SOME OF THE PRISONERS HELD AT
der Panzertruppe Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin
RANK: General der Panzertruppe
CAPTURED: Trient, Italy
DATE: 2 May 1945
OF BIRTH: 4 September 1891
PLACE OF BIRTH: Waldshut / Baden
DATE OF DEATH: 4 January 1963
PLACE OF DEATH: Freiburg
OCCUPATION: Regular Soldier
HAIR COLOUR: Brown
EYE COLOUR: Green
NEXT OF KIN: Hilda-Margarete Senger u.Etterlin, (British Zone)
Wife: Hilda Margaretha von Kracht (married 2 December 1919) – one son
and one daughter.
- Leutnant der Reserve: 1914
- Leutnant (Active): 27 June 1917 (Patent 19 February
- Oberleutnant: Unknown
- Rittmeister: 1 May 1924
- Major: 1934
- Oberstleutnant: 1 August 1936
- Oberst: 1 March 1939
- Generalmajor: 1 September 1941
- Generalleutnant: 1 May 1943
- General der Panzertruppe: 1 January 1944
Commands & Assignments:
- 1 October 1910: Entered Army reserve service as a
One-Year Volunteer in 5. Badisches Feld-Artillerie-Regiment Nr. 76.
- 1910-1911: Student at Freiburg University.
- 1912-1914: Rhodes
Scholar at St. John’s College, Oxford.
- 1914-1918: Artillery officer in Field Artillery Regiment
76 on the Western Front.
- 1918: Adjutant on the staff of the XIV Reserve Corps.
- 1919: Freikorps service in the Volunteer Landesjägerkorps [Provincial Rifle
or Light Infantry Corps] during the anti-Bolshevik campaign in Saxony.
[Formed in December 1918
under command of General Ludwig Maercker, the Commander of the 214th Infantry
Division, this was the first major Freikorps unit and the model for almost
all others. The unit was later incorporated into the Reichswehr as XVI.
- 1920: Joined Reichswehr Cavalry School.
- 1920-1932: Regimental Officer in Cavalry Regiment
- 1934-1938: Chief of Staff of the Cavalry Inspectorate/Army
High Command, Berlin.
- 10 November 1938: Commander of Cavalry Regiment 3,
- November 1939: Commander of Cavalry Regiment 22.
- 2 February 1940: Commander of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade.
[Von Senger’s cavalry brigade took part in the invasion of the Netherlands
from 10-16 May 1940 before being moved to Cambrai and reorganized as a motorized
brigade for employment with the panzer divisions.]
- May 1940: Commander of Motorized Brigade “von Senger.”
[Von Senger’s brigade took part in the breakthrough Weygand Line in France
and, while subordinated to Generalmajor Erwin Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division,
took part in the capture of Le Havre and Cherbourg.]
- July 1940-July 1942: Liaison Officer between the Franco-German
Armistice Commission (headed by General der Infanterie Karl-Heinrich von
Stülpnagel) and Franco-Italian Armistice Commission (headed by General Pietro
Pintor) in Turin, Italy.
- July 1942: Commander of the 10th Panzer Grenadier
Brigade in France.
- 10 October 1942-16 June 1943: Commander of the 17th
Panzer Division. [When von Senger assumed command of the 17th Panzer Division,
it could muster only 30 tanks while 30-40 percent of its trucks were unserviceable.
From 15-25 December 1942, von Senger’s division took part in the counteroffensive
that attempted to relieve the encircled German 6th Army at Stalingrad. Although
his under strength division performed splendidly and advanced to within
30 kilometers of Stalingrad, the counteroffensive bogged down against heavy
odds. From 26 December 1942, the German relief forces moved over to the
defensive and eventually withdrew to their original jump-off points.]
