Viktor Eberhard Gräbner
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|Viktor Eberhard Gräbner|
|Born||24 May 1914
|Died||18 September 1944 (age 30) (KIA)
|Service/branch|| German Army
|Years of service||1939–43 Army
1943–44 Waffen SS
Hauptsturmführer, Waffen SS
|Unit||256th Infantry Division
9th SS Panzer Division
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross (Aug. 1944)|
Viktor Eberhard Gräbner (24 May 1914 – 18 September 1944) was originally an officer in the German Army who in 1943 transferred to the Waffen-SS. On 23 August 1944 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest Third Reich award for bravery, and 26 days later he died in the Battle of Arnhem.
Gräbner was born on 24 May 1914 in Leipzig. He joined the Allgemeine SS as SS-Mann in 1937, about the same time he entered military service in the German Army. At the outbreak of World War II, he had advanced to Leutnant (Second Lieutenant). In 1941, he participated as front line soldier during Operation Barbarossa. On 1 October 1941, he was promoted to Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) in command of the 2nd Company, 256th Reconnaissance Battalion of the 256th Infantry Division and participated in the Battle of Moscow, which started the following day. He was awarded the German Cross in Gold in May 1942, probably in the Battles of Rzhev, as his unit moved there after Moscow.
In January 1943 he transferred to the newly formed Waffen-SS unit 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen with the equivalent rank of Obersturmführer, and in March 1943 he was promoted to Hauptsturmführer (Captain). In June, his division moved to Normandy and was involved in heavy fighting during the Battle for Caen, followed by a series of battles in France. In July 1944, he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp, Bronze Class, for 15 battles of close combat. In August 1944 he was given command of the division's reconnaissance battalion and on 23 August 1944 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions in July, following a recommendation signed 6 August 1944 by his commander, Oberführer Friedrich-Wilhelm Bock, and approved by Obergruppenführer Willi Bittrich, head of the II SS Panzer Corps. He did, however, not receive the award until 17 September 1944, the day before he died.
Hauptsturmführer Gräbner is known for his part in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem (as depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far). On 17 September 1944, his 40-vehicle 9th Reconnaissance Battalion was ordered south of Arnhem, to carry out a reconnaissance of the airborne landings between Arnhem and Nijmegen. On his return to Arnhem, the bridge across the Rhine had been captured by Lt. Col. John Frost's 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. Gräbner was informed from radio messages that evening about enemy paratroopers having captured the northern end of the Arnhem bridge. Leaving behind a few of his vehicles from his unit at the town of Elst, Gelderland, midway between Arnhem and Nijmegen, he traveled during the night north towards Arnhem to take it upon himself to clear the area around Arnhem bridge of whatever paratroopers where there. At 9:30 a.m. on the morning of 18 September, Hauptsturmführer Gräbner ordered his battalion, numbering about 22 armored cars, half-tracks, and a few trucks with infantry, to assault the bridge. The first five German armored cars of the column managed to make it across the bridge unscathed due to the fact that they took the defenders by surprise. The British had laid mines on the bridge's approaches and these were expertly avoided by the speeding German drivers. In the resultant two-hour battle, the battalion was beaten back with heavy losses and forced to retreat back to Elst where it played no further role in the fighting around Arnhem. Of the 22 armored vehicles that were involved in the assault, 12 were destroyed or knocked out and over 70 men killed, including Gräbner who was killed in action during the assault.
Gräbner was buried near the Arnhem bridge immediately after the fighting. After the war all Germans fallen in Holland were exhumed and collectively reburied. Gräbners remains could not be identified and so rest among the Unknowns at the Ysselsteyn German war cemetery.
- Wehrmacht-Awards.com: SS-Hauptsturmfuher Viktor Eberhardt Graebner Linked 2013-08-04
- Report in John Frost's Biography, p 342-354
- Operation Market Garden, inclusive of Gräbner's attempt to take the school house at the north end of the bridge.
- Interviews of british Veterans at the 70 commemoration of Operation Market Garden.
- * A Drop Too Many, by Colonel John Frost, 1980 Stackpole Books (December 10, 2008) ISBN 978-0811734868 Biography by John Frost, who dedicated an entire chapter to Gräbner's assault.
- A Bridge Too Far, von Cornelius Ryan (Simon&Schuster, 1974) ISBN 978-8171676361 , The Battle of Arnhem in detail, inclusive of the roles of the Waffen-SS Divisions Hohenstaufen and Frundsberg, and a detailed description of Viktor Eberhard Gräbner's role. Based on Cornelius Ryan's interviews of Gräbners superior officer Walter Harzer, as well as Waffen-SS Generals Willi Bittrich und Heinz Harmel, and Lt. Col John Frost.
- JSCSC library bibliography: Campaign & Battle Series: Operation Market Garden, The Battle of Arnhem, September 1944 (PDF), UK Joint Services Command and Staff College Library, retrieved 22 October 2010. This is a comprehensive bibliography including detailed reviews of the major publications about Operation Market Garden and links to web sites about the topic.
- 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.
- Henschler, Henri; Fey, Willi (2003). Armor Battles of the Waffen-SS, 1943–45. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-2905-5.
- Mitcham, Samuel W (2007). Retreat to the Reich : the German defeat in France, 1944. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3384-7.