Dietrich von Saucken

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Dietrich von Saucken
Dietrich von Saucken 1.jpg
Born(1892-05-16)16 May 1892
Fischhausen, East Prussia, German Empire
Died27 September 1980(1980-09-27) (aged 88)
Pullach, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branchPrussian Army
Years of service1910–45
RankGeneral (Wehrmacht) 1.svg General der Panzertruppe
Unit1st Division
Commands held4th Panzer Division
XXXIX Panzer Corps
Panzerkorps Großdeutschland
2nd Army
Army East Prussia
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds

Dietrich Friedrich Eduard Kasimir von[1] Saucken (16 May 1892 – 27 September 1980) was a German general during World War II who commanded the 2nd Army and the Army East Prussia. Turning down an offer to escape by air, he surrendered to the Red Army in May 1945. Saucken was the last officer to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds of Nazi Germany.

Early life and career[edit]

Collegium Fridericianum

Saucken was born on 16 May 1892 in Fischhausen, East Prussia. He was the son of Landrat, the chief administrative officer of a Landkreis, Wilhelm Eduard Erich von Saucken. As a child, Saucken attended the Collegium Fridericianum, a prestigious gymnasium in Königsberg, present-day Kaliningrad, where he graduated with his Abitur (university-preparatory high school diploma) in 1910. As a student, Saucken showed aptitude as an artist, a talent supported by his mother and the director of the Fridericianum, Georg Ellendt. He often visited Nidden, present-day Nida, Lithuania, where his ambitions to become an artist were influenced by the Künstlerkolonie Nidden, an expressionist artists' colony.[2]

Following graduation, Saucken joined the Prussian Army on 1 October 1910 as a Fahnenjunker (Cadet) in Grenadier-Regiment König Friedrich Wilhelm I. (2. Ostpreußisches) Nr. 3 (2nd East Prussian Grenadier Regiment King Frederick William I Nr. 3), one of the oldest Prussian regiments, subordinated to the 1. Division (1st Division) and based in Königsberg. There, he was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) on 19 June 1912.[2]

World War I and interwar period[edit]

With the outbreak of World War I, the division was deployed on the Eastern Front. With the division, Saucken fought in the battles of Stallupönen, Gumbinnen, and Tannenberg and earned the Iron Cross 2nd Class in October 1914.[2]

Saucken then fought in the Battle of Verdun and in the battles of the Carpathian Mountains in September 1917, and received the Iron Cross 1st Class in May 1916. For combat in the Spring Offensive and Hundred Days Offensive on the Western Front, he received the Prussian Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords and the Austrian Military Merit Cross. In 1918, he also served with the Baltic Sea Division under the command of General Rüdiger von der Goltz which fought in the Finnish Civil War (27 January – 15 May 1918).[2]

After the First World War he joined the paramilitary Freikorps. In 1921 he joined the Reichswehr. From 1927 on he was on special assignment in the Soviet Union, where he learned to speak Russian. In 1934 he was promoted to Major and posted as an instructor to the War School Hannover. He was promoted to Oberst (colonel) on 1 June 1939.

World War II[edit]

Saucken took part in Battle of France, Balkan Campaign, Operation Barbarossa as commander of a motorised brigade of the 4th Panzer Division. He was promoted to Generalmajor on 1 January 1942 and appointed divisional commander during the Battle of Moscow. He was wounded and thereafter spent several months in the hospital. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on January 6, and was appointed commandant of the School for Mobile Troops (Schule für Schnelle Truppen). On 1 April 1943 he was promoted to Generalleutnant; in June he returned to the 4th Panzer Division, which he commanded during the Battle of Kursk.

Saucken became acting commander of the III Panzer Corps in late June 1944. He received both the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords in 1944.

In June and July, Saucken formed Kampfgruppe von Saucken (Battlegroup von Saucken) an ad hoc unit composed of the remnants of several units that had been destroyed in the Soviet Operation Bagration against the Army Group Centre. Composed mainly of elements of the 5th Panzer Division, 170th Infantry Division and the 505th Heavy Panzer Battalion, the battlegroup was later designated the XXXIX Panzer Corps. During the Soviet Minsk Offensive, it temporarily maintained an escape route across the Berezina River for retreating German soldiers.

Saucken left the XXXIX Panzer Corps in late September 1944, when he took command of the forming Panzerkorps Großdeutschland. The still incomplete corps was divided when half of it, including Saucken, was ordered eastward to stop the Vistula–Oder Offensive. He led the corps until February 1945, when he was removed from his position and placed in the Führerreserve by Heinz Guderian, the Chief of Staff of the Army at the OKH.

