Heinrici, Gotthard Fedor August, ” Our poison Dwarf”, born 25-12-1886 in Gumbinnen
, East Prussia, to Paul Heinrici, a local Lutheran minister of the Prussian Church, and his wife Gisela, born von Rauchhaupt and was married to a “half-Jew,”. Gisela’s father was Edmund Rudolf Volrad Julius Fedor von Rauchhaupt
, an old Lutheran Prussian landlord family, her mother was Antonie Dietze, Antonie’s brother Adolph was ennobled in 1888, daughter of Gottfried Dietze. Gottfried was Prussian chamber commission councillor, a government position which by 1820, was not granted to Jews, simultaneously tenant of the royal demesne in Barby, and Johanna Dorothea Elisabeth Rothmann. If she was born Jewish, she had converted to the religion of her husband, since interfaith marriages were only allowed in Prussia by 1847. He was a cousin of Generalfeldmarschall der Panzertruppe, Gerd von Rundstedt
Henrici had two children, Hartmut
and Gisela, with his wife Gertrude Strupp. Heinrici was a religious man who attended church regularly. His religious faith and his refusal to join the Nazi Party
made him unpopular among the Nazi hierarchy and he was on unfavourable terms with Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering
(did you know
) and Adolf Hitler
(did you know
). Heinrici’s wife Gertrude was half Jewish and both his children Hartmut and Gesela were one quarter Jewish, General Heinrici received the “German Blood Certificate”
from Adolf Hitler personally which validated their German nationality. The Heinrici family had been soldiers since the 12th
century. Gotthard Heinrici continued the family tradition by joining the 95th
Infantry Regiment on 08- 03-1905. He was 19 years old. Heinrici saw action on both the Eastern and Western fronts in the First World War and won numerous awards. His awards included the black wound badge for being wounded in battle.
Heinrici also received both the Second Class and First Class Iron Crosses
in 1914 and 1915, respectively. He participated in the Battle of Tannenberg. Heinrici was a victim of poison gas in World War I.
Heinrici served throughout World War II. As in World War I, he served on both fronts. Heinrici built up a reputation as the best defensive tactician in the German Army and was renowned for his tenacity. For this reason, his officers and men nicknamed him Unser Giftzwerg, literally “our poison dwarf”, meaning “our tough little bastard” in recognition of his character and lack of physical stature.
Heinrici here with Generaloberst der Panzertruppe, Oberbefehlhaber Südwest, Heinrich von Vietinghoff
Heinrici was considered reserved and quiet, popular among his staff and men who served under him. He was also well noted in the German Army for his wearing of World War I boots and muddy leather leggings instead of the spit and polish German Jack boots of the Nazi era. In addition, he wore the “old style” field cap, and either the issue pattern camouflaged jacket given to regular soldiers or a worn and dirty padded winter jacket with rank on his sleeve instead of the popular Nazi collar rank. ” During the Blitzkrieg into France, Heinrici’s command was part of Generaloberst der Artillerie, Oberbefehlhaber Army Group Noord, Wilhem Ritter von Leeb’s
Army Group C. He commanded the XII Army Corps, succeeding General der Infanterie Walter Schroth
which was part of the First Army. It was destroyed during the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive and reformed in late-1944. Heinrici succeeded in breaking through the Maginot Line on 14-06-1940. In 1941, during Operation Barbarossa, Heinrici served in the Second Panzer Army
under Generaloberst der Panzertruppe, Heinz Guderian
On 26-01-1942, Heinrici was given command of the 4th
succeeding General der Gebirgstruppe Ludwig Kübler
. This unit was crucial to the rapidly crumbling German line directly facing Moscow. The 4th
Army under Heinrici held out against the Soviet onslaught for ten weeks. Heinrici managed this even though his forces were sometimes out-numbered 12 to 1. In late 1943, Goering had Heinrici placed in a convalescent home in Karlsbad on the pretext of “ill health”. This was actually punishment for refusing to set fire to Smolensk in accordance with the Nazi “scorched earth” policy. However, it should be noted that Heinrici went on a two-month leave of absence twice during World War II. He took leave from 6 June to 13-07-1942. About one year later, Heinrici took leave from 1 June to 31-07-1943. One of these leaves was believed to be due to his contracting hepatitis. In the summer of 1944, after eight months of enforced retirement, Heinrici was sent to Hungary and placed in command of the 1st
and the Hungarian 1st
under General Vilmos Nagy
which was attached to it. He awarded the Hongarian Generaloberst, supreme commander of Hungarian First Army, Vitéz László Dezső
the Knight’s Cross
on 05-03-1945. Generaloberst Dezsö was executed age 55 on 08-06-1949. Henrici was able to keep the First Panzer Army relatively intact as he retreated into Slovakia. Heinrici fought so tenaciously that he was awarded the Swords to the Oak Leaves of his Knight’s Cross
On 20-03-1945, Adolf Hitler (did you know
) replaced Heinrich “Reichsheini” Himmler
