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Dietrich von Choltitz
Dietrich von Choltitz in 1940
Born (1894-11-09)9 November 1894
Died 4 November 1966(1966-11-04) (aged 71)
Place of birth Gräflich Wiese, German Empire
Place of death Baden-Baden, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1907-1945
Rank General der Infanterie
Commands held 11. Panzer Division
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

General der Infanterie Dietrich Hugo Hermann von Choltitz (9 November 1894 – 4 November 1966) was the German military governor of Paris during the closing days of the German occupation of that city during World War II. He claimed to have disobeyed Hitler's order to leave Paris in rubble during this last stage of the war, although this is disputed.


In World War I, von Choltitz served as infantry lieutenant with the Saxon Army on the Western Front. He remained in the Reichswehr during the Weimar Republic, becoming a cavalry captain in 1929. Later he became commander of the 3rd battalion of the Luftlande-Infanterieregiment 16, first as a major, and from 1938 as a lieutenant-colonel.

In World War II, von Choltitz's battalion was engaged in the occupation of Rotterdam via air landings in 1940 (earning him a Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross). In September 1940 he became commander of the whole regiment and from 1941 as a full colonel. In the war against the Soviet Union, von Choltitz's regiment was engaged in the siege of the city of Sevastopol in June 1942. In the same year he became a major-general, and in 1943 a lieutenant-general. His command posts included assistant commander of the 260th Infantry Division and commander of the 48th Panzer Corps. From March 1944, he served in Italy, and from June 1944 on the Western Front. Later, as an Allied prisoner at Trent Park in England, he admitted in a conversation with fellow prisoners (recorded by the British unknown to him or his fellow inmates) to "executing the most difficult order of my life in Russia, (...) liquidation of the Jews. I have executed this order in its entirety nonetheless..." (recorded on 29 August 1944).[1]

Governor of Paris

On 1 August 1944 von Choltitz was promoted to the rank of general of infantry, and on August 7, he became the military governor of Paris. He arrived at Paris on 9 August. In the following 16 days, he claimed to have disobeyed several direct orders from Adolf Hitler to destroy the city. Hitler's order from 23 August said: "The city must not fall into the enemy's hand except lying in complete debris." A common account[2] holds that Hitler phoned him in a rage, screaming, "Brennt Paris?" ("Is Paris burning?") [According to Col. Genl Jodl, Hitler's chief of staff, the question "Is Paris burning?" was apparently addressed to him in the room. He continued: "Jodl, I want to know... is Paris burning? Is Paris burning right now, Jodl?" Von Choltitz claimed to have prevented a complete uprising of the city's inhabitants and direct battles within the city by a mix of active contact with his enemies, negotiation with the Resistance, and demonstrations of power, ultimately preventing any major damage to the famous city. He and 17,000 men under his command surrendered to French general Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque and the Resistance leader Henri Rol-Tanguy at the Gare Montparnasse on 25 August 1944. For preventing a second Stalingrad, von Choltitz was regarded as "saviour of Paris"[3] by some.

Captivity and after

Von Choltitz (far left standing) at Trent Park.

He was held for a while at Trent Park in North London, a prison camp for senior German officers. Unbeknownst to the inmates, many of their conversations were recorded.[1][4] Selected transcripts were dramatized in the 2008 History Channel 5-part series The Wehrmacht. In the episode The Crimes, General von Choltitz is quoted as saying in October 1944:

"We all share the guilt. We went along with everything, and we half-took the Nazis seriously instead of saying, "to hell with you and your stupid nonsense". I misled my soldiers into believing this rubbish. I feel utterly ashamed of myself. Perhaps we bear even more guilt than these uneducated animals." (apparently in reference to Hitler and other Nazi Party members)

After a spell in Camp Clinton, Mississippi, he was released from Allied captivity in 1947. In 1956 he quietly revisited his wartime HQ at the Hotel Meurice in Paris. Reportedly the long time head barman of the hotel recognized the short, rotund man with "impossibly correct posture" wandering around the bar as if in a daze. After the manager of the hotel met him in the bar, he asked to see his old room. After seeing his old quarters for no more than fifteen minutes, the old General declined the manager's offer of champagne and left the hotel.

Dietrich von Choltitz died in November 1966 from a longstanding war illness in the city hospital of Baden-Baden. He was buried at the city cemetery of Baden-Baden in the presence of high-ranking French officers.[citation needed] Baden-Baden was the post-World War II French headquarters in Germany.

In Film

  • Is Paris Burning?, a French-American production starring Gert Fröbe as von Choltitz.

Awards and decorations

His Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was presented and is registered by the Luftwaffe-Personalamt (LWA—Air Force Staff Office).[5] The Heerespersonalamt (HPA—Army Staff Office) received an Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross nomination for Generalmajor Von Choltitz on 19 January 1943 for his leadership of the XVII. Armee-Korps. The HPA did not approved the nomination on 27 January 1943.[6]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Neitzel, Sonke ed.; Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations, 1942-1945, London: Frontline, 2007
  2. Collins, Larry and LaPierre, Dominique. Is Paris Burning?. New York: Pocket Books, 1965.
  3. "Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz Dies; 'Savior of Paris' in '44 was 71". The New York Times. November 6, 1966. p. 88. 
  4. Listening to the Generals, Adam Ganz, Radio Play BBC Radio 4,
  5. Thomas and Wegmann 1998, p. 39.
  6. Thomas and Wegmann 1998, p. 40.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001) (in German). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2]. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Thomas, Franz; Wegmann, Günter (1998) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil III: Infanterie Band 4: C–Dow [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the German Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Part III: Infantry Volume 4: C–Dow]. Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2534-8. 

External links