hauptmann/Rittmeister (18 Aug 1918); Major (01 Nov 1930); Oberstleutnant (01 May 1933); Oberst (01 May 1935); Generalmajor (01 Jan 1939); Generalleutnant (01 Nov 1940); General der Artillerie (01 Sep 1942)

Entered Army Service (05 Feb 1910)
Fahnnjunker in the 41st Field-Artillery-Regiment (05 Feb 1910-31 Jul 1914)
Ordinance-Officer with the Staff of the 41st Field-Artillery-Regiment (31 Jul 1914-14 Nov 1914)
Adjutant of the I. Battalion of the 41st Field-Artillery-Regiment (14 Nov 1914-01 Apr 1916)
Leader of the 3rd Battery of the 41st Artillery-Regiment (01 Apr 1916-19 Feb 1917)
Transferred into the 3rd Field-Artillery-Regiment (19 Feb 1917-25 Feb 1917)
Adjutant of the Artillery-Commander 102 (25 Feb 1917-11 Aug 1918)
Detached as Company-Leader with the 53rd Infantry-Regiment (17 Dec 1917-16 Jan 1918)
Detached as 2nd General-Staff-Officer with the Staff of the 14th Reserve-Division (17 Jan 1918-04 Feb 1918)
Detached to Service with the General-Command of the VIII. Reserve-Corps (07 Mar 1918-21 Mar 1918)
Detached as Liaison-Officer to the 47th Reserve-Division (21 Mar 1918-25 Mar 1918)
Transferred as 2nd General-Staff-Officer to the Staff of the 14th Reserve-Division (11 Aug 1918-20 Dec 1918)
Transferred back into the 41st Field-Artillery-Regiment (20 Dec 1918-30 Jan 1919)
Adjutant of the 9th Field-Artillery-Brigade (30 Jan 1919-00 Mar 1919)
Adjutant of the Reichswehr-Artillery-Leader 29 (00 Mar 1919-16 May 1920)
Transferred into the 8th Mounted-Regiment and Detached to Reichswehr-Command-Office VI (16 May 1920-01 Jan 1921)
Duty Assignment Ended and began Service with the 8th Mounted-Regiment (01 Jan 1921-01 May 1922)
Regiment-Adjutant of the 8th Mounted-Regiment (01 May 1922-01 Oct 1923)
Detached for Attendance of the University for Politics in Berlin (01 Oct 1923-01 Oct 1924)
Transferred into the Staff of the 1st Cavalry-Division (01 Oct 1924-01 Feb 1928)
Transferred into the 9th Mounted-Regiment (01 Feb 1928-01 Mar 1928)
Chief of the 3rd Squadron of the 9th Mounted-Regiment (01 Mar 1928-01 Oct 1930)
Detached to Firing-Course for Heavy Infantry Weapons in Döberitz (03 Apr 1930-03 May 1930)
Transferred to the Staff of the 1st Division (01 Oct 1930-01 Oct 1931)
Transferred into the 6th Mounted-Regiment, while retaining previous position (01 Oct 1931-01 May 1933)
Transferred into the Staff of the 1st Division (01 May 1933-01 Jan 1935)
Advisor in the RWM, on 21 May 1935 renamed RKM (01 Jan 1935-01 May 1937)
Commander of Army-Service-Office 11 (01 May 1937-10 Nov 1938)
Commander of Army-Service-Office 30 (10 Nov 1938-26 Aug 1939)
Commander of the 30th Rifle-Formation (26 Aug 1939-01 Nov 1939)
Commander of Replacement-Troops 2 (01 Nov 1939-18 Nov 1939)
Commander of the 163rd Infantry-Division (18 Nov 1939-15 Jun 1942)
Commander of Special-Purpose-Higher-Command XXXIII (15 Jun 1942-25 Dec 1943)
Führer-Reserve OKH (25 Dec 1943-25 Sep 1944)
Commanding General of Higher Command Saarpfalz (25 Sep 1944-08 May 1945)
In Captivity (08 May 1945-1947)
Released (1947)

