SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke
SS-Sturmhauptführer: October 1, 1933
SS-Sturmbannführer: September 1, 1940
SS-Obersturmbannführer: June 21, 1943
SS-Standartenführer: June 21, 1944
SS-Oberführer: November 4, 1944
SS-Brigadeführer: January 30, 1945
Mohnke's rank is Brigadeführer, but Leibstandarte-SS ranks are two grades higher than usual Waffen-SS, so actually Mohnke is Obergruppenführer. There are no ranks higher than Brigadeführer
in the LSSAH.
Wilhelm Mohnke was born in Lübeck Germany on 15 March 1911. His father, who shared his name with his son, was a cabinet maker. After his father's death he went to work for a glass and porcelain manufacturer, eventually reaching a management position.
Mohnke joined the NSDAP on 1 September 1931, and the SS two months later. He was assigned to the Lübeck Trupp, of the 4. SS-Standarte, where he was to stay until January 1932. Mohnke was then transfered to the 22. SS-Standarte in Schwerin, the same unit as Kurt Meyer. On 17 March, personally chosen by Sepp Dietrich, Mohnke became one of the 120 original members of SS-Stabswache Berlin. It was from this chancellery guard that the Leibstandarte was to grow. Eventually Mohnke took command of 5. Kompanie, in which capacity he served in the Polish campaign. On 21 September he was awarded the Iron Cross second class, the Iron Cross first class was to come just one month later on 8 November.
Mohnke led 5.Kompanie at the outset of the Western campaign, taking over command of II.Bataillon on 28 March after the Bataillon commander was wounded. It was around this time that Mohnke was charged with murder of 80 British prisoners of war of the 48th Division at Wormhoudt. Monke has never been brought to trail for these allegations, and when the case was reopened in 1988 a Germen prosecutor came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidences to bring charges. Four years later, Mohnke's name was again mentioned with war crimes. This time as the commander of 1.SS-Panzerdivision Leibstandarte "Adolf Hiter". Units under his command where charged with the "Malmedy Massacre".
During the 1st SS Panzer Division's advance on 17 December 1944, Joachim Peiper's armored units and half-tracks confronted a lightly armed convoy of about 30 American vehicles at the Baugnez crossroads near Malmedy. The troops, mainly elements of the American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, were quickly overcome and captured. Along with other American POWs previously captured, they were ordered to stand in a meadow when for unknown reasons the Germans opened fire on the prisoners with machine guns, killing 84 soldiers, and leaving the bodies in the snow. The survivors were able to reach American lines later that day, and their story spread rapidly throughout the American front lines.
Author Richard Gallagher reported that during the briefing held before the operation, Peiper clearly stated that no quarter should be given nor prisoners taken and that no pity should be shown towards the Belgian civilians. However, Lieutenant Colonel Hal McCown, commander of the 2nd Battalion 119 Infantry Regiment, testified about the treatment his unit was given after being captured on 21 December by Peiper's Kampfgruppe at Froidcour between La Gleize and Stoumont. McCown said he met Peiper in person and based on his observations, American prisoners were at no time mistreated by the SS and the food given to them was nearly as good as that used by the Germans themselves.
It is also alleged that Mohnke was implicated in the killing of 35 Canadian POWs while with the "Hitlerjugend" at Fountenay-le Pesnel, though he never faced a trial for any conclusion as to any query of involvement.
He commanded the II.Bataillon during the Balkan campaign, where he lost his foot in a Yugoslavian air attack on 6 April 1941. It was the decision of the medics that his leg would need to be amputated, but Mohnke overrode that decision. Still, his wound was so grievous that they were still forced to take his foot. While recuperating he was awarded the German Cross in Gold, on 26 December 1941.
The German Cross [Deutsches Kreuz] was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 28 September 1941. It was awarded in two divisions: gold for repeated acts of bravery or achievement in combat; and silver for distinguished non-combat war service. The German Cross in Gold ranked higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, while the German Cross in Silver ranked higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords. Specimen copies of a special grade, the German Cross in Gold with Diamonds, was manufactured in 1942 but this grade was never instituted or bestowed.
Due to the severity of his injury, Mohnke did not return to active service until early 1942. It was Mohnke who planted the seed for the formation of the LSSAH Panzerabteilung early that year. He charged Ralf Tiemann as his "Adjutant" and his first "official" task was finding "recruits". Tiemann then proceeded to compile a list, eventually with enough names to fill two Kompanies!
While the newly wed Sepp Dietrich presented his new wife to his officers on 14 January, Mohnke presented Dietrich with his personnel list, which had in the mean time turned into transfer orders. Dietrich, who was caught unaware, finally relented to Möhnke's pressure and signed the paper. So was born the Panzerwaffe of the Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitler". It was not to be though, and Mohnke was relieved of his command and transferred to the replacement battalion on 16 March 1942.
On 1 September 1943, 16,000 new recruits of the Hitlerjugend [Hitler Youth] born in 1926 took part in the formation of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, while the senior NCOs and officers were generally veterans of the Eastern Front. SS-Obersturmbannführer Mohnke was given command of the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, which was the second regiment formed in the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend.
Mohnke told historian Thomas Fischer, "Soldiers of the Leibstandarte: SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke and 62 Soldiers of Hitler's Elite Division", that, at times, he had to take strong painkillers, such as morphine, due to the severe pain in his shortened right leg [from his combat injuries in April 1941] but whether these things affected his decision making process is not known. What is known is that his physical health affected his deployment.
Acknowledged as a skillful and courageous soldier, Mohnke nonetheless was a man about whom even fellow officers had nothing good to say. His lack of popularity seems to have stemmed from his dour manner and violent temper. It has been suggested that Mohnke's turbulent personality really only manifested itself after he became addicted to morphine, which had been administered to him on a daily basis during his post-amputation convalescence. Certainly an addiction of this kind might exacerbate an already explosive temper, particularly under battlefield conditions, where access to the narcotic on which he was dependent would be inconsistent at best.
- Margolian, Howard. "Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War In Normandy" [University of Toronto Press, Inc., Toronto, ON, 1998]
Mohnke was commander of the Leibstandarte's replacement battalion from March 1942 till May 1943. Then being "free enough from pain", SS-Obersturmbannführer Kurt Meyer "cajoled" him into taking a command with the 12th SS Panzer Division. This led to commanding the 26th SS Pz-Gren Rgt on 15 September 1943.
The structure of the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment was somewhat unconventional. Although as a whole the regiment was labeled as Panzergrenadiers, the III Battalion was the only battalion in the regiment that was actually armored. It did, however, have an additional company, designated the 15th Reconnaissance Company, which was outfitted with armored cars. This company helped make the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment a unique fighting force.
