Hermann Fegelein
German military officer; brother-in-law of Eva Braun
Hermann Fegelein
SS-Gruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein was a General of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany. He was a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage and brother-in-law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister, Gretl. Fegelein was highly decorated for his service on the Eastern Front during World War II, where units under his command were responsible for the deaths of over 17,000 Jews and other civilians at the Pripyat swamps in Byelorussia in 1941.
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  • 1945
    Fegelein's parents and his brother Waldemar survived the war. Gretl, who inherited some of Eva's valuable jewellery, also survived the war. She gave birth to a daughter (named Eva Barbara Fegelein, after her late aunt) on 5 May 1945.
    More Details Hide Details Eva Fegelein committed suicide on 25 April 1971 after her boyfriend was killed in a car accident. Gretl Braun-Fegelein moved to Munich and remarried in 1954. She died in 1987, aged 72. The death sentence on 28 April resulted in the loss of all orders, awards, and honorary signs. Fegelein held various ranks in both the Allgemeine-SS and Waffen-SS. The following table shows that progression was not synchronous.
    He was on duty at Hitler's Führerbunker in Berlin in the closing months of the war, and was shot for desertion on 28 April 1945, two days before Hitler's suicide.
    More Details Hide Details Historians William L. Shirer and Ian Kershaw characterise him as cynical and disreputable. Albert Speer called him "one of the most disgusting people in Hitler's circle". Fegelein was an opportunist who ingratiated himself with Himmler, who granted him the best assignments and rapid promotions. Fegelein was born in Ansbach, Bavaria, to the retired Oberleutnant Hans Fegelein. As a boy working at his father's equestrian school in Munich, he became proficient in riding skills and participated in jumping events. During this period he met Christian Weber, an original member of the Nazi Party. Weber later sponsored Fegelein's entry into the Schutzstaffel (SS).
    Hitler, presiding over a rapidly disintegrating Third Reich, retreated to his Führerbunker in Berlin on 16 January 1945. To the Nazi leadership, it was clear that the battle for Berlin would be the final battle of the war. Berlin was bombarded by Soviet artillery for the first time on 20 April 1945 (Hitler's birthday).
    More Details Hide Details By the evening of 21 April, Red Army tanks reached the outskirts of the city. By 27 April, Berlin was cut off from the rest of Germany. On 27 April 1945, Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) deputy commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl was sent out from the Reich Chancellery to find Fegelein who had abandoned his post at the Führerbunker after deciding he did not want to "join a suicide pact". Fegelein was caught by the RSD squad in his Berlin apartment, wearing civilian clothes and preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland. He was carrying cash—German and foreign—and jewellery, some of which belonged to Braun. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the Western Allies. According to most accounts, he was intoxicated when arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker. He was kept in a makeshift cell until the evening of 28 April. That night, Hitler was informed of the BBC broadcast of a Reuters news report about Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies via Count Bernadotte. Hitler flew into a rage about this apparent betrayal and ordered Himmler's arrest. Sensing a connection between Fegelein's disappearance and Himmler's betrayal, Hitler ordered SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller to interrogate Fegelein as to what he knew of Himmler's plans. Thereafter, according to Otto Günsche (Hitler's personal adjutant), Hitler ordered that Fegelein be stripped of all rank and to be transferred to Kampfgruppe "Mohnke" to prove his loyalty in combat.
  • 1944
    Fegelein's politically motivated marriage to Gretl Braun, Eva Braun's sister, took place on 3 June 1944 in Salzburg.
    More Details Hide Details Historians Kershaw and Shirer believe he courted Braun as a way to advance his career. Hitler, Himmler and Martin Bormann acted as witnesses at the ceremony. A two-day celebration was then held at Hitler's and Bormann's Obersalzberg mountain homes and the Eagle's Nest. Fegelein was a known playboy and had many extramarital affairs. Hitler's secretaries, Christa Schroeder and Traudl Junge, state Fegelein was popular socially, particularly with women. He could be funny, amusing and charming. After his marriage to Gretl, Eva was glad to have someone in the entourage with whom she could dance and flirt, as Hitler was distant in social situations and refrained from publicly showing affection. Thereafter, Fegelein worked hard to develop a friendship with Hitler's powerful private secretary, Martin Bormann. Fegelein "never missed" Bormann's drinking parties and told Junge that the only things that mattered were "his career and a life full of fun."
