27 May 1908|
Hohenlimburg, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
|Died||14 June 1944
Venoix, Normandy, Occupied France
|Buried at||Cimetière militaire allemand de Champigny-St. André
Block 8—row 12—grave 1027
|Years of service||1933–44|
|Rank||SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS|
|Service number||NSDAP #816,769
|Commands held||12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
|Other work||textile industry|
Fritz Witt (27 May 1908 – 14 June 1944) was a German high-ranking member in the Waffen-SS, the armed paramilitary branch of the Nazi Party's Schutzstaffel (SS). He served with the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Division before taking command of the 12th SS Division Hitlerjugend. Witt obtained the rank of Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS. He was killed in action in June 1944.
Early life and career
Witt was born on 27 May 1908 in Hohenlimburg, at the time in the Province of Westphalia of the Kingdom of Prussia. He was the son of a merchant who died in March 1920. Following his graduation from a Volksschule, Witt completed a vocational education as a merchant and worked in the textile industry until he lost his job in June 1931.
On 1 December 1931, Witt joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) (Nr. 816,769) and the Schutzstaffel (SS) (Nr. 21,518). In March 1933, Witt became a member of the SS-Stabswache "Berlin", a unit renamed to SS-Sonderkommando "Berlin" in September. That year, in October, Witt was promoted to SS-Sturmführer, and appointed Zugführer (platoon leader) of the 2. Sturm (2nd Company). SS-Sonderkommando "Berlin" was the nucleus of the later named "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" (LSSAH). In January 1935, Witt, holding the rank of SS-Obersturmführer, was transferred to I. Bataillon (1st Battalion) of the SS-Standarte "Deutschland", a unit later part of the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich", based in Munich to support its creation. There, Witt was tasked with the command of 3. Kompanie (3rd Company) and was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer on 1 June 1935.
World War II
World War II in Europe began on 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland. Witt participated in this campaign as a member of the motorized SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Deutschland", which was subordinated to Panzer Division "Kempf", an ad hoc combined arms unit commanded by General Werner Kempf. Witt's unit was involved in the Battle of the Border which included the Battle of Mława (1–3 September 1939), and in combat in the vicinity Różan, the crossing of the Narew and Bug River, and the Battle of Modlin (13–29 September 1939). This earned him the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz zweiter Klasse) on 17 September 1939. Witt also fought at Zakroczym where men from Panzer Division "Kempf" committed the Massacre in Zakroczym on 28 September 1939. On 26 September 1939, Witt was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz erster Klasse), the first member of the Panzer Division "Kempf" to receive this distinction.
Battle of France and Greece
Following the Invasion of Poland, the SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Deutschland" was one of three regiments of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) and later became the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich". On 19 October 1939, Witt was tasked with leading I. Bataillon (1st Battalion) of the SS-Standarte "Deutschland". In this command position Witt participated in the Battle of the Netherlands and Battle of France. During the Battle of Zeeland, on 16 May 1940, Witt and his unit crossed the canal through Zuid-Beveland near Vlake, continued to Kapelle and captured Goes. The next day, Witt was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer. On 27 May 1940, the SS-Standarte "Deutschland" was tasked with securing the right flank of 3rd Panzer-Division in its advance from Merville to Bailleul in French Flanders. That day, Witt's battalion came under attack from roughly 20 British Expeditionary Force tanks, supported by its infantry. In this engagement, Witt's battalion claimed the destruction of nine tanks.
From 27–31 May, Witt's battalion fought at Hazebrouck, Cassel, Bailleul and Poperinge. Until 5 June 1940, the battalion was given a period of rest to overhaul their equipment and weapons. The German forces launched the second phase of the conquest of France, Fall Rot (Case Red) on 5 June 1940. Following combat at the Avre and at Roye from 7–9 June 1940, the battalion was ordered to Saint-Quentin. The battalion then crossed the Marne and the headed for the Seine which they reached on 14 June 1940. On 14 June, Paris fell. Following the crossing of the Seine, the battalion headed for Dijon. On 16–17 June 1940, Witt's battalion was engaged in combat at the Langres plateau, near Arthonnay, Molesmes and Channes. In this encounter, 30,000 prisoners of war were taken.
On 4 September 1940, Witt was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes) as SS-Sturmbannführer and commander of the I./SS-Standarte "Deutschland". Witt was then transferred back to the LSSAH on 16 October 1940. He was tasked with the leadership of LSSAH's III. Bataillon (3rd Battalion). At the time, the battalion was based in Metz, France and was being augmented to a motorized brigade.
In early 1941, LSSAH relocated from Metz to Romania and in March 1941, it moved to Bulgaria. On 26 March 1941, Witt was given command of I. Bataillon of the LSSAH, at the time located in Câmpulung, Romania. With this unit, Witt participated in the Battle of Greece (6–30 April 1941), the Axis invasion of Allied Greece. On 11–12 April 1941, Witt's battalion participated in the assault on the Klidi Pass, sustaining heavy casualties in the attack. On 14 April 1941, the battalion fought against British forces in the Battle of Kleisoura Pass. There, Witt's brother Franz, also a member of I. Bataillon, was killed in action.
War against the Soviet Union
In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the LSSAH was moved to Brünn, present-day Brno in the Czech Republic, for replenishment. As part of Gerd von Rundstedt's, Army Group South, the LSSAH objective was to support the capture of the Ukraine and its capital Kiev. LSSAH was involved in the Battle of Uman and the subsequent capture of Kiev. According to a postwar account of a Waffen-SS journalist, after finding the mutilated bodies of six dead divisional members who had been previously captured and executed in Taganrog, the division murdered 4,000 Soviet prisoners in reprisal. For want of reliable evidence, the allegations remained unproven.
On 1 July 1943, Witt was promoted to SS-Oberführer and was appointed commander of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, the majority of its enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth. His previous command of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 1 was given to Albert Frey. In the following months, Witt oversaw the formation and training of Hitlerjugend division at Beverloo Camp, Belgium.
In expectation of the Allied invasion, 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend was ordered to relocate to France in March 1944. On 1 April 1944, elements of the division were responsible for the Ascq massacre in Ascq, France. In command of these elements was SS-Obersturmführer Walter Hauck, at the time a company commander in the Hitlerjugend division.
On 20 April 1944, Witt was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS. On 6 June 1944, the Western Allies launched the Invasion of Normandy. During the Normandy Campaign, Kurt Meyer, commander of the Hitlerjugend 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, used the Ardenne Abbey for his regimental headquarters, as the turret allowed for a clear view of the battlefield. On 7 June, members of the Hitlerjugend division under Kurt Meyer illegally executed Canadian soldiers in what became known as the Ardenne Abbey massacre.
On 14 June 1944, Witt was killed in action by a Royal Navy naval artillery barrage which hit the divisional command post at Venoix. He was initially buried at Venoix and later reinterred at Champigny—Saint-André-de-l'Eure, France.
Summary of SS career
- Iron Cross (1939)
- German Cross in Gold on 8 February 1942 as SS-Obersturmbannführer in the SS-Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
- Eastern Front Medal (1942)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Waffen-SS Long Service Award (1941)
- Steaua Romaniei (1943)
Dates of rank
|9 May 1934:||SS-Obersturmführer|
|1 June 1935:||SS-Hauptsturmführer|
|17 May 1940:||SS-Sturmbannführer|
|27 November 1941:||SS-Obersturmbannführer|
|30 January 1943:||SS-Standartenführer|
|1 July 1943:||SS-Oberführer|
|20 April 1944:||SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS|
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|Commander of 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
24 June 1943 – 14 June 1944
SS-Brigadeführer Kurt Meyer