- Theodor Tolsdorff
Infobox Military Person
lived=birth date|1909|11|3|df=y — death date and age|1978|5|25|1909|11|3|df=y
nickname="Lion of Vilna", also "Tolsdorff the Mad"
serviceyears=1934 – 1945
unit=1. Infantry Division
LXXXII Panzer Corps
World War II
*Invasion of Poland (1939)
*Battle of France
Battle of the Bulge
awards=Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillianten
Theodor Tolsdorff (
November 3, 1909to May 25, 1978) was a Lieutenant General in the German Army and one of 27 carriers of Oak Leaves with Swords and Diamonds to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Crossin the Second World War. He was wounded fourteen times during the war.
Tolsdorf went to school in
Königsbergand later became a farmer. He continued his education to become an administrator of an estate in Lehnharten. Later on, in 1934, at the age of 25, he joined as a volunteer the 1st Infantry Regiment in Insterburg. On 1 June 1934Tolsdorff was promoted from the ranks to Leutnant.
World War II
Polish CampaignTolsdorff led the 14th (anti-tank-gun) Company in the 22. Fusilier regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. He was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for actions against the Gora Kamienkabunker line. Soon afterwards he earned the Iron Cross 1st Class when he prohibited the enemy to break out when he attacked from close range. He was wounded in the shoulder at the end of the Polish Campaign.
Tolsdorff's unit was then transferred to the
Rhinelandas part of the army reserve. He participated in the French Campaign as his unit fought in Belgium and drove to the Flanders pocket, then south past Paris to the Saumurarea.
During the beginning of Russian Campaign Tolsdorff again was in charge of the 14th Company. Passing through
Latvia, Estoniaand Lithuaniahe assumed command of the battalion and again was severely wounded. While in the hospital he was promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) and awarded with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 4 December 1941. He returned back to the front in April 1942 and participated in the heavy fighting for Schlüsselburg. After the heavy fighting at Leningradand Lake Ladoga, Tolsdorff lost half of his right foot due to deep splinter injuries. For the outstanding success in closing the Volkhovpocket in June 1942, Tolsdorff received the German Crossin gold. On the closing days of the Volkhov battle he again was injured in the head by a bullet. Tolsdorff was forced to remain in the hospital until 20 September1942. On 1 January 1943Tolsdorff was promoted to Major and made commander of the 1st Battalion.
Tolsdorff returned to his unit during the defensive battles at Lake Ladoga. In July 1943 the third and most difficult battle at Lake Ladoga began. After successfully fighting off the Soviet attack for fourteen days and participating in counterattacks in the neighbouring sector and restoring the situation, Tolsdorff was awarded the Oak Leaves on
On New Year's Eve 1943 the 1st Infantry Division transferred to the southern sector in the
Vinnitsa- Odessaarea. Tolsdorff was now made in charge of the 1st Infantry Division's 22nd Infantry Regiment after its commanding officer, Oberst (Colonel) Ulrich Iffland, had been killed.
Again severely wounded by a shot in the stomach from close range, Tolsdorff managed to return to active duty within a few weeks. Tolsdorff was promoted to Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) in the Lublin hospital. After recovering from his wounds Tolsdorff was ordered to attend the officer cadet school at
Back to the front in June 1944 Tolsdorff received the order to defend the city of
Vilna. Tolsdorff held out long enough to evacuate the thousands of wounded from the city until relieve from Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetzarrived. This action resulted in his promotion to Oberstand the awarding of the Oak Leaves with Swords on 18 July1944.
In early August, when Tolsdorff received the Oak Leaves with Swords, Hitler personally ordered him to go to
Hirschbergfor division commanders training. At the beginning of September, after completion of the course, Tolsdorff received orders from the OKH to go to Thorn (East Prussia), to oversee the formation of the 340th Volksgrenadier Division.
In mid-November the unit transferred to the
Aachen- Jülicharea on the west to defend against US forces trying to cross the Rhine. In December the unit was withdrawn to make preparations for the Ardennes offensive. The division fought as part of the 5th Panzer Army under command of Hasso von Manteuffel. On 18 March 1945, Major GeneralTolsdorff received the Diamonds for personal bravery and his divisions's outstanding accomplishments. Tolsdorff received the Diamonds in Berlin, was promoted to Lieutenant Generaland ordered to take command of the LXXXII Panzer Corps, which was stationed in the Ambergarea in Bavaria. On 8 Mayhe surrendered in Austriato the famed 101st Airborne.
After the war
9 May 1947Tolsdorff was released from American captivity. He took on various jobs like truck driver and construction worker until on 7 December 1952he was put under arrest. He faced charges for the execution of Hauptmann Holzeyon 3 May 1945. Initially he was sentenced to two and a half years. A federal court overturned the decision and ordered a retrial. On 24 June 1960Tolsdorff was declared not guilty. The same year, Tolsdorff was hired by the German Asphalt AG and held a position of manager until 1969 when he took over the branch office in Dortmund. Tolsdorff retired on 31 December 1974. Following a serious accident in which Tolsdorff suffered a double skull fracture, [According to Fraschka the skull fracture occurred a few years before 1976 and is not directly linked to his death] he died on 25 May 1978in Dortmund. [Fraschka 1994, p. 299 (Note: According to Fraschka place of death is Dortmundand date of death is 25 May 1978)] [Williamson 2006, p. 57 (Note: According to Williamson place of death is Wuppertaland date of death is 1 June 1978)]
* Eisernes Kreuz 2. and 1. Klasse (1939)
Infantry Assault Badge(silver)
Tank Destruction Badge
German Crossin Gold (23 August 1942)
* Knight's Cross wit Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
** Knight's Cross (4 December 1941)
** 302. Oak Leaves (15 September 1943)
** 80. Swords (18 July 1944)
** 25. Diamonds (18 March 1945)
* Mentioned in the
Wehrmachtbericht(14 July 1944)
* Berger, Florian. "Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges". Selbstverlag Florian Berger, 2006. ISBN 3-9501307-0-5.
* Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer. "Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945". Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas, 2000. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
* Fraschka, Günther. "Knights of the Reich". Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1994. ISBN 0-88740-580-0.
* Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit. "Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 - 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II". Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall, 2001. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
* Williamson, Gordon. "Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941-45". Osprey Publishing Ltd, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-644-5.
* [http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Personenregister/TolsdorffT-R.htm Theodor Tolsdorff @ Lexikon der Wehrmacht]
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