Waffen SS Gruppenführer Max Simon, commander of the XIII SS Army Corps, ordered the execution of farmer and fireman Friedrich Hanselmann, fifty years old, who’s son had been killed in Russia and who’s second son was serving in an antiaircraft unit in Nuremberg , the sixty four years old Leonhard Gackstatter, a respected mayor who held the post for over thirty years and Ortsgruppenführer Leonhard Wolfmeyer the forty two years old elementary school teacher, for Wehrkraftzersetzung on 10 April 1945. In April 1945, several locals in the village of Brettheim, near Rothenburg, had taken away the weapons of four 15-year-old boys from the Hitler Youth, with panzerfausts, handgrenades and rifles and had thrown them into the local pond. During this action one of the present villagers a civil servant named Uhl, screamed that he did not want to be defended by such “snot-nosed rates” Uhl took one of the youths by the coat and shook him, and Hanselmann boxed one of the boys on the ears. Crying at the top the top of their lungs then fled the town, while one of the men supposedly fired a warning shot in their direction. The boys were sent to Breitheim to stop the Americans. The Panzer of the 4th US Panzer Division under General Georg Patton were on 07 April 1945 only six kilometres away. The Hitler Youth boys wanted to prevent a senseless battle with the approaching American troops and the destruction of their village. The boys reported this event to their commanding officer SS- Sturmbannführer Gottschalk, who had Hanselmann arrested.
SS-Gruppenführer. Max Simon, the former commandant of Sachsenburg concentration camp and meanwhile a General in the Waffen-SS, ordered an officer from his staff to punish this “disgrace.” The village was surrounded and most of its inhabitants were interrogated. Finally, the farmer Friedrich Hanselmann voluntarily admitted to being one of the “criminals,” naming two others who had been involved during a beating. When the local mayor and NSDAP party leader refused to sign the hastily drawn-up death sentence for Hanselmann, they were also accused and sentenced to death on April 9, 1945. One day later, they were murdered/hanged along with Friedrich Hanselmann on the trees near the entrance of the cemetery .
Simon had ordered that the bodies be left hanging for four days. US forces captured Brettheim on 17 April 1945. The people of Brettheim still feared SS repression and failed to raise the white flag to signal surrender. This provoked the bombing of Brettheim, killing 17 civilians. On 1 May 1945 the Corps surrendered to the American forces.
The Americans advised the village to raise a white flag over the city hall, to avoid having their village destroyed. Well the Mayor was dead, and the villagers were afraid to oppose the S.S., so on April 17,1945 the Americans attacked and destroyed the village.
WAR CRIMES CONVICTION
After the war, Max Simon was sentenced to death by a British court for his part in the Marzabotto massacre . This sentence was later changed to life imprisonment. Simon was pardoned in 1954 and released from prison.
Simon was subsequently tried three times in the Federal courts for the killings in Brettheim and other crimes, but, “to the horror of the West German public,” was found not guilty. Max Simon died of an heart attack on 01-02-1961, age 62, in Lunen. Even in death, Simon caused some controversy, as HIAG
, an organization of former Waffen-SS members, attempted to place a glorifying obituary for him in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. To HIAG’s indignation, the newspaper refused to run the obituary. SS Brigadeführer Otto Kumm had a stellar career with the Waffen SS, primarily with the 1st SS (the LAH) and after the war, was a founder and first Chief of the HIAG.