Friedrich Paulus

Friedrch Paulus before Stalingrad

Friedrich Paulus, Army Field Marshal, was born on September 23, 1890 in Breitenau, Hesse, the son of a school teacher.  His first assignment was with the 111th Infantry Regiment; he fought in France, Macedonia and Serbia from 1914-1918.  After World War I, Paulus was assigned to the 13th Infantry Regiment in Stuttgart, before serving in several General Staff positions in the XVI Corps, the Tenth Army and the Deputy Chief of the German General Staff.

In January 1942, Paulus assumed command of the German Sixth Army and led this formation through the Stalingrad Campaign until 1943, when he and the Sixth Army surrendered.  The winner of the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Paulus was captured by the Soviets, remained a prisoner, until released from prison in 1953 and allowed to settle in East Germany.  He died on February 1, 1957 in Dresden.  Friedrich Paulus’ remains were later transferred to Baden-Baden, where he was buried with his wife, whom he last saw in 1942.

Iconic photo of Paulus at surrender of Sixth Army. He is to the right; in the center is the Sixth Army Chief of Staff Arthur Schmidt; to the left is Wilhelm Adam, the Sixth Army Adjutant

Paulus was maligned after the war for his conduct of the Stalingrad fight, especially after Soviet forces had surrounded the Sixth Army in November 1942.  But he was in an untenable position.  The following are some quotations of Friedrich Paulus about Stalingrad that show his emotions during the campaign.

“The Stalingrad battle continues along its stubborn course. Things are going very slowly, but every day we make just a little progress. The whole thing is a question of time and manpower. But we’ll beat the Russians yet!” (October 7, 1942)

“I expect you [to a colonel] to carry out the orders of your superior officers.  In the same manner the Führer, as my superior, can and must expect that I shall obey his orders.” (November 1942)

“Unless I concentrate every available man and inflict a decisive defeat on the enemy advancing from the south and west, my Army will be faced with imminent destruction.” (November 23, 1942)

“I still believe, however, that the Army can hold out for some time.  On the other hand – even if anything like a corridor is cut through to me – it is still not possible to tell whether the daily increasing weakness of the Army, combined with lack of accommodation and wood for constructional and heating purposes, will allow the area around Stalingrad to be held for any length of time.” (November 26, 1942)

“You are talking to dead men.” (January 1943)

“The last horses have been eaten up.” (January 19, 1943)

Paulus later in life in East Germany, where he died

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Heinz-Georg Lemm

Wartime photo of Heinz-Georg Lemm

Born on June 1, 1919 in Schwerin, Heinz-Georg Lemm was one of the most highly decorated soldiers in World War II Germany, winning the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. His early career saw him assigned to the 12th Infantry Division, serving many positions in the 27th Infantry Regiment in Poland, France and Russia (including the encirclement at the Demjansk Pocket.)  In addition to these awards, Lemm won the Tank Destruction Badge, Close Combat Badge in Silver, Wound Badge in Silver and the German Cross in Gold. He ended the war as an oberst (the youngest in the German Army) and the commander of the 27th Fusilier Regiment, having fought with the unit against American forces in the Battle of the Bulge.

In a discussion with Major MacLean in 1991, Heinz Georg-Lemm stated that he was at Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenburg on July 20 to receive the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross.  As the day was hot, the officers’ mess was moved from inside a building to outside under several trees.  Major Lemm sat down at a table and shortly after, another officer sat down beside him. It would turn out to be Oberst Claus von Stauffenberg, who engaged in small talk before leaving, telling Major Lemm that he had to get ready to brief Hitler.  The bomb in von Stauffenberg’s brief case later exploded near Hitler in the briefing room, and Lemm’s award ceremony was postponed until the following day.  But someone remembered that von Stauffenberg had conversed with Lemm and for several hours, interrogators asked Major Lemm what the two had discussed, before finally clearing him of any potential complicity in the assassination attempt.