with Heinrici as Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula on the Eastern Front. Indicating that he was ill, Himmler had abandoned his post on 13 March and retired to a sanatorium at Hohenlychen. At this time, Army Group Vistula’s front was less than 50 miles from Berlin. As Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula, Heinrici commanded two armies: the Third Panzer Army led by General der Panzertruppe, Hasso von Manteuffel
and the Ninth Army led by General der Infanterie, Theodore Busse
Heinrici was tasked with preventing a Soviet attack across the Oder River. But he faced shortages of manpower and material and Hitler’s conviction that the Red Army would not attack Berlin. Led by Marshals Georgy Zhukov
and Ivan Konev
, the Soviets had advanced rapidly west from the USSR and had been stalled east of the Oder for months. As Anglo-American armies approached Berlin from the West, however, Josef Stalin
became convinced that they intended to take Berlin for themselves and ordered Zhukov and Konev to seize the city without further delays. On 15 April, Heinrici met with Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer
and Lieutenant General Helmuth Reymann,
Reymann died old age 95 on 08-12-1988, in Garmisch Partenkirchen, to discuss Hitler’s Nero Decree. This decree instituted a scorched earth policy. On 16 April, the first stage of the Battle of Berlin, the Battle of the Oder-Neisse, began. Combined, the Soviets attacked with over 1.500.000 men for what they called the “Berlin Offensive Operation”. In the early morning of 18 April, Zhukov’s front crossed the Oder and assaulted Heinrici’s positions on the western bank. Simultaneously, Konev’s front attacked Field Marshal der Gebirgstruppe, Kommandeur der XXXX Panzerkorps, Ferdinand Schörner’s
Army Group Center further south. By 19 April, the Soviets had broken through and the Battle of the Oder-Neisse was over. Now began the second stage of the Battle of Berlin, the battle for the city itself. On 28 April, German Field Marshal der Infanterie, Wilhelm Keitel
was riding along the roads north of Berlin when he noticed to his amazement that troops of the 7th
under Generalleutnant der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur Panzer Grenadier Regiment 33
, Dr. Karl Mauss
and of the 25th
were marching north away from Berlin.
Heinrici here with Fieldmarshal Günther von Kluge
had defied the strictest orders of Keitel and his deputy, Generaloberst der Wehrmacht, Chef der Wehrmacht
, Alfred Jodl
Furious, Keitel went in search of Heinrici and found him on a road near Neubrandenburg. Heinrici was close to the front and accompanied by von Manteuffel. Processions of wounded and disarmed soldiers and endless treks of refugees were moving past. Keitel, his face purple, called Heinrici to account and spoke of insubordination, treason, cowardice, and sabotage. Keitel accused Heinrici of weakness and shouted that if Heinrici had only taken General Lothar Rendulic
who died age 83 on 18-01-1971, in Austria in Austria, as an example and shot a few thousand deserters or strung them up on the nearest tree, his armies would not now be on the retreat. Keitel relieved Heinrici of his command on 29 April. Heinrici’s command was offered to von Manteuffel, but von Manteuffel not only declined the promotion, he protested the treatment of Heinrici all the way to the Fuhrer’s Bunker in Berlin. General der Infanterie, Commander 14th Army
, Kurt von Tippelskirch
was named as Heinrici’s interim replacement until General der Flieger, Kommandeur der 1st Fallschirmjäger Regiment
, Kurt Student
who was in Holland with General der Flieger, Oberkommando Wehrmacht in the Netherlands. ordered the masacre of Putten
, Friedrich Christiansen
could arrive and assume control of Army Group Vistula. But Student was captured by the British before he could take command. After losing his command, Heinrici retired to Plön, where he surrendered to British forces on 28-05-1945. After his capture, Heinrici was held at Island Farm where he remained, except for a three-week transfer to a camp in the United States in October 1947, until his eventual release on 19-05-1948.
Heinrici and his wife Gertrude Theophile Elma,born Strupp (who was declared half-Jewish), who was married on 16-10-1920, had two children, Hartmut and Gisela Christa Elisabeth Alice (born 01-01-1926), who later became Edvin Johan Petersson married. Both children, quarter Jews, had personally received a declaration of German blood from Adolf Hitler.
Hartmut Heinrici (1921–1993) was a brave Hauptmann in World War II who, as a young leutnant, fought with his father on the Eastern Front in 1941. He was a holder of the Iron Cross of both Classes, the Infantry Assault Badge, the wound badge and the Eastern Medal. In April 1945 he was captured by the US as a prisoner of war in northern Italy, and the Germans were deported to Taranto in southern Italy by truck, train and ship. From Taranto they were shipped to Egypt by the Royal Navy, where Heinrici stayed until September 1948. As a Protestant theologian and military pastor he was later inter alia. Senior military pastor of the Bundeswehr School for Internal Leadership and from 1971 at the Scientific Institute for Education in the Armed Forces which was renamed in 1974 as the “Social Science Institute of the Bundeswehr”. Most recently he was Evangelical Defense Area Dean I in Kiel and Dean in Reutlingen.
Death and burial ground of Heinrici, Gotthard ” Our Poison Dwarf “.