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Heinz"The Lion of Yelnya"
12 August 1895|
|Died||19 November 1977
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1914–45|
|Commands held||Infantry Regiment 63
Infantry Regiment 499
268th Infantry Division
362nd Infantry Division
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Heinrich "Heinz" Greiner[a] (12 August 1895 – 19 November 1977) was a highly decorated German officer in the Imperial German Army during World War I and the Wehrmacht during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Iron Cross and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.
Early Life and World War I
Greiner was born 12 August 1895 in Amberg, Bavaria. Upon graduating from Amberg Gymnasium, Greiner joined the Bavarian Army as an Officer Cadet and was assigned to the 13th Infantry Regiment in March 1914. Less than five months later Greiner's unit was mobilized and the young officer saw action with the German Army on the Western Front. Eventually taking command of a Machine Gun Company he saw fierce combat in Belgium and was wounded outside Flanders leading to a brief period of convalescence before returning to his unit for the remainder of the War.
With the conclusion of the First World War Greiner returned to Bavaria as commander of the 19th Infantry Regiment. He later became a respected instructor and tactical theorist at the Military Academy of Munich, saw assignments to both Augsburg and Landshut and served as an adviser in the suppression of the Bavarian Spartacist uprising.
World War II
At the opening of the Second World War, Heinrich Greiner had reached the rank of Oberst and was Commander of the 268th Infantry Regiment. His unit, leaning heavily upon its engineer elements, was one of the first German Army units to see action in Poland. He went on to a short staff position during the Battle of France and returned to the Eastern Front just prior to Operation Barbarossa and led the 499th Regiment. Greiner and the 499th were responsible for preventing a complete Soviet encirclement in the Yelnya Offensive, during which Greiner, for his stiff, hold-out defense of Wehrmacht forces evacuating the salient, earned the nickname the "Lion of Yelnya" from his soldiers. His leadership qualities were swiftly recognized and he was subsequently awarded command of the 268th Infantry Division. That command was to last until 1944 when the Division, along with much of Army Group Centre was nearly obliterated by the Soviet Army as the tide of the war began to turn. Greiner was then transferred to Italy where he took command of the 362nd Infantry Division in the defense of the peninsula against invading Allied forces. He led a series of decisive counterattacks on Allied forces outside of Rome that slowed enemy progress up the peninsula and earned Greiner his final promotion to Generalleutnant in addition to a lengthy stay in a Bavarian Hospital due to wounds sustained in combat.
Greiner was released from medical care in early April 1945 and finding the war all but lost began preparations for an orderly surrender of German forces throughout Italy and Southern Germany. In his final action as a Wehrmacht General, Greiner deposed Nazi officials who stubbornly attempted a final defense of Munich. Following his capitulation Greiner was held as an Allied Prisoner of War until his release and subsequent retirement in 1947.
Greiner died 19 November 1977.
Awards and decorations
- Iron Cross (1914)
- Wound Badge (1914)
- in Black
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- Eastern Front Medal
- Clasp to the Iron Cross
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award First Class
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht (2 June 1944)
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|2 June 1944||In diesem Frontabschnitt haben sich die 65. Infanteriedivison unter Generalleutnant Pfeiffer, die durch Teile der 4. Fallschirmjägerdivision verstärkte 3. Panzergrenadierdivision unter Generalmajor Hecker und eine aus Einheiten des Heeres und der Fallschirmtruppe zusammengestellte Kampfgruppe unter Generalleutnant Greiner, hervorragend unterstützt durch Artillerie und durch Flakartillerie der Luftwaffe, besonders ausgezeichnet. ||In this section of the front have the 65th Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Pfeiffer, augmented by parts of the 4th Airborne Division which reinforced the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division under Major General Hecker and units from the Army and the parachute troops assembled combat group under Lieutenant General Greiner, well supported by artillery and anti-aircraft artillery of the Luftwaffe, particularly distinguished themselves.|
- a Lexikon der Wehrmacht and World War 2 Awards .com list his first name as Heinrich instead of Heinz
- Race to the Sea
- Bavarian Army
- German Army (German Empire)
- Operation Barbarossa
- German–Soviet military parade in Brest-Litovsk
- Italian Campaign (World War II)
- Winter Line
- Gustav Line
- Operation Shingle
- Gothic Line
- Thomas 1997, p. 220.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 168.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 74.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 116.
- 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.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
- World War 2 Awards.com
- Lexikon der Wehrmacht
- Ritterkreuztraeger 1939-1945
- Heinz Greiner @ Axis Biographical Research at the Wayback Machine (archived October 28, 2009)
Generalleutnant Erich Straube
|Commander of 268th Infantry Division
6 January 1942 – November 1943
|Commander of 362nd Infantry Division
November 1943 – 1 January 1945
Generalmajor Max Reinwald