    On 20 July 1944 Fegelein was present at the failed attempt on Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia and received a minor wound to his left thigh from the bomb blast.
    More Details Hide Details Fegelein often showed around the photographs of the hanged men who had been executed as a result of this failed assassination attempt.
    At the same time, Himmler assigned him to Hitler's headquarters staff as his liaison officer and representative of the SS. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS on 10 June 1944.
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    Following his convalescence he was appointed chief of Amt VI—Office for Rider and Driver Training—in the SS-Führungshauptamt on 1 January 1944.
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  • 1943
    Fegelein was seriously wounded in September 1943, and was reassigned by Heinrich Himmler to Hitler's headquarters staff as his liaison officer and representative of the SS.
    More Details Hide Details Fegelein was present at the failed attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944.
    He received the German Cross in gold on 1 November 1943.
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    Fegelein was severely wounded on 30 September 1943 and was hospitalised for a few weeks.
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    On 11 September 1943, during these defensive battles, he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in bronze.
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    Fegelein and his division were involved in operations against partisans in May to July 1943, which included Operation Weichsel, Operation Zeithen and Operation Seydlitz.
    More Details Hide Details On 17 May they annihilated a partisan group south west of Novoselki. He personally blew up a bunker in the attack. A week later, on 24 May, the division attacked another partisan strongpoint, and no prisoners were taken. During Weichsel (27 May – 10 June 1943) he reported the unit had killed 4,018 persons and deported 18,860, confiscated 21,000 cattle and destroyed 61 villages southwest of Gomel. During Zeithen (13–16 June 1943) they destroyed a further 63 villages and (under direct orders from Hitler) killed all suspected partisans. During Seydlitz (26 June – 27 July 1943) he reported the destruction of 96 additional villages, with 5,016 killed and 9,166 deported and 19,941 cattle confiscated. The division was then deployed in defensive operations against massed Soviet attacks. From 26 August to 15 September the division repulsed five attacks of divisional strength and a further 85 attacks of battalion strength. The heaviest combat occurred on 26 August near Bespalovka and on 28 August, when the division halted a Soviet breakthrough at Bol'shaya Gomol'sha. Fegelein led a counterattack on 8 September, recapturing the height 199, at Verkhniy Bishkin.
    On 20 April 1943 he was appointed commander of the SS Cavalry Division.
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  • 1942
    He was wounded in action by Soviet snipers on 21 December and 22 December 1942.
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    Fegelein was sent back to the front line on 1 December 1942 and on the same day promoted to SS-Oberführer.
    More Details Hide Details He was given command of Kampfgruppe "Fegelein", based in the great bend of the Don.
    The historian Henning Pieper, who studied the period up until March 1942, notes Fegelein's lack of formal training as an officer led to deficiencies in the way the SS Cavalry Brigade was prepared for active service.
    More Details Hide Details Fegelein repeatedly over-stated the combat readiness of his troops and exaggerated their accomplishments, in Pieper's opinion in order to be seen as a leader worthy of promotion and honours. Fegelein's faulty analysis of his brigade's readiness led to their use in December 1941 through March 1942 in combat situations for which they were unsuitable and untrained. (However, as the military situation was deteriorating, they would eventually have been thrown into this role regardless.) By the end of March 1942, the brigade had suffered casualties of 50 per cent, much higher than army units deployed in the same area.
    In this position he was awarded the Eastern Front Medal and the War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords, both on 1 September 1942.
    More Details Hide Details The SS Cavalry Brigade was disbanded in March 1942 and the remaining men and equipment were formed into a battalion-strength unit called Kampfgruppe Zehender, commanded by SS-Sturmbannführer August Zehender.
