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Tuesday, April 28, 2015


70 years ago on this date, April 28, 1945, Hermann Fegelein was shot for desertion. I will post information about him from Wikipedia and other links.

Hermann Fegelein

30 October 1906
Ansbach, German Empire
28 April 1945 (aged 38)
Berlin, Nazi Germany
  • Weimar Republic (until 1933)
  • Nazi Germany (from 1933 to 1945)
Years of service
SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS
Commands held
  • SS Cavalry Brigade
  • 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer
World War II
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
  • Waldemar Fegelein (brother)
  • Eva Braun (sister-in-law)
  • Gretl Braun (wife)
Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein (30 October 1906 – 28 April 1945) was an SS-Gruppenführer (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". Fegelein was an opportunist who ingratiated himself with Heinrich Himmler, who granted him the best assignments and rapid promotions.

Hermann Fegelein as SS-Standartenführer

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).

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. In 1929 he left the police service when he was caught stealing examination solutions from a teaching superior's office. The official communication at the time was that he resigned for "family reasons". Fegelein later stated that he had left the police on "his own account" to better serve the Nazi Party and SS. His father had started the "Reitinstitut Fegelein" (Riding Institute Fegelein) in 1926. Here in Munich Fegelein came into contact with National Socialism and the SS. His father had made the institute available to the SS as a meeting place.

He joined 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. He became a leader of an SS equestrian group, which included his brother, Waldemar. He was promoted to the Allgemeine-SS rank of SS-Untersturmführer that year and to SS-Obersturmführer on 20 April 1934 and to SS-Hauptsturmführer on 9 November 1934. Beginning in November 1935, Fegelein oversaw the preparation of the courses and facilities for the equestrian events of the Berlin Olympic Games. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer on 30 January 1936. He participated in the selection process for the German equestrian team, but was unable to prevail against the strong competition from the Kavallerieschule Hannover (cavalry school Hanover), who went on to win all the equestrian gold medals.

Fegelein won the Deutsches Spring- und Dressurderby international tournament in 1937, as did his brother, Waldemar, in 1939. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer on 30 January. On 25 July 1937 Reichsführer-SS Himmler, by special order of the SS-Oberabschnitt Süd, created the Haupt-Reitschule München (SS Main Riding School) in Munich. The school was started from his father's stud farm. Fegelein was named its commander and promoted to SS-Standartenführer the same day. Funding for the very expensive horses came in part from Brigadeführer Weber, who supported the school with more than 100,000 Reichsmarks annually. Fegelein won the "Braunes Band von Deutschland" (Brown Ribbon of Germany), an annual horse race which in 1938 was held on the premises of the riding school in Munich. Fegelein at the time had strong ambitions to participate in the 1940 Summer Olympics. With the help of his friend Höhere SS- und Polizeiführer (HSSPF; Higher SS and Police Leader) Karl von Eberstein, he arranged the transfer of all the Bavarian State Police horses to the SS riding school in case of mobilization. His fear was that the horses would be handed to the Wehrmacht.

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". 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.

Fegelein (right) with Karl Gesele (1942)

World War II

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 HSSPF "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. On 23 April 1941, Fegelein faced court-martial charges after he and his unit in 1940 had been caught stealing money and luxury goods for transportation back to Germany. The court-martial ordered for Fegelein was quashed by direct order of Himmler. The allegations brought forward against Fegelein had included "murder motivated by greed". Apparently he had ordered arrests and executions in the Gestapo prison in Warsaw. In addition to this, Fegelein was charged with having had an unlawful sexual relationship with a Polish woman. The woman had become pregnant and Fegelein forced her to have an abortion. Reinhard Heydrich attempted multiple times to investigate the accusations against Fegelein, but each time the attempt was put down by Himmler.

In May and June 1940, Fegelein, who had been promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer of the Reserves in the Waffen-SS on 1 March 1940, participated in the Battle of Belgium and France as a member of the SS-Verfügungstruppe. For his service in these campaigns he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 15 December 1940. In March 1941 the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte 1 was renamed to 1st SS Cavalry Regiment.

War against the Soviet Union

With the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union which began on 22 June 1941, Fegelein saw active service on the Eastern Front. He received the Iron Cross 1st Class on 28 June.

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. 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. On 5 August Himmler had assigned to him the leadership of the SS Cavalry Brigade, which was formed from the 1st and 2nd SS Cavalry Regiments.

In October 1941 the Brigade was tasked with securing the territory behind the front line in Belarus. Fegelein received the Infantry Assault Badge on 2 October. Four days later, he was again brought before a court for peculation of captured goods. Again the prosecution was halted by Himmler. In the winter of 1941–42, Fegelein and the SS Cavalry Brigade were held back as an operational reserve in the rearward area of the 9th Army. There it helped secure the front at Toropets and Rzhev. The brigade was deployed at the south-eastern sector of the XXIII Army Corps, where it defended against attacks in the rearward area of the 206th Infantry Division in the Battles of Rzhev.

