GUSTAV KNITTEL - the Biography

Career, crimes and trial of SS-Sturmbannführer Gustav Knittel Commander of the Aufklärungsabteilung ´LSSAH´

gustav knittel at
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Paperback : € 46,50

ISBN/EAN: 978-94-9247-554-1

Hardback : € 56,50

ISBN/EAN: 978-94-9247-555-8


In the summer of 1946, Gustav Knittel, a 31-year old former SS officer from the Bavarian town of Neu-Ulm, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders his battalion, Schnelle Gruppe Knittel, had committed in and around the Belgian town of Stavelot during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.

The author, Timo R. Worst, reconstructed Knittel’s personal life, his military career in the Waffen-SS and both his personal involvement in the grim story of that horrendous week in the Ardennes and the role the men under his command played in the murder of over a hundred civilians and unarmed prisoners of war.

Not content with the published works about the beastly behaviour of the SS in Stavelot and the surrounding hamlets, he felt compelled to visit the Ardennes himself, to search the archives and ultimately to contact veterans of Knittel’s battalion and to consult his family.

By providing the available pieces of the puzzle, Worst allows the reader to follow Knittel’s footsteps: his entry in the SS, the units he led traversing Europe from France and Greece to Italy, Ukraine and Belgium, the men under his command, the battles he fought and awards he won, but also his doubts about the outcome of the war and how this effected his state of mind, the massacres, his arrest, the trial and his post-war life.

The resulting book enables the reader to see through the multiple smoke screens created not only by Knittel, his defence lawyers and his wartime comrades, but also by his captors, his interrogators and the prosecution, all who knowingly fudged, were evasive or downright lied about the facts in order to ensure the success of their own personal motives and political.

Table of content

1.1 Childhood and school years

1.2 The Allgemeine SS

1.3 SS-Standarte ‘Deutschland’

1.4 Officer course at the SS-Junkerschule in Bad Tölz

1.5 Motorcyclist

2.1 Baptism of fire

2.2 Formation of the Aufklärungsabteilung ‘LSSAH’

2.3 Operation ‘Marita’

2.4 The invasion of the Soviet-Union

2.5 Formation of the 3. (le. SPW) Kompanie

2.6 Turning the tide at Kharkiv

2.7 The ‘Schrippenbäcker von Ulm’ becomes battalion commander

2.8 Operation ‘Citadel’

2.9 Disarming the Italians and guarding their ‘Duce’

3.1 The Soviet Juggernaut

3.2 “You want to call yourself Leibstandarte?”

3.3 The German Cross in Gold and the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

3.4 The long road to marriage

3.5 Rebuilding the Aufklärungsabteilung in Belgium

3.6 Invasion!

3.7 Operation ‘Lüttich’

3.8 Hell in the Falaise Pocket

3.9 Doubts about the Final Victory

4.1 The horrible week in the Ardennes begins

4.2 The massacre in Wéreth

4.3 “They’ve killed a good few at the crossroads”

4.4 The killings in la Vaulx Richard

4.5 The American counterattack on Stavelot

4.6 Back to Stavelot

4.7 The advance on Stavelot

4.8 The war crimes in Ster, Renardmont Parfondruy and Trois-Ponts

4.9 Failed attempt to outflank the defenders

4.10 The massacre in the garden of the Legaye house

4.11 The American response

4.12 The murders near the Château de Petit-Spay

4.13 The American attacks on Ster, Renardmont and Parfondruy

4.14 Stavelot is lost

4.15 Retreat from the Amblève Pocket

5.1 Until the end of the war

5.2 The search for Knittel

5.3 Imprisonment in Ulm

5.4 Schwäbisch Hall

5.5 On trial

5.6 War Criminals Prison No. 1

5.7 The lone wolf

gustav knittel trial at

Recommended by Danny S. Parker, author

In this new biography of Waffen-SS officer Gustav Knittel, Timo Worst documents the life of a man who would become the head of the reconnaissance battalion of the 1st SS Panzer Division in Hitler’s Third Reich. Knittel’s life mirrors the prospects and war path of other officers in the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler – a formation which developed an infamous reputation for brutality and war crimes in the Second World War.

How did this state of affairs come to be? Worst gives us many details which amount to a war-time mosaic of what it meant to be an SS officer in Hitler’s most favoured combat formation. With Knittel’s life as a central pivot, we gain new insight into the savage actions in which his reconnaissance battalion became engaged, both on the Eastern Front and in the West. It is then hardly surprising that as the combat heir to Kurt Meyer, Knittel’s command developed a savage reputation.