    Fegelein was then granted home leave and was appointed Inspector of Cavalry and Transportation in the SS-Führungshauptamt on 1 May 1942.
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    For his leadership in these battles, Fegelein was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 2 March 1942.
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    On 1 February 1942 Fegelein was promoted to SS-Standartenführer in the Waffen-SS and transferred from the reserve force to active service.
    More Details Hide Details Four days later, on 5 February, Fegelein on his own initiative led an attack on a strong enemy group northwest of Chertolino. The attack, carried out in difficult weather conditions, secured an important road junction and the railway station at Chertolino. In a nocturnal attack on 9 February, the brigade encircled and destroyed enemy forces at Chertolino, killing 1,800 Red Army soldiers. Yershovo was captured on 14 February, leading to the annihilation of the enemy units in the Rzhev area.
  • 1941
    Fegelein's report for the period between 18 October and 18 November 1941 shows 3,018 partisans and Red Army soldiers killed and 122 taken prisoner.
    More Details Hide Details However, as fewer than 200 weapons were captured, historians Martin Cüppers and Henning Pieper conclude that the majority of those killed must have been unarmed civilians. Brigade losses were seven dead and nine wounded. Army Group Centre renewed their offensive on Moscow in mid-November. Fegelein and the SS Cavalry Brigade were held back as an operational reserve in the rearward area of the 9th Army. Massive counter-attacks by the Red Army led to a weakening of the entire German line, and the brigade was called in to fight at the front on 28 December. While Fegelein reported that his forces were the equivalent to one or two divisions, in reality he had only 4,428 men in total at this point, of which 1,800 were ready for action. The brigade was deployed at the south-eastern sector of the XXIII Army Corps, where it defended against attacks in the rearward area of the 206th Infantry Division in the Battles of Rzhev. The SS Cavalry Brigade took serious losses, with casualties of up to 60 per cent in some squadrons.
    Fegelein's final report on the operation, dated 18 September 1941, states that they killed 14,178 Jews, 1,001 partisans, 699 Red Army soldiers, with 830 prisoners taken and losses of 17 dead, 36 wounded, and 3 missing.
    More Details Hide Details The historian Henning Pieper estimates the actual number of Jews killed was closer to 23,700. Fegelein received the Infantry Assault Badge on 2 October. Four days later, he was again brought before a court for peculation of captured goods. Again the prosecution was halted by Himmler. In mid-October 1941 the brigade left Byelorussia and moved first to Toropets and then on to Rogachev by train, where they were subordinated to Army Group Centre. The new operational area had more partisan activity than the Pripyat swamps, with guerrillas who were well organised and difficult to find.
    On 19 July 1941 Himmler assigned Fegelein's regiments to the general command of HSSPF Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski for the "systematic combing" of the Pripyat swamps, an operation designed to round up and exterminate Jews, partisans and civilians in that area of Byelorussian SSR.
    More Details Hide Details Himmler's orders for the operation were passed to Fegelein via SS-Brigadefuhrer, who met with him and Bach-Zelewski on 28 July in their new quarters at Liakhovichi in Byelorussia. General instructions were given to "cleanse" the area of partisans and Jewish collaborators. Jewish women and children were to be driven away. Fegelein interpreted these orders as follows: Enemy soldiers in uniform were to be taken prisoner, and those found out of uniform were to be shot. Jewish males, with the exception of a few skilled workers such as doctors and leather workers, would be shot. Fegelein split the territory to be covered into two sections divided by the Pripyat River, with the 1st Regiment taking the northern half and the 2nd Regiment the south. The regiments worked their way from east to west through their assigned territory, and filed daily reports on the number of people killed and taken prisoner. In a meeting with Bach-Zelewski on 31 July, Himmler announced the amalgamation of the two regiments into the SS Cavalry Brigade. Additional units such as a bicycle reconnaissance detachment were formed and added to the brigade's complement. On 5 August Himmler assigned leadership of the brigade to Fegelein.
