|Born||9 September 1917|
|Died||1 April 1945(aged 28)|
|Place of birth||Schneidenburg, Upper-Silesia|
|Place of death||Steinabrückl, Austria|
|Years of service||1936–1945|
|Unit||1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler|
|Commands held||1st SS Reconnaissance Battalion LSSAH|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Iron Cross 1st Class|
Iron Cross 2nd Class
German Cross in Gold
Winter War Medal 1941/42
Infantry Assault Badge
Close Combat Clasp in Silver
Wound Badge in Gold
Emil Wawrzinek (9 September 1917 — 1 April 1945) was an SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) in the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler who was awarded the German Cross in Gold. He was killed in action in Austria, on April 1, 1945.
Early life[edit | edit source]
Emil Wawrzinek was born in Schneidenburg, in Upper-Silesia, on 9 September 1917. He was the youngest son of Emil Wawrzinek senior, a bricklayer who was killed in action as a German soldier in France on 16 May 1917. His pregnant, 23 year old widow Benedikta stayed behind with their 3 year old son Georg and when she gave birth to a second son she named him after her late husband. Benedikta and her sons were Catholics, as was almost the complete population of the region. From his sixth to his fourteenth year he attended the Volksschule in Schneidenburg and the Oberschule in Oberglogau. Upper-Silesia was politically turbulent since the Allied Forces had allocated the region to Poland after the First World War, much against the wish of its German inhabitants which made up 40 percent of the population. This triggered strong nationalistic German sentiments. Likewise with the Wawrzinek brothers and Emil joined the Hitlerjugend in March 1933. He served in the Reichsarbeitsdienst from October 1935 to October 1936.
Wartime career[edit | edit source]
Wawrzinek volunteered for the Leibstandarte and joined the NSDAP on 1 October 1936, and took part in the annexation of Austria and the German invasion of Poland. On 30 January 1940, he was promoted to SS-Unterscharführer and at the same time he was sent to the 1. Kriegs-Reserve-Führer-Anwärter-Lehrgang, an officers course at the SS Junkerschule Braunschweig. He finished the three-month course on 8 May 1940 as an SS-Standartenoberjunker. An apprenticeship with an SS unit was part of the course and Wawrzinek was sent to the SS Ersatzbataillon (SS replacement battalion) in Ellwangen where he was trained as a Kradschütze (motorcycle soldier). In September he returned to the Leibstandarte to lead a motorcycle platoon in the second company of the Aufklärungsabteilung LSSAH that was formed by SS-Sturmbannführer Kurt Meyer. His promotion to SS-Untersturmführer followed on 9 November 1940. The battalion participated in the German invasion of the Balkans and because of his actions during the attack on Greece Wawrzinek was awarded the Iron cross 2nd class and the bronze Infantry Assault Badge. He also led a platoon in the second company during Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union. On 10 August 1941, Wawrzinek was seriously injured. In the SS hospital in Bobry doctors had to remove no less than seventeen grenade splinters from his upper torso. He was awarded the Iron Cross first class on 14 September. He again sustained injuries on November 19 and this time he recovered in a hospital in Nikolajew.
After he had recovered from his injuries, he went to Germany for a short leave, then had to report at the Sennelager training grounds in March 1942, where the 3rd (light half-track) company for the reconnaissance battalion was formed under SS-Hauptsturmführer Gustav Knittel and Wawrzinek was to lead the 1st platoon. He was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer on 20 April 1942. After a long period of training in Germany and France, the reconnaissance battalion was sent to the Eastern Front in January 1943 were it saw action during the battle for Kharkov. On February 15, Meyer sent Knittel's company to Bereka in an attempt to escape encirclement, but that town was occupied by the Red Army. During the following attack, Wawrzinek led his platoon into battle and he was one of the first who entered the town, but a rifle round in his lower back put him out of action. He was transported to the SS hospital in Poltava, where doctors removed the bullet. Wawrzinek was awarded the silver wound badge on 20 February and the German Cross in Gold on 21 March.
