Berger, Gottlob, “the Duke of Swabian” born 16-07-1896 at Gerstetten, Württemberg, the son of the wood factory owner Johannes Berger, volunteered for Army Service at the beginning of World War I and rose to the rank of first leutnant in the infantry by the time of his discharge in 1919. He received ankle wounds on 31-10-1914 , seriously head wounds on 18-03-1914 and was wounded by a hand grenade in June 1918, Decorated with the Iron Cross , first and second class, Berger had three brothers, two of which died in the trenches of the First World War, while the third was executed in September 1918 in the USA because of espionage. Berger was a superb athlete and instructor, knowledgeable in military affairs, he had the typical Swabian, called “the Duke of Swabian” tendency toward loquacity that tended to rub everybody the wrong way. He was a hard man to dissuade once he made up his mind. In 1921 he, now a sport trainer, married his fiancé Maria and they got 4 children. After joining the Nazi Party in 1922, NSDAP-nr.: 426 875 and he became a member of the SA and entered SS service in 1936, SS-nr.: 275 991. He achieved the rank of major in the reserve by 1938, but his initial rank upon entering the SS was Oberst, based upon his SA service through 1933. He was a co-author of Heinrich Himmler pamphlet “Der Untermensch”, and also promoted the pamphlet Mit Schwert und Wiege, With Sword and Cradle , for the recruitment of non-Germans. Berger shared Himmler’s ambition of building the SS VT into a full-scale army. He was the father-in-law of SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Leib , the head of the Norwegian recruitment office at Drammensveien, Oslo. Leib later received a rather light sentence, as did most of the German SS-officers in Norway. After serving his sentence, Leib immigrated to the United States, along with most of his family and was married, and had children. The location of his wife and children are unknown.
In SS ranks, Gottlob Berger was known as one of Himmler’s “Twelve Apostles”,
and was nicknamed “der Allmaechtige Gottlob”—”the Almighty Gottlob”, a play on “The almighty God”, as “Gott” is the German word for “God”. “Himmler and his inner circle of Twelve Gruppenführers would engage in mystic communication with the dead Teutons and perform other spiritual exercises. Secrecy was the key element in the SS and most especially at Wewelsburg.” “Foreign Intelligence Chief SS Brigade Führer, Walter Schellenberg
observed Himmler: ‘I happened to come into the room by accident and to see these twelve SS leaders sitting in a circle, all sunk in deep and silent contemplation, was indeed a remarkable sight. Walter Schellenberg a SS Brigadeführer who rose through the ranks of the SS to become the head of foreign intelligence following the abolition of the Abwehr in 1944, Schellenburg died age 42 on 31-03-1952 of cancer in Turin, Italy. Berger’s organizational abilities contributed to the amazing expansion of the Waffen-SS in World War II too one million members in 1940, but he also became ensnared in typical in-fighting among the SS hierarchy. Total casualties amongst the Waffen-SS will probably never be known, but one estimate indicates that they suffered 180.000 dead, 400.000 wounded, and 40.000 missing. World War II casualties indicates that the Waffen-SS suffered 314.000 killed and missing, or 34.9 per cent. By comparison, the United States Army suffered 318.274 killed and missing in all theatres of the war. Berger ran the main SS office in Berlin from 1940 and was involved in liaising with the so called ‘Eastern Territories’. After orders of Berger an involved soldier wrote the next text home: “Together with three other soldiers I received an order tonight to shoot two members of the Red Army so that they cannot be of danger to us any more. They were ragged and apathetic, just like animals. I give a spade to each of them, and they begin to dig their own graves, and I light a cigarette in order to calm down. There is no sound – Russians have no souls, they are animals, they became animals during the past years. They don’t beg for their lives, they don’t laugh, they don’t cry. Three guns are pointed at them. All of a sudden one of them starts to run, but he does not get far, 20 meters, he is dead. The other does not move; he steps into his hole, and then he is dead, too. Two minutes later, the earth covers everything — we light another cigarette.” Berger was also present when Himmler’s gave his infamous Poznan speech in 1943 . For this speech Albert Speer
denied his present, he lied. In August 1944, Berger was sent to deal with an uprising in Slovakia and immediately after this was put in control of all prisoner of war camps. Upon the establishment of the Volkssturm in 1944 Berger was appointed one of two Chiefs of Staff along with Helmuth Friedrichs. Friedrichs was reported missing from February 1945, on 13-08-1951 he was declared legally dead by the Munich district court with his date of death officially set as 31-12-1945, age 45. After the war, Berger was arrested and put on trial in the Ministries Trial in 1947. In 1949, there was an attempt to assign blame for the POW death marches against Berger and the indictment read: that between September 1944 and May 1945, hundreds of thousands of American and Allied prisoners of war were compelled to undertake forced marches in severe weather without adequate rest, shelter, food, clothing and medical supplies; and that such forced marches, conducted under the authority of the defendant Berger, chief of Prisoner-of-War Affairs, resulted in great privation and deaths to many thousands of prisoners.
