Artur Phleps


Artur Phleps
Artur Phleps
Phleps.jpg
A. Phleps as an SS-Obergruppenführer
Born 29 November 1881(1881-11-29)
Birthälm, Austria-Hungary (now Biertan, Romania)
Died 21 September 1944(1944-09-21) (aged 62)
Allegiance Austria-Hungary
Romania
Germany
Years of service 1914 – 1944
Rank SS-Obergruppenführer
Unit 5. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Wiking
Commands held 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division Prinz Eugen
V SS Mountain Corps.
Awards Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub
Iron Trefoil 1st Class

Artur Martin Phleps (29 November 1881 – 21 September 1944) was an Austro-Hungarian-born Romanian and German officer who held the rank of Obergruppenführer in the Waffen-SS during World War II. An Austro-Hungarian Army officer in World War I, he served in the Romanian Army during the interwar period, before joining the military forces of Nazi Germany in 1941. Seeing action with the 5. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Wiking, he was later a commander of the 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division Prinz Eugen and the V SS Mountain Corps. Phleps was the recipient of numerous decorations, including the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub and the German Cross in Gold.

Contents

Early life

Artur Phleps was born in Birthälm (present-day Biertan), near Sibiu (Hermannstadt) - a region densely populated by ethnic Germans commonly referred to as Transylvanian Saxons. His father was a physician who came to Transylvania from Austrian Silesia. After finishing primary school in Sibiu, Phleps attended the Military Academy in Pressburg. Following graduation, he continued officer training and later fought during World War I in the Austro-Hungarian Army, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel of the general staff.

After the war, and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Phleps returned to his native Transylvania, that became part of Romania and joined the Romanian Army. Initially, he was assigned to the Romanian Military Academy in Bucharest and later, as a Lieutenant general, was put in charge of mountain troops, transforming them into elite units within the Romanian Army (see Vânători de Munte).

German Waffen-SS Service

5th SS Panzer Division Wiking

In 1941, Phleps decided to enlist into the German Army. Under his mother's maiden name Stolz, he joined the staff of the 5. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Wiking. He rose quickly in the divisional ranks and after the death of Hilmar Wäckerle, he was given command of the SS-Regiment Westland. Thanks to his organizational skills Phleps was soon promoted to SS-Gruppenführer and in 1942 was tasked by Heinrich Himmler with the organization of a new SS unit composed of Volksdeutsche, or German minorities, from Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania.

7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen

Largely because of the origin of its soldiers and its military character as a mountain unit, Phleps' new command was designed for anti-partisan warfare and deployed in occupied Yugoslavia. Initially, all its soldiers were to be volunteers, but as the division struggled to fill its ranks, conscription was introduced. Beginning in October 1942, the 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division Prinz Eugen fought continuously against the Partisans in so-called Banden- und Partisanenbekämpfung and was involved in numerous war crimes against the civilian population.

In recognition of his abilities as a commander of Prinz Eugen, on 21 June 1943 Phleps was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. A short time later he was also given command of the newly formed V.SS-Gebirgs-Korps.

V.SS-Gebirgs-Korps

In addition, to the Prinz Eugen Division, Phleps' new command included a number of other mountain units, including the notorious Bosnian Muslim 13. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS Handschar. As Prinz Eugen before, the Korps was deployed on anti-partisan duties, mostly in the vicinity of Mostar in Bosnia, against the Partisans.

In September 1943, Phleps was promoted to Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer. In 1944 he returned to Romania in order to personally oversee the preparations against the Red Army's oncoming Jassy-Chişinău offensive. While in the field, trying to get an overview of the situation, Phleps and his aides were captured by the Soviets near Arad. While the exact details of his death are not known, it is likely that the Soviet troops were unaware of his true identity, and killed him during a German air raid — in all probability to prevent his escape.

Ironically, his disappearance was initially treated as absence without leave, and an arrest warrant for Phleps was issued. Outraged, Heinrich Himmler personally conducted the investigation into Phleps' "desertion" and only after his personal belongings were recovered was he officially listed as killed in action. Posthumously, Phleps was awarded the Oak leaves to his Knight's Cross and was chosen as a patron of the SS Freiwilligen Gebirgsregiment 13. This unit was allowed to bear a special cuff title with his name. Although the band was manufactured, no war-time photos of it surfaced as of 2004.[1]

Summary of his SS career

Dates of rank

Notable decorations

References

  1. ^ Williamson, G. (2004). The Waffen-SS. USA: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-590-2. 

Further reading

  • The Waffen-SS (4): "24. to 38. Divisions, & Volunteer Legions" (Men-at-Arms) by Gordon Williamson and Stephen Andrew (Osprey Publishing (11 November 2004), ISBN 1-84176-592-9, ISBN 978-1-84176-592-1).
  • The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror: The Full Story From Street Fighters to the Waffen-SS by Gordon Williamson (Motorbooks International, (March 1994), ISBN 0-87938-905-2, ISBN 978-0-87938-905-5).
  • Gebirgsjäger: German Mountain Trooper 1939-45 (Warrior) by Gordon Williamson and Stephen Darko Pavlovic (Osprey Publishing (23 July 2003), ISBN 1-84176-553-8, ISBN 978-1-84176-553-2).
  • Die Ritterkreuzträger der Gebirgstruppe, Band 2: L-Z by Franz Thomas & Günter Wegmann(Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, Germany, 1994) - in German.
  • 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.

See also

  • Kurt Waldheim (Appeared in a wartime photograph with Artur Phleps)
Military offices
Preceded by
none
Commander of 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division Prinz Eugen
30 January 1942 - 15 May 1943
Succeeded by
SS-Brigadeführer Karl Reichsritter von Oberkamp
Preceded by
none
Commander of V.SS-Gebirgs-Korps
21 April 1943 - 21 September 1944
Succeeded by
SS-Brigadeführer Karl Reichsritter von Oberkamp

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