Kurt Agricola

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Kurt Wilhelm Albert Karl Agricola
Born (1889-08-15)15 August 1889
Döbeln, Kingdom of Saxony, German Empire
Died 27 December 1955(1955-12-27) (aged 66)
Bad Godesberg near Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Buried at Cemetery in Kessenich (Bonn)
Section VI—Grave 9[1]
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flagge Königreich Sachsen (1815-1918).svg Royal Saxon Army
War Ensign of Germany 1903-1918.svg Reichsheer
Flag of Weimar Republic (war).svg Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.svg Wehrmacht Heer
Years of service 1908–1945
Rank Generalleutnant z. V.
Commands held Korück 580
Battles/wars

World War I

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Military Order of St. Henry
German Cross in Gold
Other work Author[Note 1]

Kurt Wilhelm Albert Karl Agricola (15 August 1889 – 27 December 1955) was a German Army officer who rose to the rank of Generalleutnant. A native of Saxony, Agricola entered army service in 1908. During World War I he served mostly as Adjutant in various units. During the interwar era, he held numerous staff assignments and continued to rise through the army's ranks under the Nazi regime. However, his aspiring career ended abruptly in January 1939, when he was sent into retirement on political grounds because of his marriage to a Jewish woman. Reactivated again upon the start of World War II, Agricola received exclusively positions behind the front line. As rear area commander of the 2nd Army in the occupied Soviet union during 1941/43, Agricola brought changes in the Wehrmacht's harsh occupation policies and was successful in maintaining control of his area of occupied territory from Soviet partisans. Shortly after the war's end, he was arrested by Soviet authorities, convicted of war crimes and remained in captivity for a decade. One of the last German prisoners in the Soviet Union, he was released in October 1955 and died shortly thereafter in West Germany.

Early life and World War I[edit]

The staff of a German division inspects a captured English position on the Western Front (1918)

Kurt Agricola was born in Döbeln, then in the Kingdom of Saxony, on 15 August 1889, into an Saxon family that traced its roots back in the 16th century. He was the second and youngest son of Rudolf Agricola (3 October 1860 – 29 July 1914), an officer of the Royal Saxon Army who finally rose to the rank of Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) and became director of the Garrison Administration (Garnisonsverwaltung–Direktor) of Dresden, and Elisabeth, née Drenkmann (14 May 1865 – 23 October 1937), whose family was elevated to nobility in 1901 (whereupon her birth name changed to "von Drenkmann"). He had an older brother, Werner Eduard Alfred Agricola (19 August 1887 – 29 June 1962).[2] Little is known of his early life; he attended the Gymnasien in Leipzig (König–Albert–Gymnasium) and Dresden.[3]

Following his father's career, 18–year–old Agricola entered army service on 1 April 1908 as Fahnenjunker (Officer Cadet) in the 12th Royal Saxon Infantry Regiment No. 177 (königlich sächsisches 12. Infanterie–Regiment Nr. 177) in Dresden.[4] He became Fähnrich (Cadet Sergeant) in November of the same year and was commissioned a Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) on 19 August 1909, with a Patent from 20 August 1907.[Note 2][5] The following years, he served primarily as Adjutant, a function that was given to capable officers and gave an early advancement potential within the army. It was obvious that Agricola pursued a distinguished career as staff officer, and (typically for officers with his aims, who participated in specialized courses) attended a weapon repairs course in late 1913.[5][6]

When World War I broke out, Agricola was mobilized along with his regiment, just a few days after the death of his father. Agricola served mostly at the Western front, and although he never received a troop command throughout the war (only staff assignments), this indicated that he was destined for a more ambitious career than most of his fellow troop officers; he became Adjutant of a battalion in his regiment on 2 August 1914, participated in the battle of the Marne in September and was promoted to Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) in December. In early January 1915 he served as the regimental Adjutant of his pre–war regiment until August 1916, when he was temporarily elevated to Brigade Adjutant. In that capacity, he saw action at the Battle of the Somme, where he distinguished himself numerous times. On 9 January 1917 he was transferred to the staff of the 219th (10th Royal Saxon) Infantry Division, occupying a relatively quiet sector of the front line in Lorraine. A few weeks later, on 27 January, he was promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) and four days later, the last King of Saxony, Frederick Augustus III, bestowed him with one of Saxony's highest decorations, the Military Order of St. Henry, in recognition of his conduct during the battle of Somme the previous year. He received his last wartime assignment on 25 May 1917, when he was transferred to the staff of the XII (1st Royal Saxon) Army Corps.[5][7]