Awards & Decorations:
- Ritterkreuz (23): am 09.05.1940 als Generalleutnant und Kommandeur der 163. Infanterie-Division
- Ritterkreuz des Kgl. Preuss. Hausordens von Hohenzollern mit Schwertern: 24.06.1918
- 1914 EK I: 31.05.1917
- 1914 EK II: 06.10.1914
- Fürstl. Schaumburg-Lippisches Kreuz für Treue Dienste 1914: 10.05.1918
- Fürstl. Lippisches Kriegsverdienstkreuz: 02.07.1918
- Schlesischer Adler-Orden II. Stufe
- Schlesischer Adler-Orden I. Stufe
- Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer: 18.01.1935
- Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung IV. bis I. Klasse
- Spange zum EK I: 00.04.1940
- Spange zum EK II: 00.10.1939
- Finn. Freiheitskreuz I. Klasse mit Schwertern: 21.09.1941
- Medaille “Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/1942“: 13.07.1942


Erwin Engelbrecht (12 November 1891 in Wildpark Potsdam – 8 April 1964 in Munich) was a German military officer. In January 1939 Engelbrecht was promoted to General, in September 1942 to General of the Artillery. During 1939-1942 he was the commander of the 163rd Infantry Division (Engelbrecht Division); later he was assigned to special forces.

On 9 April 1940, on board the German cruiser Blücher, he led the staff of the forces designated to occupy Oslo during the invasion of Norway. When the ship was sunk, he managed to swim ashore. Along with hundreds of other survivors, Engelbrecht was detained by Norwegian guardsmen at a farm near Drøbak for several hours before being abandoned by their captors.

In 1941 his division was allowed to cross Sweden to join Finnish forces in the Finnish invasion of East Karelia (1941), the only such large scale transit at the time.

Engelbrecht took over the leadership of the Höheren Kommandos z.b.V. XXXIII in Trondheim on 15 June 1942, at the same time commander of Central Norway and was promoted to general of the artillery on 1 September 1942. On 23 January 1943 the Higher Command was renamed the XXXIII Army Corps and Engelbrecht remained in command. On 25 December 1943 he was forced to hand over his command to Lieutenant General Ludwig Wolff and was transferred to the Army's Führer Reserve. It was not until 13 September 1944 that he was re-called as leader of the newly formed Higher Command of Saarpfalz, which, however, included only fortification and construction troops.

Engelbrecht surrendered to the American troops in April 1945 and was released from captivity in 1947.

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Erwin Engelbrecht in Slovakia

Generalmajor Erwin Engelbrecht (Kommandeur Grenzschutz-Abschnitt-Kommando 30) on a visit to Slovakia, early October 1939. He would receive the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 9 May 1940 as Generalleutnant and Kommandeur 163. Infanterie-Division.

This picture was taken from Nový svet magazine, issue 20 (7 October 1939), with original caption: "Generál Engelbrecht, ktorý bol na východnom Slovensku a získal si srdcia našich vojakov. Vedúci vojenskej misie, ktorá spolu s naším min. nár. obrany, gen. Čatlošom, získala si verké zásluhy o spoločné víťazstvo. Jeho kama-rátstvo s naším generálom Čatlošom a kamarátstvo jeho dôstojníkov s našimi dôstojníkmi prinesie aj v budúcnosti dobré ovocie sloven-skému národu. Nemecki vojaci na východe Slovenska získali si srdcia nielen našich vojakov, ale aj celého obyva-terstva V tomto priaterstve je záruka cfalšie-ho, konečného víťazstva slovenskej veci." (General Engelbrecht, who was in eastern Slovakia and won the hearts of our soldiers. Head of the military mission, which together with our minister of defense, general Čatloš, he gained a lot of credit for the joint victory. His friendship with our General Čatloš and the friendship of his officers with our officers will continue to bear good fruit for the Slovak nation in the future. German soldiers in the east of Slovakia won the hearts not only of our soldiers, but also of the entire population)

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Nový svet issue 20 (07.10.1939)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Harry Hoppe with Spanish Volunteer

Oberst Harry Hoppe (Kommandeur Infanterie-Regiment 424 / 126.Infanterie-Division) in Volkhov, Leningrad Oblast, June 1942. At right is the commander of the Aufklärungs-Abteilung of the "Blaue" Division, made up of Spanish volunteers.

