Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau

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Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner genannt von Wildau as Kommandant of Stalag Luft III.

Oberst Friedrich Wilhelm Gustav von Lindeiner genannt von Wildau (12 December 1880 – 22 May 1963) was a German Staff Officer during World War I best known today as the Kommandant of Stalag Luft III during World War II, famous for a prisoner escape depicted in the movie The Great Escape.

Military career[edit]

Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner genannt von Wildau was born at Glatz in 1880. He entered the 3. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß as a Second Lieutenant on graduating from the Corps of Cadets on 15 March 1898. On 1 May 1902 he left the Prussian Army and the following day entered the Schutztruppe for German East Africa. Here, von Lindeiner-Wildau served as the Adjutant of Gustav Adolf von Götzen, the Governor of German East Africa, from 20 June to 13 September 1905 and as the Headquarters Adjutant of the Schutztruppe for German East Africa from 7 September to 11 October 1906. He took part in the Maji Maji Rebellion, for which he received the Pour le Mérite and the Prussian Order of the Crown 4th Class with Swords. He left Schutztruppe service on 31 July 1908 and rejoined the Prussian Army on 1 August 1908 with a simultaneous promotion to Oberleutnant and was assigned to the 4. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß.

On 20 July 1912, on promotion to Hauptmann, von Lindeiner-Wildau was assigned as the Commander of the 11th company of 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß. On 10 August 1914 he was assigned as the Commander of the Infanterie-Stabswache ("Infantry Staff Guard") at the Kaiser's General Field Headquarters. On 19 September he returned to his regiment as Commander of the 11th company, where he was wounded during the First Battle of Ypres on 17 November 1914. Returning to duty on 13 April 1915 he assumed command of the regiment's 5th company, and then of its second battalion on 27 May 1915. He was again wounded during the pursuit between the Bug River and Jasiolda on 29 August 1915. On returning to duty von Lindeiner-Wildau assumed command of the Füsilier battalion of 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß and was again severely wounded on 5 December 1915 in fighting around Roye-Noyon.

On 24 September 1914 von Lindeiner-Wildau was assigned to Etappen-Inspektion 5 (Lines of Communication Inspectorate) and on 4 October 1916 he was assigned as the Personal Adjutant of Prince Joachim of Prussia. After his return to his Regiment on 30 October 1917 he became the Adjutant to the Governor of Riga-Dünamünde. Appointed as Adjutant to the Garde-Reserve-Korps on 23 April 1918 he was promoted to Major on 15 July 1918. His final wartime appointment was as Adjutant of the 4th Army, a post he assumed on 8 November 1918.

Following the Armistice von Lindeiner-Wildau was leader of the collecting point in Potsdam of the Volunteer Border Protection Unit East and Upper East (Grenzschutz Ost/Oberost) from 18 January 1919. He retired on 20 September 1919 with permission to wear the uniform of the 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß. He worked in several civilian posts, and married a Dutch baroness.[1]

He joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 as one of Hermann Göring’s personal staff.[1] Refusing retirement, he was the Kommandant of Stalag Luft III during World War II. Following the prisoner escape he feigned mental illness to avoid imprisonment. He was wounded by Russian troops advancing towards Berlin while acting as second in command of an infantry unit. He later surrendered to advancing British forces as the war ended and was imprisoned for two years at the British prison known as the "London Cage". He testified during the British SIB investigation concerning the Stalag Luft III murders. He had followed the Geneva Conventions concerning the treatment of POWs and had won the respect of the senior prisoners.[2] He was released when the testimony given by Allied prisoners at Stalag Luft III saved him from life imprisonment or possibly the death penalty.

He died in 1963 at the age of 82, less than two months before The Great Escape was released.

Awards[edit]

Friedrich von Lindeiner-Wildau received the Pour le Mérite and the Prussian Order of the Crown 4th Class with Swords for the brutal fighting in the German East Africa campaign of 1905-07. He was also awarded the Colonial Medal with that bar. During World War I he was also awarded the Saxe-Ernestine House Order - Knight 1st Class with Swords (1 May 1918) as Hauptmann and 1st Adjutant of the Government of Riga and the Mouth of the Düna, and the House Order of Hohenzollern Honor Cross 3b with Swords on 5 February 1915. He was also awarded the Iron Cross First and Second Class.[1]

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