Fritz Witt

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Fritz Witt
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1988-028-25A, Frankreich, Invasionsfront.jpg
Witt (centre) with Max Wünsche (left) and Kurt Meyer (right). France, 1944
Born (1908-05-27)27 May 1908
Hohenlimburg, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 14 June 1944(1944-06-14) (aged 36)
Venoix, Normandy, Occupied France
Buried at Cimetière militaire allemand de Champigny-St. André
Block 8—row 12—grave 1027
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
Years of service 1933–44
Rank SS-Brigadeführer Collar Rank.svg Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS
Service number NSDAP #816,769
SS #21,518
Commands held 12SSHJinsig.svg 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Fritz Witt (27 May 1908 – 14 June 1944) was a German general in the Waffen-SS, the armed paramilitary branch of the Nazi Party's Schutzstaffel (SS). He served with the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Division before taking command of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. Witt obtained the rank of Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS. He was killed in action in June 1944.

Pre-war SS service[edit]

Witt was born on 27 May 1908 in Hohenlimburg, a suburb of the city of Hagen. He worked as a textiles salesman from 1925 until 1931. During this period of time, he witnessed the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP), becoming a strong supporter. On 1 December 1931, Witt applied to join both the NSDAP (Nr. 816,769) and the SS (Nr. 21,518). On 17 March 1933, Witt was admitted to the SS-Stabswache Berlin, an élite guard formation of only 117 men. On 1 October 1933, Witt received his commission as an SS-Untersturmführer.

In On 9 May 1934, Witt was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer, and soon after took command of the third company of SS-Standartenführer Felix Steiner's SS-Standarte Deutschland, one of the then-three Standarten which comprised the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT). The other Standarten were the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, SS-Standarte Germania and (from 1938) SS-Standarte Der Führer. In October 1938, the SS-VT was subordinated to Wehrmacht command.

Witt's unit, 3./SS-Standarte Deutschland, marched into Austria as part of the Anschluß in March 1938. After this, the Standarte was motorised. The Deutschland now took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland. In March 1939, Witt served with the Standarte during the annexation of Bohemia and Moravia. Later, the SS-Standarten were deployed for action during the planned 1939 offensive, Fall Weiß. Witt's SS-Standarte (mot) Deutschland was subordinated to Panzer Division Kempf, based in East Prussia.

Early war campaigns[edit]

On 1 September 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, Witt was in command of the 3./SS-Standarte Deutschland. His unit participated in the Invasion of Poland. For personal bravery in combat, Witt was awarded both the first and second classes of the Iron Cross. By October 1939, Witt had attained a rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer and was placed in command of I.Battalion of the Deutschland, redesignated SS-Infanterie-Regiment (mot) Deutschland. In the same month, the SS-Verfügungs-Division was formed and placed under the command of SS-Gruppenführer Paul Hausser.

Witt led his battalion through the Invasion of France. For his actions during the campaign, Witt was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 4 September 1940. On 16 October, Witt was transferred to the Infanterie-Regiment (mot.) Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, where he took command of III. Battalion.

Balkans – Barbarossa[edit]

Witt was transferred to command of the Leibstandarte's I.Battalion on 26 March 1941. The Leibstandarte was poised to take place in Operation Marita, the invasion of the Balkans and Greece.

On 10 April, Witt's battalion was reinforced with artillery and a battery of 88mm Flak 18s and renamed Kampfgruppe Witt. Witt's unit took part in the Battle of Vevi, clearing the Klidi Pass defended by Australian-British-New Zealand-Greek force, under Maj. Gen. Iven Mackay. Witt's brother, Franz Witt, fell in the fighting.

After the conclusion of the Balkan campaign Witt remained in command of I.Battalion. The Leibstandarte (LSSAH), now upgraded to a division, was to take part in the advance into Russia as a part of Army Group South. Witt's Battalion was first committed to action in August 1941, when the division was transferred to 1st Panzer Group, and engaged in the encirclement battles near Kiev.

Witt's unit then moved south, to join the German 54th Army Corps. On 17 September 1941, the LSSAH participated in the offensive to clear the Crimean Peninsula. Witt's battalion took part in the fighting for the town of Perekop, and the later advance across the Perekop Isthmus and the assaults on the Soviet defensive positions near the Tartar Ditch.

In November, the LSSAH took part in the heavy fighting for the city of Rostov-on-Don. Soviet counterattacks during the winter caused the Germans to fall back to defensive lines on the river Mius. Witt's battalion was engaged in several rearguard actions. On 8 February 1942, Witt was awarded the German Cross in Gold (Deutsches Kreuz in Gold) for his bravery during the Rostov battles.