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Sunday, July 11, 2021

Rudolf Meister Visiting the Base of III./KG 53

Generalleutnant Rudolf Meister (right, Kommandierender General IV. Fliegerkorps) saluting Major Emil Allmendinger (Gruppenkommandeur III./KG 53) during his visit to the base of III.Gruppe / Kampfgeschwader 53 (KG 53) "Legion Condor" at Schaulen / Memel, spring of 1944. Even though Meister has already received the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold on 10 November 1941, but in this picture we can see that his uniform is "clean" without any medal whatsoever! Meister would receive the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 5 September 1944. His last rank is General der Flieger.

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Generalfeldmarschall Ernst Busch Wearing Generalmantel

Archives ECPAD (PK697 F798 L27)

Generalfeldmarschall Ernst Busch with his troops, possibly in the Eastern Front. No other information available. We can see the Eichenlaub hanging in his Ritterkreuz. He received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 26 May 1940, while Eichenlaub on 21 August 1943.

Archives ECPAD (PK697 F798 L20)

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ECPAD Archives

Monday, July 5, 2021

Maximilian de Angelis and Eugen Ritter von Schobert

This picture was taken in Void, France, on 18 June 1940 by Kriegsberichter Ulrich from PK (propaganda-Kompanie) 501, and it shows two Wehrmacht generals with their officers. From left to right: Generalmajor Maximilian de Angelis (Kommandeur 76. Infanterie-Division) and General der Infanterie Eugen Ritter von Schobert (Kommandierender General VII. Armeekorps). The original caption from this propaganda picture: "Es geht weiter dem feinde nach: der generalstab des vorwärtsstürmenden korps ist immer vorne bei den truppen um jeder zeit rasche entschlüsse zu fassen" (the enemy continues: The general staff of the advancing army is always with the troops to make quick decisions at any time).

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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Bio of General der Artillerie Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach

Walther Kurt von Seydlitz-Kurzbach (22 August 1888 – 28 April 1976) was born in Hamburg, Germany, into the noble Prussian Seydlitz family. During World War I, he served on both fronts as an officer. During the Weimar Republic, he remained a professional officer in the Reichswehr. From 1940 to 1942, he commanded the 12th Infantry Division of the German Army. When the division was encircled in the Demyansk Pocket, Seydlitz was responsible for breaking the Soviet cordon and enabling German units to escape from encirclement. For this action, he was promoted to General of the Artillery and appointed commander of the LI Corps.

The corps was subordinated to the Sixth Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. When the entire army was trapped in the city in the course of the Soviet Operation Uranus, Seydlitz was one of the generals who argued most forcefully in favour of a breakout or a surrender, against Hitler’s orders. On 25 January 1943, he told his subordinate officers that they were free to decide for themselves on whether to surrender. Friedrich Paulus immediately relieved him of command of his three divisions (the 100th, 71st and 295th Infantry Divisions).

A few days later, Seydlitz fled the German lines under fire from his own side with a group of other officers. He was taken into Soviet custody, where he was interrogated by Captain Nikolay Dyatlenko.

He was identified by his interrogators as a potential collaborator. In August 1943 he was taken with two other generals to a political re-education centre at Lunovo. A month later he was sent back to prisoner-of-war camps to recruit other German officers.

Seydlitz was a leader in the forming, under Soviet supervision, of an anti-Nazi organisation, the League of German Officers, and was made a member of the National Committee for a Free Germany. He was condemned by many of his fellow generals for his collaboration with the Soviet Union. He was sentenced to death in absentia by Hitler's government. Seydlutz's idea of creating an anti-Nazi force of some 40,000 German prisoners-of-war to be airlifted into Germany was never seriously considered. In Germany, his family was taken into Sippenhaft, detention for the crimes of a family member. Seydlitz was ultimately exploited by both Soviet and German propaganda. He was used by the former in broadcasts and literature to encourage German soldiers to surrender, and the latter cultivated the idea of "Seydlitz troops" (German: Seydlitztruppen).