Heinz-Georg Lemm was a prisoner of American forces for ten months, until 1946.  He was then transferred to Soviet control and confined to a Soviet prisoner of war camp until 1950, when he returned to Germany. In 1957, Heinz-Georg Lemm joined the post-war German Bundeswehr (Post-WWII German Army) and progressed to the rank of lieutenant general.  He commanded the 5th Panzer Division and the Troop Office of the Bundeswehr before retiring on September 30, 1979.  He then led the Association for Knight’s Cross Recipients.  General Lemm retired to the small village of Ruppichteroth, northeast of Bonn, to be closer to his old Army friend and fellow Knight’s Cross winner, Martin Steglich.  Heinz-Georg Lemm died on November 17, 1994.

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Walther-Peer Fellgiebel

Wartime photo of Walter Fellgiebel

The son of General Erich Fellgiebel, a major conspirator in the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler at Rastenburg, Walther-Peer Fellgiebel was born on May 7, 1918 in Berlin-Charlottenburg.  Walther had his own distinguished military career.  He won the Iron Cross Second Class on July 13, 1940, during the French Campaign.  On July 30, 1941, Fellgiebel received the Iron Cross First Class and the Wound Badge in Black, for actions on the Russian Front with the 298th Artillery Regiment.  He would receive the Wound Badge in Silver, for additional wounds, on August 3, 1943.  An artilleryman, Walter Fellgiebel won the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on September 7, 1943 as the battery commander of the 2nd Battery of the 935th Light Army Artillery Detachment.  Ten days later, Fellgiebel received the General Assault Badge.

The younger Fellgiebel was probably unaware of his father’s participation in the assassination plot, but was arrested on August 1, 1944.  He was released and promoted to major on November 9, 1944.  In February 1945, authorities arrested him again, but senior Army officers interceded on his behalf and he thus survived the war.

After the conflict, he served as the head of the Association of Knights Cross Recipients.  He later wrote Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes, 1939–1945: Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (The Bearers of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945: The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War, All Military Branches.)  Walther-Peer Fellgiebel died in Frankfurt am Main, Germany on October 14, 2001.

Erich Fellgiebel

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Karl Dönitz

Navy Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz

Karl Dönitz, Navy Grand Admiral, was born on September 16, 1891, in Grünau near Berlin.  As a young officer, Dönitz served in World War I on the light cruiser SMS Breslau and then on several U-boats.  His boat was sunk on October 4, 1918 and he became a prisoner of war of the British.  He served in numerous positions after the war and became the commander of the First U-boat Flotilla “Weddigen” on September 1, 1935.  Dönitz became the commander of all Germany’s U-boats on January 28, 1939.  Nicknamed “The Lion” and “Onkel (Uncle) Karl,” he led this force to within a whisker of defeating Great Britain in the early part of World War II.  After the sacking of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Karl Dönitz became the Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy on January 30, 1943.  In a surprise decision by Adolf Hitler, he named Karl Dönitz as the Führer‘s successor in May 1945.  During the war, Grand Admiral Dönitz received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.  Both his sons were killed in action during the conflict.  Dönitz’s final message to his U-boat sailors on May 4, 1945 was:

“My U-boat men!  Six years of U-boat war lie behind us.  You have fought like lions.  A crushing material superiority has forced us into a narrow area.  A continuation of our fight from the remaining basis is no longer possible.  U-boat men!  Undefeated and spotless you lay down your arms after a heroic battle without equal.  We remember in deep respect our fallen comrades, who have sealed with their death their loyalty to the Führer and Fatherland.  Comrades!  Preserve your U-boat spirit, with which you have fought courageously, stubbornly and imperturbably through the years for the good of the Fatherland.  Long live Germany!  Your Grand Admiral.”

In 1946, Karl Dönitz was convicted at Nürnberg of war crimes and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.  Dönitz was released from Spandau Prison (Berlin) in 1956.  He later authored Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days.  Karl Dönitz died on December 24, 1980 in Aumühle near Hamburg.  Several thousand former U-boat sailors attended his burial ceremony at the Waldfriedhof (Forest Cemetery) in Aumühle.  Dönitz’s Crews is all about the relationship Dönitz had with his U-boat sailors during the war.


