24 January 1889|
Schleswig, German Empire
|Died||4 July 1968
Kappeln, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Service/branch|| Kaiserliche Marine 1905–19
|Years of service||1905–45|
|Rank||General der Fallschirmtruppe|
|Unit||1st Parachute Division|
|Commands held||Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Ramcke, 2nd Fallschirmjäger Division|
|Awards||Golden Military Merit Cross
Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Swords, Oak Leaves, and Diamonds
Hermann-Bernhard "Gerhard" Ramcke (24 January 1889 – 4 July 1968) was a German general of paratroop forces during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Swords, Oak Leaves, and Diamonds, one of only 27 people in the Nazi German military so decorated. Ramcke was convicted of war crimes in a French court after the war, but was released after 3 months.
World War I
Born in 1889, Ramcke joined the German Imperial Navy in 1905 and served during the First World War. Ramcke fought in the West with the German Marine-Infanterie, mainly in the area of Flanders. In 1916 he was decorated with the Iron Cross second class and later the Iron Cross first class. After a defensive action against three British attacks he was decorated with the Prussian Golden Merit Cross, the highest decoration for non-commissioned officers in the German Imperial Forces. He rose to the rank of Oberleutnant by the end of the war.
In 1919 Ramcke fought against the Bolshevik forces in the Baltic region as a member of the "Russian Army of the West", composed mostly of German veterans. Ramcke stayed in the Reichswehr during the Weimar Republic period. He continued to serve in the new Wehrmacht during the Third Reich, attaining the rank of Oberstleutnant in 1937.
World War II
On 19 July 1940, Ramcke was transferred to the 7th Fliegerdivision under the command of General Kurt Student and was promoted to Oberst. At the age of 51 he successfully completed the parachute qualification course. In May 1941 working with the division Stab he helped plan and also took part in Operation Merkur, the airborne attack on Crete. Ramcke led the Fallschirmjäger-Sturm-Regiment 1, and also led Kampfgruppe West.
In 1942, Ramcke's unit, later known as Ramcke Parachute Brigade, was sent to North Africa to join Rommel's Afrikakorps. The brigade supported the offensive towards the Suez Canal, but when the offensive got bogged down they entered the line at El Alamein. During the withdrawal of the Afrikakorps, the Brigade was surrounded and written off as lost by the high command since it had no organic transport. Rather than surrender, Ramcke led his troops out of the British trap and headed west, losing about 450 men in the process. They soon captured a British supply column which provided not only trucks but food, tobacco and other luxuries. About 600 of the paras later rejoined the Afrikakorps in late November 1942. Ramcke was sent back to Germany, where he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross personally by Adolf Hitler.
In 1943 Ramcke, now a generalleutnant, took command of 2nd Parachute Division and transferred to Italy. When Italy signed the armistice with the Allies on 8 September 1943, the division took part in Operation Achse to take control of the country. Ramcke led his division in an assault on Rome, and secured the city two days later.
Following the Allied D-Day landings on 6 June, 2nd Fallschirmjäger-Division was sent to the Brittany region of France, and took up defensive positions at Brest. Following Operation Cobra, the allied breakout from Normandy, Major-General Troy H. Middleton's U.S. VIII Corps hooked left from Normandy and attacked the Brittany region. The German forces in the region fell back on Brest, and Ramcke assumed command of the garrison, now known as Festung Brest. Commanding about 35,000 German troops during the Battle for Brest, Ramcke followed orders to hold out as long as possible, finally surrendering on 19 September 1944. On the same day he was awarded the Swords (99th Recipient) & Diamonds (20th recipient) to the Knights Cross. Ramcke's career was unusual in that he served in all three branches of the German armed forces.
Ramcke was moved to the United States as a prisoner of war and later to England and France. While a POW at Camp Clinton, Mississippi, he wrote a letter to Byron Price. Arguing in the letter that the treatment of Germany following World War I had led to National Socialism and World War II, he protested the Morgenthau Plan as another attempt to enforce harsh treatment upon Germany. Citing General Middleton's remarks as verification, Ramcke detailed his efforts to protect American POWs and otherwise uphold the laws of war and stated he was "convinced that all other German commanders have acted in the same way".
In 1951 Ramcke was charged with war crimes in France, relating to the destruction of Brest and murders of civilians, but managed to escape from captivity to Germany. He returned voluntarily and was sentenced to five years imprisonment by a French court in March 1951, but was released on 24 June 1951. Testifying in his defense was American General Troy Middleton, to whose forces Ramcke had surrendered in the autumn of 1944.
After the war, Ramcke and Middleton maintained a correspondence for about fifteen years.
Following his release from nearly 7 years captivity, Ramcke, through his public actions, became seen as a dedicated nationalist[Note 1] by his fellow generals and supported extreme right-wing movements such as the Naumann-Kreis in Germany. In November 1952, he told a group of former SS-men attending a HIAG meeting they should be proud of being blacklisted, while pointing out that in the future their blacklist would instead be seen as a "list of honor". Ramcke's remarks caused a furor in Germany; even the former SS General Felix Steiner distanced himself from them. Konrad Adenauer was so furious with Ramcke's remarks that he directed Thomas Dehler, the German federal Minister of Justice, to investigate the possibility of prosecuting Ramcke. Adenauer publicly decried Ramcke's remarks as "irresponsible" and his associated behavior as "foolishness"—a reaction probably prompted because Adenauer's government had made a significant effort to obtain early release for Ramcke from French imprisonment.
