Albert Graf von der Goltz

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Albert Emil Johannes Hermann Graf von der Goltz
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-708-0298-19, Ukraine, Offizier der Gebirgsjäger.jpg
Albert Graf von der Goltz in Ukraine in December 1943, in a Gerbigsjäger winter uniform. Note the monocle on his left eye.
Nickname(s) Albo[1]
Born (1893-06-24)24 June 1893
Heinrichsfelde, West Prussia (now Czajcze, Poland)[2]
Died 16 March 1944(1944-03-16) (aged 51)
Odessa, Ukraine
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch

German Empire Reichsheer

Balkenkreuz.svg Wehrmacht Gebirgsjäger
Years of service 1913–1918; 1939–1944
Rank Oberst der Reserve
Unit 2nd Dragoon Regiment
Commands held Infantry Regiment 7, Grenadier Regiment 415, 144 Mountain Infantry Regiment, 138 Mountain Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars

World War I
World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Other work Estate owner, Politician (during Interwar period)

Albert Emil Johannes Hermann Graf von der Goltz[Notes 1][3] (24 June 1893 – 16 March 1944) was a German Oberst der Reserve (Colonel of the Reserves) during World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Military career[edit]

Early years, World War I and Interwar period[edit]

Albert Graf von der Goltz was born in the family estate of Heinrichsfelde, in the District of Wirsitz (Kreis Wirsitz), West Prussia[2] (today the area belongs to Poland) in 1893.[4][5] His father was Heinrich Ernst Albrecht Graf von der Goltz (1855–1923), a descendant of an old noble family and a prominent member of the local society. His mother was Else von Borkowski (1861–1951). Albert also had an older sister, Elisabeth Emmy Wanda Harriet Gräfin von der Goltz (1889–1978). It seems that the family estate (or Gut Czaycze), firstly mentioned in 1427,[6] which Albert inherited after his father's death was a typical Prussian estate, with two old manor houses (the older of which was burned down in 1922).[6] With 251 inhabitants per the 1885 census, the family estate hosted, amongst others, a distillery and a brickyard,[7][8]

Albert entered army service in 1913 at the age of 20. As a noble, he was accepted into the 2nd Dragoon Regiment, (full name: 1. Brandenburgische Dragoner-Regiment Nr. 2) an elite formation created in 1689.[9] His brother in law, Alexander (Axel) Graf von Schlieffen (1882–1918) was an officer in the same regiment, and managed to secure Goltz's admission as a Fahnenjunker. By the time of the outbreak of the 1st World War in 1914 he had been commissioned as a Leutnant, and fought with distinction in the war, earning both classes (2nd and 1st) of the Iron Cross.[5] Alexander Graf von Schlieffen, an honorary knight of the Johanittenorden, was killed in battle as a Rittmeister of the reserves near Gouzeaucourt on 19 September 1918.[10]

After the capitulation of Germany, von der Goltz was discharged from the army, got married in 1919 and returned to the family estate.[11] Due to the conditions imposed by the Versailles Treaty the former German Empire lost, amongst others, parts of Prussia to Poland. This included Heinrichsfelde, which was six miles from the new German border. During the interwar years, Goltz sought to preserve the German presence in the area and set a personal example by having six children with his wife from 1920 to 1928. In addition, his estate hosted a school for both Polish and German children.[12] He was described as a reliable first-line combatant for the Germans in Poland.[13]

Eventually, he was elected chairman of the local chapter of the Nazi-orientated JdP (Jungdeutsche Partei in Polen, Young German Party in Poland). As the anti-German demonstrations and pressure against local cultural life in Pomerania and elsewhere were increasing, von der Goltz strongly protested against the arbitrary closure of the local Diakonissenstation[Notes 2] and the confiscation of its assets by the Polish authorities. As a result, on 17 February 1939, his estate in Czajcze was assaulted by approximately 250 Poles, and von der Goltz himself was physically threatened by the intruders. The police force arrived to restore order only after the dissolution of the demonstration.[11] The friction between Poles and Germans in the region continued throughout 1939, fueled by the threatening attitude of Nazi Germany toward Poland. In August 1939, after Goltz was recalled to active service, tension reached its peak. Rumors circulating among the population had it that Goltz intended to lead a Freikorps unit across the border.[12] In a provocative act that received some publicity after the end of the war, some ethnic Germans set a part of the estate on fire, blaming the Poles for the incident. Goltz himself was unaware of this, until one of his daughters confessed to it during the war.[14]

