Desiderius Hampel

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Desiderius Hampel
Desiderius Hampel.jpg
Desiderius Hampel
Born20 January 1895
Sisak, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, Austria-Hungary (now Sisak, Sisak-Moslavina County, Croatia)
Died11 January 1981(1981-01-11) (aged 85)
Graz, Styria, Austria
AllegianceWorld War I
Austro-Hungarian Empire
World War II
Kingdom of Hungary
Independent State of Croatia
Nazi Germany
Service/branchFlag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen SS
Years of service1914–1918 Austro-Hungarian Army
1937–1941 Royal Hungarian Army
1941–1942 Croatian Home Guard (NDH)
1942–1945 Waffen SS
RankWorld War I
World War II
SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS
Unit16th Hungarian Infantry Regiment
13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)
Commands held13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) 1944–1945
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsWorld War I
Iron Cross II class
Wound Badge in Black
Military Merit Cross (Austria–Hungary) with War Decoration and Swords
Military Merit Medal (Austria–Hungary) in Silver
Honorary Medal for bravery (Austria)
World War II
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Iron Cross I Class
Iron Cross II Class
Wound Badge in Silver
War Merit Cross with Swords

Desiderius Hampel (20 January 1895 – 11 January 1981) was a SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS during World War II who commanded the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) and was possibly awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz), the highest award in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. After the war the Yugoslavian government asked for his extradition to charge him with war crimes, but he managed to escape from a British internment camp.

Early life[edit]

Desiderius Hampel was born 20 January 1895 in the town of Sisak, Austria-Hungary (modern-day Croatia), to Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) parents.[1] His father was an inspector on the Imperial-Royal Austrian State Railways, and the family often had to move around the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This had the benefit of teaching the young Hampel a number of languages. After he completed his primary school education, he was sent to a military school in Karlovac. After graduation he joined the army in October 1914, as a warrant officer in the 16th Hungarian Infantry Regiment Freiherr von Giesl, and in December was sent to the front line.

World War I[edit]

In April 1915, he was given command of a platoon and shortly after promoted to Leutnant and given command of the 14th Company. At the end of the year he was sent on a heavy machine gun training course at Bruck an der Leitha. When he returned to the front in November he was given command of the 4th Company of his regiment and was promoted to Oberleutnant in May 1917. In September 1918, he was appointed as the second in command of the 36th Battalion fighting in Serbia until the end of the war when he became a prisoner of war in Serbia. He escaped from captivity just over a year later and made his way to Vienna and then Budapest.

Between the wars[edit]

After he returned from captivity he started work on a farm and studied forestry between 1925 and 1928 at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. He then worked in the forestry industry until December 1937 when he rejoined the Royal Hungarian Army and served in Budapest.

World War II[edit]

Hampel served in Budapest until March 1941, and was then sent to the town of Csepel, in command of the area defences until December 1941 when he was dismissed from the army. He then joined the Croatian Home Guard with the rank of major and was appointed as the intelligence officer for the IV Army Corps. In May 1942, after a request from SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Artur Phleps he joined the Waffen-SS as a SS-Sturmbannführer (major).

At the formation of the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, he was given command of the III Battalion, 1st SS Gebirgsjäger Regiment, which included the 13th to 18th Companies.[2] In October 1942 he led a kampfgruppe during the division's first major operation, Operation Kopaonik, which unsuccessfully targeted Chetnik groups in the Kopaonik mountains of central Serbia.[3] He remained in this position until June 1943 when he was moved to command the Training and Reserve Battalion. Next he was given a position on the staff of the newly formed 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian). On 28 September 1943, he was given command of the 27th SS Mountain Infantry Regiment of the 13th SS Division, and on 9 November 1943 he was promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel).[4] In this role, he commanded the regiment during its final training at the Neuhammer training grounds in the Silesian region of Germany (present-day Poland), then when it deployed to the Independent State of Croatia in early 1944.[5] The division participated in what may have been the largest anti-Partisan sweep of World War II: Operation Maibaum.[6] The 13th SS Division also participated in other divisional and corps-sized anti-Partisan operations between March and May 1944.[7]

On 2 April 1944, he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer (colonel),[4] and after the disastrous Operation Vollmond,[8] he was given command of the 13th SS Division on 19 June.[9] He was promoted to SS-Oberführer on 9 November 1944, and on 30 January 1945 he was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Waffen-SS.[10] He was reportedly awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his command of the division near the end of the war in May 1945.[Note 1] Hampel was slated for extradition to Yugoslavia to face war crime charges, but fled from a British prisoner-of-war camp in Fallingbostel.[14]

See also[edit]

Post war[edit]

Hampel survived the war and died on 11 January 1981 in Graz, Austria.


  1. ^ No evidence of the award can be found in the German Federal Archives. Presumably Desiderius Hampel received the Knight's Cross the same day as Karl Liecke and Hans Hanke. Letter from Ernst-Günther Krätschmer to Von Seemen dated 7 August 1980. According to Von Seemen presumably presented by General Maximilian de Angelis.[11] The Order Commission of the Association of Knight's Cross Recipients (AKCR) processed Hampel's case in 1980 and Fellgiebel decided: Knight's Cross yes, 3 May 1945. In his book he noted: "A justification for the presentation was not given". Hampel was member of the AKCR.[12][13]


  1. ^ Lepre 1997, p. 117.
  2. ^ Kumm 1995, p. 18.
  3. ^ Kumm 1995, p. 23.
  4. ^ a b Lepre 1997, p. 322.
  5. ^ Lepre 1997, p. 64.
  6. ^ Lepre 1997, p. 187.
  7. ^ Lepre 1997, pp. 213–247.
  8. ^ Lepre 1997, pp. 222–223.
  9. ^ Lepre 1997, p. 228.
  10. ^ Lepre 1997, p. 321.
  11. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 153.
  12. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 27.
  13. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 136.
  14. ^ Lepre 1997, p. 311.


  • 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.
  • Henschler, Henri; Fey, Willi (2003). Armor Battles of the Waffen-SS, 1943–45. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-2905-5.
  • Kumm, Otto (1995). Prinz Eugen: The history of the 7. SS-Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen". Winnipeg: J.J. Fedorowicz. ISBN 978-0-921991-29-8.
  • Lepre, George (1997). Himmler's Bosnian Division: The Waffen-SS Handschar Division 1943–1945. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0134-9.
  • Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). The German Defeat in the East, 1944–45. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3371-7.
  • Mitcham, Samuel W (2007). Retreat to the Reich : the German defeat in France, 1944. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3384-7.
  • Reynolds, Michael (1997). Steel Inferno: I SS Panzer Corps in Normandy. Spellmount. ISBN 1-873376-90-1.
  • 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.
  • Schulz, Andreas; Zinke, Dieter (2008). Die Generale der Waffen-SS und der Polizei : [1933–1945] : die militärischen Werdegänge der Generale, sowie der Ärzte, Veterinäre, Intendanten, Richter und Ministerialbeamten im Generalsrang / 3 Lammerding – Plesch [Germany's Generals and Admirals – Part V: The Generals of the Waffen-SS and the Police 1933–1945]. Bissendorf: Biblio-Verlag.
  • Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4.