Theodor Tolsdorff


Theodor Tolsdorff

Infobox Military Person
name=Theodor Tolsdorff
lived=birth date|1909|11|3|df=ydeath date and age|1978|5|25|1909|11|3|df=y
placeofbirth=Lehnharten / Ostpreußen
placeofdeath=Dortmund


caption=Theodor Tolsdorff
nickname="Lion of Vilna", also "Tolsdorff the Mad"
allegiance=flagicon|Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
serviceyears=1934 – 1945
rank=Generalleutnant
commands=
unit=1. Infantry Division
Füssilier-Regiments 22
340. Volksgrenadier-Division
LXXXII Panzer Corps
battles=World War II
*Invasion of Poland (1939)
*Battle of France
*Operation Barbarossa
*Eastern front
*Battle of the Bulge
*Western Front
awards=Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillianten
laterwork=

Theodor Tolsdorff (November 3, 1909 to 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 Cross in the Second World War. He was wounded fourteen times during the war.

Early life

Tolsdorf went to school in Königsberg and 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 1934 Tolsdorff was promoted from the ranks to Leutnant.

World War II

Polish Campaign

During the Polish Campaign Tolsdorff 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 Kamienka bunker 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.

French Campaign

Tolsdorff's unit was then transferred to the Rhineland as 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 Saumur area.

Eastern Front

During the beginning of Russian Campaign Tolsdorff again was in charge of the 14th Company. Passing through Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania he 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 Leningrad and Lake Ladoga, Tolsdorff lost half of his right foot due to deep splinter injuries. For the outstanding success in closing the Volkhov pocket in June 1942, Tolsdorff received the German Cross in 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 September 1942. On 1 January 1943 Tolsdorff 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 15 September 1943.

On New Year's Eve 1943 the 1st Infantry Division transferred to the southern sector in the Vinnitsa-Odessa area. 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 Metz.

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 Camminetz arrived. This action resulted in his promotion to Oberst and the awarding of the Oak Leaves with Swords on 18 July 1944.

In early August, when Tolsdorff received the Oak Leaves with Swords, Hitler personally ordered him to go to Hirschberg for 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.

Western Front

In mid-November the unit transferred to the Aachen-Jülich area 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 General Tolsdorff received the Diamonds for personal bravery and his divisions's outstanding accomplishments. Tolsdorff received the Diamonds in Berlin, was promoted to Lieutenant General and ordered to take command of the LXXXII Panzer Corps, which was stationed in the Amberg area in Bavaria. On 8 May he surrendered in Austria to the famed 101st Airborne.

After the war

On 9 May 1947 Tolsdorff was released from American captivity. He took on various jobs like truck driver and construction worker until on 7 December 1952 he was put under arrest. He faced charges for the execution of Hauptmann Holzey on 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 1960 Tolsdorff 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 1978 in Dortmund. [Fraschka 1994, p. 299 (Note: According to Fraschka place of death is Dortmund and date of death is 25 May 1978)] [Williamson 2006, p. 57 (Note: According to Williamson place of death is Wuppertal and date of death is 1 June 1978)]

Awards

* Eisernes Kreuz 2. and 1. Klasse (1939)
* Infantry Assault Badge (silver)
* Wound Badge (gold)
* Tank Destruction Badge
* German Cross in 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)

References


* 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.

External links

* [http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Personenregister/TolsdorffT-R.htm Theodor Tolsdorff @ Lexikon der Wehrmacht]


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