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Gustav Dietrich Adolf Heistermann von Ziehlberg
Born (1898-12-10)December 10, 1898
Died 2 February 1945(1945-02-02) (aged 46)
Place of birth Inowrazlaw, Province of Posen, German Empire
Place of death Berlin–Charlottenburg, Nazi Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1914–1945
Rank Generalleutnant
Commands held 65. Infanterie-Division
28. Jäger-Division

World War I
World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Gustav Dietrich Adolf Heisterman(n) von Ziehlberg (10 December 1898 – 2 February 1945) was a highly decorated Generalleutnant in the German Wehrmacht armed forces during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Convicted as a member of the German Resistance to Nazism, he was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad.

Life and career

Born in the Prussian town of Inowrazlaw (renamed Hohensalza in 1904, present-day Inowrocław, Poland), the son of a German Army officer attended the Lyceum Hosianum at Braunsberg and the Gymnasium secondary school at Königsberg, before he joined the Cadet Corps (Kadettenanstalt) at Köslin in 1911. In World War I he served in the II Army Corps at Stettin, promoted to the rank of a Leutnant on 8 May 1915. He fought at the Eastern Front and was awarded the Iron Cross.

After the war, Heisterman was employed by the Reichswehr army of the Weimar Republic, and from 1931 served at the Reichswehr Ministry in Berlin to train as a General Staff officer. After two years as a company commander (Kompaniechef) at Landsberg an der Warthe, he joined the Oberkommando des Heeres of the Wehrmacht armed forces under Generaloberst Werner von Fritsch in 1936. Here he worked with Oberst Friedrich Hoßbach and Kurt von der Chevallerie and witnessed the 1938 Blomberg–Fritsch Affair as well as the struggle of General Ludwig Beck and his successor Franz Halder against Adolf Hitler's war preparation, which materialised in the Polish Campaign of 1939.

From January 1943, Heisterman commanded a grenadier regiment of the 12th Infantry Division under General Kurt-Jürgen Freiherr von Lützow at the Eastern Front during the retreat from the Demyansk Pocket. On May 31, he took over the command of the 65th Infantry Division, from August in the rank of a Generalmajor. Upon the overthrow of Benito Mussolini's government and the Allied invasion of Italy, Heisterman's division fought against the Allied 17th Indian Infantry Brigade forces in the Italian Campaign, whereby he was severely wounded and lost his left arm.

After recovery, Heisterman from 28 April 1944 commanded the 28th Jäger Division at the Eastern Front, fighting against the Soviet Operation Bagration offensive, promoted to the rank of a Generalleutnant on June 1. The whole operation turned out to be a disaster for the German 4th Army division, nevertheless Heisterman's unit was able to escape, wherefore he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on July 27.

July 20 Plot, Arrest and Execution

firing grounds and memorial in Berlin.

On the same day, Gustav Heisterman von Ziehlberg was ordered to arrest his Ia staff officer Major Joachim Kuhn for his involvement in the July 20 Plot. Kuhn together with his friend Lieutenant Albrecht von Hagen had arranged for the explosive delivered by Helmuth Stieff to Claus von Stauffenberg. On 21 July he had accompanied General Henning von Tresckow to the front near Królowy Most, where Tresckow committed suicide. Confronted with the warrant, Kuhn denied any entanglement. Instead of arresting him, Heisterman told Kuhn to transfer his official duties and to proceed to Berlin in order to clear things up. Kuhn used that opportunity to ran into the Soviet 2nd Belorussian Front, according to his own reports not to defect but to seek death by the Russian troops. Nevertheless he was captured and interrogated by the SMERSH counter-intelligence agency.

Heisterman was charged with negligent disobedience and in September 1944 was condemned to nine months in prison by the Reichskriegsgericht, however he was pardoned for his previous service. He returned to his division, but was again summoned to Berlin on 30 October. Hitler, suspecting him of collaboration with Generaloberst Ludwig Beck, revoked his sentence and Heisterman was again arrested and had to face another trial. On November 21, he was sentenced to death by the Reichskriegsgericht, dishonourably discharged and stripped of all honors, ranks and titles. The judges openly stated that they had to follow the Führer's instructions.

Heisterman was executed on 2 February 1945 by a Wehrmacht firing squad at a proving ground near Olympic Stadium in the Charlottenburg (present-day Westend) district of Berlin.

Awards and decorations


  1. Gustav Heistermann von Ziehlberg, in connection with the 20 July plot, failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, was sentenced to death by the Reichskriegsgericht on 21 November 1944 and executed on 2 February 1945. The dishonorable discharge deprived him of all honors, ranks and orders.[2]


  1. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 185.
  2. Scherzer 2007, p. 139.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Wilhelm Rupprecht
Commander of 65. Infanterie-Division
31 May 1943 – 1 December 1943
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Hellmuth Pfeifer
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Hans Speth
Commander of 28. Jäger-Division
28 April 1944 – 19 November 1944
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Ernst König

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