Henri Joseph Fenet
|Henri Joseph Fenet|
|Died||14 September 2002
|Years of service||1939–1940, 1943–1945|
|Unit||33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French)|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Iron Cross 1st Class
Iron Cross 2nd Class
Wound Badge in Black
Croix de Guerre
Fenet was born on 11 July 1919 in Ceyzériat, Department of Ain, France. Prior to World War II he studied literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris. At the outbreak of war he volunteered for the French Army and was commissioned as an officer with the rank of lieutenant. He fought in numerous battles and was awarded the Croix de Guerre after being wounded twice.
After serving as a Prisoner of War he was released in November 1942 and joined the Milice, a militia force recruited to hunt down Jews and battle the Communist underground threat in Vichy France.
In July 1943 Paul Marion, the Vichy Propaganda Minister, began a massive nationwide recruitment for the Waffen-SS in France. The Comité des Amis de la Waffen S.S. (Committee of the Friends of the Waffen-SS) was established by the minister and proceeded to actively recruit men who were between the ages of 20–25, "free of Jewish blood", and physically fit. Roughly 3000 applied to the assorted offices in the first few months, many of them college students. The organization also spent much time trying to recruit experienced French officers, like Fenet, to the organization. In October 1943, Fenet volunteered for the Waffen-SS and was sent to the SS officer school at Bad Tölz.
In March 1944 he received the rank of SS-Obersturmführer (first lieutenant) in the Waffen-SS and was given command of the 3rd Company of the newly formed 8th SS Assault Brigade Frankreich, and was again wounded during fighting in the Carpathian Mountains and awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class.
In September 1944, Fenet and his company were sent to Konitz, West Prussia, where they joined other French recruits to form the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division Charlemagne, and in February 1945 Fenet was named the commander of the 1st Battalion, 57th SS Regiment Charlemagne.
In March 1945 the French SS division was surrounded by the Russians. Fenet was able to break out and return to the German lines with his battalion almost intact, for which he was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and awarded the Iron Cross, 1st Class.
In April 1945, Fenet arrived in Berlin with his Battalion which had been reformed from what was left of the division and was attached to the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland.
During the battle for the German capital, Fenet's battalion was given the area of Neukölln, Belle Alliance Platz, Wilhelmstrasse and the Friedrichstrasse to defend, destroying 62 Soviet tanks. Fenet, now wounded, remained with his battalion as they were withdrawn to the area of the Reich aviation ministry. For the success of the battalion during the Battle of Berlin Fenet was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 29 April 1945 by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke.
On 2 May 1945, the surviving Frenchmen were captured by the Russians. Fenet had been badly wounded and was first sent to a hospital before being imprisoned by the Soviets. He was then handed over to the French government.
After Fenet was released, he appeared in several documentary films and television programmes. He also ran a small independent auto business. Henri Joseph Fenet died in Paris on 14 September 2002.
- Landwehr, Richard (1989). Charlemagne's Legionnaires: French Volunteers of the SS, 1943–1945. ISBN 0-918184-07-X. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
- Landwehr, Richard (1989). Charlemagne's Legionnaires: French Volunteers of the SS, 1943–1945. p. 139. ISBN 0-918184-07-X.
- "Ritterkreuzträger Henri Joseph Fenet" (in German). Retrieved 10 November 2008.
- Landwehr, Richard (1989). Charlemagne's Legionnaires: French Volunteers of the SS, 1943—1945. p. 140. ISBN 0-918184-07-X.
- Van Geirt, Jean-Pierre. "Que sont-ils devenus ?" (in French). Division-Charlemagne.net. Archived from the original on 2009-04-16. Retrieved 10 November 2008.