Schörner, Ferdinand, born on 12-06-1892 in Munich , the son of a police officer Chief Police Inspector Johan Schorner, Ferdinand age 18, dropped out of school and volunteered for the Bavarian Army. When World War I broke out in 1914, Schörner had reserved an officer’s commission. During World War I Schörner was a part of the German Alpine Corps . Schörner and the Alpine Corps saw some of the bloodiest battles of the war like the Verdun Battles in 1916. He commanded a platoon for most of this war. On October 1917, when the German 14th Army attacked the Italian Defense line near the Isonzo River, Schörner and his company captured hill 114 on the infamous Kolovrat Ridge. For this deed he was awarded the Pour Le Merite. After World War I, Schörner like many Germans got involved into Right-Winged Politics. He was a member of Franz Ritter von Epp’s Paramilitary group, Freikorpses. This group spent most of there time battling communism. In 1920, Schörner was allowed in the new German Reichswehr. While in the Reichswehr, Schörner was attached to the 19th Gebirgs Regiment in Munich. During 1923, Schörner helped suppress Adolf Hitler (see Erich Ludendorff) Munich Putsch, (see Andres Bauriedl)
. When Adolf Hitler (see Hitler parents) was released from prison,
Schörner joined the NSDAP. He remained a Company Commander all through Hitler’s rise to power. By 1934, he was promoted to Major and served in the German General Staff. Then in 1937 Schörner was appointed command of the 98th Gebirg’s Regiment and held the rank of Oberstleutnant. On 13-09-1939, Schörner and his Regiment showed great courage during the Polish campaign by capturing Hill 374. In 1940 Schörner still commanded the 98th Gebirgs Regiment and now held the rank of Oberst. Schorner and the 98th saw action in both France and Belgium. After the French campaign, he was given command of the 6th Gebirgs Division from 01-06-1940. In 1941 Schörner and his Division was sent to the Balkans. On 06-04-1941, the Division played an important role in the Invasion of Greece. Schörner and his men crossed the 7.000 foot mountain range. This action cut off the Greeks supply route to Salonika. The 6th Mounted Division along with the 2nd SS Panzer Division ‘Das Reich’ under SS Obergruppenführer, Wilhelm Bittrich, captured Athens only weeks later. Because of this feat, Schorner was given the Knight’s Cross.
In 06-04-1941 the German troops attacked Greece from both the Yugoslavian and the Bulgarian borders. A series of amazing and heroic fights between the Greek soldiers and the Germans forces took place which lasted almost four days and nights. The Germans were surprised by the heroic Greek spirit and the disproportionate losses they had. Approximately in “Battle of the Metaxas Line” much more than 800 were KIA -including a big part of the XVIII Mountain Corps- and more than 2500 were wounded, all in just under four days. During the “Battle of the Metaxa Line”, many scenes of bravery took place. Probably the most notable and sad is the story of Sergeant Dimitrios Itsios. In the western side of the line, on the Greek mount “Beles” there were three fortified machine-gun nests, Π7, Π8 and Π9 (Machine-gun nest), with a handful of soldiers. Their position on the hill is called in Greek “Beautiful Hill”. The Germans attacked with the 6th Mountain Division under the command of Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner. The attack on the location of the Beautiful Hill was relentless but the German troops were not able to advance. Still, they kept pressing on. Inside the bunker Π8 there was Sergeant Dimitrios Itsios. As the attack was continuous, it became obvious to him that that eventually they wouldn’t be able to stop the attack. He ordered his men to leave and go help the inner defense lines. He decided to stay and cover their retreat and take down as many Germans as he could. Two of his men disobeyed his orders and stayed with him. He fought for another four hours and every German attack against Π8 bunker failed.
But, eventually, after firing more than 38.000 rounds, Π8 went silent as the machine gun ran out of ammunition. By then Itsios alone had killed 238 German soldiers and one Oberst, the only high ranking officer killed in the “Battle of the Metaxas Line”.
When the German soldiers arrested the two Greek soldiers and Sergeant Itsios, the German Field Marshal along with a German officer who spoke Greek and acted as a translator, came face to face with him and as testified by the two soldiers that had stayed, the following dialogue took place:
Schörner: Who is the commanding officer of this bunker?
Itsios: Me, sir.
