Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger in Normandy, 30th May 1944
|Born||November 9, 1894|
|Died||21 January 1960 (aged 65)|
|Place of birth||Metz, Alsace-Lorraine|
|Place of death||Berlin, Germany|
German Empire (to 1918)|
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany (to 1945)
|Years of service||1914-1945|
|Commands held||21st Panzer Division|
World War II|
World War I
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Deutsches Kreuz in Silver
Edgar Feuchtinger (9 November 1894 – 21 January 1960) was a German General (Generalleutnant) during the Second World War. Feuchtinger was commander of the 21st Panzer Division during the Normandy Invasion. Later in 1944 he was tried and convicted of treason by the Reich court, demoted and sentenced to execution. The sentence was commuted by the intervention of Adolf Hitler. Feuchtinger did not report to his next assignment, and avoided the German military police until he could surrender to the Allies.
Later in life, while a private citizen, Feuchtinger was pressured by the KGB into finding and disclosing secret information on the German military and transferring this information to the Soviet Union.
In 2008 his conviction by the Reich court in 1944 came up during a German national discussion on the review of war veterans convicted by the Nazi government of treason. His earlier conviction was not overturned.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Early life[edit | edit source]
Born in Metz (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen), Feuchtinger joined a cadet school in Karlsruhe in 1907. During the First World War, he fought as lieutenant in Russia and France. While there, he participated in the Battle of Verdun, the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of the Aisne.
Second World War[edit | edit source]
After the First World War he was selected to continue on as an officer in the much reduced Reichswehr. He served in a variety of staff roles, and was promoted to the rank of Major on November 1935. He was further promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant), and by 1939 had risen to the role of Commander of the 227th Artillery-Regiment until August 1942.
Feuchtinger was appointed commander of a "schnell" division in April 1943. These were intended to be highly mobile for rapidly responding to an invasion army. The division formed was known as Schnell Division West (Fast Division West). It was intended that the schnell divisions would be more highly motorized then the standard panzer division, but a lack of equipment made this an impossibility. To provide the division with equipment, the unit was initially made up using captured French light tractors, halftracks and trucks, most of which had been modified by Major Alfred Becker to carry heavier guns, and were armoured lightly to protect the crews from small arms fire. The troops of the division initially were a mix of soldiers from Germany and volunteers from the occupied territories. Though a good businessman and organizer, Feuchtinger had no experience as a panzer commander, and his appointment is thought to have been due to his connections in the Nazi party.
Four months later the forming unit was enlarged and organized into a standard panzer division, and was given the designation of the 21st Panzer Division. The original 21st Panzer Division had been part of the Afrika Korps and was reduced in the battles of North Africa. The bulk of the remainder fell into captivity at Tunisia. The German command tended to "reform" lost units, and chose this unit designation for one of the new divisions that were being formed in France. Some 2,000 veterans from the Afrika Korps who had been sent home early to recover from wounds or disease were added to the unit to give it experience. Feuchtinger was able to garner a number of able unit commanders. Though Afrika veteran Fritz Bayerlein requested and was given Colonel Hans von Luck for his Panzer Lehr Division, when he arrived von Luck was transferred to 21st Panzer to serve as a panzer regiment commander for Feuchtinger.
Feuchtinger had championed Major Alfred Becker's efforts to make use of captured French equipment and convert them to mobilize German guns. This effort met with considerable success, and enough equipment was created to partially equip the newly reformed unit. Half the armour used by this division in Northern France were Becker conversions. Feuchtinger spent much of his time in Paris, ostensibly overseeing production of materials for his division, as Becker was using the Hotchkiss plant near Paris for his conversion facility. A second reason for his presence was that Paris offered many diversions, and was the residence of Feuchtinger's actress girlfriend. Feuchtinger was in Paris at the time of the Normandy invasion. He returned to Normandy with his female companion on June 6, but commanded the division from the rear. He allowed his subordinate commanders a great deal of latitude in making decisions for their units. Colonel von Luck, a commander of broad experience, ended up operating his armoured regiment through the entire campaign, from the Normandy landings through the breakout attempt of Operation Goodwood to the final devastation of the 7th Army in the Falaise pocket, with very little contact or direction from Feuchtinger. Much of the 21st Panzer Division was caught in the Falaise Gap, but Feuchtinger managed to keep clear of the encirclement, telling von Luck: "From now on you are on your own. I cannot tell you where you will get fuel, ammunition or food. All the best, Luck. Bring me back lots of men from our division."