In 1949, he was charged with war crimes. He was put on trial for responsibility for actions against Soviet POWs and the civilian population while in Wehrmacht service. In 1950, a Soviet tribunal sentenced him to 25 years of imprisonment, but in 1955 he was released to West Germany, where in 1956, his Third Reich death sentence was nullified. However, he was despised by his former army colleagues both for his role in the Battle of Stalingrad and for his later collaboration with the Soviet Union. He was denied the restoration of his retired rank and pension by the Bundeswehr.

Seydlitz died on 28 April 1976 in Bremen. On 23 April 1996, a posthumous pardon was issued by the Russian authorities.

Awards & Decorations:
~~ Eichenlaub (Nr. 54): 31. Dec. 1942 as Generalleutnant, Kommandeur 12.Infanterie-Division / II.Armee-Korps / 16.Armee/ Heeresgruppe Nord
~ Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes: 31. Dec. 1941 as Generalmajor, Kommandeur 12.Infanterie-DIvision / II.Armee-Korps / 4.Armee / Heeresgruppe B
16.10.1918 Ritterkreuz des Kgl. Preuss. Hausordens von Hohenzollern mit Schwertern
1939 Spange zum 1914 Eisernes Kreuz I. Klasse: 22. May 1940
1939 Spange zum 1914 Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse: 17. May 1940
1914 Eisernes Kreuz I. Klasse: 21. Oct. 1915
1914 Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse: 19. Sep. 1914
Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer
- Hamburgisches Hanseatenkreuz - Verwundetenabzeichen, 1918 in Silber - Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer - Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung IV. bis I. Klasse

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Saturday, July 3, 2021

Karl Weisenberger in His Headquarter

ECPAD Archives (DAT 1182 L.16)

General der Infanterie Karl Weisenberger (Kommandierender General LIII. Armeekorps) is waiting for the arrival of Generaloberst Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Weichs (Oberbefehlshaber 2. Armee) in his command post at Vilnius, Lithuania. From 3 June to 27 August 1941, LIII. Armeekorps were subordinated to 2. Armee.

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ECPAD Archives

Karteikarte of Generalleutnant Adolf Raegener



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NARA (National Archives)

Karteikarte of Generalleutnant Friedrich-Carl Rabe von Pappenheim

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NARA (National Archives)

Bio of Konteradmiral Erich Bey

Erich Bey (23 March 1898 – 26 December 1943) joined the Kaiserliche Marine on 13 June 1916 and served in its destroyer arm. Following the end of World War I, he stayed in the navy and continued his career with the rise of the Nazi Party in power in Germany. By the start of World War II was a Fregattenkapitän (frigate captain).

Bey led the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, consisting of the destroyers Z11 Bernd von Arnim, Z12 Erich Giese and Z13 Erich Koellner, as part of Kommodore Friedrich Bonte's force that carried General Eduard Dietl's mountain troops for the occupation of Narvik during the German invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940. In the following Battles of Narvik on 10 April and 13 April, Bey distinguished himself by leading a small group of destroyers in a brave though doomed action against a superior Royal Navy force that included the battleship HMS Warspite.

Bey was awarded with the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 9 May 1940. The next day he was promoted to Captain and appointed commander of the German destroyer force (Führer der Zerstörer), succeeding Commodore Bonte, who had been killed on 10 April in the first Battle of Narvik. Bey then commanded the destroyer screen protecting the ships of the Brest Group (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen) during Operation Cerberus (the “Channel Dash”) in February 1942. Of the three, Scharnhorst suffered extensive damage, having struck a naval mine laid off the Dover Straits.

