Gerhard Kegler, the general, who dared to disobey Himmler – Part III

The Woldenberg Division and Himmler’s Order to Defend Landsberg

Excerpt Taken from the book ‘The Siege of Küstrin: Gateway to Berlin 1945’ by Tony Le Tissier, Publishers: Pen and Sword Books

If you missed reading the related posts, go back to May 13 and 22.

Lieutenant Rudolf Schröter, whom we last encountered west of Landsberg on the morning of 31 January, was completely unaware that he and his 400 recruits were part of the ‘Woldenberg’ Division,’ as he related:

Field Commanders discussing a Desperate Situation - Photo Credit: softairmania.it

Field Commanders discussing a Desperate Situation – Photo Credit: softairmania.it

On the morning of the 31st January my unit rejoined the Königstiger SS-sergeant-maior about 4 kilometres west of Landsberg in the Wepritz area. As we were still without a super­ior command or orders, I had us retreat westwards.

Beyond Dühringshof I was met by a car with a general, who received my report, did not introduce himself nor did he name his formation. He ordered me to deploy left of the road to Diedersdorf. My left-hand neighbor would be Second- Lieutenant Clemens’s unit.

When we stopped a Russian armored reconnaissance vehicle with infantry fire, the soldiers jumped over the sides with a blanket that was supposed to protect them from our fire. That night the first Russian attack occurred with more on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd February. Small enemy breaches were driven back with counterattacks by the exemplary fighting recruits.

On the 3rd February I was summoned to a conference by the divisional staff in Vietz town hall. Here for the first time I discovered that my unit belonged to the ‘Woldenberg’ Division. The divisional commander, Major-General Kegler, described the situation.

The division was surrounded by Russian troops. Vietz station on the south-eastern edge of the town was in enemy hands. Blumberg was also occupied by the Russians. Two enemy infantry regiments were at Gross Cammin. Communication with Küstrin was severed. Re-supply was only possible by air. His decision was to leave.

The orders handed out by the divisional chief of staff for my unit and that of Second-Lieutenant Clemens were not possible of execution or would entail heavy losses. I therefore rose to protest and suggested that we should first disengage ourselves from the attacking enemy so that the immovable heavy weapons and especially our infantry could get out of the diffi­cult terrain and deep snow.

As the general declared to the chief of staff that this was also his opinion, the following radio message arrived from headquar­ters 9th Army: ‘Report situation and intentions. Hold Vietz.’ Major-General Kegler promptly rescinded his orders for the division’s withdrawal.

My Uncles Günther and Gerhard Kegler at the Grave of their Brother in 1940

My Uncles Günther and Gerhard Kegler at the Grave of their Brother in 1940

Back in my position and after speaking to my left-hand neigh­bor, both of us fearful of having pointless high casualties among our recruits, I decided to convince the divisional commander that he should stick to his plan to withdraw, and that in any case I would decide according to my conscience. I returned to Vietz.

 To be continued …

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