Birthday: May 28, 1892
Died At Age: 73
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Josef Sepp Dietrich
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Hawangen, Germany
Famous as: Military Officer
Spouse/Ex-: Ursula Moninger-Brenner (m. 1942), Barbra Betti Seidl (m. 1921–1937)
children: Götz-Hubertus Dietrich, Lutz Dietrich, Wolf-Dieter Dietrich
Died on: April 21, 1966
place of death: Ludwigsburg, Germany
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a member of the Nazi Party who served as a Schutzstaffel commander. He became a member of the Nazi Party in 1928 and was appointed to the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic in 1930. Before 1929, he served as Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard. He quickly rose through the SS ranks following his involvement in extrajudicial executions of political opponents during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. Dietrich never received any formal staff training. Despite this, he became, along with Paul Hausser, the highest-ranking officer in the paramilitary branch of the SS, known as Waffen-SS. After he was made Oberst-Gruppenführer, he led units up to army level in several battles of World War II. During his tenure as the commanding officer of the 6th Panzer Army, the Battle of the Bulge took place. In the subsequent Malmedy massacre, numerous US prisoners of war were killed in December 1944. Following the conclusion of the war, Dietrich was found guilty of war crimes at the Malmedy massacre trial. He was again convicted in West Germany for his role in the 1934 purge. When he was set free from the US prison, he began taking part in HIAG activities.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on May 28, 1892, in Hawangen, near Memmingen in the Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire, Sepp Dietrich was the oldest of six children of his parents.
In 1911, he enlisted in the Bavarian Army with the 4. Bayerische Feldartillerie-Regiment "König" (4th Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment) in Augsburg. During World War I, he saw combat as part of the Bavarian Field artillery.
Dietrich rose to the rank of Gefreiter in 1917 and received the Iron Cross 2nd class. In the following year, he was made Unteroffizier (sergeant). According to Bavarian army records, he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st class at some point.
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Activities during the Interwar Period
Following the conclusion of World War I, Sepp Dietrich held several jobs, such as a policeman and customs officer. In 1928, he became a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP).
He was employed at the Nazi publisher Eher Verlag and subsequently assumed the post of the commander of Hitler’s SS bodyguard. NSDAP and SS assigned him the numbers 89,015 and 1,117 respectively.
It was Christian Weber who indoctrinated Dietrich into Nazi ideology. He went with Hitler to various parts of Germany. In the next few years, Hitler assigned him to various posts and allowed him to reside in the Reich Chancellery. On January 5, 1930, Dietrich, following an election, was appointed to the Reichstag as a delegate for Lower Bavaria.
By 1931, he had risen to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer. The Nazi Party took control of the German administration in 1933. He subsequently experienced a meteoric rise in his professional life and was appointed the commander of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) and a member of the Prussian state council. Due to his close association with Hitler, he could ignore his SS superior, Heinrich Himmler.
Dietrich was instrumental in the successful execution of the Night of the Long Knives, which took place between June 30 and July 2, 1934. He accompanied Hitler and a unit from the Leibstandarte to apprehend Ernst Röhm, the leader of Sturmabteilung or SA. Later, on the order of Hitler, he and other Leibstandarte personnel executed several members of the SA leadership. Afterwards, Dietrich was made SS-Obergruppenführer.
Activities During World War II
At the advent of World War II, as the leader of the Leibstandarte, Sepp Dietrich served in Poland, Netherlands, and France. In May 1940, they were posted 15 miles southwest of Dunkirk along the line of the Aa Canal, directly in front of the Allied defensive line near Watten.
Disregarding Hitler’s command, Dietrich instructed his men to attack the heights beyond the canal, where the British had positioned their artillery, which was putting the regiment in danger.
They were successful, and instead of getting reprimanded for it, Sepp Dietrich received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. When the campaign was happening, members of the Leibstandarte 2nd Battalion killed 80 British and French POWs. This was later named the Wormhoudt massacre.
He also took part in the campaigns in Greece and Yugoslavia before receiving the promotion to the command of the 1st SS Panzer Corps, which was associated with the Army Group Center, on the Eastern Front.
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In 1943, he travelled to Italy to retrieve Benito Mussolini’s mistress, Clara Petacci. He was awarded several German military medals.
In the Battle of Normandy, he was put in charge of the 1st SS Panzer Corps. He commanded the 5th Panzer Army during the later stages of this campaign. Hitler put him in charge of the newly formed 6th Panzer Army, which he commanded in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945).
In March 1945, Sepp Dietrich led the 6th Panzer Army (along with LSSAH) in the Operation Spring Awakening, which was an offensive attempt to establish control of the last oil reserve that Germany still had. They failed and were ordered to remove their prized cuff titles as a sign of ignominy. Dietrich did not convey this particular instruction from Hitler to his men.
His troops were then compelled to fall back from Vienna by the Red Army. His second wife was with him when he gave himself up to the US 36th Infantry Division in Austria on May 9, 1945.
Family & Personal Life
Sepp Dietrich married twice in his life. His first wife was Barbra Betti Seidl, to whom he was married from 1921 to 1937. The union ended in divorce and did not produce any children. In 1942, he wedded Ursula Moninger-Brenner. They had three children together: Götz-Hubertus Dietrich, Wolf-Dieter Dietrich, and Lutz Dietrich.
Trial & Conviction
Sepp Dietrich was prosecuted by the US Military Tribunal at Dachau from May 16, 1946, until July 16, 1946, and was given the sentence of life imprisonment for his involvement in the Malmedy massacre, in which 84 US POWs were killed by Kampfgruppe Peiper of the 1st SS Panzer Corps.
After fellow German officers testified in his favour, it became a 25-year sentence. He was kept at the Landsberg Prison in Bavaria and set free on October 22, 1955.
In August 1956, he was arrested once more in Ludwigsburg for the part he played in the deaths of SA leaders during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. He was handed a 19-month sentence and served it at Landsberg. On February 2, 1958, after serving almost his full sentence, he was let go because of a heart condition and circulation problems.
Later Years & Death
After his release, Sepp Dietrich became an active member of HIAG, which was a denialist organization and lobby group comprised of former Waffen-SS members. Established by erstwhile high-ranking Waffen-SS personnel, the organisation advocated for legal, economic and historical rehabilitation of the Waffen-SS, but they did not garner much success.
On April 21, 1966, Dietrich passed away following a heart attack in Ludwigsburg, West Germany. He was 73 years old at the time. At his funeral, about six thousand people, including many former SS officers, were present. He is interred at Neuer Friedhof (New City Cemetery) Ludwigsburg, Landkreis Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.