Becoming a staff officer — a group considered the élite of the German Army — required a three–year course at the War Academy in Berlin after some years of active service.[8] Agricola's ambition to become a staff officer, however, was thwarted by the war, as the War Academy closed upon its outbreak. Apart from his relevant staff appointments, he had the chance to participate in a special staff officers course from January to February 1918. During the course of war, he was decorated with numerous awards, including both classes of the Iron Cross and other awards from his native Saxony.[5]

Interwar period[edit]

The city of Oppeln at the time when Agricola was commander of its Landwehr and fortifications (1938)

When World War I ended on November 1918 with the German Empire's armistice of Compiègne and the subsequent dissolution of the monarchy, Agricola still held his post as the corps adjutant, and remained there until October 1919. The following years, he served as company commander in various regiments, before embarking again on a staff career in 1921, initially in the 4th Division of the Reichswehr (the new German army) and subsequently in the Gruppenkommando 1 (Group Command 1, to whom several divisions were subordinated) (1923–1927). He continued to rise steadily in the ranks of the Reichswehr and was promoted to Major in 1928. From 1927 to 1930, he commanded a company of the 10th Infantry Regiment. In February 1930 he returned to the staff of Gruppenkommando 1 and in 1931 to that of the 4th Division, where, as an Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) from 1932, he saw the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933.[5] Soon thereafter, in July 1934, he received his promotion to Oberst (full Colonel), and after a two–month transfer in the Command of the Wehrkreis (Military District) IV (Dresden) he was named commander of the Infantry Regiment Breslau on 1 December 1934 and retained his command after it was redesignated as the 49th Infantry Regiment on 15 October 1935.[9]

Arguably, Agricola could hope, at the time, that he would have a successful career in the ongoing re–organization of the new armed forces of Germany — the Wehrmacht. Besides his tenure of multiple staff positions, Agricola also received very positive reports from his superiors; he was praised as "very talented", and described as an "especially reliable staff officer", "an excellent regimental commander", while it was noted in most of his assignments that he performed brilliantly at his position.[10] Nonetheless, his hopeful career soon started to fade away. On 12 October 1937, he was named commander of Heeresdienststelle 3, a rather obscure unit tasked with guarding the eastern borders of the Third Reich;[11] during this time, his superiors observed that "sometimes he underestimated his great concern for the troops", an indication of his caring leadership style.[12] On 1 January 1938 he was promoted to Generalmajor (Major General), but no higher commands awaited him: on 10 October 1938 he was named Landwehr Commander in Oppeln (present–day Opole in Poland) and simultaneously given the command over the fortifications of the city.[5] In his function as Landwehr commander, he had attend to the organization and the training of older reservists (35–45 years of age), some of them veterans of World War I.[13] This was a backwater post for an officer such as Agricola, whose once–promising career came finally to an abrupt end on 31 January 1939, when he, 49 years old at the time, retired from the army and was simultaneously given the honorary rank (Charakter) of a Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General).[5]

The reason for Agricola's retirement was never officially disclosed and remained a puzzling question, until his chief of staff testified in 1967 that the ground was that Agricola's wife was Jewish. For a staunchly antisemitic regime such as the Nazi one, and with the implementation of racial laws, marriage with a Jewish woman could be a threat to an officer's career as well as life. His personal papers indirectly reveal that Agricola had been put on watchlist for racial reasons. Soon, his own ancestry came under official, if indirect, investigation. Initially, Agricola was asked to prove (and was able to do so) his "Aryan" ancestry (up until his great–grandfathers) in 1937. As the effect of the Nazi racial policies became more dangerous to the life of his wife and the couple's children — naturally classified as Mischlinge — Agricola was forced to divorce his wife, who afterwards fled to South America. Agricola also sent their children to the Bethel Institution in Bielefeld for their own protection.[14]

In 1939, Agricola also published the book Der rote Marschall. Tuchatschewskis Aufstieg und Fall (The Red Marshal. Tukhachevsky's Rise and Fall), an account of the career of Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Tukhachevsky, who was executed during Joseph Stalin's Great Purge in 1937. This publication revealed, among others, that Agricola was a convinced Anti-bolshevist.[15]

World War II[edit]

Agricola's retirement was short-lived, as on 1 September 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland, marking the start of World War II in Europe, and Agricola was reactivated and appointed as commander of the city of Oppeln. There he spent the following two years on an inactive front, witnessing the Invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.[5]

Agricola and occupation policy in the Soviet Union (1941–1943)[edit]

