Choltitz, Dietrich Hugo Hermann von, “Saviour of Paris”.

Back to all people

- Medals

germanyGeneralWehrmacht

Choltitz, Dietrich Hugo Hermann von, born 09-11-1894 in his family’s castle in Gräflich Wiese the son of Hans von Choltitz (1865-1935), who was a major of the Prussian Army and his German wife Gertrud von Rosenberg. He had two sons, Hans and Job. He came from a Moavian-Silesian noble family of Sedinitzky and his German wife Gertrud von Rosenberg. He had two brothers Hans and Job. He came from a Moravian-Silesian noble family of Sedinitzky von Choltitz. His uncle was a governor of Landkreis Neustadt from 1907 to 1920. His family owned a forest between Prudnik and  Niemyslowice. In 1907 Dietrich von Choltitz enrolled in the Dresden Cadet School. He became a German Army officer who was the last commander of Nazi-occupied Paris in World War II.

In World War I, von Choltitz served at the Western frontier, eventually as a Leutnant. Dietrich von Choltitz joined the 8. Infanterie-Regiment Prinz Johann Georg Nr. 107  of the Royal Saxon Army as a Fähnrich just months before the First World War broke out. His unit served on the Western Front, where he was promoted to Leutnant and became Adjutant of the regiment’s third Battalion within a year of joining. After World War I he came back to Prudnik, where  on 20-08-1929 he married Huberta (1902–2001), the daughter of General of the Cavalry Otto von Garnier . The couple had two daughters, Maria Angelika (1930–2016) and Anna Barbara (born 1936), and a son, Timo (born 1944). Dietrich was transferred to the riding school in Soltau, as a rider he successfully participates in domestic and international riding competitions. Promoted to Major in 1937, he was made commander of third battalion, Infanterie-Regiment 16 “Oldenburg”, a part of 22. Luftlande-Division  under command of Generalleutnant Adolf Strauß   In 1938 he was promoted again, this time to Oberstleutnant. He participated in occupation of Sudetenland in 1938 and in the invasion of Poland in 1939, where he fought under Łódź and the river Bzura.In May of 1940, Choltitz participated in the Battle of Rotterdam , 600 Dutch civilians lost their life, making an air landing and seizing some of the city’s key bridges. After the bombardment of Rotterdam, during a meeting with the Dutch discussing the terms of surrender of all Dutch forces in Rotterdam, the German Generalleutnant Kurt Student Student, Kurt "Papa"  was shot in the head. Student was very popular with his troops and when the German forces moved to execute surrendering Dutch officers in reprisal von Choltitz intervened and was able to prevent the massacre. His actions during the assault on Rotterdam earned him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross . In September of the same year, he was given command of the regiment, and the following spring was made Oberst.

He remained in the Reichswehr during the Weimar Republic. In World war II, von Choltitz’ battalion was engaged in the occupation of Rotterdam via air landings in 1940, with General der Flieger, Kurt Student..In September 1940, he became commander of the whole regiment, from 1941 as a full Oberst. In the war against the Soviet Union, von Choltitz’s regiment was engaged in the conquest of the fortress Sevastopol in June 1942. In the same year he became a Generalmajor, in 1943 a Generalleutnant. His command posts included, for example, the Infantry Division 260, under command of  Generalleutnant Robert Schlüter 

  assistant commander and later commander of several army and tank corps; since March 1944, he served in Italy, and from June 1944, at the Western front. General Schlüter survived the war and died age 87 on 18-02-1980, in Garmisch Partenkirchen. On 01-08-1944 von Choltitz was promoted to the rank of General of the Infantry, and on August 7, he became the military governor of Paris. Commander of Paris was General der Flieger, Otto von Stülpnagel
   and Generalmajor der Infanterie, Wehrmachtsbefehlshaber in France, Carl von Stülpnagel.
  . He arrived at Paris on August 9. In the following 16 days, he disobeyed several direct orders from Adolf Hitler’s to defend the city “to the last man” and to destroy the city. Hitler’s order from 23-08-1944 said: “The city must not fall into the enemy’s hand except lying in complete debris”. Most common is Adolf Hitler (did you know)(see William Hitler) phoning him in a rage , screaming, “Is Paris burning ?” By another account, the question was addressed to Hitler’s Chief of Staff, Generaloberst Alfred Jodl,
  on 25 August at the Wolfs’s Lair: “Jodl, is Paris burning?” A tunnel beneath the city was filled with U-boat torpedoes that, if ignited, would produce a titanic explosion and tremendous devastation. On August 17, the busy General received at his headquarters Pierre Charles Tattinger , the mayor of Paris. The mayor was alarmed at all the explosives being deployed throughout the city and asked the German for an explanation. He was shocked by Choltitz’s response: ‘As an officer, Monsieur Tattinger, you will understand there are certain measures I shall have to take in Paris. It is my duty to slow up as much as possible the advance of the Allies.’ Von Choltitz prevented a complete uprising of the city’s inhabitants and direct battles within the city by a mix of active contact with his enemies, negotiation with the Resistance, and demonstrations of power, ultimately preventing any major damage to the famous city.
Free French armored division marched into the office of the commander of the Paris garrison. Their leader announced himself as ‘Lieutenant Henri Karcher of the army of General, Charles De Gaulle.’
  Choltitz responded, “General von Choltitz, commander of Gross Paris.”
 Henri_Karcher   ‘You are my prisoner,’ Karcher informed him. ‘Ja,’ replied Choltitz. Karcher died age 75, on 31-07-1983, in Sarrebourg. Choltitz and 17.000 men under his command surrendered to French General, Philippe Leclercde Haut Ecloque.
  Von Choltitz’s precise motives for disobeying his orders remain unclear. The notion that he defied Hitler because he loved Paris, and realized that Hitler was by then insane, was promoted largely by von Choltitz himself in his 1951 memoir. Captured on 25-08-1944, in prison in Trent Park
  and later in Camp Clinton, Mississippi, he was released from Allied captivity in 1947. After his British captivity, Choltitz returned to his Baden-Baden villa in April 1947. Fittingly, it was on the France Street.

Death and burial ground of Choltitz, Dietrich Hugo Hermann von

 Dietrich von Choltitz died in November 1966, age 71, due to a long standing war illness in the city hospital of Baden-Baden. He is buried with his wife Huberta, born Garnier, who died old age 88 on 09-08-2001, on the cemetery of Baden-Baden only a few steps from Stalingrad Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus “Der Lord” General der Flieger, Commander of Directing Office of Catch Command West, Erich Fitzau, General der Luftnachtrichtentruppe, Kommandeur Luftsignal Instruction Staff, Friedrich Fähnert, Generalleutnant der Artillerie, Kommandeur der XXXXI Panzerkorps, Rudolf Holste, Generalmajor der Infanterie, Kommandeur 172th Infanterie Division, Woldemar Rieberg and Wolfgang Preiss  the WWII war movies actor. Von Choltitz’s funeral was attended by a number of high ranking French Army officers

Dietrich von Choltitz was a man with two sides. “In the first years of the war, my father was a feared officer who drove his people and was seen as a city killer,” says son Timo (75). Especially the brutal battle for Sevastopol (Crimea) cemented his reputation. On the other hand, the General wrote maudlin letters. To wounded soldiers (“Dear God protect you and make you well”), to the parents of fallen soldiers (“Your boy was so dear to my heart”), to the family. The longer the war lasted, the more Choltitz’s doubts about the regime grew. He didn’t want to be Nero in modern times, ”says Timo von Choltitz.

 

Share on :

end