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Josef "Sepp" Dietrich (May 28, 1892 – April 21, 1966) was a Germanmarker Waffen-SS general, an SS-Oberstgruppenführer, and one of the men closest to Adolf Hitler. For his wartime services, he was one of only 27 men to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.

Early life and career

Sepp Dietrich was born in Hawangenmarker, near Memmingenmarker in Bavariamarker, Germanymarker on May 28, 1892, son of Pelagius Dietrich and his wife Kreszentia. He worked as a butcher and hotel servant. In 1911 he joined the Bavarian Army for a short time. Volunteering at the beginning of the First World War, he served with the artillery, as a paymaster sergeant and later in the first German tank troops.

After the war, Dietrich served briefly in a Freikorps Oberland against the Bavarian Soviet Republic, May, 1919. Thereafter, he migrated from one job to another, including waiter, policeman, foreman, farm labourer, petrol station attendant and customs officer. He joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1928 and became commander of Hitler's Schutzstaffelmarker (SS) bodyguard. He accompanied Hitler on his tours around Germany and received the nickname "Chauffeureska" from Hitler. Later Hitler arranged other jobs for him, including various SS posts, and let him live in the chancellerymarker.

1930s and World War II

Dietrich at the front with his soldiers, 1945.
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In 1930, Dietrich was elected to the Reichstag as a delegate for Lower Bavaria. By 1931, he had become SS-Gruppenführer. When the NSDAP took over in 1933, Dietrich rose swiftly through the Nazi hierarchy. He rose to the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer, commander of Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, General of the Waffen-SS and member of the Prussian state council.

In 1934, Dietrich played an active role in the Night of the Long Knives. Hitler told him to take six men and go to the Ministry of Justice to execute a number of Sturmabteilungmarker (SA) leaders. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to SS Obergruppenführer. Dietrich's role earned him a nineteen month sentence from a postwar court.

When World War II began, Dietrich led the Leibstandarte in attacks on Parismarker and Dunkirkmarker. Dietrich remained in command of the Leibstandarte throughout the campaigns in Greecemarker and Yugoslavia before being promoted to command of the 1.SS-Panzerkorps, attached to Army Group Center, on the Eastern Front. In 1943, he was sent to Italymarker to recover Benito Mussolini's mistress Clara Petacci. He received numerous German military medals but also became notorious for his mistreatment of prisoners of war.

Dietrich commanded the I.SS-Panzerkorps in the Battle of Normandymarker. Because of his success, Hitler promoted him to command of the 6.SS-Panzer-Armee as well. Dietrich commanded the 6.SS-Panzer-Armee in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. He had been assigned to that task because, due to the July 20 Plot, Hitler distrusted Wehrmacht officers.On December 17, SS units under his command killed between 77 and 82 U.S. prisoners of war near Malmedymarker, Belgiummarker, in what is known as the Malmedy massacremarker. His knowledge of the massacre is disputed.

At this point, Dietrich began to protest Hitler's unwillingness to let officers act upon their own initiative. In April 1945, after the failure of Hitler's planned Spring Awakening Offensive at Lake Balatonmarker, spearheaded by Dietrich's troops, a frustrated Hitler ordered Dietrich that the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler should give up their cuff titles, but Dietrich did not pass on the order.

Dietrich commanded tank troops in Viennamarker but failed to prevent Soviet troops from taking the city. Accompanied by his wife, Dietrich surrendered on May 9, 1945 to Master-Sergeant Herbert Kraus of the U.S. 36th Infantry Division at Krems an der Donaumarker north of St. Pöltenmarker in Austriamarker.

Post war

Dietrich was tried as Defendant No. 11 by U.S. Military Tribunal at Dachau ("United States of America vs. Valentin Bersin et al.", Case No. 6-24), from May 16, 1946 until July 16, 1946. On July 16, 1946, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Malmedy massacre trialmarker for ordering the execution of U.S. prisoners of war in Malmedy. Due to testimony in his defence by other German officers, his sentence was shortened to 25 years. He was imprisoned at U.S. War Criminals Prison No. 1 at Landsberg am Lechmarker in Bavaria. Dietrich served only ten years and was released on parole on October 22, 1955. However, he was rearrested in Ludwigsburgmarker in August 1956. He was charged by the Landesgericht München I and tried from May 6, 1957 until May 14, 1957 for his role in the killing of SA leaders in 1934. On May 14, 1957, he was sentenced to nineteen months for his part in the Night of the Long Knives and imprisoned at Landsberg. He was released due to a heart condition and circulation problems in his legs on February 2, 1958. By then he had already served almost his entire 19-month sentence.He then settled in Ludwigsburgmarker where he devoted himself to HIAG activities and hunting. Dietrich was sentenced to death in absentia by a Sovietmarker court in connection with war crimes committed by Leibstandarte in Kharkovmarker in 1943.

In 1966 Dietrich died of a heart attack in Ludwigsburg at age 73. Seven thousand of his wartime comrades came to his funeral. He was eulogized by former SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Wilhelm Bittrich.

Personal life

Dietrich was married twice. His first wife was Barbra Betti Seidl (b. April 24, 1896). They were married on February 17, 1921 and were divorced in April 1937. On January 19, 1942, Dietrich married Ursula Moninger-Brenner (born March 26, 1915 and died in 1983), a former spouse of SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei Karl-Heinrich Brenner (they had married in 1935). Dietrich and Mrs. Moninger-Brenner had a son, Wolf-Dieter Dietrich, who was born out of wedlock in Karlsruhemarker in 1939, before Brenner’s divorce was finalized. The two SS generals nonetheless remained friends. A second son, Lutz, was born in Karlsruhe on March 20, 1943. (Heinrich Himmler was his godfather.) Dietrich's third son, Götz-Hubertus, was born in Karlsruhe on November 23, 1944. (Himmler was again a godfather.)

Summary of his SS career

Dates of rank



Notable decorations



Recommendations

Outstanding in the defence, especially on the return path to Riga. Refer to the Georgian Staff Corps.

References

Notes



Bibliography

There are two biographies about Sepp Dietrich: one by Charles Messenger (of which there are two versions [see below]) and another by the French historian, Jean Mabire. Additional information about Dietrich has to be pieced together from many separate sources, which are mostly in English and in German. The following are among the more relevant and accessible sources. They are obtainable through larger research libraries (and their Interlibrary Loan), or through online vendors.

In English:
  • Charles Messenger, Hitler's Gladiator: The Life and Wars of Panzer Army Commander Sepp Dietrich (London, 2005), ISBN-10: 1844860221 & ISBN-13: 978-1844860227 .


  • Charles Messenger, Hitler's Gladiator: The Life and Times of Oberstgruppenfuhrer and Panzergeneral-Oberst Der Waffen-SS Sepp Dietrich (London, 1988), ASIN: B000OFQ62W .


  • Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memories by Albert Speer. New York: Macmillan, 1


  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 - 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham - Huppertz (in Germa. S remove--
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