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

His Side of the Story

While Gerhard Kegler was fighting for his pension with the bureaucratic system of West Germany, he also had to defend his honor as former general of the ill-fated ‘Woldenberg Division’. As this post and next week’s post are going to be the last ones on my uncle’s military life, I consider it important to publish his own personal response to the slanderous attacks by his former commanding officer (General Busse) of the 9th Army and let Major-general Kegler have the last word on this matter.


On January 30, 1945 I received from Himmler the order to take command of the ‘Woldenberg Division’. I did not receive any orientation about the military situation nor any specific instructions. I had to locate the ‘division’ myself. I found the command center east of Friedeberg. There was no connection with any high-level command posts. Adjoining troops did not exist. Shortly before noon I took charge of the command at a time, when the hastily assembled ‘division’ had already begun its retreat in a nearly disintegrated condition.

In the morning of January 31, I was busy with the arrangements of the left-over army units in Landsberg. Then I noticed that the ‘division’ had no antitank weapons, no reserves of ammunition and food provisions, and no communication units. There was no physician for the ‘division’. The artillery consisted of two horse-drawn batteries.The ‘division’ was not a “very strong fighting unit”. The troops were definitely not battle-ready.

The Warthe Bridge at Landsberg

The Warthe Bridge at Landsberg

For the town of 45000 inhabitants no preparations had been made for its evacuation. The high command of the 9th army passed on to me through the army’s mail service Himmler’s order that I had to defend the town of Landsberg as a fortress. On that day Russian tanks had already entered the area north of the Warthe-Netze region. I ordered the Warthe bridge to be blown up.

To be concluded next week …

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

Kegler’s Death Sentence and His Life put on ‘Probation’

If you have not read the previous posts on Major-General Kegler, you can look them up by clicking on I, II, III, IV, V and VI.

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 Death Sentence of Major-General Gerhard Kegler

The Death Sentence of Major-General Gerhard Kegler

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.

The Two Kegler Brothers, Günther on the left and Gerhard without his right Arm

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’.

The Kegler Family with Gerhard and his daughter Helga on the left

The Kegler Family with Gerhard and daughter Helga on the left (1964)

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.

Theodor Heuss, First President of the Federal Republic of Geramny - Photo Credit:

Theodor Heuss, First President of the Federal Republic of Germany – Photo Credit:

To be concluded on next week’s post