18 January 1919|
|Died||23 May 2003
|Allegiance|| Nazi Germany (to 1945)
|Years of service||1937–1945, 1956–1975|
|Commands held||I./Grenadier-Regiment 1123|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Close Combat Clasp in Gold
Cross of Merit on ribbon
|Competitor for West Germany|
|Gold||1951 Alpe d'Huez||Four-man|
|Silver||1954 Cortina d'Ampezzo||Four-man|
Michael Pössinger (18 January 1919 – 23 May 2003) was a German bobsledder who competed in the early 1950s. He won a complete set of medals in the four-man event at the FIBT World Championships with a gold in 1951, a silver in 1954, and a bronze (tied with Sweden) in 1953. During World War II he was a highly decorated Gebirgsjäger and one of only 98 soldiers to have been awarded both the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) and Close Combat Clasp in Gold (Nahkampfspange in Gold). He was also awarded the Oak Leaves (Eichenlaub) to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He is highly praised for his role in saving a Jewish family from deportation in Hungary, against the direct orders of a noncommissioned SS Officer.
World War II
Michael Pössinger joined the 6th Company of the Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98 on 1 October 1937. On 1 April 1939 he was promoted to Unteroffizier. He participated in the Invasion of Poland as commander (Zugführer) of the Panzerjägerzug of the 16th Company. On 20 April 1940 he was promoted to Leutnant and took part in the Battle of France. On 6 June 1940 he distinguished himself when during the course of a French counteroffensive he destroyed seven enemy tanks and damaged another four within 40 minutes. For this action he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 19 July 1940. Promoted to Oberleutnant on 1 October 1940 he fought in the Balkans Campaign. From June 1941 he was part of the invasion force in Operation Barbarossa.
In 1941 Michael Pössinger participated in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 1941 at Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy and won a Silver Medal.[Notes 1] Shortly after the Ski Championships Pössinger got himself into trouble with Nazi officials. At a bar he and another officer came to the aid of a leg-amputated fellow soldier who was being harassed. A fistfight broke out which Pössinger ended by drawing his side-arm. It turned out that one of the Nazis was the local NSDAP Gauleiter. The affair ended with a three-year promotion ban for Pössinger.
At the end of 1941 he received an order from the Commanding Officer of the 1st Mountain Division to form a Ski company. For two months he operated behind Russian lines, attacking supply positions and other vital strong points, returning to his own lines in February 1942. He continued leading his company in the Caucasus until he was severely wounded in the summer of 1942.
After a period of convalescence he returned to his company. He received the order to conduct a flanking maneuver against the Russian lines in the Kulchor pass (part of the Kodori Valley). His company became separated from the rest of the German forces. After three days of bitter fighting he managed to return to the German lines. On 16 February 1943 he was awarded the German Cross in Gold. Promoted to Hauptmann on 1 October 1943 he was put in command of the I. Batallion of the 98th Gebirgsjäger-Regiment.
I. Batallion of the 98th Gebirgsjäger-Regiment was responsible for burning to death 21 civilians at Kefalovryso, Greece on 10 July 1943. Hermann Frank Meyer assumes that the actions were personally led by Pössinger.
In late 1944 Pössinger got into trouble again with his superiors when he received an order from Generalleutnant Walter Stettner to attack a Russian strongpoint. Pössinger refused to carry-out the order on the grounds of not having any artillery support, too many and well concealed enemy fortifications and the approach for his battalion was too steep. Relieved of his command, his successor also refused to carry out the order. Stettner then ordered another battalion to attack. The attack failed badly, the replacement battalion taking heavy casualties, justifying Pössinger's assessment.
The last months and post-war
Rehabilitated from insubordination he continued leading the battalion until promoted to Major on 1 October 1944. At the same time he was put in charge of the II. Battalion of the Grenadier-Regiment 1123. For his autonomous counter-attack and break through at Allenstein, (now Olsztyn in Poland), he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. In May 1945 he received the Close Combat Clasp in Gold. At the end of hostilities he surrendered Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the American forces and was taken prisoner of war. He was released from captivity on 12 May 1945.
After World War II he initially worked as a business man. On 26 April 1956 he joined the Bundeswehr with the rank of Major. From October 1961 to October 1965 he was commander of the Mountain and Winter Combat School in Mittenwald. He commanded the VKK 653 (Verteidigungskreiskommando—District Defense Command of the German Army) in Murnau until March 1975 and retired from the Bundeswehr on 31 March 1975.
- Wound Badge in Gold
- Infantry Assault Badge in Silver
- Five Tank Destruction Badges for Individual Combatants
- Iron Cross (1939)
- German Cross in Gold on 16 February 1943 as Oberleutnant in the 6./Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98
- Close Combat Clasp in Gold on 1 May 1945 for 50 days in close combat
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Romanian Order of the Crown
- Cross of Merit on ribbon (1997)
- Berger 2004, p. 363.
- Berger 2004, p. 364.
- Berger 2004, p. 365.
- Meyer 2008, pp. 171, 647.
- Berger 2004, p. 366.
- Berger 2004, p. 362.
- Thomas 1998, p. 163.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 357.
- Scherzer 2007 p. 600.
- Berger, Florian (2004). Ritterkreuzträger mit Nahkampfspange in Gold [Knight's Cross Bearers with the Close Combat Clasp in Gold] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-3-7.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [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.
- Meyer, Hermann Frank (2008). Blutiges Edelweiß. Die 1. Gebirgs-Division im Zweiten Weltkrieg (in German). Berlin, Germany: Christoph Links Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86153-447-1.
- 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 (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.
- Wallechinsky, David. (1984). "Bobsled: Four-man." In The Complete Book of the Olympics: 1896-1980. New York: Penguin Books. p. 561.
- Bobsleigh four-man world championship medalists since 1930
- Michael Pössinger @ Lexikon der Wehrmacht (German)
- World War II Awards