- June 1943-August 1943: German Liaison Officer to the
Italian 6th Army (General Alfredo Guzzoni) defending Sicily. [On 10 July
1943, the Allies launched Operation Husky,
the amphibious invasion of Sicily. While General Guzzoni controlled the
overall defense of Sicily, General von Senger exercised control of the German
units on the island, the main elements initially consisting of the “Hermann
Göring” Panzer Division (Generalmajor Paul Conrath) and the 15th Panzer
Grenadier Division (Generalleutnant Eberhard Rodt). He continued to lead
the German defenders until 17 July 1943 when General der Panzertruppe Hans-Valentin
Hube arrived in Sicily with his XIV Panzer Corps headquarters staff and
assumed control of all German and, later, Italian troops on the island.
General von Senger retained his position of German Liaison Officer to the
Italian 6th Army until recalled on 8 August 1943 for his next assignment.
The Allies completed their conquest of Sicily on 17 August 1943 after the
last of General Hube’s German forces had evacuated across the Straight of
Messina to the mainland.]
- September 1943-October 1943: Commandant of the German
Armed Forces in Sardinia and Corsica. [On 8 September 1943, less than 24
hours after von Senger’s arrival on Corsica, the Italian government concluded
an armistice with the Allies which presented something of a problem as the
island was garrisoned by the four divisions of Major General Giovanni Magli’s
Italian VII Corps. Following the Italian surrender, the Assault Brigade
“Reichsführer-SS” (SS-Obersturmbannführer Karl Gesele), the only major German
unit on the island, immediately secured a bridgehead at Bonifacio to allow
the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division (Generalleutnant Carl-Hans Lungershausen)
to evacuate Sardinia to Corsica. In the meantime, von Senger attempted to
maintain the status quo with the uneasy Italian garrison—the bulk of which
withdrew into the interior of the island—while keeping French insurgents
under control. On 13 September 1943, von Senger ordered the SS brigade to
attack the Italian garrison holding Bastia after unsuccessfully attempting
to negotiate their surrender. Although the attack proceeded slowly as the
Italians kept the approach roads under artillery fire, the town fell after
a night attack later that day. On the day of the Bastia action, von Senger
received orders not to defend Corsica but to commence an immediate air and
sea evacuation of the 30,000-man German garrison. Over the next few weeks,
von Senger oversaw the orderly evacuation of his garrison in the face of
recently landed Free French troops led by General Henri Honoré Giraud and
heavy Allied air and submarine attacks. After destroying all road bridges
on the east coast, wrecking harbor installations at Bonifacio and Porto
Vecchio and rendering airfields unusable, von Senger departed aboard the
last German ship to evacuate Corsica on 3 October 1943.]
German officers of the 10th Army in Italy, circa January 1944
Left to Right:
Heinrich Gottfried von Vietinghoff gen Scheel,
Commander-in-chief of 10th Army.
General der Panzertruppe Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, commanding
general of XIV Panzer Corps.
On far right:
Dr. Friedrich Franek, Commander of the 44th Infantry Division (note
the Knight's Cross of the Military Maria Theresa Order - Austria's
highest award for military bravery -hanging just below his Knight's
Cross of the Iron Cross).
This is the ceremony in which Senger is receiving
his Oakleaves to the Knight’s Cross from Hitler at Obersalzberg. Senger
notes in his memoirs that he departed the Italian front by car on 17
April 1944 to get the award. He also wrote:
“The ceremony had lost any personal significance now that hundreds of
people wore the decoration [Oakleaves], which was being awarded to commanders
of successful corps or divisions, and was thus intended to honour the
troops under command.” Senger also notes that “the impression
made by Hitler was utterly depressing…”
- 22 October 1943-2 May 1945: Commanding General of
the XIV Panzer Corps in Italy. [From January-May 1944, General von Senger
conducted a masterful defense of the Cassino Front in a series of battles
that he is best remembered for. Following the Allied amphibious landings
at Anzio in the rear of the main German defense line in January 1944,
Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, Commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, attempted
to breach the German mountain defenses at Cassino to draw off enemy reinforcements
from Anzio. Over the next few months, Clark’s combined U.S., British Commonwealth,
Polish and French forces suffered extraordinary casualties while trying
to dislodge General von Senger’s XIV Panzer Corps from that front. From
15-23 March 1944, Indian and New Zealand troops suffered heavy losses
attempting to capture the town of Cassino and scale the surrounding heights
dominated by the gutted ruins of the Benedictine monastery (see photo
caption below). General von Senger paid tribute to the seasoned paratroopers
of the 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division commanded Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich
for its tenacious defense of Monte Cassino during this phase of the battle.