While the 12th SS Panzer Division was fighting to keep the Falaise pocket open, in which the division suffered an estimated 40%-50% casualties, Mohnke withdrew his Kampfgruppe [Battle Group] east of the river Dives. As the situation in Normandy deteriorated for Germany and the front was pushed back to the Seine, Mohnke was one of the few to lead organized resistance on the western bank in order to protect the river crossings there. After hard fighting, Mohnke was awarded the Knight's Cross on 11 July 1944. He led this Kampfgruppe until 31 August, when he replaced the badly wounded Theodor Wisch as commander of the Leibstandarte [LSSAH]. This promotion is the subject of speculation as to why Mohnke was given command of the LSSAH when then SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper had more combat experience. Peiper, the youngest regimental commander in the Waffen-SS, was perhaps considered too junior to command a division.
Operation Wacht am Rhein, followed by Operation Nordwind were the final major offensives and last gambles Hitler made on the Western Front. Mohnke, now in command of his home division, led his formation as the spearhead of the entire operation in the Ardennes. Attached to the I SS Panzer Corps, the LSSAH was one of the most elite and highly trained units in the entire German military. The crisis in the Reich meant that the LSSAH had dangerously low amounts of fuel for the vehicles that they depended on to make the division a viable fighting force. On 16 December 1944 the operation began, with Mohnke designating his best colonel, SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper, and his Kampfgruppe to lead the push to Antwerp.
Joachim Peiper, commander of the armoured
spearhead of 1st SS Panzer Division, in conference
with officers of other units under his command.
Aside from tanks of his own Division, there were also
King Tigers of the 501st Heavy Tank Battalion
By 07:00 on 17 December 1944, Peiper's Kampfgruppe had seized the American fuel dump at Büllingen. At 13:30 that same day, at a crossroads near Malmedy, men from Peiper's combat formation shot and killed at least 68 United States POWs. The Malmedy massacre, as it was to become known, is one of the most infamous killings of the war. Since Kampfgruppe Peiper, the perpetrators of the massacre, were under Mohnke's overall command, there were several accusations that he should be held personally responsible, yet he was never found guilty of the crime. By the evening of 17 December, the leading element of the LSSAH was engaged with the 99th US Division at Stavelot. Mohnke's division was behind their deadline by at least 36 hours by the end of the second day. Progress was further delayed by the retreating troops blowing up important bridges and fuel dumps that Mohnke and Peiper had counted on taking intact.
With each passing day, enemy resistance stiffened and the advance was eventually halted on all fronts. Desperate to keep the assault going, the German High Command ordered that a renewed attack begin on 1 January 1945. Yet this time, the Allies had regrouped their forces and were ready to repulse any attacks launched by the Germans. The operation formally ended on 27 January 1945, and three days later Mohnke was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer. A short while later the LSSAH and 'I SS Panzer Korps' were transferred to Hungary to bolster the crumbling situation there. Mohnke was injured in an air raid where he suffered, among other things, ear damage. He was removed from front-line service and put on the Führer reserve.
After recovering from his wounds, Mohnke was personally appointed by Hitler as the [Kommandant] Battle Commander for the defense of the centre government district [Zitadelle sector] which included the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker. Mohnke's command post was under the Reich Chancellery in the Bunkers therein. He formed Kampfgruppe Mohnke [Battle Group Mohnke] and it was divided into two weak regiments. It was made up of the LSSAH Flak Company, replacements from LSSAH Ausbildungs-und Ersatz Battalion from Spreenhagan (under SS-Standartenführer Günther Anhalt), 600 men from the Begleit-Bataillon Reichsführer-SS, the Führer-Begleit-Kompanie and the core group being the 800 men of the Leibstandarte [LSSAH] SS Guard Battalion [that was assigned to guard the Führer], and 503rd SS Heavy Tank Battalion [Tiger II tanks].
The Last Battle, Berlin, 30 April 1945
Unterscharführer Karl-Heinz Turk of the Schwere SS
Panzerabteilung 503, in one of the few remaining
Kingtigers, defends the Potsdammer Platz
along with elements of the Münchberg Division
against the rapidly encroaching Soviet forces
Defence of the Reichstag, Berlin 1 May 1945
On 30 April, Unterscharführer Georg Diers and his
crew of tank 314, were ordered to take up a
defensive position at the Reichstag buildings.
This was one of only two remaining King Tigers
belonging to Heavy SS Tank Battalion 503 in Berlin.
By that evening they had knocked out about
30 T34's, and the following day led a
successful counterattack against the
Kroll Opera House directly opposite the Reichstag.
Their efforts though, merely postponed the inevitable
and by the end of the day the order was given
to abandon the position and prepare
to break out of Berlin
In addition, Mohnke’s Kampfgruppe included elements from SS Panzer Division Nordland, made up of Scandinavian/Baltic volunteers; and also 350 members of the [French] SS Charlemagne Division. These non-German troops, regarded as traitors in their own home countries, had little alternative but to fight to the death.
Although Hitler had appointed General Helmuth Weidling as defense commandant of Berlin, Mohnke remained free of Weidling's command to maintain his defense objectives of the Reich Chancellery and the Führerbunker.
The forces available to Weidling for the city's defence included roughly 45,000 soldiers in several severely depleted German Army and Waffen-SS divisions. These depleted divisions were supplemented by the Berlin police force, boys in the Hitler Youth, and about 40,000 elderly men of the Home Guard [Volkssturm]. Mohnke had over 2,000 men under his direct command. The core group of his fighting men were the 800 of the Leibstandarte [LSSAH] SS Guard Battalion [assigned to guard the Führer]. The Soviets later estimated the number of defenders in Berlin at 180,000, but this was based on the number of German prisoners they captured. The prisoners included many unarmed men in uniform, such as railway officials and members of the Reich Labour Service [Reichsarbeitsdienst].
To the west of the city was the 20th Panzergrenadier Division. To the north was the 9th Fallschirmjäger Division, to the north-east the Panzer Division Müncheberg.To the south-east of the city and to the east of Tempelhof Airport was the SS-Nordland Panzergrenadier Division composed mainly of foreign volunteers.
They faced a superior number of Soviet soldiers. There were approximately 1.5 million Soviet troops allocated for the investment and assault on the Berlin Defence Area.
In April 1945 Mohnke was in the Bunker of the Reichskanzlei where he decorated several officers with the Knights Cross.
