Captain Dr Rupprecht Genrgroß giving his radio broadcast on 27th/28th April (notice he has already removed the Nazi swastika emblems and awards from his uniform).

NB:During the last disorganised days of Nazi Germany Giesler was behind the worst of the violence directed against "defeatists" and those seeking to surrender their districts without pointless destruction, the Penzberger Mordnacht (Night of Penzberg Murder) being one of the best known examples of this. When it was reported to Giesler that three people had been shot in another incident in Burghhausen he retorted "What, only three?"


Sources:

Veronika Diem, Die Freiheitsaktion Bayern. Ein Aufstand in der Endphase des NS-Regimes (2013, Verlag Michael Laßleben)

Gabriel A. Almond, The Size and Composition of the Anti-Nazi Opposition in Germany - A paper from amongst the reports of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSB) of the U.S. Air Force in the National Archives (September 1999, PS: Political Science & Politics)



Dr Philipp Elliot-Wright

MUNICH 1945


As many will know, I often mention to the public the events in Munich at the end of the war. I thought you might like to know more, especially as it is such a remarkable story of “good Germans”.


There is evidence from a number of areas from opposition sources that anti-fascist groups attempted to infiltrate the Volkssturm and undermine its will to resist. Whilst many anti-Nazi groups in Germany were left wing groups, especially the National Kommittee Freies Deutschland established in response to Russian Radio propaganda, in Munich it was a right-wing based movement, and it was this group that linked with both the local Volkssturm and Army units to confront the SS.


In Munich the right wing Bavarian separatist group Bavarian Freedom Action (FAB) organised an armed revolt on 27th/28th April, known as the "Freiheitsaktion Bayern", and broadcast from a radio station for a short period of time. A Bavarian autonomist revolt affecting parts of Munich and Landshut on the 27th and 28th April, 1945, the only successful putsch against the Nazi’s and Hitler inside Germany. They managed to seize some vital radio broadcasting towers, with which they sent out calls for a general rising. These calls were first heeded in Penzberg where a crowd deposed the local Nazi mayor, provoking a retributive massacre by forces loyal to the Nazi regime.


It is clear that the insurrection was long planned, and that many of those involved had been connected with active opposition to the regime for even longer. Unlike other left wing oppositional groups, FAB was linked to the Bavarian Royal family, the House of Wittelsbach (in exile in America) and local Catholic conservative movements. Strikingly, some of the participants had had contacts with the American Secret Service. Notably, the Bavarian uprising of April 1945 marks the first use of radio to initiate a revolt. Dr Veronika Diem has studied many of the personal papers of one of the protagonists involved in the rising, as well as records from public archives. Her work revealed that 440 soldiers were directly involved in the actions carried out on the night of 27th/28th April, far more than had been previously thought. In addition, almost 600 soldiers, volkssturm and civilians responded to the appeal put out by the Freiheitsaktion Bayern. The most important goal of the local actions was to put an end to senseless attempts to hold up the advancing American forces.


The leading figure was a German military lawyer (a graduate of the University of Erlangen and obviously a hero lawyer!), Captain Dr Rupprecht Genrgroß, who commanded an interpreter company in the city. At the commencement of the war, having been wounded in combat in Poland, whilst in hospital he witnessed the massacre of Jews. Having been seriously wounded again outside of Smolensk in 1941, being no longer judged as being fit for frontline duty, he returning to his home city of Munich in 1942 to take command of the Interpreter Company of Military District VII. He became an early opponent of the regime and twice attempted to assassinate Hitler during 1942-44. Within his company he found a group of people who were unconvinced of the Nazi ideals and ideas and he managed to arm his officially unarmed company. He was ably supported by his second in command, Lieutenant Leo Heuwing Ottheinrich Leiling. From 1942, this company formed the heart of the Freiheitsaktion Bayern, but it also involved a number of civilians. In total, the resistance movement had a strength of about 400 people before the uprising. This included elements within the local Volkssturm, including Jürgen Wittenstein, a member of the Weiße Rose movement who had escaped the Gestapo but was then wounded whilst serving in Italy and was invalided back to Munich.