    With the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began on 22 June 1941, Fegelein saw active service on the Eastern Front.
    More Details Hide Details His unit was assigned on the 87th Infantry Division on 23 June to cover a gap in the lines of the 9th Army near Białystok. The motorized elements of the 1st SS Cavalry reached the right flank of the operational area on 24 June, but the mounted elements were unable to maintain the pace. The exhausted horses had to be left behind and the men transported to the combat zone in lorries, while the horse-drawn artillery pieces were towed using any available vehicles. The first units to arrive crossed the Narew near Wizna and engaged the Soviets but were unable to break through. They were ordered to retreat and move further north. Infantry elements of the 87th Division captured Osowiec Fortress on 26 June, and Fegelein's cavalry was sent on a reconnaissance mission to the south-east. Himmler, not keen to have his SS units under Wehrmacht control or used in combat other than as reserves, withdrew the SS cavalry from control of the 87th Division on 27 June. The ambitious Fegelein stressed in his reports that he believed his unit was combat ready and had played a bigger role in the operation than they actually had. Ten of his men received the Iron Cross, Second Class for their efforts, and Fegelein was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class.
  • 1940
    For his service in these campaigns he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 15 December 1940.
    More Details Hide Details In March 1941 the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte 1 was renamed to 1st SS Cavalry Regiment.
    In May and June 1940, Fegelein, who had been promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer of the Reserves in the Waffen-SS on 1 March 1940, participated in the Battle of Belgium and France as a member of the SS-Verfügungstruppe.
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    Fegelein's unit took part in anti-partisan fighting against a group of about 100 former Polish soldiers in the area of Kammienna–Konsky–Kielce in March and April 1940.
    More Details Hide Details They killed about half the partisans, and the remainder escaped. On 8 April, Fegelien's unit killed 250 Polish men in villages in the area. While in his report he described the behaviour of his troops as "clean and decent", there were many incidents in this period where his men behaved in an undisciplined way, killing and robbing civilians without any orders.
  • 1939
    On 7 December 1939 Fegelein's unit was involved in the mass shooting of 1,700 such people in the Kampinos Forest.
    More Details Hide Details On 15 December, the unit was split into two Standarten (regiments), with Fegelein commanding the 1. Standarte under the overall command of Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer-Ost Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger. The unit was short of basic supplies such as weapons, food, and uniforms, which led to deteriorating morale and ill health. Incidents of corruption and theft took place, particularly among members of the regimental staff in Warsaw. On 23 April 1941, Fegelein faced court-martial charges for an incident in 1940 where he and his unit had been caught stealing money and luxury goods for transportation back to Germany. Fegelein's court-martial was quashed by direct order of Himmler. The allegations brought forward against Fegelein had included "murder motivated by greed". Apparently he had ordered arrests and executions in the Gestapo prison in Warsaw. In addition to this, Fegelein was charged with having had an unlawful sexual relationship with a Polish woman. The woman had become pregnant and Fegelein forced her to have an abortion. Reinhard Heydrich attempted multiple times to investigate the accusations against Fegelein, but each time the attempt was put down by Himmler.
    In September 1939, Fegelein commanded the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Death's-Head Horse Regiment), which arrived in Poland shortly after the end of the Polish Campaign.
    More Details Hide Details The unit was placed under the command of the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo; order police) and was split into small groups assigned to support police activities at posts throughout the Poznan district. On 15 November, Himmler ordered the expansion of the regiment from four to thirteen squadrons and renamed it as 1. SS-Totenkopf-Reiterstandarte (1st Death's Head Cavalry Regiment). Additional men were recruited from ethnic Germans living in the General Government and further afield. Many of the officers, including Fegelein, had never attended officer training school, so much of the training provided to new recruits was rudimentary. However, it was rigorous, and the men developed a strong camaraderie. Fegelein's unit was involved alongside the Orpo in the extermination, ordered by Hitler, of members of the Polish elite such as intellectuals, aristocrats, and clergy, in an action called Intelligenzaktion.
