SS DIVISION LEIBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER
Kurt Meyer embodied the conception of the fanatical Nazi who would fight to the death for his beloved Führer. Few German officers could claim more combat experience than Meyer, who had begun his service with the SS in 1933 as a member of Hitler's elite bodyguard. In 1939, he fought in Poland, and in 1940, in Holland and France. As a regimental commander he played leading role in the Greek campaign. According to his interrogation report, when Hitler invaded Russia he was at the forefront of the drive to the east.
"For three years he fought in Russia reaching almost the furthest point to be achieved by German forces, deep in the remote Caucasus. Three times he was completely encircled by Russian forces, during the retreat, and fought his way out with a handful of survivors...To him the battle of Caen-Falaise was magnificent in the best Wagnerian tradition. As he described his actions and those of his men, it seemed as though he liked to consider himself as Siegfried leading his warriors to their deaths.
During the rigours of World War Two there emerged a generation of young Waffen-SS commanders whose powers of leadership were unmatched in the German Army. The author Gerald Reitlinger depicted these leaders as the SS Generals of legend, starry-eyed, youthful and fanatical. They were personified by such men as Kurt Meyer. Like his peers, Meyer was vastly different from the butchers who led the Einsatzgruppen and Concentration Camp guard units. Throughout his combat career he fought hard, fought well, and fought with chivalry.
Standing approximately 178cm, broad shouldered, and athletic in build, Meyer combined an innate cool recklessness (Draufgängertum) with the ideological fanaticism of the political soldier. Born in Jerxheim on 23 December, 1910, his father was a NCO in the Kaiser's Army and died of wounds suffered in World War One. Following elementary school, Meyer studied to be a merchant, thereafter finding employment for brief periods in the late 1920s as a miner and factory worker. In 1929, he joined the Mecklenburg police force, with which he served until May, 1934. Meyer joined the SS in October, 1931, and entered its premiere division, the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, in the spring of 1934. In the pre-war LAH, he served in its anti-tank company (Panzerjägerkompanie), first as a platoon leader and later as its commander.
Meyer fought with distinction in Poland, and was transferred to command a motorcycle company in the West and the reconnaissance battalion of the Leibstandarte in the Balkans and Russia. He was a daredevilish rider, and would break some eighteen bones and suffer four concussions before the war's conclusion. It was in France that Meyer first demonstrated his instinctive grasp of the techniques of modern mobile warfare. His keen tactical sense and mental flexibility earned for him the sobriquet "Schnelle [Speedy] Meyer" (He was also to be called "Panzermeyer").
In Greece, he spearheaded the assault on the Klissura Pass against a well-defended enemy. Meyer, finding himself and his soldiers suppressed by heavy machine-gun fire, had to throw a grenade at their heels to force them into the open. This questionable action nevertheless resulted in over a thousand prisoners for the loss of only six Leibstandarte troops killed and nine wounded. A day later Meyer captured another 11,000 prisoners. His unorthodox methods were further tested in the East, where he and his troops sometimes ventured far behind enemy lines and then blasted their way out. By early 1943, this foolhardy, albeit highly effective, style of combat had already earned him the Iron Cross first and second class, the Knight's Cross, and the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross.
Following the completion of a training course for regimental commanders in August, 1943, Meyer was transferred to the Hitler Youth Division (12th SS). Following the death of Fritz Witt on 14 June, 1944, he took command of the 12th SS, becoming the youngest division commander in the German armed forces. Meyer's defence at Normandy bolstered his legendary status. The teenage soldiers of his unit continuously frustrated the efforts of the Commonwealth invaders. Meyer's military career ended abruptly with his capture by partisans in September, 1944. After Germany's capitulation, he was captured and put on trial for the murder of Canadian prisoners-of-war. His death sentence was commuted and Meyer was released in poor health in 1954. He died on his birthday in 1961.
