Hermann Fegelein

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Hermann Otto Fegelein
Hermann Fegelein.jpg
Hermann Fegelein as SS-Standartenführer
Nickname(s)"Flegelein"[a]
Born(1906-10-30)30 October 1906
Ansbach, German Empire
Died28 April 1945(1945-04-28) (aged 38)
Berlin, Nazi Germany
Allegiance
Service/branchWaffen-SS
Years of service1925–1945
RankSS-Gruppenführer Collar Rank.svg SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS
Commands held
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Relations
 
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Hermann Otto Fegelein
Hermann Fegelein.jpg
Hermann Fegelein as SS-Standartenführer
Nickname(s)"Flegelein"[a]
Born(1906-10-30)30 October 1906
Ansbach, German Empire
Died28 April 1945(1945-04-28) (aged 38)
Berlin, Nazi Germany
Allegiance
Service/branchWaffen-SS
Years of service1925–1945
RankSS-Gruppenführer Collar Rank.svg SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS
Commands held
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Relations

SS-Gruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein (30 October 1906 – 28 April 1945) was a general of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany. He was a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage and brother-in-law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister, Gretl. Units under his command on the Eastern Front were responsible for the deaths of over 17,000 civilians during the Pripyat swamps punitive operation in the Byelorussian SSR in 1941. Fegelein was shot for desertion on 28 April 1945, two days before Hitler's suicide.

Historians William L. Shirer and Ian Kershaw characterise him as cynical and disreputable. Albert Speer called him "one of the most disgusting people in Hitler's circle".[1] Fegelein was an opportunist who ingratiated himself with Himmler, who granted him the best assignments and rapid promotions.

Career[edit]

Fegelein was born in Ansbach, Bavaria, to the retired Oberleutnant Hans Fegelein. As a young boy working at his father's equestrian school in Munich, he became proficient in riding skills and participated in jumping events. During this period he met Christian Weber, an original member of the Nazi Party. Weber later sponsored Fegelein for entry into the Schutzstaffel (SS).[2]

In 1925, after studying for two terms at Munich University, Fegelein joined the Reiter-Regiment 17 (Cavalry Regiment 17). On 20 April 1927, he joined the Bavarian State Police in Munich as an officer cadet.[3] While in Munich, he came into contact with National Socialism, joining the Nazi Party (membership number 1,200,158) and the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1930. Fegelein transferred to the SS on 10 April 1933, with membership number 66,680.[4] He became a leader of an SS equestrian group, which included his brother, Waldemar.

Fegelein oversaw the preparation of the courses and facilities for the equestrian events of the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936.[5] Fegelein won the Deutsches Spring- und Dressurderby international tournament in 1937, as did his brother, Waldemar, in 1939.[6] On 25 July 1937 Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, by special order of the SS-Oberabschnitt Süd, created the Haupt-Reitschule München (SS Main Riding School) in Munich. Fegelein was named commander and promoted to the rank of SS-Standartenführer the same day.[3] Historians William L. Shirer and Ian Kershaw characterise him as cynical and disreputable;[7][8] Albert Speer called him "one of the most disgusting people in Hitler's circle".[1] Fegelein was an opportunist who ingratiated himself with Himmler. Himmler in return granted him the best assignments—mostly related to horses—and rapid promotion through the ranks.[2][9]

World War II[edit]

In September 1939, after the end of the Polish Campaign, Fegelein commanded the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Deaths-Head Horse Regiment). They were garrisoned in Warsaw until December. The unit was then split into two Standarten (regiments), with Fegelein commanding the 1.Standarte. The units were placed under the overall command of Höhere SS- und Polizeiführer (abbreviated HSSPF—Higher SS and Police Leader) "East" Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger. Fegelein's unit took part in "anti-partisan" fighting in the area of Kammienna–Konsky–Kielce. On 7 December 1939 Fegelein's unit was involved in the mass shooting of 1,700 people in the Kampinos Forest.[10] On 23 April 1941 Fegelein and his unit were caught stealing money and luxury goods intended for transportation back to Germany. A court-martial ordered for Fegelein was quashed by direct order of Himmler.[11]

Fegelein (right) with Karl Gesele (1942)

Fegelein also saw active service on the Eastern Front, beginning as commander of the 1st SS Cavalry Regiment, from the summer of 1941. That August, Himmler ordered the SS Cavalry Brigade to be formed under the command of Fegelein from the 1st and 2nd SS Cavalry Regiments.