On 1 February 1942 he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer in the Waffen-SS and transferred from the reserve force to active service. Four days later, on 5 February, Fegelein on his own initiative led an attack on a strong enemy group northwest of Tschertolino. The attack, carried out in difficult weather conditions, secured an important road junction and the railway station at Tschertolino. In a nocturnal attack on 9 February, the brigade encircled and destroyed enemy forces at Tschertolino, killing 1,800 combatants. Jersowo was captured on 14 February, leading to the annihilation of all enemy forces in the Rzhev area. For his leadership in these battles, Fegelein was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 2 March 1942. Fegelein was then granted home leave and was appointed Inspector of Cavalry and Transportation (Inspekteur des Reit- und Fahrwesens) in the SS-Führungshauptamt on 1 May 1942. In this position he was awarded the Eastern Front Medal and the War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords, both on 1 September 1942.

Fegelein was sent to the front line on 1 December 1942 and on the same day promoted to SS-Oberführer. He was given command of Kampfgruppe "Fegelein", based in the great bend of the Don.

Fegelein was wounded in action by Soviet snipers on 21 December and 22 December 1942. On 20 April 1943 he was appointed commander of the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer. Fegelein and his division were involved in operations against partisans in May to July 1943 which included Operation Weichsel, Operation Zeithen, and Operation Seydlitz. On 17 May he annihilated a partisan group south west of Nowoselki. He personally blew up a bunker in the attack. A week later, on 24 May, the division attacked another partisan strongpoint and no prisoners were taken. During Weichsel (27 May – 10 June 1943) he reported the killing of 4,018 persons, the deportation of 18,860, the confiscation of 21,000 cattle, and the destruction of 61 villages southwest of Gomel. During Zeithen (13–16 June 1943) he destroyed a further 63 villages, and under direct orders from Hitler killed all partisans. During Seidlitz (26 June – 27 July 1943) he accounted for the destruction of 96 additional villages, killed a further 5,016 people, deported an additional 9,166 persons, and confiscated 19,941 cattle.

The division was then deployed in defensive operations against massed Soviet attacks. From 26 August to 15 September the division repulsed five attacks of divisional strength and a further 85 attacks of battalion strength. The heaviest combat occurred on 26 August near Bespalowka and on 28 August, when the division halted a Soviet breakthrough at Bol-Gomolscha. Fegelein led a counterattack on 8 September, recapturing the height 199,0 at Werchne-Bischkin. On 11 September 1943, during these defensive battles, he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in bronze. Fegelein was severely wounded on 30 September 1943 and was hospitalized for a few weeks. He received the German Cross in gold on 1 November 1943. Following his convalescence he was appointed chief of Amt VI—-Office for Rider and Driver Training—in the SS Führungshauptamt on 1 January 1944.

At the same time, Himmler assigned him to Hitler's headquarters staff as his liaison officer and representative of the SS. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS on 10 June 1944. 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. Fegelein often showed around the photographs of the hanged men who had been executed as a result of this failed assassination attempt.


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. Hitler, Himmler, and Bormann acted as witnesses at the ceremony. A two-day celebration was then held at Hitler's and Martin Bormann's Obersalzberg mountain homes and the Eagle's Nest. Fegelein was a known playboy and had many extramarital affairs.


After Himmler tried to negotiate a surrender to the western Allies via Count Bernadotte in April 1945, 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. According to most accounts he was intoxicated when arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker.

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 and civilian law both require a defendant to be of sound mind and to understand the charges against them. Although he was certain Fegelein was "guilty of flagrant desertion", Mohnke persuaded his fellow judges to close the proceedings and turned the defendant over to General Rattenhuber and his security squad. Mohnke never saw Fegelein again.[b]

Fegelein's wife was then in the late stages of pregnancy (the baby was born in early May). Hitler considered releasing him without punishment or assigning him to Mohnke's troops. 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 actions. However, he was taken to the garden of the Reich Chancellery on 28 April, and was "shot like a dog". Rochus Misch, who was the last survivor 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.


Fegelein's parents and his brother Waldemar survived the war. 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. Eva Fegelein committed suicide on 25 April 1971 after her boyfriend was killed in an auto accident. Gretl Braun-Fegelein moved to Munich and remarried in 1954. She died in 1987, aged 72.

Awards and decorations
The death sentence on 28 April resulted in the loss of all orders, awards, and honorary signs.

Dates of rank

Fegelein held various ranks in both the Allgemeine-SS and Waffen-SS. The following table shows that progression was not synchronous.

12 June 1933:
20 April 1934:
9 November 1934:
30 January 1936:
30 January 1937:
25 July 1937:
1 March 1940:
1 February 1942:
1 May 1943:
SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS
21 June 1944:
SS-Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS

Notes and references
Explanatory notes
  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.
    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).
  According to Krätschmer, 157th Oak Leaves as commander of Kampfgruppe "Fegelein" (Krätschmer 1999, p. 265).



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