Promoted to Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral), on Christmas Day, 25 December 1943, Bey led a task force consisting of the battleship Scharnhorst and the destroyers Z29, Z30, Z33, Z34 and Z38 out of Alta Fjord in Operation Ostfront. The first and only surface sortie ordered by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, Bey's objective was to intercept the Allied Convoy JW 55B en route to Murmansk.

Bey's initial force of Scharnhorst and five destroyers was superior to the convoy's escorting British cruisers and destroyers in terms of firepower. However, Bey's flagship was outmatched by Admiral Bruce Fraser's battleship HMS Duke of York which led another Royal Navy fleet shadowing the convoy. Scharnhorst was expected to use her speed to avoid an engagement with Duke of York.

Poor weather, heavy seas and inadequate Luftwaffe reconnaissance prevented Bey from initially locating the convoy, so he detached his destroyers to fan out and assist in the search. However, the storm meant that Bey's destroyers ending up playing no part in the battle. Bey guessed correctly and Scharnhorst then managed to locate the convoy by herself. In the first engagement of the ensuing Battle of North Cape, while trading fire with the British convoy's screening cruisers, Scharnhorst's radar was destroyed, rendering her blind. Scharnhorst was then caught by the more powerful HMS Duke of York and suffered critical damage before being sunk after several torpedo hits from British cruisers. Of Scharnhorst's crew of 1,968, Royal Navy vessels fished 36 men alive from the icy sea, not one of them an officer.

Decorations & Awards:
- Ritterkreuz (7): am 09.05.1940 als Kapitän zur See und Chef 4. Zerstörerflottille
- 1914 EK II
- Hamburgisches Hanseatenkreuz
- Kgl. Preuss. Rettungsmedaille am Bande
- Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer
- Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung IV. bis II. Klasse
- Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 1. Oktober 1938
- Medaille zur Erinnerung an die Heimkehr des Memellandes
- 1939 EK I: 20.11.1939
- Spange zum EK II: 16.10.1939
- Zerstörer-Kriegsabzeichen: 00.10.1940
- Narvikschild: 1940
- im Wehrmachtbericht genannt: 27.12.1943

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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Rittmeister Helwig Luz in 1928

Rittmeister Helwig Luz (June 28, 1892 - April 28, 1980) as a Reichswehr officer, in a photograph taken in 1928. During World War II he was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (15 November 1941), and ended the war with the rank of Generalleutnant.

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Gustav Höhne and Ernst Busch

From left to right: General der Infanterie Gustav Höhne (Kommandierender General VIII. Armeekorps), Generalfeldmarschall Ernst Busch (Oberbefehlshaber 16. Armee), and Oberst i.G. Eberhard von Schönfeldt (Chef des Generalstabes VIII. Armeekorps). This picture was taken at Volkhov (Wolchow), Leningrad Front, probably in the fall of 1943.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Rommel and Bayerlein with British POWs

Tobruk, July 1942. Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel (left in the car, Oberbefehlshaber Panzerarmee "Afrika") passes a column of English prisoners captured after the Battle of the city (Horch 901 car visible). With him in the backseat is Oberst im Generalstab Fritz Bayerlein (Chef des Generalstabes Deutsches Afrikakorps). Photo by Sonderführer Fritz Moosmüller from PK (Propaganda-Kompanie) "​Afrika".

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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Bio of General der Gebirgstruppe Georg Ritter von Hengl

Georg Ritter von Hengl (21 October 1897 – 19 March 1952) joined the German army as an ensign in 1914, aged 16, serving initially in Reserve Infantry Battalion Nr. 21 near Ypres in 1914. The following year saw him transferred to the Eastern Front to serve in Russia. In October 1915, he was transferred south to the Serbian sector. He transferred back to France in 1916, to serve near Verdun; on 23 March he was promoted into the officer's ranks as a Leutnant. He then returned to duties in Russia. After requesting a transfer to aviation duty, he started aerial observer's training on 23 February 1918. Upon graduation, he was posted to the Kingdom of Bavaria's FA(A) 295. His usual pilot in the two-seater reconnaissance aircraft was Johann Baur. The duo were credited with six confirmed aerial victories together, beginning with a double victory over SPADs on 17 July 1918 over Courton Wood. The aircrew of Hengl and Baur were shot down behind British lines during the Third Battle of the Aisne; however, they were rescued from captivity by troopers from Württemberg. The pair would score another four victories in October 1918, with Hengl scoring a seventh while crewing for another pilot.

