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Behler, Klemens
*December 6th, 1921 (Bochum/Western Phalia, Germany)
+October 10th, 1998 (Bonn/North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany)
Knights Cross: March 17th, 1945
As: SS-Obersturmführer Chef, 3. Batterie, I. Abteilung, SS-Artillerie-Regiment 54, 23. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division "Nederland", III.(germanische) SS-Panzer-Korps, Heeresgruppe Nord
Behler’s Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…

“The Batterie commander of the 3./SS-Artillerie-Regiment 54, Klemens Behler, is well known throughout the Abteilung for the fanatical warriors’ spirit and inspiring aggressiveness he has displayed throughout the trying combat on the northern part of the Eastern front. On the 24.01.1945 he held his observation post with 8 men during some of the fiercest combat of the Fourth Battle of Courland.

On the day beforehand he had ceaselessly directed the fire of his Batterie while himself enduring heavy enemy drumfire. He did so with such skill that the friendly infantry in his entrusted sector were able to hold their frontline despite the vastly greater superiority and strong armoured thrusts of the enemy.

The enemy struck again on the 24.01.1945, firing a heavy drumfire before attacking with 700 men. They engaged the badly depleted Bataillon in front of the observation post with the support of 8 tanks and managed to achieve a deep penetration after an hour-long struggle. The handful of survivors from the Bataillon pulled back to the patch of forest northwest of the observation post. Despite this Behler remained at his observation post as they enemy surged past it on either side with about 500 men. He continued to direct the volley fire of his Batterie against 2 break-in sections and inflicted losses of over 80 men on the enemy.

Behler only dismantled his observation post after receiving orders to do so by radio. After this he found the necessary cold-bloodedness to pull back with his men through the deeply echeloned ranks of the still 400+ strong Russian force that was attacking to the west. He was aided in this effort by the similarities between the German and Russian winter camouflage uniforms. They reached the newly constructed German line after about 1.5 km, and after this Behler and his men turned around and opened fire on the nearest Russians with small arms and an MG. They ejected those enemy soldiers that had penetrated into the new line and then organized a resistance in this sector that proved sufficient to repulse all the further attacks of the enemy.

On the 25.01.1945 Behler had occupied an observation post atop the commanding Hill 42.9. Located a few hundred metres behind the new frontline, this hill dominated the entire sector along a width of 7 km and a depth of 4 km. During the morning hours of this day the Russians attacked in the wake of a one-and-a-half hour barrage by mortars, artillery and rockets. They penetrated the line of the far numerically inferior German defenders with 500 men and 3 heavy tanks before carrying on their attack against the hill. This was an extremely critical moment that would be decisive for the overall battle in this sector.

In this time Behler inspired the small garrison of the hill with his utter contempt for death. He constantly ran back and forth between his radio station and the higher up observation post, bringing down excellently laid sudden concentrations of fire from the I. Abteilung and an associated rocket launcher Batterie. While doing so he also used point fire from a gun of his Batterie to destroy an IS-2 with a direct hit, immobilized another in the same way and urged the two MG crews on the hill to keep up their fully automatic fire.

At this moment he was badly wounded in the back of the head by a shell splinter created by an exploding armour piercing shell. This caused the garrison of the hill to waver. Since he was still fully conscious despite his waning strength he ordered the men coming to him to desist, and he himself retained firm command over his men.

The Russians gave up their attack after over 200 of their fallen covered the battlefield in the wake of further friendly fire. But it was only after a Bataillon commander had reached the hill and taken over the continued defense that Behler allowed himself to be brought back and treated for his life-threatening injuries.

If the enemy had captured this hill then they would have used full advantage of their materiel superiority in this situation. They would have been able to overwatch all the terrain along a width of 7 km and a depth of 3 km, which would in turn have enabled them to critically endanger the friendly resupply efforts for the entire sector. The occupation of this hill would have permitted the creation of a deep penetration in this area.

In light of all this it is clear that the exemplary behaviour of SS-Obersturmführer Behler deserves to be recognized with the award of the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross.”
Postwar signed photo measuring 4” x 6”

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