Rudolf Witzig was born August 14th, 1916, in Röhlinghausen, Westphalia, Germany. He embarked on a military career on April 1st, 1935 as he joined Pionierbatallion 16 (Engineers batallion) in Höxter as an officer's candidate. He was promoted to Leutnant (Lieutenant) on April 20th, 1937. August 1st, 1938, he joined the newly established Fallschirm-Infanterie-Batallion (Parachute Infantry Batallion) commanded by Major Richard Heidrich. Two months later he was a fully qualified paratrooper. January 1st, 1939, the batallion was transferred to the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and he went on to become an officer of Engineers. He was promoted to Oberleutnant in July 1939 and was given command of Pionierzug der Fallschirm-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch". (Engineers platoon of Para Assaultgroup Koch).
As commander of Sturmgruppe Granit (Assaultgroup Granite), Witzig took part in the storming of Fortress Eben-Emaël in Belgium on May 10th, 1940. The other units of commander Hauptmann (Captain) Walter Koch were assigned to capture the three bridges on the Albert Canal. Sturmgruppe Granit was to land on top of the fortress in gliders. The glider containing Trupp 11 (Section) and Rudolf Witzig encountered problems with its tow cable and was forced to return to Germany. Witzig joined his men three hours later after having arranged alternative transport. The capture of the fortress, widely thought to be impregnable, turned out to be an astonishing success for which he was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross) by Hitler personally. There was however, one slight problem: Witzig had not yet been awarded the Eisernes Kreuz 2 and EK 1 (Iron Crosses 2nd and 1st class), necessary to qualify for the Ritterkreuz. The solution was simple: Witzig was awarded the EK 2 and 1 on the spot and so the qualifications were met. May 16th, 1940, all soldiers who had participated in the attack were promoted to the next higher rank, Witzig attaining the rank of Hauptmann.
During Operation Mercury, the invasion of the island of Crete, Witzig was in command of 9 Kompanie/III Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment (Airborne Assault Regiment) and landed in the Maleme area. He was injured during the fighting and was transferred to the Luftwaffe hospital in Athens and later on to various other hospitals.
May 10th, 1942, Witzig was put in command of Fallschirm-Korps-Pionier-Batallion (Parachute Corps, Engineers Batallion) and was promoted to Major in August of the same year. From November 1942 onwards, Witzig and his batallion served in Tunisia, being attached to Luftwaffe Regiment Barenthin under Oberst Von Manteuffel, General Von Broich and General Bülowius. The batallion lent assistance on the defense line in the northern sector of Tunisia where Witzig's name would be closely tied to the succesfull defensive actions. Finally, the survivors of the batallion were pulled out of North-Africa prior to the general surrender in May 1943.
June 15th, 1944, Witzig was named commander of 1 Fallschirm Pionier Regiment 21(Parachute Engineers Regiment). July 1944, they were dispatched to Lituania where they would be deployed. The individual companys took up positions in open field near the road between Dunaburg and Kovno and settled down to wait for the Soviet advance. July 26th, the Soviets attacked with a strong armoured regiment. It would be the fiercest battle the batallion would participate in and the losses were severe. However, they inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy as well, knocking out no less than 27 enemy tanks. Finally they were forced to relinguish their positions and retreat towards eastern Prussia. In October 1944, the batallion left the Eastern front and was sent to Bützow in Mecklenburg to regroup. December 16th, Witzig was named commander of Fallschirm-Jâger-Regiment 18/Fallschirm Jâger Division stationed in the Netherlands. Between February and March 1945, they bitterly contested superior British and Canadian forces in the Reichswald (State Forest) and retreated in March to defend the river Rhine. Allied armour pushed them even further back into Germany. Finally, Witzig and the other survivors of FJR 18 surrendered to the Allies May 8th, 1945.
In the fifties' Witzig returned to military life. He rose to the rank of Oberst and served on the Staff of the Pionierschule (Engineers' School) of the West-German Bundeswehr. (German Army). Ultimately, he retired in 1974, having spent 28 years in service to his country.
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