Since Mohnke's fighting force was located at the nerve center of the German Third Reich it fell under the heaviest artillery bombardment of the war, which began as a birthday present to Hitler on 20 April 1945. The shelling lasted to the end of hostilities on 8 May 1945. Under pressure from the most intense shelling, Mohnke and his SS troops put up stiff resistance against impossible odds. The Red Army race to take the Reichstag and Reich Chancellery condemned the troops to bitter and bloody street fighting. Completely encircled and cut off from any reinforcements, his Kampfgruppe fought off the Soviet advances.
Hermann Fegelein was a prominent officer of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany, a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage, adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, and brother-in law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister, Gretl. However, he supposedly died before Braun married Hitler, and details of his death are controversial.
On the night of 17 April, SS General Fegelein—Himmler’s representative—adroitly informed Hitler that the secret talks between SS General Wolff and Allen Dulles in Switzerland had resulted in principle on terms for an armistice on the Italian front. The Americans were still talking of unconditional surrender, but that was a minor problem if thereby the enemy alliance could be torn asunder. At 3pm the Führer sent for Wolff and congratulated him. “I hear that you and your skill have managed to establish the first official contacts to top Americans.” He asked Wolff not to leave Berlin until the next evening, to give him time to think it over. “I am grateful that you’ve succeeded in opening the first doorway to the West and America. Of course, the terms are very bad—there can be no talk of unconditional surrender, obviously". But by 5 P.M. his mood had hardened again. Strolling with Wolff, Kaltenbrunner, and Fegelein in the Chancellery garden, Hitler enlarged on his own hopeful theories. “I want the front to hold for eight more weeks. I am waiting for East and West to fall out. We are going to hold the Italian fortress at all costs, and Berlin too". This was the message Hitler gave Wolff to pass on to General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, Kesselring’s colorless successor as Commander in Chief in Italy.
On 29 April, the day before Hitler died, SS General Karl Wolff signed a surrender document at Caserta on behalf of General von Vietinghoff, after prolonged unauthorised secret negotiations with the Western Allies, which were viewed with great suspicion by the Soviet Union as trying to reach a separate peace. In the document, Wolff agreed to a ceasefire and surrender of all the forces under the command of Vietinghoff at 2pm on 2 May. Accordingly, after some bitter wrangling between Wolff and Albert Kesselring in the early hours of 2 May, nearly 1,000,000 men in Italy and Austria surrendered unconditionally to British General Harold Alexander at 2pm on 2 May.
From January to April 1945, Martin Bormann controlled access to Hitler's office. Fegelein was on close terms with him. Further, being married to Eva Braun's sister placed him in Hitler's inner circle. After Himmler tried to negotiate a surrender to the western Allies via Count Bernadotte in April 1945 [Himmler falsely claimed leadership of the Reich in his failed attempt to negotiate a peace deal with Eisenhower], Fegelein, left the Reich Chancellery Bunker complex, after deciding he did not want to "join a suicide pact", and went to his apartment at 4 Bleibtreustrasse [ironically 'Stay Faithful Street'] in Berlin-Charlottenburg. There he changed into civilian clothes, preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland, and met up with a woman, possibly his mistress.
His absence was noted by Hitler and members of the Reichssicherheitsdienst [RSD/Hitler’s personal security force] were sent out to search. On 27 April 1945, he was found by RSD deputy commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl at his apartment. The mystery woman in Fegelein's apartment, was believed to be of Irish nationality and married to a high ranking Hungarian diplomat in Admiral Horthy's service. She was believed to be in the pay of the British secret service, named Mata O'Hara [a code name]. Members of Hitler's staff remember her being in the company of Fegelein, but never at the Reichschancellery. It is strongly suspected that Fegelein leaked information to the British via this woman during bedroom activities. The woman cleverly made her escape through a kitchen window on the pretext of getting water for some cognac that Fegelein had offered his "guests". At this point, Högl had no orders to forcibly return Fegelein to the Reichschancellery, so he did not pay much attention to the woman, much to his subsequent regret. Chapter VII of James P. O'Donnell's book "The Bunker" is all about 'The Lady Vanished' or 'Das Leck' [the leak]. Richard Crossman, British M.P. and journalist said in 1955 she should be awarded the Victoria Cross. But she just vanished, and her identity remains a mystery.
Found in Fegelein’s possession were 105.725 Reichsmark, 3185 Swiss Francs, pieces of gold, and jewellery, some of which belonged to Eva and Gretl Braun. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the western Allies.
According to most accounts he was also highly intoxicated when arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker.He was kept in a makeshift cell until the evening of 28 April. That night, Hitler was informed of the BBC broadcast of a Reuters news report about Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies via Count Bernadotte. Hitler flew into a rage about this apparent betrayal and ordered Himmler's arrest. Sensing a connection between Fegelein's disappearance and Himmler's betrayal, Hitler ordered SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller to interrogate Fegelein as to what he knew of Himmler's plans. Thereafter, according to Otto Günsche [Hitler's personal adjutant], Hitler ordered that Fegelein be stripped of all rank and to be transferred to Kampfgruppe "Mohnke" to prove his loyalty in combat. However, Günsche and Bormann expressed their concern to Hitler that Fegelein would only desert again. Hitler then ordered Fegelein court-martialed.
A court-martial was hastily assembled, during which Wilhelm Mohnke, in charge of the defense of the Reichskanzlei, degraded him to SS-Mann, expelled him from the SS, and ordered him returned to his cell.
According to the History Channel Documentary, 'Hitler's End' produced in 2005, Russian Archive documentation seems to indicate that Hitler was not particularly adamant about having Hermann Fegelein shot [as is the popular story], but that it was Günsche who insisted that Fegelein should be shot for desertion.
Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge—an eye-witness to Bunker events—stated that Braun pleaded with Hitler to spare her brother-in-law and tried to justify Fegelein's behaviour. However, he was taken to the garden of the Reich Chancellery on 28 April, and was "shot like a dog". Rochus Misch, who was the last surviving individual from the Führerbunker, disputed aspects of this account in a 2007 interview with "Der Spiegel". According to Misch, Hitler did not order Fegelein's execution, only his demotion. Misch claimed to know the identity of Fegelein's killer, but refused to reveal his name.
Historical accounts differ radically. In "The Last Days of Hitler", historian Hugh Trevor-Roper remarked: "The real causes and circumstances of the execution of Fegelein provide one of the few subjects in this book upon which final certainty seems unattainable".
