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Hermann Hoth, one day before Barbarossa
12 April 1885|
Neuruppin, Province of Brandenburg, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
|Died||25 January 1971
Goslar, Lower Saxony, West Germany
|Years of service||1903–45|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords|
Hermann "Papa" Hoth (12 April 1885 – 25 January 1971) was an officer in the German military from 1903 to 1945. He attained the rank of Generaloberst during World War II. He fought in France, but is most noted as a panzer commander on the Eastern Front. Hoth commanded the 3rd Panzer Group during Operation Barbarossa in 1941, and the 4th Panzer Army later during the Wehrmacht's 1942 summer offensive. Following the encirclement of the 6th Army in Stalingrad in November 1942, Hoth's panzer army unsuccessfully attempted to relieve it during Operation Wintergewitter. After Stalingrad, Hoth was involved in the Kursk counter-offensive in the summer of 1943 and the Battle of Kiev. The Fourth Panzer Army under his command at Kursk was the largest tank formation ever assembled. Hoth was dismissed from command by Adolf Hitler in 1943, only to be reinstated for a short time during the last weeks of the war. After the war, he served six years in prison for war crimes, and became a writer on military history.
Before the war
Hoth was born in Neuruppin, the son of an army medical officer. He joined the army in 1903 and at the start of World War I was promoted to Captain and he won both classes of Iron Cross. He remained in the Reichswehr (the armed forces of the Weimar Republic) in the interwar period. Following the reorganization of the German military into the Wehrmacht in 1935, he was promoted to Major-General and appointed to command the 18th Infantry Division.
World War II
Hoth was promoted to Lieutenant-General and given command of the XV Motorised Corps from 10 November 1938, leading it in the invasion of Poland the following year. During the invasion of France in May 1940, his panzer corps guarded Guderian's right flank during their dash through the Ardennes, and contained the 5th Panzer Division and Erwin Rommel's 7th Panzer Division. Following the successful conclusion of the campaign Hoth was promoted to Generaloberst on 19 July 1940.
In Operation Barbarossa in 1941, Hoth commanded the Third Panzer Group which captured Minsk and Vitebsk. In October he replaced General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel as commander of the Seventeenth Army in Ukraine. As its commander he called upon his men to understand the need for "harsh punishment of Jewry". His army was driven back by the Russian offensives of early 1942 (see Second Battle of Kharkov).
In June 1942, he took over from General Erich Höpner as commander of Fourth Panzer Army. As part of Operation Blue, the German offensive in southern Russia, the army reached the Don River at Voronezh. Hoth was then ordered to swing south to support the First Panzer Army's crossing of the Don, a move which General Kleist found unhelpful, as the additional panzer army clogged the roads.[Note 1] It then advanced to the north in support of the Sixth Army's attempt to capture Stalingrad.
In November 1942, the Soviet winter counteroffensive smashed through the German lines and trapped the Sixth Army in Stalingrad. Hoth's panzer army was the centerpiece of Operation Winter Storm, the attempt to relieve the Sixth Army, under the overall command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein's Army Group Don. The operation failed, as Soviet reinforcements and worsening weather ground down the German advance. On 25 December, the Soviets resumed their offensive, forcing the Germans back and sealing the fate of the Sixth Army.
In July 1943, Hoth commanded the Fourth Panzer Army in the Battle of Kursk. His divisions, now reinforced by the II SS Panzer Corps, initially penetrated Soviet lines, before being brought to a halt at Prokhorovka. Manstein urged that the attack continue, but the lack of further progress the next day meant that the attacks on Prokharovka were called off.
In the aftermath of Kursk, the Red Army mounted a series of successful offensives that crossed the Dnieper, retook Kiev and pushed the Germans out of eastern Ukraine. Despite his record, Hitler blamed Hoth for part of the losses and relieved him of command.
In April 1945 he was recalled from the officer reserves to active duty and assigned to command the defense of the Harz Mountains, a position he held until the end of the war.
After the war
Following the end of the war, Hoth was put on trial at the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, found guilty of war crimes in the High Command Trial, and on 27 October 1948 sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released in 1954 and spent his retirement writing. He died on 25 January 1971 in Goslar, where he is buried.
