Heinrich Kreipe

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Heinrich Kreipe
General Heinrich Kreipe.jpg
Born5 June 1895
Niederspier, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, German Empire
Died14 June 1976 (1976-06-15) (aged 81)
Northeim, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Commands held22nd Air Landing Division
Fortress Crete
Battles/warsWorld War I

World War II

AwardsIron Cross First Class
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Karl Heinrich Georg Ferdinand Kreipe (5 June 1895 – 14 June 1976) was a German career soldier who served in both World War I and World War II. While leading German forces in occupied Crete in April 1944, he was abducted by British SOE officers Patrick Leigh Fermor and William Stanley Moss, with the support of the Cretan resistance.[1][2][3]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in 1895, the thirteenth child of a Lutheran pastor from Hanover. He fought in World War I, seeing action at the Battle of Verdun where he won an Iron Cross First Class.[4] After the war, he joined the Freikorps, and then the new Reichswehr in October 1919. By 1939, Kreipe had attained the rank of colonel in the Wehrmacht.[citation needed]

World War II[edit]

As commander of Infantry Regiment 909 of the 58th Infantry Division, Kreipe participated in the Battle of France, the drive towards Leningrad and the fighting in Kuban during Operation Barbarossa. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 13 October 1941. Kreipe remained at the Siege of Leningrad[5] until May 1942, when he was transferred back to Germany, where he took up administrative and teaching positions. In June to October 1943, he was returned to the Eastern Front, where he led the 79th Infantry Division. On 1 March 1944, Kreipe was appointed Commander of the 22nd Air Landing Infantry Division, operating on Crete, replacing General Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, who had been made the German commander of Crete in Chania.[citation needed]

Abduction by Greek and British agents[edit]

In the spring of 1944, the Allies hatched a plan to kidnap General Müller, whose harsh repressive measures had earned him the nickname "the Butcher of Crete". Major Patrick Leigh Fermor led the planned operation, assisted by Captain Bill Stanley Moss, Greek SOE agents and Cretan resistance fighters. However General Müller left the island before the plan could be executed. Major Leigh Fermor decided to abduct Kreipe instead.[6]


On the night of 26 April 1944 General Kreipe left headquarters in Archanes. The car headed without escort to a well-guarded residence, "Villa Ariadni", about 5 km outside Heraklion. Major Leigh Fermor and Captain Moss, dressed as German military policemen, waited for him 1 km before his residence. When he arrived, they asked the driver to stop and asked for their papers. As soon as the car stopped, Leigh Fermor opened Kreipe's door, jumped in, and threatened him with his pistol, while Moss took the driver's seat. (The abduction is now commemorated near Archanes.)[7][8] Moss drove the kidnappers and the General for an hour and a half through 22 controlled road-blocks in Heraklion before he left Leigh Fermor to drive on and abandon the car, with material being planted that suggested their escape from the island had been made by submarine. Moss set off with the general on a cross-country march, supported by the Greek resistance, soon rejoined by Leigh Fermor. Hunted by German patrols, the kidnappers crossed the mountains to reach the southern side of the island, where a British Motor Launch (ML 842 commanded by Brian Coleman) was waiting to rendezvous. Eventually, on 14 May 1944, they were picked up from Peristeres beach near Rhodakino and ferried to Egypt.[2]

Plaque at Peristere Beach near the village of Rodakino, Crete, commemorating the extraction of Heinrich Kreipe in 1944.

Kreipe was interrogated and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Canada. He was later transferred to a special camp in Wales.[9]

Later life[edit]

Kreipe was finally released from British captivity in 1947. He met his kidnappers one more time in 1972 on a Greek television programme.[10]

He died at Northeim on 14 June 1976.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1950 W. Stanley Moss, one of the leaders of the operation, wrote a bestselling account of the abduction: Ill Met by Moonlight. In the 1957 film Ill Met by Moonlight, based on the book, Kreipe is portrayed by Marius Goring.[11]

This operation was also parodied by the BBC radio program The Goon Show with the episode "Ill Met by Goonlight".


  1. ^ Moss, W. Stanley (July 13, 2018). Ill Met By Moonlight. ISBN 978-1780226231 – via www.orionbooks.co.uk.
  2. ^ a b Leigh Fermor, Patrick (2014). Abducting a General: The Kreipe Operation and SOE in Crete. London: John Murray. ISBN 978-1-4447-9658-2.
  3. ^ Stroud, Rick (2015). Kidnap in Crete: The True Story of the Abduction of a Nazi General. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 978-1632861931.
  4. ^ Leigh Fermor 2014, p. 39.
  5. ^ Leigh Fermor 2014, pp. 6–9.
  6. ^ Hastings, Max (May 10, 2016). The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062259295 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Panoramio - Photo of ΣΤΗ ΜΝΗΜΗ ΤΗΣ ΟΜΑΔΑΣ ΑΠΑΓΩΓΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΔΙΟΙΚΗΤΗ ΤΩΝ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΩΝ ΔΥΜΑΜΕΩΝ ΚΑΤΟΧΗΣ (ΣΤΡΑΤΗΓΟΥ ΚΡΑΙΠΕ)". 19 May 2013. Archived from the original on 19 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Photo". Archived from the original on 2019-03-09. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  9. ^ Brett Exton, Generalmajor Karl Heinrich Georg Ferdinand Kreipe, Some of the Prisoners Held at Special Camp 11, A link from the website ISLAND FARM PRISONER OF WAR CAMP: 198 / Special Camp: XI, Bridgend, South Wales Archived 2007-08-19 at the Wayback Machine, 2004.
  10. ^ Nikos Mastorakis, "The abduction of general Kreipe" Video on YouTube
  11. ^ "Night Ambush" – via www.imdb.com.
Military offices
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller
Commander of 22. Infanterie-Division (Luftlande)
15 February 1944 – 26 April 1944
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Helmut Friebe