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Theodor Eicke

Discussion in 'Who Was Who Of Germany In WWII' started by Jim, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    One of the most unsavoury senior officers of the Waffen-SS, Theodor Eicke was born in Hudingen on 17 October 1892, the son of a railway stationmaster of modest means. He joined the Army in 1909, and served in both the infantry and artillery during World War I. Although he was a paymaster NCO, Eicke did receive several decorations including the Iron Cross. After the Armistice he joined the police - on three occasions, in various districts - but each time he was dismissed for subversive right-wing political activities. Finally, in 1923, he secured employment with the chemicals company I.G.Farben, where he ultimately worked as a security advisor.

    SS-Ogruf Theodor Eicke, in a formal portrait 1942.
    Eicke, the first head of the concentration camp organization, showed little military talent as commander of the SS ‘Totenkopf’ Div; he was criticized for his blundering recklessness, which led to needlessly high casualties among his men.


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    Eicke joined the Nazi Party in December 1928 and the SS as an enlisted man in July 1930; just over a year later he had attained the rank of SS-Standartenfuhrer, equivalent to full colonel, in command of SS-Standarte 10. In June 1933, by then promoted to SS-Oberfuhrer, Eicke was given command of the newly opened concentration camp at Dachau, and one year later was appointed Inspector of Concentration Camps. This post is said to have been his reward for his part in the murderous purge of the SA leadership on 30 June 1934. Eicke was elected to the Reichstag in 1937, holding a seat until his death. (While it is accurate to draw a distinction between the crimes committed in the wartime extermination camps in occupied Poland, and the first concentration camps in Germany, it must be emphasized that the regime to which German political prisoners were subjected in the latter was murderously brutal.)
    By the outbreak of World War II, Eicke had been promoted to SS-Gruppenfuhrer. During the Polish campaign he served as Hohere SS und Polizei Fuhrer (HSSPF) - Senior SS and Police Commander - in the areas of operation of Armeeoberkommandos 8 and 10. In this capacity Eicke’s men were heavily involved in the rounding-up and murder of thousands of Jews and other Polish civilians; vigorous complaints by some Army commanders were ignored.
    In November 1939, Eicke was given command of the SS-Division ‘Totenkopf that was being formed from members of the SS-Totenkopfverbande - the ‘Death’s-Head’ units which staffed the concentration camps controlled by Eicke. This attempt to transform into soldiers thousands of prison guards of varying age, fitness, intelligence and military aptitude was due to Himmler’s determination to increase the armed strength of the SS at a time when he was forbidden to compete with the armed services for high quality conscripts. The ‘Totenkopf’ Division was under-trained, chronically under-equipped, and poorly officered when Eicke led it into the 1940 campaign in the West. Although he himself was awarded the Iron Cross First Class, his division did not perform well, taking heavy casualties and narrowly avoiding a panic retreat. Eicke’s leadership was brutal, headstrong and insubordinate, and he was accused by a senior Army general of being a ‘butcher’ of his own men. His division was responsible for a number of atrocities against Allied prisoners of war, murdering both French North African troops and, at Le Paradis on 27 May, about one hundred British soldiers of the 2nd Bn, Royal Norfolk Regiment.
    During the first phase of the campaign on the northern sector of the Eastern Front in June 1941, Eicke was seriously injured when his command car ran over a mine and his right foot was shattered. Evacuated for hospital treatment, he returned in September 1941. Although it again suffered heavy casualties, the division performed better than the previous year; and in December 1941, Eicke was decorated with the Knight’s Cross. Isolated by the Soviet counter-offensive of January 1942, his division was encircled around Demjansk with a number of Army formations; by the time the Demjansk Pocket was relieved in April 1942 the ‘Totenkopf had been reduced to a fraction of its former strength. That month Eicke was promoted to SS-Obergruppenfuhrer und General der Waffen-SS, and decorated with the Oakleaves.

    SS Gruppenfuhrer Theodor Eicke, commander of the SS Totenkopf Division on the Eastern front 1942.

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    Six months later, Eicke’s division was withdrawn from the front for rebuilding and upgrading to Panzergrenadier (mechanized) status. The ‘Totenkopf’ returned to Russia in January 1943 in time to take part in Hausser’s (qv) Kharkov campaign. On 26 February the divisional HQ had lost contact with the ‘Totenkopf’s’ tank unit, and Eicke took off in a Fieseler Storch for a personal reconnaissance. Over the village of Orelka the spotter plane came under heavy small arms fire and was shot down; Eicke died in the crash.

    Original: Gordon Williamson
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    SS-Obergruppenfuhrer und General der Waffen-SS Theodor Eicke; Northern Russia, March/April 1942

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    The above illustration is based on the commander of the SS-Division Totenkopf predates the award of the Oakleaves on 20 April 1942, which marked his division’s conduct in the Demjansk Pocket. Like Hausser, Eicke favoured SS insignia on an Army-style field cap, and the Armystyle tunic with dark green collar facing; on the latter his rank patches show the early war design. The long, loose trousers bloused over laced ankle boots perhaps with short puttees are not exactly identifiable. Otherwise the only noteworthy item is the cuff band, which retains the old death’s-head insignia of SS-Standarte Oberbayern rather than showing the regulation lettered Totenkopf title (See Picture Below). This pre-war band was sported by a number of the division’s officers.

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