Kurt Adolf Wilhelm Meyer was born at Jerxheim on 23 December 1910, the son of a factory worker. On completing his education he became a policeman; he joined the SS on 15 October 1931, and on being commissioned in 1934 was posted to the ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’. In 1936 he was promoted to SS-Obersturmfuhrer and given command of the regiment’s anti-tank company. In Poland in 1939 he was wounded in action and earned the Iron Cross Second Class. Shortly thereafter he was transferred to command the motorcycle reconnaissance company, which he led during the 1940 campaign in the West as an SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer, winning the Iron Cross First Class. When the ‘Leibstandarte’ was upgraded to brigade size Meyer’s recce company was enlarged to battalion strength as the Aufklarungs Abteilung, and he retained command with the rank of SS-Sturmbannfuhrer. It was to be during the 1941 Balkan campaign that his star began to rise. On 13 April 1941 he launched an assault to seize the Klissura Pass, break through to Lake Kastoria and cut off Greek forces. The advance bogged down in the face of heavy fire from the flanking heights; Meyer split his force into three assault groups, personally leading the central attack through the pass while the other groups tackled the enemy troops on the flanks. It was here that Meyer famously lobbed a hand grenade behind his own troops to ‘encourage’ them to leave cover and storm the enemy positions. Two days later Kastoria was in Meyer’s hands, along with over 1,100 prisoners. For this achievement Meyer was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 18 May 1941. Meyer continued to command the Aufklarungs Abteilung LSSAH through the opening phases of the Russian campaign; after a spell of sick leave he returned to combat duty in January 1942, and a few days later he was awarded the German Cross in Gold. In early 1943, having made a strategic withdrawal from Kharkov during a Soviet counterattack, Paul Hausser (qv) sent his SS-Panzerkorps storming back into the city, and for his unit’s part in this victory SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Meyer was awarded the Oakleaves on 23 February 1943. Following the creation of the new 12.SS-Panzer Division ‘Hitlerjugend’ in summer 1943 (see Witt, above), Meyer was transferred from the ‘Leibstandarte’ to take command of its SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 25, with promotion to SS-Standartenfuhrer. The new division was heavily involved in defensive fighting and counter-attacks following the Allied landings in Normandy, and Meyer led the first battle group to make contact with Canadian troops near Caen on 7 June 1944. When, little more than a week into the campaign, Fritz Witt (qv) was killed, ‘Panzermeyer’ was appointed as temporary divisional commander. The ‘Hitlerjugend’ saw some of the bitterest fighting of the war as the fanatical young Panzergrenadiers held back the advance of the British and Canadians, and their disdain for casualties amazed those who faced them. Another result of their indoctrination was a disregard for the Geneva Convention - within the first week they had murdered at least 64 British and Canadian prisoners, and after the bodies were found Allied soldiers were reluctant to give quarter to captured SS men. By the time Meyer’s ‘HJ’ Division was withdrawn on 11 July, its losses had reached some 60 per cent in four weeks. On 27 August 1944, Kurt Meyer was awarded the Swords, and on 1 September - still only 33 years old - he became the youngest general officer in the Wehrmacht when he was promoted to the rank of SS-Brigadefuhrer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS. Five days later his command of the division came to an abrupt end when he was captured by Resistance fighters at Durnal; the arrival of Allied troops saved him from being killed out of hand, but when the war ended he was put on trial for his life as a war criminal. The charges included assertions that he had encouraged his men to give no quarter, and responsibility for the execution of Canadian prisoners at the Ancienne Abbe at Ardenne near Caen on 7 June 1944. He was found guilty and sentenced to death on 28 December 1945; but the sentence caused some unease, and the Canadian MajGen Christopher Vokes commuted it to life imprisonment when, on reviewing the prosecution case, he found it to be ‘a mass of circumstantial evidence’. Meyer in fact spent only nine years in prison before being released in September 1954 on grounds of ill-health. He became a brewery manager, and was an active member of HIAG, publishing his memoir Grenadier in 1957. His health continued to decline, and in 1961 he suffered three strokes followed by a fatal heart attack. He died on his 51st birthday, 23 December 1961. Kurt Meyer originally received the death penalty for his atrocities against Canadian soldiers and was sentenced to be shot by a firing squad on 7 January 1946. Following an appeal, this sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was shipped to Canada and spent five years in the Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick where he learned to speak English and worked in the prison library. Then, he was returned to Germany to finish his sentence in the Allied prison in Werl and was released in 1954.