SS-Obergruppenführer and Waffen-SS General Herbert Otto Gille

Herbert Otto Gille was born on March 8, 1897 in Gandersheim, Harz, as the son of a factory owner. He transferred from the upper secondary school to the cadet school and became an Ensign when he was 17 years old. When the World War I broke out, Ensign Gille went on the front in the lines of the artillery. In 1915 he became a Lieutenant and before the war ended, he became the Senior Lieutenant. He received the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class.

On March 31, 1919 Senior Lieutenant Gille left the army and worked as a ruler and inspector in manors during the following years. Gille's new army service began after the national socialists took over the power in Germany. Starting from May 20, 1934 he joined the SS where he served almost three years as the Company Commander. On February 15, 1937 he was signed to be the battalion leader of the SS-Standarte Germania. In May 1939 he was put in charge of the Waffen-SS forerunner's, the SS-Verfügunstruppe's, artillery unit.

September 1, 1939 Gille participated in the Poland Campaign and in spring 1940 in the France Campaign. Next he was appointed to the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking which was being formed. Gille, who then had the rank of an SS-Standartenführer (Colonel), became the leader of the artillery regiment.

Starting from June 29, 1941, Gille and his division fought on the Eastern Front, where on the early autumn of 1942 they reached Caucasus, conquering Kuban. On October 8, 1942 Gille was given the Knight's Cross. By that time he had become an SS-Oberführer (Brigade General).

May 1943 Gille was assigned as the leader of the Wiking Division. Gille and his division had defence battles in Ukraine. He was promoted to be an SS-Brigadeführer (General Major) and awarded with the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves on November 1, 1943. The following winter he and his division were captured in Ukraine in the so-called the Cherkassy Pocket. Gille was able to organize breaking out of the trap and he was given a Knight's Cross with Swords on February 18, 1944, and he was promoted as an SS-Gruppenführer (General Lieutenant). During this time an Estonian battalion "Narva" fought in the lines of the Wiking Division.

On March 16, 1944 Gille flew on a liaison aircraft Fieseler Storch to the town of Kovel in North-West Ukraine, which was threatened to be surrounded by the enemies. Gille was trapped in the surrounded circle, but he organized a counter-attack by the foreign front and saved nearly 2,000 wounded and many other battle-worthy men from being captured. On April 19, 1944 Gille was rewarded a Knight's Cross with Diamonds. Besides Sepp Dietrich and an SS-Standartenführer (Colonel), Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross Zauche und Camminetz, who was a tank army leader well-known in Estonia, Gille was the third man with an SS rank to receive all three classes of the Knight's Cross.

In July 1944 Gille was appointed as the leader of the soon to be formed 4th SS Panzer Corps, which involved SS Divisions Totenkopf and Wiking. On his lead, the 4th SS Panzer Corps managed to disturb the Red Army's attack in autumn of 1944 in Eastern Prussia. The Red Army's target was Berlin. In 1945 Gille was sent to Hungary with his division to free Budapest which was surrounded. Unfortunately the 4th Panzer Corps did not manage to break into this town. In November 1944 he became the SS-Obergruppenführer.

In spring 1945, after the Red Army's great offensive, the 4th SS Panzer Corps retreated successfully to Austria. After Germany's capitulation in May 1945, Gille was taken into prison by the Americans. He was released on May 21, 1948.

After being released Gille spent the last years of his life in the Federal Republic of Germany. From 1951 he published the magazine "Wiking-Ruf". He also owned a small bookstore.

As a NSDAP member, Gille was known as a professional soldier, who is characterized by Heinz Höhne, the author of the book "The Order Under the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS", as the etalon of soldierly behavior.

Gille was very much valued as a genius tactic and as someone with great leadership skills. During his long military career he successfully led regiments, divisions and a corps. His inferiors admired his courage. He was respectfully called "old".

SS-Obergruppenführer Gille died as a result of an heart attack on December 26, 1966 in Stemmen, near Hannover. On his last journey, Gille was accompanied by 800 friends from European countries and the last leader of the Wiking Division, SS Oberführer Karl Ullrich, gave an eulogy.