Franz Mattenklott

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Franz Mattenklott
Franz Mattenklott.jpg
General der Infanterie Franz Mattenklott
Born (1884-11-19)19 November 1884
Grünberg, Silesia (today Zielona Góra, Poland)[1]
Died 28 June 1954(1954-06-28) (aged 69)
Braunlage, Lower Saxony
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany (to 1945)
Service/branch War Ensign of Germany 1903-1918.svg Reichsheer
Flag of Weimar Republic (war).svg Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.svg Wehrmacht
Years of service 1903-1945
Rank General der Infanterie
Commands held 72. Infanterie Division, XXXXII. Armeekorps, Stellvertretendes Generalkommando VI. Armeekorps
Battles/wars

World War I World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
German Cross in Gold

Franz Mattenklott (1884–1954) was a German General der Infanterie during World War II and recipient of the renowned Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross was Nazi Germany's highest award for military gallantry and was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Military career[edit]

World War I[edit]

Franz Mattenklott was born in Grünberg, Silesia,[1] in 1884. On 28 December[1] 1903, at the age of 20, he was enlisted for service to the Königlich Preußische Armee as Cadet (Fahnenjunker) to the 4th Magdeburgian Infantry Regiment Nr. 67. He rose to the rank of Leutnant on 18 May 1905 and participated with his regiment in World War I as Oberleutnant. During the war, he was promoted to Hauptmann (18 June 1915) and was awarded both classes (2nd and 1st) of the Iron Cross, including some other decorations.

Between the wars[edit]

After the end of the war and the capitulation of the German Empire in 1918, Mattenklott remained in the – dramatically downsized in manpower, according to the Treaty of VersaillesReichswehr. In the spring of 1920, he was appointed chief of the Wehrkreis VI (7th Military District) headquarters. and soon after named Company commander of the 7th Prussian Infantry Regiment. In the spring of 1924, he was transferred to the Generalstab of the 6th Division of the Reichswehr in Münster. From 1925 to 1927 he belonged to the Generalstab of Artillerieführer VI in Münster (which was attached to the Wehrkreis VI). In this position, he received his promotion to Major on 1 February 1928. Following his promotion, he worked to the Infantry School in Dresden evidently until the spring of 1932. In this year, he rose to the rank of Oberstleutnant (1 October 1932) and exactly two years later to Oberst.

In the meanwhile, Adolf Hitler's rise to power resulted in major changes considering the Armed Forces of Germany (ultimately renamed to Wehrmacht). Aiming to restore Germany's military strength, Hitler ignored the terms of Versailles's Treaty and issued the expansion of the (approximately) 100.000-men Reichswehr, resuming compulsory conscription in the army.

Mattenklott, now ranked Oberst, was appointed commander of the newly formed Infanterie Regiment Stargard (Infantry Regiment Stargard). On 15 October 1935, the regiment was renamed to 25th Infantry Regiment. Mattenklott assumed his post on 1 June 1936 and two years later, he reached the rank of Generalmajor (1 March 1938). Before the outbreak of World War II he was in command of the border security units in Trier, which formed the Grenz-Division Trier.

World War II[edit]

France[edit]

The so-called Grenz-Division Trier formed the 72. Infanterie Division on 19 September 1939. Mattenklott was promoted to Generalleutnant on 1 February 1940. His division was stationed at Trier during the Phoney War and took part in the Invasion of France (May–June 1940). On 25 July 1940, he was temporarily detached as commander of Metz for five weeks, but returned to the 72nd Infantry Division on 4 September 1940.

Balkans campaign and Soviet Union[edit]

With his division, Mattenklott participated in the Balkans Campaign (spring 1941). After the decisive Axis victory in the Balkans, with its southern flank secured, Nazi Germany launched a massive offensive operation (Operation Barbarossa) against the Soviet Union, though the peace treaty (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) was still in effect. 72nd Infantry Division advanced into southern Russia and Ukraine while Mattenklott was promoted to General der Infanterie. On 6 November 1941, he put into reserve. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, one of Nazi Germany's highest decorations for military gallantry, on 23 November 1941.