When in late April 1945 the order was issued to defend Munich to the last man by blowing up all bridges and using the Munich trams to form barricades, Captain Dr Rupprecht Genrgroß decided to resist this order to prevent a complete destruction of the infrastructure of the city. Around 22nd-23rd April there had already been contact with the approaching Americans by Major Braun Alois in order to negotiate the surrender of the city, to which there was a positive response. With the American forces some 20 miles from the city, in the early hours of 28th April 1945, Captain Genrgroß ordered the occupation of the radio transmitters in Schwabing-Freimann and Erding from which he broadcast messages in multiple languages, encouraging soldiers to resist the Nazi regime, proclaiming an automatous Bavaria and a restoration of the Bavarian Royal family. He proclaimed a hunt for the golden pheasants, the popular nickname for NSDAP officials, and encouraged people to display white flags from their homes as a sign of surrender. His group also occupied the Munich City Hall and the headquarters of the Völkischer Beobachter and Münchner Neuesten Nachrichten, two newspapers vital to Nazi propaganda. Alongside some 400 Army soldiers under captain Genrgroß direct command, approximately 600 members of the Landesschutzen, Volkssturm (commanded by Captain Salisko) and local population actively participated in the uprising under the blue and white flag of an independent Bavaria and with many wearing Bavarian blue and white armbands. Throughout subsequent events the police chose to remain in barracks, remaining neutral (itself a demonstration of the collapse of Nazi authority).


However, the claim that the Freiheitsaktion had taken control over Munich was premature and whilst it triggered other uprisings against the Nazis in towns across the region, including Landshut and Penzberg, these were brutally opposed by the SS, a mixture of local Gestapo and elements of the SS Division Frundsberg.


Captain Gerngroß's attempt to stop further bloodshed in Munich itself was quickly opposed by the Nazi and SS units still loyal to the collapsing regime. Paul Giesler, Gauleiter of the Gau Munich-Upper Bavaria, was personally involved in confronting the uprising and intense fighting took place. Whilst the radio stations were overrun, the City Hall remained in opposition hands. While Gerngroß and Lieutenant Leiling escaped into the mountains with many of their men, some members of the uprising were captured and 57 subsequently executed by the SS on the direct orders of Gauleiter Giesler. However, within twenty-four hours, the SS, headed by Giesler, fled the city (Paul Giesler headed to Berchtesgaden with his wife, committing suicide on 8th May – see note below). American troops entering Munich without opposition in the early hours of 30th April to be welcomed by members of the FAB waving the blue and white flags of a free Bavaria.


Alongside the events in Munich itself, Gerngroß did save other lives through his action. The prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp, some 25,000 prisoners, were supposed to be sent on a death march south with their SS guards to be used as laborers in the Alpenfestung, with the remainder shot on orders from Giesler. Gerngroß broadcast triggered an uprising in Dachau and the SS left in panic, abandoning the inmates who were liberated by the arriving US forces shortly thereafter. He is also credited with saving the city of Munich from further destruction, and is therefore considered to be the leader of the only successful putsch against Hitler. His announcement of the end of the Nazis in Munich led many German soldiers to desert the lost cause and the US forces arriving in Munich on 30th April experienced virtually no resistance when taking the city.


In 1946, a square near the English Garden in Munich was renamed Münchner Freiheit in honour of the “Freiheitsaktion Bayern” and those who lost their lives in the uprising.

PYRITZ 1st-9th February 1945


Strategic Background:


On the night of 11th January 1945 the Soviets launched an overwhelming offensive across the Vistula designed to sweep across Poland to the Oder and up to the gates of Berlin. Against a vastly outnumbered and outgunned German forces, the Soviet juggernaut swept all before it for over two weeks. After just two weeks their spearheads were just a few dozen miles from the Oder, deep in Eastern Pomerania. It became obvious to the German command that the Soviets threatened to cut-off of the thousands of retreating troops in Pomerania and that the taking away of the Oder bridges at Stettin would cause a very critical situation. It was also critical for the hundreds of thousands of German civilians trekking West in a desperate attempt to escape the brutality being inflicted on the civilian population by Soviet troops seeking revenge for the horrors perpetrated in the Soviet Union over the preceding years. A critical point was the strategic crossroads of the town of Pyritz in Pomerania, towards which the armoured spearhead of the 2nd Soviet Guards Tank Army was heading.


The Battle:


Scrambling to mount a defence, a scratch force of Volkssturm, Hitler Youth, Kriegsmarine and a handful of Army soldiers, were thrown together under the command of Leutnant d.R. Rudi Krause to halt the Soviet’s and designated with the fearsome title of a Panzerjagdkommando (tank hunter unit).


The nucleus of Panzerjagdkommando (Kdo) Krause comprised of 48 Hitlerjungen from Stettin and Stralsund ; so-called HJ-Volkssturm, Jahrgang 1928 (meaning those born in 1928). Leutnant d.R. Rudi Krause, a former Panzerjäger Lt. (Eastern Front), was given command of this Kdo at Stettin. Having received clothing, weapons, ammunition and brief weapons instruction, during this first night the boys, 16 to 18 years of age, mostly still wearing their Luftwaffe Flak uniforms, were sent south-eastwards in lorries towards Pyritz on 31st January 1945. They were joined by a mixture of older Volkssturm, Kriegsmarine and Army personnel, totalling a further 110 or so men, brining the force to a total of around 160.