Journalist James Preston O'Donnell ["The Bunker: The History of the Reich Chancellery Group", Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978] discovered in his interviews numerous claims and theories as to what happened to Fegelein, many of which disagreed with each other, and some of which seemed preposterous [i.e., a claim that Hitler himself gunned Fegelein down]. Many claimed he had been shot following a court-martial, and this theory predominated for many years.
While the Battle in Berlin was raging around them, Hitler ordered Mohnke to set up a military tribunal for Hermann Fegelein, in order to try the man for desertion. Mohnke, deciding that the Obergruppenführer deserved a fair trial by other high ranking officers, put together a tribunal consisting of Generals Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Johann Rattenhuber, and himself.
Years later, Mohnke told O'Donnell the following::
"I was to preside over it myself...I decided the accused man [Fegelein] deserved trial by high-ranking officers...We set up the court-martial in a room next to my command post...We military judges took our seats at the table with the standard German Army Manual of Courts-Martial before us. No sooner were we seated than defendant Fegelein began acting up in such an outrageous manner that the trial could not even commence. Roaring drunk, with wild, rolling eyes, Fegelein first brazenly challenged the competence of the court. He kept blubbering that he was responsible to Himmler and Himmler alone, not Hitler...He refused to defend himself. The man was in wretched shape - bawling, whining, vomiting, shaking like an aspen leaf... I was now faced with an impossible situation. On the one hand, based on all available evidence, including his own earlier statements, this miserable excuse for an officer was guilty of flagrant desertion... Yet the German Army Manual states clearly that no German soldier can be tried unless he is clearly of sound mind and body, in a condition to hear the evidence against him. I looked up the passage again, to make sure, and consulted with my fellow judges...In my opinion and that of my fellow officers, Hermann Fegelein was in no condition to stand trial, or for that matter to even stand. I closed the proceedings...So I turned Fegelein over to [SS] General Rattenhuber and his security squad. I never saw the man again".
Many other people in the Bunker argued that Mohnke was lying, that he had in fact had Fegelein killed, and only made the above statement to try and explicate himself from any guilt. This was complicated by the fact that Mohnke was the only survivor of this court martial - Krebs and Burgdorf committed suicide by 2 May. While Rattenhuber survived, O'Donnell was only able to speak with him once before his death, and Rattenhuber did not discuss Fegelein with him. However, as O'Donnell noted, nobody actually saw Fegelein's execution [or, if they did, they weren't talking]. Nonetheless, O'Donnell and many historians, with the evidence at hand, agreed with Mohnke, and have concluded that Fegelein was doomed because of a combination of Himmler's betrayal and suspicions that his mistress was a spy. According to O'Donnell there were no witnesses to the execution [he had interviewed surviving members of the Bunker entourage and none of them admitted to actually seeing the execution]. And yet in "The Last Days Of Hitler" by Anton Joachimsthaler "SS-Sgt. Rochus Misch spoke of a shooting in a cellar by two members of the RSD". O'Donnell noted that Hitler held off on his marriage to Eva Braun until after he was satisfied Fegelein was dead - a means of ensuring that he would not have a "traitor" as a brother-in-law.
Hans Fegelein, Hermann's father stated several times after the war that he received packages containing Bundesmarks with notes stating that Hermann was alive and otherwise fine, but had to remain underground. However, the money could have been sent to his father by Fegelein's long time comrade, Albert Faßbender who resumed his lucrative business with his step-father after the war as a chocolatier.
The alternative is that Fegelein did in fact, survive the Bunker. In order for this to have happened, he would have made a deal with Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller. Müller and Fegelein also would have had to convince Johann [Hans] Rattenhuber, who Hitler sent to confirm the death of Fegelein, that he was in fact dead so the Hitler nuptials could take place without the possibility of Fegelein becoming a relative of Hitler by marriage. Fooling Rattenhuber by dressing up a battle death corpse in Fegelein's uniform was possible as there were so many corpses around the general area from the make-shift hospital on the upper floors of the Chancellory.
There's always a chance that the late war events associated with Fegelein were a sham, designed to throw the Allies off his track while he escaped abroad. Glenn Infield investigated this in a chapter of his book "Secrets of the SS", and while it ends up as being unlikely, there's no denying that American intelligence services did spend a while looking into the possibility that Hermann Fegelein was still alive, somewhere. Infield's main source for information on Fegelein seems to be Bormann's diaries.
Next is the possibility that Fegelein was hanged in the Gestapo cellar as theorized by James P O'Donnell. In that case, his corpse would have remained in the Gestapo cellar until the Red Army investigated it in May, 1945. If he was hanged, his tunic would have been removed as was the custom, so there would be nothing distinguishing him as Fegelein. Mohnke states that in the abortive courts martial hearing, Fegelein tore off his collar and/or shoulder pieces from his tunic anyway.
An alternative scenario of Fegelein's death is based on the 1948/49 Soviet NKVD dossier of Hitler written for Josef Stalin. The dossier states that Fegelein was court-martialed on the evening of 28 April, by a court headed by Mohnke, SS-Obersturmbannführer Alfred Krause, and SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Kaschula. Mohnke and his fellow officers sentenced Fegelein to death. That same evening, Fegelein was shot from behind by a member of the Sicherheitsdienst. Based on this stated chain of events, author Veit Scherzer concluded that Fegelein, according to German law, was deprived of all honours and honorary signs and must therefore be considered a de facto but not de jure recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
Finally, there is the possibility that as reported by Hanna Reitsch, Fegelein was shot in the Ehrenhof. His body would have been hastily buried and removed to a mass grave later. A Soviet Newsreel identifed some of the corpses that they recovered, but Fegelein was not among them. A red army enlisted man claimed to have buried him in a makeshift grave around the Chancellery. Reitsch's account differs dramatically with Bunker survivors and it was said to have occurred just two hours before she and von Greim flew out. Reitsch later admitted she did not witness it and it was only rumoured.
In Thomas Fischers: "Die Verteidigung der Reichskanzlei 1945. Kampfkommandant Mohnke berichtet", Mohnke is also quoted for saying that Fegelein was shot by Rattenhuber's men in the Ehrenhof.
After Berlin capitulated, there were a lot of bodies in the area of the chancellery. Some were stored in a damaged water tower that fell to the ground, some were left as they fell, and a number of suicides if not murders were left in the lower Bunker. If James O'Donnell's account is correct and Fegelein was killed in the Gestapo cellar and not the Ehrenhof as in Hanna Reich's statement, there would have been no great hurry to recover his body. Most accounts of Fegelein's execution also state that at some point before he was killed his medals and/or other insignia was removed from his tunic, possibly by Fegelein himself, and it is doubtful that anyone from the initial red army internment squads would have recognized the significance of a Florian Geyer cuff tab, had Fegelein been wearing a tunic at all when killed.
