The website has become even bigger and better! WW2Awards.com has been fully merged with TracesOfWar.com. From now on, the sections Persons and Awards are available. Much more information in a larger jacket

Dietrich, Josef "Sepp"

Date of birth:
May 28th, 1892 (Hawangen, Bavaria, Germany)
Date of death:
April 21st, 1966 (Ludwigsburg, Germany)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

Josef -Sepp- Dietrich was born May 28th, 1892, in Hawangen, Bavaria, Germany. He started his military career in the Bavarian army. During World War 1 he served as a gunner and was injured several times. After WW 1 he joined the Bavarian State Police. In 1928 he joined the NSDAP (National-Socialist Workers Party) where he came to know Hitler personally. His agressive spirit was highly appreciated and he became Hitler's personal bodyguard. Once Hitler had assumed power in 1933, Dietrich established Hitler's personal guard detail, a unit that would later be known as the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and became part of the Waffen-SS, the military section of the SS. Its original complement of 120 men increased during the course of the war to that of an armoured division. Dietrich, together with Hitler and six other men, was involved in the arrest and subsequent liquidation of Ernst Röhm, at the time the head of the SA (Sturm Abteilung)and Hitler's Chief of Staff, in what later became known as the Night of the Long Knives on June 30th, 1934, in Bad Wiessee.
During the Polish campaign, the Leibstandarte saw action for the first time as part of the Panzerdivision (Armoured division) Kemp. The unit committed the first warcrime before the war had even begun: in a synagogue, 50 Jews were murdered.

In the battle for Lodz, the Leibstandarte was deployed as an independant unit for the first time and later in Warsaw. Hitler took a keen interest in Dietrich's battle actions. When Germany invaded France and the Low Countries in 1940, the Leibstandarte, commanded by Dietrich pushed head-on through the Netherlands; the unit also participated in the encirclement of Dunkirque. Once again, the unit was involved in warcrimes by murdering 80 British POW's. Dietrich later maintained not to have been present nor to have given the order for the massacre. After the battle for France, Dietrich was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross). In April 1941, the unit participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece.

At the start of Operation Barbarossa, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union, the Leibstandarte was assigned to Heeresgruppe Süd (Armygroup South). During an offensive action, six mutilated bodies of SS soldiers were discovered by the unit. Dietrich ordered all Russian POW's to be shot in reprisal for three days; the number of victims was estimated to be 4.000.

In December 1942, he was awarded the Eichenlaub zum Ritterkreuz (Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross). That year, the Leibstandarte was stationed in France for rest and refit after the battles on the Eastern front. In the spring of 1943, Dietrich's division took part in the brilliant recapture of the Russian city of Charkow and again, the Leibstandarte commanded by Dietrich committed warcrimes by murdering 700 Russian POW's. For his achievements, Dietrich was awarded the Schwerten zum Ritterkreuz (Swords to the Knight's Cross). He then left the Leibstandarte temporarily for a period of rest and recuperation.
June 1944, saw Dietrich promoted to commander of the 1 SS Panzerdivision (SS Armoured division) that was stationed in France. During the Allied invasion in Normandy, the Leibstandarte did not succeed in driving the Allies back into the sea but they did prevent an Allied breakout for three weeks. Afterwards, Dietrich was promoted to SS-Oberstgruppenführer (SS General) and Generaloberst der Waffen-SS (approx. Commander in Chief), after Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the highest rank in the Waffen-SS. He was awarded the Brillianten zum Ritterkreuz (Diamonds to the Knight's Cross).
In November 1944, Dietrich was given command of 6 Panzerarmee (Tank Army). During Operation Wacht am Rhein, the Ardennes offensive, Dietrich's divisions encountered fierce resistance by the Americans who managed to prevent Dietrich from breaking through. Once again, the SS was involved in warcrimes: near the Belgian town of Malmédy, 100 American POW's were butchered.

After the failure of the Ardennes offensive, Dietrich was ordered to lead the last German offensive of the war: the capture of the oilfields near Budapest but in this, he failed.
In the wake of the armistice in May 1945, Dietrich and his wife surrendered to the American general Patton. Dietrich was imprisoned and brought before the Neurenburg wartribunal in 1946. He was charged with various warcrimes and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.
After haveng been released prematurely from the Landsberg prison in 1955, he was indicted again for his participation in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 and sentenced to another year and a half imprisonment.
Josef Dietrich died in Ludwigsburg, Germany on April 21st, 1966 at the age of 74.

Do you have more information about this person? Inform us!

Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
November 9th, 1933
Details:
(No. 10)
Ehrenzeichen des 9. November 1923 (Blutorden)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Gruppenführer (Major-general)
Unit:
Kommandeur Infanterie Regiment (mot.) "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
Awarded on:
September 25th, 1939
1939 Spange zum Eisernen Kreuzes 2er Klasse 1914
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Gruppenführer (Major-general)
Unit:
Kommandeur Infanterie Regiment (mot.) "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
Awarded on:
October 27th, 1939
1939 Spange zum Eisernen Kreuzes 1er Klasse 1914
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Obergruppenführer / General der Waffen-SS (Lieutenant-general)
Unit:
Kommandeur Infanterie Regiment (motorisiert) "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
Awarded on:
July 4th, 1940
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Obergruppenführer / General der Waffen-SS (Lieutenant-general)
Unit:
Kommandeur SS-Division (motorisiert) "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
Awarded on:
December 31st, 1941
Details:
41st Award.
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Obergruppenführer / General der Waffen-SS (Lieutenant-General)
Awarded on:
July 16th, 1942
Ordinul Corona Romaneii Grand Cross
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Obergruppenführer / General der Waffen-SS (Lieutenant-general)
Unit:
SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
Awarded on:
March 14th, 1943
Details:
26th Award.
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer / Generaloberst der Waffen-SS (General)
Unit:
Kommandierender General I.SS-Panzer-Korps "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
Awarded on:
August 6th, 1944
Details:
16th Award.
Ritterkreuz, Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten

Sources

  • Photo: Wilco Vermeer, Netherlands
    - Colour Photo Pop-Up: Willi Schumacher Collection
    - Former grave in Ludwigsburg: Beyerlein sammlung
  • - Fellgiebel W.P., Elite of the Third Reich, The recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939-1945: A Reference, Helion & Company Limited, Solihull, 2003, ISBN 1-874622-46-9
    - Yerger, M.C., Waffen-SS Commanders, Shiffer Publishing Ltd., U.S.A., 1997
    - Schneider J.W., Their Honor was Loyalty!, R. James Bender Publishing, 1977
    - Royal Decree No. 2020/16 July 1942, Romania
    - Feldgrau.com
    - Axis Biographical Research