Hans Graf von Sponeck bigraphy, stories - German general

Hans Graf von Sponeck : biography

12 February 1888 - 23 July 1944

Hans Graf von Sponeck or Hans Emil Otto Graf von Sponeck (12 February 1888 – 23 July 1944) was a German General-Leutnant during World War II who was imprisoned for disobeying orders and later executed. He was the father of Hans von Sponeck.

Early life

Sponeck was the youngest of four children, and only son, of Emil August Joseph Anton Graf Sponeck and Maria (née Courtin). He was born on 12 February 1888 in Düsseldorf, Rhine Province, just months before his father's death at age 38. Hans spent his early years with his mother in Freiburg, Breisgau. This was near the "Burg Sponeck" which had given his family its title name.

In 1898, Sponeck entered the cadet corps in Karlsruhe, and became the "head cadet" at 17. He received his commission on 19 March 1908 with rank of Lieutenant. He was also a gymnast and a soccer player. He was promoted to Captain in 1908. He married on 29 September 1910 and had two sons by this marriage.

First World War

Sponeck was a front line officer and battalion adjutant during World War I, and was wounded three times. In 1916 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Afterwards he was awarded both classes of the Iron Cross with leaves.

Last requiem

On 23 July 1999, the 55th anniversary of the execution, Sponeck's son by his second marriage, Hans-Christof Graf Sponeck, who was just six years old when his father was executed, held a requiem at his father's grave. Hans-Christof Graf Sponeck served as Assistant Secretary General and Diplomat, United Nations, until his retirement a short time ago.

Interwar period

Between 1924 and 1934, he served on the General Staff HQ and later, as full colonel, commanded an infantry regiment at Neustrelitz. In 1925, Graf von Sponeck was admitted to the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg) as a Knight of Honor.Robert M. Clark, Jr., The Evangelical Knights of Saint John; Dallas, Texas: 2003; p. 46.

Sponeck commanded Infantry Regiment 48 at Döberitz until late 1937 when he transferred to the Luftwaffe to establish paratrooper units. During the course of the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, Sponeck was recalled by contemporaries as having suggested his willingness to lead his troops in support of army commander-in-chief Werner von Fritsch if called to do so,Deutsch, Harold. Hitler and His Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January - June 1938. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1974. p 248. though no such plan ever came to fruition.

On 1 February 1938, Sponeck was promoted to major general. During the trial of General von Fritsch, Sponeck was called as a character witness but was roughly put down by Göring, who was serving as Court President. Nevertheless, Sponeck became commander of the 22nd Infantry Division with 42nd Army Corps training the troops as airborne infantry (Fallschirmjäger).

Second World War

On 1 February 1940, von Sponeck was promoted to Generalleutnant. The German airborne assault on the Low Countries began on 10 May 1940 with Generals Kurt Student and Hans Graf von Sponeck. Sponeck led the German troops in the failed Battle for the Hague and was almost captured, only to be saved by the bombardment of Rotterdam on the 14th of May 1940, that led the Dutch capitulation. He was wounded and on his return to Germany was further awarded with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross by Adolf Hitler.

Eastern campaign

Before dawn on 22 June 1941, the offensive against the Soviet Union was launched. Hans Sponeck was part of the 11th Army in the south attacking in the direction of the Crimea Peninsula. On Sponeck's return from injury leave, von Manstein gave him command of 46th Infanterie Division which had taken the Kerch Peninsula on the extreme east tip of the peninsula.

On 26 December 1941, the Russians launched an invasion of Crimea. Their plan was to land seaborne troops at Kerch and Mount Opuk, supported by later landings at Theodosia with 42,000 troops. On December 28 the battle in eastern Crimea had developed in favour of the Germans with them having eliminated one of the two Soviet beachheads around the town of Kerch. Sponeck requested permission to retreat to avoid being cut off and captured and so to regroup, but was denied three times. On 29 December the Russians landed additional forces on the southern coast at Theodosia and Sponeck had only thirty minutes to decide on his actions. On his own initiative, as a trained Prussian officer, he gave order for his 10,000 men to retreat. In temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius, in a howling snowstorm and icy winds, the battalions of the 46th Infantry Division marched west. The soldiers marched for 46 hours with only the occasional rest for coffee, to warm up. Many suffered frostbite, and most of the horses starved. Much of the Divisions heavy equipment, including its artillery, remained behind on the frozen road.

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Living octopus

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