|Born||26 December 1903
Gnesen (Gniezno), Prussia, German Empire (present-day Poland)
|Died||7 May 1979
Westerland, Schleswig-Holstein, West Germany
|Years of service||1933–45|
|Awards||Oak Leaves, Iron Cross|
Gruppenführer Heinrich Reinefarth (commonly known as Heinz Reinefarth, December 26, 1903 – May 7, 1979) was a Nazi German military officer during World War II and government official in FRG after the war. During the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944 his troops committed numerous war atrocities. After the war Reinefarth became the mayor of the town of Westerland and member of the Schleswig-Holstein Landtag. Despite Polish demands for extradition, he was never convicted of any war crimes.
Reinefarth was born in Gnesen (Gniezno), Province of Posen. After finishing the gymnasium in 1922, he joined the law faculty of the university of Jena. He graduated in 1927 and passed the 1st degree state exams. Until 1930 he completed his application at the local court in Jena and was promoted to judge. On August 1, 1932, he joined the NSDAP and received a relatively low number of party id card (1,268,933). In December of the same year he joined the SS.
World War II
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II Reinefarth was conscripted as a reserve Feldwebel. For his actions during the Invasion of Poland he received the 2nd Class Iron Cross. He took part in the 1940 campaign against France, for which he was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross). After the French campaign he was quickly promoted and on April 20, 1942, he was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer, the equivalent of Generalmajor in the German Army.
Police activity in Eastern Europe
After promotion to brigadier, Reinefarth was assigned to the post of General Inspector of SS in the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. In September 1943, he was transferred to Berlin where he served in the Ministry of Order Police (Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei). On January 29, 1944, Reinefarth was assigned to SS and Police Leader in Reichsgau Wartheland (Polish Poznań Voivodeship annexed by Germany in 1939). In this post he was responsible for organised repression against Poles and other nationalities. During the Warsaw Uprising he complained that his soldiers lack ammunition to execute all prisoners.
Actions in 1944 Warsaw uprising
After the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, Reinefarth was ordered to organise a military unit consisting of personnel from various security units and head for Warsaw. Upon arrival, his forces (Kampfgruppe Reinefarth) were included in the Korpsgruppe von dem Bach of General Erich von dem Bach who was ordered by Heinrich Himmler to quell the rebellion. From August 5, 1944, Reinefarth's group took part in fighting in the Wola area.
Murder of civilians in Warsaw uprising
In two days, the units of Reinefarth and SS-Oberführer Oskar Dirlewanger executed approximately 40,000 civilian inhabitants of Warsaw in what is now known as the Wola Massacre. In one of his reports to the commander of the German 9th Army Reinefarth stated that "we have more prisoners than ammunition to kill them". After securing the Wola area, his troops took part in heavy fighting against the Armia Krajowa in the Old Town. In September, his forces were transferred to attack the boroughs of Powiśle and Czerniaków, where they committed further atrocities, including killing of POWs and wounded found in military hospitals. In all 150,000–200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the uprising. For his actions during the Warsaw Uprising Reinefarth was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on September 30, 1944.
Later war activity
In December 1944, Reinefarth was given command over the XVIII SS Corps in the central Oder river area. Between January and March 1945, he commanded the defense of Kostrzyn nad Odrą ("Festung Küstrin"). He declined to defend it to the last man and Hitler found fault with the way he withdrew his troops. Himmler, acting on Hitler's order, had Reinefarth arrested at the end of March 1945. Later he was sentenced to death by a military court. However, the sentence was not carried out, and he continued to command those of his troops that managed to leave the fortress; they were renamed as the XIV SS Corps.
Career in Germany after World War II
After World War II, the Polish authorities demanded his extradition. However, the British and American authorities of occupied Germany decided that Reinefarth could be useful as a witness at the Nuremberg Trial. After the trials, he was arrested for war crimes, but the local court in Hamburg released him shortly afterwards on the grounds of purported lack of evidence. West Germany ruled that depositions were not sufficient to secure his conviction, and also, that genocide was not in the criminal code of Nazi Germany and therefore, would not be applied retroactively. Reinefarth went on to live a normal life similar to other Holocaust perpetrators living in West Germany including SS-Obersturmführer Strippel from Majdanek concentration camp, and Oberscharführer Fiedler from Chełmno extermination camp. In December 1951, he was elected Mayor of the town of Westerland, the main town on the island of Sylt. In 1962, he was elected to the parliament (Landtag) of Schleswig-Holstein. After his term ended in 1967, he worked as a respected lawyer. Despite numerous demands by Poland, he was never considered guilty, as the German courts ruled, there was no evidence of him committing any crimes whatsoever. Instead, the government of West Germany rewarded him with a General's retirement pension. He died on May 7, 1979 in his manor house at Sylt.
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