Ramcke's intent, as stated by himself and his supporters, in his actions following the war was to again seek to protect his men, both in their reputations and their future, such as in cautioning against their being used as "cannon fodder" in the speech to ex-paratroopers during the rearmament debate. This was consistent with his behavior throughout his career during which his superiors found him to be a demanding subordinate in his advocacy for the needs of his men. Ramcke published two autobiographies, one during the war and the other in 1951. He died in 1968.
- Prussian Iron Cross of 1914
- Prussian Golden Military Merit Cross on 24 April 1918
- Clasp to the Iron Cross of 1939
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht four times (9 June 1941, 9 November 1942, 10 September 1944 and 21 September 1944)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
- Knight's Cross on 21 August 1941 as Oberst and commander of the Fallschirmjäger-Sturm-Regiment
- 145th Oak Leaves on 13 November 1942 as Generalmajor and commander of Fallschirmjäger-Brigade "Ramcke"
- 99th Swords on 19 September 1944 as General der Fallschirmtruppe and commander of fortress Brest
- 20th Diamonds on 19 September 1944 as General der Fallschirmtruppe and commander of fortress Brest
- Italian Silver Medal for Bravery in 1942
- Vom Ritterkreuzträger zum Angeklagten. Nation-Europa-Verlag, Coburg 2001. ISBN 3-920677-57-9.
- Fallschirmjäger. Schütz, Preußisch Oldendorf 1973.
- Fallschirmjäger, damals und danach. Lorch, Frankfurt am Main 1951.
- Vom Schiffsjungen zum Fallschirmjäger-General. Verlag Die Wehrmacht, Berlin 1943.
- Included in one Orders of the Day for Ramcke's command in September 1944 was The US Army was the "instrument of the international Jewish clique which is based in Wall Street, New York, and from there wants to subjugate the entire world in co-operation with Russian Bolshevism... The people of the United States of America are no single, united race. They are made up of all the world's races, the good and the inferior. Among the inferior, the blacks and mixed races stand out" -- comments which reflect the peculiarly racist outlook of the Third Reich.. Mitcham points out that Ramcke's second in command,Hans Kroh, who assumed command of Ramcke's 2ndFJD at Brest, is believed to have had strong Nazi party connections and reasonably may have functioned in the political officer role in preparing orders
- Williamson 2006, p. 49.
- Quarrie 2005, p. 13.
- Mitcham 2009, pp. 182–184.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-peer, Elite of the Third Reich, Helion & Co, West Midlands, UK, 2004, P.34
- Williamson and McGregor 2006, p. 48.
- Gen.H.B. Ramcke, Letter of 25 December 1945 to Byron Price
- Brooks, Lars Hellwinkell ; translated by Geoffrey (2014). Hitler's gateway to the Atlantic : German naval bases in France 1940-1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. p. 158. ISBN 1848321996.
- Price, p. 201
- Rabble-Rousing General Is Worrying the Allies, Ottawa Citizen 1952 article
- Hitler's Guard Cheers Ex-chief, Sarasota Herald-Tribune 1952 article
- Frei, p. 383.
- Google books reproduction of Frei, p. 383
- Searle 2003, p. 164.
- Thomas 1998, p. 182.
- Thomas & Wegmann 1986, p. 217.
- German Federal Archive, photo library, H.B. Ramcke
- Scherzer 2007, p. 612.
- 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.
- Frei, Norbert (2002). Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi past: the politics of amnesty and integration. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11882-1.
- Mitcham, Samuel W. (2009). Defenders of Fortress Europe: The Untold Story of the German Officers During the Allied Invasion. Washington DC: Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1-59797-274-1.
- Price, Frank J. (1974). Troy H. Middleton: A Biography. Clinton: The Colonial Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8071-2467-2.
- Quarrie, Bruce (2005). German Airborne Divisions: Mediterranean Theater 1942-45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-828-1.
- Schaulen, Fritjof (2005). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe III Radusch – Zwernemann [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color III Radusch – Zwernemann] (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-22-5.
- 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. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0-275-97968-3.
- Thomas, Franz; Wegmann, Günter (1986). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil II: Fallschirmjäger [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the German Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Part II: Paratroopers] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-1461-8.
- 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.
- Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-644-7.
- Williamson, Gordon; McGregor, Malcolm (2006). German commanders of World War II. 2, Waffen-SS, Luftwaffe & Navy. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-828-1.
|Commander of Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Ramcke
1 April 1942 – 30 November 1942
Oberst Hans Kroh
|Commander of 2. Fallschirmjäger-Division
2 February 1943 – 13 September 1943
Generalmajor Walter Barenthin
Generalleutnant Hans Kroh
|Commander of 2. Fallschirmjäger-Division
1 June 1944 – 11 August 1944
Generalleutnant Hans Kroh