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Oskar Dirlewanger

Oskar Dirlewanger

Oskar Dirlewanger

Oskar Paul Dirlewanger, SS-Oberführer (SS Senior Colonel), was born on September 26, 1895 in Würzburg.  The son of a lawyer, he attended grade school and high school, before passing the Abitur, a test that allowed him to enroll in college.  Dirlewanger was never married; he stood six feet tall.  He was wounded in combat during in World War I and won the Wound Badge in Black, the Iron Cross Second Class and Iron Cross First Class, as well as the Württemberg Golden Medal for Bravery.  In the chaos of post-war Germany, Dirlewanger served on an armored train in a Freikorps (Free Corps) para-military volunteer unit that fought Communist insurgents.  He originally joined the Nazi Party in 1922 , with party number 12,517, but he was later expelled from that organization.  Dirlewanger then attended the University of Frankfurt, where he obtained a Ph.D.  He later re-joined the Nazi Party (party number 1,098,716,) but ran afoul of some local party leaders; the Gauleiter of Württemberg-Hohenzollern, Wilhelm Murr, even attempted to put him in a concentration camp.  During the early 1930s, Dirlewanger was a member of SA Brigade 155, but quickly was charged with insubordination and disrespect.  A serial sex-offender, Oskar Dirlewanger was convicted of morals’ charges and sentenced to several years in prison (the girl was under 14 while Dirlewanger was 39.)

After his release from prison, Dirlewanger — on the recommendation of his World War I comrade, now SS-Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger (head of the SS Main Leadership Office) — volunteered to serve with a German military expeditionary force in Spain, known as the Condor Legion; here he helped train Spanish crews in tank warfare, after arriving in Spain in April 1937.  His commander, Oberst Ritter von Thoma, of the German Army, rated his performance in Spain as outstanding.  For his superior service there, Dirlewanger received the Spanish Campaign Medal, the Spanish Military Service Cross and the Spanish Cross in Silver.  Oskar Dirlewanger returned to Germany from Spain in May 1939.  In commenting on his past, Dirlewanger said at this point, “Even though I did wrong, I never committed a crime.”  After the outbreak of World War II, Dirlewanger wrote to a senior SS officer and volunteered for service as an SS officer, suggesting that a special unit be formed of hunter poachers, with Dirlewanger in command.  His rationale was that if men could successfully track and find animals in the forests, those same men could successfully hunt and kill men in those same areas of rough terrain.  Promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer, he was named to command the Special Command Dirlewanger (Sonderkommando Dirlewanger), a Waffen-SS unit (composed of these former prisoners) formed to hunt partisans.

Oskar Dirlewanger and his unit, initially battalion-size, fought partisans in Poland in 1942, guarded Jews in forced labor camps (and the Lublin Jewish Ghetto) and in general made life miserable for Poles in Lublin and Kraków.  According to British historian Michael Tregenza, Oskar Dirlewanger and SS-Gruppenführer Odilo Globocnik took part in numerous drunken outings, when Sonderkommando Dirlewanger was assigned to Lublin in 1941 and 1942.  The unit transferred to White Russia in 1943, after the SS chief in Poland, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger, said that the unit was too brutal and corrupt to remain in the General Government.  Dirlewanger fought against Soviet partisans through the summer of 1944 in Russia and White Russia, killing thousands of armed – and unarmed – inhabitants in the region.  Dirlewanger and his unit took part in the following anti-partisan operations: Operation Adler, Operation Greif, Operation Nordsee, Operation Regatta, Operation Karlsbad, Operation Frieda, Operation Franz, Operation Erntefest I and II, Operation Hornung, Operation Lenz Süd, Operation Lenz Nord, Operation Zauberflöte, Operation Draufgänger I and II, Operation Günther, Operation Kottbus, Operation Frühlingsfest and Operation Hermann.

Heinrich Himmler discussed the unit with his senior SS leaders about this time in the war, and said, “In 1941 I organized a ‘poacher’s regiment’ under Dirlewanger…a good Swabian fellow, wounded ten times, a real character – bit of an oddity, I suppose.  I obtained permission from the Führer to collect from every prison in Germany all the poachers who had used firearms and not, of course, traps, in their poaching days — about 2,000 in all.  Alas, only 400 of these ‘upstanding and worthy characters’ remain today.  I have kept replenishing this regiment with people on SS probation, for in the SS we really have far too strict a system of justice…When these did not suffice, I said to Dirlewanger…’Now, why not look for suitable candidates among the villains, the real criminals, in the concentration camps?’…The atmosphere in the regiment is often somewhat medieval in the use of corporal punishment and so on…if someone pulls a face when asked whether we will win the war or not he will slump down from the table…dead, because the others will have shot him out of hand.”

