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Gerhard Graf von Schwerin
Gerhard Graf von Schwerin
Born (1899-06-23)23 June 1899
Died 29 October 1980(1980-10-29) (aged 81)
Place of birth Hanover
Place of death Rottach-Egern
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
West Germany West Germany
Service/branch Heer
Rank General der Panzertruppen
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Other work Politician

Gerhard ("Gerd") Helmuth Detloff Graf von Schwerin (23 June 1899 – 29 October 1980) was a German army General in World War II. As General der Panzertruppe, he was tasked with defending the city of Aachen while in command of the 116th Panzer Division "Windhund" (the "Greyhound Division").[1]

World War II

In February 1939, just before the outbreak of the conflict, von Schwerin, then with the rank of Major, at great personal risk made a covert approach whilst in London to the British Foreign Office's German Department. He suggested that if the British Government abandoned its policy of appeasement towards the III Reich and moved to a stance of open military opposition towards its escalating aggression in Europe, this would provide a rallying point and catalyst for elements in the Wehrmacht that were willing to stage a coup d'etat against the Nazi government. Frank Roberts (diplomat), the Foreign Office official who dealt with the issue, dismissed the approach as purely an internal German matter.[2]

North-West Europe Campaign

As the 3rd US Armored Division reached Aachen on 13 September 1944, the once-formidable 116th Panzer-Division, commanded by von Schwerin, had been reduced to 600 men, 12 tanks and no artillery pieces. In an attempt to prevent civilian casualties and to protect the city's historical architecture and relics (it was the ancient centre of Charlemagne's empire, or the First Reich), he left a letter at the telegraph office to be given to the American commander, General Courtney Hodges, informing him of his intent to surrender the city without contest. Later, when he learned that the Americans had stopped to regroup and an attack wasn't imminent he tried to retrieve the message but it had fallen into the hands of Nazi party functionaries. Upon learning of the note's contents Adolf Hitler ordered von Schwerin's arrest and trial for treason. With the aid of General Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Walter Model however he escaped death and received only a severe reprimand. He was then ordered to the Italian front and even promoted to General der Panzertruppe, commanding General of the LXXVI. Panzerkorps. On April 26, 1945 he was captured by the British Army, and subsequently released at the end of 1947. Although the town was heavily damaged by fighting after the note incident and his arrest and removal, post-war von Schwerin styled himself "The Savior of Aachen".

Post war career

In May 1950, Schwerin was appointed as chief advisor on military issues and security policy to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and head of the covert government agency Dienststelle Schwerin (with the code name "Zentrale für Heimatdienst"), responsible for preparations for German rearmament. However, after he talked to the press about his work, he was replaced by Theodor Blank in October 1950. Schwerin subsequently was active as an advisor on military policy for the parliamentary group of the liberal Free Democratic Party of Germany.


Wehrmachtbericht reference

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
27 October 1943 Die rheinisch-westfälische 16. Panzergrenadierdivision unter Führung des Generalleutnants Graf v. Schwerin verdient für ihre vorbildliche Einsatzfreudigkeit während der großen Absetzbewegungen ostwärts des Dnjepr und bei den Kämpfen im Brückenkopf von Saporoshje besondere Anerkennung.[7] The Rhenish-Westphalian 16th Mechanized Infantry Division, led by Lieutenant General Graf von Schwerin earned for their exemplary dedication and enthusiasm during the large withdrawal battles east of the Dnieper and in combat in the bridgehead of Zaporozhye special recognition.


Regarding personal names: Graf was a title, before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Count. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a separate estate, titles preceded the full name when given (Prinz Otto von Bismarck). After 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), could be used, but were regarded as part of the surname, and thus came after a first name (Otto Prinz von Bismarck). The feminine form is Gräfin.


  1. "The Wehrmacht" Episode 5 documentary by Guido Knopp
  2. 'Tourists of the Revolution', tv documentary, First Circle Films, England (1997)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Thomas 1998, p. 310.
  4. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 396.
  5. Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 69, 478.
  6. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 41.
  7. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, pp. 590–591.
  • Berger, Florian (2000). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges (in German). Wien, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 3-9501307-0-5.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945 (in German). Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas, 2000. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Rass, Christoph; Rohrkamp, René; Quadflieg, Peter M. (2007). General Graf von Schwerin und das Kriegsende in Aachen. Ereignis, Mythos, Analyse (in German). Aachen: Shaker. ISBN 978-3-8322-6623-3.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Searle, Alaric (2003). Wehrmacht Generals, West German Society, and the Debate on Rearmament, 1949-1959, Praeger Pub.
  • Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 3-7648-2300-3.
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 (in German). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalmajor Gerhard Müller
Commander of 116th Panzer Division
1 May 1944 – 31 August 1944
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Heinrich Voigtsberger
Preceded by
Generalleutnat Ernst-Günther Baade
Commander of 90th Grenadier Division (motorised)
December 1944 – ?
Succeeded by
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppen Traugott Herr
Commander of LXXVI. Panzerkorps
26 December 1944 – 25 April 1945
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Karl von Graffen

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