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Dietrich von Saucken
File:Dietrich von Saucken.jpg
Dietrich von Saucken
Born (1892-05-16)16 May 1892
Died 27 September 1980(1980-09-27) (aged 88)
Place of birth Fischhausen, East Prussia
Place of death Pullach
Buried at Waldfriedhof Solln
Plot 17—Row 1—Grave 12
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Years of service 1910 – 1945
Rank General der Panzertruppe
Commands held 4th Panzer Division
Second Army
AOK Ostpreußen
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards House Order of Hohenzollern
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit dem Eichenlaub mit Schwertern und Brillanten

Friedrich Wilhelm Eduard Kasimir Dietrich von Saucken (16 May 1892 – 27 September 1980) was a general in the German army, the Wehrmacht Heer, during World War II. He was the last of just 27 men to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (German language: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten; Germany awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade, that with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, during World War II to recognise extreme bravery or successful leadership on the battlefield).


Born in Fischhausen, East Prussia, Saucken joined the German Army as a Fahnenjunker (ensign) in 1910 and was commissioned a second lieutenant on June 19, 1912. After the First World War, he served as a colonel in the pre-war Wehrmacht and was promoted to major general on January 1, 1942. Appointed to command the 4th Panzer Division at the end of 1941, he later served as commandant of the German School for Mobile Troops (Schule für Schnelle Truppen).

In late June, 1944, as deputy commander of the III Panzer Corps on the Eastern Front, Saucken formed an ad hoc unit known as "Group von Saucken" from the remnants of several units that had been smashed in the Soviet assault on Army Group Centre. This grouping (later designated the XXXIX Panzer Corps) attempted to defend the occupied city of Minsk and temporarily maintained an escape route across the Berezina River for retreating German soldiers in the face of overwhelmingly superior Soviet forces.

Oryol Prison

In the last months of the war, Saucken led the Second Army in its defence of East and West Prussia, ordering the surrender of his army one day after the unconditional surrender of all German forces on May 8, 1945. After surrendering on the Hel Peninsula, Saucken went into Soviet captivity. Initially he was imprisoned in the Lubyanka Building before he was transferred to the Oryol Prison. His captors sentenced him to 25 years' hard labour, later commuted to 30 months.[citation needed]

Saucken was the last German officer to receive the Knight's Cross with Oakleaves, Swords, and Diamonds during the Second World War. His oldest son, Leutnant Hans-Erich von Saucken (born on May 29, 1924), was killed in action on May 30, 1944, in Romania. Saucken was released from Soviet captivity in 1955. He died near Munich, Germany, in 1980.

Character traits

A cavalry officer who regularly wore both a sword and a monocle, Saucken personified the archetypal aristocratic Prussian conservative who despised the braune Bande ("brown mob") of Nazis. When he was ordered to take command of the Second Army on March 12, 1945, he came to Hitler's headquarters with his left hand resting casually on his cavalry sabre, his monocle in his eye, . . . [and then] saluted and gave a slight bow. This was three 'outrages' at once. He had not given the Nazi salute with raised arm and the words 'Heil Hitler', as had been regulation since 20 July 1944, he had not surrendered his weapon on entering....and had kept his monocle in his eye when saluting Hitler.

When Hitler told him that he must take his orders from Albert Forster, the Gauleiter (Nazi governor, or "District Leader") of Danzig, Saucken returned Hitler's gaze....and striking the marble slab of the map table with the flat of his hand, he replied 'I have no intention, Herr Hitler, of placing myself under the orders of a Gauleiter'. In doing this he had bluntly contradicted Hitler and not addressed him as Mein Führer.

To the surprise of everyone who was present, Hitler capitulated and replied "All right, Saucken, keep the command yourself." Hitler dismissed the General without shaking his hand and Saucken left the room with only the merest hint of a bow.[1]


Wehrmachtbericht references

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
3 December 1943 Im Mittelabschnitt war der Druck des Feindes gegen unsere Stellungen im Raum von Gomel schwächer. In den zähen und erbitterten Abwehrkämpfen der vergangenen Tage haben hier die main-frankische 4. Panzerdivision unter Generalleutnant von Saucken und die bayerische 296. Infanteriedivision unter Generalleutnant Kullmer bei schwierigen Kampfverhältnissen alle Durchbruchsversuche der Sowjets vereitelt.[4] In the middle sector, the pressure of the enemy against our positions in area of Gomel was weaker. In the tough and fierce defensive battles of the past few days here have the Main-Frankish 4th Panzer Division under Lieutenant-General Von Saucken and the Bavarian 296th Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Kullmer, thwarted all Soviet break through attempts in difficult combat circumstances.
5 July 1944 Südlich Minsk kämpfen sich unsere Verbände weiter zurück. Nordwestlich der Stadt wurden heftige Angriffe der Bolschewisten abgewiesen. Hier schoß eine Panzerkampfgruppe unter Führung des Generalleutnants von Saucken in beweglicher Kampfführung in der Zeit vom 27. Juni bis 3. Juli 232 feindliche Panzer ab.[5] In retreat, our units keep fighting back south of Minsk. Northwest of the city the violent attacks of the Bolsheviks were repulsed. Here is an armoured battle group, under the leadership of Lieutenant General Von Saucken, destroyed in mobile warfare in the period from 27 June to 3 July 232 enemy tanks.
9 May 1945 Dem Oberbefehlshaber, General der Panzertruppe von Saucken, wurden als Anerkennung für die vorbildliche Haltung seiner Soldaten die Brillanten zum Eichenlaub mit Schwertern zum Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes verliehen.[6] The commander-in-chief, General of Panzer Troops Von Saucken was awarded the Diamonds to the Oak Leaves with Swords to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in recognition of the exemplary attitude of his soldiers.


  1. Beevor 2002, pp. 80-82.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Thomas 1998, p. 240.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Scherzer 2007, p. 651.
  4. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 619.
  5. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 150.
  6. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, pp. 568–569.
  • Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin the Downfall 1945. London ; New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-88695-5.
  • Berger, Florian (1999) (in German). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War]. Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
  • 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. 
  • Fraschka, Günther (1994). Knights of the Reich. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military/Aviation History. ISBN 978-0-88740-580-8. 
  • Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr (2001). Crumbling Empire, the German Defeat in the East, 1944. Westport, Praeger. ISBN 0-275-96856-1.
  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2005) (in German). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe III Radusch – Zwernemann [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color III Radusch – Zwernemann]. Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-22-5. 
  • 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 (1998) (in German). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z]. Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9. 
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-644-7. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppen Willibald Freiherr von Langermann und Erlencamp
Commander of 4. Panzer-Division
27 December 1941 – 2 January 1942
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppen Willibald Freiherr von Langermann und Erlencamp
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Erich Schneider
Commander of 4. Panzer-Division
31 May 1943 – January 1944
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Hans Junck
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Hans Junck
Commander of 4. Panzer-Division
February 1944 – 1 May 1944
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Clemens Betzel
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppen Hermann Breith
Commander of III. Armeekorps
31 May 1944 – 29 June 1944
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppen Hermann Breith
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Otto Schünemann
Commander of XXXIX.Panzerkorps
29 June 1944 – 15 October 1944
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppen Karl Decker
Preceded by
General Walter Weiß
Commander of 2. Armee
10 March 1945 – 7 April 1945
Succeeded by
AOK Ostpreußen
Preceded by
2. Armee
Commander of AOK Ostpreußen
7 April 1945 – 9 May 1945
Succeeded by
German surrender

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