SS-Obergruppenführer and Waffen-SS General Felix Steiner

Felix Martin Julius Steiner (born May 23, 1896; died May 12, 1966) was a German army and Waffen-SS officer who fought in the First and the Second World War.

Career

Felix Steiner was born on May 23, 1896 in Stallupönen, East Prussia.

In March 1914, after taking the maturity exam, he joined the 5th East Prussian Infantry Regiment no 41 in Tilsit, or, in other words, the Prussian Officer Corps as a cadet.

In the First World War Ensign Steiner was on the regiment's front. He participated in the battles on the East Prussian border near Tannenberg, on the Masurian Lakes and in Lithuania. In November 1914 he was seriously injured. He got better. On January 27, 1915 was promoted to Lieutenant and on June 18, 1915 received the 2nd class Iron Cross. He was transferred to the 46th Sniper Machine Gunners' unit as the company's leader. In 1916 fought with his men on the Courland front. Had the following battles under Daugava, participated in attacking Riga and they managed to conquer it. For this he received the 1st class Iron Cross. In 1918 participated in the biggest battles in France. Battles near Wytsschaete in Houthulst Forest and in Kemmel. Defence battles in between Arras and Noyon. Was demobilized in Danzig.

After the war, in January 1919, Steiner was the company leader in one Freikorps (Free Corps) unit in a town called Memel in East Prussia.

In 1921 he served in the Reichswehr's 1st Infantry Regiment. In 1922 took an exam in the Defence District. From 1923 to 1930 worked in different headquarters, in the meantime participated in six inspection trips of the Generals' headquarters, led by Obersts von Fritsch, Feige, von Bonin, Hoeppner and von Reichenau.

On December 1, 1927 promoted to Hauptmann. Regiment's adjutant in 1st Infantry Regiment in Königsberg. 1932 became the regiment's company leader, the same year became the training leader at West Land Police inspection. The same year was transferred to the Reichswehr's leader's officers for special use. In December 1933 he requested to retire from Reichswehr and after several applications his request is fulfilled. He retired as the Major, in a uniform of the 1st Prussian infantry regiment.

After the NSDAP gained power, Steiner joined the Reichwehr's headquarters and began to develop new training techniques and tactics.

1934 worked as the training referent for the Training Office's leader in Berlin. In August 1934 became the leader of the Training Office. After the Reichswehr was dismissed because of security freedom, he was transferred on April 1935 to the III SS-regiment's battalion to become its Commander in Ellwangen-Jagst. There he got acquainted with the SS's and the SA's training and theoretics. He was intrigued by the SS-Verfügunstruppe's (SS-VT, the predecessor of the Waffen-SS) training techniques, which concentrated on the trust within the unit and keeping together. In addition, the SS-VT units concentrated also on the soldiers' and officers' mutual trust, which fascinated Steiner.

In less than a year he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer and was sent to Munich to become the Commander of the SS-VT regiment Deutschland.

In October 1936 Felix Steiner was among those who established the legendary SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz.

When the Second World War began, Steiner was the SS-Oberführer and still led the SS-VT Deutschland. He led his regiment successfully in the campaigns of Czechoslovakia and Poland. Steiner's regiment was also outstanding in French battles and thanks to this he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on August 15, 1940. The regiment fought bravely and successfully during the Netherlands campaign.

5th SS-Panzer-Division Wiking

After a successful campaign into the West, during which Steiner stood out as a great leader and a strategist, SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler chose him to his new division Wiking to organise formation and training. He became the Commander of this division.

One peculiarity about the Wiking division was that it was made up of mostly non-German volunteers. Besides Germans and Austrians, Wiking had volunteers from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Holland, Flemings from Belgium, Walloons from the ancient lands of Burgundy, ethnic Germans from the Balkans and even volunteers from Sweden and Switzerland.
Wiking was the brotherhood of anti-bolshevism.

Steiner made the Wiking a powerful unit and in 1941 they battled on the Eastern Front, in Ukraine and Donbass, where they soon got the fame of a feared and strong unit. For successful actions on the front, he received on April 22, 1942 the German Cross in gold and on December 23, 1942 the Oak Leaves for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
On January 1, 1942 Steiner was promoted to SS-Gruppenführer and Waffen-SS General-Lieutenant. Next he and his Wikings had battles in the Kuban steppes and in Caucasus, which brought even more fame to the division and to Steiner.

February 1943 battles with army group Don.

On March 30, 1943 Hitler gave the command to form SS-Panzerkorps out of West European volunteers. Volunteers from Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Sweden and Estonia were gathered in this corps. The main forces of the unit were the 11th SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland and the 4th SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Brigade Nederland.