- Iron Cross (1914)
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th to 1st Class
- Austrian Military Merit Cross (3. Class)
- Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (16 August 1918)
- Bavarian Military Merit Cross (2. Class)
- Hanseatic Cross of Hamburg
- Eiserner Halbmond
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- Order of Michael the Brave
- 3rd Class (6 November 1942)
- Bulgarian War Merit Order (4. Class)
- Panzer Badge in Silver
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Mentioned five times in the Wehrmachtbericht
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|Thursday, 7 August 1941||Am Verlauf dieser gewaltigen Schlacht waren die Armeen des Generalfeldmarschalls von Kluge und der Generalobersten Strauß und Freiherr von Weichs, die Panzergruppen der Generalobersten Guderian und Hoth sowie die Luftwaffenverbände der Generale der Flieger Loerzer und Freiherr von Richthofen ruhmreich beteiligt.||During the course of this great battle, the armies of Field Marshal von Kluge and the Colonel General Strauß and Freiherr von Weichs, the Panzer groups of Colonel-General Guderian and Hoth, and the Luftwaffe detachments of the generals of the Air Loerzer and Freiherr von Richthofen were involved gloriously.|
|Saturday, 18 October 1941||(Sondermeldung) An der Durchführung dieser Operationen waren die Armeen des Generalfeldmarschalls von Kluge, der Generalobersten Freiherr von Weichs und Strauß sowie Panzerarmeen der Generalobersten Guderian, Hoth, Hoeppner und des Generals der Panzertruppen Reinhardt beteiligt.||(Special Bulletin) In the execution of these operations were involved, the armies of Field Marshal von Kluge, the Colonel-Generals Freiherr von Weichs and Strauss as well as tank armies of Colonel-General Guderian, Hoth, Hoeppner and General of Panzer Troops Reinhardt.|
|Sunday, 19 October 1941||An der Durchführung dieser Operationen waren die Armeen des Generalfeldmarschalls von Kluge, der Generalobersten Freiherr von Weichs und Strauß sowie Panzerarmeen der Generalobersten Guderian, Hoth, Hoeppner und des Generals der Panzertruppen Reinhardt beteiligt.||In the execution of these operations were involved, the armies of Field Marshal von Kluge, the Colonel-Generals Freiherr von Weichs and Strauss as well as tank armies of Colonel-General Guderian, Hoth, Hoeppner and General of Panzer Troops Reinhardt.|
- The 4th Panzer Army was advaincing on that line, on my left. It could have taken Stalingrad without a fight at the end of July, but was diverted south to help me in crossing the Don. I did not need its aid, and it merely congested the roads I was using.
- Hermann Hoth
- The rise of the Wehrmacht: the German armed forces and World War II, Volume 1 Samuel W. Mitcham page 537 Praeger 2008
- Liddell Hart 1948, pp. 204–205.
- Thomas 1997, p. 304.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 406.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 235.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 55.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 41.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 639.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, pp. 701–702.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 702.
- Alman, Karl (2008). Panzer vor — Die dramatische Geschichte der deutschen Panzerwaffe und ihre tapferen Soldaten. Würzburg, Germany: Flechsig Verlag. ISBN 978-3-88189-638-2.
- 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). 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.
- Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham – Huppertz [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color I Abraham – Huppertz] (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-20-1.
- 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.
- Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross, Oak-Leaves and Swords Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-643-0.
- Panzer-Operationen: Die Panzergruppe 3 und der operative Gedanke der deutschen Führung, Sommer 1941 (Heidelberg: Kurt Vowinckel Verlag, 1956)
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
|Commander of Panzergruppe 3
16 November 1940 – 4 October 1941
Generaloberst Georg-Hans Reinhardt
General der Infanterie Karl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
|Commander of 17. Armee
5 October 1941 – 19 April 1942
Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth
Generaloberst Richard Ruoff
|Commander of 4. Panzer-Armee
31 May 1942 – 26 November 1943
Generaloberst Erhard Raus