Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht general)
|Born||4 March 1898
Helmstedt, Duchy of Brunswick, German Empire
|Died||2 May 1945 (aged 47)
Berlin, Free State of Prussia, Nazi Germany
|Years of service||1914–1945|
|Rank||General der Infanterie|
|Commands held||Chief of the Army General Staff (OKH)|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Hans Krebs (4 March 1898 – 2 May 1945) was a German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) general of infantry who served during World War II.[a] He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). 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.
Early life and career
In 1931, he worked in the Defence Ministry. In 1936, Krebs became an assistant to the military attaché in Moscow. Krebs spoke fluent Russian. Thereafter, he reached the position of chief of staff of various army groups. While serving on the Eastern Front, Krebs was promoted to the rank of Generalmajor when Chief of Staff of the 9th Army in February 1942. In March 1943, he was made Chief of Staff of Army Group Centre. In April 1943, he was promoted to Generalleutnant and became a General of Infantry in August 1944. Krebs served as Chief of Staff of Army Group B on the Western Front from September 1944 until February 1945 when he was appointed Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff.
On 28 April 1945, Krebs made his last telephone call from the Führerbunker. He called Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel at the new Supreme Command Headquarters in Fürstenberg. He told Keitel that, if relief did not arrive within 48 hours, all was lost. Keitel promised to exert the utmost pressure on General Walther Wenck, who commanded the German 12th Army, and General Theodor Busse, who commanded the German 9th Army. The 12th Army was attacking towards Berlin from the west and the 9th Army was attacking from the south. Adolf Hitler had ordered both of these armies to link up and come to the relief of Berlin. In addition, forces under General Rudolf Holste were to have attacked towards Berlin from the north.
Later on 28 April, when it was discovered that Heinrich Himmler was trying to negotiate a backdoor surrender to the western Allies via Count Folke Bernadotte, Krebs became part of a military tribunal ordered by Hitler to court-martial Himmler's SS liaison officer Hermann Fegelein. Fegelein, by that time was Eva Braun's brother-in-law. SS-General Wilhelm Mohnke presided over the tribunal which, in addition to Krebs and Mohnke, included SS-General Johann Rattenhuber and General Wilhelm Burgdorf. However, Fegelein was so drunk that he was determined to be in no condition to stand trial. Mohnke closed the proceedings and turned Fegelein over to Rattenhuber and his security squad.
On 29 April, Krebs, Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann witnessed and signed the last will and testament of Adolf Hitler. Hitler dictated the document to his personal private secretary, Traudl Junge. Bormann was head of the Party Chancellery (Parteikanzlei) and private secretary to Hitler.
Late that evening, Krebs contacted General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) by radio and made the following demands: "Request immediate report. Firstly, of the whereabouts of Wenck's spearheads. Secondly, of time intended to attack. Thirdly, of the location of the 9th Army. Fourthly, of the precise place in which the 9th Army will break through. Fifthly, of the whereabouts of General Holste's spearhead."
In the early morning of 30 April, Jodl replied to Krebs: "Firstly, Wenck's spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, 12th Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of 9th Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste's Corps on the defensive." Later that afternoon, Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide.
Surrender and suicide
On 1 May, after Hitler's suicide on 30 April, Goebbels sent Krebs and Colonel Theodor von Dufving, under a white flag, to deliver a letter he had written to General Vasily Chuikov. Dufving was General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie) Helmuth Weidling's Chief of Staff. The letter contained surrender terms acceptable to Goebbels. Chuikov, as commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanded the Soviet forces in central Berlin. Krebs arrived shortly before 4:00 a.m. and took Chuikov by surprise. Krebs, who spoke Russian, informed Chuikov that Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife, had killed themselves in the Führerbunker. Chuikov, who was not aware that there was a bunker complex under the Reich Chancellery or that Hitler was married, calmly said that he already knew all of this. Chuikov was not, however, prepared to accept the terms in Goebbels' letter or to negotiate with Krebs. The Soviets were unwilling to accept anything other than unconditional surrender, as it was agreed with the other Allies. Krebs was not authorized by Goebbels to agree to such terms, and so the meeting ended with no agreement. According to Traudl Junge, Krebs returned to the bunker looking "worn out, exhausted". Krebs's surrender of Berlin was thus impeded as long as Goebbels was alive.
At around 8:00 p.m. on the evening of 1 May, Goebbels removed this impediment. Shortly after killing their own children, Goebbels and his wife, Magda, left the bunker complex and went up to the garden of the Reich Chancellery. There are several different accounts on what followed. According to one account, Goebbels shot his wife and then himself. Another account was that they each bit on a cyanide ampule and were given a coup de grâce immediately afterwards by Goebbels' SS adjutant, Günther Schwägermann. Schwägermann testified in 1948 that the couple walked ahead of him up the bunker's emergency exit stairs and out into the Chancellery garden. He waited in the stairwell and heard the "shots" sound. Schwägermann then walked up the remaining stairs and saw the lifeless bodies of the couple. Following Joseph Goebbels' prior order, Schwägermann told an SS soldier to make sure Goebbels' was dead. The soldier fired into Goebbels' body, which did not move. The bodies were then doused with petrol, but the remains were only partially burned and not buried. After Goebbels' death, Krebs became suicidal. The responsibility for surrendering the city fell to General Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area.