In August 1944, the Dirlewanger Regiment moved to the Warsaw Uprising (August-September 1944) and the Slovakian Uprising in October-November 1944.  During the Warsaw Uprising in Poland, Dirlewanger killed thousands of civilians and his men behaved in such a despicable manner that SS generals at Warsaw begged for the unit to be sent somewhere else.  Moving to Slovakia, Dirlewanger and his men ravaged that countryside as well, as they attempted to suppress that uprising.  The Dirlewanger Regiment then moved to the Eastern Front in late 1944, first to Hungary; by this time, the unit was receiving drafts of unwilling troopers scoured from the concentration camps.

Sonderkommando Dirlewanger expanded throughout the war and finished as the 36th Waffen-SS Division in Germany, fighting near Halbe as part of the German Ninth Army.  German propaganda correspondents and wartime photographers did not follow them in action.  This was for good reason, as wherever the Dirlewanger unit operated, corruption and rape formed an every-day part of life and indiscriminate slaughter, beatings and looting were rife.  On August 15, 1943, SS-Gruppenführer Curt von Gottberg and SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach recommended Dirlewanger for the German Cross in Gold for his achievements against Soviet partisans; he later received the award.  He received the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for his accomplishments in Russia in 1944 and for his role in crushing the Warsaw Uprising.  In fighting in both world wars, Dirlewanger was wounded in action at least twelve times.  He received the Wound Badge in Black, the Close Combat Bar and the Anti-Partisan Badge.

Dirlewanger avoided death on the Eastern Front, after he was wounded in February 1945, when he turned the division over to Fritz Schmedes.  One source says that he came back to command the unit and served with them until about April 12, 1945, when he was wounded once again.  Subsequently, Dirlewanger attempted to hide in Upper Swabia at the end of the war.  Free French authorities arrested Dirlewanger at the end of May or beginning of June, probably in the Allgäu Alps in southern Germany.  Polish laborers, under the employment of the French, identified Oskar Dirlewanger and beat him to death on June 7, 1945 at Altshausen/Upper Swabia, while he was in French captivity, although rumors persisted that Dirlewanger had survived the immediate post-war period and fled to Egypt or Syria in late 1945 to avoid prosecution.  French authorities later exhumed the remains of Oskar Dirlewanger from the Altshausen Friedhof on the northwest side of town and confirmed that it was indeed him, although the French file on Oskar Dirlewanger remains locked and inaccessible.  After the war, in perhaps the most-classic understatement of the war, Gottlob Berger said this of Oskar Dirlewanger, “Now Dr. Dirlewanger was hardly a good boy.  You can’t say that.  But he was a good soldier, and he had one big mistake that he didn’t know when to stop drinking.”

Capture of Oskar Dirlewanger

Reputed photo of Oskar Dirlewanger after arrest

Oskar Dirlewanger was undoubtedly a serial sex offender and pathological killer.  British historian Michael Tregenza has documented Dirlewanger in Lublin, Poland and presents strong evidence that Dirlewanger murdered Polish women there, to include killing some by Strychnine injections.  Had Oskar Dirlewanger survived the aftermath of the war, and been apprehended, the only question would have been which nation would have tried and executed him.

For many years after the war, the operations of Dirlewanger and his unit remained shrouded in mystery.  This ended in 1988, when the author found several thousand pages of reports of Sonderkommando Dirlewanger in the U.S. National Archives, later using them to write The Cruel Hunters: SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger, Hitler’s Most Notorious Anti-Partisan Unit.

During the war, Dirlewanger’s unit had the following designations:

Wilddiebkommando Oranienburg (June 1940 to July 1940)
Sonderkommando Dr. Dirlewnager (July 1940 to September 1940)
SS-Sonderbataillon Dirlewanger (September 1940 to September 1943)
Einsatz-Bataillon Dirlewanger (numberous occasions in 1943 and 1944)
SS-Regiment Dirlewanger (September 1943 to December 1944)
SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger (December 1944 to February 1945)
36. Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS (February 1945 to May 1945)


Oskar Dirlewanger2016-03-28T19:45:49-06:00
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