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MOHNKE Wilhelm

Mohnke, Wilhelm

* 15.03.1911 Lübeck
+ 06.08.2001 Hamburg

Awarded Knights Cross: 11.07.1944
as: Obersturmbannführer Kommandeur SS-PzGrenRgt 26 "Hitlerjugend"

Wilhelm Mohnke was born in Lübeck Germany on 15 March 1911. His father, whom shared his name with his son, was a cabinet maker. After his father's death he went to work for a glass and porcelain manufacture, eventually reaching a management position. Mohnke joined the NSDAP on 1 September 1931, and the SS two months later. He was assigned to the Lübeck Trupp, of the 4. SS-Standarte, where he was to stay until January 1932. Mohnke was then transferred to the 22. SS-Standarte in Schwerin, the same unit as Kurt Meyer. On 17 March, personally chosen by Sepp Dietrich, Mohnke became one of the 117 original members of SS-Stabswach Berlin. It was from this chancellery guard that the Leibstandarte was to grow. Eventually Mohnke took command of 5 Kompanie, in which capacity he served in the Polish campaign. On 21 September he was awarded the Iron Cross second class, the Iron Cross first class was to come just one month later on 8 November.
Mohnke led 5.Kompanie at the outset of the Western campaign, taking over command of II.Bataillon on 28 March after the Battalion commander was wounded. It was around this time that Mohnke was charged with murder of 80 British prisoners of war of the 48th Division at Wormhoudt. Mohnke has never been brought to trial for these allegations, and when the case was reopened in 1988 a Germen prosecutor came to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidences to bring charges. Four years later, Mohnke's name was again mentioned with war crimes. This time as the commander of 1.SS-Panzerdivision Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitter", units under his command where charged with the "Malmedy Massacre". It is also alleged that Mohnke is responsible for the murder of 35 Canadian POW's while with the "Hitlerjugend" at Fountenay le Pesnel.

He commanded the II.Bataillon during the Balkan campaign, where he lost his foot in a Yugoslavian air attack on 6 April 1941. It was the decision of the medics that his leg would need to be amputated, but Mohnke overrode that decision. Still, his wound was so grievous that they were still forced to take his foot. While recuperating he was awarded the German Cross in Gold (26 December 1941. Author). Due to the severity of his injury, Mohnke did not return to active service until early 1942.
He was given command of SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt 2.SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend". (this was the original designation of SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt 26. It was renamed on 30 October when the entire Division was reorganized into a Panzer division). Leading the young grenadiers in Normandy, SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt 26 was responsible for holding the brunt of the allied offensives from 10-20 June; witch resulted in Mohnke being awarded the Knight's cross on 11 July 1944.
Following the breakout and escape from Falaise, Mohnke was one of the few to lead organized resistance on the western bank of the Seine. He led this Kampfgruppe until 31 August, when he replaced the injured Theodor Wisch as the commander of 1.SS-Panzerdivision Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitler", effective as of the 20th.
Mohnke led the LSSAH throughout Wacht am Rhine, and was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer on 30 January 1945. SS-Brigadeführer Mohnke was forced to relinquish command a short while later as he was again injured in an air raid; this time suffering ear damage.
After recovering from his wounds, Mohnke was personally appointed by Hitler as the (Kommandant) Battle Commander Berlin for the defense of the centre government quarter/district (Zitadelle sector) that included the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker. Mohnke's command post was under the Reich Chancellery in the bunkers therein. He formed the Kampfgruppe Mohnke (Battle Group Mohnke) and it was divided into two weak regiments. It was made up of the LSSAH Flak Company, replacements from LSSAH Ausbildungs-und Ersatz Battalion from Spreenhagan (under SS-Standartenfuhrer Anhalt)[1], 600 men from the Reichsführer SS Begleit Battalion, the Führer-Begleit-Kompanie and the core group being the 800 men of the Leibstandarte (LSSAH) SS Guard Battalion (that was assigned to guard the Führer).

