Viktor Eberhard Gräbner

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Viktor Eberhard Gräbner
Viktor Graebner.jpg
Born 24 May 1914
Leipzig, Germany
Died 18 September 1944 (age 30) (KIA)
Arnhem, Netherlands
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg German Army
Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
Years of service 1939–43 Army
1943–44 Waffen SS
Rank Oberleutnant, Army
Hauptsturmführer, Waffen SS
Unit 256th Infantry Division
9th SS Panzer Division
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross (Aug. 1944)
Close Combat Clasp (July 1944)
Eastern Front Medal (Aug. 1942)
German Cross in Gold (May 1942)
Wound Badge in Black (Feb. 1942)
General Assault Badge (Aug. 1941)
Iron Cross 1st Class (July 1940)
Iron Cross 2nd Class (May 1940)

Viktor Eberhard Gräbner (24 May 1914 – 18 September 1944) was originally an officer in the German Army who in 1943 transferred to the Waffen-SS. On 23 August 1944 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest Third Reich award for bravery, and 26 days later he died in the Battle of Arnhem.

Biography[edit]

Gräbner was born on 24 May 1914 in Leipzig. He joined the Allgemeine SS as SS-Mann in 1937, about the same time he entered military service in the German Army.[1] At the outbreak of World War II, he had advanced to Leutnant (Second Lieutenant). In 1941, he participated as front line soldier during Operation Barbarossa. On 1 October 1941, he was promoted to Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant)[1] in command of the 2nd Company, 256th Reconnaissance Battalion of the 256th Infantry Division and participated in the Battle of Moscow, which started the following day. He was awarded the German Cross in Gold in May 1942, probably in the Battles of Rzhev, as his unit moved there after Moscow.

In January 1943 he transferred to the newly formed Waffen-SS unit 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen with the equivalent rank of Obersturmführer,[1] and in March 1943 he was promoted to Hauptsturmführer (Captain).[1] In June, his division moved to Normandy and was involved in heavy fighting during the Battle for Caen, followed by a series of battles in France. In July 1944, he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp, Bronze Class, for 15 battles of close combat.[1] In August 1944 he was given command of the division's reconnaissance battalion and on 23 August 1944 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions in July, following a recommendation signed 6 August 1944 by his commander, Oberführer Friedrich-Wilhelm Bock, and approved by Obergruppenführer Willi Bittrich, head of the II SS Panzer Corps.[1] He did, however, not receive the award until 17 September 1944, the day before he died.[1]

Market Garden[edit]

Hauptsturmführer Gräbner is perhaps most famous for his part in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem (as depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far). On 17 September 1944, his 40-vehicle 9th Reconnaissance Battalion was ordered south of Arnhem, to carry out a reconnaissance of the airborne landings between Arnhem and Nijmegen. On his return to Arnhem, the bridge across the Rhine had been captured by Lt. Col. John Frost's 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. Gräbner was informed from radio messages that evening about enemy paratroopers having captured the northern end of the Arnhem bridge. Leaving behind a few of his vehicles from his unit at the town of Elst, Gelderland, midway between Arnhem and Nijmegen, he traveled during the night north towards Arnhem to take it upon himself to clear the area around Arnhem bridge of whatever paratroopers where there. At 9:30 a.m. on the morning of 18 September, Hauptsturmführer Gräbner ordered his battalion, numbering about 22 armored cars, half-tracks, and a few trucks with infantry, to assault the bridge. The first five German armored cars of the column managed to make it across the bridge unscathed due to the fact that they took the defenders by surprise. The British had laid mines on the bridge's approaches and these were expertly avoided by the speeding German drivers. In the resultant two-hour battle, the battalion was beaten back with heavy losses and forced to retreat back to Elst where it played no further role in the fighting around Arnhem. Of the 22 armored vehicles that were involved in the assault, 12 were destroyed or knocked out and over 70 men killed, including Gräbner who was killed in action during the assault.

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