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Alexander Löhr in October 1939
20 May 1885|
Turnu-Severin, Mehedinți, Kingdom of Romania
|Died||26 February 1947
Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia
|Allegiance|| Austria-Hungary (to 1918)
First Austrian Republic (to 1938)
|Service/branch|| Austro-Hungarian Army
Austrian Air Force (1927–38)
|Years of service||1906–45|
|Commands held||Luftflotte 4
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Alexander Löhr (20 May 1885 – 26 February 1947) was an Austrian Air Force (Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte) commander during the 1930s and, after the annexation of Austria (Anschluss), he was a German Air Force (Luftwaffe) commander. Löhr served in the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Löhr was one of three former Austrians who rose to the rank of Generaloberst (Colonel General) within the German Wehrmacht. The other two were Erhard Raus and Lothar Rendulic.
Löhr surrendered to Yugoslav Partisan forces in May 1945 and was imprisoned till February 1947. He was tried and found guilty of war crimes for his role as the commander of the Luftwaffe units involved in the Bombing of Belgrade in 1941 and his role in war crimes as commander in chief in Southeast Europe. 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 faith he belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Löhr, just like his brothers, attended the reichsdeutsche (Imperial German) Evangelic Volksschule (primary school) in Turnu-Severin.
The brothers grew up speaking four languages which were 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 k.u.k. Kriegsmarine (Austro-Hungarian Navy) which was denied to him out of medical reasons. He then attended the Militär-Unterrealschule (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 Theresianische Militärakademie (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 Leutnant (second lieutenant) and immediately volunteered for service in the k.u.k. ungarische Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 85 "von Gaudernak" (k.u.k.—Imperial and Royal Hungarian Infantry Regiment. Nr. 85 "von Gaudernak") where he served as a platoon commander.
By 1921 Löhr had reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (Oberstleutnant). 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 Anschluss 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 German Air Force (Luftwaffe) where he became commander of the German Air Force 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 (NDH), the commanding general of German troops in the NDH, 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. After a flimsy trial he was found guilty of war crimes for his role as the commander of the Luftwaffe units involved in the Bombing of Belgrade in 1941, war crimes committed during the anti-partisan operations of 1943, and killing of hostages and burning of villages, and his command decisions post 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-Brigadeführer August Schmidhuber, and the high-ranking Wehrmacht officers Johann Fortner, Fritz Neidholdt, Günther Tribukait, and others.
Bischof, Plasser and Stelzl-Marx state that Löhr's role in the bombing of Belgrade is "hotly contested".[by whom?] Some sources argue that he was not in a position to oppose Hitler. Others state that because he had been partly responsible for the firebombing of Warsaw in 1939, he was well aware of the likely results of such an attack on Belgrade, and could have resigned. It has been observed[by whom?] that his resignation would not have stopped the firebombing, but also that he displayed no civil courage later in the war, particularly when it came to the deportation of Jews.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Austro-Hungarian Order of Franz Joseph, Knight's Cross with War Decoration
- Austro-Hungarian Military Merit Cross 3rd Class with War Decoration and Swords
- Austro-Hungarian Bronze Military Merit Medal ("Signum Laudis") on the War Ribbon with Swords
- Austro-Hungarian Silver Military Merit Medal ("Signum Laudis") on the War Ribbon with Swords
- Austro-Hungarian Wound Medal with four stripes (four wounds)
- Bavarian Military Merit Order 4th Class with Swords
- Mentioned eleven times in the Wehrmachtbericht (12 April 1941, 23 April 1941, 8 August 1941, 11 October 1941, 12 October 1941, 19 May 1942, 20 May 1942, 30 May 1942, 26 June 1944, 19 January 1945 and 9 May 1945)
|18 August 1906:||Leutnant (Second Lieutenant)|
|1 November 1911:||Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant)|
|1 March 1915:||Hauptmann (Captain)|
|1 July 1920:||Major (Major)|
|1 January 1921:||Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel)|
|20 July 1928:||Oberst (Colonel)|
|25 September 1934:||Generalmajor (Brigadier General)|
|24 March 1938:||Generalleutnant (Major General)|
|25 March 1939:||General der Flieger (General of the Flyers; ranked between lieutenant general and colonel general)|
|3 May 1941:||Generaloberst (Colonel General)|
- Pitsch 2004, p. 53.
