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, 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 SS-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
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Fritz Witt (27 May 1908 – 14 June 1944) was a German high-ranking member 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 Division Hitlerjugend. Witt obtained the rank of Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS. He was killed in action in June 1944.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in 1908 into a family of a merchant, Witt worked in the textile industry until he lost his job in June 1931.[1] Witt joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) (Nr. 816,769) in December 1931 and the Schutzstaffel (SS) (Nr. 21,518).[2] In March 1933, Witt became a member of the SS-Stabswache "Berlin". In October, Witt was promoted to SS-Sturmführer and appointed platoon leader of the 2nd Company.[1] The unit was the nucleus of the later named "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" (LSSAH).[3] In January 1935, Witt, holding the rank of SS-Obersturmführer, was transferred to the 1st Battalion of the SS-Standarte "Deutschland", a unit that later became part of the SS Division Das Reich. Witt was appointed commanded of the 3rd Company and was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer in June 1935.[1]

World War II[edit]

World War II in Europe began on 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland. Witt participated in this campaign as a member of the motorized SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Deutschland", which was subordinated to Panzer Division "Kempf", an ad hoc combined arms unit commanded by General Werner Kempf. Witt's unit was involved in the Battle of the Border which included the Battle of Mława (1–3 September 1939), and in combat in the vicinity Różan, the crossing of the Narew and Bug River, and the Battle of Modlin (13–29 September 1939). This earned him the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz zweiter Klasse) on 17 September 1939. Witt also fought at Zakroczym where men from Panzer Division "Kempf" committed the Massacre in Zakroczym on 28 September 1939.[1][4] On 26 September 1939, Witt was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz erster Klasse), the first member of the Panzer Division "Kempf" to receive this distinction.[5]

Battle of France and Greece[edit]

Following the Invasion of Poland, the SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Deutschland" was one of three regiments of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) and later became the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich". On 19 October 1939, Witt was tasked with leading I. Bataillon (1st Battalion) of the SS-Standarte "Deutschland". In this command position Witt participated in the Battle of the Netherlands and Battle of France. During the Battle of Zeeland, on 16 May 1940, Witt and his unit crossed the canal through Zuid-Beveland near Vlake, continued to Kapelle and captured Goes. The next day, Witt was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer. On 27 May 1940, the SS-Standarte "Deutschland" was tasked with securing the right flank of 3rd Panzer-Division in its advance from Merville to Bailleul in French Flanders. That day, Witt's battalion came under attack from roughly 20 British Expeditionary Force tanks, supported by its infantry. In this engagement, Witt's battalion claimed the destruction of nine tanks.[5]

From 27–31 May, Witt's battalion fought at Hazebrouck, Cassel, Bailleul and Poperinge. Until 5 June 1940, the battalion was given a period of rest to overhaul their equipment and weapons. The German forces launched the second phase of the conquest of France, Fall Rot (Case Red) on 5 June 1940. Following combat at the Avre and at Roye from 7–9 June 1940, the battalion was ordered to Saint-Quentin. The battalion then crossed the Marne and the headed for the Seine which they reached on 14 June 1940. On 14 June, Paris fell. Following the crossing of the Seine, the battalion headed for Dijon. On 16–17 June 1940, Witt's battalion was engaged in combat at the Langres plateau, near Arthonnay, Molesmes and Channes. In this encounter, 30,000 prisoners of war were taken.[5]

On 4 September 1940, Witt was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes) as SS-Sturmbannführer and commander of the I./SS-Standarte "Deutschland". Witt was then transferred back to the LSSAH on 16 October 1940. He was tasked with the leadership of LSSAH's III. Bataillon (3rd Battalion). At the time, the battalion was based in Metz, France and was being augmented to a motorized brigade.[5]

In early 1941, LSSAH relocated from Metz to Romania and in March 1941, it moved to Bulgaria. On 26 March 1941, Witt was given command of I. Bataillon of the LSSAH, at the time located in Câmpulung, Romania. With this unit, Witt participated in the Battle of Greece (6–30 April 1941), the Axis invasion of Allied Greece. On 11–12 April 1941, Witt's battalion participated in the assault on the Klidi Pass, sustaining heavy casualties in the attack. On 14 April 1941, the battalion fought against British forces in the Battle of Kleisoura Pass. There, Witt's brother Franz, also a member of I. Bataillon, was killed in action.[6]

War against the Soviet Union[edit]

In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the LSSAH was moved to Brünn, present-day Brno in the Czech Republic, for replenishment. As part of Gerd von Rundstedt's, Army Group South, the LSSAH objective was to support the capture of the Ukraine and its capital Kiev.[7] LSSAH was involved in the Battle of Uman and the subsequent capture of Kiev. According to a postwar account of a Waffen-SS journalist, after finding the mutilated bodies of six dead divisional members who had been previously captured and executed in Taganrog, the division murdered 4,000 Soviet prisoners in reprisal. For want of reliable evidence, the allegations remained unproven.[8]

Hitlerjugend command[edit]

In January 1944, Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt inspected the Hitlerjugend division at Beverloo Camp.