Something similar may have happened to Gestapo Chief Heinrich Müller. The US National Archives file on him states that his body may or may not have been recovered, but it is uncertain because the internment squad simply was unaware who they were reburying.
In the evening of 26 April, Weidling presented Hitler with a detailed proposal for a breakout from Berlin. When Weidling finished, Hitler shook his head and said: "Your proposal is perfectly all right. But what is the point of it all? I have no intentions of wandering around in the woods. I am staying here and I will fall at the head of my troops. You, for your part, will carry on with your defence".
Around 4 or 4:30pm on 29 April 1945, at a situation conference, Hitler sent for Mohnke, and requested an update on what was happening in Berlin. Mohnke spread out a map of central Berlin and reported that in the north the Russians had moved close to the Weidendammer Bridge; in the east they were at the Lustgarten; in the south, the Russians were at Potsdamer Platz and the Aviation Ministry; and in the west they were in the Tiergarten, somewhere between 170 and 250 feet from the Reich Chancellery. When Hitler asked how much longer Mohnke could hold out, the answer was “At most twenty to twenty-four hours, my Führer, no longer".
-- Fest, Joachim, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker. Another source indicates Mohnke replying that with the weapons and ammunition he had, he could hold out for two or three days more. Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogradov, V.K.; Pogonyi, J.F.; Teptzov, N.V.,"Hitlers Death: Russia's Last Great Secret".
During the evening of 29 April, Weidling discussed with his divisional commanders the possibity of breaking out to the southwest to link up with Walther Wenck's Army. Wenck's spearhead had reached the village of Ferch on the banks of the Schwielowsee near Potsdam. The breakout was planned to start the next night at 22:00.
Late in the morning of 30 April, with the Soviets less than 500 metres from the Bunker, Hitler had a meeting with Weidling, who informed him that the Berlin garrison would probably run out of ammunition that night. Weidling asked Hitler for permission to break out, a request he had made unsuccessfully before. Hitler did not answer at first, and Weidling went back to his headquarters in the Bendlerblock, where at about 13:00, he received Hitler's permission to try a breakout that night.
Hitler asked Mohnke if his solders could hold out until 8 May. The SS general replied that the Bunker would fall in less than 24 hours. "I now expect a frontal, massed-tank attack tomorrow at dawn, 1 May. You know what 1 May means to Russians". Hitler said, “I know. Let me say that your troops have fought splendidly, and I have no complaints".
About 5 hours later the Führer was dead and his body burned. After returning from Soviet captivity in 1955 General Mohnke hinted that the Führer was hoping to live to May 8-the date Napoleon died in captivity-or exile.
On 30 April, after receiving news of Hitler's suicide, orders were issued that those who could do so were to break out. The plan was to escape from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North. Prior to the breakout, Mohnke briefed all commanders [who could be reached] within the Zitadelle sector about the events as to Hitler's death and the planned break out. They split up into ten main groups. It was a "fateful moment" for Brigadeführer Mohnke as he made his way out of the Reich Chancellery on 1 May. He had been the first duty officer of the LSSAH at the building and now was leaving as the last battle commander there. Mohnke's group included: Hitler's secretaries Traudl Junge and Gerda Christian, Borman's secretary Else Krüger, Hitler's dietician Constanze Manziarly, Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, Walther Hewel, Hitler’s driver Erich Kempka and various others. Mohnke planned to break out towards the German Army which was positioned in Prinzenallee. The group headed along the subway but their route was blocked so they went above ground and later joined hundreds of other Germans civilians and military personnel who had sought refuge at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery on Prinzenallee.
"SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, the last commander of Adolf Hitler's bodyguard, was leading one of three parties escaping the ruins of the Bunker under the Reich Chancellery. The Führer was dead and Mohnke was guiding members of Hitler's military escort and other courtiers through the black subterranean tunnels of the U-Bahn, deep beneath the shattered streets of the city.
"Suddenly the party hit an obstacle. Two railwaymen had locked a tunnel door, as was their duty, once the final train had passed for the day. Despite Mohnke's entreaties, these two senior servants of the Reichsbahn refused to budge. They had their orders.
"Mohnke was a veteran of six years fighting, had been twice wounded and had won the Knight's Cross. But, rather than drawing his pistol and forcing the railwaymen to open the door, he ordered the party to retrace its steps down the tunnel. Not long afterward, they surrendered to the Russians".
-- Kempka, Erich, "Die letzten Tage mit Adolf Hitler" [The Last Days with Adolf Hitler], Preussisch-Oldendorf, 1981. An English edition of the book was published in 2010 by Frontline Books, under the title "I was Hitler's Chauffeur: The Memoirs of Erich Kempka"
Mohnke had 10 years in the Soviet Gulag to contemplate his inability to persuade the railwaymen to obey common sense rather than their orders.
This incident is emblematic of the decisions of millions of Germans, at the front lines and at home, who continued to fight and die as the Third Reich collapsed in the early months of 1945.
British historian Ian Kershaw, the most insightful authority on Hitler and the Third Reich, captures all of this in "The End: Hitler's Germany, 1944-45".
Some of the SS personnel, who did not join any of the breakout groups, opted to commit suicide. General Hans Krebs, Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff, and General Wilhelm Burgdorf, the Chief Adjutant to Adolf Hitler, along with SS-Obersturmbannführer [Lieutenant Colonel] Franz Schädle of the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers, stayed behind.
On 5 January 1945, Franz Schädle was appointed commander of the bodyguard unit after the dismissal of Bruno Gesche. By then the SS-Begleitkommando had been expanded and was known as the Führerbegleitkommando [Führer Escort Command; FBK]. He accompanied Hitler and his entourage into the Bunker complex under the Reich Chancellery garden in the central government sector of Berlin. At that time, Schädle appointed FBK member Oberscharführer Rochus Misch to be the Bunker telephone operator. By 23 April 1945, he commanded approximately 30 members of the unit who stood guard therein for Hitler. On 28 April 1945 he was wounded in the leg by shrapnel. It caused him to have to "hobble" around using a crutch. After Hitler committed suicide on the afternoon of 30 April, Schädle was present at Hitler's cremation in the garden of the Reich Chancellery.