  • 1938
    Fegelein won the "Braunes Band von Deutschland" (Brown Ribbon of Germany), an annual horse race which in 1938 was held on the premises of the riding school in Munich.
    More Details Hide Details Fegelein at the time had strong ambitions to participate in the 1940 Summer Olympics. With the help of his friend (HSSPF; Higher SS and Police Leader) Karl von Eberstein, he arranged the transfer of all the Bavarian State Police horses to the SS riding school in case of mobilization. His fear was that the horses would be handed to the Wehrmacht.
  • 1937
    Fegelein won the Deutsches Spring- und Dressurderby international tournament in 1937, as did his brother, Waldemar, in 1939.
    More Details Hide Details He was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer on 30 January. On 25 July 1937 Reichsführer-SS Himmler, by special order of the SS-Oberabschnitt Süd, created the Haupt-Reitschule München (SS Main Riding School) in Munich. The school was started from his father's stud farm. Fegelein was named its commander and promoted to SS-Standartenführer the same day. Funding for the very expensive horses came in part from then SS-Brigadeführer Weber, who supported the school with more than 100,000 Reichsmarks annually.
  • 1936
    He was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer on 30 January 1936.
    More Details Hide Details He participated in the selection process for the German equestrian team, but was unable to prevail against the strong competition from the Kavallerieschule Hannover (cavalry school Hanover), who went on to win all the equestrian gold medals.
  • 1935
    Beginning in November 1935, Fegelein oversaw the preparation of the courses and facilities for the equestrian events of the Berlin Olympic Games.
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  • 1934
    He was promoted to the Allgemeine-SS rank of SS-Untersturmführer that year and to SS-Obersturmführer on 20 April 1934 and to SS-Hauptsturmführer on 9 November 1934.
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  • 1933
    He transferred to the SS on 10 April 1933, with membership number 66,680.
    More Details Hide Details He worked as an instructor at the Reitinstitut Fegelein and became the leader of the SS-Reitersturm, the SS equestrian group based at the facility. By the mid-1930s he took over administration of the school from his father.
  • 1930
    Fegelein joined the Nazi Party (membership number 1,200,158) and the SA in 1930.
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  • 1929
    In 1929 he left the police service when he was caught stealing examination solutions from a teaching superior's office.
    More Details Hide Details The official communication at the time was that he resigned for "family reasons". Fegelein later stated that he had left the police on "his own account" to better serve the Nazi Party and SS. His father had started the Reitinstitut Fegelein (Riding Institute Fegelein) in 1926. In Munich Fegelein came into contact with National Socialism and the SS. His father had made the institute available to the SS as a meeting place, and the training facilities and horses were used by equestrian units of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and SS.
  • 1927
    On 20 April 1927, he joined the Bavarian State Police in Munich as an officer cadet.
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  • 1925
    In 1925, after studying for two terms at Munich University, Fegelein joined the Reiter-Regiment 17 (Cavalry Regiment 17).
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    Fegelein joined the Reiter-Regiment 17 (Cavalry Regiment 17) in 1925 and transferred to the SS on 10 April 1933.
    More Details Hide Details He became a leader of an SS equestrian group, and was in charge of preparation of the courses and facilities for the equestrian events of the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. He tried out for the Olympic equestrian team himself, but was eliminated in the qualifying rounds. In September 1939, after the successful Invasion of Poland, Fegelein commanded the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Death's-Head Horse Regiment). They were garrisoned in Warsaw until December. In May and June 1940, he participated in the Battle of Belgium and France as a member of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (later renamed the Waffen-SS). For his service in these campaigns he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 15 December 1940. Units under his command on the Eastern Front in 1941 were responsible for the deaths of over 17,000 civilians during the Pripyat swamps punitive operation in the Byelorussian SSR. As commander of the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer in 1943, he was involved in operations against partisans as well as defensive operations against the Red Army, for which he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in bronze.
  • 1906
    Born on October 30, 1906.
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