Hellmuth Reymann

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Helmuth Reymann[1]
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1995-081-13A, Berlin, MG-Stellung, Hellmuth Reymann.jpg
Hellmuth Reymann in 1945
Born 24 November 1892
Neustadt in Upper Silesia
Died 8 December 1988(1988-12-08) (aged 96)
Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1912–1945
Rank Generalleutnant
Commands held 11. Infanterie-Division
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Helmuth Reymann (24 November 1892 – 8 December 1988) was an officer in the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) during World War II. Reymann was one of the last commanders of the Berlin Defense Area during the final assault by Soviet forces on the city of Berlin.

Northern Russia[edit]

From 1 October 1942 to 1 October 1943, Lieutenant-General (Generalleutnant) Reymann commanded the 212th Infantry Division (212.Infanterie-Division) in northern Russia. His division was part of Army Group North.

From 1 October 1943 to 1 April 1944, Reymann was transferred within Army Group North to command the 13th Air Force Field Division (13.Luftwaffe-Feld-Division). His command was part of the XXVIII Army Corps (XXVIII. Armeekorps) fighting in northern Russia. Reymann's division included the 25th Field Infantry Regiment, the 26th Field Infantry Regiment, and the 13th Field Artillery Regiment. The XXVIII Army Corps was attached to the 18th Army.

Reymann's 13th Air Force Field Division suffered heavy losses in the retreat from Leningrad. The division was disbanded in April 1944.

From 1 April 1944 to 18 November 1944, Reymann commanded the 11th Infantry Division (11.Infanterie-Division) in northern Russia. In October 1944, Reymann's division was encircled in Latvia with a large number of German units in what was to be known as the Courland Pocket. Reyman was replaced by Lieutenant-General (Generalleutnant) Gerhard Feyerabend and Reymann returned to Germany.

Dresden, 1945[edit]

On 6 March 1945, Reymann was telephoned by Hitler's Chief Adjutant, General Wilhelm Burgdorf. Burgdorf ordered Reymann to take command of the defenses of Dresden. After Reymann scoffed at this order, Burgdorf hung up the telephone. Burgdorf again contacted Reymann and this time he informed him that Hitler had personally appointed him to command the Berlin Defense Area. Reymann was to replace General Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild immediately and to prepare for the impending Battle of Berlin.

Berlin, 1945[edit]

When he entered Berlin, Reymann found that he had inherited almost nothing from his predecessor, von Hauenschild. After further investigation, Reymann realized that Hitler and Joseph Goebbels had ruled that any defeatist talk would lead to immediate execution. No plans were drawn to evacuate the civilians made up of women, children and the elderly.[2] No food had been stored in case of an enemy siege. The blunt Reymann set to work regardless of these shortcomings. He did what he could to prepare the city for the imminent attack that the top Nazi leaders refused to acknowledge. Reymann was also a notable opponent of the destruction of Berlin's bridges. While destroying the bridges leading into Berlin could slow the Russian invasion, Reymann believed that, if the bridges were destroyed, it would also deprive the city of its electricity, water, and fuel. In Reymann's opinion, Berlin would starve and cease to exist as an influential city in Europe.

Prior to the encirclement of the city, Reymann reportedly urged Hitler to allow him to evacuate the underage population of Berlin. But he was rebuffed.

On 15 April, Reymann met with architect Albert Speer and General Gotthard Heinrici, Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula, to discuss Hitler's Nero Decree. This decree instituted a scorched earth policy. While outwardly responsible for carrying out the decree, Speer was clandestinely campaigning against it. Although Reymann refused to side with Speer, he did promise to confer with Heinrici before destroying vital city infrastructure. Heinrici was also opposed to the scorched earth policy.

By 21 April, Joseph Goebbels, as Reich Commissioner for Berlin, ordered that "no man capable of bearing arms may leave Berlin".[3] Only Reymann, as commander of the Berlin Defense Area, could issue an exemption. Senior Nazi Party officials, who readily condemned members of the army for retreating, rushed to Reymann's headquarters for the necessary authorizations to leave. Reymann was happy to sign over 2,000 passes to get rid of the "armchair warriors".[3] Reymann's Chief-of-Staff, Hans Refior, commented: "The rats are leaving the sinking ship".[3]

Both Wilhelm Burgdorf and Goebbels convinced Hitler that Reymann was no good. When Reymann chose not to locate his office next to Goebbels' office in the Zoo Tower, Goebbels held this act against him.[4]

On 22 April, Hitler relieved Reymann of his command for his defeatism and replaced him with newly promoted Major-General Ernst Kaether. Kaether was the former Chief-of-Staff to the chief political commissar of the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer). But, Kaether never took command and his orders were cancelled the next day. The result of all of this was that, when the first Soviet units entered the suburbs of Berlin, there was no German commander to coordinate the city's defenses.[4]

One day later, on 23 April, Hitler changed his mind again and made Artillery General (General der Artillerie) Helmuth Weidling the new commander of the Berlin Defense Area.[5] Weidling remained in command of Berlin's defenses to the end and ultimately surrendered the city on 2 May to Soviet General Vasily Chuikov.[6]

Army Group Spree[edit]

After his dismissal as the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, Reymann was given a weak division near Potsdam. The division was given the unlikely title of "Army Group Spree".[4] Reymann played a role in the potential link-up between the defenders of Berlin and the relief forces of General Walther Wenck.[7] While Wenck never made it to Berlin, he did make it to Potsdam. About 20,000 of Reymann's men were able to escape through the narrow opening made by Wenck's 12th Army.[8]

Awards[edit]

  • Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz 1914)
    • 2nd Class (2. Klasse) (16 September 1914)
    • 1st Class (1. Klasse) (4 March 1915)
  • Clasp to the Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz 1939)
    • 2nd Class (2. Klasse) (28 November 1939)
    • 1st Class (1. Klasse) (18 June 1940)
  • German Cross in Gold (22 November 1941)
  • Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) with Oak Leaves (mit Eichenlaub)
    • Knight's Cross on 5 April 1944 as Generalleutnant and commander of the 13. Feld-Division (L)[9]
    • 672nd Oak Leaves on 28 November 1944 as Generalleutnant and commanderof the 11.Infanterie-Division[9]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=192
  2. ^ Beevor 2002, p. 177.
  3. ^ a b c Beevor 2002, p. 261.
  4. ^ a b c Beevor 2002, p. 268.
  5. ^ Beevor 2002, p. 286.
  6. ^ Beevor 2002, p. 386.
  7. ^ Beevor 2002, p. 353.
  8. ^ Beevor 2002, p. 377.
  9. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 626

References[edit]

  • Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin: The Downfall 1945. London; New York: Viking-Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-670-03041-5. 
  • 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • 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. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [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. 
Military offices
Preceded by
General der Artillerie Theodor Endres
Commander of 212. Infanterie-Division
October 1, 1942 – October 1, 1943
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Dr. Karl Koske
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Karl Burdach
Commander of 11. Infanterie-Division
January 4, 1944 – November 18, 1944
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Gerhard Feyerabend
Preceded by
Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild
Commanders of the Berlin Defense Area
6 March – 22 April 1945
Succeeded by
Ernst Kaether