Mattenklott, in a somehow unusual movement, ordered that special cards be handed to the soldiers of 72nd Infantry Division for Christmas on 24 December 1941. These cards included a photo of General Mattenklott and the following text:

Zur Erinnerung an die Kämpfe am Westwall, im Frankreich, in Griechenland und Rußland.
Ich danke Euch allen für Eure Tapferkeit und Treue!
Mattenklott
Generalleutnant u.[nd]
ehem.[alige] Kde.(?)[Kommandeur] der 72. I.[nfanterie] D.[ivision]

roughly translated as

In remembrance of the struggle on Westwall, in France, in Greece and Russia.
I thank you all for your braveness and loyalty!
Mattenklott
Generalleutnant and
former Commander of the 72nd Infantry Division

On 1 January 1942, he was named commander of the XXXXII. Armeekorps (or XLII Army Corps). Meanwhile, he served as commander of Crimea (19 August 1942 – April 1943). A year later, he took a one-month leave of absence (from 22 June 1943 to July 1943).

Between 14 and 24 November 1943 he was the commanding officer of the Army Detachment Mattenklott (Ameeabteilung Mattenklott), a large part of which was encircled and destroyed in the Cherkassy Pocket. The general staff of the detachment's remnants was transferred back to the XXXXII Army Corps and Mattenklott resumed his post as chief of the General Command.

Late war[edit]

On 14 June 1944, Mattenklott was transferred back in Germany and named commander-in-chief of the Deputy Command of VI. Armeekorps in Münster, simultaneously serving in the Command of Wehrkreis VI, position which he held until April 1945, soon followed by the end of the war and the unconditional surrender of Germany.

Post-war[edit]

Mattenklott was arrested by Allied troops on 21 April 1945 and was released from captivity on 4 July 1947.[1] As a subordinate of Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth, he testified in the High Command Trial as a defense witness for his former superior.[2] His signature was found on an order dated 28 November 1941, considering "Antipartisan warfare" in occupied territories. Among others, the order suggested establishment of various concentration camps where hostages

[...] are to be shot and hanged [...], if attacks by partisans occur in the area concerned.[2]

and, additionally, issued that civilians or "dispersed soldiers" would be shot on sight if they caught armed.

Mattenklott, during his interrogation on 19 May 1947, claimed that such measures were "necessary and justified", but explained that he considered them to be of deterrentive nature rather than retaliatory. He also stated that such incident (i.e. immediate execution of an armed civilian) never came to his attention.[2]

When inquired about when he first learned of role of the "Security Service" (apparently referring to the SS) as a means of extermination against the Jews, the Communists and other "undesirable elements", Mattenklott replied that he was not aware of these actions, but first heard of the infamous Komissarbefehl only while in captivity - and, by that, claimed that he never implemented it. He also totally denied any acknowledgment about the extermination of the Jewish populations in Eastern territories.[2] Specifically, when asked "And you knew nothing of the use of the Security Service as extermination groups, until the surrender when you were made prisoner?" his reply was

No. I knew nothing, nothing.[2]

Franz Mattenklott died in Braunlage, Lower Saxony on 28 June 1954.

Award[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
6 April 1944 Verbände des Heeres und der Waffen-SS haben unter dem Oberbefehl des Generalobersten Weiß und unter der Führung der Generale der Infanterie Hoßbach und Mattenklott nach tagelangen harten Angriffskämpfen durch die Pripjetsümpfe bei ungewöhnlichen Geländeschwierigkeiten den feindlichen Ring um Kowel gesprengt und damit ihre Kameraden aus der Umklammerung befreit. Units of the Army and the Waffen-SS have, under the High Command of Generaloberst Weiß and under the leadership of Generals of the Infantry Hoßbach and Mattenklott, after days of harsh fighting through the Pripyat Marshes at rough terrain, broken the enemy ring at Kowel and by that our comrades were freed from the clutch.

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
none
Commander of 72. Infanterie Division
1 September 1939 — 25 July 1940
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Helge Auleb
Preceded by
none
Commander of Festung Metz
25 July 1940 — 4 September 1940
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Fritz Rossum
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Helge Auleb
Commander of 72. Infanterie Division
5 September 1940 — 6 November 1940
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Philipp Müller-Gebhard
Preceded by
none
Befehlshaber Krim
19 August 1942 — April 1943
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Helge Auleb
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Hans Graf von Sponeck
Commander of XXXXII. Armeekorps
1 January 1942 — 22 June 1943
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Anton Dostler
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Anton Dostler
Commander of XXXXII. Armeekorps
July 1943 — 14 June 1944
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Hermann Recknagel
Preceded by
none
Commander of Armeeabteilung Mattenklott
14 November 1943 — 24 November 1943
Succeeded by
none
merged into XXXXII. Armeekorps
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Gerhard Glokke
Stellvertretendes Generalkommando VI. Armeekorps
14 June 1944 — April 1944
Succeeded by
dissolved