Ernst, Albert “The Tiger of Vitebsk”..

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Ernst, Albert  born 15-12-1912 in Wolfsburg, joined the Reichswehr on 01-11-1930 at the age of eighteen. During World War II, Ernst proved himself as a tank officer on the Eastern and Western Fronts. He has received many awards for his proven personal bravery. In 1943 he was promoted to leutnant.

The most notable Panzerjäger ace was platoon leader in the 1st company of the heavy tank destroyer detachment 519, Leutnant Albert Ernst. The department commander was Major Wolf-Horst Hoppe , the department’s adjutant was Leutnant Julius Strehler and the doctor was medical officer Dr. Günter Bruns. Major Hoppe survived the war and died age 88 on 06-07-1997 in Süderbrarup/Schleswick-Holstein.,

On 23-12-1943, Leutnant Ernst and his tank destroyer “Nashorn” (Sd.Kfz. 164) shot down 14 Soviet tanks in one day with only 21 rounds near Vitebsk. Ernst would end the war  score with a total of 75 kills. Here he got his name “The Tiger of Vitebsk”. He received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for his total of 55 kills (25 enemy tanks and several anti-tank guns) on 22-01-1944 (some sources give February 7, but this is probably the date of the Knight’s Cross award ceremony). Thus he had become the most successful tank destroyer in the great winter battle for Vitebsk. His company commander, Oberleutnant Erwin Kreßmann received the German Cross in Gold, another platoon leader of the company, Sergeant Erich Bansen, also received the Knight’s Cross. Erich Branze survived the war too andf died young 49 on 19-09-1966.

In the winter battle Albert suffered a severe head wound and after his recovery was deployed as a company commander in the Panzer Brigade 150 under famous SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny

  in the Ardennes offensive, then he led the 1st company of the heavy tank destroyer detachment 512  Skorzeny during the war, was involved in a number of operations, including the removal from power of Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy and the Gran Sasso raid which rescued Benito Mussolini from captivity. Skorzeny led Operation Greif (the Ardenne battle) in which German soldiers infiltrated Allied lines by using their opponents’ uniforms, equipment, language and customs.

Most recently Ernst commanded a detachment of Jagdtigers in an unsuccessful fight against the bridgehead at Remagen,  which was built by US troops on 07-03-1945, and was then supposed to prevent the completion of the Ruhr basin with the support of the Sauerland Freikorps. The battalion was equipped with the new Jagdtiger tank destroyer, which was built at the Hindenburg factory in St. Valentin near Linz, Austria. Ernst was impressed by the giant vehicle and its 12.8cm gun, whose barrel was more than eight meters long.

Ernst’s combat group surrendered with the subordinate combat units of the 116th Panzer Division and the Jagdtiger Division 512. The Jagdtigers were handed over to the 394th US Infantry Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division on April 16, 1945 in front of the town hall on Schillerplatz in Iserlohn. It is said that Iserlohn was the only German city to capitulate “in all honor”. Commander of the LIII. Corps, Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein, had surrendered the day before, on 15-04-1945 as the person responsible for the eastern Ruhr basin.

Hauptmann Albert Ernst (Kommandeur schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 512) looks on wistfully at the day his heavy tank hunter battalion surrendered to US forces at Iserlohn, 16-04-1945. He was offered freedom by his enemy, but preferred to enter a prisoner of war camp along with his men. Ernst himself had fought in World War II from 1939 to 1945. In his first action when Germany invaded Poland, in the Battle of Kutno, he managed to destroy his first tank using an anti-tank weapon. For this achievement Ernst was awarded the Eisernes Kreuz II medal

On 21 March 1945, the battalion was assigned to LIII Corps under command of Generalleutnant Fritz Hermann Michael Bayerlein

  and committed to the Battle of Remagen. By the end of the month it was reduced to a strength of 13 Jadgtigers. During April, the 1st and 2nd companies were destroyed in the Ruhr Pocket, while the 3rd Company was lost during fighting in the Harz Mountains. Hauptmann Albert Ernst surrendered his 512th Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion (Panzerjägerabteilung 512, Jagdpanzer Regiment) to the US Army 99th Infantry Division at Iserlohn, Germany.

Death and burial ground of Ernst, Albert “The Tiger of Vitebsk”.

After the war Albert Ernst retired in Iserlohn.where he died on 21-02-1986, age 73,

 

 

 

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