Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach
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|Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach|
Seydlitz-Kurzbach (left) and Friedrich Paulus in Russia, 1942
22 August 1888|
Eppendorf, Hamburg, German Empire
|Died||28 April 1976
Bremen, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany (to 1943)
|Years of service||1908–1943|
|Rank||General der Artillerie|
|Commands held||12. Infanterie-Division
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves|
Walther Kurt von Seydlitz-Kurzbach (22 August 1888 – 28 April 1976) was a German general. He was born in Hamburg, Germany, into the noble Prussian Seydlitz family. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He was relieved of his command in early 1943 and then fled German army lines under German fire to personally surrender to the Soviet Union. He became a Soviet collaborator while a prisoner of war. After the war he was convicted by the Soviet Union of War Crimes. In 1996, he was posthumously pardoned by Russia.
During World War I he served on both fronts as an officer. During the Weimar Republic, he remained a professional officer in the Reichswehr; from 1940 to 1942 he commanded the 12th Infantry Division of the German army. When the division was encircled in the Demyansk Pocket, Seydlitz was responsible for breaking the Soviet cordon and enabling German units to escape from encirclement; for this action he was promoted to General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie) and appointed commander of the LI Corps.
The corps was subordinated to the Sixth Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. When the entire Army was trapped in the city in the course of the Soviet Operation Uranus, Seydlitz was one of the generals who argued most forcefully in favor of a breakout or a surrender, in contravention of Hitler’s orders. On 25 January 1943, he told his subordinate officers that they were free to decide for themselves on whether to surrender. Paulus immediately relieved him of his command.
A few days later, Seydlitz fled the German lines under fire from his own side with a group of other officers. He was taken into Soviet custody, where he was interrogated by Captain Nikolay Dyatlenko. He was identified by the interrogations as a potential collaborator. In August 1943, he was taken with two other Generals to a political re-education center at Lunovo. A month later, he was sent back to prisoner of war camps to recruit other German officers.
He was a leader in the forming under Soviet supervision of an anti-Nazi organization, the League of German Officers (German: Bund deutscher Offiziere) and was made a member of the Communist-dominated National Committee Free Germany (German: Nationalkomitee Freies Deutschland). He was condemned by many of his fellow generals for his collaboration with the Soviet Union. He was sentenced to death in absentia by Hitler's government. His idea of creating an anti-Nazi force of some 40,000 German POWs to be airlifted into Germany was never seriously considered, while in Germany his family was taken into Sippenhaft, detention for the crimes of a family member. Seydlitz was ultimately exploited by both Soviet and German propaganda: he was used by the former in broadcasts and literature to encourage German soldiers to surrender, while the latter cultivated the idea of “Seydlitz troops” (German: Seydlitztruppen). His figure in the German propaganda was largely equivalent to the one of Andrey Vlasov in the Soviet one.
In 1949 he was charged with war crimes. He was specifically put on trial for responsibility for actions against Soviet POWs and the civilian population while in Wehrmacht service. In 1950, a Soviet tribunal sentenced him to 25 years’ imprisonment, but in 1955 he was released to West Germany, where in 1956 his Third Reich death sentence was nullified.
Seydlitz died on 28 April 1976 in Bremen. On 23 April 1996 a posthumous pardon was issued by Russian authorities.
Awards and decorations
- Iron Cross (1914)
- Wound Badge (1914)
- in Black
- in Silver
- Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (16 October 1918)
- Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg
- The Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 1914-1919
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award, 4th with 1st Class
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
|Iron Cross with 1939 Clasp||Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords||Hamburg Hanseatic Cross||The Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918||Wehrmacht Long Service Award 1st Class||Wehrmacht Long Service Award 3rd Class|
- This article incorporates information from the revision as of 2005-07-30 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.
- Beevor, Antony, Stalingrad, London: Penguin, p. 381
- Beevor, Antony, Stalingrad, London: Penguin, p. 382
- Beevor, Antony, Stalingrad, London: Penguin, p. 396
- Beevor, Antony, Stalingrad, London: Penguin, p. 423
- Thomas 1998, p. 319.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 399.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 56.
- 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.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.
Media related to Walter von Seydlitz-Kurzbach at Wikimedia Commons
- Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach in the German National Library catalogue
- (German) Walther v. Seydlitz-Kurzbach, General der Artillerie, a biography on the website of the Seydlitz family.
Generalleutnant Ludwig von der Leyen
|Commander of 12. Infanterie-Division
March 10, 1940 – January 1, 1942
Oberst Karl Hernekamp