Photo of Bruno Braeuer as Colonel
4 February 1893|
|Died||20 May 1947
|Buried at||German War Cemetery at Maleme|
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Rank||General der Fallschirmtruppe|
|Commands held||FschJägRgt 1|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Bruno Bräuer (4 February 1893 – 20 May 1947) was a German paratrooper from Willmannsdorf, Prussian Silesia. In 1905 he joined the army cadets and started his military career. In World War I he received the Iron Cross first and second class whilst serving in the 7th West Prussian Infantry regiment. After joining the Reichswehr, he took command of the first Battalion, General Göring regiment. As a major commanding this battalion (the first German unit to become airborne operational), Bräuer became the first German paratrooper to jump from a plane on 11 May 1936. By 1938 he was in command of the first Fallschirmjäger regiment; Major Von Grazy succeeded him as commander of the 1st Battalion. He commanded this unit through Poland, France, the Netherlands and the Balkans. Later he became commander on Crete and then commanded the 9th Paratroopers division as a Major General. After the war, he was executed for war crimes.
Personality and appearance
Bräuer was quite short and had a slight stutter. He was also renowned for his gold cigarette case, which he can be seen holding in one of the few pictures taken of him on Crete in 1941. He was said to have been the most humane commander of fortress Crete.
Bräuer led the regiment in Poland, France and the Low Countries. In the Netherlands, he earned a reputation for outstanding bravery. His objective was to take two bridges: Moerdijk and Dordrecht. At Moerdijk his second battalion under Captain Prager captured the bridge by dropping two of his companies at each end and storming the bridge, taking it before it could be blown. At Dordrecht the first Battalion, first Fallschirmjäger regiment could only drop one company-the 3rd company under Lieutenant von Brandis. Fierce fighting took place, but the bridge remained in Dutch hands and Brandis was killed.
A nearby airfield, Waalhaven, was taken by the third Battalion, first Fallschirmjäger regiment by luring the defenders away from the airfield and then landing in it. As Dutch resistance increased and Dordrecht Bridge still had not been taken, Bräuer commandeered Dutch vehicles. After terrible fighting and bravery from Bräuer, the bridge was taken intact. He received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for this feat.
Bräuer would also have been involved with the spearhead for Operation Sea Lion, the planned German invasion of Great Britain. While Major Meindl's battalion would be dropped at Hythe, it was planned that Bräuer's regiment would be dropped over Paddlesworth and Etchinghill. Both these units' objectives would be Sandgate. While they were moving to their targets, the Luftwaffe would be flying back to France to transport the second wave of paratroopers-Major Stenzler's battalion-who would support the first wave.
On 20 May 1941 Nazi Germany launched its air attack on Crete. Bräuer was to lead the first Fallschirmjäger regiment and the second battalion, second Fallschirmjäger regiment. His objective was to take the airfield at Heraklion. This action was not a success. The second battalion, first Fallschirmjäger regiment, landed on the coast road and came under extreme enemy fire as there was little cover. Bräuer and the first battalion, who had landed to the east of the town quickly moved westwards to try to find any remnants of the second battalion. Eight days later the airfield still had not been taken. When the news that Germans were advancing across the Island from Maleme reached the Allies, the latter withdrew to the harbor and were evacuated.
Commander on Crete
In November 1942 Bräuer replaced General Alexander Andrae as commander on Crete. He tried to make his officers treat the Cretans with more respect. On 25 March, Greek National Day, he released 100 Cretan prisoners from jail. One prisoner, Constantinos Mitsotakis, would later become Prime Minister of Greece. Brauer acquired the reputation as hard but fair and the most humane commander of Crete. After German failures at Stalingrad and El Alamein, it was Bräuer who ordered the construction of underground command bunkers, more defenses around Suda Bay and increased ammunition stocks. In 1944 General Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, renowned for his brutality when commander of the 22nd Infantry Division, replaced Bräuer as Commander of Fortress Crete.
In January 1945 two of his battalions were encircled by the first Ukrainian front in Breslau, where they were destroyed. The rest of the division retreated back to the Seelow Heights, where it dug in and prepared to defend against an imminent Russian offensive. With little experience, many of the troops fled when the Russian barrage began. Before long, the line had nearly completely collapsed and many of Bräuer’s men began to desert. Bräuer suffered a nervous collapse and was relieved of his command.
Along with General Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, Brauer was charged with war crimes by a Greek military court. He stood trial in Athens for alleged atrocities on Crete. He was accused of the deaths of 3,000 Cretans, massacres, systematic terrorism, deportation, pillage, wanton destruction, torture and ill treatment Brauer was convicted and sentenced to death on 9 December 1946. He was executed by firing squad at 5 o'clock on 20 May 1947, the anniversary of the German invasion of Crete. Historian Antony Beevor describes him as 'a truly unfortunate man' having been executed for crimes 'committed under another general'.
Three years later, the Association of German Airborne troops requested that Brauer's remains be moved to Crete and reinterred on hill 107, with German troops killed on the island during the invasion and the occupation. His remains were buried by George Psychoundakis, resistance fighter and author of The Cretan Runner. Brauer's grave can be found in the far left corner of the cemetery next to an unknown soldier.
- Iron Cross (1914)
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- German Cross in Gold on 31 March 1942 as Generalmajor in Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1[Note 1]
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (24 May 1940)
- According to Thomas and Wegmann on 13 April 1942.
- "Some Noteworthy War Criminals", Source: History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War, United Nations War Crimes Commission. London: HMSO, 1948, p. 526, updated 29 Jan 2007 by Stuart Stein (University of the West of England), accessed 22 Jan 2010
- Beevor, Berlin, the downfall 1945, p.236
- Thomas and Wegmann 1986, p. 33.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 57.
- Antill, Peter D (2005). Crete 1941, Osprey Publishing
- Beevor, Antony (1991). Crete, the battle and the resistance
- Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin, the downfall 1945, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-670-88695-5
- Airborne Operations, Salamander Books Ltd
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). 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] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Lucas, James (nd). Storming Eagles, Guild Publishing
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Thomas, Franz; Wegmann, Günter (1986). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil II: Fallschirmjäger [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the German Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Part II: Paratroopers] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-1461-8.
Generalleutnant Gustav Wilke
|Commander of 9. Fallschirmjäger-Division
2 March 1945 – 18 April 1945
Oberst Harry Herrmann