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Felix Steiner

Discussion in 'History of Germany during World War II' started by Jim, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Felix Steiner was born in Ebenrode on 23 May 1896. During World War I he saw combat on both the Eastern and Western fronts, and took a particular interest in the development of the Sturmtruppe concept employed so effectively in the German offensive of spring 1918. He was retained in the Reichswehr after the war; but it was only when Major Steiner transferred to the SS-Verfugungstruppe the forerunner of the Waffen-SS that he had the opportunity to develop training for these tactics free from the more traditionalist inter-war thinking of the Army. Steiner’s motto, ‘Sweat saves blood’, was to prove entirely valid. The SS-Regiment ‘Deutschland’ fought well under SS-Standartenfuhrer Steiner’s leadership in 1940, winning him the Knight’s Cross on 15 August. When the decision was taken the following month to form a division including volunteers from ‘Germanic’ countries, the forward thinking Steiner was chosen to lead it and promoted to general rank. Formed around the SS-VT’s ‘Germania’ Regiment, the new formation (originally entitled ‘Germania’, but after a few weeks renamed ‘Wiking’) also included men from Holland, Denmark, Norway, Belgian Flanders, the Baltic states, and even some volunteers from neutral Sweden and Switzerland. Under Steiner’s leadership, ‘Wiking’ became one of the best of the Waffen-SS motorized, later mechanized, and finally armoured divisions. He commanded it on the southern sector of the Eastern Front from June 1941, fighting at Tarnopol, Uman and Korsun before being checked on the Mius river in December.

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    In 1942 Steiner’s division took part in the Wehrmacht deepest penetration, via Rostov on the Don to Tuapse, the Maikop oilfields and the Terek River in the Caucasus; and on 23 December 1942 he was decorated with the Oakleaves to his Knight’s Cross. Early in 1943 the re-equipped SS-Panzergrenadier Division ‘Wiking’ was instrumental in preventing the Red Army from breaking through to the Sea of Azov and thus encircling huge numbers of German troops in the area between the Don and Donetz rivers. At the beginning of March 1943, SS-Gruppenfuhrer Steiner was appointed to command the newly forming III (germanisches) SS-Panzerkorps, which he led with distinction until October 1944, being promoted SS-Obergruppenfuhrer in July 1943. His corps was in the Oranienbaum bridgehead south-west of Leningrad when the Soviet offensive from that city and along the Gulf of Finland began in January 1944; his units were heavily committed to fierce defensive fighting until September, finally being forced back into the Baltic states. For his skilled leadership Steiner received the Swords on 10 August 1944; and in September what was left of his corps was given a brief respite in Croatia.
    Steiner commanded the nominal 11.Panzerarmee during the defence of Pomerania in early 1945; although in practice far weaker than its title suggested, this formation checked Zhukov’s advance by desperate counter-attacks around Stargard, before being forced westwards over the Oder river. In the last days of the Third Reich, Hitler entertained a fantasy of an attack southwards by Steiner’s units as his final hope for the relief of Berlin. Steiner had no intention of squandering the lives of his remaining troops, and simply ignored the orders he received from Generals Jodl, Keitel and Heinrich. After release from British captivity, Steiner was active in working for the welfare of veterans. He wrote a number of books describing his wartime experiences, the most famous being Armee der Geachten (‘Army of Outlaws’). Felix Steiner died in retirement in Munich on 17 May 1966.
     

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