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6 April 1882|
Bad Elmen bei Groß-Salze, now a part of Schönebeck, Saxony-Anhalt
|Died||14 December 1973
Lüdenscheid, North Rhine-Westphalia
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1900–45|
|Commands held||169. Infantry Division
Special Office Libya
Staff Tropics in OKH
Special-Staff C in OKH
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross, Pour le Mérite|
Heinrich Kirchheim (6 April 1882 – 14 December 1973) was a German generalleutnant who served in both World War I and World War II. He is also one of few German officers who were awarded the Pour le Mérite and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He also served as a deputy member on the "Court of Military Honour," a drumhead court-martial that expelled many of the officers involved in the July 20 Plot from the Army before handing them over to the People's Court.
Summary of his military career
1 May 1899: Entered the Army as a Fahnenjunker in the Infanterie-Regiment Prinz Friedrich der Niederlande (2. Westfälisches) Nr.15.
1 October 1904: Transferred to the Protection Troops in German Southwest Africa. [In January 1904, the native Herero tribe of Southwest Africa rebelled against German colonial rule over the expropriation of their land and cattle. Later in the year, the Nama/Hottentot tribe also took up arms against their colonial rulers. Generalleutnant Lothar von Trotha, the Military Commander of German Southwest Africa, suppressed the rebellion with extreme brutality. Relying on a policy of ethnic cleansing backed by forced labor, deportations, wholesale execution of prisoners and the use of concentration camps, the Germans crushed the rebellion by early 1907. In 1915, South Africa took over the German colony as a League of Nations’ mandate called South West Africa. Renamed Namibia in 1968, the country only achieved its independence from South Africa in 1990.] 10 March 1914: Transferred to the Magdeburgisches Jäger-Bataillon Nr.4.
1 August 1914: Company Leader in Jäger Battalion 4. 24 August 1914: Wounded/hospitalized. 15 August 1916: Commander of the Hannoversches Jäger-Bataillon Nr.10.
27 January 1919: Commander of the Volunteer Hannoverian Jäger Battalion “Kirchheim.” 2 August 1919: Detached to the Prussian War Ministry and then to the Reich Defense Ministry. 1 January 1921: Company Chief in the 17th Infantry Regiment upon the formation of the new Reichsheer from the Übergangsheer or Transitional Army. 1 May 1923: On the staff of the 1st Cavalry Division, Frankfurt/Oder. 15 May 1926: Commander of the I. Battalion of an infantry regiment – possibly the 7th (Prussian) Infantry Regiment. 1 February 1930: Commandant of Glatz. 31 March 1932: Retired from the Army. 1 October 1934: Reactivated in the Army and appointed Commander of the Training Battalion of Infantry Regiment “Arnsberg.” 15 November 1934: Delegated with the post of head of the Köln Military Area Command. 7 March 1936: Commander of the Köln Military Area Command. 1 June 1938: Commander of the Wien I Military Area Command. 1 October 1939: Commander of Infantry Regiment 276 of the 94th Infantry Division. 1 December 1939 – 31 January 1941: Commander of the 169th Infantry Division. [Initially held in reserve, Kirchheim’s division took part in the second phase of the invasion of France in June 1940 under General der Infanterie Ernst Busch’s 16th Army. Following the Franco-German armistice, the 169th Infantry Division remained in Lorraine under the 1st Army on occupation duties for the remainder of the year.]
1 March 1941: As leader of Special Staff Libya, he was delegated with the leadership of elements of the Italian 27th Brescia Infantry Division. Arriving in Libya on 24 February 1941, Kirchheim and his special staff consisted of officers with military experience in Africa prior to and during World War I. Kirchheim was charged with studying the varied conditions in North Africa, however Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel, recently arrived and the commanding general of the newly formed German Afrika Korps chose to use Kirchheim's staff to reinforce his understrength field formations. During Rommel’s first offensive in Cyrenaica (31 March 1941 – 12 April 1941), Generalmajor Kirchheim led the northern group that pushed up the Via Balbia coast road from Agedabia. Upon reaching Benghazi on 4 April 1941, Kirchheim’s force split into two columns. The northernmost column, a reinforced regimental sized detachment of one infantry and one artillery battalion of the Italian 27th Brescia Infantry Division and one infantry battalion of the Italian 25th Bologna Infantry Division, commanded by Kirchheim, continued advancing up the Via Balbia to clear Australian rearguards. The German Reconnaissance Battalion 3, commanded by Oberstleutnant Irnfried Freiherr von Wechmar, hooked east and crossed the desert south of the Jebel el Akdar hills to Mechili. Securing northern Cyrenaica, Kirchheim’s Brescia column linked up with the German Machinegun Battalion 8, commanded by Oberstleutnant Gustav Ponath, at Derna on 8 April 1941. Following his advance up the Via Balbia, Generalmajor Kirchheim next saw action during Rommel’s attempt to seize the critical coastal fortress of Tobruk. On 16 May 1941, Rommel placed Kirchheim in command of a battle group formed from the bulk of Generalmajor Johannes Streich’s 5th Light Division for an assault against the Ras el Madauer high ground on the Tobruk defensive perimeter. Though the group did seize the high ground, the attempt to capture Tobruk failed after suffering the loss of almost 1,400 German and Italian dead, wounded and missing. Rommel was dissatisfied with Kirchheim, and replaced him with Johann von Ravenstein on 30 May.
