Hermann Fegelein

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Hermann Fegelein
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Full Name: Hermann Fegelein
Crimes: The deaths of 17,000 Soviet Jews in Byelorussia (Belarus)


Hermann Fegelein (October 30th, 1906 - April 28th, 1945) was Adolf Hitler's and Eva Braun's brother in law, Heinrich Himmler's adjutant and a Grueppenfuehrer (Major General) in the SS.

Among his war crimes were the deaths of 17,000 Soviet Jews in Byelorussia (Belarus).

Early life

Fegelein was born in Ansbach, Bavaria, to the retired Oberleutnant Hans Fegelein. As a boy working at his father's equestrian school in Munich, he became a proficient rider and participated in jumping events. During this period he met Christian Weber, an original member of the Nazi Party. Weber later sponsored Fegelein's 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. 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, and the training facilities and horses were used by equestrian units of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and SS.

Fegelein joined the Nazi Party (membership number 1,200,158) and the SA in 1930. He transferred to the SS on 10 April 1933, with membership number 66,680. He worked as an instructor at the Reitinstitut Fegelein and became the leader of the SS-Reitersturm, the SS equestrian group based at the facility. By the mid-1930s he took over administration of the school from his father. 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 tried out 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 then SS-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.[12] Fegelein at the time had strong ambitions to participate in the 1940 Summer Olympics. With the help of his friend Höherer 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.

Career

World War II

In September 1939, Fegelein commanded the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Death's-Head Horse Regiment), which arrived in Poland shortly after the end of the Polish Campaign. The unit was placed under the command of the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo; order police) and was split into small groups assigned to support police activities at posts throughout the Poznan district. On 15 November, Himmler ordered the expansion of the regiment from four to thirteen squadrons and renamed it as 1. SS-Totenkopf-Reiterstandarte (1st Death's Head Cavalry Regiment). Additional men were recruited from ethnic Germans living in the General Government and further afield. As many of the officers, including Fegelein, had never attended officer training school, much of the training provided to new recruits was rudimentary. However, it was rigorous, and the men developed a strong camaraderie. Fegelein's unit was involved alongside the Orpo in the extermination, ordered by Hitler, of members of the Polish elite such as intellectuals, aristocrats, and clergy, in an action called Intelligenzaktion. On 7 December 1939, Fegelein's unit was involved in the mass shooting of 1,700 such people in the Kampinos Forest.

On 15 December, the unit was split into two Standarten (regiments), with Fegelein commanding the 1. Standarte under the overall command of Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer-Ost Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger. The unit was short of basic supplies such as weapons, food, and uniforms, which led to deteriorating morale and ill health. Incidents of corruption and theft took place, particularly among members of the regimental staff in Warsaw. On 23 April 1941, Fegelein faced court-martial charges for an incident in 1940 where he and his unit had been caught stealing money and luxury goods for transportation back to Germany. Fegelein's court-martial 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 tried several times to investigate the accusations against Fegelein, but each time Himmler quashed the attempt.

Fegelein's unit took part in anti-partisan fighting against a group of about 100 former Polish soldiers in the area of Kammienna–Konsky–Kielce in March and April 1940. They killed about half the partisans and the remainder escaped. On 8 April, Fegelein's unit killed 250 Polish men in villages in the area. While in his report he described the behaviour of his troops as "clean and decent", there were many incidents in this period where his men behaved in an undisciplined way, killing and robbing civilians without being ordered to do so.

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. His unit was assigned on the 87th Infantry Division on 23 June to cover a gap in the lines of the 9th Army near Białystok. The motorized elements of the 1st SS Cavalry reached the right flank of the operational area on 24 June, but the mounted elements were unable to keep up. The exhausted horses had to be left behind and the men transported to the combat zone in lorries, while the horse-drawn artillery pieces were towed using any available vehicles. The first units to arrive crossed the Narew near Wizna and engaged the Soviets but were unable to break through. They were ordered to retreat and move further north. Infantry elements of the 87th Division captured Osowiec Fortress on 26 June, and Fegelein's cavalry was sent on a reconnaissance mission to the south-east. Himmler, unwilling to have his SS units under Wehrmacht control or used in combat other than as reserves, withdrew the SS cavalry from control of the 87th Division on 27 June. The ambitious Fegelein stressed in his reports that he believed his unit was combat ready and exaggerated its contribution to the operation. Ten of his men received the Iron Cross, Second Class for their efforts, and Fegelein was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class.

