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Alexander Löhr in March 1939
20 May 1885|
Turnu-Severin, Mehedinți, Kingdom of Romania
26 February 1947 (aged 61)|
Belgrade, FPR Yugoslavia
Austria-Hungary (to 1918)|
First Austrian Republic (to 1938)
Austrian Air Force (1927–38)
|Years of service||1906–45|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Alexander Löhr (20 May 1885 – 26 February 1947) was an Austrian Air Force commander during the 1930s and, after the annexation of Austria, he was a Luftwaffe commander. Löhr served in the Luftwaffe during the Second World War and became commander-in-chief in Southeast Europe. Löhr was one of three former Austrians who rose to the rank of Generaloberst within the German Wehrmacht. The other two were Erhard Raus and Lothar Rendulic.
Löhr surrendered to Yugoslav Partisan forces in May 1945. Tried and convicted of war crimes for anti-partisan reprisals committed under his command, he was executed on 26 February 1947.
Löhr was born on 20 May 1885 in Turnu-Severin in the Kingdom of Romania. He was the youngest child of Friedrich Johann Löhr and his wife Catherine, née Heimann. His father had served as a 2nd captain on a hospital ship in the Black Sea during the Russo-Turkish War. Here his father had met his mother, a Jewish-Ukrainian nurse. She was the daughter of the Jewish military doctor Mihail Alexandrovich Heimann from Odessa. After the war, they married in 1879 and moved to the Turnu-Severin in Romania. The marriage produced three sons, Friedrich born in 1880, Michael born in 1882, and Alexander in 1885. Due to his mother's faith, he belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Löhr, just like his brothers, attended the Imperial German primary school in Turnu-Severin.
The brothers grew up speaking four languages: German, Russian, French and Romanian. The various nationalities in the multinational state of Austria-Hungary and their particular family situation were the driving factors behind this. His father spoke little Russian and his mother barely German, the consequence was that the family language was French. His father was transferred to Vienna on business, where Löhr completed his elementary schooling. He then pursued a career in the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which was denied to him out of medical reasons. He then attended a military secondary school in Kaschau, present-day Košice in Slovakia, in January 1896 where he remained until 1900.
Löhr transferred to the infantry cadet school at Temeswar, present-day Timisoara in Romania, in January 1900. Until 1903 he was prepared for military service under the influence of the subaltern. In 1903 he was posted to Vienna, where he attended the Theresian Military Academy in the Burg Wiener Neustadt until 1906. Löhr, together with his two brothers, traveled to the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Greece and Egypt during the summer holidays. While visiting relatives in Odessa, he became witness to the mutiny on the Russian battleship Potemkin in late June 1905. He graduated from the military academy on 18 August 1906, the birthday of Franz Joseph I, with an overall rating of "very good". On the same day Löhr was retired as a second lieutenant and immediately volunteered for service in the Imperial and Royal Hungarian Infantry Regiment. Nr. 85, where he served as a platoon commander.
By 1921 Löhr had reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Between 1921 and 1934 he held many staff positions in the military, including Director of the Air Force in the Federal Armies Ministry. In 1934, he was made Commander of the small Austrian Air Force, a position which he held until the annexation in 1938.
Löhr, who had been promoted to Major on 1 July 1920, was accepted into the newly created Austrian Bundesheer on 1 September 1920. On 15 March 1938, Löhr was transferred to the Luftwaffe, where he became commander of Luftwaffe forces in Austria. By then he had been promoted to Generalleutnant. He was commander of Luftflotte (Air Fleet) 4 in the East from May 1939 until June 1942.
World War II
Luftflotte 4 carried out the bombing of Warsaw, Poland in September 1939 and of Belgrade, Yugoslavia in April 1941. Löhr had developed a plan to bomb Belgrade with incendiary bombs first, so that the fires would help the second, nighttime, attack to find the targets. This cost thousands of people their lives. According to his first recorded statements upon arrest, Löhr specifically targeted and annihilated the complete cultural heritage of up to eight centuries old national treasure by burning down the Serbian National Library in Belgrade - this being the largest sole destruction of cultural artifacts in World War II.
Commander-in-Chief South East
Löhr succeeded General der Pioniere Walter Kuntze as Commander-in-Chief of the 12th Army on 3 July 1942. He was appointed the Wehrmacht Commander in southeast Europe on 1 August 1942, and from 28 December 1942 this position was re-designated as commander-in-chief in southeast Europe. The forces under his command were also designated as Army Group E, and he was appointed as its commander. In this role, Löhr controlled all subordinate commands in southeast Europe, including the commanding general in Serbia (Paul Bader), the military commander in the Salonika-Aegean area, the military commander in southern Greece, the commander of Crete, the naval commander in the Aegean Sea, the German plenipotentiary general in the Independent State of Croatia, the commanding general of German troops in Croatia, and the military attaché in Sofia, Bulgaria. Löhr organised the fourth and fifth offensives against Yugoslav Partisans in 1943, during which most of those taken prisoner, including the wounded, were executed on the spot. As Commander-in-Chief of Army Group E, Löhr oversaw the Dodecanese Campaign.
At the end of the war in Europe, Löhr received orders for unconditional surrender, but instead directed his forces to break out towards Austria. According to the historian Jozo Tomasevich, Löhr was captured by the 14th Slovene Division in Slovenia on 9 May 1945, and attempted to negotiate passage for his troops to Austria. This was refused and Löhr was prevailed upon to issue orders to cease fighting, which the troops nonetheless disobeyed. He escaped, countermanded his order to surrender and continued with the breakout attempt. After an intense manhunt, Löhr was recaptured on 13 May.
Conviction and execution
Löhr was imprisoned by Yugoslavia from 15 May 1945 to 26 February 1947. He was tried and convicted for war crimes committed during the anti-partisan operations of 1943, including the killing of hostages and burning of villages, and disregarding Germany's unconditional surrender. He was executed by firing squad on 26 February 1947 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Also sentenced to death and executed by hanging were the SS commander August Schmidhuber and the high-ranking Wehrmacht officers Johann Fortner, Fritz Neidholdt, Günther Tribukait, and others.
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| Commander of Luftwaffenkommando Österreich
1 July 1938 – 18 March 1939
redesignated Luftflotte 4
| Commander of Luftflotte 4
18 March 1939 – 20 July 1942
Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen
General der Pioniere Walter Kuntze
| Commander of 12th Army
3 July 1942 – December 1942
General der Panzertruppe Walther Wenck
| Commander of Army Group E
31 December 1942 – 8 May 1945