Schörner: You? A Sergeant? Isn’t there a higher ranking officer? A Colonel? A Major?
Itsios: No sir, only me and these two soldiers.
Schörner, then took Itsios to see the killing field with the countless dead Germans.
Schörner: Sergeant, this is your work. I congratulate you. Do you know, that you killed almost all of the men I sent against you plus one Colonel?
Itsios: I’m sorry, sir, but i was defending my country.
Schörner: I’m sorry too, but I have to do my duty as well.
He ordered his men to give honors to Itsios by presenting arms and then he ordered his execution.
It was the first day of the German offensive against the Metaxa Line and one day after Itsios’ birthday. He was 35 years old.
Since, Sergeant Itsios was a POW, this was officially the first of many war crimes committed by the German forces in Greece.
Today, Sergeant Dimitrios Itsios is recognized as a Greek hero, with the “Beautiful Hill’ being like the modern Thermopylae’.
When the Soviets opened an offensive against the Artic sector, the 6th Gebirgs Division took part in the Defensive; it is said that during these battles, Schorner took part in hand to hand combat with his men. In January 1942, he was promoted to the rank of Generalmajor, succeeded by Generalleutnant Christian Philipp and he now commanded the Mounted Corps Norway . General Philipp died age 70 on 16-10-1963 in Unterleinleiter in Bavaria. While commanding the Mounted Corps Norway, Schorner held off Soviet Offensives. In 1943 Schörner was given command of the 40th Panzer Corps in the Ukraine. The Germans now only had one bridgehead in Dnepr. During ‘Operation Ladies Excuse Me’, it is known that he actually took control of a Flak Anti-Aircraft gun. Then on February 15 the rear guard of the 40th Panzer Corps escaped annihilated. After this daring exploit on February 18, Schörner was placed in charge of the National Socialist Leadership Corps. After he had a brief command of the NS Corps, he was then put in charge of Army Group A , where he succeeded Generaloberst Josef Harpe. On 07-04-1944, Schörner went to the Fortress Crimea to inspect it’s defences. When he made his report about Fortress Crimea, he stated that everything was sufficient. This was not true. The 17th was ill prepared and unequipped. After Schörner’s inspection one day later the Soviets attacked wiping out most of the 17th, the rest of the 17th retreated back to Sevastopol. He actually attempted to have the soldiers in Sevastopol evacuated but Hitler firmly refused. Schörner now gave these orders: any troops that deserted were to be shot. Then on May 5 the Soviets launched an attack on Sevastopol, some 43.000 Axis soldiers surrendered. On July 23, Schörner was given command of Army Group North which was defending the Baltic States. Schörner’s Army Group was outnumbered by the Soviets and Army Group Center was 30 some miles away. Because of this, it is said that he actually asked Hitler to let Estonia go. Of course the Führer refused. Then on September 14, the Soviet attacked with 130 Divisions. Schörner, here with the Romanian leader Marshal Ion Antonescu, begged Hitler for a retreat. This time Hitler allowed a retreat. After Schörner conducted a stunning retreat from Estonia, the Army Group was to be trapped in the Courland Pocket for the rest of the war. Schörner’s next command would come in January 1945 when he was ordered to take control Army Group Center. He and his Army Group were to hold Silesia at all costs.
