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Ferdinand Schörner (12 June, 1892 - 2 July 1973; also Schoerner) was a General and later Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) in the Germanmarker Army (Wehrmacht) during World War II.

Early life

He was born in Munichmarker, Bavariamarker. A noted veteran of World War I, winning the Pour le Mérite as a Lieutenant, when he took part on the Austro-Hungarian/German Caporettomarker Offensive which shattered the Italian lines in the fall of 1917. Schörner served as a staff officer and instructor between the two wars. As an army instructor he was instrumental in turning the Waffen SS from a paramilitary force into military stormtroopers able to fight alongside the Wehrmacht.

World War II

Schörner was highly successful during the German campaigns in Poland commanding the 98th Mountain Regiment. During the Balkans campaign he commanded the German 6th Mountain Division and earned the Knight's Cross for his role in breaching the famous Metaxas Line. He remained with this division for the remainder of the year and took part in Operation Barbarossa. In 1942 as a General der Gebirgstruppe he took command of the XIX Mountain Corps, part of the German Army in Finlandmarker. With this command he participated in the failed attack on Murmanskmarker, and the stalemate war that resulted from it. From this time originated his famous statement "Arktis ist nichts" ([the] arctic is nothing), meaning that the climatic conditions should not affect the German soldier in the Arctic.

Later he commanded the XXXX Panzer Corps on the Eastern Front from November 1943 to January 1944. In March 1944 he was made commander of Army Group A and in May, commander of Army Group South Ukraine. After initially stating that the Crimeanmarker port of Sevastopolmarker could be held for a long time even if Crimea fell, he changed his mind and managed to persuade Hitler to authorize a retreat from the Black Seamarker port. This retreat occurred too late, and the German/Romanian 17th Army which was holding Crimea suffered severe losses, with many men killed or captured while waiting on the piers to be evacuated. During the late spring of 1944, Schörner managed in a series of defensive battles to stabilize the crumbling front in the south on the Dniester Rivermarker in Romaniamarker.

Schörner was promoted to the rank of Generaloberst in April 1944. In July he became commander of Army Group North, which was later renamed Army Group Courland where he stayed until January 1945 when he was made commander of Army Group Centre, defending in Czechoslovakiamarker and along the upper reaches of the Oder. He became a favorite of high-level Nazi leaders such as Joseph Goebbels, whose diary entries from March and April 1945 have many words of praise for Schörner. Finally, on 4 April 1945, Schörner was promoted to Field Marshal and was named as the new Commander-in-Chief of the German Army (Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres) in Hitler's last testament. In this post he nominally served until the surrender of the Third Reich on May 8 1945. In reality he continued to command his army group, since no staff was available to him, and he did not have any discernible influence in the final days of the Reich.

On May 7, the day General Alfred Jodl, Chief-of-Staff of German Armed Forces High Command) (German acroynym OKW), was negotiating the surrender of all German forces at SHAEF, the last the OKW had heard from Schörner was on May 2. He had reported he intended to fight his way west and surrender his army group to the Americansmarker. On May 8 an OKW colonel was escorted through the American lines to see Schörner. The colonel reported Schörner had ordered his operational command to observe the surrender but could not guarantee he would be obeyed everywhere. Later that day Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austriamarker where on May 18 he was arrested by the Americans. Elements of Army Group Centre continued to resist until they met the overwhelming force of the Red Army, sent to occupy Czechoslovakiamarker during the final Prague Offensive. Army Group Centre was the last German unit of divisional size or larger to surrender, on or around May 11, 1945.

Post-war trials and imprisonments

Schörner was arrested in August 1951 by the Soviet authorities on charges that "he occupied positions of command in the former German Army, actively participating in the preparation and carrying on of a criminal war against the USSR in violation of international law and treaties." In February 1952 the Military Board of the USSR Supreme Court sentenced him to 25 years' imprisonment. A decree of Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet in April 1952 reduced this sentence to 12 and a half years. A decree of December 1954 allowed him to be handed over to authorities of the German Democratic Republic, who allowed him to leave for West Germanymarker in 1958. There he was arrested and charged with the illegal executions of German Army soldiers accused of desertion (see Searle's Wehrmacht Generals). He was found guilty, and sentenced to four and a half years' jail, which he served. He was released in 1963 and lived in obscurity in Munich until his death in 1973. In the late 60s he gave a lengthy interview to Italian historian Mario Silvestri which was centered on his role and actions during the Austro-German victory at the battle of Caporettomarker in World War I rather than on his World War II service. At the time of his death he was the last living German field marshal, and none has been created since.

Criticism

German veterans particularly criticized Schörner for a 1945 order that all soldiers found behind the front lines, who did not possess written orders, were to be executed without trial. This is mentioned in both the writings of Siegfried Knappe and Hans von Luck. Gottlob H. Bidermann, a German infantry officer who served in Schörner's command in 1944-45, reported in his memoirs that the General was despised by officers and men alike. Schörner was said to never to have uttered a word of praise, and would demote or punitively transfer soldiers on the spot for the most minor infractions, even as the War was ending. Bidermann was especially bitter that while Schörner's men were marched off to die in Soviet POW camps at the cessation of hostilities, Schörner made certain that he personally avoided their fate. When captured by the Americans in their sector, Schörner is said to have been dressed as a Bavarian non-combatant... behavior he had only recently had his soldiers executed for. Though despised by his men, Schörner was loved in Berlin. He was very devoted to Hitler, a view that is seen as confirmed by Hitler's appointment of Schörner as his replacement as Commander-in-Chief of the German Army on his suicide; (see Hitler's Last Will). Moreover Schörner did not hesitate to second Hitler's daydreams in the last weeks of the war, agreeing that the Red Army's main objective would be Praguemarker instead of Berlinmarker (in itself a colossal strategic blunder), and so leading him to weaken the already critically-thin defense lines in front of the German capital to counter this perceived threat.

Footnotes

References

Citations
  1. Like many institutions in Nazi Germany the control of the Army was split between the German Armed Forces High Command (OKW) and the German Army High Command (OKH). By 1945 the OKW commanded all German forces in every theatre apart from those on the Eastern Front which were under OKH control and which, before his suicide, had reported directly to Hitler. So it was not clear if Schörner was under the command of OKW on May 8 or if President Karl Dönitz, or Chancellor von Krosigk, needed to order Schörner to surrender.
  2. Ziemke References Page 134
  3. V.K. Vinogradov and others, Hitler's Death, Chaucer Press 2005, 241. The quoted material is translated from Soviet documents by the authors.
Bibliography


  • Duffy, Christopher (1993), Red Storm on the Reich. Cassell Military. ISBN 0306805057.
  • Fraschka, Günther (1994). Knights of the Reich. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military/Aviation History. ISBN 0-88740-580-0.
  • Knappe, Siegfried (1992). Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949. Dell Publi. ISBN 0440215269.
  • von Luck, Hans Panzer Commander
  • Pickert, Wolfgang (1955). Vom Kuban nach Sewastopol - Flakartillerie im Verbund der 17. Armee - Die Wehrmacht im Kampf Band 7 (in German), Heidelberg: Scharnhorst-Buchkameradschaft
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Ritterkreuzträger 1939 - 1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Searle, Alaric (2003). Wehrmacht Generals, West German SOciety, and the Debate on Rearmament, 1949-1959. Praeger Pub.
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941-45. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-644-5.
  • Ziemke, Earl F. Battle for Berlin: end of the Third Reich


Further reading

  • Ziemke, Earl F. Stalingrad to Berlin


External links




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