Petershagen, Rudolf.

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Petershagen, Rudolf, born 04-06-1901 in Hamburg from a Hamburg merchant family. His father was an authorized officer. Even as a high school graduate, he was a soldier in the Free Corps “Storm Battalion Schmidt”, which was later taken over in the Reichswehr. After he had graduated in 1921, he began studying at the War College Munich. In 1924 he was made a leutnant, in 1934 a oberleutnant.

In the spring of 1935, Rudolf Petershagen married Angelika von Lindequist, a noble lady from Potsdam, and a church wedding took place in the garrison church. In 1937, he was also promoted to Hauptmann as a company commander in the Infantry Regiment 92 to Greifswald. There, the couple moved in 1938 an officer’s house..

As a company commander Petershagen 1938 was involved in the occupation of Czechoslovakia. In the summer of 1939 he was unscheduled promoted to major. In the first period after the beginning of World War II Petershagen belonged to the staff of the Replacement Division in Szczecin. Then he was transferred to France and fought in the Balkans. During the Russian campaign, he was included with his battalion at the first battle of Kharkov. He did not allow himself to be overrun with his battalion as instructed, but successfully ventured the outbreak. For this he received the Knight’s Cross. He was also promoted to Oberstleutnant and commander of the Greifswalder Panzergrenadierregiments 92. With his unit he participated in the Battle of Stalingrad. He was badly wounded and flown out of Stalingrad, before the great collapse of Fieldmarshal Paulus’s  6th Army. He came to a military hospital in Greifswald. After a lengthy recovery, he was no longer fit for the front and was from 1943 so-called “location senior”. On 01-01-1945 he was appointed city commander of Greifswald.  During the war it was a site of a camp for prisoners of war held by Nazi Germany called Stalag II-C. In April 1945, At that time, a circle had formed around the rector of the University of Greifswald, the plans for the non-combatant transfer of the city to the Red Army considered. The group succeeded in winning Petershagen for their project. When the Soviet troops were near Greifswald, Petershagen initiated the necessary military steps for the surrender. For this he consulted long and detailed with his neighbor and officer subordinate to Leutnant Paul Grams.

The Greifswalder Paul Grams was promoted to District Customs Commissioner (G) on 01-07-1938 and charged with the management of the customs office in the customs border area Greifswald. Paul Grams had a radio in his apartment, so he was certainly far better informed about the front and war than Oberst Petershagen, who could only get his current and uncensored information over the phone. To operate the radio was the radio operator Schwinkowsky divided. Schwinkowsky was not only a subordinate of Leutnant Grams, but there must have been a particularly good relationship of trust between them, which also included Oberst Petershagen. The three men certainly did not meet in Grams’s apartment for card or chess games. Knowing the radio-generated information on the daily changing situation, she combined common concern for the future of the city entrusted to her. They discussed how to save one’s life, one’s own as well as that of all citizens of the city, and how to prevent the destruction of the city. When they agreed that escape to save their own lives, as was the case in many examples of Szczecin’s Nazi greats, was out of the question for them, the only other option was to prevent a fight for them City, to save the lives of all citizens like the countless refugees and war wounded in the city. This goal could only be achieved by a punctual transfer of the city to the Red Army.

At that time, the two officers combined good camaraderie. The Oberst had the last word in all military matters and to make the decision in due time. Paul Grams, however, had in mind clear ideas of what to do when and how to secure the whole project.

When the consequences of a fightless handover of the city took shape in their minds, a written fixation had to be avoided for security reasons, was Schwinkowsky home with officially valid discharge papers (from the Kommandantur?) In civilian clothes from Paul Grams and by bike from Grams Wuppertal on the way. It was a long way from Greifswald to Sprockhövel near Wuppertal. That was a daredevil feat in April 1945, for which Schwinkowsky needed several days. “This indirectly shows that the commander’s deliberations and decisions were certainly not made at the very last minute, and not at all or in parallel, at the suggestion of university professors, even though they were perfectly in the spirit of Paul Grams

On the night of April 29 to 30, 1945, a parliamentary delegation drove up to the enemy lines. Among others, the group consisted of the rector of the University Carl Engel, the director of the medical university clinic Gerhardt Katsch and the deputy city commander Colonel Max Otto Wurmbach. During the nocturnal negotiations in the burning Anklam, the parliamentarians managed to convince the Soviet General that Greifswald would surrender without a fight.

In contrast to the neighboring cities Anklam and Demmin Greifswald was saved from destruction. Petershagen was sentenced to death by the National Socialists for handing over the city to the Red Army without a fight. From 1945 to 1948 Petershagen came into Soviet captivity. After his release in 1948, he returned to Greifswald.

Death and burial ground of Petershagen, Rudolf.

Initially, Rudolf Petershagen was involved in building up the National Democratic Party (NDPD) in Greifswald, which was regarded as the political home of former Wehrmacht officers and converted followers of the Nazis. Later he became district chairman of this party. In 1950 Petershagen Greifswalder city council and shortly thereafter to the district council on the Baltic island of Usedom was appointed.

On the occasion of a trip to Munich in 1951 he was arrested by the American secret service for aiding and abetting espionage. When Petershagen was taken to his cell – it was a cellar hole without a window – he protested against the unworthy placement of (initially) in protective custody. By force they wanted to push him into the cell, whereupon he tried to resist. Later, Petershagen woke up with blood in his mouth. He lacked some teeth. In the cellars of the American secret service, he was severely lung and heart disease.

Petershagen was later sentenced by an American military court, to six times six years in prison, of which he served four years in Munich, Landsberg and Straubing. During the detention Petershagen was urged by representatives of the American secret service to leave the GDR. He was offered freedom and a pension as Oberst. Petershagen declined the offer.

After his return in 1955, the city of Greifswald appointed him an honorary citizen. In 1956 he was appointed honorary senator of the Ernst Moritz Arndt University. He then held less important political honorary posts and worked mostly as a freelance writer. Petershagen died age 67 on 13-04-1969 in Greifswald and is buried on the Greifswald Neuer Friedhof Greifswald, Landkreis Vorpommern-Greifswald,

 

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