On 17 July 1941 Himmler assigned Fegelein's regiment to the general command of HSSPF Erich von dem Bach for the "systematic combing" of the Pripyat swamps, an operation designed to round up and exterminate Jews, partisans, and civilians in that area of Byelorussian SSR. The two-stage operation began on 19 July 1941. Fegelein reported to von dem Bach that his men had killed 13,788 Jews and what he claimed were "soldiers in civilian clothes" during the first stage of the operation.[11] At the end of the second stage, which ran during the last two weeks of August, Fegelein reported that all the Jewish men in the Rogatschew region had been killed—a total of another 3,500 men.[11]

Fegelein was wounded in action by Soviet snipers on 21 December and 22 December 1941.[11] On 20 April 1942 he was appointed commander of the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer and returned to service on the Eastern front until September 1943.[12]

After Fegelein was wounded for a third time in action on the Russian front, Himmler reassigned him on 1 January 1944 to Hitler's headquarters staff as his liaison officer and representative of the SS.[13] He was promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS on 10 June 1944.[2] On 20 July 1944 Fegelein was present at the failed attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia, and received a minor wound to his left thigh from the bomb blast.[14] Fegelein often showed around the photographs of the hanged men who had been executed as a result of this failed assassination attempt.[15]

Marriage[edit]

Fegelein's politically motivated marriage to Gretl Braun, Eva Braun's sister, took place on 3 June 1944 in Salzburg. Historians Kershaw and Shirer believe he courted Braun as a way to advance his career.[7][8] Hitler, Himmler, and Bormann acted as witnesses at the ceremony.[16] A two-day celebration was then held at Hitler's and Martin Bormann's Obersalzberg mountain homes and the Eagle's Nest.[17] Fegelein was a known playboy and had many extramarital affairs.[8]

Death[edit]

After Himmler tried to negotiate a surrender to the western Allies via Count Bernadotte in April 1945,[18] Fegelein left the Reich Chancellery bunker complex and was caught by SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl in his Berlin apartment on 27 April, wearing civilian clothes and preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland. He was carrying cash—German and foreign—and jewellery, some of which belonged to Eva Braun. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the western Allies.[19] According to most accounts he was intoxicated when arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker.[8]

Journalist James P. O'Donnell, who conducted extensive interviews in the 1970s, provides a detailed description of what happened next. Waffen-SS General Wilhelm Mohnke, who presided over the court martial for desertion, told O'Donnell that Hitler ordered him to set up a tribunal. Mohnke arranged for a court martial panel, which consisted of Wilhelm Burgdorf, Hans Krebs, Johann Rattenhuber, and himself. Fegelein, still drunk, refused to accept that he had to answer to Hitler, and stated that he was responsible only to Himmler. Fegelein was so drunk that he was crying and vomiting; he was unable to stand up, and even urinated on the floor. Mohnke was in a quandary, as German military law required the defendant to be of sound mind and body during court martial. Although he was certain Fegelein was "guilty of flagrant desertion", Mohnke closed the proceedings and turned the defendant over to General Rattenhuber and his RSD security squad. Mohnke never saw Fegelein again.[20][b]

Fegelein's wife was heavily pregnant when he was arrested (the baby was born in early May). Hitler considered releasing him without punishment or assigning him to Mohnke's troops.[21][22] Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge—an eye-witness to bunker events—stated that Braun pleaded with Hitler to spare her brother-in-law and tried to justify Fegelein's behaviour. However, he was taken to the garden of the Reich Chancellery on 28 April, and was "shot like a dog".[23][24] Rochus Misch, who was the last surviving individual from the Führerbunker, disputed aspects of this account in a 2007 interview with Der Spiegel. According to Misch, Hitler did not order Fegelein's execution, only his demotion. Misch claimed to know the identity of Fegelein's killer, but refused to reveal his name.[25]

Legacy[edit]

Fegelein's parents and his brother Waldemar survived the war.[26] Gretl, who inherited some of Eva's valuable jewellery, also survived the war. She gave birth to a daughter (named Eva Barbara Fegelein, after her late aunt) on 5 May 1945.[16] Eva Fegelein committed suicide on 25 April 1971 after her boyfriend was killed in an auto accident.[16] Gretl Braun-Fegelein moved to Munich and remarried in 1954. She died in 1987, aged 72.[16]