Formally attached to Kampfgruppe (Kgr) Weiss, Kampfkommandant PYRITZ (Oberst Otto Weiß, Knights Cross with Oak Leaves holder), the initial strength of the unit was around 160 men and comprised of:


  • appr. 48 HJ boys, from Stetting and Stralsund


  • appr. 40 Hitler-Jugend-Schüler, from Tilsit (those volunteered to join the Kdo, when met on the march towards Pyritz)


  • appr, 50 older Volkssturm men from Stettin


  • appr. 20 men from Unteroffiziersschule (NCO School) Stargard, some experienced NCOs (joined the Kdo)


  •  one Kriegsmarine U-Boat crew, appr. 20 men with two officers (sent from Stetting to strengthen the Kdo)


The task of this ad-hoc defensive force was no less than to stop the Soviets armoured spearhead of the 2nd Soviet Guards Tank Army attacking towards Stettin from south-east direction. The heaviest weapon this tank hunting unit were equipped with was the Panzerfaust, otherwise it was a selection of K98s, MP40s and grenades. From 1st February until 9th February 1945 (when they were relieved and marched back to Stettin, where the Kdo was dissolved at the end of February), the Kdo fought a successful hand-to-hand and house-to-house battle at Pyritz. It should be stressed that the Kdo was not the only formation involved, for whilst they fought in the town itself, the Division “Denecke” (see below) fought either side of the town. However, it was the panzerfaust armed HJ and volkssturm of the Kdo who stalked Soviet T34s amongst the houses of Pyritz. For nine days the kdo fought the Soviet spearhead to a halt and the town was consequently not taken and overrun by the Soviets; the 2nd Soviet Guards Tank Army came to a halt at its gates.


Kgr Weiss was initially attached to Division "Denecke" (or "Gruppe Denecke", itself a last minute scratch formation under Generalleutnant Erich Denecke, built around elements of the replacement and training Division 171 and groups of stragglers formed into marsch battalions) until 7th February 1945 when a change of command took place and Div. Denecke was replaced by the 4th SS-Police Panzer Grenadier Division in the Pyritz section of the frontline. On 15th February Pyritz area with a front line of approximately 18 miles was again taken over by Div. "Denecke"(with a completely different composition of troops then) when the 4th SS-Pol.PGD advanced to take part in Operation Sonnenwende (Spring Solstice).


Consequences:


The successful defence of Pyritz briefly stabilised the German frontline allowing substantive German forces and thousands of civilians to escape across the bridges in Stettin and paved the way for almost the very last German offensive, Operation Sonnenwende, launched on 15th February 1945 by depleted elements of the III SS Panzer Corps. Whilst this desperate counter-offensive failed to drive back the Soviet spearheads, it caused the weight of the Soviet offensive to turn north to clear Pomerania before the final assault on Berlin, the latter operation consequently being delayed by nearly 2 months.


Notes:


Krause reported that his deputy Cdr. George Straßburg (who received the EK1 for Pyritz), was amongst those Volkssturm and HJ men who were at Berlin to visit and to be honoured by Hitler, when the last filmed award ceremony was recorded on 22nd March 1945 (Krause was himself was seriously ill in hospital at that time and thus missed it).


As a result of the action at Pyritz action, Krause received the German Cross in Gold and the report contains the original Korps level German Cross in Gold proposal for Krause, itself based on the proposal by Kampfgruppe Weiss, Stettin, 14th February 1945, including a positive comment by Gen.Kdo. XXXII. AK (Gen. Schack), March 1945.


Krause’s Citation for German Cross in Gold


Krause, Rudolf ("Rudi"), 08.05.1945, Leutnant d.R., Führer Panzerjagdkommando Krause [formation (and sent into action by) of HJ-Gebietsführer 5, Stettin (HJ-Gebiet Pommern, Gebietsfhr. Gerd Wegner)]


[action at PYRITZ, southeast of STETTIN, 1st -9th February 1945; attached to Kampfgruppe Weiss / XXXII. AK / Pz.AOK 3]


Primary Source:


(memories / first-hand account by the Cdr. himself):

Rudi Krause, "Noch Vierzig Kilometer bis Stettin” - February 1945 - Kampf eines Panzerjagdkommandos in Pyritz/Pommern, 1. Aufl. 1989, pojkart Verlag, Harry Turné, Lübeck (ISBN 3-924616-18-3)


Additional material:


Christopher Duffy, Red Storm on the Reich, The soviet March on Germany, 1945 (Routledge, 2000)

David K Yelton, Hitler’s Volkssturm, The Nazi Militia and the Fall of Germany 1944-1945, (University Press of Kansas, 2002)