Gerhard von Schwerin
|Gerhard Graf von Schwerin|
Gerhard Graf von Schwerin
23 June 1899|
|Died||29 October 1980
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1914–20, 1923–45, 1950|
|Rank||General der Panzertruppen|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords|
Gerhard ("Gerd") Helmuth Detloff Graf von Schwerin (23 June 1899 – 29 October 1980) was a German army General in World War II. As General der Panzertruppe, he was tasked with defending the city of Aachen while in command of the 116th Panzer Division "Windhund" (the "Greyhound Division").
In February 1939, just before the outbreak of the conflict, von Schwerin, then with the rank of Major, at great personal risk made a covert approach whilst in London to the British Foreign Office's German Department. He suggested that if the British Government abandoned its policy of appeasement towards the III Reich and moved to a stance of open military opposition towards its escalating aggression in Europe, this would provide a rallying point and catalyst for elements in the Wehrmacht that were willing to stage a coup d'etat against the Nazi government. Frank Roberts, the Foreign Office official who dealt with the issue, dismissed the approach as purely an internal German matter.
North-West Europe Campaign
As the 3rd US Armored Division reached Aachen on 13 September 1944, the once-formidable 116th Panzer-Division, commanded by von Schwerin, had been reduced to 600 men, 12 tanks and no artillery pieces. In an attempt to prevent civilian casualties and to protect the city's historical architecture and relics (it was the ancient centre of Charlemagne's empire, or the First Reich), he left a letter at the telegraph office to be given to the American commander, General Courtney Hodges, informing him of his intent to surrender the city without contest. Later, when he learned that the Americans had stopped to regroup and an attack wasn't imminent he tried to retrieve the message but it had fallen into the hands of Nazi party functionaries. Upon learning of the note's contents Adolf Hitler ordered von Schwerin's arrest and trial for treason. With the aid of General Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Walter Model however he escaped death and received only a severe reprimand. He was then ordered to the Italian front and even promoted to General der Panzertruppe, commanding General of the LXXVI. Panzerkorps. On April 26, 1945 he was captured by the British Army, and subsequently released at the end of 1947. Although the town was heavily damaged by fighting after the note incident and his arrest and removal, post-war von Schwerin styled himself "The Savior of Aachen".
Post war career
In May 1950, Schwerin was appointed as chief advisor on military issues and security policy to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and head of the covert government agency Dienststelle Schwerin (with the code name "Zentrale für Heimatdienst"), responsible for preparations for German rearmament. However, after he talked to the press about his work, he was replaced by Theodor Blank in October 1950. Schwerin subsequently was active as an advisor on military policy for the parliamentary group of the liberal Free Democratic Party of Germany.
- Iron Cross (1914)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- Wound Badge (1914)
- in Black
- Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- Infantry Assault Badge
- Eastern Front Medal
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on 27 October 1943
- "Afrika" Cuffband
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|27 October 1943||Die rheinisch-westfälische 16. Panzergrenadierdivision unter Führung des Generalleutnants Graf v. Schwerin verdient für ihre vorbildliche Einsatzfreudigkeit während der großen Absetzbewegungen ostwärts des Dnjepr und bei den Kämpfen im Brückenkopf von Saporoshje besondere Anerkennung.||The Rhenish-Westphalian 16th Mechanized Infantry Division, led by Lieutenant General Graf von Schwerin earned for their exemplary dedication and enthusiasm during the large withdrawal battles east of the Dnieper and in combat in the bridgehead of Zaporozhye special recognition.|
Regarding personal names: Graf was a title, before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Count. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a separate estate, titles preceded the full name when given (Prinz Otto von Bismarck). After 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), could be used, but were regarded as part of the surname, and thus came after a first name (Otto Prinz von Bismarck). The feminine form is Gräfin.
- "The Wehrmacht" Episode 5 documentary by Guido Knopp
- 'Tourists of the Revolution', tv documentary, First Circle Films, England (1997)
- Thomas 1998, p. 310.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 396.
- Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 69, 478.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 41.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, pp. 590–591.
- Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [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.
- Quadflieg, Peter M. (2014). Gerhard Graf von Schwerin (1899-1980). Karrierepfade eines Generals zwischen Kaiserreich und Bundesrepublik, Dissertation RWTH Aachen University (in German, 640 p.).
- Rass, Christoph; Rohrkamp, René; Quadflieg, Peter M. (2007). General Graf von Schwerin und das Kriegsende in Aachen. Ereignis, Mythos, Analyse (in German). Aachen: Shaker. ISBN 978-3-8322-6623-3.
- 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.
- Searle, Alaric (2003). Wehrmacht Generals, West German Society, and the Debate on Rearmament, 1949-1959, Praeger Pub.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
- "Gerhard von Schwerin". Lexikon der Wehrmacht (in German). Retrieved 21 October 2011.
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