- Pitsch 2004, p. 54.
- Pitsch 2004, p. 55.
- Pitsch 2004, p. 56.
- Pitsch 2004, p. 57.
- Pitsch 2004, p. 112.
- Manoschek 1995, p. 18.
- Vogel 2001, pp. 303–308.
- Pitsch 2009, p. 4.
- Tomasevich 1975, p. 235.
- Tomasevich 2001, pp. 70–71.
- Tomasevich 2001, p. 756.
- Joel Hayward, "A Case Study in Early Joint Warfare: An Analysis of the Wehrmacht's Crimean Campaign of 1942" The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4 (December 1999), page 113: "After liberation, the occupied peoples generally wanted revenge against their former overlords. Lohr fell victum to this desire. Following a flimsy trial, he was executed for alleged war crimes by the Yugoslavs in 1947."
- Tomasevich 2001, p. 756–757.
- Pitsch 2009, p. 277.
- Bischof, Plasser & Stelzl-Marx 2009, p. 34.
- Thomas 1998, p. 33.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 512.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 294.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 95.
- Bischof, Günter; Plasser, Fritz; Stelzl-Marx, Barbara (2009). New perspectives on Austrians and World War II. New Brunswick: Transaction. ISBN 978-1-4128-0883-5.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) . Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [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.
- Fröhlich, Claudia; Heinrich, Horst-Alfred (2004). Geschichtspolitik: Wer Sind Ihre Akteure, Wer Ihre Rezipienten? [Politics of History: Who are their Actors, who their Recipients?] (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag. ISBN 978-3-515-08246-4.
- Ganglmair, Siegwald (2011). "Generaloberst Alexander Löhr". In Ueberschär, Gerd R. Hitlers militärische Elite [Hitlers Military Elite] (in German). Primus Verlag. pp. 394–401. ISBN 978-3-89678-727-9.
- Manoschek, Walter (1995). "Serbien ist judenfrei". Militärische Besatzungspolitik und Judenvernichtung in Serbien 1941/42. Band 38 von Beiträge zur Militär- und Kriegsgeschichte (in German). Oldenbourg, München. ISBN 3-486-56137-5.
- Pitsch, Erwin (2003). Alexander Löhr / Der Luftflottenchef [Alexander Löhr / The Air Fleet Chief] (in German). Salzburg, Austria: Österreichischer Miliz-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-901185-22-9.
- Pitsch, Erwin (2004). Alexander Löhr. Band 1: Der Generalmajor und Schöpfer der Österreichischen Luftstreitkräfte [Alexander Löhr. Volume 1: The Major General and Creator of the Austrian Air Force] (in German). Salzburg, Austria: Österreichischer Miliz-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-901185-21-2.
- Pitsch, Erwin (2009). Alexander Löhr. Band 3: Heerführer auf dem Balkan [Alexander Löhr. Volume 3: Army Commander in the Balkans] (in German). Salzburg, Austria: Österreichischer Miliz-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-901185-23-6.
- 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 Militaer-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.
- Tomasevich, Jozo (1975). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: The Chetniks. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-0857-9.
- Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3615-2.
- Vogel, Detlef (1995). "German Intervention in the Balkans". The Mediterranean, South-East Europe, and North Africa, 1939-1941 : from Italy's Declaration of Non-belligerence to the Entry of the United States into the War. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 449–556. ISBN 978-0-19-822884-4.
- Vogel, Detlef (2001). "Operation "Strafgericht". Die rücksichtslose Bombardierung Belgrads durch die deutsche Luftwaffe am 6. April 1941". In Ueberschär, Gerd; Wette, Wolfram. Kriegsverbrechen im 20. Jahrhundert (in German). Darmstadt: Primus. ISBN 3-89678-417-X.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
|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 12. Armee
3 July 1942 – December 1942
General der Panzertruppe Walther Wenck
|Commander of Heeresgruppe E
31 December 1942 – 8 May 1945