16 January 1899|
Breslau, German Empire
|Died||1 February 1961
|Years of service||1933–1945|
|Unit||16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS
XIII SS Corps
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
German Cross in Gold
Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary
Max Simon (6 January 1899 – 1 February 1961) was a German SS-Gruppenführer (lieutenant General) und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS during World War II, who was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. Simon was a private in the Prussian Army during World War I and was one of the first members of the SS in the early 1930s. He would rise through the ranks of the SS, and become a Corps commander during World War II. At the end of the war he was captured by the Allies and put on trial for war crimes.
Simon was born in Breslau. In 1917 he joined the Royal Prussian Army's Leib-Kürassier-Regiment Großer Kurfürst, which was part of the 11th Division. He served in Macedonia and on the Western Front, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class (1914).
At the end of the war he joined the Freikorps in Silesia and fought against the Polish forces. His unit was later incorporated into the Reichswehr as the 16th Cavalry Regiment and Simon was promoted to Unterfeldwebel.
In May 1933 he joined the SS service number 83 086 and the NSDAP party number 1 350 576, and was assigned to the 47th SS-Standarte in Gera and was promoted to Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) in November 1934, until ordered to raise a new unit in 1935, 1st SS Totenkopfstandarte Oberbayern and given the rank of Standartenführer (Colonel).
World War II
Battle of France
At the start of World War II, the SS Regiment was renamed in October 1939. The 1st SS Totenkopfstandarte Oberbayern, as the 1st Panzer Grenadier Regiment SS Totenkopf Division and was later renamed the 5th Panzer Grenadier regiment in 1943. During the Battle of France Simon, led his regiment in the capture of Pixie, Lyon, Orléans, Tours and Bordeaux and then advanced to the border with Spain.
In July 1941 Simon was involved in the invasion of Russia, (Operation Barbarossa) as part of Army Group North, taking Kraslava and breaking through the Stalin line, where Simon was wounded. In the weeks after the invasion Simon's regiment, during the fighting south of Lake Ilmen, captured huge quantities of Russian equipment and numerous prisoners. For the fighting in the Battles of the Demyansk Pocket, Simon was awarded the Knight's Cross and promoted to Oberführer (Brigadier General).
16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS
In 1944 the division was moved to Italy, and fought, never complete, at Anzio and later in the Arno sector, where it gained a reputation for stability although it suffered heavy losses during the battles in the Apennines. The division also fought against partisans in the Rückraum area, perpetrating several major atrocities against the civilians,(Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre and Marzabotto massacre) for which Simon was awarded the Oakleaves for the Knight's Cross and the German Cross in Gold, in October 1944.
XIII SS Corps
The Corps then fought a withdrawal to the Danube and around Munich. On the orders of Simon the bridges over the Isar were not blown up, as he believed there was no need as the end of the war was near.
Simon ordered the execution of Friedrich Hanselmann, Leonhard Gackstatter and Leonhard Wolfmeyer for Wehrkraftzersetzung on 10 April 1945. The farmer Hanselmann had taken away the weapons of 15 year boys from the Hitler Youth and had thrown them in the local pond. The boys reported this to their commanding officer SS-Sturmbannführer Gottschalk, who had Hanselmann arrested. Gottschalk sentenced Hanselmann to death and asked the mayor of Brettheim, Gackstetter and the teacher Wolfmeyer to confirm the sentence. The two men refused and were subsequently also arrested and sentenced to death. The men were executed by hanging and strung up on a tree at the entrance of the local cemetery. Simon had ordered to leave the bodies hanging for four days. US forces captured Brettheim on 17 April 1945. The people of Brettheim still feared SS repression and failed to hiss the white flag to signal surrender. This provoked Brettheim to be bombed killing 17 civilians.
On 1 May 1945 the Corps surrendered to the American forces.
After the war, Max Simon was sentenced to death by a British court for his part in the Marzabotto massacre. This sentence was later changed to life imprisonment. Simon was pardoned in 1954 and released from prison.
Awards and decorations
- Military Merit Cross (Bulgaria), 17 August 1918)
- Iron Cross of 1914, 2nd Class (31 July 1919)
- Silesian Eagle, 1st and 2nd class (13 August 1919)
- Officer of the Hungarian Order of Merit (1 April 1939)
- Clasp to the Iron Cross, 2nd Class (13 September 1939)
- Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy (6 December 1939)
- Iron Cross of 1939, 1st class (3 May 1940)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- German Cross in Gold (9 October 1944)
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht (21 July 1944)
- Anschluss Medal
- Demyansk Shield
- Eastern Front Medal
- Sudentenland Medal with Prague Castle bar
- Infantry Assault Badge
- Danzig Cross 1st class and 2nd class
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- SS Honour Ring
- SS Honour Sword
- Valhalla's Warriors By Terry Goldsworthy, p.235
- Mitcham, Samuel W. Jr. German Order of Battle, Volume 3. p. 164.
- Knight's Cross, Oak-Leaves and Swords Recipients_1941-45 By Gordon Williamson, Ramiro Bujeiro, p.31
- "Die Männer von Brettheim". Brettheimmuseum (in German). Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 401.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 91.
- 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.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.