On May 10, 1943 Steiner was appointed to become the leader of the newly formed III Germanic SS-Panzerkorps.

After training, the corps was sent to Croatia in October 1943 to fight the Tito's partisans. The corps was very successful in these battles.

In December 1943 the corps was taken to the front line in Leningrad, near the Oranienbaum pocket's west wing, as a part of the army group Nord. III SS-Panzerkorps was the one unit which, after the Russians great attack from the Oranienbaum pocket, managed to successfully cover the panically retreating German Wehrmacht units and stabilise the front near the Narva river, taking their defence positions.

Ivangorod's bridgehead was formed on the Narva river line. In February 1944 the 20th Estonian SS-division, which had freshly returned to its homeland, was subjected under the corps and this division played an important role in the battles in Estonia.

From February to June 1944 they had rough battles on the West side of Narva river. In July 1944 they retreated to the hills of Sinimäed to the Tannenberg positions, which is also known as the European SS-volunteers battle, where all Red Army attacks were stopped.

On August 10, 1944 Steiner was awarded the Swords for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for successfully leading the Narva front.

However, since the Russians managed to break through the front from South, where the defence had weak units, the III SS-Panzerkorps was threatened to be trapped in the pocket, despite their success on the Narva-Tannenberg front.

Finland's and the Soviet Union's peace treaty, as well as Finland's stepping out from the war, meant a threat from the North too, because Finland allowed the Russians to act freely on their waters and use their airspace. To stabilise the front, the units had to retreat to Latvia.

German Army Group Vistula

In January 1945 Steiner and his III SS-Panzerkorps retreated to the Courland peninsula, where they had successful battles until the end of January 1945.

The III SS-Panzerkorps was sent to operate under the Army Group Vistula and was renamed as the 11th SS-Panzer Army. When the Russians crossed the Oder river, they had bloody battles and also battles in Pommer.

Then the exhausted III SS-Panzerkorps was brought back to Germany for a brief moment to be in the 3rd Panzer Army's reserve, the experienced soldiers had a moment to relax before the rough battles under Berlin.

Steiner had always been one of Himmler's favourite officers, the leader admired Steiner's "Let's get the job don" attitude and loyalty to the Waffen-SS and not to the Prussian Officer's Corps. Joseph Goebbels had only positive words about Steiner too: "He is energetic and concentrated on the goal and he does his job with full vitality." (March 1, 1945).

By April 21 the Soviet marshal Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the German defence lines on the Seelöwe upland. Hitler started to call together surviving units, which were a part of the Army Group named after Steiner (Armeeabteilung Steiner) to form something corps-like. He ordered Steiner to attack the 1st Belorussian Front's North wing, while the 9th army would attack from the South. To make the attack easier, Steiner received three divisions of the 9th army CI Army Group: the 4th SS Polizei Division, which was exhausted from being on the front, the 5th Jäger Division, the 25th SS Panzer Grenadier Division Hunyadi, made up of Hungarians. All units were situated North from the Finow Canal, on the North wing of Zhukov's front, and the Weidling LVI Panzer Corps, which was east of Berlin with its northern wing under Werneuchen, was also to participate in the attack.

All three divisions in north were supposed to attack south of Eberswalde (Finow Canal, 24 kilometers east of Berlin). They were supposed to move in the direction of LVI Panzer Corps to cut the 1st Belorussian Front into two. Steiner called Heinrich and informed him of the plan, but this plan could not be fulfilled because the 5th Jäger Division and the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division were positioned to defend and these units could not be repositioned before the II Marine Division would come from the coast to assist them. Therefore only the 4th SS Polizei Division's two battalions were free, but they did not have battle weapons. Heinrich called the General headquarters chief Hans Krebs and told him that they cannot act according to the plan and wished to speak to Hitler, but he was told that Hitler was too busy to take his call.

On April 22 Hitler received a message during his afternoon meeting that Steiner will not attack and he got furious. Hitler announced that they lost the war, he blamed the generals and said that he will remain in Berlin until the end and will not let himself be captured alive.

The end of the war – peacetime

Steiner was incarcerated until 1948 after the surrender. He faced charges of the Nuremberg Trials, but there were no solid evidence and he was released.
He lived in Munich. Dedicated his last years to writing war memoires and other books.

His most known books:

"Die Wehridee des Abendlandes" 1952
"Von Clausewitz bis Bulganin" 1956
"Die Freiwilligen, Idee und Opfergang" 1958
He was also working on one novel but this remained unfinished.

The brave soldier's heart stopped on May 12, 1966. Many brothers-in-arms gathered to send him away because he had remained loyal to them until the end. Felix Steiner and his brave Waffen-SS volunteers remain in the history forever – they belong together.