Awards and decorations[edit]

The death sentence on 28 April resulted in the loss of all orders, awards, and honorary signs.[33][34][b]

Notes and references[edit]

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Those close to Fegelein had nicknamed him "Flegelein" (O'Donnell 1978, p. 186). In German, one refers to someone as a Flegel (lout or brat) for lack of manners and appropriate behaviour. Flegelein is the hypocoristic form of a Flegel.
  2. ^ a b The NKVD wrote a dossier on Hitler in 1948/49 for Joseph Stalin which was based on the interrogation reports of Otto Günsche, Hitler's personal adjutant, and Heinz Linge, Hitler's valet. This dossier differs in part from the accounts given by Mohnke (see O'Donnell 1978, pp. 182, 183) and Rattenhuber (see Vinogradov 2005, pp. 191, 192). Fegelein, intoxicated by alcohol, was arrested at his apartment on 27 April and Hitler at first ordered Fegelein to be transferred to Kampfgruppe "Mohnke" to prove his loyalty in combat. Günsche and Bormann expressed their concern to Hitler that Fegelein would desert again. Hitler then ordered Fegelein to be demoted and court-martialed by a court led by Mohnke (Eberle & Uhl 2011, pp. 430–431). At this point the accounts differ, as the NKVD dossier states that Fegelein was court-martialed on the evening of 28 April by a court headed by Mohnke, SS-Obersturmbannführer Alfred Krause, and SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Kaschula. Mohnke and his fellow officers sentenced Fegelein to death. That same evening, Fegelein was shot from behind by a member of the Sicherheitsdienst (Eberle & Uhl 2011, p. 436). Based on this stated chain of events, author Veit Scherzer concluded that Fegelein, according to the German law, was deprived of all honours and honorary signs and must therefore be considered a de facto but not de jure recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Scherzer 2007, pp. 115–116, 128).
  3. ^ According to Krätschmer, 157th Oak Leaves as commander of Kampfgruppe "Fegelein" (Krätschmer 1999, p. 265).

Citations

  1. ^ a b Fest 2006, p. 143.
  2. ^ a b c Miller 2006, p. 306.
  3. ^ a b Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 285.
  4. ^ Miller 2006, p. 305.
  5. ^ Miller 2006, pp. 306, 307.
  6. ^ Jaeger 2004.
  7. ^ a b Shirer 1960, p. 1121.
  8. ^ a b c d Kershaw 2008, p. 942.
  9. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 267–269, 285.
  10. ^ Miller 2006, p. 308.
  11. ^ a b c d Miller 2006, p. 309.
  12. ^ Miller 2006, pp. 312, 313.
  13. ^ Miller 2006, pp. 313, 314.
  14. ^ Miller 2006, p. 314.
  15. ^ Görtemaker 2011, p. 216.
  16. ^ a b c d Miller 2006, p. 316.
  17. ^ Eberle & Uhl 2005, p. 144.
  18. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 943.
  19. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 277, 278.
  20. ^ O'Donnell 1978, pp. 182, 183.
  21. ^ Fest 2002, p. 99.
  22. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 946.
  23. ^ Junge 2004, p. 180.
  24. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 945.
  25. ^ Simon 2007.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Miller 2006, p. 315.
  27. ^ a b c d Berger 1999, p. 70.
  28. ^ a b Thomas 1997, p. 161.
  29. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 110.
  30. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 178.
  31. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 63, 477.
  32. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 44.
  33. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 128.
  34. ^ O'Donnell 1978, pp. 182, 183, 215.

Sources

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
SS-Brigadeführer Gustav Lombard
Commander of 8. SS-Kavallerie-Division Florian Geyer
April 1942 – August 1943
Succeeded by
SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich
Preceded by
SS-Brigadeführer Gustav Lombard
Commander of 8. SS-Kavallerie-Division Florian Geyer
14 May 1943 – 13 September 1943
Succeeded by
SS-Gruppenführer Bruno Streckenbach
Preceded by
SS-Gruppenführer Bruno Streckenbach
Commander of 8. SS-Kavallerie-Division Florian Geyer
22 October 1943 – 1 January 1944
Succeeded by
SS-Gruppenführer Bruno Streckenbach