Walter Heitz

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Walter Heitz
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2005-0428-501, Walter Heitz.jpg
Walter Heitz in 1936
Born(1878-12-08)8 December 1878
Died9 February 1944(1944-02-09) (aged 65)
Allegiance German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branchBalkenkreuz.svg Heer
Years of service1898–1944
RankGeneraloberst (Wehrmacht) 8.svg Generaloberst
Commands heldVIII Corps
Battles/warsWorld War I

World War II

AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Walter Heitz (8 December 1878 – 9 February 1944) was a German general (Generaloberst) in the Wehrmacht during World War II. He commanded the VIII Army Corps during the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France and Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Heitz continued to command the VIII Army Corps as part of the 6th Army in the Battle of Stalingrad; the 6th Army was encircled within the city after Operation Uranus (the Soviet counter-offensive in Stalingrad) and eventually destroyed. Heitz surrendered the central pocket of German forces in Stalingrad on 31 January 1943 and died as a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union.

Military career[edit]

World War I[edit]

Heitz joined the German Army on March 7, 1898 and was assigned to the 2nd West Prussian Field Artillery 36th Regiment, he reached the rank of captain (Hauptmann) and commanded a company in the First World War.[1]

During the war he received in addition to the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st class; the Wound Badge in black, the Prussian Service Decoration Cross, the Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with swords and the Hamburg Hanseatic Cross.[1]

Inter-war era[edit]

After World War I he served in the Reichswehr as a Colonel (Oberst) and in 1931 was given command of the fortress Königsberg.[2]

Heitz was a staunch supporter of Nazism and Hitler,[3] which may have played a role in his appointment as the President of the Reichskriegsgericht on 1 August 1936. During his appointment, he was promoted on 1 April 1937 to General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie).[2]

World War II[edit]

Hitler touring the WWI battlefields near Arras with Heitz, 17 May 1940

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Heitz was already 60 years old and would have gone into retirement. Nevertheless, he requested to be sent into the frontlines. After a four-week interlude as commander of the Danzig-West Prussia garrison,[2] Heitz was appointed as the commanding general of the VIII Army Corps in October 1939 and participated in the Battle of France. On 4 September 1940 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for personally scouting river crossings over Oise under enemy fire,[4] he continued to command the VIII Army Corps during the German invasion of the Soviet Union Operation Barbarossa, the Battle of Białystok–Minsk and the First Battle of Smolensk. In October of 1942, the VIII Army Corps was sent into the Battle of Stalingrad. On 19 November the Soviet forces launched Opertion Uranus, a massive counter-offensive in Stalingrad which involved over 1 million Soviet military personnel. By 23 November, the VIII Army Corps along with the rest of the German 6th Army was encircled and threatened with destruction.

Heitz, Rudolf Schmundt and Friedrich Paulus in the Soviet Union, 1942

During the Battle of Stalingrad as the situation worsened for the Germans, he ordered defeatists and every man who attempted surrender to be shot[5] and coined the slogan: "We fight to the last bullet but one."[6] Meanwhile, other generals such as General of the Artillery Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, had already given their regimental and battalion commanders permission to act and surrender independently according to local conditions.[7] On 26 January 1943, the German forces inside Stalingrad were split into two pockets north and south of Mamayev Kurgan; the northern pocket consisted of the XIth Corps, and the VIIIth Corps, under Heitz. The next day, the southern pocket collapsed. On 28 January, the pocket was split into three parts; the northern pocket consisted of the XIth Corps, the central with the VIIIth and LIst Corps, and the southern with the XIVth Panzer Corps and IVth Corps "without units". The sick and wounded reached 40,000 to 50,000. On 31 January 1943, Heitz surrendered the central pocket.[8]

In prison, he vehemently refused to cooperate with the anti-Nazi National Committee for a Free Germany that operated out of the Soviet Union, despite being pressured by the Soviets, who beat him and threatened his family,[5] he died of cancer on 9 February 1944 while in Soviet captivity.




  1. ^ a b Reichswehrministerium 1925, p. 130.
  2. ^ a b c Heuer 1988.
  3. ^ Wieder 1997, p. 287-293.
  4. ^ a b Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 175.
  5. ^ a b Wieder 1997, p. 293-294.
  6. ^ Beevor 1998, p. 358.
  7. ^ Ruhle 2015, p. 60.
  8. ^ Ruhle 2015, p. 215.
  9. ^ Thomas 1997, p. 264.
  10. ^ a b Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 378.


  • Adam, Wilhelm & Ruhle, Otto (2015). With Paulus at Stalingrad. Translated by Tony Le Tissier. Pen and Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 9781473833869.
  • Beevor, Antony (1998). Stalingrad. London: Viking. ISBN 978-0-14-103240-5.
  • Heuer, Gerd F. (1988). Die Generalobersten des Heeres. Inhaber höchster deutscher Kommandostellen (in German). Rastatt, Germany: Moewig Verlag. ISBN 3-8118-1049-9.
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. & Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
  • Reichswehrministerium (1925). Rangliste des Deutschen Reichsheeres [Rankings of the German Army] (in German). Berlin, Germany: Mittler & Sohn Verlag.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
  • Warth, Julia (2006). Verräter oder Widerstandskämpfer? Wehrmachtsgeneral Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach [Traitor or Freedom Fighter? General Walther von Seyditz-Kurzbach] (in German). Munich, Germany: R. Oldenbourg Verlag.
  • Wieder, Joachim (1997). Stalingrad und die Verantwortung des Soldaten [Stalingrad and the Responsibility of the Soldier] (in German). Munich, Germany: F. A. Herbig. ISBN 3-7766-1778-0.
Military offices
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Ernst Busch
Commander of VIII. Armeekorps
25 October 1939 – 31 January 1943
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Gustav Höhne