|Born||22 June 1893
Elberfeld, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
|Died||29 April 1945
Halbe, Province of Brandenburg, Free State of Prussia, Nazi Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1914–45|
|Rank||Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Matthias Kleinheisterkamp (22 June 1893 – 29 April 1945[Notes 1]) was an SS Obergruppenführer (General) and a Heer (Army) officer who served in both World War I and World War II. During World War II, Kleinheisterkamp commanded the 3. SS-Division Totenkopf, 6. SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord, 2. SS-Division Das Reich, III.(germanische) SS-Panzerkorps, VII. SS-Panzerkops, IV. SS-Panzerkops, XII. SS-Armeekorps and the XI. SS-Armeekorps. He was also a winner of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.
Matthias Kleinheisterkamp was born in Elberfeld (now Wuppertal), Rhine Province. He was a son of railway secretary Matthias Kleinheisterkamp and his wife Anna Rüpper. After passing his Abitur (final exams) in 1914, he decided to join the Army.
Kleinheisterkamp was assigned first to the 1. Westfälische Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 7 and later to 1. Lothringische Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 130 and finally to Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 219. It was with this regiment Leutnant Kleinheisterkamp saw action in World War I, firstly from 1914 to 1915 on the Western Front, and then from 1915 to 1916 on the Eastern Front. He returned to the West in 1916 where he would serve for the remainder of the war. Before the war's end, Kleinheisterkamp was seriously wounded in the head and spent the rest of 1918 recovering from his injuries. During his service in the war, he was awarded both classes of the Iron Cross and a silver grade Wound Badge.
Following the Armistice in 1918, Kleinheisterkamp joined the Freikorps and also served in the Reichswehr with various infantry units until he joined the Allgemeine-SS on 1 November 1933, membership number 132,399. He transferred to the SS-Verfügungstruppe on 1 April 1935 and was assigned to the SS-Führerschule Braunschweig, future SS-Junkerschule Braunschweig, as an infantry instructor. He taught there for a year, after which he joined then Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) Paul Hausser's Inspectorate of the SS-VT as a senior staff officer.
On 20 April 1937, Kleinheisterkamp joined the NSDAP, membership number 4,158,838. His career stalled when in June 1938 he experienced serious legal and disciplinary troubles. He was reprimanded by the SS Court Head Office and placed on leave until August 1938. Upon his return to active duty, he was assigned to the SS-Standarte Deutschland in Munich and from 1 December 1938 commanded the Deutschland's III.Sturmbann.
World War II
Kleinheisterkamp remained with the III.Sturmbann during the 1939 operation Fall Weiß (invasion of Poland) when he commanded the Gefechtsgruppe Kleinheisterkamp responsible in part for the evacuation of German citizens and diplomatic personnel from Warsaw. Following his promotion to SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) in May 1940, he was put in charge of Infanterie-Regiment 3 within the SS-Division Totenkopf, despite the fact that he did not get along with the division's commander, Theodor Eicke. After Eicke was injured in July 1941, Kleinheisterkamp was, for a short time, commander of the Totenkopf, before being replaced by Georg Keppler. He remained with the division for the next three months until the continuous friction with Eicke resulted in Kleinheisterkamp’s transfer first to SS-Führungshauptamt (the operational headquarters of the SS) and later to the 2. SS-Division Das Reich.
For his exemplary leadership of Das Reich during the operations on Eastern Front, Kleinheisterkamp was finally awarded the Knight's Cross, after two previous nominations in 1940 and 1941. In January 1942, after four months as a commander of Das Reich, he was reassigned to the SS-Division Nord, however he did not take over the division until June, succeeding SS-Gruppenführer (Lieutenant General) Karl-Maria Demelhuber. He proved himself to be an excellent divisional leader and was extremely popular with his men and fellow officers, including his superior Eduard Dietl. Kleinheisterkamp remained with Nord until December 1943, when he was transferred to the Waffen-SS reserves at the SS-Führungshauptamt. In January 1944, he was again assigned to the field and commanded the VII. SS-Panzerkorps, III. (germanische) SS-Panzerkorps, IV. SS-Panzerkops and the XI. SS-Armeekorps.
Kleinheisterkamp, by then a SS-Obergruppenführer, was captured by the Soviets on 28 April 1945 near the village of Halbe, south-east of Berlin. He committed suicide a day later while in captivity. Other accounts state he died on 2 May in the Battle of Halbe. Posthumously, Kleinheisterkamp was awarded Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross.
Kleinheisterkamp married Ellen Heusing-Esch (4 July 1900 - 14 October 1943) on 27 March 1921. They had three sons; Karl-Ernst, born on 11 April 1922; Hans-Joachim, born on 12 April 1928 and Heinrich, born on 18 September 1937. He also had two daughters; Waltraud, born on 15 September 1923 and Marliese, born on 11 December 1929.
Summary of his SS career
Dates of rank
- Fahnenjunker: 2 August 1914
- Leutnant: October, 1914
- Oberleutnant: 1 February 1928
- Hauptmann: 1 October 1929
- SS-Anwärter: 8 January 1934
- SS-Mann: 24 January 1934
- SS-Sturmmann: 8 February 1934
- SS-Scharführer: 10 February 1934
- SS-Oberscharführer: 12 February 1934
- SS-Truppführer: 14 February 1934
- SS-Obertruppführer: 19 March 1934
- SS-Sturmführer: 12 April 1934
- SS-Obersturmführer: 17 June 1934
- SS-Hauptsturmführer: 20 April 1935
- SS-Sturmbannführer: 1 June 1935
- SS-Obersturmbannführer: 20 April 1937
- SS-Standartenführer: 18 May 1940
- SS-Oberführer: 19 July 1940
- SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS: 9 November 1941
- SS-Gruppenführer und Generaleutnant der Waffen-SS: 1 May 1943
- SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS: 1 August 1944
- Eastern Front Medal (1942)
- Iron Cross Second (?) and First (?) Classes
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- SS Honour Ring (?)