Thereafter, orders were issued that those who could do so were to break out. The plan was to escape from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North. Those left in the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker were split up into ten main groups. Rochus Misch stated that Schädle had ordered, that when the time came, he was to join SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke's lead break-out group Misch later recalled that shortly thereafter four fellow FBK guards came down into the Führerbunker carrying an empty stretcher. They wanted to carry Schädle on it during the break-out. Schädle turned them down According to the Bunker's master electro-mechanic Johannes Hentschel, by that time Schädle's leg wound had become gangrenous].
Prior to his suicide, Josef Göbbels finally released Misch from further service as the Bunker telephone operator; he was free to leave. By then Misch and mechanic Hentschel were two of the last people remaining in the Bunker. Misch went upstairs, through the cellars of the Reich Chancellery to where Schädle had his office to report one last time. Misch told Schädle that Göbbels had released him. Schädle told Misch of the route he should take to try to get through the Soviet encirclement of the area. Thereafter, Schädle committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a pistol, rather than attempt the break out from the Chancellery to escape from the advancing Red Army. He did not want to endanger the lives of the others in the attempt given the fact he could only walk at a slow pace using a crutch.
Since the field hospital in the Reich Chancellery above needed power and water, Johannes Hentschel, the master electro-mechanic for the Bunker complex, opted to stay even after everyone else had either left or committed suicide.
According to Anthony Read and David Fisher in "The Fall of Berlin", Hitler had promoted Lt. Colonel Erich Bärenfänger, who became the youngest army officer in the rank of Generalmajor, on 22 April 1945.
The thirty-year-old Bärenfänger, had received the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class, for his action in the Westfeldzug, and the German Cross in gold in December 1941 for his continuously shown bravery. During the summer of 1942, he took part in the bloody attack of the fortress Sevastopol and received the Knight's Cross. Next summer he added Oak Leaves during the campaign in Terek, and in the winter of 43/44, he was awarded with Swords for his defensive action in Kertsch, recognizing extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
On 23 April, Hitler appointed Helmuth Weidling as the commander of the Berlin Defence Area. Weidling replaced Lieutenant General [Generalleutnant] Helmuth Reymann, Colonel [Oberst] Ernst Käther, and Hitler himself. Reymann had held the position only since 6 March. Starting 22 April, Käther had held the position for less than one day. For a short period of time, Hitler had then taken personal control of Berlin's defences, with Bärenfänger as his deputy.
On 24 April, Bärenfänger was given command of defence sectors A and one day later also command of sector B. He mounted at least two unsuccessful armored attacks northwards up the Schönhauser Allee. The second was on 1 May.
Members of Mohnke's "break out group" saw quite a sight, on the Humbolthain, thanks to Bärenfänger, according to James P. O'Donnell, in "The Bunker". On 1 May, the group left the Führerbunker. As they made their escape, there before them they saw a "host" of new Tiger II tanks and "artillery pieces" arrayed around the Flak tower as if "on parade". Bärenfänger was allegedly seated in the turret cupola of one of the Tigers thus arrayed.
It is believed that Bärenfänger died by his own hand, along with his wife and his brother-in-law, in Berlin in early May 1945 to avoid capture by the Russians.
On 2 May 1945, General Weidling issued an order calling for the complete surrender of all German forces still in Berlin.
After Hitler's suicide on 30 April 1945, Göbbels assumed Hitler's role as chancellor. On 1 May, Goebbels dictated a letter to Soviet Army General Vasily Chuikov, commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanding the Soviet forces in central Berlin, requesting a temporary ceasefire and ordered General Krebs to deliver it.
Krebs and Colonel Theodor von Dufving, Helmuth Weidling's Chief of Staff, under a white flag, went to see Chuikov, who was surprised by their appearance shortly before 4:00 a.m.
Krebs, who spoke Russian, informed Chuikov that Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife, had killed themselves in the Führerbunker. Chuikov, who was not aware that there was a Bunker complex under the Reich Chancellery or that Hitler was married, calmly said that he already knew all of this. Chuikov was not, however, prepared to accept the terms in Göbbels' letter or to negotiate with Krebs. The Soviets were unwilling to accept anything other than unconditional surrender, as it was agreed with the other Allies. Krebs was not authorized by Göbbels to agree to such terms, and so the meeting ended with no agreement. According to Traudl Junge, Krebs returned to the Bunker looking "worn out, exhausted".
Göbbels decided that further efforts were futile. Göbbels then launched into a tirade berating the generals, reminding them Hitler forbade them to surrender. Ministerialdirektor Hans Fritzsche left the room to take matters into his own hands. He went to his nearby office on Wilhelmplatz and wrote a surrender letter addressed to Soviet Marshall Georgy Zhukov. General Wilhelm Burgdorf followed Fritzsche to his office] There he asked Fritzsche if he intended to surrender Berlin. Fritzsche replied that he was going to do just that. Burgdorf shouted that Hitler had forbidden surrender and as a civilian he had no authority to do so. Burgdorf then pulled his pistol to shoot Fritzsche, but a radio technician "knocked the gun" and the bullet fired hit the ceiling. Several men then hustled Burgdorf out of the office and he returned to the Bunker.
Krebs's surrender of Berlin was thus impeded as long as Göbbels was alive.
At around 8:30 p.m. on 1 May, Göbbels removed this impediment. Shortly after killing their own children, Göbbels and his wife, Magda left the Bunker and walked up to the garden of the Reich Chancellery where they committed suicide.
After Göbbels' death, Krebs became suicidal. The responsibility for surrendering the city fell to General Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area.
On 2 May, with Krebs in no condition to do it himself, Weidling contacted General Chuikov to again discuss surrender. Weidling and Chuikov met and had the following conversation in which Chuikov asked about Krebs:
Chuikov: "You are the commander of the Berlin garrison?"
Weidling: "Yes, I am the commander of the LVI Panzer Corps".
Chuikov: "Where is Krebs?"
Weidling: "I saw him yesterday in the Reich Chancellery. I thought he would commit suicide. At first he [Krebs] criticized me because unofficial capitulation started yesterday. The order regarding capitulation has been issued today".
As the Soviets advanced on the Reich Chancellery, Krebs was last seen by others, including Junge, in the Führerbunker when they left to attempt to escape. Junge relates how she approached Krebs to say goodbye and how he straightened up and smoothed his uniform before greeting her for the last time.
Sometime in the early morning hours of 2 May, Krebs and Burgdorf committed suicide by gunshot to the head.
Knowing that it was impossible to get through the Soviet cordons, Mohnke told the soldiers what the officers already knew — that Adolf Hitler was dead. But he did not tell them that Hitler committed suicide. He took upon himself the responsibility of telling all officers and men that their oath of allegiance was binding only up to the Führer’s death and advised them, to escape capture, at the first chance, even by changing into civilian clothes. Mohnke decided to surrender to the Red Army. However, several of Mohnke's group [including some of the SS personnel] opted to commit suicide. Some groups kept up pockets of resistance throughout the city and did not surrender until 8 May 1945.