Although Hitler had appointed General Helmuth Weidling as defense commandant of Berlin, Mohnke remained free of Weidling's command to maintain his defense objectives of the Reich Chancellery and the Führerbunker. The combined total (for the city's defense) of Mohnke's SS Kampfgruppe, General Weidling's LVI Panzer Corps (and the other few units) totaled roughly 45,000 soldiers and 40,000 Volkssturm. They faced 1.5 million Soviet troops.

Since Mohnke's fighting force was located at the nerve center of the German Third Reich it fell under the heaviest artillery bombardment of the war, which began as a birthday present to Hitler on 20 April 1945 and lasted to the end of hostilities on 8 May 1945. Under pressure from the most intense shelling, Mohnke and his SS troops put up stiff resistance against impossible odds. The Red Army race to take the Reichstag and Reich Chancellery condemned the SS troops to bitter and bloody street fighting. Completely encircled and cut off from reinforcements, without hope of relief or withdrawal, his Kampfgruppe fought off Russian advances, inflicting heavy and costly casualties.

While the Battle in Berlin was raging around them, Hitler ordered Mohnke to set up a military tribunal for Hermann Fegelein, adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, in order to try the man for desertion. Mohnke, deciding that the Obergruppenführer deserved a fair trial by other high ranking officers, put together a tribunal consisting of Generals Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Johann Rattenhuber, and himself. Years later, Mohnke told author O'Donnell the following:

"I was to preside over it myself...I decided the accused man [Fegelein] deserved trial by high-ranking officers...We set up the court-martial in a room next to my command post...We military judges took our seats at the table with the standard German Army Manual of Courts-Martial before us. No sooner were we seated than defendant Fegelein began acting up in such an outrageous manner that the trial could not even commence. Roaring drunk, with wild, rolling eyes, Fegelein first brazenly challenged the competence of the court. He kept blubbering that he was responsible to Himmler and Himmler alone, not Hitler...He refused to defend himself. The man was in wretched shape - bawling, whining, vomiting, shaking like an aspen leaf... I was now faced with an impossible situation. On the one hand, based on all available evidence, including his own earlier statements, this miserable excuse for an officer was guilty of flagrant desertion... Yet the German Army Manual states clearly that no German soldier can be tried unless he is clearly of sound mind and body, in a condition to hear the evidence against him. I looked up the passage again, to make sure, and consulted with my fellow judges...In my opinion and that of my fellow officers, Hermann Fegelein was in no condition to stand trial, or for that matter to even stand. I closed the proceedings...So I turned Fegelein over to [SS] General Rattenhuber and his security squad. I never saw the man again."

On 30 April, after receiving news of Hitler's suicide, orders were issued that those who could do so were to break out. The plan was to escape from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or the German Army to the North. Prior to the breakout, Mohnke briefed all commanders (who could be reached) within the Zitadelle sector about the events as to Hitler's death and the planned break out. They split up into ten main groups. It was a "fateful moment" for Brigadeführer Mohnke as he made his way out of the Reich Chancellery on 1 May. He had been the first duty officer of the LSSAH at the building and now was leaving as the last battle commander there. Mohnke's group included Hitler's personal pilot, Hans Baur, the chief of his Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) bodyguard - Hans Rattenhuber, secretary Traudl Junge, secretary Gerda Christian, secretary Else Krüger, Hitler's dietician, Constanze Manziarly, Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, and various others. Mohnke planned to break out towards the German Army that was positioned in Prinzenallee. The group headed along the subway but their route was blocked so they went aboveground and later joined hundreds of other Germans civilians and military personnel who had sought refuge at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery. Upon learning of General Weidling's order of 2 May 1945, calling for the complete surrender of all German forces still in Berlin (and knowing they could not get through the Soviet rings), Mohnke decided to surrender to the Soviet Army. However, several of Mohnke's group (including some of the SS personnel) opted to commit suicide. Some groups kept up pockets of resistance throughout the city and did not surrender until 8 May 1945.

Signed postwar photo 4" x 6"

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