In particular, that division’s Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 3 commanded by
Oberst Ludwig Heilmann (also held as a prisoner of war at Special Camp
11, Bridgend) stubbornly defended the bombed out ruins of the town itself
in ferocious close-quarter street fighting. In May 1944, the Allies finally
broke through the Monte Cassino front and, in conjunction with a breakout
from the Anzio beachhead, captured Rome on 4 June 1944. After withdrawing
to the Gothic Line, General von Senger’s corps found itself defending
Bologna at the end of the war.]
- 15-24 October 1944: At the same time, delegated with
the leadership of the 14th Army in Italy.
On 15 February
1944, American B-17 and B-26 bombers destroyed the magnificent Abbey of
Monte Cassino for fear that it was a German observation post (it was not
occupied by them). Founded by St Benedictine in 529 A.D., the abbey was
one of Europe's most sacred and spectacular sites. General der Panzertruppe
Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, himself a lay Benedictine, commanded the
XIV Panzer Corps in the vicinity of the abbey. On 18 February 1944, Abbot
Gregorio Diamare visited General Senger to describe the destruction of the
abbey for a German radio interview before leaving for Rome.
Gregorio Diamare (centre with crucifix) is seen departing General der
Panzertruppe Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin's headquarters after
the bombing of Monte Cassino monastery. Abbot Diamare's secretary
and assistant Monk Martino Matronola is on far left. Major Joachim Oster,
one of Senger's aides, is standing next to Matronola
General von Senger, devoted catholic, helps Abbot
Diamare to enter the car that will be take him to Rome (1944)
May 1945: Chief negotiator of the surrender of German forces in Italy
to General Mark W. Clark, the Commander of the Fifteenth Army Group consisting
of all the Allied Forces in Italy.
May 1945-16 May 1948: Prisoner of war. [General von Senger was held for
varying amounts of time in several POW camps in Italy (Ghedi, Modena,
Aversa and Afragola) and Germany (Heilbronn and Heidelberg). In late 1945,
he was transferred to Rome where he served as a witness at the war crimes
trial of General der Infanterie Anton Dostler, the former Commanding General
of the LXXV Army Corps in Italy. Convicted of ordering the execution of
15 American commandos in March 1944, Dostler was himself executed by an
Allied firing squad on 1 December 1945. In February 1946, von Senger was
flown to London for interrogation at the Central District Cage in Kennsington.
After his interrogation he remained at Special Camp 11 at Bridgend, South
Wales until his repatriation to Germany in May 1948. During much of his
imprisonment at Bridgend, von Senger served as the camp Press Officer.]
- 2nd March 1946
transferred to Island Farm Special Camp 11 from Camp 209 (Italy)
- 12th May 1948
transferred to Camp 186 for repatriation.
Appointed headmaster of Spetzgart, a branch of the famous School Salem
Castle near Lake Constance founded in 1920 by Prinz Max von Baden and
Kurt Hahn, the latter a fellow Oxford alumnus and old friend of Fridolin
von Senger und Etterlin.
1950: Co-author of the “Himmeroder Denkschrift” (the Himmerod Memorandum—named
for the Abbey Himmerod at Großlittgen where the document was completed),
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s then secret plan for building West Germany’s
post-World War II Bundeswehr (Federal Armed Forces). The Army plan was
formulated by an expert commission composed of four committees led by
retired German Army generals (the Luftwaffe and Navy had their own expert
- Generalleutnant a.D.
Dr. Hans Speidel (Military-Political Committee)
- General der Infanterie
a.D. Hermann Foertsch (General Committee)
a.D. Adolf Heusinger (Organization Committee)
- General der Panzertruppe
a.D. Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin (Training Committee).
