Hyazinth / Hyacinth

100-jähriges Bestehen

Im Jahre 2003 hat der Familienverband der Grafen und Freiherren von Strachwitz sein 100-jähriges Bestehen gefeiert.

The Armoured Count, shown here in standard black AFV uniform, with a unique version of the officer's Feldmütze (field hat), having astrakhan fleece added to the turndown flaps.
Colour photo courtesy of Paal Waland

Born on 30 July 1893 to a wealthy family in Upper Silesia, Graf (Count) Strachwitz (whose Christian name, by tradition in his family, was given to first born sons for over 700 years in homage to Saint Hyazinth) attended military school in Berlin and in 1912 joined the Regiment Garde du Corps as a commissioned officer.  The unit was a very socially exclusive one, being the most senior regiment of the Prussian Army.   Graf Strachwitz distinguished himself in sports before the First World War, and saw action as a junior officer, being captured during a patrol early in the war and spending long years in captivity after a death sentence (for wearing civilian clothes on the patrol) was commuted.  Nonetheless, he had time enough to win both the Iron Cross II Class and I Class.

Between the wars, Graf Strachwitz helped in the defence of Silesia against Polish incursions, in the turmoil that was post-war Germany, and after a time he left the military to run the family estate (Grossstein).  As a reserve officer, he attended exercises of Reiter (Cavalry) Regiment 7 and Panzer Regiment 2 during the 1930s.  He served with the latter regiment in Poland, France and the Balkans.  He participated in the advance on Belgrade in the spring of 1941, a drive in which Infantry Regiment GD also took part.

By the time of the Russian invasion, Graf Strachwitz (holding the rank of Major) commanded the first battalion of Panzer Regiment 2, being awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 25 August 1941.   On 13 November 1942, he became the 144th soldier to be awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, by now commanding the entire regiment.  Fighting on the northern front of the Stalingrad pocket, his unit destroyed 105 Soviet tanks without loss; he was seriously wounded and lucky enough to be evacuated before the Stalingrad pocket collapsed.

By January 1943, "der Panzergraf" (The Armoured Count, as he was by then known) was an Oberst and given command of Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland.  Not long after followed the award of the Swords to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, on 28 March 1943, for his part in the counterattack at Kharkov.

In November 1943, Strachwitz left the Grossdeutschland on what were termed grounds of ill health in the official record.  Off the record, tension existed between Graf Strachwitz and GD's divisional commander, Generalleutnant "Papa" Hoernlein.   Some veterans feel that the true reason for his leaving lied there. Graf Strachwitz has been described as a good tactician at the battalion and regimental level, but also as being inflexible not open to compromise.

 

Image
In the turret of a PzKpfw IV command tank.

Being recalled to active duty after extended sick leave in January 1944, and with promotion to Generalmajor d.R. (der Reserve), Graf Strachwitz went on to become the 11th soldier of the German Armed Forces to be awarded the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, on 15 April 1944.  He briefly commanded the 1st Panzer Division during this time.

 

Many references say that the Count went on to command the Panzer Lehr Division from 8 June to 23 August 1944, in Normandy; he may in fact have been slated to replace Bayerlein.  He was definitely in Russia on the Courland front in late August, inspecting the front, when he was injured severely in an automobile accident.  To that point he had already been wounded thirteen (!) times.  With great powers of recuperation, The Armoured Count was soon back in action, and after promotion to Generalleutnant in January 1945, was first raising new armoured units, and then once again planning the defence of his Silesian homeland.   The qualities described above are felt by some to have prevented effective command by him of a division-size formation.  His skill and bravery at lower levels had always shone through, and Strachwitz was at his best acting independently, without having to interact with officers of equal or superior rank.

He continued to lead his troops despite poor heath which manifested itself by an inability to walk,severe headaches and long spells spent unconscious inside his vehicle.   Nonetheless, he looked to his troops first, and he led his men west out of what was to become the Soviet zone of occupation to surrender to the Americans rather than be captured by the Russians.  Having lost two sons during the war, he would go on to lose his wife while in captivity.  His Silesian estate was taken by the Russians, and Strachwitz remained in West Germany upon his release from US custody.  After a brief journey to Syria to help organize the military there (and his subsequent flight from Syria after the ruling power was overthrown), he settled on an estate in Bavaria in 1951, where he lived until 1968.  He lies today in Grabenstätt, Germany, having passed away shy of his 75th birthday.

ImageGraf Strachwitz wearing the Swords and Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.   He wears the same fur-trimmed hat as shown above, wearing just the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross.

ImageMajor Walter Pössl is decorated by his commander, The Armoured Count, on 20 April 1943.  Pössl commanded the 1st Battalion of Panzer Regiment GD when on 14 March, he saved the Armoured Reconaissance Battalion GD from a flanking attack by Soviet armour.   Thirty-nine T-34s were destroyed in the engagement.