Heinz Harmel

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Not to be confused with Heinz Hämel.
Heinz Harmel
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J28621, Heinz Harmel.jpg
Heinz Harmel
Born (1906-06-29)29 June 1906
Metz, Alsace-Lorraine, German Empire now Metz, Lorraine, France
Died 2 September 2000(2000-09-02) (aged 94)
Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Allegiance  Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany (to 1945)
Service/branch Reichswehr
Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
Years of service 1926–45
Rank SS-Brigadeführer Collar Rank.svgBrigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Heinz Harmel (29 June 1906 – 2 September 2000) was a German Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.


Heinz Harmel (right) with Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model at Arnhem.

Early life[edit]

Heinz Harmel was born on 29 June 1906, in Metz, the largest fortress of the German Empire. Harmel was the son of a medical officer of the 67th Infantry Regiment in Magdeburg. A military career seemed to offer the best opportunities for him. Volunteering in 1926, Heinz Harmel enlisted in the Reichswehr, in the 15th Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment in Ratzeburg. But the Treaty of Versailles, which limited the size of the Reichswehr, did not allow him to pursue an active military career, so Harmel continued to serve in the Army reserve, where he achieved the rank of Oberfeldwebel.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Harmel retired from the Army and on October 2, 1935, entered to the SS-Verfügungstruppe (Later known as Waffen-SS) as SS-Oberscharführer and was assigned to the 1st Company of the SS-Standarte "Germania" in Hamburg. On 30 January 1937, Harmel was promoted to the SS-Untersturmführer and served as platoon commander in the 7th Company of the SS-Standarte "Deutschland" in Munich. On 30 January 1938, Harmel obtained the rank of SS-Obersturmführer. After the annexation of Austria to the German Reich, on 13 March 1938, Harmel moved with his unit to Klagenfurt, capital of Carinthia. There, Harmel was appointed as commander of the 9th Company of the new SS-Regiment "Der Führer". On 30 January 1939, Harmel was further promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, captain.

World War II[edit]

SS Standartenführer Heinz Harmel, regimental commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich being awarded Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, as 296th soldier of the German Wehrmacht on 12/09/1943.

During the Battle of France, on 1940, Harmel fought with his company in the Netherlands and Flanders, where he received the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class, and the Infantry Assault Badge. Then, Harmel went to the south of France. On 1 January 1941, Harmel became commander of the 2nd Battalion of the SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Der Führer". In April 1941, Harmel took part in the Balkans Campaign. In Belgrade, Harmel was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer, major. In June 1941, the German offensive (Operation Barbarossa) began against the Soviet Union. With 2nd SS Division Das Reich, under the command of the SS-Gruppenführer Paul Hausser, Harmel took part in battles near Yelnya. For this action, Harmel was awarded the German Cross in gold on 29 November 1941.[citation needed]

On 4 December 1941, Harmel took command of SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Deutschland", whose commander, SS-Oberführer Wilhelm Bittrich, replaced SS-Gruppenführer Paul Hausser as divisional commander when he was seriously wounded. Harmel officially became commander of the SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Deutschland" on 18 June 1942. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer, lieutenant colonel, on 20 October 1942. During the winter of 1942-1943, Harmel struggled with his men near Rzhev-Oskol. Harmel participated in the capture of Kharkov on 15 March 1943. Harmel received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 31 March 1943. He also received the Tank Destruction Badge. This badge was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 9 March 1942 to honor individuals who single-handedly destroyed an enemy tank with hand held explosives. On 20 April 1943, Harmel was promoted to the rank of SS-Standartenführer. On 7 September 1943, he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and the Close Combat Clasp in silver.[citation needed]

From March 1944 to April 1944, SS-Standartenführer Harmel followed a training for divisional commanders at Hirschberg. In April 1944, Heinz Harmel took command of the 10th SS Panzer Division "Frundsberg" and on 18 May 1944, Harmel was promoted to the SS-Oberführer. On 9 September 1944, Harmel was promoted to the rank of SS-Brigadeführer. The 10th SS Panzer Division "Frundsberg" authorized strength was 19,513 men, but it was already greatly reduced by the fighting and never reached this count.[citation needed]

