My assignment to the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland” in Berlin was actually a form of rest and recreation — my first leave from the front — after my many wounds and in recognition of my combat decorations, including the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and the Close Combat Badge in Silver (48 days of close combat). Later I would be wounded again. In all I was to command the guard regiment for only four months, since I felt obligated to be back with my comrades at the front.
My mission as commander of the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland,” which I took over at the end of May 1944, was, aside from purely ceremonial duties, to safeguard the Reich government and the Reich capital. Since there were more than a million foreign workers in Berlin and its immediate vicinity, the possibility of internal unrest had to be taken into account. Around noon on July 20, 1944, First Lieutenant Dr. Hans Hagen, who had been severely wounded at the front, concluded his lecture on cultural history before the officers and NCOs of the regiment. He was attached to my regiment only administratively and in no way as a National Socialist political officer, as has often been reported. I was the regiment’s sole leader, politically as well as militarily.
I had invited Hagen to lunch afterward in my quarters at the Rathenow barracks, together with my adjutant, First Lieutenant Siebert. Siebert, who had lost an eye in combat, was a pastor of the Confessional Church [a branch of the German Protestant Church that opposed Hitler]. He attended services every Sunday at the Garrison Church, with my express permission, although I myself had left the church. Among us personal freedom was the rule. Nor did it bother me that, after having been an SA stormtrooper and a member of the party during the years of struggle before Hitler came to power, he had resigned from both organizations to protest defamatory remarks by his local party leader concerning the ancestry of Jesus Christ. Lt. Siebert suffered no adverse consequences due to his resignation.
In those days that sort of thing was entirely possible, with no repercussions. Indeed, before I chose Siebert, due to his character, as my adjutant, he confided to me that while still a stormtrooper he had broken into a Gestapo office in order to obtain documents incriminating colleagues in the Confessional Church. For me Siebert’s frank admissions were just a further evidence of the personal élan that recommended him as a trustworthy adjutant That’s the way it was in the Third Reich, so widely demonized nowadays. Neither in my unit nor in the officer corps as a whole did there prevail the stubborn narrowmindedness, not to mention the sort of terror against dissenting opinions, that is carried on against nationalists in Germany today by the “Office for Constitutional Protection.” Nor have I ever heard that Pastor Siebert considered himself to be a “resistance fighter” or that he later pretended to have been one.
During the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, my regiment, like all units of the Replacement Army, was alerted by the codeword “Valkyrie.” “Valkyrie” provided for the mobilization of the Replacement Army in case of internal unrest. While my regiment automatically implemented the prescribed measures, I was summoned from the swimming pool. In compliance with my orders I drove immediately to my designated post, the Berlin City Command Center, directly across from the “Eternal Watch” honor guard. While the other unit commanders waited in the anteroom, I alone was admitted to the city commander, Major General von Hase, and given the following briefing on the situation and my assignment: Weiterlesen