Berger claimed that it was in fact the Germans’ duty under the Geneva Convention to remove POWs from a potential combat zone, as long as it did not put their lives in even greater danger. He also claimed that the rapid advance of the Red Army had surprised the Germans, who had planned to transport the POWs by train. He claimed that he had protested about the decision, made by Hitler, according to him, but he was “without power or authority to countermand or avoid the order”. The case failed due to these claims and the lack of eyewitness evidence—most ex-POWs were completely unaware of the trial taking place. He was however convicted in 1949 for his role in the genocide of European Jews and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The sentence was reduced to 10 years in 1951 because of his refusal to kill “The Prominent” in Oflag IV-C at Cholditz Castle, despite direct orders from Adolf Hitler. He had helped these prisoners escape by moving them to Bavaria and then onto Austria where he met up with them twice before they were returned to American forces. He claimed that he had saved the Prominent as Ernst Kaltenbrunner,
head of the RSHA, had sent a group of extremists to try to kill them. After the war, he claimed that Hitler had wanted more shootings of prisoners and more punishments, but that he had resisted this. In 1948, Berger gave details to an American judge in Nuremberg of Hitler’s plans to hold 35,000 Allied prisoners hostage in a “last redoubt” in the Bavarian mountains. If a peace deal was not forthcoming, Hitler had ordered that the hostages were to be executed. Berger claimed that on 22-04-1945, Hitler had signed orders to this effect and these were passed to him by Eva Braun (Braun parents) but he decided to stall and not carry out the order. After World War II, Berger also claimed that there was a plan, proposed by the Luftwaffe and approved by Hitler, to set up special POW camps for British and American airmen in the center of large German cities to act as human shields against Allied bombing raids. Berger realized that this would contravene the Geneva Convention and argued that there was not enough barbed wire, as a result this plan was not implemented. After his release from prison in 1951, he worked on the staff of the right-wing journal Nation Europe based in Coburg. He there was working with the former leader of the Waffen SS war archive in Praag, SS Sturmbannführer , Arthur Ehrhardt, he died age 75 on 01-05-1971 in Coburg.
Death and burial ground of Berger, Gottlob, “the Duke of Swabian” .
Gottlob Berger died in his hometown Gerstetten at the age of 77, on 05-01-1975 and is buried with his wife Maria. born Dambach, who died age 66, on 01-08-1966, on the local cemetery of Gerstetten. The American General Delmar Taft Spivey,
Spivey died 18-01-1982 at the age of 77, and still alive had put a bronze plate on the grave with the text : In grateful memory of Gottlob Berger General of the Waffen SS who protected and cared for US Air Force prisoners of war during WWII. One wonders about the much-touted German-American friendship.
Berger’s son Wolf born 23-07-1923 died in battle in Charko, Russia, age 19 on 11-02-1943.