Hyacinth Graf von
- Strachwitz von Gross Zauche und Cammainetz, Hyacinth Graf von
General Waffen SS, Kommandeur I./Panzer Regiment.
- 30-07-1893, Grosstein, Schlesien.
- 25-04-1965, age 74, Winkl.
Grabenstätt, Village Cemetery.
Strachwitz von Gross Zauche und Cammainetz, Hyacinth Graf von
Hyaczinth von Strachwitz, born 30-07-1893 in Groß Stein, Silesia. His family were members of the Silesian old nobility and held large estates in Upper Silesia, including the family Schloss at Groß Stein. According to family tradition, being firstborn and heir to the title Graf (Count) Strachwitz, he was christened Hyazinth after the 12th century Saint Hyazinth. When he came of age, Strachwitz was sent to Berlin to partake in a Prussian military education. Joseph Goebbels (see Goebbels) was the Gauleiter of Berlin. After several years intense training and study, Strachwitz was admitted to the élite Gardes du Corps cavalry regiment. The Gardes had been established by Prussian King Frederick the Great in 1740, and was considered the most prestigious posting in the Imperial German Army, it was even patroned by Emperor, Wilhelm II (see Willem II). In August 1914, Strachwitz was a Leutnant in the Garde. Only a few weeks into the campaign, Strachwitz had been awarded the Iron Cross both II and I class for bravery in action. In late 1914, he led a raid behind the French lines. After a week of wreaking havoc in the enemy rear, Strachwitz was captured by the French. As he was wearing civilian clothing, he was sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted, and Strachwitz was interned in a Prisoner of War camp in Southern France. After the outbreak of war in September 1939, Strachwitz served with the 1st Panzer Division throughout the campaigns in Poland and France and the Low Countries. Strachwitz next fought during Operation Marita, the campaign in the Balkans. During this campaign, Strachwitz took part in the advance on Belgrade, fighting alongside the Infanterie-Regiment Großdeutschland. In the early war campaigns, Strachwitz fought well and by May 1941 he had been promoted to the rank of Oberst der Reserve. When several new armoured divisions were formed for the launch of Operation Barbarossa, Strachwitz was transferred with the 2nd Panzer Regiment and given command of the 1st Battalion, now part of the German 16th Panzer Division , under General der Infanterie, Friedrich-Wilhelm von Chappuis (see Chappuis) .
On 22-06-1941, the German invasion of the Soviet Union was launched. The 16th Panzer Division was ordered to reinforce a bridgehead over the Bug River held by the division's motorcycle battalion, then currently under heavy counter-attack. Strachwitz's battalion had been equipped with submersible tanks, designed for the abandoned invasion of England. At 04.30 on 22 June, the tanks of Strachwitz's battalion, under fire from the opposite bank, drove into the river. After completely submerging, the tanks emerged on the far bank, and began engaging the enemy, soon clearing the area and consolidating the bridgehead. Strachwitz, charging his Panzer III ahead of his troops, engaged a Soviet supply convoy, destroying over three hundred soft-skinned vehicles and several Russian artillery batteries. Strachwitz was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his part in this action. Throughout the campaign, Strachwitz showed an immense talent for commanding the panzers, so much so that his troops nicknamed him der Panzergraf (the Armored Count). The 16th Panzer Division, nicknamed "Windhund" or "Greyhound" next formed a part of Generalfeldmarschall der Panzertruppe, Friedrich Paulus' (see Paulus) German Sixth Army, which was encircled near Stalingrad in late 1942. The 16th Panzer Division later participated in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest then in the Battle of the Bulge, again sustaining heavy casualties. It was caught in the Wesel Pocket, but managed to escape across the Rhine, ultimately surrendering within the Ruhr Pocket in April, 1945. By now, Strachwitz had been promoted to command of the entire 2nd Panzer Regiment. During one engagement on the northern flank of the Kessel, his unit destroyed 105 T-34s. Soon after this, Strachwitz was seriously wounded and flown out of the encirclement. For his actions, he was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross. After a month's sick leave, Strachwitz was recalled to active duty and promoted to Generalmajor der Reserve, and was placed in command of the 1st Panzer Division, though for a short period only. During this time, Strachwitz was also given the rank of SS-Brigadeführer und General der SS. Strachwitz had become a member of the NSDAP before the war, Party membership number 1.405.562 and was also a member of the Allgemeine SS, membership number 82.857. Reichsführer-SS, Heinrich Himmler (see Himmler) typically gave high-profile people like Strachwitz high ranks in the SS for prestige and to keep these people in contact. In late 1944, Strachwitz was returned to active duty, despite the fact that he was still suffering badly from the near-fatal accident. He was promoted to Generalleutnant der Reserve in January 1945 and ordered to organize the formation of a Panzerjäger Brigade based at Bad Kudova. The Brigade, designated Panzerjäger-Brigade Oberschlesien was an ad-hoc formation of different units, and was, for the most part, poorly trained and equipped. As its designation suggested, the Brigade was tasked with defending Upper Silesia, Upper Silesia. Strachwitz commanded this formation in numerous desperate engagements, which destroyed hundreds of enemy tanks and vehicles. In April 1945, Strachwitz led his men in a successful breakout from a Russian encirclement in Czechoslovakia to the U.S.-held region of Bavaria, where all surrendered to U.S. Army forces. During the war, Strachwitz had lost his younger son in combat on the eastern front, but his elder son, though gravely wounded, survived the war. He had also a daughter. Shortly after his surrender, his wife died in a car accident, but he remarried and had two sons and two daughters with his second wife. He settled on an estate in Winkl/Grabenstätt in Bavaria, where he lived quietly until his death on 25-04-1968, age 74. The Bundeswehr provided an honour guard for his coffin, as a mark of respect. Der Panzergraf was laid to rest with his wife Laura, born von Saurma-Juusch, who died age age 84, on 25-04-1986, on the village cemetery of Grabenstätt.