Witzig, Rudolf

Date of birth:
August 14th, 1916 (Röhlinghausen/Westphalia, Germany)
Date of death:
October 3rd, 2001 (Oberschleißheim/Bayern, Germany)
Nationality:
German

Biography

Rudolf Witzig was born August 14th, 1916, in Röhlinghausen, Westphalia, Germany. He embarked on a military career on April 1st, 1935 as he joined Pionierbatallion 16 (Engineers batallion) in Höxter as an officer's candidate. He was promoted to Leutnant (Lieutenant) on April 20th, 1937. August 1st, 1938, he joined the newly established Fallschirm-Infanterie-Batallion (Parachute Infantry Batallion) commanded by Major Richard Heidrich. Two months later he was a fully qualified paratrooper. January 1st, 1939, the batallion was transferred to the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and he went on to become an officer of Engineers. He was promoted to Oberleutnant in July 1939 and was given command of Pionierzug der Fallschirm-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch". (Engineers platoon of Para Assaultgroup Koch).

As commander of Sturmgruppe Granit (Assaultgroup Granite), Witzig took part in the storming of Fortress Eben-Emaël in Belgium on May 10th, 1940. The other units of commander Hauptmann (Captain) Walter Koch were assigned to capture the three bridges on the Albert Canal. Sturmgruppe Granit was to land on top of the fortress in gliders. The glider containing Trupp 11 (Section) and Rudolf Witzig encountered problems with its tow cable and was forced to return to Germany. Witzig joined his men three hours later after having arranged alternative transport. The capture of the fortress, widely thought to be impregnable, turned out to be an astonishing success for which he was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross) by Hitler personally. There was however, one slight problem: Witzig had not yet been awarded the Eisernes Kreuz 2 and EK 1 (Iron Crosses 2nd and 1st class), necessary to qualify for the Ritterkreuz. The solution was simple: Witzig was awarded the EK 2 and 1 on the spot and so the qualifications were met. May 16th, 1940, all soldiers who had participated in the attack were promoted to the next higher rank, Witzig attaining the rank of Hauptmann.

During Operation Mercury, the invasion of the island of Crete, Witzig was in command of 9 Kompanie/III Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment (Airborne Assault Regiment) and landed in the Maleme area. He was injured during the fighting and was transferred to the Luftwaffe hospital in Athens and later on to various other hospitals.

May 10th, 1942, Witzig was put in command of Fallschirm-Korps-Pionier-Batallion (Parachute Corps, Engineers Batallion) and was promoted to Major in August of the same year. From November 1942 onwards, Witzig and his batallion served in Tunisia, being attached to Luftwaffe Regiment Barenthin under Oberst Von Manteuffel, General Von Broich and General Bülowius. The batallion lent assistance on the defense line in the northern sector of Tunisia where Witzig's name would be closely tied to the succesfull defensive actions. Finally, the survivors of the batallion were pulled out of North-Africa prior to the general surrender in May 1943.

June 15th, 1944, Witzig was named commander of 1 Fallschirm Pionier Regiment 21(Parachute Engineers Regiment). July 1944, they were dispatched to Lituania where they would be deployed. The individual companys took up positions in open field near the road between Dunaburg and Kovno and settled down to wait for the Soviet advance. July 26th, the Soviets attacked with a strong armoured regiment. It would be the fiercest battle the batallion would participate in and the losses were severe. However, they inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy as well, knocking out no less than 27 enemy tanks. Finally they were forced to relinguish their positions and retreat towards eastern Prussia. In October 1944, the batallion left the Eastern front and was sent to Bützow in Mecklenburg to regroup. December 16th, Witzig was named commander of Fallschirm-Jâger-Regiment 18/Fallschirm Jâger Division stationed in the Netherlands. Between February and March 1945, they bitterly contested superior British and Canadian forces in the Reichswald (State Forest) and retreated in March to defend the river Rhine. Allied armour pushed them even further back into Germany. Finally, Witzig and the other survivors of FJR 18 surrendered to the Allies May 8th, 1945.

In the fifties' Witzig returned to military life. He rose to the rank of Oberst and served on the Staff of the Pionierschule (Engineers' School) of the West-German Bundeswehr. (German Army). Ultimately, he retired in 1974, having spent 28 years in service to his country.

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Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant (Flying Officer)
Unit:
Sturmgruppe "Granit", Fallschirm-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch", 7.Flieger-Division, Luftwaffe
Awarded on:
May 10th, 1940
Awarded for:
Operation Fall Gelb
Action:
For merit and services in connection to the capture of Fort Eben-Emael.
Details:
Führer
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant)
Unit:
Sturmgruppe "Granit", Fallschirm-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch", 7.Flieger-Division, Luftwaffe
Awarded on:
May 10th, 1940
Awarded for:
Operation Fall Gelb
Details:
Führer
Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant)
Unit:
Sturmgruppe "Granit", Fallschirm-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch", 7.Flieger-Division, Luftwaffe
Awarded on:
May 10th, 1940
Awarded for:
Operation Fall Gelb
Details:
Führer
Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant)
Unit:
Sturmgruppe "Granit", Fallschirm-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch", 7.Flieger-Division, Luftwaffe
Awarded on:
May 11th, 1940
Awarded for:
Operation Fall Gelb
Action:
"(Extra) The strongest fort of the fortress Lüttich, Eben-Emael, which dominates the crossings of the Maas and Albert-Canal near and west of Maastrich surrendered Saturday afternoon. The commanding officer and 1000 men were taken prisoner of war. The fort was already rendered defenceless and the garrison pinned down on 10 May by a specially selected unit of the Luftwaffe under the leadership of Oberleutnant Witzig and deploying new combat means. The garrison dropped their arms when an attacking unit of the Army, after heavy combat, established contact with the detachment Witzig."
Wehrmachtbericht
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
October 18th, 1941
Verwundetenabzeichen 1939 in Schwarz
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
November 12th, 1942
Ärmelband Kreta
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
January 6th, 1943
Ärmelband Afrika
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
August 1st, 1943
Erdkampfabzeichen der Luftwaffe
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Major
Unit:
Korps-Fallschirm-Pionier-Bataillon, XI.Flieger-Korps, Luftwaffe
Awarded on:
October 17th, 1943
Details:
Kommandeur
Deutsches Kreuz in Gold
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Major
Unit:
I./Fallschirm-Pionier-Regiment 21, Luftwaffe
Awarded on:
August 8th, 1944
Action:
"1st Battalion of the Fallschirm-Pionierregiments 21 under the command of Major Witzig distinguished themselves and showed exemplary fighting spirit in the combat area west of Kauen. The Battalion destroyed 27 enemy tanks in close combat on one day."
Wehrmachtbericht
Periode:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Major
Unit:
I./Fallschirm-Pionier-Regiment 21, Luftwaffe
Awarded on:
November 25th, 1944
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub
Details:
Kommandeur

Sources

  • Photo: Major Plm
  • - Die Ordensträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht
    - Kurowski F., Knight’s Cross Holders of the Fallschirmjäger, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., USA, 1995
    - Williamson G., Knight’s Cross and Oak-Leaves Recipients 1339-40, Osprey Publishing, Great Britain,2004
    - Helden der Wehrmacht II, Sammelband (Miscellany), FZ-Verlag GmbH, München, Deutschland, 2003
    - Fallschirmjäger 1936-1945