On 2 May, with Krebs in no condition to do it himself, Weidling contacted General Chuikov to again discuss surrender. Weidling and Chuikov met and had the following conversation in which Chuikov asked about Krebs:
Chuikov: "You are the commander of the Berlin garrison?"Weidling: "I saw him yesterday in the Reich Chancellery. I thought he would commit suicide. At first he (Krebs) criticized me because unofficial capitulation started yesterday. The order regarding capitulation has been issued today."
Weidling: "Yes, I am the commander of the LVI Panzer Corps."
Chuikov: "Where is Krebs?"
As the Soviets advanced on the Reich Chancellery, Krebs was last seen by others, including Junge, in the Führerbunker when they left to attempt to escape. Junge relates how she approached Krebs to say goodbye and how he straightened up and smoothed his uniform before greeting her for the last time. Krebs and General Wilhelm Burgdorf, along with SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle of the Führerbegleitkommando, stayed behind with the intention of committing suicide. Sometime in the early morning hours of 2 May, they committed suicide by gunshot to the head. The bodies of Krebs and Burgdorf were found when Soviet personnel entered the bunker complex. Schädle also committed suicide and Högl was wounded in the head while crossing the Weidendammer Bridge (during the break out) and died of his injuries on 2 May 1945.
Thereafter, the corpses of Krebs, the Goebbels family along with the remains of Hitler, Eva Braun and Hitler's dogs were repeatedly buried and exhumed by the Soviets. The last burial had been at the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg on 21 February 1946. In 1970, KGB director Yuri Andropov authorised an operation to destroy the remains. On 4 April 1970, a Soviet KGB team with detailed burial charts secretly exhumed five wooden boxes. The remains from the boxes were thoroughly burned and crushed, after which the ashes were thrown into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.
His last decade saw the following appointments:
- 1936–1939: military attaché in Moscow (Krebs spoke fluent Russian)
- 1939: Chief of Army Training Section
- 1939–1942: Chief of Staff VII Corps
- 1942–1943: Chief of Staff German Ninth Army, Eastern Front
- 1943–1944: Chief of Staff Army Group Centre, Eastern Front
- 1944–1945: Chief of Staff Army Group B, Western Front
- 1945: Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff (OKH)
- 1945, April 1 – May 1: Chief of the Army General Staff (OKH)
- Iron Cross (1914)
- Wound Badge (1914) in black
- Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern
- Cross of Honor
- Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung IV. - I.
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- Eastern Front Medal
- German Cross in Gold on 26 January 1942 as Oberst im Generalstab in the VII Army Corps
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Krebs apparently committed suicide after midnight on 2 May, although some other sources state it occurred before midnight on 1 May. See Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 288.
- Beevor 2002, p. 387.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 288.
- Kershaw 2008, pp. 943–946.
- O'Donnell 1978, pp. 182, 183.
- Dollinger 1967, p. 239.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 160–182.
- Ryan 1966, pp. 394–396.
- Chuikov, Vasily. Конец Третего Рєйха [The End of the Third Reich].
- Beevor 2002, p. 381.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 52.
- Ryan 1966, p. 398.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 292.
- Vinogradov, Pogonyi et al. 2005, pp. 111, 333.
- Vinogradov, Pogonyi et al. 2005, p. 333.
- Vinogradov, Pogonyi et al. 2005, pp. 335–336.
- Thomas 1997, p. 405.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 252.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 472.
- Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin: The Downfall 1945. London: Viking-Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-670-03041-5.
- 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.
- Dollinger, Hans (1967). The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. New York: Crown. Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 67-27047.
- Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999) . The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends – The Evidence – The Truth. Brockhampton Press. ISBN 978-1-86019-902-8.
- Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6.
- Linge, Heinz (2009). With Hitler to the End. Frontline Books–Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60239-804-7.
- O'Donnell, James P. (1978). The Bunker: The History of the Reich Chancellery Group. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-25719-7.
- 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: Patzwall. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
- Ryan, Cornelius (1966). The Last Battle. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-00-613267-7.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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 (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.
- Vinogradov, V.K; Pogonyi, J.F; Teptzov, N.V (2005). Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB. London: Chaucer Press. ISBN 978-1-904449-13-3.
- Junge, Traudl (2003). Until the Final Hour. London: George Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-84720-5.
Media related to Hans Krebs at Wikimedia Commons
|Chief of Staff of the OKH
April 1945 – May 1945