Military correspondent for the South West German Radio.
Member of the screening committee for selection of Bundeswehr officers from
former members of Wehrmacht.
Published his wartime memoirs titled Krieg in Europa (War in Europe); published in English
in 1963 as Neither Fear nor Hope.
Cross of the Iron Cross: 8 February 1943, Generalmajor, Commander of the 17th
Panzer Division on the Eastern Front.
(No. 439): 5 April 1944, General der Panzertruppe, Commanding General of the
XIV Panzer Corps in Italy.
Cross in Gold: 11 October 1943, Generalleutnant, Commandant of the German
Armed Forces in Corsica.
Iron Cross 1st Class (1914): 17 August 1917.
Iron Cross 2nd Class (1914): 28 June 1915.
Bar to the Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class: 8 July 1940.
Bar to the Prussian Iron Cross, 2nd Class: 20 May 1940.
Order of the Zähringer Lion, Knight 2nd Class with Swords
of Honor for Combatants 1914-1918
Forces Long Service Award, 1st Class (25-year Service Cross)
Forces Long Service Award, 3rd Class (12-year Service Medal)
Badge in Black – World War I award
of the Crown of Italy, Grand Officer Class – World War II award
in the Wehrmachtbericht [Armed Forces Communiqué]: 5 October 1943.
Johann-Gustav von Senger und Etterlin (born 12 December 1894), Fridolin’s younger
brother, served as a fighter pilot in Jagdstaffel [Fighter Squadron] 12 in World
War I. Joining the Army on 8 August 1914, Johann-Gustav was assigned to his
older brother’s unit, the 5. Badisches Feld-Artillerie-Regiment Nr. 76. Wounded
on 8 October 1914, he later transferred to the Air Service in October 1916 and
completed pilot training. After service in Feld-Flieger-Abteilung 12, he transitioned
to fighters and was assigned to Jagdstaffel 12 in July 1917. Johann-Gustav was
killed in action on 30 November 1917 during aerial combat with British SE5s
fighters near the Moeuvres-Bourlon Wood. He possibly collided with a SE5s piloted
by Second Lieutenant R.E. Dungate, No. 46 Squadron, who was captured on this
date. The day after his death, Fridolin found the mass grave where his brother
was buried and, in the midst of the battle of Cambrai, removed his body for
a more dignified interment. Note:
An award proposal dated 12 August 1917 for the Baden Order of the Zähringer
Lion to Leutnant Karl Kern, Johann-Gustav’s observer in Feld-Flieger-Abteilung
12, claimed von Senger had been assigned to the 2. Badisches Dragoner-Regiment
Nr. 21 before transferring to the Air Service.
von Senger und Etterlin’s son, Ferdinand Maria, served in the German Army in
World War II in Italy and Russia losing an arm in combat in 1944. On 4 September
1944, he received the German Cross in Gold while serving as an Oberleutnant
on the Eastern Front in the 3rd Company of Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 24
of the 24th Panzer Division. After the war he joined the Bundeswehr and retired
in 1984 after serving as Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces Central Europe.
General Dr. Ferdinand M. von Senger und Etterlin, author of several books on
German and worldwide armored fighting vehicles, died in January 1987 while writing
the biographical article on his father for the book Hitler’s Generals edited by Corelli Barnett.
His son Stefan, Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin’s grandson, then completed
following is an account provided by Keith Jones who worked with NATO in Holland
1984/85 and discovered that his boss, was General Dr Ferdinand Maria von Senger
und Ettelin (CINC AFCENT):
Ferdinand Maria (Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin’s son) lost his right arm
after it was run over by a German tank during a trench warfare incident of
the Second World War. The weather was appalling which meant the ground was
very soft which meant his arm could have survived had the tank not turned
away from him at the last second. This mean that his arm was churned up instead
of merely being slightly crushed. (the theory is that it is quite possible
to be run over by a tank in soft ground - because the weight/pressure per
square inch of track is VERY low)."