Tolsdorff, Theodor “Tolsdorff the Mad”

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Tolsdorff, Theodor, “Tolsdorff the Mad”, born 03-01-1909 in Lehnarten, East Prussia, went to school in Königsberg and later became a farmer. He continued his education to become an administrator of an estate in Lehnharten. In 1934, at the age of 25, he joined the 1st Infantry Regiment as a volunteer in Insterburg. On 01-06-1934, Tolsdorff was promoted from the ranks to lieutenant. During the Polish Campaign, Tolsdorff led the 14th, anti-tank-gun, Company in the 22nd Fusilier Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division, under General Joachim Otto August Achatius Kortzfleisch    Kortzfleisch,  the son of the Prussian Generalmajor Gustav Franz Achatius von Kortfleisch , on 20-04-1945, age 55, defended himself with a machine pistol, as he was surrounded by US soldiers and was told “Hands up” he answered “no” and a US soldier shot him in the left breast.
Tolsdorff was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class  for actions against the Kamienna Góra bunker line. Soon afterwards, he earned the Iron Cross 1st Class for preventing an enemy breakout when he attacked from close range. He was wounded  in the shoulder at the end of the campaign. Tolsdorff’s unit was then transferred to the Rhineland as part of the army reserve. He participated in the French Campaign. His unit fought in Belgium and drove to the Flanders pocket, then south past Paris to the Saumur area. At the beginning of Russian Campaign, Tolsdorff again was in charge of the 14th Company. Passing through Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, he assumed command of the battalion and again was severely wounded. While in the hospital, he was promoted to Hauptmann and awarded with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 04-12-1941. He returned to the front in April 1942 and participated in the heavy fighting for Schlüsselburg. After the heavy fighting at Leningrad and Lake Ladoga, Tolsdorff lost half of his right foot due to deep splinter injuries. For outstanding success in closing the Volkhov pocket in June 1942, Tolsdorff received the German Cross in gold On the closing days of the Volkhov battle, he again was injured, this time in the head by a bullet. Tolsdorff was forced to remain in the hospital until 20-09-1942. On 01-01-1943, Tolsdorff was promoted to Major and made commander of the 1st Battalion. Tolsdorff returned to his unit during the defensive battles at Lake Ladoga. In July 1943, the third and most difficult battle at Lake Ladoga began. After successfully fighting off a Soviet attack for fourteen days and participating in counterattacks in the neighboring sector and restoring the situation, Tolsdorff was awarded the Oak Leaves on 15-09-1943.    On New Year’s Eve 1943, the 1st Infantry Division  under Generalleutnant Martin Grase   transferred to the southern sector in the Vinnitsa-Odessa area. Grase survived the war and died age 72 on 03-08-1963, in Freiburg. Tolsdorff was placed in charge of the 1st  Infantry Division’s 22nd Infantry Regiment after its commanding officer, Oberst Ulrich Iffland, had been killed. Again severely wounded, by a shot in the stomach from close range, Tolsdorff managed to return to active duty within a few weeks. He was promoted to Oberstleutnant while in the Lublin hospital. After recovering from his wounds, Tolsdorff was ordered to attend the officer cadet school at Metz. Back at the front in June 1944, Tolsdorff received orders to defend the city of Vilna. He held out long enough to evacuate the thousands of wounded from the city until relief arrived from Graf Hyazinth Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Cammintetz. This action resulted in his promotion to Oberst and the awarding of the Oak Leaves with Swords  on 18-07-1944. In early August, when Tolsdorff received the Oak Leaves with Swords, Hitler personally ordered him to go to Hirschberg for division commanders training.
     At the beginning of September, after completion of the course, Tolsdorff received orders from the Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH, to go to Thorn (East Prussia), to oversee the formation of the 340th Volksgrenadier Division . In mid-November, the unit transferred to the Aachen-Jülich area on the west to defend against US forces trying to cross the Rhine. In December, the unit was withdrawn to make preparations for the Ardennes offensive. The division fought as part of the 5th Panzer Army under command of Hasso von Manteuffel.
   The 5th Panzer Army  was encircled and trapped in the Ruhr Pocket, and surrendered on 17-04-1945. On 18-03-1945, Generalmajor Tolsdorff received in Berlin the Diamonds for personal bravery and his division’s outstanding accomplishments. He was promoted to Generalleutnant, with 36, the youngest Generalleutnant in WWII and ordered to take command of the LXXXII Panzer Corps, which was stationed in the Amberg area in Bavaria. His main concern over the last few weeks of the war was to make sure his men surrendered to US forces. On 8 May, he surrendered in Austria to Lieutenant Clifton Carwood Lipton of 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment , Band of Brothers
 who died on 16-12-2001, age 81, of pulmonary fibrosis in Southern Pines, North Carolina and Robert Frederick Sink
  
of the 101st Airborne Division, nicknamed “Screaming Eagles”  under General Maxwell Davenport Taylor. Tolsdorff’s convoy of 31 vehicles drove down from the mountains loaded with his personal baggage, liquor, cigars, cigarettes and his girlfriends. Private Edward “Babe” Heffron, here with me and 326th Engineers C Company Captain, Joseph “Joe” Crilley Crilley, Joseph "Joe" James  a personal dear friend, who stayed with us with his wife Suzanne for the commemoration in September 1998, took Tolsdorff’s Luger pistol and a briefcase containing Iron Cross medals and a stash of pornographic pictures.
   Edward “Babe” Heffron died old age 90 on 01-12-2013, only one year before his best friend and Band of Brothers hero, also 90 years old, Guarnere, William J ”Wild Bill”.
On 09-05-1947, Tolsdorff was released from American captivity and he took various jobs, such as truck driver and construction worker, until on 07-12-1952, he was arrested. He faced charges for the execution of Hauptmann Franz Xaver Holzhey , an army captain and First World War veteran, on 03-05-1945, age 59. Holzhey, without orders, had put up a red cross sign near the command post. Initially, Tolsdorff was sentenced to two and a half years. A federal court overturned the decision and ordered a retrial. On 24-06-1960, Tolsdorff was declared not guilty. The same year, Tolsdorff was hired by the German Asphalt AG and held a position of manager until 1969, when he took over the branch office in Dortmund. Tolsdorff retired on 31-12-1974. Following a serious accident in which Tolsdorff suffered a double skull fracture, he died on 25-05-1978, age 68, in Dortmund.

Death and burial ground of Tolsdorff, Theodor “Tolsdorff the Mad”.

   Theodore Tolsdorff is buried with his wife Eleonore, born op der Berk, who died age 74, on 15-04-1996 and his son Jürgen, born 21-09-1944, who died young age, 12, on 19-03-1957, on the Cemetery Heckinghauser Strasse in Wuppertal. Friend Bill Sanstrom from Arizona, found out the location of Tolsdorff’s grave, he came to Europe and we together on 05-05-2014 visited the grave in Wuppertal.
  

Cemetery and grave location of Tolsdorff, Theodor “Tolsdorff the Mad”

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