On 1 July 1943, Witt was promoted to SS-Oberführer and was appointed commander of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, the majority of its enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth. His previous command of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 1 was given to Albert Frey. In the following months, Witt oversaw the formation and training of Hitlerjugend division at Beverloo Camp, Belgium.[9]

In expectation of the Allied invasion, 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend was ordered to relocate to France in March 1944. On 1 April 1944, elements of the division were responsible for the Ascq massacre in Ascq, France. In command of these elements was SS-Obersturmführer Walter Hauck, at the time a company commander in the Hitlerjugend division.[10]

On 20 April 1944, Witt was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS.[11] On 6 June 1944, the Western Allies launched the Invasion of Normandy. During the Normandy Campaign, Kurt Meyer, commander of the Hitlerjugend 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, used the Ardenne Abbey for his regimental headquarters, as the turret allowed for a clear view of the battlefield.[12] On 7 June, members of the Hitlerjugend division under Kurt Meyer illegally executed Canadian soldiers in what became known as the Ardenne Abbey massacre.[13]

On 14 June 1944, Witt was killed in action by a Royal Navy naval artillery barrage which hit the divisional command post at Venoix. He was initially buried at Venoix and later reinterred at ChampignySaint-André-de-l'Eure, France.[14]

Summary of SS career[edit]

Decorations
Dates of rank
9 May 1934: SS-Obersturmführer
1 June 1935: SS-Hauptsturmführer[1]
17 May 1940: SS-Sturmbannführer[5]
27 November 1941: SS-Obersturmbannführer[7]
30 January 1943: SS-Standartenführer[7]
1 July 1943: SS-Oberführer[9]
20 April 1944: SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to Scherzer as commander of the I./SS-Standarte "Deutschland".[19] According to Krätschmer as I./SS-Regiment "Deutschland" of the SS-Verfügungsdivision.[20]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Stockert 2012, p. 389.
  2. ^ Westfälische Forschungen, p. 370.
  3. ^ Cook & Bender 1994, pp. 17, 19.
  4. ^ Datner 1961, pp. 60–61.
  5. ^ a b c d e Stockert 2012, p. 390.
  6. ^ Stockert 2012, p. 391.
  7. ^ a b c Stockert 2012, p. 392.
  8. ^ Stein 1984, p. 133.
  9. ^ a b Stockert 2012, p. 394.
  10. ^ Westemeier 2013, p. 300.
  11. ^ a b Stockert 2012, p. 395.
  12. ^ Margolian 2000, p. 44.
  13. ^ Birn 2006, p. 567.
  14. ^ Stockert 2012, p. 396.
  15. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 450.
  16. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 518.
  17. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 449.
  18. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 362.
  19. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 791.
  20. ^ a b Krätschmer 1999, p. 117.
  21. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 66.
  22. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 33.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Birn, Ruth Bettina (2006). "Spät, aber gründlich. Die Ermittlungen gegen Kriegsverbrecher in Kanada". In Frei, Norbert. Transnationale Vergangenheitspolitik. Der Umgang mit deutschen Kriegsverbrechern in Europa nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Göttingen: Wallstein. ISBN 978-3-89244-940-9. 
  • Cook, Stan; Bender, Roger James (1994). Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler: Uniforms, Organization, & History. San Jose, CA: James Bender Publishing. ISBN 978-0-912138-55-8. 
  • Datner, Szymon (1961). Zbrodnie Wehrmachtu na jeńcach wojennych armii regularnych w II wojnie światowej [Crimes of the Wehrmacht: on regular army POWs in World War II] (in Polish). Warszawa, Poland: Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa obrony narodowej. OCLC 491616631. 
  • 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. 
  • Krätschmer, Ernst-Günther (1999). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Waffen-SS [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Waffen-SS] (in German). Coburg, Germany: Nation Europa Verlag. ISBN 978-3-920677-43-9. 
  • Margolian, Howard (2000) [1998]. Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0802083609. 
  • 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. 
  • Stein, George H. (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War, 1939–1945. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-9275-4. 
  • Stockert, Peter (2012) [1997]. Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2] (in German) (4th ed.). 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. 
  • Stollberg-Rilinger, Barbara, ed. (2003). Westfälische Forschungen, Band 53 [Westphalian Research, Volume 53]. Münster, Germany: Aschendorff. ISBN 978-3-402-09232-3. 
  • Westemeier, Jens (2013). Himmlers Krieger: Joachim Peiper und die Waffen-SS in Krieg und Nachkriegszeit [Himmler's Warriors: Joachim Peiper and the Waffen-SS during the War and Post-War Period]. Paderborn, Germany: Ferdinand Schöningh. ISBN 978-3-506-77241-1. 


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