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Rūdolfs Gaitars
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Rūdolfs Gaitars in 1945
Born (1907-05-29)29 May 1907
Died 22 March 1945(1945-03-22) (aged 37)
Place of birth Penkule parish, Russian Empire
(Now Dobele Municipality, Latvia)
Place of death Zante parish, Ostland
(Now Kandava Municipality, Latvia)
Allegiance Latvia Latvia
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen SS
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Obersturmführer
Unit 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Iron Cross I Class
Iron Cross II Class
Infantry Assault Badge
German Cross (in Gold)
Close Combat Clasp (in bronze and silver)
Wound Badge

Rūdolfs Gaitars (1907-1945) was a Waffen-Obersturmführer in the Waffen SS during World War II. He was the first Latvian to be awarded the German Cross in Gold.

Pre-War Life

Gaitars was born on 29 May 1907 in Penkule parish, Semigallia. Before the war he worked as school administrator in a local Penkule primary school.

In the Second World War

He was dismissed from his post in September 1940, following theOccupation of Latvia.[1] He served in the Latvian army and reached the rank of warrant officer. During the Soviet mass deportations on 14 June 1941 Gaitars was on the deportee list, but hid in a forest. His family was sent to Siberia.

After Operation Barbarossa started in June 1941, Gaitars organised armed units Penkule. Together with ex-members of the Aizsargi (home guard) he set up checkpoints on roads and arrested Soviet activists and statesmen. Gaitars became Commandant of the Penkule parish.

In May 1942 he enlisted in the 19th Latgale Police battalion and was deployed on the Eastern front. He participated in fighting at the Leningrad front, near the Pulkovo observatory, where the battalion suffered heavy casualties.

In April 1943 the remains of the 19th Battalion was included in the 2nd. Waffen SS brigade and deployed to the Volchov front. Gaitars was promoted to the rank of Untersturmführer and in August 1943 was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, followed by the 1st Class award in October.

In February 1944 Gaitars'company repelled the attack of a battalion-sized Soviet unit and later destroyed a Soviet military column near Zapolje. For gallantry during these actions, Gaitars became the first Latvian to be awarded the German Cross in Gold in May 1944.

His company remained fighting throughout the summer and autumn of 1944 during the German withdrawal from Russia into Latvia. Gaitars was seriously wounded during fighting in the Courland Pocket and was forced to leave the frontline until January 1945.[2] On March 22, 1945 he was again seriously wounded and died of his wounds in a field hospital in Zante near Tukums. Rūdolfs Gaitars was buried in a small rural cemetery near the homestead of ‘’Dārziņi’’.[3]

References

  1. Jaunais Komunārs Nr. 25, 1940. g. 13. sept, 4. lpp
  2. Visvaldis Lācis - Latviešu leģions patiesības gaismā, Rīga: 2006, 146. lpp
  3. Daugavas Vanagu Centrālās Pārvaldes Izdevums - Latviešu kaŗavīrs Otra pasaules kaŗa laikā, Toronto: 1993, 11.sējums, 81. lpp

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