SS-Brigadeführer Hermann Priess
24 May 1901|
Marnitz, German Empire
|Died||2 February 1985
Ahrensburg, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1919–31, 1934–45|
|Rank||Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS|
|Service number||NSDAP #1,472,296
|Commands held||SS Division Totenkopf
I SS Panzer Corps
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords|
|Criminal charge||Murder of over 300 Allied POWs and 100 Belgian civilians between December 16, 1944 and January 13, 1945|
|Criminal penalty||20 years imprisonment|
|Criminal status||Released in 1954|
|Conviction(s)||War crimes committed as commander of I SS Panzer Corps|
Hermann Priess (24 May 1901 – 2 February 1985) was a German general in the Waffen-SS and a war criminal during World War II. He commanded the SS Division Totenkopf ("Death's Head") following the death of Theodor Eicke in February 1943. On 30 October 1944 he was appointed commander of the I SS Panzer Corps and led it during the Battle of the Bulge.
Born in 1901, Priess volunteered for military service in the army of the German Empire in January 1919, which was transformed to the Reichsheer in the Weimar Republic. Due to the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, his regiment was disbanded. He then joined the paramilitary group Freikorps and fought against the Estonian War of Independence. In 1920, he returned to the army and was discharged in June 1931.
On 24 October 1944, Priess succeeded Georg Keppler as commander of I SS Panzer Corps. He led this formation, as part of the 6th Panzer Army, in the failed Ardennenoffensive, which was dubbed the Battle of Bulge. The objective of the offensive was to split the British and American line in half, so the Germans could then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty with the Axis Powers. Subordinated to I SS Panzer Corps was Kampfgruppe "Peiper", led by Joachim Peiper. Peiper's command was responsible for the Malmedy massacre, a war crime in which 84 American prisoners of war were murdered by their German captors near Malmedy, Belgium.
After the Ardennes offensive, the 6th SS Panzer Army was transferred to Hungary, where it fought against the advancing Soviet Army. The I SS Panzer Corps arrived in Hungary in early February 1945. There, Priess committed his forces into action against the Gran Bridgehead, a strong position formed by the Soviets over the Danube near the town of Gran, destroying the bridgehead by the end of February. He then commanded I SS Panzer Corps in Operation Spring Awakening, the last major German offensive of World War II. The attack, centered in the Lake Balaton area, began on 6 March 1945 and ended with a German defeat on 16 March 1945.
War crimes trial and conviction
In May 1945, Priess surrendered to the U.S. forces. He started working for the US Army Historical Division at the Camp King. From May–July 1946, he became one of 73 defendants at the Malmedy massacre trial held in the Dachau internment camp. Along with Sepp Dietrich, Joachim Peiper and others, Priess was charged with the murder of over 300 Allied POWs and 100 Belgian civilians between December 16, 1944 and January 13, 1945.
Summary of SS career
- Demyansk Shield
- Infantry Assault Badge in Silver
- Iron Cross (1939)
- German Cross in Gold on 6 January 1942 as SS-Standartenführer in the SS-Artillerie-Regiment "Totenkopf"
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Knight's Cross on 28 April 1943 as SS-Oberführer and commander of Artillerie-Regiment of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf
- 297th Oak Leaves on 9 September 1943 as SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS and commander of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Totenkopf"
- 65th Swords on 24 April 1944 as SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS and commander of the 3. SS-Panzer-Division "Totenkopf"
|26 February 1935:||SS-Untersturmführer|
|15 September 1935:||SS-Obersturmführer|
|13 September 1936:||SS-Hauptsturmführer|
|20 April 1939:||SS-Sturmbannführer|
|1 August 1940:||SS-Obersturmbannführer|
|21 June 1941:||SS-Standartenführer|
|13 July 1942:||SS-Oberführer|
|15 July 1943:||SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS|
|20 April 1944:||SS-Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS|
- Westemeier 2013, p. 727.
- War Crimes Office (1948). "Case Number 6-24 (US vs. Valentin Bersin et al.)". U.S. Army Trial Reviews and Recommendations. United States Department of War. Retrieved 2006-12-18. This is a web transcription of microfilmed archives of the original US Army documents. See the site's introduction for more information. The URL is to a HTML frame, you must select "US011" in the left pane to get to case "6-24". The direct URL to the case page is here.
- Stockert 1997, p. 407.
- Stockert 1997, pp. 409–410.
- Stockert 1997, p. 409.
- Stockert 1997, p. 410.
- Berger 1999, p. 275.
- Thomas 1998, p. 172.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 359.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 604.
- Stockert 1997, p. 408.
- 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.
- 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 Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Stockert, Peter (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 3 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 3] (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-932915-01-7.
- 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.
- Westemeier, Jens (2013). Himmlers Krieger: Joachim Peiper und die Waffen-SS in Krieg und Nachkriegszeit [Himmler's Warriors: Joachim Peiper and the Waffen-SS during the War and Post-War Period]. Paderborn, Germany: Ferdinand Schöningh. ISBN 978-3-506-77241-1.
- Brügge, Peter (1966). "Da muss man Ellenbogen haben, Konrad—Peter Brügge bei Adenauers 90. Geburtstag". Der Spiegel (in German). 3. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- Höhne, Heinz (1966). "Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf—Die Geschichte der SS". Der Spiegel (in German). 42. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- War Crimes Trials: Malmedy Story RG-60.2288, Film ID: 877. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 16 May 1946. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- War Crimes Trials: Malmedy, sentencing Story RG-60.2317, Film ID: 887. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 16 May 1946. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
SS-Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke
|Commander of 3. SS-Division "Totenkopf"
26 February 1943 – 21 June 1944
SS-Brigadeführer Hellmuth Becker
|Commander of XIII SS-Armeekorps
7 August 1944 – 24 October 1944
SS-Gruppenführer Max Simon
SS-Obergruppenführer Georg Keppler
|Commander of I. SS-Panzer Corps
30 October 1944 – 8 May 1945