The engagement demonstrated the shortcomings of the cavalry units in modern mobile warfare, which requires quick redeployments in ever-changing conditions. Fegelein sought to improve this by asking Himmler to combine the 1st and 2nd SS cavalry regiments into a brigade, with additional support units. As a temporary measure, Himmler assigned Fegelein to be in charge of both regiments. Fegelein's unit was one of several that undertook field training and political indoctrination in the coming weeks. Himmler addressed the 1st Cavalry on 5 July, offering the opportunity for any men unwilling to participate in the upcoming "special tasks" to transfer to another unit. Nobody took advantage of this offer, at least partly because Himmler did not say that the upcoming assignment included the mass shooting of unarmed civilians.

On 19 July 1941, Himmler assigned Fegelein's regiments to the general command of HSSPF Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski 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. Himmler's orders for the operation were passed to Fegelein via SS-Brigadefuhrer Kurt Knoblauch [de], who met with him and Bach-Zelewski on 28 July in their new quarters at Liakhovichi in Byelorussia. General instructions were given to "cleanse" the area of partisans and Jewish collaborators. Jewish women and children were to be driven away. Fegelein interpreted these orders as follows: Enemy soldiers in uniform were to be taken prisoner, and those found out of uniform were to be shot. Jewish males, with the exception of a few skilled workers such as doctors and leather workers, would be shot. Fegelein split the territory to be covered into two sections divided by the Pripyat River, with the 1st Regiment taking the northern half and the 2nd Regiment the south. The regiments worked their way from east to west through their assigned territory, and filed daily reports on the number of people killed and taken prisoner. In a meeting with Bach-Zelewski on 31 July, Himmler announced the amalgamation of the two regiments into the SS Cavalry Brigade. Additional units such as a bicycle reconnaissance detachment were formed and added to the brigade's complement. On 5 August Himmler assigned leadership of the brigade to Fegelein.

Himmler notified Fegelein by telegram on 1 August that the numbers killed were far too low. A few days later, Himmler issued regimental order no. 42, which called for all male Jews over the age of 14 to be killed. The women and children were to be driven into the swamps and drowned. Thus Fegelein's units were among the first in the Holocaust to wipe out entire Jewish communities. As the water in the swamps was too shallow and some areas had no swamps, it proved impractical to drown the women and children, so they were shot. Fegelein's final report on the operation, dated 18 September 1941, states that they killed 14,178 Jews, 1,001 partisans, 699 Red Army soldiers, with 830 prisoners taken and losses of 17 dead, 36 wounded, and 3 missing. The historian Henning Pieper estimates the actual number of Jews killed was closer to 23,700.

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 mid-October 1941, the brigade left Byelorussia and moved first to Toropets and then on to Rogachev by train, where they were subordinated to Army Group Centre. The new operational area had more partisan activity than the Pripyat swamps, with guerrillas who were well organised and difficult to find. Fegelein's report for the period between 18 October and 18 November 1941 shows 3,018 partisans and Red Army soldiers killed and 122 taken prisoner. However, as fewer than 200 weapons were captured, historians Martin Cüppers and Henning Pieper conclude that the majority of those killed must have been unarmed civilians. Brigade losses were seven dead and nine wounded.

Army Group Centre renewed their offensive on Moscow in mid-November. Fegelein and the SS Cavalry Brigade were held back as an operational reserve in the rearward area of the 9th Army. Massive counter-attacks by the Red Army led to a weakening of the entire German line, and the brigade was called in to fight at the front on 28 December. While Fegelein reported that his forces were the equivalent to one or two divisions, in reality he had only 4,428 men in total at this point, of which 1,800 were ready for action.[39] 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. The SS Cavalry Brigade took serious losses, with casualties of up to 60 per cent in some squadrons.

On 1 February 1942, Fegelein 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 Chertolino. The attack, carried out in difficult weather conditions, secured an important road junction and the railway station at Chertolino. In a nocturnal attack on 9 February, the brigade encircled and destroyed enemy forces at Chertolino, killing 1,800 Red Army soldiers. Yershovo was captured on 14 February, leading to the annihilation of the enemy units in Rzhevsky District. 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. The SS Cavalry Brigade was disbanded in March 1942 and the remaining men and equipment were formed into a battalion-strength unit called Kampfgruppe Zehender, commanded by SS-Sturmbannführer August Zehender.

