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Johann Rattenhuber as a SS Brigadeführer
|Born||30 April 1897
|Died||30 June 1957 (aged 60)
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1933 - 1945|
|Unit||13th Bavarian Infantry Regiment
16th Bavarian Infantry Regiment
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
Johann Rattenhuber (30 April 1897 – 30 June 1957), also known as Hans Rattenhuber, was a German police and SS general (Gruppenführer, i. e. Generalleutnant). Rattenhuber was the head of German dictator Adolf Hitler's personal (RSD) bodyguard from 1933 to 1945.
Rattenhuber was born in Munich, where he made a career as a police officer. During World War I he served in the 16th and 13th Bavarian Infantry Regiments. He also served in the Freikorps. In March 1933 he was appointed head of Hitler's personal bodyguard the Reichssicherheitsdienst or RSD. The unit should not to be confused with the Sicherheitsdienst or SD. However, the unit was technically on the staff of Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler with the member's wearing the uniform of the SS with the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) diamond on their lower left sleeve. His was a unit created to provide personal security to members of the top Nazi leadership. Members of his unit were initially drawn exclusively from Bavarian police officers. Rattenhuber was promoted to SS General (Gruppenführer) on 24 February 1945. He was head of Hitler's bodyguard at the time of the unsuccessful July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler during the summer of 1944.
As RSD chief, Rattenhuber was responsible for securing Hitler's field headquarters. In this capacity, he traveled to Vinnytsia Ukraine as Hitler's Werewolf bunker was under construction to survey the area. In January 1942 he met with local SS-police leaders and civilian authorities, and ordered that the area be cleared of Jews prior to Hitler's planned arrival in summer 1942. On 10 January 1942, Rattenhuber's RSD units participated in the mass shooting of 227 Jews at Strizhavka, the actual grounds of the Werwolf site. Details of the execution were reported to Rattenhuber by his deputy, SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Friedrich Schmidt. Additional massacres of Jews and POW laborers who worked on the construction of the Werewolf headquarters occurred on the eve of Hitler's arrival in July 1942. Rattenhuber authorized local SS-police forces to initiate and order these executions, which were carried out under the guise of "security measures."
In January 1945, Rattenhuber accompanied Hitler and his entourage into the bunker complex under the Reich Chancellery gardens in the central government sector of Berlin. 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, Rattenhuber 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. General Wilhelm Mohnke presided over the tribunal which, in addition to Rattenhuber and Mohnke, included Generals Hans Krebs and Wilhelm Burgdorf. General Mohnke told author O'Donnell the following:
"...in my opinion and that of my fellow officers, Hermann Fegelein was in no condition to stand trial, or for that matter to even stand. I closed the proceedings...So I turned Fegelein over to [SS] General Rattenhuber and his security squad. I never saw the man again."
"About 10 o'clock at night [on 29 April] Hitler summoned me to his room... Hitler said: 'You have served me faithfully for many years. Tomorrow is your birthday and I want to congratulate you and thank you for your faithful service, because I shall not be able to do so tomorrow... I have taken the decision... I must leave this world...' I went over to Hitler and told him how necessary his survival was for Germany, that there was still a chance to try and escape from Berlin and save his life. 'What for?' Hitler argued. 'Everything is ruined..., and to flee means falling into the hands of the Russians'..."
Rattenhuber, however, was not present when Hitler killed himself on the afternoon of 30 April in the Führerbunker. He did not see Hitler's body until after it was wrapped in grey blankets and carried out of the office/sitting room where Hitler died. He was not one of those who took the body up the stairs and outside. Instead, Rattenhuber followed Heinz Linge, Otto Günsche, Peter Högl, Ewald Lindloff and several others outside and watched Hitler's body be burned.
On 1 May, Rattenhuber led one of the ten groups escaping from the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker. Two of the other main groups were led by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke and Werner Naumann. Most, including Rattenhuber, were captured by the Soviets on the same day or the following day. Rattenhuber was taken to Moscow, where on 20 May he gave a detailed description of the last days of Hitler and the Nazi leadership in the bunker complex. The text of this was kept in the Soviet archives until it was published by V.K. Vinogradov in the Russian edition of Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB in 2000. Rattenhuber was made a Soviet prisoner of war.
In August 1951 he was charged by the Soviet Ministry of State Security that "from the early days of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany in 1933 and until the defeat of the latter in 1945, being an SS Gruppenführer, Police Lieutenant-General and the chief of the Reich Security Service, he ensured the personal security of Hitler and other Reich leaders". Rattenhuber was sentenced by the Court Martial of the Moscow Military District on 15 February 1952 to 25 years' imprisonment. By a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of September 1955 he was released and handed over to the German Democratic Republic authorities, who allowed him to go to West Germany. He died in Munich in 1957.
- Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) Axis History Factbook website
- Johnson (1999), p. 55.
- O'Donnell (2001), pp. 182, 183.
- Vinogradov, V. K., et al. (2005), p. 193.
- Vinogradov, V. K., et al. (2005), p. 195.
- Joachimsthaler (1999), p. 193
- Fischer (2008), p. 49.
- Vinogradov, V. K., et al. (2005), pp. 183-196.
- Vinogradov, V. K., et al. (2005), pp. 183-184
- Fischer, Thomas (2008). Soldiers of the Leibstandarte: SS-Brigadefuhrer Wilhelm Mohnke and 62 Soldiers of Hitler's Elite Division. Winnipeg: J.J. Fedorowicz. ISBN 978-0-921991-91-5.
- Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999) . The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends, the Evidence, the Truth. Trans. Helmut Bögler. London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 978-1-86019-902-8.
- Johnson, Aaron. Hitler's Military Headquarters. R. James Bender Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0-912138-80-7.
- Lower, Wendy. Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine. University of North Carolina Press, 2005
- O'Donnell, James. The Bunker. New York: Da Capo Press (reprint), 2001. ISBN 0-306-80958-3.
- Vinogradov, V. K., et al. Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB. Chaucer Press, 2005. ISBN 1-904449-13-1.