Kegler’s Death Sentence and His Life put on ‘Probation’
Parts V and VI are a digression from the report extracted from the book: The Siege of Küstrin – Gateway to Berlin 1945. But they provided some valuable insight into Kegler’s personal life before he was called away from Gutfelde to become commander of the newly established Woldenberg Division and also commandant of Landsberg/Warthe, which was declared a fortress by Himmler.
“At dawn on February 4, the remains of the ‘Woldenberg’ Division began crossing the anti-tank ditch that blocked the Landsberger Chaussee at the eastern end of Küstrin. They had already come to within 10 kilometres of the town the previous day but had waited for darkness to get through the area occupied by Soviet forces.
General Busse had sent a young liaison officer to meet them, but without any instructions for Major-General Kegler. When the latter arrived in Küstrin he was promptly given orders to report to the standing court-martial in Torgau, thus becoming one of the last to leave Küstrin by the normal road. As the witnesses to the events leading up to Kegler’s court martial were now trapped in Küstrin, evidence had to be obtained from them by telephone.” Thus, one reads in the book ‘The Siege of Küstrin: Gateway to Berlin 1945’.
Court martial proceedings against Major-General Gerhard promptly began on February 11, 1945 and ended on the following day with the pronouncement of his death sentence for not having defended the city of Landsberg against the enemy.
The bottom line of this document written ‘In the Name of the German People’ reads: The accused Major-General Kegler due to his breach of duty on the battle field is condemned to death, to loss of his eligibility for military service and to perpetual loss of his civil rights.
Von Scheele, the president of Nazi-Germany’s Court Martial Justice System, brought about a suspension of the death sentence and postponed its execution to the end of the war.Demoted to the rank of a private, he was to die a heroic death or to prove himself worthy to be pardoned. As a soldier in the battle field he was severely injured losing his right arm and in the closing weeks of the war became a prisoner of war of the British, who promptly promoted him back to the rank of a ‘Nazi-General’.
When in 1952 he applied for a pension as a former general of the armed forces, the official in charge declared, “You have been condemned to death by Himmler!” and turned down my uncle’s application. What followed is hard to believe. Gerhard Kegler had to apply to have his death sentence annulled in order to be eligible for his pension. However, the provincial court of Hesse in Giessen rejected his application on the ground that he had missed the deadline regarding compensation for injustices suffered under the Nazi regime. The West-German press heard about this case and spread the news about the condemned general with headlines like ‘Does Himmler still rule from his Grave?’. The news created such a public outcry that in the end Theodore Heuss, the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany, stepped in and officially rescinded the death sentence. Thus, my uncle finally regained his status as general in retirement and was able to draw his pension.
To be concluded on next week’s post