Helmuth Reymann

Helmuth Reymann

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Hellmuth Reymann was an officer
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

 in the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 (Wehrmacht Heer) during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Reymann was one of the last commanders of the Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 Defense Area during the final assault by Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 forces on the city of Berlin.

Northern Russia


From 1 October 1942 to 1 October 1943, Lieutenant-General (Generalleutnant) Reymann commanded the 212th Infantry Division (212.Infanterie-Division) in northern Russia. His division was part of Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

.

From 1 October 1943 to 1 April 1944, Reymann was transferred within Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 to command the 13th Air Force Field Division (13.Luftwaffe-Feld-Division). His command was part of the XXVIII Army Corps (XXVIII. Armeekorps) fighting in northern Russia. Reymann's division included the 25th Field Infantry Regiment, the 26th Field Infantry Regiment, and the 13th Field Artillery Regiment. The XXVIII Army Corps was attached to the 18th Army.

Reymann's 13th Air Force Field Division suffered heavy losses in the retreat from Leningrad
Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

. The division was disbanded in April 1944.

From 1 April 1944 to 18 November 1944, Reymann commanded the 11th Infantry Division (11.Infanterie-Division) in northern Russia. In October 1944, Reymann's division was encircled in Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 with a large number of German units in what was to be known as the Courland Pocket
Courland Pocket
The Courland Pocket referred to the Red Army's blockade or encirclement of Axis forces on the Courland peninsula during the closing months of World War II...

. Reyman was replaced by Lieutenant-General (Generalleutnant) Gerhard Feyerabend
Gerhard Feyerabend
Gerhard Fritz Franz Feyerabend was a highly decorated Generalleutnant in the Wehrmacht during World War II who commanded several divisions. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or...

 and Reymann returned to Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

.

Dresden, 1945


On 6 March 1945, Reymann was telephoned by Hitler's Chief Adjutant, General Wilhelm Burgdorf
Wilhelm Burgdorf
Wilhelm Burgdorf was a German general. Born in Fürstenwalde, Burgdorf served as a commander and staff officer in the German Army during World War II.- Military career :...

. Burgdorf ordered Reymann to take command of the defenses of Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

. After Reymann scoffed at this order, Burgdorf hung up the telephone. Burgdorf again contacted Reymann and this time he informed him that Hitler had personally appointed him to command the Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 Defense Area. Reymann was to replace General Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild
Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild
Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild , born Bruno Hauenschild, was a general in the German Army.Hauenschild was born in Würzburg, Kingdom of Bavaria. He died in the Bavarian capital, Munich.-World War I:...

 immediately and to prepare for the impending Battle of Berlin
Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

.

Berlin, 1945


When he entered Berlin, Reymann found that he had inherited almost nothing from his predecessor, von Hauenschild. After further investigation, Reymann realized that Hitler and Joseph Göbbels had ruled that any defeatist talk would lead to immediate execution. No plans were drawn to evacuate the children and the elderly. No food had been stored in case of an enemy siege. The blunt Reymann set to work regardless of these shortcomings. He did all he could to prepare the city for the imminent attack that the top Nazi leaders refused to acknowledge. Reymann was also a notable opponent of the destruction of Berlin's bridges. While destroying the bridges leading into Berlin could slow the Russian invasion, Reymann believed that, if the bridges were destroyed, it would also deprive the city of its electricity, water, and fuel. In Reymann's opinion, Berlin would starve and cease to exist as an influential city in Europe.

Prior to the encirclement of the city, Reymann reportedly urged Hitler to allow him to evacuate the underage population of Berlin. But he was rebuffed.

On 15 April, Reymann met with architect Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

 and General Gotthard Heinrici
Gotthard Heinrici
Gotthard Heinrici was a general in the German Army during World War II.-Personal life:Heinrici's was born in Gumbinnen , East Prussia, on Christmas Day, 1886, to Paul Heinrici, a local Lutheran minister of the Prussian Church, and his wife Gisela, née von Rauchhaupt, who was of recent Jewish descent...

, Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula was an Army Group of the Wehrmacht, formed on January 24, 1945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A , Army Group Centre , and a variety of new or ad-hoc formations...

, to discuss Hitler's Nero Decree
Nero Decree
The Nero Decree was issued by Adolf Hitler on March 19, 1945 ordering the destruction of German infrastructure to prevent their use by Allied forces as they penetrated deep within Germany...