15 June 1941: Leader of Special Staff Tropics in the Army High Command.
15 March 1943: Leader of Special Staff C under the Chief of Army Armaments and Commander of the Replacement Army/Army High Command.
2 August 1944: At the same time, appointed a member of the Army Court of Honor. [Established by Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel under Hitler’s orders, the court investigated all army officers suspected of involvement in the conspiracy that culminated with the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler. The court members consisted of Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, General der Infanterie Walter Schroth and Generalleutnant Karl-Wilhelm Specht. Additionally, General der Infanterie Karl Kriebel and Generalleutnant Kirchheim were designated standing representatives for members who could not attend a court sitting. Generalmajor Ernst Maisel, Chief of the Office Group for Officers’ Education and Welfare (P 2) of the Army Personnel Office, served as the court protocol officer. Based on evidence provided by the Gestapo (suspects did not appear in person to defend themselves), the court decided whether a suspect was “expelled” or “discharged” from the Army. The former verdict would result in a suspect’s release from military jurisdiction to face trial before the infamous People’s Court and subsequent execution. In a special meeting on 4 October 1944, the court heard the evidence implicating Generalleutnant Dr. phil. Hans Speidel in the conspiracy. The court refused to expel Speidel from the Army opting instead for his discharge. Although he spent the rest of the war in prison, the verdict insured Speidel did not appear before the People’s Court.
15 October 1944 – 31 March 1945: Berlin Military Recruitment Inspector. 1 April 1945: Army High Command Leader Reserve. 12 April 1945 – 6 October 1947: Prisoner of war. 4 May 1945 transferred to Trent Park Camp 11 sorting camp. 24 January 1946 to Island Farm Special Camp 11 from Camp 1 11 January 1947 transferred to Camp 99 from Island Farm Special Camp 11 21 March 1947 to Island Farm Special Camp 11 from Camp 99 1 April 1947 transferred to LDC (London District Cage) from Island Farm Special Camp 11 30 September 1947 transferred to US custody for discharge.
Dates of rank
- Fähnrich : January 27, 1900
- Leutnant : October 18, 1900
- Oberleutnant : February 10, 1910
- Hauptmann : September 15, 1914
- Major : April 1, 1923
- Oberstleutnant : November 1, 1928
- Oberst : April 11, 1931
- Charakter als Generalmajor : August 27, 1939
- Generalmajor: July 1, 1940
- Generalleutnant : July 1, 1942
- Pour le Mérite (1918)
- Prussian Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight's Cross (?)
- Austrian Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd Class with War Decoration (?)
- Austrian Military Merit Cross 3rd Class with War Decoration (?)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 14 May 1941 as Generalmajor and head of the special branch Libya of the OKH and leader of Italian division "Brescia"
- 1914 Iron Cross Second (?) and First (?) Classes
- Clasp to the Iron Cross Second (1939) and First (1939) Classes
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 (?)
- Ärmelband Afrika (?)
- 1918 Wound Badge in Black (?)
- Prussian Order of the Crown, 4th Class with Swords
- Bavarian Military Merit Order, 4. Class with Swords
- Southwest Africa Memorial Medal in Bronze
- Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). Rommel's Desert Commanders; The Men Who Served the Desert Fox, North Africa, 1941–42, page 175. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-3510-9.
- Mitcham, Samuel W. (2008). The Rise of the Wehrmacht, page 436 ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0275996417, 9780275996413.
- Rommel's Desert Commanders, page 28
- Scherzer 2007, p. 442.
- Bradley, Dermot (2002). Die Generale des Heeres 1921-1945 - Band 6; HO-KL (HOCHBAUM-KLUTMANN). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag.
- 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.
- 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.
Generalleutnant Philipp Müller-Gebhard
|Commander of 169. Infanterie-Division
1 December 1939 – 1 February 1941
Generalleutnant Kurt Dittmar