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Herbert Otto Gille
8 March 1897(1897-03-08) — 26 December 1966 (aged 69)
OttoGille.jpg

Place of birth Gandersheim
Place of death Stemmen near Hannover
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1922)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer (to 1919)
Waffen-SS
Years of service 1910 - 1919, 1934 - 1945
Rank Obergruppenführer
Unit 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking
Commands held 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit dem Eichenlaub mit Schwertern und Brillanten
Other work worked for a newspaper

Herbert Otto Gille (March 8, 1897 in Gandersheim - December 26, 1966) was a German general, and as a winner of the Knight's Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds and of the German Cross in Gold, the most highly decorated member of the Waffen SS during World War II. By the end of the war he held the rank of SS-Obergruppenfuhrer und General der Waffen-SS.

Contents

Military career

Born in Gandersheim, Gille began his military career as a first lieutenant in the artillery branch during the First World War and won the Iron Cross First and Second Classes. He left the army in 1919 and remained a civilian working in agriculture and as a car dealer until 1931 when he joined the Nazi Party and the SS. He married Sophie Charlotte Mennecke on 4 January 1935 and his only child, a daughter, was born on 9 October 1935.

In 1934 he was re-activated by the SS combat support forces. He became a Company Commander in Ellwangen, then a Battalion Commander of the SS regiment Germania in Arolsen. He later served as the commander of an artillery unit in Jueterbog. As the commander of the 1st Battalion of the SS-V Artillery Regiment Gille participated in the invasion of Poland and in the western campaign. In 1940 he took over the artillery regiment of the 5th SS "Wiking" Division, led by SS Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner.

After the assault on the Soviet Union, Gille, as a leader of an advance guard, reached the Kuban and received the Knight's Cross on 8 October 1942. Shortly thereafter he took command of the Wiking Division (5th SS Panzer) on the Eastern Front. Early in 1944, Gille was instrumental in the withdrawal of his command and others of the encircled Group Stemmermann through "Hells Gate" during the Korsun cauldron disaster, also known as the Cherkassy Pocket. The Soviets greatly outnumbered the German forces but they failed to cut off their retreat. Gille received the diamonds addition to his Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 19 April 1944. Shortly after his escape from the Cherkassy Pocket, Gille and members of his staff were flown into the encircled town of Kovel to organize its defense. Under Gille's steady leadership the mixed army and Waffen SS units maintained a vigorous defense until the siege was raised by approaching German units from the West.

Gille in Russia

His troops stood strong on the East Prussia border with the SS Totenkopf Division (3rd SS Panzer) and prevented the planned Soviet breakthrough to Berlin in the autumn 1944 destroying large numbers of Soviet tanks. In January 1945 Gille, as leader of the IV SS Panzer Korps comprising the Totenkopf and Wiking divisions, was sent to Hungary to attempt to relieve the encircled city of Budapest. However, his troops were unable to break through to the city. In March 1945 he led IV SS Panzer Korps in the failed "Spring Awakening" offensive and following the Soviet counter-offensive his Korps was forced back into Austria.

When the end of war was clear, he marched towards the U.S. troops in order to avoid surrendering to Soviet forces. He was held by the US for three years, and released in May 1948.

Despite being an early Nazi Party member, Gille was known for his apolitical views. The author Heinz Höhne in The Order under the Death Head characterized Gille as an enigma and "Nur-Soldat" (soldier - nothing else) who once threatened a newly assigned Weltanschauungsoffizier (political indoctrination officer) with a clean-out squad to gather his uniforms and other possessions and throw them and the officer out of the unit.

Gille was highly regarded for his leadership qualities and tactical abilities. He commanded Waffen-SS units at the regiment, division and corps level with distinction during the war. Gille was popular with his men and admired for his personal bravery. He was well-known for the unusual walking-stick he carried.

Post-War

After the war he worked for a newspaper until 1958. He also owned a small bookshop. Gille was the founder of a magazine for veterans of the Wiking division, "Wiking Ruf". On 26 December 1966 Herbert Otto Gille died of a heart attack in Stemmen, near Hannover. He was also buried at the local cemetery in Stemmen. However, his grave no longer exists.

Personal life

On January 3, 1935, Gille married 31-year-old Sophie Charlotte Mennecke and they had together one daughter (born on October 9, 1935).

Summary of his SS career

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Dates of rank

Notable decorations

References

  • "Lexikon der Wehrmacht". Herbert Otto Gille. http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Personenregister/G/GilleH.htm. Retrieved 28 May 2007.  
  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 3-9501307-0-5.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Fraschka, Günther (1994). Knights of the Reich. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military/Aviation History. ISBN 0-88740-580-0.
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 - 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 - 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham - Huppertz (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 3-932381-20-3.
  • 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.
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941-45. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-644-5.
Military offices
Preceded by
SS-Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner
Commander of 5. SS-Panzer-Division Wiking
May 1, 1943 – August 6, 1944
Succeeded by
SS-Oberführer Eduard Deisenhofer
Preceded by
SS-Brigadeführer Nikolaus Heilmann
Commander of IV. SS-Panzerkorps
August 6, 1944 – May 8, 1945
Succeeded by
dissolved on May 8, 1945

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