. This decree instituted a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 policy. While outwardly responsible for carrying out the decree, Speer was clandestinely campaigning against it. Although Reymann refused to side with Speer, he did promise to confer with Heinrici before destroying vital city infrastructure. Heinrici was also opposed to the scorched earth policy.

By 21 April, Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

, as Reich Commissioner for Berlin, ordered that "no man capable of bearing arms may leave Berlin." Only Reymann, as commander of the Berlin Defense Area, could issue an exemption. Senior Nazi Party officials, who readily condemned members of the army for retreating, rushed to Reymann's headquarters for the necessary authorizations to leave. Reymann was happy to sign over 2,000 passes to get rid of the "armchair warriors." Reymann's Chief-of-Staff, Hans Refior
Hans Refior
Hans Refior was an officer in the German Army during World War II.On 18 March 1945, Colonel Refior became the Chief of Staff for Lieutenant General Helmuth Reymann during the Battle for Berlin. Reymann was named the commander of the Berlin Defense Area on 6 March...

, commented: "The rats are leaving the sinking ship."

Both Wilhelm Burgdorf
Wilhelm Burgdorf
Wilhelm Burgdorf was a German general. Born in Fürstenwalde, Burgdorf served as a commander and staff officer in the German Army during World War II.- Military career :...

 and Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 convinced Hitler that Reymann was no good. When Reymann chose not to locate his office next to Goebbels' office, Goebbels held this act against him.

On 22 April, Hitler relieved Reymann of his command for his defeatism and replaced him with newly promoted Major-General Ernst Kaether
Ernst Kaether
Ernst Kaether was an officer in the German Army during World War II.As a Lieutenant-Colonel , Kaether commanded the 14th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Jäger Division...

. Kaether was the former Chief-of-Staff to the chief political commissar of the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer). But, Kaether never took command. By the end of the day, Hitler personally took over command of the city's defenses along with his deputy, Erich Bärenfänger
Erich Bärenfänger
Erich Bärenfänger was an officer in the German Army during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

. Bärenfänger was yet another recently promoted Major-General. The result of all of this was that, when the first Soviet units entered the suburbs of Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, Hitler himself was in control of the city's defenses.

One day later, on 23 April, Hitler changed his mind again and made Artillery General (General der Artillerie) Helmuth Weidling
Helmuth Weidling
Helmuth Otto Ludwig Weidling was an officer in the German Army before and during World War II...

 the new commander of the Berlin Defense Area. Weidling remained in command of Berlin's defenses to the end and ultimately surrendered the city to Soviet General Vasily Chuikov
Vasily Chuikov
Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was a Russian lieutenant general in the Red Army during World War II, twice Hero of the Soviet Union , who after the war became a Marshal of the Soviet Union.-Early life and career:Born into a peasant family in the village of Serebryanye Prudy, he joined the Red Army during...

.

Army Group Spree


After his dismissal as the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, Reymann was given a weak division near Potsdam
Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

. The division was given the unlikely title of "Army Group Spree." Reymann played a role in the potential link-up between the defenders of Berlin and the relief forces of General Walther Wenck
Walther Wenck
-Captive, prisoner, and death:Wenck was captured and put in a prisoner of war camp. He was released in 1947. In 1982, Wenck died in a car accident in Bad Rothenfelde.-See also:* Battle of Berlin - 1945* Battle of Halbe - 1945* Hans Krebs, Chief of Staff...

. While Wenck never made it to Berlin, he did make it to Potsdam. About 20,000 of Reymann's men were able to escape through the narrow opening made by Wenck's 12th Army.

Awards

  • Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

     1914
    )
    • 2nd Class (2. Klasse) (16 September 1914)
    • 1st Class (1. Klasse) (4 March 1915)
  • Clasp to the Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

     1939
    )
    • 2nd Class (2. Klasse) (28 November 1939)
    • 1st Class (1. Klasse) (18 June 1940)
  • German Cross
    German Cross
    The German Cross was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 17 November 1941 as an award ranking higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross respectively ranking higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit...

     in Gold (22 November 1941)
  • Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
    Knight's Cross
    Knight's Cross refers to a distinguishing grade or level of various orders that denotes bravery and leadership on the battlefield....

    ) with Oak Leaves (mit Eichenlaub)
    • Knight's Cross (5 April 1944)
    • Oak Leaves (28 November 1944) - #672 Commander (Kommandeur) 11th Infantry Division (11.Infanterie-Division)

Footnotes