Around 9 am, 2 May 1945, the first Russian combat troops arrived at the Bunker complex unopposed. They were followed by the Russian search teams of “SMERSH”, equivalent of CIC of the Allieds.
SMERSH [acronym of Spetsyalnye MEtody Razoblacheniya SHpyonov or Special Methods of Spy Detection, but also referred to as SMERt‘ SHpionam; "Death to spies"] was an umbrella name for three independent counterintelligence agencies in the Red Army formed in late 1942 or even earlier, but officially founded on 14 April 1943.
The Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del [The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs] abbreviated НКВД [NKVD] soldiers captured more than 50 officers and men who were still there in the Bunker complex, including Johannes Hentschel. Then they found out that the bulk of the Reich Chancellery group had decamped during the night.
Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Klimenko, the leader of one of the search teams found the cadaverous remains of the partly burnt corpses of the Göbbels and filmed them. He immediately sent the remains to the Russians headquarters in Berlin’s Plötzensee Prison.
Another search team found an old oak water tank which contained many dead bodies. They pulled out a particular body that resembled Hitler.
The security personnel in the Bunker, responsible for Hitler’s safety, may have had Gustav Weler, a Doppelgänger or Body-double of Adolf Hitler, to camouflage and help Hitler escape, if Hitler decided to take part in a breakout. But, after Hitler’s death, they would have realized that any double if found would be an embarrassment, and therefore disposed of him by shooting him in the forehead, in an attempt to confuse the Russian troops.
Weler’s body was taken to Lefortovo prison in Moscow, for further investigations, and was laid to rest in its yard.
When Ivan Klimenko returned to the Bunker the next day, 3 May 1945, he found the body resembling Hitler, displayed prominently in the main hall of the Reich Chancellery. Ignoring the darned socks, worn by the dead man, Klimenko assumed the crucial problem of finding Hitler dead or alive had been solved.
Then probing inside the darkened Bunker the Russians found the bodies of many Germans who had committed suicide, including that of General Hans Krebs. The bodies of General Wilhelm Burgdorf and SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle were never found nor those of Heinrich "Gestapo Müller and Hermann Fegelein, supposedly killed.
The Russians then discovered the bodies of the six Göbbels children lying in their beds in the Vorbunker. They were wearing white nightclothes with the clear mark of cyanide shown on their faces. According to the autopsy the Russians carried out, bruising on the face of 12-year-old Helga Göbbels indicated that she was forced to ingest cyanide.
On the following day, 4 May 1945, Ivan Churakov, a Russian soldier, climbed into a nearby bomb crater strewn with burned paper. He saw some partly burnt furry object and he hollered, “Comrade Lieutenant Colonel, there are legs here.“
They started to dig and pulled from the crater two dead dogs, and digging further they found the burnt bodies of a man and a woman. At first Klimenko did not even think that the two burnt corpses might be that of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Since he believed that Hitler’s corpse was already displayed prominently in the Chancellery and only needed to be positively identified, he therefore ordered the newly discovered burnt cadavers to be wrapped in blankets and reburied.
On Saturday, 5 May 1945, Klimenko while pondering over his finding the burnt bodies of a man and a woman from the burnt crater rushed back and exhumed the two bodies. He transported both bodies to Plötzensee Prison. There he was ordered to send them on to the 496th Field Hospital in Buch, a German locality within the Berlin borough of Pankow.
On 8 May 1945, the Victory in Europe Day [V-E Day], the first preliminary forensic autopsy was performed on both bodies.
According to popular consensus among historians, Hitler killed himself at the close of World War II. But, many unanswered questions, doubts, and uncertainties still linger about his death. Present conspiracy theorists contend that evidence of Adolf Hitler’s suicide is flawed and that he did manage to escape from Germany
The perennial question: "Did Adolf Hitler commit suicide on 30 April 1945?" prompts those with even a modest knowledge of the history of World War II to pursue this issue even further. This question has also served as a catalyst for the prolific output of books and articles by conspiracy theorists.
Many historians claim that Adolf Hitler died of a self-inflicted gunshot while biting a cyanide capsule while Eva Braun committed suicide along with him by ingesting cyanide.
If we accept that Hitler committed suicide April 1945, here again accounts differ about how he died:
- Hitler died from a lethal injection administered by his personal physician Werner Haase.
- Hitler died of a self-inflicted gunshot while biting a cyanide capsule while Eva Braun committed suicide along with him by ingesting cyanide.
- Hitler after shooting his wife Eva Braun swallowed a cyanide capsule and shot himself.
An article written by Yorkshire war reporter Joe Illingworth August 1945 casts doubt on events in the Bunker, claiming that the Russians said there was no "convincing" proof of Hitler’s demise.
Many conspiracy theorists have rejected the accounts of suicide by Hitler as either Soviet Propaganda or an attempted compromise to reconcile the different conclusions. According to every one of the conspiracy theorists, the investigations conducted by the American and Soviet armies at the fall of Berlin led to the only conclusion that Hitler escaped alive and left Germany during the fall of Berlin, most probably on 22 April 1945.
If Hitler escaped from Germany, then where did he go, and how long did he survive? Some say there is evidence suggesting that Hitler may have fled to Indonesia, where he married and worked at a hospital in Sumbawa. However, the popular consensus among the conspiracy theorists is he fled to Argentina.
Following their surrender Mohnke and other senior German officers were treated to a banquet by the Chief of Staff of the 8th Guards Army. He was then handed over to the NKVD. On 9 May 1945, he was flown to Moscow for interrogation and kept in solitary confinement until 1949 for refusing to talk of Hitler's last days, after being transferred to Lubjanka Prison.
In a statement for Soviet authorities dated 18 May 1945, Mohnke wrote: "I personally did not see the Führer's body and I don't know what was done to it".
- V. K. Vinogradov et al. [eds], "Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB", Chaucer Press, London, 2005
Thereafter, Mohnke was transferred again to the to a prison camp for General Officers at Voikovo, 200 miles east of Moscow. He remained in captivity until 10 October 1955.
"During my imprisonment in the Soviet Union, I often heard of an imprisoned Swedish diplomat who had been active in Budapest. The Russian authorities were said to have accused him of espionage for the Germans".