"The population of the rear area military territories is exposed to the influence of Soviet propaganda. In their majority, they [the population] stand opposed to Bolshevism, but this no longer breeds active resistance. The fear of the return to Bolshevism is increased by the partisans, as planned. Now the population is greatly affected by our need to exploit the land for our purposes. The food rations issued to the population are lower than those that the Soviets provided. From this point of view, we can expect neither an positive nor a moderate opinion about us [the German troops]. A decision the Russians in the occupied territories would expect from us, would clarify the situation and allow us to do a systematic work."[16]

—Kurt Agricola, Situation Report No. 2 of the Korück 580 (4 February 1942)
Soviet partisans in action (1943)

Despite its great initial advances, the Wehrmacht's advance stalled during the hard winter of 1941/42. With the battle of Moscow and other major operations ongoing all over the Soviet Union, the control of the vast occupied territory proved to be of paramount importance, especially for the maintenance of the Wehrmacht's enormously stretched supply lines. Soon, the guerrilla movement and the Soviet partisans, reinforced by Red Army soldiers who had evaded capture when their units were destroyed during the initial stages of the invasion, posed the most essential threat to the control of the areas behind the front. The main formations tasked with the protection of the supply lines and the destruction of the partisans were the Korücks (acronym for Kommandant rückwärtiges Armeegebiet, Commander of the Rear Area Army Territory).[17]

Agricola was appointed Korück 580, in the rear area of the 2nd Army, with headquarters in Kromy on 19 December 1941, with the battle for Moscow in full swing, succeeding the 64–year old Generalleutnant Ludwig Müller (who had requested his relief because of a heart ailment). Besides holding a command that that lacked probability of advancement or distinction — being far behind the front — Agricola had to deal with immense problems as soon as he took over the appointment. Korück 580 was the sole formation responsible for the protection of approximately 37,000 km2 of occupied territory, 800 km of railway (including the vital KurskOryol line), 500 km of roads and 320 bridges. The forces at the Korück's disposal were insufficient for such a task, merely 800 men of questionable fighting value, as better trained and equipped units were urgently needed to fight at the front. To make matters worse, those forces had to deal with 2,000 to 2,500 armed partisans in the harsh conditions of the Russian winter. In short, as a rear area commander, Agricola faced an extremely difficult task.[18]

Men hanged as partisans somewhere in the Soviet Union. Such a sight was common in the areas under German occupation

Agricola, finally given a chance to prove himself as commander, addressed the problems energetically. He quickly came to the conclusion that major anti–partisan actions were impossible to conduct due to the extreme conditions and the lack of forces, so he opted to concentrate and fortify his available forces in key positions. It was due to his persistence that the 2nd Army yielded to his requests and reinforced him with over 10,000 Hungarian troops until May 1942. During these months, Agricola's units battled fiercely with partisans, succeeding in killing over 7,200, according to official reports. German historian Christian Hartmann argued that the relatively heavy casualties of the Korück's troops — 1161 dead, wounded and missing — and the number of captured enemy weapons indicated that Agricola, in contrast with the typical occupation policy of the time, was not focused (at least exclusively) in reprisals against the civilian population, in the hope of terrorizing and weakening the partisan movement. Korück 580 was ultimately successful in eliminating the local partisan threat until the summer of 1942.[19] Agricola also supported the utilization of Soviet volunteers in anti–partisan warfare. In his area of responsibility, in May–June 1942, a battalion formed of Turkestani volunteers, the Turkestanisches Infanteriebataillon 450 (Turkestani Infantry Battalion 450) took part in operations. On 30 June 1942, Agricola praised the commander of the unit, Andreas Mayer–Mader, for his effective leadership style.[20]

Noting the increasing influence Soviet propaganda had on the population, Agricola called for more humane treatment, so that the population would not be an impediment in the exploitation of the occupied territory for the war effort. For this, he restrained the indiscriminate executions of civilians, though the figures of those executed remained high: he reported that until June 1942, his units had executed 1,600 out of 6,000 civilians suspected of a wide range of punishable actions (the Kommissarbefehl was also implemented) and released unharmed most of the remaining 4,400. Mass starvation, primarily due to the reckless exploitation of resources by the Wehrmacht was common in other occupied Soviet territories, and the situation in the Korück's territories was not very different. In February 1942, Agricola wrote that the food rations for the civilians were lower than those issued by the pre–war Soviet regime and felt that given the situation, it would be impossible to cultivate positive feelings towards the German troops, thus calling for a change.[21]

Einsatzgruppen troops killing Jewish civilians in Ukraine. Agricola reportedly opposed and was "outraged" at the executions of Jews in areas under his jurisdiction

