Gille, Herbert Otto, born 08-03-1897 in Gandersheim, Harz
the fourth son of the manufacturer Hermann Gille. Herbert transferred from the upper secondary school to the cadet school and became an Ensign when he was 17 years old. He began his military career as an Oberleutnant in the artillery branch during the First World War and won the Iron Cross First
and Second Classes. He left the Army in 1919 and remained a civilian working in agriculture and as a car dealer until 1931 when he joined the Nazi Party
nr.: 537 337 on 07-05-1931 and the SS, nr.: 39 854 on 10-10-1931. Gille married Sophie Charlotte Mennecke on 04-01-1935 and his only child, a daughter, Ilse was born on 09-10-1935. In 1934 he was re-activated by the SS
combat support forces. He became a Company Commander in Ellwangen, then a Battalion Commander of the SS regiment Germania
in Arolsen. He later served as the commander of an artillery unit in Jueterbog. Gille married Sophie Charlotte Mennecke (born 31-12-1903) from Stemmen, Lower Saxony) on 01-01-1935. From this marriage came one daughter (born 09-10-1935). As the commander of the 1st
Battalion of the SS-V Artillery Regiment Gille participated in the invasion of Poland
and in the Western campaign. In 1940 he took over the artillery regiment of the 5th
SS Panzer Division “Wiking”
, led by SS Obergruppenführer, Felix Steiner
After the assault on the Soviet Union, Gille, as a leader of an advance guard, reached the Kuban and received the Knight’s Cross
on 08-10-1942. Shortly thereafter he took command of the Wiking Division, Panzer Division on the Eastern Front. Early in 1944, Gille here with Himmler
and the Belgium SS Standartenführer Leon Degrelle
Léon Joseph Marie Ignace Degrelle (Bouillon, 15-06-1906 – Málaga, Spain, 31-03-1994) was a Walloon-Belgian politician who founded the Belgian fascist movement Rex in 1936.
In the Second World War he raised the Walloon Legion of the Waffen-SS, troops that fought on the Eastern Front. After 1945 he was sentenced to death in absentia in Belgium. He lived in dictator Franco’s Spain until 1994, where he was given asylum and a new identity.
Gille received the Diamonds addition to his Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
married with Eva Braun‘s
sister Margarete Berta “Gretl”
Shortly after his escape from the Cherkassy Pocket, Gille and members of his staff were flown into the encircled town of Kovel to organize its defense. Under Gille’s steady leadership the mixed army and Waffen SS units maintained a vigorous defense until the siege was raised by approaching German units from the West.
His troops stood strong on the East Prussia border with the 3rd
SS Panzer Division Totenkopf, under Generalleutnant der Panzertruppe, Fritz Bayerlein
and prevented the planned Soviet breakthrough to Berlin in the autumn of 1944 destroying large numbers of Soviet tanks.
The SS Totenkopf Division was founded in October 1939 and was composed of concentration camp guards from the 1st (”Upper Bavaria”), 2nd (”Brandenburg”) and 3rd (”Thuringia”) ”Standarten” (regiments) of the SS-Totenkopfverbände and soldiers of the SS-Heimwehr Danzig. The division had officers from the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), many of whom had fought in Poland. The division was commanded by SS-Obergruppenführer Theodor “Papa” Eicke
During the Battle of France the division was generally equipped with weapons captured from the Czech Republic. After missing the Polish Campaign, the division was initially held in reserve during the attack on France and the Low Countries in May 1940. However, it was sent to the front in Belgium on 16 May 1940. The Totenkopf soldiers fought fanatically, but suffered heavy losses.
While the Totenkopf Division committed numerous massacres of French Arab and African troops, the most infamous remains the murders at Le Paradis. The Le Paradis massacre was a war crime committed by members of the 14th Company, SS Division Totenkopf, under the command of SS Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein.
It took place on 27-05-1940, during the Battle of France, at a time when the British Expeditionary Force (BEF)
was attempting to retreat through the Pas-de-Calais region during the Battle of Dunkirk. Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Norfolk Regiment,
had become isolated from their regiment. They occupied and defended a farmhouse against an attack by Waffen-SS forces in the village of Le Paradis. After running out of ammunition, the defenders surrendered to the German troops.
