Hermann Ramcke, born 24-01-1889 in Schleswig, to a family of farmers. He is born one month after Adolf Hitler (see parents). He joined the German Imperial Navy in 1905 as ship’s boy. During the First World War he served aboard the armoured cruiser Prinz Adalbertin the Baltic and North Sea. When the Adalbert suffered extensive damage in 1915, fearing that the war might end before the ship returned to service, Ramcke transferred to the marines. The Adalbert returned to service months later and was lost with 672 of her crew, as Ramcke would learn from a short telegram received at the front. Ramcke fought in the West with the German Marine-Infanterie, mainly in the area of Flanders. In 1914 he was decorated with the Iron Cross second class and later the Iron Cross first class. After a defensive action against three British attacks he was decorated with the Prussian Golden Merit Cross, the highest decoration for non-commissioned officers in the German Imperial Forces, and became a deputy-commissioned officer. (see Adolf Hitler) In 1918 he attained the rank of Leutnant der Marine-Infanterie. By the time the Armistice was signed, he had risen to the rank of Oberleutnant. On 19-07-1940, Ramcke was transferred to the 7th Fliegerdivision under the command of General der Flieger, Kurt Student (see Student) and was promoted to Oberst. At the age of 51 he successfully completed the parachute qualification course. In May 1941 working with the division Stab he helped plan and also took part in Operation Merkur, the airborne attack on Crete. Ramcke led the Fallschirmjäger-Sturm-Regiment 1, and also led Kampfgruppe West. After the successful, but costly, victory in Crete, (see Bruno Braüer) remainders of several Fallschirmjäger units were formed into a ad-hoc, and command was given to Ramcke. He was also promoted to Generalmajor on 22-07-1941. In 1942 Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Afrika was sent to North Africa to join Erwin Rommel’s (see Rommel) Afrikakorps.
The brigade was renamed Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Ramcke in July and supported the offensive towards the Suez Canal, but when the offensive got bogged down they entered the line at El Alamein. The British attack at the Second Battle of El Alamein did not directly strike the unit but they soon became involved in heavy fighting. During the withdrawal of the Afrikakorps, the Brigade was surrounded and written off as lost by the high command since it had no organic transport. Rather than surrender, Ramcke led his troops out of the British trap and headed west, losing about 450 men in the process. They soon captured a British supply column which provided not only trucks but food, tobacco and other luxuries. About 600 of the paras later rejoined the Afrikakorps in late November 1942. Ramcke was sent back to Germany, where he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross. In 1943 Ramcke, now a Generalleutnant, took command of 2nd Fallschirmjäger-Division. The division was deployed to Italy, to help bolster the German forces there to ensure that Italy did not join the Allies. When Italy signed the armistice with the Allies on 8 September 1943, the division, along with other German units, took part in Operation Achse to take control of the country. Ramcke led his division in an assault on Rome, and secured the city two days later. The division continued serving in Italy for a while, during which time Ramcke was wounded after his car was forced off the road by an Allied fighter-bomber. Ramcke returned to command the division in early 1944. By this time 2nd Para was fighting on the Eastern Front, during the withdrawal from the Bug River area. Ramcke fell ill during this time and was sent back to Germany for recuperation. He assumed command again in May 1944 to oversee the rebuilding of the 2ndPara-Division, which was based near Cologne. Following the Allied D-Day landings on 6 June, 2nd Fallschirmjäger-Division was sent to the Brittany region of France, and took up the defence of Brest. Following Operation Cobra, the Allied breakout from Normandy, Major-General Troy H. Middleton’s (see Middleton) U.S. VIII Corps hooked left from Normandy and attacked the Brittany region. The German defenders in the region fell back on Brest, and Ramcke assumed command of the garrison, now known as Festung Brest. Brest was largely surrounded and infiltrated by partisan guerillas who succeeded in killing one of Ramcke’s junior officers in the seat next to him as they drove through an ambush. Commanding about 35,000 German troops Ramcke led the defense of Brest from 11 August until 19 September. Ramcke refused early requests to surrender and followed orders to hold out as long as possible. On the final day of battle, it was only after escaping a strafing attack during a personal reconnoiter of the area, and the entry of American forces into the bunker, that General der Fallschirmtruppe Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke surrendered, on the same day as he was awarded the Swords & Diamonds to the Knights Cross. On 26-10-1952, he told a group of former SS-men they should be proud of being blacklisted while pointing out that in the future their blacklist would instead be seen as a “list of honor”. Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer (see Adenauer) was so furious with Ramcke’s remarks that he directed Thomas Dehler, the German federal Minister of Justice, to investigate the possibility of prosecuting Ramcke. Adenauer publicly decried Ramcke’s remarks as “irresponsible” and his associated behavior as “foolishness” — a reaction likely prompted because Adenauer’s government had made a significant effort to obtain early release for Ramcke from French imprisonment. He was with many Generals interned in the POW Camp Trent Park in London.
Death and burial ground.
Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke died in Kappeln on 04-07-1968, age 79 and is buried on the Domfriedhof of Schleswig in a family grave.