Among his first acts of assuming the position of the Korück was to revoke the order of the 2nd Army for the immediate liquidation of POWs by the SS, after the dissolution of four POW camps in the area, despite that ultimately their execution was not averted. Agricola considered the improvement of the conditions in the POW camps vital for "economic, simply humanitarian and propagandistic reasons", an extremely rare declaration for a rear area commander.[22] After he was informed of the appalling conditions and the high mortality rates in the POW camps in January 1942, he issued orders prohibiting the maltreatment of prisoners, as well as the reduction of food rations, and sought the establishment of a minimum of medical care, ostensibly for the protection of his own troops from typhus.[23]

In addition, the troops of the Korück 580 were confronted with the Holocaust and the massive extermination of the Jews in its territory, though most Jews had been already exterminated a few months after Agricola's appointment as Korück. It has been speculated that Agricola, perhaps owing to the fact that his own wife was Jewish, distanced himself from the responsible units of the police and the SS. No written evidence exists to support that Agricola was actively trying to stop some of the killings, but his former chief of staff stated after the war that he did so, and furthermore that Agricola was "very outraged" at the massacres. On an instance, in 1943, upon learning that SD troops were murdering Jews near his headquarters, he intervened and prohibited further executions. He intervened numerous times to bring the subject to the attention of his superiors and made sure that no Jewish POW was handed over for execution.[24]

In conclusion, Kurt Agricola was one of the very few commanders who tried to change the occupation policies that were the norm in Nazi–occupied territories and opted to minimize resistance by treating the population humanely instead of terrorizing it. According to historian Christian Hartmann, "it is difficult to say" if Agricola's stance stemmed from ethical values or from political necessity.[16] Agricola's former chief of staff supported the former view, describing Agricola as a "very humane, highly educated and extraordinarily capable man".[25] Agricola's actions ultimately found recognition by his superiors, reflected by his decoration with the German Cross in Gold on 15 December 1943, a highly unusual award for rear area commanders, as the German Cross in Gold was typically awarded to commanders at the front (rear area personnel could receive, by contrast, the German Cross in Silver).[26]

Later career (1943–1945)[edit]

Agricola was finally promoted to Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General) z. V. (zur Verfügung, "for duties")[Note 3][27] on 1 August 1943 and also served briefly as commander of Kursk during that year.[5] In 1944, he also commanded "Gruppe Aricola" (Group Agricola), a formation consisting of Korpsabteilung E and a cavalry brigade, which fought against the Red Army mainly in the central section of the eastern front.[28] Agricola remained Korück 580 until 18 April 1945, whereupon he was placed in the Führerreserve (Führer's Reserve).[5]

Captivity and later life[edit]

The border crossing above Herleshausen, where Agricola was released on 9 October 1955 (photograph from 12 June 1985)

On 9 May 1945, one day after the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, Agricola was captured by Soviet troops in Teplice–Šanov in Czechoslovakia (present–day Teplice in the Czech Republic), and was subsequently transported to the Soviet Union, where he was imprisoned in the camps No. 27, 62, 362, 476 and 48.[29][30] Afterwards, he was transported to the Prison No. 1 in Kiev, in order to be tried for war crimes. A military tribunal of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kiev Oblast found him guilty under the Article 1 of the Ukaz 43 (19 April 1943) and sentenced him to 25 years of hard labor on 16 November 1948.[29] He served his sentence in the labor camps of Karaganda in Kazakhstan and Vorkuta in the Komi Republic.[29]

Although Agricola, as a convicted war criminal, had little hope of being repatriated early, due to the efforts of Germany's Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, he, along with thousands of German prisoners in the Soviet Union, was given amnesty. In early October 1955, Agricola was transported to the German Democratic Republic from the POW camp Voikovo near Ivanovo, along with 31 fellow officers (mostly Generals, including the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds recipient, General der Panzertruppe Dietrich von Saucken).[31] On 9 October 1955, the POW transport carrying the 32 officers reached the West German town of Herleshausen, a few kilometers west of the borders with East Germany.[31] By then, two months after his 66th birthday, Agricola had spent over ten years in captivity, and his health was deteriorating.

After his repatriation, Agricola was reunited with his family and remarried his former wife, who had in the meanwhile returned from South America where she had fled the Nazis in the late 1930s.[32] On 27 December 1955, however, just two months after he was released, Kurt Agricola died in Bad Godesberg near Bonn[5] and was buried in the nearby cemetery in Bonn's district Kessenich.[1]

Summary of career[edit]

Decorations and awards[edit]

Promotions[edit]