Reformed and reinforced in Germany, the core of his division was involved in heavy fighting in Northern Alsace while Feuchtinger lived in Celle. His presence there brought the attention of the local citizens, who were aware that he was securing extra food supplies for his girlfriend and using his position to keep three officer friends of his out of combat. On January 5, 1945 Feuchtinger was arrested and charged with enrichment from Jewish wealth through illegal sale of furs, the withdrawal of officers from military service, misappropriation of Wehrmacht property and the release of military secrets to his South American mistress. He was imprisoned in Torgau in January 1945, and found guilty by a German military court. In consequence all orders and decorations were taken from him, his military rank was reduced to Kanonier or cannon operator, and he was condemned to death. On 2 March 1945 Hitler ordered that Feuchtinger should be pardoned and reinstated to the front. He was assigned to the 20th Panzer-Grenadier-Division as Kanonier. Feuchtinger deserted from this assignment. A search was begun for him on 12 April 1945 but was unsuccessful. Instead of going to the front, Feuchtinger appeared at his farmhouse near Celle. On 29 May 1945, he obtained a general's uniform and surrendered into British captivity. He went through several prison camps, including the British camp for German generals at Trent Park. His presence in the U.S. internment camp at Allendorf met with strong protests from the German officers being held there.
Post war activities[edit | edit source]
To his captors Feuchtinger was able to pass himself off as a victim of Nazi justice, and subsequently received an early release from the general board in 1946. After his return to Germany he worked as a representative for several companies before hiring on at the Bremer Vulkan yard. There he worked trading in steel products for use in heavy industry.
In May 1953 Feuchtinger was approached by a stranger at the Central Rail Station in Krefeld, a suburb of Berlin. The stranger was a KGB agent who showed Feuchtinger a military police document dated 12 April 1945. It is unclear exactly what the document was, but the threat of revealing it was able to elicit assistance from Feuchtinger. Feuchtinger was required to use his position to obtain and pass on information about German re-armament. For the next 17 years Feuchtinger provided Soviet military intelligence with classified information regarding the West German military, until his death from a stroke suffered in Berlin in 1960.
Promotions[edit | edit source]
- Leutnant (18 Aug 1915);
- Oberleutnant (01 Apr 1925);
- Hauptmann (01 Nov 1929);
- Major (01 Nov 1935);
- Oberstleutnant (01 Aug 1938);
- Oberst (01 Aug 1941);
- Generalmajor (01 Aug 1943);
- Generalleutnant (01 Aug 1944)
Decorations[edit | edit source]
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 6 August 1944 as Generalmajor and commander of the 21. Panzer-Division[Note 1]
- German Cross in Silver (15 July 1943)
- Iron Cross of 1914, 1st and 2nd class
- Knight's Cross Second Class with Swords of the Friedrich Order (Württemberg)
- Knight's Cross Second Class of the Order of the Zähringer Lion with swords
- Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg
- Medal for Bravery in Bronze (Austria-Hungary)
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award, 4th with 1st class
- Iron Cross of 1939, 1st and 2nd class
- War Merit Cross 1st and 2nd class with Swords
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht (23 July 1944)
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Generalmajor Edgar Feuchtinger was arrested on 5 January 1945 for his absence from his command in June and December 1944. He was demoted to Kanonier and sentenced to death in January 1945. Kanonier Feuchtinger was sent to the front with the 20. Panzergrenadier-Division for probation on 2 March 1945. He deserted, hid in Celle, and was captured and taken prisoner of war in Hamburg by British forces in May 1945. The death sentence resulted in the permanent loss of all orders and honorary signs.
References[edit | edit source]
- "Falltöter von rechts". Der Spiegel. December 20, 1961. http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-43367851.html.
- "Spiegel interview with Dr. Rolf-Dieter Müller". SpiegelOnline. http://einestages.spiegel.de/static/topicalbumbackground/3748/_es_gab_eben_auch_charakterlumpen.html. (German)
- Pipes, Jason. "German Officer Biographies". http://www.feldgrau.com/search-officers3.php?Surname=Feuchtinger&Forename=Edgar. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
- von Luck pp. 165-166
- Luck p. 167
- Luck pp. 171-227
- Luck p. 207
- Deggerich, Markus (Jan 28, 2009). "The Last Taboo: Will Germany Finally Rehabilitate Nazi-Era 'Traitors'?". SPIEGEL ONLINE International. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,604076,00.html.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 179.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 129.
- Dermot Bradley, Karl-Friedrich Hildebrand, Markus Rövekamp: Die Generale des Heeres 1921-1945, Band 3, Osnabrück, 1994 .
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Hans von Luck: Mit Rommel an der Front, Verlag Mittler, Hamburg, 2006.
- Sönke Neitzel: Abgehört - Deutsche Generäle in britischer Kriegsgefangenschaft 1942–1945. Propyläen, Berlin, 2005.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Edgar Feuchtinger.|
- Divisional organization of 21st Panzer Division, June 1944
- "Biography of Edgar Feuchtinger". Axis Biographical Research. Archived from the original on 2009-10-29. http://web.archive.org/web/20091029025956/http://geocities.com/~orion47/WEHRMACHT/HEER/Generalleutnant/FEUCHTINGER_EDGAR.html.
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