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Kurt Student
12 May 1890 – 1 July 1978 (aged 88)
Place of birth Birkholz, Province of Brandenburg
Place of death Lemgo, North Rhine-Westphalia
Allegiance Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1910–1945
Rank Generaloberst
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards House Order of Hohenzollern
Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves

Kurt Student (12 May 1890 – 1 July 1978) was a German Luftwaffe general who fought as a fighter pilot during the First World War and as the commander of German Fallschirmjäger (Paratroopers) during the Second World War.



Student was born in Birkholz, a village in the Landkreis of Züllichau-Schwiebus in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, in a region now located in Poland.


World War I

Student entered the Imperial German Army as an officer candidate in 1910 and was commissioned a lieutenant in March 1911. After serving initially with a light infantry (Jäger) battalion, he underwent pilot training in 1913. He served from the beginning of World War I until February 1916 with Feldflieger-Abteilung 17 on the Galician front, and then on the Western Front in aerial units of the Third Army, including Jagdstaffel 9 (Jasta 9) (which he commanded from October 1916 – May 1917). He scored six victories over French aircraft between 1916 – 1917.

Interwar years

During the interwar period, Student tried to keep German military aviation from becoming technologically obsolete, since under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force. In the immediate post-war years, he was assigned to military research and development. He became involved in military gliders, since gliding was not forbidden by the treaty. He also attended the Red Army Air Forces manoeuvres, where he first came in contact with the idea of airborne operations.

After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, the Luftwaffe was secretly reestablished. Student transferred from the Army to the Luftwaffe and was appointed by Hermann Göring to be the head of its training schools, a position which became official when the Treaty of Versailles was renounced in 1935. In July 1938, he was named commander of airborne and air-landing troops, and in September commanding general of the 7. Flieger-Division, Germany's first Fallschirmjäger division.

World War II

Although the division played no part in the invasion of Poland, his troops proved their value during the Blitzkrieg of 1940 in the Low Countries, where troops under his command captured the Belgian fortress of Eben-Emael. He was accidentally shot in the head by other German troops in Rotterdam following the Battle of Rotterdam. The wound put him out of action for eight months.[1] He was decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his leadership and bravery in these operations.

In January 1941, Student was named commanding general of the XI. Fliegerkorps, the newly formed command for the expanding German airborne forces. In this capacity, Student directed Operation Mercury (Unternehmen Merkur), the airborne invasion of the island of Crete in May 1941. In January 1941, he is known to have proposed a similar operation in Northern Ireland along the same lines of Plan Kathleen, at the time Göring told him that his focus should be on the airborne conquest of Gibraltar via Operation Felix. Crete was taken, but the high casualties caused Hitler to forbid future airborne operations. Acting as its temporary commander, immediately after the surrender of Crete on 31 May 1941, Student issued an order for launching a wave of brutal reprisals against the local population with Kondomari and Kandanos being typical cases.

In 1942, Student was identified as the commander of Operation Hercules (Unternehmen Herkules) the planned invasion of Malta. However, this plan was never carried out.

In 1943, Student ordered Major Harald Mors to plan Operation Oak (Unternehmen Eiche), the successful raid conducted by a special Fallschirmjäger unit to free Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. They landed with gliders and STOL aircraft on a hilltop. The well-known Waffen SS commando Otto Skorzeny took part in this operation. Student received the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his role in the operation.

Student was transferred to Italy and later to France, where he was involved in the defence of Normandy in 1944. He was put in charge of the First Paratroop Army and took part in countering the Allied Operation Market Garden, near Arnhem. After a brief time at the Eastern Front in Mecklenburg in 1945, he was captured by British forces in Schleswig-Holstein in April of that same year, before he could take command of Army Group Vistula. He was held by the British as a prisoner of war until freed in 1948.



  1. ^ B. H. Liddell Hart (1971). History of the Second World War. Konecky & Konecky. p. 67.  
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Kemp, Anthony (1990 reprint). German Commanders of World War II (#124 Men-At-Arms series). Osprey Pub., London. ISBN 0-85045-433-6.
  • Kurowski, Franz (1995). Knights of the Wehrmacht Knight's Cross Holders of the Fallschirmjäger. Schiffer Military. ISBN 0-88740-749-8.
  • Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.

See also

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of 7. Flieger-Division
September 1, 1938 – May 16, 1940
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Richard Putzier
Preceded by
Commander of XI. Fliegerkorps
December 19, 1940 – April 3, 1944
redesignated 1. Fallschirmarmee
XI. Fliegerkorps Commander of 1. Fallschirmarmee
September 4, 1944 – November 18, 1944
Succeeded by
General der Fallschirmtruppen Alfred Schlemm
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt
Commander of 1. Fallschirmarmee
April 10, 1945 – April 28, 1945
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Erich Straube


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