Paris – Kharkov[edit]

In the early months of 1942, Witt's battalion continued defensive actions along the Mius. In May 1942, the division went back on the offensive and Witt's battalion was participated in the operation to recapture of Rostov-on-Don. The city fell after over a month's heavy fighting and the division was ordered back to France to rest and refit. In July 1942 Witt was awarded the Order of the Star of Romania, Officer Class with Swords on the Ribbon of Military Virtue, and the Bulgarian Military Order for Bravery in War 4th Class, 1st Grade.

The LSSAH was to be reformed as a Panzergrenadier division. For refitting and training, the division was ordered to the Normandy area in Northern France. In August, Witt was promoted to SS-Standartenführer and given command of the Leibstandarte's 1st SS Panzergrenadier Regiment. Witt and the division spent the remainder of 1942 in France.

In January 1943, the reformed SS Panzergrenadier Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, together with the SS Panzergrenadier Division Das Reich and the SS Panzergrenadier Division Totenkopf, was formed into the SS Panzer Corps. The SS Panzer Corps, commanded by Paul Hausser, was sent east to Kharkov to join Erich von Manstein's Army Group Don which was attempting to halt the Soviet advance after the 6th Army's defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad.

Witt's 1st SS Panzergrenadier Regiment was stationed in the outskirts of Kharkov, and in early February engaged the Soviet Mobile Group Popov, named after Markian Popov. At the town of Merefa, Witt's regiment, fighting alongside 1st Battalion/1st SS Panzer Regiment, fought a delaying action on 8–9 February. Fearing encirclement, Hausser authorised a full withdrawal from Kharkov.

In early March, Witt's regiment took part in the Third Battle of Kharkov. Witt's force was reinforced with tanks, artillery and assault guns, and was given the task of attacking from the north. The force, renamed Kampfgruppe Witt, was to form one of three pincers against Mobile Group Popov. The attack got underway on 2 March, and by 10 March Witt's unit reached the suburbs of Kharkov. By 16 March, Kharkov was retaken. The division was pulled back to rest and refit. For his actions, Witt was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub).

Hitlerjugend command[edit]

In February 1943, the SS had begun formation of a new Waffen-SS division composed primarily from Hitler Youth members born in 1926. The division was designated 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. To provide officers for this new division, a number of Leibstandarte officers and NCOs were transferred, including Witt. On 1 July 1943, Witt was promoted to SS-Oberführer, and at the end of the month he was given command of the Hitlerjugend division. Witt took over the divisional command at Beverloo in occupied Belgium and oversaw its formation and training.

In March 1944, OB West, Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt and I SS Panzer Corps commander SS-Obergruppenführer Josef Dietrich visited the division's training grounds. Based on the results of the inspection, they deemed the division to be combat ready soon and ordered its transfer to Normandy where the division was to join Panzergruppe West, Rundstedt's armoured reserve.

On 20 April 1944, Witt was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der SS. On 2 June, Hitlerjugend division was ready for combat.

Normandy invasion[edit]

On 6 June 1944 the Western Allies launched Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. Witt's Division, along with the 21st Panzer Division, was the closest armoured unit to the landing beaches. Because the unit had to wait for Hitler's authorisation, it did not move out until 14:30 on 6 June. The division's advance to the areas near Sword and Juno Beaches proceeded slowly due to the Allied air attacks. Witt ordered his division to form up north of Caen, defending the city and the Carpiquet Aerodrome.

On 7 June 25 SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, along with the 2nd Battalion from 12th SS Panzer Regiment, attacked the advancing 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The 12th SS fell short of their objective, which was to push back the allies to the sea, but they did delay the Allied advance north of Caen.

On 14 June 1944 Witt was killed in action by a barrage fired from off-shore in the English Channel by the Royal Navy which hit the divisional command post in Venoix. He was buried at ChampignySaint-André-de-l'Eure in France.

Summary of SS career[edit]

Dates of rank[edit]

9 May 1934: SS-Obersturmführer
1 June 1935: SS-Hauptsturmführer[1]
17 May 1940: SS-Sturmbannführer[2]
27 November 1941: SS-Obersturmbannführer[3]
30 January 1943: SS-Standartenführer[3]
1 July 1943: SS-Oberführer[4]
20 April 1944: SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS[5]

Decorations[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to Scherzer as commander of the I./SS-Standarte "Deutschland".[10]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Stockert 1997, p. 389.
  2. ^ Stockert 1997, p. 390.
  3. ^ a b Stockert 1997, p. 392.
  4. ^ Stockert 1997, p. 394.
  5. ^ Stockert 1997, p. 395.
  6. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 450.
  7. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 518.
  8. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 449.
  9. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 362.
  10. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 791.
  11. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 66.
  12. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 33.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. 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. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • 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. 
  • Stockert, Peter (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2] (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-9802222-9-7. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 

Further reading[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
none
Commander of 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
24 June 1943 – 14 June 1944
Succeeded by
SS-Brigadeführer Kurt Meyer (Panzermeyer)