A month later, Saucken commanded the 2nd Army in Prussia and provided logistical support to the Evacuation of East Prussia. In April, his army was renamed to Army East Prussia. On 8 May, Saucken received notice that he had been awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, making him the last of 27 officers to receive this award. Though an airplane stood by to evacuate him, he refused to leave his troops when they surrendered to the Red Army on the following day of 9 May 1945.

Later life[edit]

Oryol Prison

After surrendering on the Hel Peninsula, Saucken went into Soviet captivity. Initially he was imprisoned in the Lubyanka Building and the Oryol Prison before being transferred to the Siberian Tayshet camp in 1949. Kept in solitary confinement, ordered to do hard labour and tortured by Soviet interrogators after refusing to sign false confessions, Saucken was confined to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Released from Soviet captivity in 1955, he settled in Pullach near Munich. He died there in 1980.

Character traits[edit]

A cavalry officer who regularly wore both a sword and a monocle, Saucken personified the archetypal aristocratic Prussian conservative who despised the braune Bande ("brown mob") of Nazis. When he was ordered to take command of the Second Army on 12 March 1945, he came to Hitler's headquarters with his left hand resting casually on his cavalry sabre, his monocle in his eye, . . . [and then] saluted and gave a slight bow. These were three 'outrages' at once. He had not given the Nazi salute with raised arm and the words 'Heil Hitler', as had been regulation since 20 July 1944, he had not surrendered his weapon on entering....and had kept his monocle in his eye when saluting Hitler.[3][4]

When Hitler told him that he must take his orders from Albert Forster, the Gauleiter (Nazi governor, or "District Leader") of Danzig, Saucken returned Hitler's gaze....and striking the marble slab of the map table with the flat of his hand, he said, 'I have no intention, Herr Hitler, of placing myself under the orders of a Gauleiter'. In doing this he had bluntly contradicted Hitler and not addressed him as Mein Führer.[3][5]

To the surprise of everyone who was present, Hitler capitulated and replied, "All right, Saucken, keep the command yourself." Hitler dismissed the General without shaking his hand and Saucken left the room with only the merest hint of a bow.[3][5]


1 January 1942: Generalmajor[8]
1 April 1943: Generalleutnant [8]
1 August 1944: General der Panzertruppe (General of Armoured Troops)[9]



  1. ^ In German personal names, von is a preposition which approximately means of or from and usually denotes some sort of nobility. While von (always lower case) is part of the family name or territorial designation, not a first or middle name, if the noble is referred to by surname alone in English, use Schiller or Clausewitz or Goethe, not von Schiller, etc.
  2. ^ a b c d Stockert 1997, p. 344.
  3. ^ a b c Beevor 2002, pp. 80-82.
  4. ^ Boldt 1973, pp. 80-81.
  5. ^ a b Boldt 1973, pp. 81-82.
  6. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 240.
  7. ^ a b c d Scherzer 2007, p. 651.
  8. ^ a b Stockert 1997, p. 345.
  9. ^ Stockert 1997, p. 349.


  • Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin: The Downfall 1945. London: Viking-Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-670-03041-5.
  • Samuel W. Mitcham (2001). Crumbling Empire, the German Defeat in the East, 1944. Westport, Praeger. ISBN 0-275-96856-1.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Stockert, Peter (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 3 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 3] (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-932915-01-7.
  • 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.
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-644-7.
  • Boldt, Gerhard (1973). HItler: The Last 10 Days. Berkley Publishing. ISBN 978-0425024041.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppe Willibald Freiherr von Langermann und Erlencamp
Commander of 4. Panzer-Division
27 December 1941 – 2 January 1942
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppe Willibald Freiherr von Langermann und Erlencamp
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Erich Schneider
Commander of 4. Panzer-Division
31 May 1943 – January 1944
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Hans Junck
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Hans Junck
Commander of 4. Panzer-Division
February 1944 – 1 May 1944
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Clemens Betzel
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppe Hermann Breith
Commander of III. Armeekorps
31 May 1944 – 29 June 1944
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppe Hermann Breith
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Otto Schünemann
Commander of XXXIX.Panzerkorps
29 June 1944 – 15 October 1944
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppe Karl Decker
Preceded by
Commander of Panzerkorps Großdeutschland
28 September 1944 – 11 February 1945
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Georg Jauer
Preceded by
General Walter Weiß
Commander of 2. Armee
10 March 1945 – 7 April 1945
Succeeded by
AOK Ostpreußen
Preceded by
2. Armee
Commander of AOK Ostpreußen
7 April 1945 – 9 May 1945
Succeeded by
German surrender