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Hitler’s Heroes During Operation Barbarossa (Hardback)

Knight’s Cross Generals on the Eastern Front, 22 June–5 December 1941

Military > By Century Military > Frontline Books Military > Reference

By Jeremy Dixon
Frontline Books
Pages: 296
Illustrations: Approximately 170 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036101534
Published: 30th September 2024

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This is a study of the officers who were promoted to the rank of general and who were also awarded the Knight’s Cross during the early period of Hitler’s assault upon the Soviet Union. This takes us from the great onslaught of Operation Barbarossa, through to Hitler’s decision to abandon his attempt to capture Moscow and adopt a temporary defensive stance due to the early onset of winter. Such was the scale of operations during these momentous first six months of the war on the Eastern Front there were endless opportunities for officers to display courage and leadership. This resulted in a total of 172 generals – twenty-five Generalmajors, fifty-five Generalleutnants, eighty-three full Generals, eight Generalobersts and one Generalfeldmarschall – being awarded the Knight’s Cross in this period alone.

One such recipient was General der Artillerie Erich Marcks who personally directed the fire of his guns against enemy bunkers at very close range. On the day he was notified of his award of the Knight’s Cross he was seriously wounded and had to have his left leg amputated. Despite this he returned to service in March 1942 and was later awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves.

General der Infanterie Ernst Schroth, the Commanding General of the XII Army Corps, was awarded the Knight’s Cross for his part in the attack on the Brest-Litvosk Fortress in June 1941. Considered a staunch supporter of Hitler, he was appointed to the Court of Honour which investigated those members of the Wehrmacht who had participated in the 20 July 1944 Valkyrie plot to kill the Führer.

Hermann-Heinrich Behrend was just a Major when he was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 15 July 1941. This was for his actions while commanding I. Battalion of the 489th Infantry Regiment in its successful breakthrough of the enemy’s heavily defended lines southeast and east of Tauroggen in Lithuania on 22 June 1941. Behrend continued to display great courage and resourcefulness, which saw him rise to the rank of Generalmajor and the later awards of both the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves, and the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and Swords

With each of these 178 entries there is a detailed description of how and where the Knight’s Cross was won and in the case of the higher awards, such as the Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds, who presented the award, where and when. This study provides details of their rank and command at the time of the award as well as also detailing their career during the war and after, with investigations into their fate and post-war life. The book is completed with a considerable number of photographs of many of these officers.

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About Jeremy Dixon

Jeremy Dixon has been interested in Nazi Germany for over thirty-five years and has written several books on the subject. His first book Commandersof Auschwitz detailed the careers of the SS officers who served at Auschwitz concentration camp. It was followed by books dealing with Luftwaffe generals who won the Knight’s Cross, a two-volume study of recipients of Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, and the third which details the holders who served in the Fallschirmjäger, Germany’s elite parachute unit. His most recent publication is The U-Boat Commanders: Knight’s Cross Holders 1939-1945.

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The Knight’s Cross (Ritterkreuz) was one of the highest decorations given for extreme acts of valour to all ranks of the German armed forces during the Second World War. Few awards captured the respect and admiration of the German public as the Knight’s Cross – it was the greatest honour one could achieve. In the perilous and close-knit world of the U-boat crews the award of the decoration to their captain was an event of particular pride and sometimes it was even added to the boat’s insignia. In all, there were 123 recipients, including their commander-in-chief Karl Dönitz, and Jeremy…

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