Who was Paul Hausser?
Paul Hausser was a German general who is considered to be the most capable high-ranking commander in the Waffen-SS during Nazi Germany. He was an officer in the Prussian Army during World War I and rose up to the rank of Generalleutnant in the inter-war German army, Reichswehr. Following merging with the Nazi army, he played a significant role in the formation of the Waffen-SS, and had organized a curriculum for training youths which was widely implemented by other SS officers. During World War II, he commanded the 2nd SS Division Das Reich and later the SS-Panzer Corps, and participated in most major battles including the invasion of Poland, Battle of France, Third Battle of Kharkov and the Battle of Kursk. After the war, as the spokesperson of HIAG, he lobbied heavily to establish the revisionist propaganda that aimed to achieve historical and legal rehabilitation for the Waffen-SS veterans.
Childhood & Early Life
Paul Hausser was born on October 7, 1880, into a Prussian military family in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany. He joined the Prussian Cadet Corps in 1892 and graduated from the Berlin-Lichterfelde Military Academy in 1899.
He joined the 155th (7th West Prussian) Infantry Regiment, stationed at Ostrowo in Posen, as a lieutenant under General der Infantry Ferdinand von Stülpnagel on March 20, 1899. He became the adjutant of the regiment’s 2nd battalion on October 1, 1903, and served in that capacity for five years.&He entered the Prussian Military Academy in Berlin in October 1908 and graduated from there on July 21, 1911. In the meantime, he received coastal defense and aerial observer training in the Imperial German Navy and became an Oberleutnant in 1909.
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Starting in 1912, Paul Hausser served in the German General Staff and became a Hauptmann (Captain) in March 1914. At the beginning of World War I, he was assigned to the staff of the 6th Army, commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, and primarily served with the 109th Infantry Division in 1916-18.
He was promoted to the rank of Major in March 1918, and after the war ended, was retained in the greatly reduced German army, Reichswehr, which was formed in 1919. He joined the 5th Reichswehr Brigade in 1920 and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on November 15, 1922.
Paul Hausser served as the commander of the III Battalion, 4th (Prussian) Infantry Regiment from January 1923 to April 1925. He subsequently became the Chief of Staff of Wehrkreis II (Military District 2) in Stettin, in which position he served until December 1926.
He later served as commander of the 10th Infantry Regiment and was promoted to the rank of Oberst (Colonel) in November 1927 and became Generalmajor (Major General) in February 1931. By the time he retired from Reichswehr service on January 31, 1932, he had reached the honorary rank of Generalleutnant.
Paul Hausser joined the right-wing World War I veterans' organization Stahlhelm and became the head of its Brandenburg-Berlin chapter in February 1933. After the Nazis seized power, Stahlhelm was merged into the party's paramilitary organization Sturmabteilung (SA), and subsequently into the Schutzstaffel (SS).
He was an SA-Standartenführer and brigade commander from March to November 1934, following which Heinrich Himmler asked him to train the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS Dispositional Troops; SS-VT). He was assigned commandant of the SS-Officer Training School (SS-Junkerschule) at Braunschweig and was responsible for the troop's military and ideological training.
Impressed with his contribution, Himmler made him inspector of SS Officer Schools at Brunswick and Bad Toelz, and later promoted him to Oberfuehrer in April 1936 and to Brigadefuehrer in May. In October 1936, he was appointed chief of the Inspectorate of SS-VT; however, the command of the troops remained in the hands of Himmler, ready to be deployed by Adolf Hitler as required.
Second World War
In September 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War, Paul Hausser participated in the Nazi invasion of Poland as an observer in a joint Wehrmacht and SS unit. The following month, he was appointed commander of a motorized infantry division of the SS-VT known as the SS-Verfügungs-Division.
He led the division during the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, following which SS-VT was officially renamed the Waffen-SS, and participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941. He also commanded the division during the early stages of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, for which he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in 1941.
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His division, now renamed 2nd SS Division Das Reich, spearheaded Operation Typhoon to capture of the Soviet capital, but took severe damage and lost over ten thousand men. Evacuated to Germany, he returned to active duty in May 1942 and commanded the SS Panzer Corps to northern France.
After the Red Army surrounded Stalingrad, Hitler rushed the SS Panzer Corps to Kharkov with direct orders to hold to the last man, but he withdrew his troops to avoid encirclement. He commanded the 1st, 2nd and 3rd SS divisions during the unsuccessful offensive at the Battle of Kursk, and thereafter led the reformed 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions during the early Normandy Campaign.
In August 1944, shortly after taking charge of the Seventh Army after its commander died, he was promoted to SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer and was shot through the jaw at the Falaise encirclement. Upon recovery, he became acting commander of Army Group Oberrhein in January 1945, and subsequently, of Army Group G, and attempted to defend southern Germany in a losing war.
Paul Hausser, whose personal relationship with Hitler had gradually worsened, was relieved soon after and was on the staff of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring when he surrendered to the Americans in May 1945. He was the most important defense witness for the Waffen-SS at the Nuremberg Trials, where he denied his division's involvement in Nazi war crimes.
Paul Hausser, during his short imprisonment and afterwards, helped write World War II operational studies for the U.S. Army Historical Division along with other German generals. He was one of the contributors to an operational study titled 'Fighting the Breakout: The German Army in Normandy from COBRA to the Falaise Gap', published much later in 2004.
Since 1950, he was an active member of HIAG, a revisionist organization consisting of Waffen-SS veterans, and became its first spokesperson in December 1951. Apart from defending it from neo-Nazi accusations, he also issued propaganda to shift responsibility of wartime atrocities to other SS groups to perpetuate the myth of the clean Wehrmacht.
Family & Personal Life
Paul Hausser married Elisabeth Gerard on November 9, 1912, and welcomed daughter Frieda in December 1913. His daughter later married Gustav Adolf Wiemann and migrated to Australia in 1954.
In 1953, he published the memoir 'Waffen-SS im Einsatz' (Waffen-SS in Action), which was marked as harmful for the youth by West Germany due to chauvinism and glorification of violence.
He died on December 21, 1972 at Ludwigsburg and was buried on the Waldfriedhof of Munich.
During the 1941 Soviet Invasion, Paul Hausser was severely wounded in the face and lost his right eye in a battle near Gjatsch on October 14. Thereafter, he sported a black eye patch which became his trademark.