Fegelein returned 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. He 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, they annihilated a partisan group south west of Novoselki. 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 unit had killed 4,018 persons and deported 18,860, confiscated 21,000 cattle, and destroyed 61 villages southwest of Gomel. During Zeithen (13–16 June 1943) they destroyed a further 63 villages and (under direct orders from Hitler) killed all suspected partisans. During Seydlitz (26 June – 27 July 1943) he reported the destruction of 96 additional villages, with 5,016 killed and 9,166 deported and 19,941 cattle confiscated.

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 Bespalovka and on 28 August, when the division halted a Soviet breakthrough at Bol'shaya Gomol'sha. Fegelein led a counterattack on 8 September, recapturing the height 199,0 at Verkhniy Bishkin. 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 hospitalised for a few weeks. He received the German Crossin 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 der 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.[45] Fegelein often showed around the photographs of the hanged men who had been executed as a result of this failed assassination attempt.

Downfall and death

Fegelein fled the bunker after he couldn't talk Eva into leaving Hitler. He was arrested as he tried to flee Berlin, dressed in a civilian clothing and was with another woman. Once Hitler learned of Himmler's betrayal by negotiating with the Western powers, Hitler stripped Fegelein of his SS rank and had him court-martialed by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke. Mohnke remembered that Fegelein was very drunk during the trial. Afterward, Fegelein was taken away and shot outside in the Reich's Garden.

There are some conflicting reports on Eva's reaction to the execution of Hermann Fegelein, according to Otto Günsche (Hitler's adjutant) said she refused to speak on his behalf but Traudl Junge (Hitler's secretary) stated that Eva was pleading to Hitler for Hermann's life.

However, Rochus Misch (last survivor of the Führerbunker) stated in a 2007 interview that Hitler never ordered Fegelein's execution. According to Misch, Hitler only ordered his removal from the SS and that he claimed to know the identity of Fegelein's killer, but refused to reveal his name.

In popular culture

Downfall Parodies

File:Fegelein Portrait.png
Fegelein in Downfall.

In the Hitler parodies, Fegelein commits insane and hilarious antics against Hitler as well as others who get in his way. His antics range from mundane acts, like changing Hitler's voice to high-pitched voice to the surreal, like turning the entire cast in the bunker scene into characters from the Cleveland Show. His ability to commit surreal antics, such as by manipulating space-time, as well as creating his own tools for antics, makes it evident that Fegelein has highly advanced knowledge in chemistry, all forms of engineering, Newtonian physics, and quantum mechanics. He can also swap genders of any person he chooses (see "Fegelein's Best Antic Yet").

Unlike most of those who commit antics and acquire their tools from antic dealers, Fegelein prefers to make his tools himself. Tools created by Fegelein are given a name that acquire the prefix of "Fegel-".  This was first introduced in TheSilverUniverse's parody Hitler is informed that he's going to explode in which Fegelein created a "Fegel-Bomb" to destroy Hitler's bunker.  MHXDownfall's parodies suggested that Fegelein created "anticological weapons" - which were modified (and enhanced) German weapons of WWII. For example, he has a Fegel-AT; which is an AT gun, derived from a PaK 43, capable of destroying tanks in one shot, no matter how thick their armor. This means that even a main battle tank won't stand a chance! In addition, he has the Fegel-Panzer. Both weapons are mentioned in "Fegelein in Stalingrad".

Trivia

  • Fegelein is famous in the Downfall Parodies and is often portrayed as a mischievous person. In parodies, he often pull pranks and antics on Hitler, causing the latter to rant.
  • There have been rumors that the other woman with Fegelein was an Allied spy, but this hasn't been proven.
  • Albert Speer called him "one of the most disgusting people in Hitler's circle" because Fegelein was considered an opportunist who ingratiated himself with Himmler.
  • Like Hitler and Eva, there are some conspiracy theorists who believe Fegelein’s execution never happened but was used as a ruse for him to flee with Hitler and Eva to South America.