Military Wiki
Rainer Stahel
Rainer Stahel 1917
Born (1892-01-15)15 January 1892
Died 30 November 1955(1955-11-30) (aged 63)
Place of birth Bielefeld
Place of death POW camp Voikovo
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Finland Finland (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1914-1945
Rank Generalleutnant
Commands held FlakRgt 99 (mot.)
Battles/wars World War I
Finnish Civil War
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Reiner Joseph Karl August Stahel (15 January 1892 – 30 November 1955), also known as Rainer Stahel, was a German and Finnish military officer. He is best known for his retreat from Vilna and the command of the garrison of Warsaw during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Arrested by the NKVD in Romania, he spent the rest of his life in Soviet Gulags.


Born in Bielefeld, Stahel joined the German Army during World War I. Initially a lieutenant in the 27th rifle battalion of the 130th Infantry Regiment, by the end of the war he had moved to Finland and joined the Finnish Army participating in the Finnish Civil War. By 1933 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and served as a commander of the garrison of the city of Turku. The same year he retired from the Finnish Army and returned to Nazi Germany, where his military grade reverted to captain.

Initially an officer at the Ministry of Aviation, Stahel became responsible for the development of German anti-air artillery. He became the commanding officer of the 71st reserve anti-air artillery battalion in 1938 and the commander of the anti-air defence of the city of Augsburg in June 1940. Soon afterwards he was dispatched to Vichy France as a military advisor, and then in March of the following year he was made the commanding officer of the 99th anti-air regiment. With that unit he served in southern Russia. For the defensive actions on the eastern front on January 18, 1942, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. On March 1 of that year he was promoted to the rank of colonel and by the end of that year he became the commanding officer of a Luftwaffe task force defending the German south-eastern front. On January 4 he was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Iron Cross. Three weeks later he was promoted to the rank of major general and in July of that year he was transferred to Italy, where he assumed command of the 2nd Anti-Air Artillery Brigade, with which he secured the Messina road.

Following the German retreat from Sicily and Italy's surrender, Stahel was made the military commander of the city of Rome in October 1943. In July 1944 he was transferred to Vilnius in German-occupied Lithuania, where he became the military commander of the city's garrison. Initially commanding roughly 500 men, soon he received reinforcements and was able to postpone the seizure of that city by Polish partisans and the Red Army. For his efforts, on July 28, 1944, he was awarded the Swords to the Knight's Cross and promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

Stahel was transferred to Warsaw, where he was to defend the city against the advancing Red Army.[1] However, the Soviet offensive was halted and instead on August 1 the Warsaw Uprising was started by the Polish Home Army. On the first day of the uprising Stahel was surrounded in his headquarters in the Saxon Palace, and he lost control of the situation.[1] On August 4 the command over Nazi forces in Warsaw was given to General Erich von dem Bach and Stahel's pocket was subordinated to the new commander. Although by August 7 the troops of Oskar Dirlewanger managed to reach Stahel's positions in the city centre, he did not resume his command over the city's garrison. Instead, on August 24 he was dispatched to Bucharest, where similar urban fighting was anticipated by the German headquarters. However, Romania switched sides and the Red Army entered the city almost unopposed.

On September 20, 1944, Stahel was arrested by the NKVD together with Field Marshal Ion Antonescu. Interrogated on his part in the Warsaw Uprising, he was imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag system. The exact date of his death is a subject of controversy. According to Soviet sources Stahel died on November 30, 1952, in Vladimir central transfer prison. However, other sources mention that Stahel died in 1955 in Voikovo of a heart attack when he was informed of his possible transfer to Germany.


Wehrmachtbericht reference

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
15 July 1944 Die tapfere Besatzung der alten litauischen Hauptstadt Wilna unter Führung ihres Kommandanten Stahel, durchbrach nach fünftägigem Widerstand gegen überlegene feindliche Kräfte befehlsgemäß den sowjetischen Einschließungsring und kämpfte sich zu den westlich unter Oberst Tolsdorf bereitstehenden deutschen Truppen durch. Pflichterfüllung und Standhaftigkeit dieser beiden Kampftruppen verdienen höchste Anerkennung. Bei den Kämpfen um die Stadt hat sich auch eine Flakabteilung der Luftwaffe unter Hauptmann Müller hervorragend bewährt.[6] The brave garrison of the old Lithuanian capital Vilnius, led by their commander Stahel under orders broke through the Soviet encirclement after five days of resistance against superior enemy forces and fought through to the in the west waiting German troops under the command of Colonel Tolsdorf (sic). Duty and steadfastness of these combat troops deserve the highest recognition. In this battle for the city a Luftwaffe flak unit under command of Captain Müller has also distinguished itself.

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 (Polish) Władysław Bartoszewski; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego. Dni walczącej stolicy : kronika Powstania Warszawskiego. Warszawa: Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, Świat Książki. ISBN 978-83-7391-679-1.,1190728,do_czytania.html. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Thomas 1998, p. 340.
  3. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 407.
  4. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 64.
  5. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 44.
  6. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 162.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • (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. 

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