Wednesday, August 5, 2015

SS General Fritz Witt

SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Fritz Witt (27 May 1908 – 14 June 1944), commander of 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend", photographed by SS-Kriegsberichter Wilfried Woscidlo on his 36th birthday celebration which held at Tillierès-sur-Avre, France, on May 27, 1944. Witt first joined the SS in 1933, serving in the SS-Stabswache Berlin, an élite guard formation of only 117 men. In 1938, as commander of the 3rd SS-Standarte Deutschland, he took part in the annexation of Austria, marching into that country with his unit. In March 1939, Witt served with the SS Standarte during the bloodless annexation of Bohemia and Moravia. During the Polish campaign, Fall Weiss, Witt’s SS-Standarte Deutschland was subordinated to Panzerverband Kempf, based in East Prussia. Witt's company saw some heavy fighting and he served well during this campaign. For personal bravery in combat, he was awarded both the first and second classes of the Iron Cross within. In October 1939, with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, Witt was appointed commander of the 1st Battalion of the Deutschland. He fought with bravery during the Invasion of France, again showing skill commanding his unit. For example, On 27 May 1940, 20 British Matilda tanks attacked Witt’s battalion. Despite the fact that his unit had no anti-tank weapons, Witt rallied his battalion and they held, destroying nine of the British tanks with grenades and other improvised methods. Witt was the model of the young leader, never retreating in the face of anything. In April, 1941, he participated with his unit in Operation Marita, which was the invasion of the Greece. His unit saw ferocious fighting, playing an important role. The 1st Battalion had been tasked with clearing resistance from the Klidi Pass, just south of Vevi and opening the way to the heart of Greece. Clashing with a hastily-assembled Australian-British-New Zealand-Greek force, under an Australian, Major General, Iven Giffard Mackay, Witt and his men were engaged in heavy fighting for three days before the pass fell. Witt’s brother, SS-Untersturmführer Franz Witt, died during the battle. Witt’s battalion itself had wreaked havoc on their enemy, causing a high number of casualties and capturing over 520 prisoners for the loss of only 37 dead and 95 wounded. From 22 June 1941, Fritz Witt and his unit fought in Operation Barbarossa, participating in the encirclement of 600.000 men near Kiev. Then his unit now moved south, to join the German 14. Armeekorps. Witt’s battalion fought fiercely for the town of Perekop, later advancing across the Perekop Isthmus and launching the assaults on the Soviet defensive positions near the Tarter Ditch. In spring 1943, after being engaged in heavy fighting on the Eastern Front, Witt was transferred to the newly created 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend". he continued training exercises for his division, allowing his troops to familiarise themselves with the terrain around Caen. This training would later prove vital.  On 6 June 1944, the Western Allies landed on the Normandy beaches. Witt ordered his division to form up north of Caen, defending the city and the Carpiquet Aerodrome. Over the next weeks, Witt’s division managed to hold the line above Caen despite incessant Allied attacks and constant air, artillery and naval bombardments. The Hitler Youth inflicted devastating losses on the British and Canadian forces, the training which Witt had developed maintaining his unit’s morale and fighting ability. On 14 June 1944, a British naval bombardment hit the divisional command post in Venoix. Fritz Witt, age 36, was hit in the face by shrapnel and killed instantly. He was buried on the war cemetery St André Champigny (France)

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1 comment:

  1. Fritz Witt seemed to be a impressive leader, and for his troops to fight so hard,they must have liked him!