Bittrich, Wilhelm “Willi”

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Bittrich, Wilhelm "Willi"
germanySS ObergruppenführerWaffen SS
Bittrich, Wilhelm “Willi”, born on 16-02-1894 in Wernigerode. Bittrich served as an army officer and fighter pilot during World War I and was also a member of a Freikorps after the first World War. He joined the SS in 1932 with SS Fliegerstaffel “Ost”  (SS Flying Echelon “East”) and later took command of 74th Standarte, before leaving the Allgemeine SS  in August 1934. He entered the enthusiastic   Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (did you know) in 1939 and was a Nazi from the first hour. When the Austria-based Regiment “Der Führer” was created, Bittrich led 1/Der Führer after 1938. Bittrich moved to the “Leibstandarte”  on 01-06-1939, serving as SS Oberstgruppenführer, Josef Sepp Dietrich´s HQ Adjutant.
    Bittrich remained there through the Polish campaign. He transferred to the replacement section of the SS-VT in early February, 1940. He returned to the 2nd SS as Regimentskommandeur “Deutschland”  on 14-12-1940, Bittrich was awarded the Knights Cross while at this position. As senior Regimental Commander, Bittrich replaced SS Oberstgruppenführer, Paul “Papa” Hausser   when the latter was wounded. During his tour with II.SS-Panzer Korps, Bittrich was in large part responsible for one of the final “victories” for the Waffen SS, that being the successful defence and subsequent defeat of the Allied attacks at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. (see About).  Total casualties among 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.

Other visits showed that efforts were being made on the Western Front to arrive at understandings with the enemy on special problems. At Arnhem, General Bittrich of the Waffen-SS was a state of fury and had a fierce deliberation with the other commanders in the region, Generalfeldmarschall der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur XXXXI Panzergruppe, Walter Model General der Flieger, Kommandeur der 1st Fallschirmjäger Regiment Kurt Student, SS Brigadeführer, “Kampfgruppe Harmel”, Heinz Harmel  he died very old age 94, on 02-09-2000 in Krefeld Heinz Harmel and Oberleutnant der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur “Kampfgruppe Knaust” Battle of Arnhem, Hans Peter Knaust  The day before, as Lieutenant John Frost   with his 2nd Parachute Battalion , had the reached the bridge, his Second Tank Corps had virtually wiped out a British airborne division. During the fighting the General had made an arrangement permitting the enemy to run a field hospital situated behind the German lines. But party functionaries had taken it upon themselves to kill British and American pilots and Bittrich was cast in the role of a liar. His violent denunciation of the party was all the more striking since it came from an SS General. 

One of his pronouncement was: the things Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler  says are sheer nonsense! Things will go badly for us if we don’t change our ways and he is a fool if he does not understand this. However, he also led the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer  , involved in war crimes in the USSR from August 1942 until 15-02-1943. The division was called after Florian Geyer , a Franconian nobleman, who lived from 1490 until 1525  Geyer was also considered a heroic figure by Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party. Bittrich’s II SS Panzer Corps was allocated to the new Sixth Panzer Army  under Josef “Sepp”Dietrich, being formed for the Ardennes offensive. It now consisted of the Hohenstaufen  under Brigadeführer Silvester Stadler and Das Reich divisions, and was one of the strongest formations available for the offensive. The Sixth Panzer Army was posted on the right flank of the German attack, where it was to make the main effort. I SS Panzer Corps  under  SS-Obergruppenführer Hermann Priess,  was to capture bridges of the Meuse, allowing II SS Panzer Corps to cross over and capture Antwerp, splitting the Allied armies in half.Once the battle began on 16 December the SS troops performed unexpectedly poorly, and the most threatening German advances were made on their left flank. Bittrich’s corps wasn’t engaged until 21 December, by which time the 1 SS Panzer Corps attack had failed. Bittrich was ordered to split his corps in half, and advance to the north and south of the American strong point at St. Vith. If the attack had succeeded 20,000 prisoners might have been taken, but the Americans were able to hold off the advancing Germans and evacuate the town. Das Reich did achieve a temporary success at Manhay, but was soon forced to retreat. After only a week the Sixth Panzer Army’s offensive was over, and the Allied counterattack about to begin.

 

The Division was destroyed in the fighting for Budapest and by the end of the siege of the 30.000 men of the SS Corps only about 800 survived to reach the German lines. Obergruppenführer of the SS and Waffen SS, Wilhelm Bittrich, survived the war and after his arrest on May 8, 1945 he was extradited to France on charges of having ordered the execution of 17 members of the Resistance in Nimes, France. The trial revealed that Bittrich had not given such an order and had even opened procedures against the responsible officers. As the commander in charge of the culprits, he was held responsible for the misconduct of his subordinate troops and sentenced to five years in prison. The sentence was considered as served after a long pretrial detention. He was put on trial for a second time in 1953 and sentenced to five years in prison for countenancing hangings, pillage and arson, but was acquitted by the French court in Bordeaux again and released in 1954. He was never brought to trial for any actions and war crimes of the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer

 in the Soviet Union.

Death and burial ground of Bittrich, Wilhelm “Willi”.

  He remained  friends with several General comrades like Paul Hausser and Sepp Dietrich. Dietrich surrendered to the American in company of his wife on 08-05-1945. Hausser and Bittrich joined together the funeral of Sepp Dietrich  in Ludwigsburg.  Funeral Bittrich at the right. Wilhelm Bittrich died in a local hospital in Wolfratshausen, Bavaria, at the old age of 85, on 19-04-1979, Bittrich is buried with his wife Kitty, who died age 82, in 1971, on the village cemetery of Münsing.
     

Cemetery and grave location of Bittrich, Wilhelm “Willi”.

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