Theodor Tolsdorff

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Theodor Tolsdorff
Theodor Tolsdroff.jpg
Born(1909-11-03)3 November 1909
Lehnarten, German Empire
Died25 May 1978(1978-05-25) (aged 68)
Dortmund, West Germany
Cemetery Heckinghauser Strasse, Wuppertal
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branchArmy (Wehrmacht)
Years of service1934–45
RankGeneralleutnant (major general)
Unit1st Infantry Division
Commands held340th Volksgrenadier Division
LXXXII Panzer Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
Criminal chargeexecution of Franz Xaver Holzhey
Penalty3.5 years imprisonment in 1954
(acquitted in 1960)

Theodor Tolsdorff (3 November 1909 – 25 May 1978) was a general in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was one of 27 recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. After the war, Tolsdorff was charged with the killing of Franz Xaver Holzhey [de] in the closing days of World War II. He was convicted in 1954 and subsequently acquitted in 1960. The trials generated substantial public interest and media coverage.

Early life[edit]

Estate Lehnarten (Treuburg) which belonged to the Tolsdorff family until 1945.[1]

Tolsdorf was born on 3 November 1909, in the family estate in Lehnarten in the Province of East Prussia, a state of the German Empire (today's Poland). He was the youngest of four children and only son of Theodor Tolsdorff, an artillery officer.[2] Tolsdorf attended the Gymnasium (advanced secondary school) in Königsberg, present-day Kaliningrad, and following the death of his father on in 1919 took over the family estate.[3][4] On 1 October 1934, Tolsdorf joined the German Army. By 1938, he was an Oberleutnant (first lieutenant); he was given command of an anti-tank company in the 1st Infantry Division on 1 April 1939.[3]

World War II[edit]

As commander of a company, Tolsdorff participated in the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and was awarded both classes of the Iron Cross.[5] Tolsdorff participated in the Battle of France in 1940.[5]

Oak Leaves ceremony, from left to right: Adolf Hitler, Walter Lange, Tolsdorff, Günther Pape, Franz Bäke

Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union began on 22 June 1941. In November, Tolsdorff was wounded while leading an attack.[3] He was promoted to Hauptmann (captain) on 1 December 1941 and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 4 December 1941, while in the hospital.[6] He returned to the front in April 1942 and participated in the heavy fighting for Shlisselburg. Tolsdorff was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 15 September 1943.

In June 1944, Tolsdorff participated in the fighting against the Soviet Vilnius Offensive. He was promoted to Oberst (colonel) and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 18 July 1944.[7] Afterwards, he was appointed commander of the newly formed 340th Volksgrenadier Division.[citation needed] In mid-November, the unit transferred to the Aachen-Jülich area on the west to defend against US forces trying to cross the Rhine. In December, the unit was withdrawn to make preparations for the Ardennes offensive. The division fought as part of the 5th Panzer Army under command of Hasso von Manteuffel.[8] On 18 March 1945, Tolsdorff received in Berlin the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. He was promoted to Generalleutnant (major general) and appointed commander of the LXXXII Panzer Corps, which was stationed in Bavaria.

On 8 May, he surrendered in Austria to Lt. Carwood Lipton and Robert F. Sink of the 101st Airborne Division. Tolsdorff's convoy of 31 vehicles drove down from the mountains loaded with his personal baggage, liquor, cigars, cigarettes and his girlfriends. Private Edward Heffron took Tolsdorff's Luger pistol and a briefcase containing Iron Cross medals and a stash of pornographic pictures.[9]

Criminal charges, trials, conviction, and acquittal[edit]

Tolsdorff was married to Eleonore, née van der Berk (6 September 1921 – 15 April 1996). The marriage produced two sons. His youngest son Jürgen died in 1957, in an accident. His older son, Peter, became a doctor and settled in Bad Honnef.[10][11]

On 9 May 1947, Tolsdorff was released from American captivity.[12] He took various jobs, such as truck driver in the firm belonging to his father-in-law, bus driver on the route Diepholz to Hanover and construction worker. He was arrested on 7 December 1952.[13]

In 1954, he faced charges for the execution of Franz Xaver Holzhey, an army captain and First World War veteran, on 3 May 1945. Holzhey, without orders, had put up a red cross sign near the command post. The Landgericht (court) in Traunstein had initially sentenced Tolsdorff to three and a half years.[14] The Federal Court of Justice of Germany overturned the decision in 1959 and ordered a retrial. On 24 June 1960, Tolsdorff was declared not guilty and cleared of all charges.[15]

The same year, Tolsdorff was hired by the German Asphalt AG, presently owned by the Strabag, and held a position of manager until 1969, when he took over the branch office in Dortmund. Tolsdorff retired on 31 December 1974.[13] Following a serious accident, he died on 25 May 1978 in Dortmund.[13]

Summary of career[edit]



1 June 1936: Leutnant (second lieutenant)[3]
1 October 1938: Oberleutnant (first lieutenant)[3]
1 December 1941: Hauptmann (captain)[6]
1 January 1943: Major (major)[6]
1 March 1944: Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel)[6]
1 August 1944: Oberst (colonel)
30 January 1945: Generalmajor (major general)[7]
1 April 1945: Generalleutnant (lieutenant general)



  1. ^ "Pałac w Białej Oleckiej". Wirtualny Przewodnik po krainie EGO (in Polish). Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  2. ^ Fraschka 2002, p. 293.
  3. ^ a b c d e Stockert 2010, p. 170.
  4. ^ Stockert 1998, p. 4.
  5. ^ a b Fraschka 2002, p. 294.
  6. ^ a b c d Stockert 2010, p. 172.
  7. ^ a b Stockert 2010, p. 174.
  8. ^ Stockert 1998, p. 10.
  9. ^ Ambrose, Stephen E. (25 June 2013). Stephen E. Ambrose From D-Day to Victory E-book Box Set: Band of Brothers, D-Day, Pegasus Bridge. Simon and Schuster. p. 353. ISBN 9781476755816. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  10. ^ Fraschka 2002, p. 299.
  11. ^ "Team". HNO Honnef (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  12. ^ Fraschka 2002, p. 298.
  13. ^ a b c Stockert 2010, p. 299.
  14. ^ Osterloh & Vollnhals 2012, pp. 65–66.
  15. ^ Eichmüller 2012, p. 205.
  16. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 385.
  17. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 478.
  18. ^ a b c d Scherzer 2007, p. 747.
  19. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 424.
  20. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 72.
  21. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 44.
  22. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 38.


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Military offices
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Walther Hahm
Commander of the LXXXII. Armeekorps
1 April 1945 – 15 April 1945
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Walter Lucht
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Walter Lucht
Commander of the LXXXII. Armeekorps
15 April 1945 – German capitulation
Succeeded by