The Germans machine-gunned the men after they surrendered, with survivors killed with bayonets. Two men survived with injuries, Private William “Bill” O’Callaghan from Dereham in Norfolk and Private Albert “Bert” Pooley from Southall in London
and were hidden by locals until they were captured by German forces several days later. After the war, Knöchlein was tried for war crimes by a British military court. He was found guilty, sentenced to death, and on 28-01-1949, age 37, at Hamburg, Fritz Knoechlein was hanged.
was hit in the arm and knocked to the ground. Another body fell on him and Bill decided to play dead. He was aware of the Germans going along the line of fallen soldiers and thrusting bayonets and firing shots into them. They did this to the man who fell on Bill. But fate then took a hand as the Germans left. A number of hours afterwards Bill was woken up, after having fallen asleep, by another survivor, Bert Pooley,
who had a shattered leg. Bill carried Bert to a woodpile and then a pig sty. That was some achievement bearing in mind the injuries to both men and the fact that Bert was well over 6ft tall whilst Bill stood at little more than 5ft 6in. Bill and Bert survived for three days on raw potatoes and muddy water they drank from puddles and which made them ill. Thankfully they were found by Madame Duquenne-Creton and her son Victor who owned the farm and, ignoring the danger to themselves, they sheltered the two men. Madame Creton reported the matter to the village hierarchy and, with Bill and Bert’s agreement, the two men were handed over to the German Wehrmacht 251 Infantry Division.
under command of General Hans Kratzert,
Kratzert died 03-07-1958, age 75, in Frankfurt am Main. No action was taken against the Duquenne-Cretons by the Germans. Bill spent the remainder of the war in prisoner of war camps. But let’s go back to the beginning.
Bert Pooley sadly passed away on Wednesday 11-07-2018, at UHW, surrounded by his loving family, aged 82 years.
Picture left shows Victor Creton, Mr and Mrs Bill O’Callaghan, Pauline Creton and Heather O’Callaghan pictured at the reunion in Norwich in the 1960s. On the right Bill O’Callaghan is re-united with Victor Creton, Pauline Creton and Etienne Creton in France.
In January 1945 Gille, as leader of the IV SS Panzer Corps comprising the 3rd
SS Panzer ” Divisions “Wiking Division” under SS Standartenführer
, Johannes Mühlenkamp
, was sent to Hungary to attempt to relieve the encircled city of Budapest. However, his troops were unable to break through to the city. In March 1945 he led the IV SS Panzer Corps in the failed Lake Balaton Offensive and following the Soviet counter-offensive his corps was forced to retreat into Austria. When the end of war was clear, he marched towards the U.S. troops in order to avoid surrendering to Soviet forces.
Gille, Herbert. General of the Waffen-SS, Germany from left to right: Gille, Lieb, Leon Degrelle, Dr. Dietrich- Hebert was held by the U.S. for three years, and released in May 1948. Gille was highly regarded for his leadership qualities and tactical abilities. He commanded Waffen-SS units at the regiment, division and corps level with distinction during the war. 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. Gille was popular with his men and admired for his personal bravery. He was well-known for the unusual walking-stick he carried. After the war he worked for a newspaper until 1958. He also owned a small bookshop. Gille was the founder of a magazine for veterans of the Wiking Division, “Wiking Ruf”.
Gille was very much valued as a genius tactic and as someone with great leadership skills. During his long military career he successfully led regiments, divisions and a corps. His inferiors admired his courage. He was respectfully cold “old”.
Gille faced his share of controversy with the organisation. In 1952, HIAG held its first major meeting in Verden. It began respectably, with Gille announcing that the veterans were ready to ‘do their duty for the Fatherland’ and Steiner declaring support for ‘freedom, order and justice’. But the next speaker delivered a different message. Former paratroop General Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke
who had been invited to demonstrate so-called solidarity with the Wehrmacht, condemned the Western Allies as the ‘real war criminals’ and insisted that the blacklist on which all former SS members then stood would soon become “a list of honor”. The outburst caused a furor within West Germany. Periodicals as far as the U.S. and Canada carried headlines Hitler’s Guard Cheers Ex-chief and Rabble-Rousing General Is Worrying the Allies, with the latter article reporting that Ramcke’s speech had been greeted with “roars of approval and cries “Eisenhower, Schweinehund!” (“Eisenhower, pig-dog”)”.
Death and burial ground of Gille, Herbert Otto.