Georg Hengl emerged from World War I having been awarded both classes of the Iron Cross and the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern. His native Kingdom of Bavaria also bestowed the Military Order of Max Joseph upon him; one of the entitlements of this decoration was an award of lifetime nobility for him, signified by the addition of the phrase "Ritter von" to one's name. Georg Hengl thus became George Ritter von Hengl.

In 1919 Hengl left the army and entered the police. Recalled for military service, in 1936 he was given command of a battalion of the 99th Gebirgsjager Regiment, leading this unit in the first campaigns of World War II.

For much of the war, Hengl was stationed on the Arctic front against the Soviet Union. Initially he commanded the 137th Gebirgsjager Regiment, receiving the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes in August 1941. From March 1942 to October 1943 he commanded the 2nd Mountain Division, and then the XIX Mountain Corps until April 1944. In February 1945 he was designated to take over command of LIX Army Corps on the Eastern Front, but he did not take up the post.

Hengl ended the war with the rank of General of Mountain Troops (German: General der Gebirgstruppe).

Awards and decorations
- Ritterkreuz (449): am 25.08.1941 als Oberstleutnant und Kommandeur Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 137
- Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (587/3): am 20.06.1944 als General der Gebirgstruppe und Kommandierender General XIX. Gebirgs-Korps
- Ritterkreuz des Kgl. Bayer. Militär-Max_Joseph-Ordens: am 29.10.1918 als Leutnant der Reserve und Beobachter in der bayer. Flieger-Abteilung 295
- Ritterkreuz des Kgl. Preuss. Hausordens von Hohenzollern mit Schwertern
- 1914 EK I: 01.08.1917
- 1914 EK II: 08.05.1915
- Kgl. Bayer. Militär-Verdienstorden IV. Klasse mit Schwertern: 27.08.1917
- Kgl. Bayer. Flugzeugbeobachter-Abzeichen: 04.06.1918
- Ehrenbecher dem Sieger im Luftkampf: 17.07.1918
- Kgl. Bayer. Militär-Verdienstorden IV. Klasse mit Schwertern und mit der Krone: 00.09.1918
- Verwundetenabzeichen, 1918 in Gold
- Deutsches Reichssportabzeichen in Bronze: 03.09.1924
- Deutsches Reichssportabzeichen in Silber: 05.01.1929
- Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer
- Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung IV. bis II. Klasse: 02.10.1936
- Heeresbergführer-Abzeichen: 06.10.1936
- Deutsche Olympia-Erinnerungs-Medaille: 20.04.1937
- Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 13. März 1938
- Spange zum EK I: 29.09.1939
- Spange zum EK II: 21.09.1939
- Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung I. Klasse
- Medaille “Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/1942”
- Finn. Freiheitskreuz I. Klasse mit Schwertern: 13.05.1943

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Hermann Hogeback in Color

Hermann Hogeback received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 8 September 1941 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 9.Staffel (Kampf) / III.Gruppe / Lehrgeschwader 1 (LG 1), Eichenlaub #192 on 19 February 1943 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of the III.Gruppe / Lehrgeschwader 1 (LG 1), and Schwerter #125 on 26 January 1945 as Oberstleutnant and Geschwaderkommodore of Kampfgeschwader 6 (KG 6).


