Gille, Herbert Otto, born 08-03-1897 in Gandersheim, Harz as the son of a factory owner. He 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 a first lieutenant 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
and the SS. He married Sophie Charlotte Mennecke
on 04-01-1935 and his only child, a daughter, 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. 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 was instrumental in the withdrawal of his command and others of the encircled Group Stemmermann through “Hells Gate” during the Korsun cauldron encirclement, also known as the Cherkassy Pocket. The Soviets greatly outnumbered the German forces but they failed to cut off their retreat, though they were able to inflict serious damage on the German formations. Gille received the Diamonds addition to his Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
in present of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler
and SS Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein,
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. 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 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”.
After the war, Gille became active in HIAG, a lobby group and a revisionist veteran’s organisation founded by former high-ranking Waffen-SS personnel in West Germany in 1951.
Here a meeting with Kurt Meyer
and Paul “Papa” Hausser
Death and burial ground of Gille, Herbert Otto.