Kniep, Walter

Date of birth:
December 13th, 1909 (Lorenzen/Easternprussia, Germany)
Date of death:
April 2nd, 1944 (Tours/Indre-et-Loire, France)
Buried on:
German War Cemetery Mont-de-Huisnes
Row: 55. Grave: 135.
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

Walter Kniep died on 22nd April 1944 near Tours as Kommandeur SS-Panzer-Abteilung 17 "Götz von Berlichingen".

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Hauptsturmführer
Unit:
3. / SS (motorisiert) "Der Führer"
Awarded on:
November 11th, 1941
Deutsches Kreuz in Gold
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Sturmbannführer (Major)
Unit:
Kommandeur SS-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 2 "Das Reich"
Awarded on:
August 14th, 1943
Action:
Kniep’s Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…

“After the breakthrough of the strong enemy defensive system north of Belgorod, in which the SS-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung “Das Reich” had a decisive role, on the 08.07.1943 the Division had the task of covering the long open east flank of the II. SS-Panzer-Korps with the bulk of its units. Meanwhile the Division’s armoured group was to launch a thrust to the west, in order to break the enemy resistance blocking the path of the SS-Pz.Gren.DIv. ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’ via a flank attack.

On the early morning of the 08.07.1943 the enemy advanced against the positions of the Panzergrenadier Regiments ‘Deutschland’ and ‘Der Führer’ with strong infantry and tank forces. Their goal was to launch a decisive counterattack with the aim of retaking a commanding hill near Kalinin that they had lost on the previous day. From here they would cut the supply line to both the Division and the whole Korps. Aerial reconnaissance had reported large enemy tank assemblies, which were confirmed later by the observation of 170 deployed enemy tanks.

The Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung had a Batterie present with both the ‘Deutschland’ and ‘Der Führer’ Panzergrenadier regiments, with the third being held back as a divisional reserve. After the enemy infantry had been separated from their tanks, the first wave of enemy armour rolled over our own positions and thrusted to a depth of 9 km into our territory.

At this time almost all wire communications of the Division had been destroyed.

In this ominous situation SS-Sturmbannführer Kniep decided on his own initiative to gather his Batterien together, even though two were already heavily engaged in the hard defensive battles. From an assembly area to the rear, he then moved out with his vehicles as a heavily armoured fist towards the enemy tank forces.

In the ensuing fluid battle, which lasted for hours, Kniep was at the head of his Abteilung able to crush the enemy. His Sturmgeschütze destroyed 51 enemy tanks for the loss of just one of their own, with Kniep personally accounting for 5 of these.

Through this decisive and aggressive action it was primarily to SS-Sturmbannführer Kniep’s credit that the enemy armoured breakthrough was smashed in a timely manner. His actions also ensured that the bulk of the remaining enemy tanks - now leaderless - could be destroying by the other AT weapons of the Division. A large number were eventually taken down by the SS Panzergrenadiers equipped with close combat weapons, some of whom were through the bold and successful example of SS-Sturmbannführer Kniep and his Sturmgeschütze inspired into a true hunting mode. In total 92 enemy tanks were destroyed in this battle.

In order to exploit the tactical success achieved by SS-Sturmbannführer Kniep, the SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. ‘Deutschland’ immediately launched their own attack and were able to significantly improve our frontline. These newly won positions would serve as the jump-off point for the later successful attack of the 2nd Regiment of the SS-Pz.Gren.Div. ‘Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler’ on the 09.07.1943. In addition to this the munitions, fuel and other supply dumps that were already in reach of the enemy armoured thrust, as well as the tightly clustered staff units (who had been forced into a small area due to the situation and terrain) were spared of major losses.

SS-Sturmbannführer Kniep is a brave, decisive and dutiful Abteilung commander, who has shown himself to be a master of employing his Sturmgeschütze in such a way as to inflict maximum losses on the enemy for the slightest of friendly losses. Through this the Division was greatly helped in its successes and did not have to suffer greater losses in men and materiel.

In the fighting north of Belgorod during the time period 05-17.07.1943, SS-Sturmbannführer Kniep and his Abteilung were able to destroy 129 enemy tanks for the loss of just 2 of their own vehicles. He and his Abteilung also had a major share in the successful breakthroughs of the enemy defensive lines near Beresoff and Lutschki on the 05. and 07.07.1943.

SS-Sturmbannführer Kniep has already been awarded the German Cross in Gold on the 15.11.1941 as the first member of the Division to be so honoured.”
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

Sources