Wednesday, February 11, 2004

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Heroic Huns.
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Dietrich von Saucken.

Few officers in the German Wehrmacht personified the aristocratic Prussian militarist as Von Saucken. The monocle and riding-boots wearing general came from a long lineage of Prussian nobility dating back to the fourteenth century. Reportedly he was one of the few high ranking members of the Wehrmacht who was neither intimidated by Hitler's insane ravings nor hypnotized by his charisma when he - like many others- was summoned to the fuehrer's headquarters to explain why he had made a clever tactical withdrawal intead of ordering his troops to stay put and be massacred by vastly superior Russian forces.
Born 1892 in East Prussia as the son of a judge von Saucken entered the Imperial Army in 1910 and served in the cavalry regiment "Kaiser Wilhelm I" as a lieutenant. During WW I he was wounded seven times and finished the war with the rank of captain. Between the wars he continued to serve with the Reichwehr in various cavalry detachments and on the outbreak of WWII he was commander of Reiter (horsemen's) -regiment 8 fighting in Poland and France. In the fall of 1940 von Saucken switched from horseback to the modern world of motorised troops and became commander of the 4'th Schuetzen brigade (motorised riflemen) After receiving a severe headwound in the early part of the Russian campaign von Saucken returned to active duty in December 1941 as the commander of the 4'th Panzer Division. Von Saucken continued his duties on the Eastern front orchestrating many brilliant counter attacks to relieve trapped or encircled German troops. By the end of 1944 he was in command of the newly established Grossdeutchland Panzerkorps made up from some of the best troops in the entire German Army. In early 1945 von Saucken had a serious disagreement with the Chief of Staff general Halder over the futility of continuing the war and he was moved to the reserve. In march 1945 he was however given command of the Army fighting in the encircled region of East Prussia where he skilfully organized defensive actions that enabled thousands of civilians and troops to escape by boat from the Russian onslaught. When the end was approaching the German High command send both an airplane and a ship to rescue von Saucken but he refused to leave and stayed with his troops until the final surrender on Hela peninsula May 8'th 1945. For these actions von Saucken was awarded the diamonds to the Knights Cross (only 27 of these were awarded during the war)
After his capture by the Russians, von Saucken refused to sign a false letter and was subsequently sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment and sent to a Siberian work camp. Here he was tortured and spent twelve months in solitary confinement. He returned to Germany in 1955 as a marked man and settled in Munich where he took up amateur painting. He passed away in 1980.

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