Date[5] Rank[Note 4] Corresponding rank in English
01 April 1908 Fahnenjunker Officer Cadet
28 November 1908 Fähnrich Cadet Sergeant
19 August 1909 Leutnant with Patent from 20 August 1907 (V) Second Lieutenant
01 December 1914 Oberleutnant First Lieutenant
27 January 1917 Hauptmann (19) Captain
01 May 1928 Major Major
01 April 1932 Oberstleutnant Lieutenant Colonel
01 July 1934 Oberst Colonel
01 January 1938 Generalmajor (2) Major General
31 January 1939 Char. Generalleutnant Honorary rank as Lieutenant General
01 August 1943 Generalleutnant z. V. (—) Lieutenant General "for duties"

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kurt Agricola is not to be confused with Alexander Bauermeister (born 11 March 1889 in St. Petersburg), a German intelligence agent during World War I, who published a number of books under the pseudonym "Agricola" during the 1930s. See also Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon - das 20. Jahrhundert. Band 1: Aab–Bauer [Dictionary of German Literature – the 20th Century. Volume 1: Aab–Bauer] (in German). Berlin: De Gruyter. 2000. p. 87. ISBN 3-908255-01-5. 
  2. ^ The Patent was a written document validating a commission or promotion and defined an official date of effect.
  3. ^ The designation "z. V." was introduced in 1938. It was applied to officers who were retired or inactive within the army (e. g. an officer who was not retired but did not occupy a position) but were scheduled to take up active duties in case of mobilization.
  4. ^ The symbols inside the parentheses denote the seniority of the rank.

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ a b Hopmans, Rob. "Agricola, Kurt". World War II Graves. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Gothaisches genealogisches Taschenbuch der adeligen Häuser: zugleich Adelsmatrikel der im Ehrenschutzbunde des deutschen Adels vereinigten Verbände Teil 2 (in German). Justus Perthes Verlag 1941, p. 134; David V. Agricola (1974): Agricola family history; a genealogy of the Ackermann–Agricola and Bauer–Agricola families of Eisenach, Thüringen, 1574–1974. Cleveland
  3. ^ König–Albert-Gymnasium (until 1900 Königliches Gymnasium) in Leipzig: Schüler-Album 1880-1904/05, Friedrich Gröber, Leipzig 1905
  4. ^ Wegner, Stellenbesetzung, p. xxi
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bradley, Hildebrand and Röverkamp, Die Generale des Heeres 1921–1945 Band 1, p. 23–24
  6. ^ Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer, p. 54
  7. ^ a b Richter, Der Königlich Sächsische Militär-St. Heinrichs-Orden 1736-1918, p. 123
  8. ^ Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer, p. 55–56
  9. ^ Wegner, Stellenbesetzung der Deutschen Heere 1815-1939 Band 2, p. 508
  10. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 165
  11. ^ Absolon, Wehrgesetz und Wehrdienst 1935-1945, p. 72
  12. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 185
  13. ^ Kroener, Müller and Umbreit: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg Band 5/1, p. 710
  14. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 165–166
  15. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 148
  16. ^ a b Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 394
  17. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 388–389
  18. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 387–389
  19. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 392–393
  20. ^ Hoffmann, Kaukasien 1942/43, p. 141 and 143–144
  21. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 393–394
  22. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 613
  23. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 394–395
  24. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 393 and 688–689
  25. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 688
  26. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 166 and 197–198
  27. ^ Schlicht and Angolia, Die deutsche Wehrmacht Band 2: Die Luftwaffe, p. 51
  28. ^ Mehnert, Die geheimen Tagesberichte der deutschen Wehrmachtführung im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939–1945 Band 10, p. 80 and 498
  29. ^ a b c Bezborodova, Generäle des Dritten Reiches in sowjetischer Hand 1943-1956, p. 26
  30. ^ Foltmann and Möller–Witten, Opfergang der Generale, p. 137
  31. ^ a b Zeidler , Stalinjustiz contra NS-Verbrechen, p. 70
  32. ^ Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg, p. 166
Bibliography
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  • Hoffmann, Joachim (1991). Kaukasien 1942/43: Das deutsche Heer und die Orientvölker der Sowjetunion [Caucasus 1942/43: The German Army and the Asians of the Soviet Union]. Einzelschriften zur Militärgeschichte (in German) 35. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach. 
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External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Oberst Hermann von Hanneken
Commander of Infanterie–Regiment Breslau
1 December 1934 — 15 October 1935
Succeeded by
Renamed Infanterie–Regiment 49
Preceded by
Previously Infanterie–Regiment Breslau
Commander of Infanterie–Regiment 49
15 October 1935 — 12 October 1937
Succeeded by
Oberst Friedrich-Wilhelm von Rothkirch und Panthen
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Ludwig Müller
Kommandant des rückwärtigen Armeegebiets (Korück) 580
17 December 1941 — 18 April 1945
Succeeded by
unit disbanded