Charge Sheet of Kurt Meyer
The accused, Brigadefiihrer Kurt Meyer, an officer in the former Waffen S.S., then a part of the Armed Forces of the German Reich, now in the charge of the 4th Battalion, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Canadian Army Occupation Force, Canadian Army Overseas, is charged with:
First Charge: Committing a war crime in that he in the Kingdom of Belgium and in the Republic of France, during the year 1943 and prior to the 7th day of June 1944, when Commander of the 25th S.S. Panzer Grenadier Regiment, in violation of the laws and usages of war incited and counselled troops serving under his command to deny quarter to Allied troops.
Second Charge: Committing a war crime in that he in the Province of Normandy and Republic of France, on or about the 7th day of June 1944, as Commander of the 25th S.S. Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was responsible for the killing of prisoners of war, in violation of the laws and usages of war, when troops under his command killed twenty-three Canadian prisoners of war at or near the villages of Buron and Authie.
Third Charge: Committing a war crime in that he at his Headquarters at L’Ancienne Abbaye Ardenne, in the Province of Normandy and Republic of France on or about the 8th day of June 1944, when Commander of the 25th S.S. Panzer Grenadier Regiment, in violation of the laws and usages of war, gave orders to troops under his command’to kill seven prisoners of war, and as a result of such orders the said prisoners of war were thereupon shot and killed.
Fourth Charge: (Alternative to the Third Charge) Committing a war crime in that he in the Province of Normandy and Republic of France on or about the 8th day of June 1944, as Commander of the 25th S.S. Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was responsible for the killing of prisoners of war in violation of the laws and usages of war, when troops under his command shot and killed seven Canadian prisoners of war at his Headquarters at the L’Ancienne Abbaye Ardenne.
Fifth Charge: Committing a war crime in that he in the Province of Nor-mandy and Republic of France on or about the 7th day of June 1944, as Commander of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment was responsible for the killing of prisoners of war in violation of the laws and usages of war, when troops under his command killed eleven Canadian prisoners of war (other than those referred to in the Third and Fourth Charge) at his Headquarters at L’Ancienne Abbaye Ardenne.
|Photo courtesy of B. J. GLOSTER / Archives Nationales du Canada|
Kurt ("Panzermeyer") (RK m. EL u. Schw.; DKiG)
SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS:
Born: 23. Dec. 1910 in Jerxheim near Braunschweig.
Died: 23. Dec. 1961 in Hagen/Westfalen.
NSDAP-Nr.: 316 714/SS-Nr.: 17 559
SS-Brigf.u.Gen.Maj.d.W-SS: ; SS-Oberf.: ; SS-Staf.: ; SS-OStubaf.: ; SS-Stubaf.: ; SS-HStuf.: 12. Sep. 1937; SS-OStuf.: 10. Mar. 1935; SS-Sturmführer: 10. Jul. 1932.
Kdr. 12.SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend":
Decorations & Awards:
Ritterkreuz des E.K.: 18. May 1941 as SS-Stubaf. & Kdr. SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilng "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"/XXX.Armee-Korps (mot)/12.Armee;
-Eichenlaub (Nr. 195): 23. Feb. 1943 as SS-OStubaf. & Kdr. SS-Aufklärungs-Abteilung "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"/Armee-Abteilung Kempf/Heeresgruppe Süd;
-Schwertern (Nr. 91): 27. Aug. 1944 as SS-Staf. & Kdr. 12.SS-Pz.Div. "Hitlerjugend";
Deutsches Kreuz in Gold: 8. Feb. 1942;
1939 EK I: 20. Sep. 1939; 1939 EK I: 8. Jun. 1940;
Wehrmachtbericht: 29. Jun. 1944;
Ostmedaille; Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 1. Okt. 1938; Spange "Prager Burg"; Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 13. März 1938; SS-Dienstauszeichnungen; Ehrendegen des RF SS/Totenkopfring der SS; Military Order for Bravery in War 4th Class (1st grade) of Bulgaria.