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Bio of Generaladmiral Alfred Saalwächter

10.04.1901: Seekadett
22.04.1902: Fähnrich zur See
29.09.1904: Leutnant zur See
30.03.1906: Oberleutnant zur See
10.04.1911: Kapitänleutnant
21.01.1920: Korvettenkapitän
01.10.1925: Fregattenkapitän
01.01.1928: Kapitän zur See
01.10.1932: Konteradmiral
01.04.1935: Vizeadmiral
01.06.1937: Admiral
01.01.1940: Generaladmiral

Alfred Saalwächter (10 January 1883 – 6 December 1945) entered the Kaiserliche Marine as a Seekadett on 10 April 1901, and was trained on SMS Moltke and Hertha. Saalwächter then served with Bordkommando units, first with the 2. Matrosen-Division, then on Hessen with the 2. Werft-Division. Until 1908, he served with the 2. Torpedo-Division as adjutant to the I. Abteilung. Saalwächter also served on Gneisenau.

Saalwächter served on Hannover in 1910 and later on Westfalen as Flaggleutnant to Vice Admiral Hugo von Pohl, commander of the I. Marine-Geschwader then he joined the admiralty in Berlin and remained in the admiralty until 1915, with his last position there being head of the signal section in the operations department.

On 1 April 1915, Saalwächter became Flaggleutnant on Friedrich der Grosse, the flagship of the High Seas Fleet. In February 1916 he transferred to the U-boat service. After graduating from submarine school, he commanded U-25, U-46, and U-94 from September 1916 to March 1918.

In 1920, Saalwächter served on Braunschweig as an admiralty officer. After a leave of absence, Saalwächter joined the Marineleitung in the Personnel Department on 17 May 1920. From 15 October 1923 till 31 March 1925 he served as 1. Asto in the staff of the Commander of Naval Forces. On 24 September 1926 he took command of the light cruiser Amazone, and, a year later, of the battleship Schlesien. On 2 October 1933 Saalwächter was named inspector for naval instruction. During the following five years he had a strong influence on the development of the young officer corps. Saalwächter was named Commanding Admiral of Naval Station North Sea at Wilhelmshaven, one of the highest positions in the Kriegsmarine at the time, on 28 October 1938.

On 2 March 1939, Saalwächter sent a report to the Naval High Command in which he openly discussed the acquisition of bases in Norway. The report stressed both the dangers to Germany of British dominance in Norwegian waters and the favourable change in the geo-strategic position that a German occupation of Norway would bring about.

With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Saalwächter received command of Marine-Gruppenkommando West and was responsible for operations in the North Sea, which led to disputes between himself and the fleet commanders, Vice Admirals Hermann Boehm, Wilhelm Marschall, and Günther Lütjens.

Along with Admiral Rolf Carls, Saalwächter had tactical command of Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. Beginning of summer 1940, Saalwächter led German surface operations in the North Atlantic and the English Channel. In 1940, he directed E-Boat forces against British shipping during the Kanalkampf phase of the Battle of Britain in support of the Luftwaffe. Later, he oversaw naval movements such as Operation Cerberus in February 1942. On 20 September of that year, he was replaced as head of Navy Group West by Marschall, who was himself replaced by Theodor Krancke in April 1944. Saalwächter resigned from active service on 30 November 1942.

Saalwächter was imprisoned by the Soviet Union on 21 June 1945. He was convicted by a Soviet military tribunal of war crimes on 17 October and executed by firing squad in Moscow on 6 December. In 1994, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Saalwächter was formally exonerated by a Russian court.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Ritterkreuz Action of Erwin von Witzleben

Erwin von Witzleben (4 December 1881 - 8 August 1944) received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 24 June 1940 as Generaloberst and Oberbefehlshaber 1. Armee. On 10 May 1940 the order was issued to attack the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and France (Fall Gelb), after it had been postponed no less than 28 times. Von Witzleben’s troops were ordered to launch fake attacks in this first phase on limited targets in the Maginot line in order to tie down the troops. Von Witzleben launched the attack by 1. Armee on June 14 and his task was to force a breakthrough of the Maginot line in co-operation with 7. Armee. Just a day later, Von Witzleben and his army succeeded in penetrating the line and in the days following had surrounded it completely. On June 22, the encirclement was completed and Von Witzleben’s 1. Armee gained complete control over the area. Following the surrender of France on June 22, Von Witzleben was awarded the Ritterkreuz by his superior Generaloberst Wilhelm von Leeb.


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