- Anschluss Medal (1938)
- Sudetenland Medal (1939) with Prague Castle Bar (1939)
- Memel Medal (?)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 31 March 1942 as SS-Brigadeführer, Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS and commander of the SS-Division "Das Reich"
- 871st Oak Leaves on 9 May 1945 (posthumously) as SS-Obergruppenführer, Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS and commanding general of the XI. SS-Panzerkorps[Notes 2]
- Wound Badge in Black (1918) and Silver (1918)
- The Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 (1934)
- Silesian Eagle Second (?) and First (?) Classes
- War Merit Cross with Swords Second (1942) and First (1942) Classes
- Finnish Cross of Liberty First Class (1943)
- Sword of honor of the Reichsführer-SS
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- According to Fellgiebel on 2 May 1945 in the Battle of Halbe.
- Historian Veit Scherzer expressed doubt about the veracity of the presentation of the Oak Leaves to Matthias Kleinheisterkamp. According to Scherzer, Fellgiebel claims that the nomination was received by the Heerespersonalamt (HPA—Army Staff Office) via teleprinter from the commander-in-chief of the 9. Armee, general Theodor Busse, on 21 April 1945. Busse had nominated SS-Obergruppenführer Kleinheisterkamp for the Oak Leaves. The claim is that the teleprinter message contained a note that the formal procedure for immediate approval should be waited for (Dienstwegvorschlag bzgl. Sofortverleihung abwarten). This teleprinter message cannot be found in the German Nation Archives (Bestand RH 7). Busse had also nominated by teleprinter message Generalmajor Joachim von Siegroth on the 21 April. This teleprinter message can be found in the Nation Archives (Bundesarchiv RH 7/300). According to Fellgiebel the same note can be found on von Siegroth's nomination. This means that a formal nomination, in this instance via the Army Group Vistula, followed. Both announced "formal nominations" never followed and were never received by the HPA. The teleprinter message nomination of von Siegroth is listed in the book of "awarded Knight Crosses" with an entry date of 21 April but Kleinheisterkamp's nomination isn't. The reason for this may be that the liaison officer of the Waffen-SS at the HPA/P5a may have forwarded the nomination to the Reichsführer-SS for approval. From here it should have been returned to the HPA which it wasn't. The distribution list of von Siegroth's nomination indicates that general Busse had informed the Army Group Vistula and the chief of the HPA general Wilhelm Burgdorf. It is very likely that Kleinheisterkamp's nomination had the same distribution list as von Siegroth's, because the same principles applied. Burgdorf therefore should have been informed of the formal procedure regarding Kleinheisterkamp's nomination. The question remains unanswered whether the Führer Headquarter or Adolf Hitler has approved the direct nomination of Kleinheisterkamp on 28 April or not. Scherzer claims that this is very unlikely because Burgdorf would not have done two things. First, submit a nomination to the Führer without having assessed the situation himself, which only would have been possible if he had studied the formal paperwork. Secondly he would not have bypassed the formal procedure which was already initiated. Additionally the radio connection to the Führerbunker was down since 5:00 on 28 April 1945. The sequential number "871" was assigned by the Association of Knight's Cross Recipients (AKCR) and the date is assumed.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 104.
- Thomas 1997, p. 374.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 447.
- Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 104, 482.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 148.
- 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.
- Williamson, Gordon (March 1994). The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror: The Full Story From Street Fighters to the Waffen-SS. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-87938-905-2, ISBN 978-0-87938-905-5.
- Yerger, Mark C. (October 1997). Waffen-SS Commanders: The Army, Corps and Divisional Leaders of a Legend : Augsberger to Kreutz. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0356-2, ISBN 978-0-7643-0356-2.
SS-Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke
|Commander of 3. SS-Panzer Division Totenkopf
7 July 1941 - 15 July 1941
SS-Obergruppenführer Georg Keppler
SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich
|Commander of 2. SS-Division Das Reich
1 January 1942 - 19 April 1942
SS-Obergruppenführer Georg Keppler
SS-Obergruppenführer Karl-Maria Demelhuber
|Commander of 6. SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord
1 April 1942 - 20 April 1942
SS-Oberführer Hans Scheider
SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Scheider
|Commander of 6. SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord
1 June 1942 - 15 December 1943
SS-Gruppenführer Lothar Debes
|Commander of VII. SS-Armeekorps
1 May 1943 - 1 June 1943
absorbed into IV. SS-Panzerkorps
SS-Obergruppenführer Walter Krüger
|Commander of IV. SS-Panzerkorps
1 June 1944 - 20 June 1944
SS-Brigadeführer Nikolaus Heilmann
|Commander of XI. SS-Armeekorps
1 August 1944 - 30 April 1945
SS-Obergruppenführer Georg Keppler
|Commander of III.(germanische) SS-Panzerkorps
4 February 1945 - 11 February 1945
Generalleutnant Martin Unrein