During the summer 1944, the division moved from the Eastern Front to the Western Front, in Normandy. Harmel had been ordered to break the enemy's lines, to free the German units, trapped at Falaise Pocket. In August 1944, approximately 125,000 German soldiers of the 7th Army were encircled. The operation ended with heavy losses and serious damage. Harmel was then sent to the Netherlands. He fought against the Allied offensive (Operation Market Garden). After the battles around Nijmegen, Harmel received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 15 December 1944. His division was then transferred to Alsace, where Harmel was ordered to establish a bridgehead to join the Colmar Pocket. After the failure of the December 1944/January 1945 offensive in Alsace, Harmel's division was transferred to the eastern front, initially fighting in Pomerania and Brandenburg to hold the Oder Front. The division was subsequently transferred to Heeresgruppe Mitte where in late April it was ordered to counterattack the forces of Marshal Konev. Obeying such orders would have resulted in the guaranteed destruction of the division – Harmel refused. Called before Generalfeldmarschal Schoerner, he was dismissed from command of the "Frundsberg" division. Harmel ended the war on May 1945, commanding an ad hoc battle group formed around the 24th SS Karstjäger division, the SS Officer's School at Graz, Austria and other smaller units. The battle group's mission was to secure the mountain passes along the Austrian-Slovenian border to provide a secure retreat route for German forces fleeing Yugoslavia. Harmel's command was one of the last to surrender and did so to the British forces in Austria.[citation needed]

Post-World War II[edit]

Harmel was a prisoner of war in the United Kingdom for 2 years. Upon his release, he returned to Germany and worked as a sales representative. Forty years after the Battle of Normandy, Heinz Harmel received a commemorative medal in Bayeux. Harmel was an extremely popular commanding general with the personnel of the "Frundsberg" division and was a very active participant in the postwar division veteran's organization. Harmel took a great interest in the welfare of his soldiers, an interest that continued postwar. His concern was reciprocated by the genuine regard his former soldiers had for him. Learning that one of his former soldiers was in the hospital Harmel visited this soldier and made sure that the man was well taken care of and the family provided for. Heinz Harmel was one of the most decorated officer of the Waffen-SS during World War II. Heinz Harmel died in Krefeld, on September 2, 2000.

In the 1977 war film A Bridge Too Far, German actor Hardy Krüger portrays a character named SS-Brigadeführer Karl Ludwig, a character based on Heinz Harmel and Walter Harzer. Harmel did not want his name to be mentioned in the film.


Wehrmachtbericht reference[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
16 July 1944 In den Kämpfen um Caen haben sich die 9. SS-Panzerdivision "Hohenstaufen" unter Führung von SS-Standartenführer Stadler und die 10. SS-Panzerdivision "Frundsberg" unter Führung von SS-Oberführer Harmel zusammen mit Truppen des Heeres durch besondere Tapferkeit ausgezeichnet.[6] In the battle for Caen, the 9th SS-Panzer-Division "Hohenstaufen" led by SS-Standartenführer Stadler and the 10th SS-Panzer-Division "Frundsberg" led by SS-Oberführer Harmel, together with troops of the Army, have distinguished themselves by showing exceptional bravery.


  1. ^ According to Scherzer as commander of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment "Deutschland".[2]



  1. ^ a b Thomas 1997, p. 247.
  2. ^ a b c d Scherzer 2007, p. 366.
  3. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 214.
  4. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 72.
  5. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 46.
  6. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 164.


  • 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) [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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
Military offices
Preceded by
SS-Gruppenführer Karl Fischer von Treuenfeld
Commander of 10.SS-Panzer-Division Frundsberg
27 April 1944 – 28 April 1945
Succeeded by
SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Roestel