World War II[edit]

In August 1939, Goltz was called to the Wehrmacht with the rank of a Hauptmann der Reserve ("der Reserve" is often abbreviated to "d.R.") to the 9th Infantry Regiment (9. Infanterie-Regiment), then part of the 23rd Infantry Division.[4] The division crossed the German-Polish border in the area of Sępólno Krajeńskie and the Regiment fought in Klonowo, while later it was transported to East Prussia and reached the city of Białystok. During the Battle of France, the Regiment invaded Luxembourg and Belgium, took part in the bitter fighting in Charleville-Mézières and in the Aisne Canal. After the capitulation of France it was tasked with security duties.[15] During those campaigns, von der Goltz was awarded the Clasp to both classes (2nd and 1st) of his World War I Iron Crosses.[5]

In October 1940[16] he was transferred, along with the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment, to the newly formed 415th Infantry Regiment of the 123rd Infantry Division in Brandenburg and later that year, he took command of its 1st Battalion.[17] Around April 1941, the division was moved to East Prussia so to participate in Operation Barbarossa.[18] He fought in Demyansk during the heavy winter of 1941/42.[18] For his successful leadership and his gallantry he was decorated with the renowned Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 7 May 1942.[4]

On 15 October 1942 the 415th Infantry Regiment was converted to 415th Grenadier Regiment and von der Goltz assumed the command.[19] The regiment continued to fight in the area of Demyansk and Kholm.[18] In early 1943 followed his promotion to Oberstleutnant der Reserve and in August of the same year, he was transferred to the 3rd Mountain Division of the German Sixth Army. There, he was named commander of the 138 Mountain Infantry Regiment (30 August 1943 - 6 September 1943),[20] after, of the 144 Mountain Infantry Regiment (7 September 1943 – 12 September 1943)[21] before being finally transferred to the 138 Mountain Infantry Regiment (from 12 September 1943 until his death).[20] For his distinguished performance during the battles around Volnovakha (August – September 1943) and the defensive battle south of Zaporizhia (September 1943) - for the latter he earned a reference in the Wehrmachtbericht -, he was awarded 316th[22] the Oak Leaves (Eichenlaub) on the Knight's Cross on 2 November 1943. Almost a month after the award (1 December 1943), he was promoted to Oberst der Reserve.[4]

Albert Graf von der Goltz officially received the Oak Leaves from Adolf Hitler in the ceremony held in the Wolf's Lair in Rastenburg, on 30 January 1944, along with Oberstleutnant Karl Koetz (374th Oak Leaves Recipient), Major Josef-Georg Mulzer (367th), Rittmeister Andreas Thorey (349th) and Leutnant d.R. Heinrich Boigk (370th).[23]

Death[edit]

In March 1944 the German Sixth Army was threatened with encirclement by Soviet troops. The 138th and 144th Mountain Infantry Regiments of the 3rd Mountain Division were ordered to hold a bridgehead at the Inhulets River against Soviet counterattacks until the German forces could evacuate the area.[24] The second most successful Austro-German sniper of the war and (possibly) co-recipient of the Knight's Cross, Josef Allerberger, witnessed the Count's injury (and subsequent death) and recalls the incident in his memoirs.[25]

On 14 March[4] or (less likely[Notes 3]) 15,[22] 1944, the units' main forces, including a convoy with several vehicles, were assembled near the Bug river,[4] awaiting further orders to cross it. Allerberger, walking along with officers, including von der Goltz, claimed that "we considered ourselves safe from enemy attacks, due to the large numbers of soldiers stationed in the area." The commanders of the regiment, along with other commanding officers, were discussing the organization of the area's defences under "cold rainfall".[26] Suddenly, the command post was attacked by Soviet T-34 tanks. One of the tanks opened fire with its machine gun, injuring the Count's horse, while a German SPG (self-propelled gun) was moving into a firing position. Instead of finding cover, like the other members of his team did, von der Goltz desperately tried to save his horse. Another Soviet tank fired a large caliber shell, causing some nearby vehicles to explode. Shrapnel from the explosion killed the horse and von der Goltz was seen being thrown to the ground "like he had been punched by an invisible fist".[22] The SPG destroyed the tank and soon the attack was forced back.[26] Von der Goltz managed to stand up, only to faint moments later, after realizing "silently though in terror"[22] that his right arm had been ripped from his shoulder.[22] He was immediately transported to Odessa, where he died in a Lazarett from gangrene[22] on 16 March 1944.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Albert Graf von der Goltz was married to Freiin (Baroness) Isabelle Marie Luise "Isa" Knigge (1895–1986) on 23 January 1919 in Grünau. They resided in Heinrichfelde. The couple had six children; five daughters and a son:[3]