In April 1943, Meyer left for the new Hitlerjugend Division and Knittel took over the reconnaissance battalion. Wawrzinek became the new commander of the armoured halftrack company. He led them into battle at Kursk but was wounded again on 10 July. He returned to his company when it was in Yugoslavia to fight partisans. The rest of the reconnaissance battalion was in Italy at that time. In November, the company returned to the Leibstandarte in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic were they again saw bitter fighting against the Red Army. On November 9, Wawrzinek was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer and in December he was awarded the gold Infantry Assault Badge.
On 6 December, Wawrzinek was wounded during the battle for Andrejeff, this time grenade splitters in his left hand, and taken to the SS hospital in Kraków. His wounds were not too serious and he was allowed a short leave after he left the hospital.
The Leibstandarte was shipped to Normandy a week after D-Day and was almost decimated in the Falaise Pocket. After the breakout from Normandy, Wawrzinek took over as battalion commander and was in charge of rebuilding and reorganizing the battalion. Shortly before the start of the Ardennes Offensive, division commander Wilhelm Mohnke ordered Knittel to return to the Leibstandarte. On 13 December 1944, he arrived at the divisional headquarters near Euskirchen where he asked Mohnke to grant Wawrzinek the command of the reconnaissance battalion. But the next day Mohnke insisted that Knittel had to lead the reinforced battalion that would become Schnelle Gruppe (fast group) Knittel and Wawrzinek was transferred to the division staff. But when Knittel was out of action with a serious concussion, Wawrzinek took command of the Aufklärungsabteilung again, yet not for long because he himself was wounded on 2 January 1945 and he did not return to the battalion until the Leibstandarte was about to attack in Hungary. Knittel did not return to his command and Wawrzinek once again led the reconnaissance battalion during Operation Frühlingserwachen, but when the operation failed the Leibstandarte pulled back on defensive positions in Austria to defend Vienna against the Red Army. There Wawrzinek met his fate. On 1 April 1945, a Russian rocket hit the battalion command post in Steinabrückl and killed almost the complete battalion staff.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
During his time in Sennelager in 1942, Wawrzinek got himself in trouble when a 29 year old woman he met there later turned out to be pregnant, but this was not known to him when the Leibstandarte was moved to France. When he learned that the woman had given birth to a baby girl he filed a request to marry her, which was in line with his catholic background. The request was turned down by the SS higher command because the woman was older than Wawrzinek and a divorcee and as such not considered a suitable partner for an SS officer.
On 30 November 1943, his friend SS-Obersturmführer Fritz Bügelsack was killed in action and a week later Wawrzinek was wounded and was allowed a short leave after he left the hospital. In late January he travelled to Berlin where he met with Hannelote Bügelsack, the sister of his fallen friend. She was 31 years old at that time, five years older than Wawrzinek who she had known since 1938 due to his friendship with her brother. On 20 February 1944, a second marriage request followed. This time Wawrzinek wanted to marry Hannelote. They married on March 2, before the SS gave its approval. Hannelotte was two months pregnant. When Wawrzinek returned to the reconnaissance battalion in Belgium he was reprimanded by Knittel but his commanding officer also protected him against further problems with the SS high command. On 6 May 1944 Knittel married his wife Raymonde in Ulm and Wawrzinek was his best man.
Summary of SS career[edit | edit source]
Dates of rank[edit | edit source]
- SS-Untersturmführer: 9 November 1940
- SS-Obersturmführer: 20 April 1942
- SS-Hauptsturmführer: 9 November 1943
Notable decorations[edit | edit source]
- German Cross in Gold (1943)
- Eastern Front Medal (1942)
- Iron Cross Second (1940) and First (1941) Classes
- Anschluss Medal
- Wound Badge (gold)
- Close Combat Clasp (silver)
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- SS Personalakten - Record Group 242, Publication A3343-RS-G0604 (NARA)