Gerhard von Schwerin

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Gerhard Graf von Schwerin
Gerhard Graf von Schwerin
Born (1899-06-23)23 June 1899
Died 29 October 1980(1980-10-29) (aged 81)
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
 West Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1914–20, 1923–45, 1950
Rank General der Panzertruppen

World War I

World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Other work Politician

Gerhard ("Gerd") Helmuth Detloff Graf von Schwerin (23 June 1899 – 29 October 1980) was a German army General in World War II. As General der Panzertruppe, he was tasked with defending the city of Aachen while in command of the 116th Panzer Division "Windhund" (the "Greyhound Division").[1]

Second World War[edit]

In July 1939, just weeks before the outbreak of the war, Schwerin, then a Major serving in the intelligence section of the German War Ministry, made a secret approach in London to the British, suggesting that if the British Government abandoned its policy of appeasement towards the Third Reich and moved to a stance of open military opposition towards escalating aggression in Europe, this would provide a rallying point and catalyst for elements in the Wehrmacht that were willing to stage a coup d'etat against the Nazi government.[2] At a dinner party in Marylebone hosted by Admiral Sir Aubrey Smith, Schwerin met James Stuart, representing the British government, Admiral John Godfrey, head of naval intelligence, and General Sir James Marshall-Cornwall, director general of air and coastal defence, to warn them of Hitler's intention to attack Poland. Schwerin urged that Chamberlain should be replaced as prime minister by Churchill, that a squadron of Royal Navy battleships should be sent to the Baltic, and that Royal Air Force bombers should be stationed in France. These suggestions were passed to Chamberlain, who considered them "provocative".[3][4] Frank Roberts, the Foreign Office official in the German Department who dealt with the issue, dismissed the approach as purely an internal German matter[2] and commented that the German Army seemed to want the British to save them from the Nazis.[3]

North-West Europe Campaign[edit]

As the 3rd US Armored Division reached Aachen on 13 September 1944, the once-formidable 116th Panzer-Division, commanded by Schwerin, had been reduced to 600 men, twelve tanks and no artillery pieces. In an attempt to prevent civilian casualties and to protect the city's historical architecture and relics (it was the ancient centre of Charlemagne's empire, or the Holy Roman Empire), he left a letter at the telegraph office to be given to the American commander, General Courtney Hodges, informing him of his intention to surrender the city without an armed struggle. Later, when he learned that the Americans had stopped to regroup and that an attack was not imminent, he tried to retrieve the message, but it had fallen into the hands of Nazi party officials. Upon learning of the note's contents, Adolf Hitler ordered Schwerin's arrest and trial for treason. With the aid of General Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Walter Model however he escaped death and received only a severe reprimand. He was then ordered to the Italian front and even promoted to General der Panzertruppe, commanding General of the LXXVI. Panzerkorps. On April 26, 1945 he was captured by the British Army, and subsequently released at the end of 1947. Although the town was heavily damaged by fighting after the note incident and his arrest and removal, after the war Schwerin styled himself "the Savior of Aachen".

Post war career[edit]

In May 1950, Schwerin was appointed as chief advisor on military issues and security policy to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and head of the covert government agency Dienststelle Schwerin (with the code name "Zentrale für Heimatdienst"), responsible for preparations for German rearmament. However, after he talked to the press about his work, he was replaced by Theodor Blank in October 1950. Schwerin subsequently was active as an advisor on military policy for the parliamentary group of the liberal Free Democratic Party of Germany.


Wehrmachtbericht reference[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
27 October 1943 Die rheinisch-westfälische 16. Panzergrenadierdivision unter Führung des Generalleutnants Graf v. Schwerin verdient für ihre vorbildliche Einsatzfreudigkeit während der großen Absetzbewegungen ostwärts des Dnjepr und bei den Kämpfen im Brückenkopf von Saporoshje besondere Anerkennung.[10] The Rhenish-Westphalian 16th Mechanized Infantry Division, led by Lieutenant General Graf von Schwerin earned for their exemplary dedication and enthusiasm during the large withdrawal battles east of the Dnieper and in combat in the bridgehead of Zaporozhye special recognition.


Regarding personal names: Graf was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Count. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The feminine form is Gräfin.



  1. ^ "The Wehrmacht" Episode 5 documentary by Guido Knopp
  2. ^ a b 'Tourists of the Revolution', tv documentary, First Circle Films, England (1997)
  3. ^ a b Peter Day, The Bedbug: Klop Ustinov: Britain's most ingenious spy (2015), pp. 92-93
  4. ^ James Marshall-Cornwall, Wars and Rumours of Wars (1984), p. 125
  5. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 310.
  6. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 697.
  7. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 396.
  8. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 69, 478.
  9. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 41.
  10. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, pp. 590–591.


  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
  • 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. 
  • Quadflieg, Peter M. (2014). Gerhard Graf von Schwerin (1899-1980). Karrierepfade eines Generals zwischen Kaiserreich und Bundesrepublik, Dissertation RWTH Aachen University (in German, 640 p.).
  • Rass, Christoph; Rohrkamp, René; Quadflieg, Peter M. (2007). General Graf von Schwerin und das Kriegsende in Aachen. Ereignis, Mythos, Analyse (in German). Aachen: Shaker. ISBN 978-3-8322-6623-3.
  • 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. 
  • Searle, Alaric (2003). Wehrmacht Generals, West German Society, and the Debate on Rearmament, 1949-1959, Praeger Pub.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalmajor Gerhard Müller
Commander of 116th Panzer Division
1 May 1944 – 31 August 1944
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Heinrich Voigtsberger
Preceded by
Generalleutnat Ernst-Günther Baade
Commander of 90th Grenadier Division (motorised)
December 1944 – ?
Succeeded by
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppen Traugott Herr
Commander of LXXVI. Panzerkorps
26 December 1944 – 25 April 1945
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Karl von Graffen