  • Gisela Elisabeth Clara Clementine Gräfin von der Goltz (b. 13 March 1920)
  • Ingeborg Emilie Adele Irene Gräfin von der Goltz (b. 17 March 1921)
  • Isa Maria Emma Helene Gräfin von der Goltz (7 February 1922 – 15 May 2007)
  • Renate Elisabeth Hedwig Mara Gräfin von der Goltz (b. 14 February 1923)
  • Heinrich Wilhelm Theodor Moritz Walter Graf von der Goltz (b. 2 August 1926)
  • Helga Luise Hildegard Helene Ursula Gesa Gräfin von der Goltz (b. 29 October 1928)

Graf and Grafin von der Goltz were guests at the 1937 wedding of Juliana of the Netherlands with Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld.[27]

Isabelle von der Goltz distinguished herself as a compassionate person not only during the war but in the following years as well. She worked as assistant sister in several hospitals and organized the evacuation of Heinrichsfelde and the flight of the German population to Mecklenburg after the demise of her husband. Isa von der Goltz, along with her 22-year-old daughter Renate, a Red Cross sister, managed to lead the approximately 300 men and women convoy to the safety of the village of Güldenstein in Harmsdorf (Schleswig-Holstein). The fact that the von der Goltz family had friendly relations with other German nobles of Silesia helped provide temporary accommodation and shelter in their estates to the refugees during the march to the west.[28] The family itself settled in northern Germany, as Czajcze was ultimately incorporated into post-war Poland. She died in 1986.[3]

Her daughter, Isa, also took part in the organization of the flight. During the war years she worked in military hospitals and after the unconditional surrender of Germany she underwent nurse training at Flensburg, after which she volunteered for humanistic service for two years (1954–1956) during the Korean War. Later, she studied in the United States of America and went on - among others - to direct the Elsa-Brandström-Haus in Blankenese, while for 18 years (1980–1998) held the position of the President of the Red Crosse's branch in Hamburg (DRK-Kreisverband Altona). In recognition of her activities, she was awarded one of the highest decorations of the International Red Cross, the Florence Nightingale Medal and the 1996 Hamburger Bürgerpreis.[29] She died in the morning of 17 May 2007, at the age of 85. Dirk Reimers, the president of the Red Cross department in Hamburg, remarked that "...her memory will remain in our mind as a great example".[30]

Awards[edit]

(Note: The question mark next to an award implies unknown date of award)

Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
3 October 1943 Bei den Abwehrkämpfen südostwärts Saporoshje zeichneten sich das Jägerregiment 138 unter Führung des Oberstleutnants Graf von der Goltz, eine unter Führung von Major von Gaza stehende Panzergruppe sowie die Sturmgeschützabteilung 243 und die Heeres-Panzerjägerabteilung 721 besonders aus.[33] The Jägerregiment 138 under the leadership of Oberstleutnant Graf von der Goltz, a Panzer group under the command of Major von Gaza as well as Sturmgeschützabteilung 243 and the Heeres-Panzerjägerabteilung 721 distinguished themselves in the defensive battles southeast of Zaporizhia.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. Before 1919 preceding the first name, former titles are with people alive after 1919 dependent parts of the surname, thus preceding the main surname and not to be translated. The feminine form is Gräfin.
  2. ^ The Diakonissenstation or Diakonissenhaus (Deaconess station / house) was an ecclesiastical foundation devoted to charities, i.e. a kind of charitable organization
  3. ^ Allerberger notes that "On 15 March 1944, heavy rainfall occurred [in the area]." From there (the end of the chapter) until mentioning von der Goltz's death (at the start of the following chapter), date is not stated. Taking in account the fact that the time von der Goltz was killed it was raining - according to Allerberger - and with Goltz's death occurring on March 16, it is probably implied that von der Goltz was wounded on 15 March. But in contrast the majority of sources chronically place the event one day earlier.
  4. ^ No mention of a heavy wound that could justify the award of the highest class of the Wound Badge is available neither concernig World War I nor World War II. It must therefore be presumed that von der Goltz was awarded the Gold class of the medal after his death.