- Quoted in "Raoul Wallenberg: The Mystery Lives on" by Harvey Rosenfeld - 2005
In February 1949, while still a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union, Theodor von Dufving, the former Chief-of-Staff to General Helmuth Weidling, provided witness statements concerning the Swedish humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg. While travelling to Vorkuta, in the transit camp in Kirov, Dufving had encountered a prisoner with his own special guard and dressed in civilian clothes. The prisoner stated that he was a Swedish diplomat and that he was there "through a great error".
According to Dufving, the man he saw was well-dressed and travelled with a special guard or companion. When Dufving asked the man if he had been with the Swedish Embassy in Berlin, he answered, "No – in Eastern Europe". According to Dufving, the man spoke with an almost perfect German accent. Although he was reading a newspaper in Russian, he told Dufving that he did not know Russian very well.
The Soviet refusal to turn him over to the western Allies was but one tiny act in the political battles of the Cold War.
Mohnke was lucky to be appointed as the Battle Commander of the Reich Chancellery and that ultimately led to be captured by the Russians and contributed to the failure to bring him to book for his involvement in battlefield excesses in the west. It transpired that he had vanished into Soviet captivity and not been killed on the fall of Berlin as generally supposed. The Russians denied his existence to the British authorities who were unaware of his existence until reports filtered through that he was alive and living in a Hamburg suburb.
After Konrad Adenauer visited Russia in September 1955, the outcome was the establishing of diplomatic relations between West Germany and Russia. But from this meeting, the last of the German POWs, who the Soviets had deemed to be war criminals, were released between October 1955 and January 1956, as a gesture by Bulganin. Among these prisoners was Mohnke, a prisoner who the Soviets, particularly Stalin had been interested in from the war end to establish beyond all doubt, that "that bastard Hitler was dead"...[as quoted by Stalin]. Stalin remained unconvinced that Hitler was dead and even commissioned a document prepared by Linge and Günsche, later available as "The Hitler Book" which detailed the last days of Hitler and his inner circle within the Hitler Chancellery.
Following his release, Mohnke worked as a dealer in small trucks and trailers, living in Barsbüttel, West Germany, never having been prosecuted for the atrocities he is alleged to be responsible for. Controversially, he received a pension from the German government for his injuries, a special "victim pension" awarded under the "Social Compensation And Assistance To War Victims" law [Bundesversorgungsgesetz or BVG].
Mohnke was granted immunity from prosecution by US Intelligence services, according to sources who have seen the CIA's files on him, writes Stephen Ward.
According to sources quoted by an ABC television programme broadcast in the United States, Mohnke was debriefed by the CIA on his release. His CIA files show that he provided information on fellow Nazis and SS veterans, in return for money and a guarantee of immunity from prosecution by the Germans or the British.
War crimes trials had ended, and with the advent of the Cold War, the US saw the Soviet Union as the main threat. A former US military Intelligence officer said that by 1955 the Americans were anxious to interview any former senior Nazis leaving Russia, to find which of their colleagues might have become Soviet agents, and to find how much the Russians had learnt about senior ex-Nazis in the West.
Mohnke did not reply to ABC's requests for an interview.
In January 1994 year the German government ruled there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution of Mohnke over the killing of 90 British prisoners in a barn at Wormhoudt, near Dunkirk, in 1940, or for the massacres in 1944 of 130 Canadian prisoners in Normandy and 72 Americans in the German Ardennes offensive.
Despite a campaign, led by the British Member of Parliament Jeff Rooker, to prosecute him for his alleged involvement in war crimes during the early part of the war, Wilhelm Mohnke was able to live out the remainder of his years in peace. Mohnke strongly denied the accusations, telling historian/author Thomas Fischer, "I issued no orders not to take English prisoners or to execute prisoners".
He died in in Barsbüttel-Hamburg on 6 August 2001, at the age of 90. Some other sources place his death in the coastal village of Damp, near Eckernförde in Schleswig-Holstein.
André Hennicke depicted Wilhelm Mohnke in the German film "Der Untergang" [Downfall], about the last days of the Third Reich in Berlin
In the film, Mohnke is shown as a professional and compassionate officer with no hint about his former conduct at Dunkirk or in Normandy. It is true that the film focuses on the events of April 1945 and that his earlier conduct is wholly irrelevant to the subject of the film. Nonetheless, Mohnke's sympathetic portrayal seems at odds with the historical figure.
The character in the film is a square-jawed heroic figure, who not only concentrates his efforts on acquiring medical care for the wounded under his command, but actually, physically carries a wounded man to safety. He expresses concern for the wounded and civilian population on more than one occasion in the film, and points out to Dr. Göbbels that the untrained soldiers being thrown into battle in Berlin are being sacrificed needlessly. His attitude towards the enemies he is fighting are never revealed.
Viewers of the film with an understanding of his history have cause to be disappointed with this sympathetic treatment though technically, the character of Mohnke is not inaccurately portrayed. The film makers have chosen to concentrate - wittingly or unwittingly - on aspects of his character other than his temper and attitudes towards illegal killings. Certainly the portrayal of Mohnke as a dedicated professional officer is accurate as there could be little argument about the strength of will he possessed.
David Cesarani [Research Professor in history at Royal Holloway, University of London] and Professor Peter Longerich [Director of the centre for research on the Holocaust and 20th-century history also at Royal Holloway] wrote the following in the 7 April 2005 edition of "The Guardian" newspaper, in an article entitled "The Massaging of History":
"Most astonishingly, Waffen-SS General Wilhelm Mohnke is depicted as a humanitarian pleading with Hitler to evacuate civilians and arguing with Göebbels against the suicidal deployment of poorly armed militia against the Red Army.
"This is the same Mohnke whose Waffen-SS unit massacred 80 captured British soldiers outside Dunkirk in May 1940. He later led a Waffen-SS regiment in Normandy that murdered more than 60 surrendered Canadian troops.
"In one dramatic encounter, Mohnke protests to Göbbels against the pointless sacrifice of aged militia men. Göbbels retorts that they had consented to Nazi rule and "now their little throats are going to be cut". The effect is to engender contempt for the heartless Nazi Propaganda chief and sympathy for his hapless victims who were hoodwinked into giving their mandate to a gang of murderous thugs.
"However, the scene is invented. The only source is the post-war memoir of Hans Fritzsche, who served in the Nazi Propaganda ministry. Fritzsche claimed to have heard these words at the last Göbbels press conference, not addressed to Mohnke.
"Yet this fabrication goes to the heart of the film's mission, which is to depict the German people as the last victims of Nazism whose true defenders were a band of brave German soldiers, including SS men, who fought until overwhelmed by the Bolshevik hordes".