When the Soviets launched there offensive, Army Group Center was driven back to Czechoslovakia. In March, Schörner along with the Führer predicted a Soviet advancement into Prague. During the battle to defend Ostrava from the Red Army Advance, Schörner had several German officers executed for voicing “defeatist” opinions. He, he was known by his subordinates as “Bloody Ferdinand” for his harsh methods. Hitler then ordered Army Group Center to be reinforced by 600.000 soldiers. The German army group reported inflicting heavy losses on the Soviets. According to a communiqué from the German Courland command of the 16th of March 1945, the Soviet army lost 320,000 soldiers “killed, wounded and captured”, 2.388 tanks, 659 planes, 900 artillery pieces, and 1.440 machine-guns through the first five battles in Courland. The Soviets are estimated to have lost an additional 74.000 with 553 taken prisoner in the sixth and last battle. The total German casualties in Courland are estimated to be over 150,000. Then on April 5, Schörner was promoted to the rank of General Fieldmarshal. He was the next to last Heer soldier to attain the rank of General Fieldmarshal. In August 1944 Schörner saved the life of Major, Walther Peer Fellgiebel, a protégé of Schörner, as Fellgiebel´s father, General Erich Fellgiebel was involved in the 20 July Plot 1944 and Walther didn´t know this. Erich Fellgiebel was hanged in the Plòtzensee prison in Berlin on 04-09-1944, age 57. The 20 July treaten at the Bendlerblock in Berlin was saved by Major Otto Ernst Remer
commander of the Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland who refused to arrest Josef Goebbels after talking to Hitler in the Wolfschanze by phone. In the weeks after the July 20, 1944, attempt on Hitler’s life, Schörner opened staff meetings by asking, “How many men did you hang today?” More than once, he shot dogs for barking too loudly. On April 24, Berlin was trapped by Soviet forces. On April 27 Hitler (see Alois Hitler) went so far to announce, “On the occasion of my death Ferdinand Schörner will take command of the German Army.” Like all tyrants, Schörner enveloped himself in a posse of thugs who did most of his dirty work. His security troops once came upon a tank workshop at which a crew was waiting for mechanics to repair its reconnaissance vehicle; Schörner’s men shot the vehicle commander for “malingering.” At Lednice, Czechoslovakia, on May 07-05-1945, Schörner was reportedly present when his goons shot 22 German soldiers for “standing around without orders.” Note the date: Hitler had been dead a week and the war was all but over, but Schörner was still murdering his men. He rationalized these crimes on grounds that he had to maintain discipline to ensure that his army group could flee into American custody rather than have the Soviets overrun it. His strategy was an “organized flight to the West,” a maneuver that had to proceed systematically. Two days before the murders at Lednice, Schörner issued his last order of the day to Army Group Center. “In these hard days, we must not lose our nerves or become cowardly,” he declared. “Any attempt to find your own way back to the homeland is a dishonorable betrayal of your comrades and of our people, and will be punished.” Blood-stirring words. Joseph Goebbels wrote of Schörner on 11-03-1945. “They are hanged from the nearest tree with a placard round their necks saying: ‘I am a deserter. I have declined to defend German women and children and therefore I have been hanged.'” The approving Goebbels continued with, “Naturally such methods are effective. Every man in Schörner’s area knows that he may die at the front but will inevitably die in the rear.” Gottlob Herbert Bidermann, a German infantry officer who served in Schörner’s command in 1944-45, reported in his memoirs that the General was despised by officers and men alike. Schörner was “extraordinarily brutal”.
Too bad that on May 9, Schörner abandoned his post. He, in civilian clothes,he pretended to be a Bavarian farmer. boarded his Storch and flew off, leaving Army Group Center to the Soviets after all. The marshal who harangued his men to hang tough for the Führer—and hung them if they didn’t—turned tail and ran. This never happened as he crashed landed in Austria and remained there until he was detained by the Americans. Schörner is said to have been dressed as a Bavarian non-combatant, behavior in which he had only recently had his soldiers executed.
The Allies then gave him to the Soviets. A Soviet Court sentenced Schörner to 25 years imprisonment. He only served 10 years. He then returned to Mittenwald, Germany. On his arrival to West Germany, Schörner was convicted of the manslaughter of Wehrmacht soldiers. He served 4 ½ years in prison. Schörner was released from jail in 1963, by intervention of the Chancellor Heinrich Lübke himself also with a Nazi past in the building of the V1 and V2 with Wernher von Braun. Schörner lived the rest of his life in obscurity and poverty in Munich. In the late 1960s he gave a lengthy interview to Italian historian Mario Silvestri which centered on his role and actions during the Austro-German victory at the battle of Caporetto in World War I rather than on his World War II service.
Death and burial ground of Schörner, Ferdinand “Bloody Ferdinand”.
Before his death he was the last living German Feldmarshall, having outlived Fieldmarshal der Infanterie, Erich von Mansteinby 23 days. No field marshals have been created since Ferdinand Schörner died on 06-07-1973, old age of 81, from a heart attack and he is buried with his wife Liselotte, born Karboschowsky, who committed suicide age 40, on 08-04-1949, and his son Hans Ferdinand, who committed suicde in 1956, on the local cemetery of the beautiful town Mittenwald, where he had his Mountain Troops headquarters.