References[edit]

  1. ^ keyserlingk.info
  2. ^ a b c d Das-Ritterkreuz.de
  3. ^ a b c Geneall.net
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Albert Graf von der Goltz. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Ritterkreuzträger.info
  6. ^ a b Opracowanie ekofizjograficzne dla północnej części Gminy Wysoka (Polish)
  7. ^ Dr. Rademacher, Michael: Deutsche Verwaltungsgeschichte: Landkreis Wirsitz at the Wayback Machine (archived May 25, 2009). (German)
  8. ^ Dziedzictwo Krajny - Czajcze (Polish)
  9. ^ 1. Brandenburgisches Dragoner-Regiment Nr. 2 from Preußische Militärgeschichte (German) (Attention - popups)
  10. ^ Genealogisches Hanbuch des Adels, vol. 112, p. 367 and vol. 72, p. 246
  11. ^ a b Bierschenck, Die Deutsche Volksgruppe in Polen
  12. ^ a b Eser 2010, p. 653
  13. ^ Polish Western Affairs, vol. 23-24, p. 124. Instytut Zachodni, 1982
  14. ^ Polish Western Affairs, vol. 27-28, p. 252. Instytut Zachodni, 1982
  15. ^ Infanterieregiment 9. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German) (Accessed 24 September 2010)
  16. ^ Infanterie-Regiment 415. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German) (Accessed 24 September 2010)
  17. ^ 123. Infanterie-Division. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German) (see sector "Ort", from 1941 onwards)
  18. ^ a b c 123. Infanterie-Division. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German) (Accessed 24 September 2010)
  19. ^ Grenadier-Regiment 415. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German) (Accessed 24 September 2010)
  20. ^ a b Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 138. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German)
  21. ^ Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 144. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German)
  22. ^ a b c d e f Wacker, pp. 114
  23. ^ Axis History Forum
  24. ^ Wacker, pp. 112
  25. ^ Wacker, pp. 113-114
  26. ^ a b Wacker, pp. 113
  27. ^ "Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands & Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld -1937". Royal Forums. 
  28. ^ Dörr, 1998, p. 468
  29. ^ Abschiedsgeschenk der Gräfin von der Goltz für die Behinderten. Article at Hamburger Abendblatt, 20 October 1982. (German) (Attention - popups)
  30. ^ DRK Landesverband Hamburg: Rotes Kreuz trauert um Isa Gräfin von der Goltz. Announcement at the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz Landesverband Hamburg e.V., 15 May 2007 (German)
  31. ^ a b Thomas 1997, p. 209.
  32. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 342.
  33. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 574.

Sources[edit]

  • Bierschenk, Theodor: Die deutsche Volksgruppe in Polen 1934–1939. (German) Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3 (German)
  • Dörr, Margarete (1998): »Wer die Zeit nicht miterlebt hat...« Frauenerfahrungen im Zweiten Weltkrieg und in den Jahren danach, vol. 1: Lebensgeschichten. Germany: Campus Verlag. ISBN 3-593-36095-0 (German)
  • Eser, Ingo (2010): »Volk, Staat, Gott!«: Die deutsche Minderheit in Polen und ihr Schulwesen 1918-1939. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2010. ISBN 3-447-06233-9 (German)
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 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. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. (German)
  • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6. 
  • Wacker, Albrecht (2007). Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger, Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross recipient. Eurobooks Editions. ISBN 978-960-87218-7-6 (Greek)
  • Albert Graf von der Goltz. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German)
  • Albert Graf von der Goltz at Ritterkreuzträger.info (German) (.pdf file)
  • Albert Graf von der Goltz at Geneall.net
  • DRK Landesverband Hamburg: Rotes Kreuz trauert um Isa Gräfin von der Goltz. Announcement at the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz Landesverband Hamburg e.V., 15 May 2007 (German). Retrieved on 18 December 2010.
  • Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 138. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German)
  • Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 144. Article at Lexicon der Wehrmacht (German)

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Hans Kreppel
Commander of Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 138
30 August 1943 — 6 September 1943
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Josef Brandl
Preceded by
Major Fritz Dittman
Deputy Commander of Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 144
7 September 1943 — 12 September 1943
Succeeded by
Major Hermann Josef Dropmann
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Josef Brandl
Commander of Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 138
12 September 1943 — 14 March 1944
Succeeded by
Oberst Hermann Rath