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Sieckenius after the award of his Knight’s Cross
16 May 1896|
Ludwigsthal, Silesia (now Proczki, Poland)
|Died||28 April 1945
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1914–45|
|Rank||Generalmajor der Panzertruppe|
|Commands held||16 Panzer Division
263 Infantry Division
391 Sicherungs Division
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Generalmajor Rudolf Sieckenius (16 May 1896 – 28 April 1945) was a German soldier, most famous for his command of 16 Panzer Division during Operation Avalanche (Salerno Landings) in September 1943. Despite his widely acknowledged success, which almost resulted in the Allies being pushed back into the sea, Sieckenius was made a scapegoat by Hitler and sidelined until his death during the Battle of Berlin, when he commanded a reserve division (391 Sicherungs Division).
World War I and inter-war period
Sieckenius was born in Schlesien (Silesia) in 1896. Sieckenius joined up immediately following the outbreak of World War I, enlisting in the 5th Foot Artillery Regiment of the 9th Silesian Infantry Division, during which time he took part in the Invasion of Lorraine. He was commissioned as a platoon commander in the 154th Infantry Regiment in 1916. He was discharged from the Army on 20 October 1919 and returned to his family home in Silesia.
On 29 April 1920, Sieckenius joined the local Silesian police where he served for fourteen years. In 1934 he transferred back to the army, as Hitler rearmed Germany. On creation of the panzer regiments in late 1935, he transferred into the panzer branch and was appointed a company commander in 2nd Panzer Regiment (which he was later to command at Stalingrad) based in Weimar, where he spent a year. After a further year as ADC/Orderly Officer to the commander of 1st Panzer Division, Generalmajor Maximilian von Weichs, he was appointed to command the first battalion of 15th Panzer Regiment at Oppeln. After a falling out with the regimental commander, Oberstleutnant Streich, in January 1939 Sieckenius was transferred to command of the 66th Panzer Battalion (2nd Light Division).
World War II
At the outset of the war Sieckenius served in the 2nd Light Division as commander of a Panzer battalion. Following the campaign in October 1939, the 2nd Light Division became the 7th Panzer Division. The new division was under the command of General Erwin Rommel. Sieckenius remained in command of a Panzer battalion, and took part in the Battle of France. The battalion remained in France until February 1941, when it was placed in reserve and returned to Germany. Here Sieckenius remained, refitting his battalion until he was transferred to the newly formed 16th Panzer Division in April. He joined the Division in Bucharest, where he took over command of the Division's 2nd Panzer Regiment. Prior to the war Sieckenius had served in this unit before as a company commander between October 1935 until October 1936. On assuming command the Regiment was moved forward to the Bug River to its assembly area for the start of Operation Barbarossa.
As part of Operation Barbarossa, the 16th Panzer Division crossed the River Bug immediately behind the 11th Panzer Division in the area of Sokal (in Poland in 1941, now in Ukraine), as part of the 1st Panzer Group (von Kleist) in the Army Group South. The First Panzer Group drove its armoured spearhead of 600 tanks right through the Soviet 6th Army with the objective of capturing Brody. On 26 June five Soviet mechanized corps with over 1,000 tanks mounted a counter-attack on the First Panzer Group. The Battle of Brody/Rovno was among the fiercest of the invasion lasting over four days; in the end the Germans prevailed, though the Soviets inflicted heavy losses on the First Panzer Group, and themselves suffered huge tank losses – up to 243 reported to have been destroyed by Sieckenius’ 2 Panzer Regiment, in what was the world’s largest tank battle before the Battle of Kursk. For this action Sieckenius was awarded the coveted Knight’s Cross.
The Panzer Group moved quickly on, linking up with the 17th Field Army to encircle Uman and capturing 20 Soviet divisions and over 100,000 men. Meanwhile, in the south 16 Panzer Division, still under the First Panzer Group, advanced from Kiev, and encircled Soviet troops at Melitopol in October, then attacked east along the shore of the Sea of Azov toward Rostov at the mouth of the River Don - the gateway to the Caucasus. Although slowed by rains and Soviet defence, the Panzer Group reached Rostov on 17 November 1941, capturing the city (Battle of Rostov) four days later. A Russian counter-offensive on 27 November recaptured the city and pushed the Germans back to Taganrog, the first German reversal of the Eastern Front.
- Wound Badge in Silver}
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 17 September 1941 as Oberstleutnant and commander of Panzer-Regiment 2
- Mitcham, Samuel (2007). Rommel's Lieutenants: The men who served the Desert Fox, France, 1940. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0-275-99185-2.
- 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.
Oberst Hero Breusing
|Kommandeur of 2 Panzer Regiment (Pz Reg 2)
1 May 1941 – January, 1943
Oberst Hyazinth Graf von Strachwitz
Generalmajor Burkhart Müller-Hillebrand
|Kommandeur of 16 Panzer Division
5 May 1943 – 1 November 1943
Generalmajor Hans-Ulrich Back