Nor did the affair end with the war. As we learn about the post war Malmédy trial and how Knittel and the others under him successfully campaigned to escape the hangman at Landsberg prison. Ultimately, they were released into a Germany that bore little resemblance to the one for which they had fought from 1939-45.
While SS officers such as Peiper, Meyer and Mohnke have previously been covered in recent literature this is a new contribution with revealing details and revelations regarding Gustav Knittel. Recommended.

Danny S. Parker

80 years ago, 1943

www.knittelbooks Memorial Church in Yefremivka

"Temple of Blood" Memorial Church in Yefremivka (Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine)


“It took eight days to get to Russia by train and once there I noticed that the landscape was one of vast empty spaces, no trees or bushes as far as one could see. The villages were large but very poor with no gas, no electricity and no toilets either. Water had to be fetched from a well and the toilets were holes in the gardens. The towns and cities of course were more like western cities. How those people lived like that I will never know.”[i]


This is how Gert Hartwig Pries described his first impressions of Ukraine. He was a young volunteer who had just completed basic training in Berlin-Lichterfelde and who was now on a train to Kharkiv to join the staff of the Aufklärungsabteilung as a dispatch rider. After two months of bitter fighting, the battle for Kharkiv was finally over and the Leibstandarte needed time to recover. The Aufklärungsabteilung was quartered in Valky, fifty five kilometres southwest of Kharkiv. On the 18th of March 1943 SS-Obersturmbannführer Meyer recommended Knittel for the Wound Badge 2nd class (silver) for the injuries he had sustained at Saint-Pourçain in June 1940, at Marshilievsk in July 1941 and at Bereka the previous February.[ii] The medal was approved and awarded on or about the 22nd of March.[iii] Knittel had every reason to be pleased with himself: he planned to marry Raymonde[iv] and during the Kharkiv battles he had proven to himself and to his superiors that he was a very skilful and brave commander of an armoured reconnaissance company and of several ad hoc battle groups. As a result, his career as an officer in the Leibstandarte was about to take a major step forward. It was at this time that Kurt Meyer bid his men farewell as he travelled to Belgium to his new post as commander of the 25. SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment in the newly formed 12. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division ‘Hitlerjugend’. SS-Hauptsturmführer Bremer and SS-Hauptsturmführer Olboeter accompanied Meyer to become battalion commanders in the new division. SS-Hauptsturmführer Weiser was transferred to the ‘Generalkommando’ (general headquarters) of the I. SS-Panzerkorps to become Dietrich’s aide. Kurt Landrichter, an SS-Unterscharführer in the staff, returned from home leave and noticed the changes:


“Panzermeyer was gone and with him many comrades from the 2. Kompanie and from the staff. I felt quite miserable. Erich also returned from home leave and he also felt a bit lost all of a sudden. The new commander was Gustav Knittel. He had brought his own staff with him and at first they did not know what to do with us. We had a so-called cushy number.”[v]

[i] Memories from Gert Pries (BBC People’s War, Article ID: A6875913.

[ii] War diary of the Aufklärungsabteilung ‘LSSAH’ (BA-MA, Microfilm M860).

[iii] The exact date is unknown but SS-Hauptsturmführer Olboeter had also been recommended for the Wound Badge 2nd class on the 18th of March 1943 and was awarded the medal on the 22nd (Olboeter’s Personal File, NARA).

[iv] Knittel used the lull in the fighting to submit his ‘Verlobungs- und Heiratsgesuch’ (engagement and marriage application) to the ‘Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt’ (SS Race and Settlement Main Office or RuSHA) in Berlin. Knittel’s long and complicated road to marriage is described in chapter 10.

[v] Landrichter, Kurt: unpublished manuscript courtesy of Jupp Steinbüchel. Landrichter recalled how the cushy number came to and end: Then it was decided: I was transferred to the Panzerspähkompanie. Fine with me, I know some of the comrades from combined operations when they were assigned to us with their 4- and 8-wheelers. Contact with the others was fine – but still, I was the new guy. What would be my task? All vehicles already had a commander. It seems I was superfluous. Then I had to report to the company commander: ‘our ‘Rechnungsführer’ (Disbursing Officer) has taken ill. You will replace him at once!’ Poingg… that was a job I did not like one bit. Rechnungsführer – paperwork!”

See chapter 2.7 of “Career, Crimes and Trial of SS-Sturmbannführer Gustav Knittel”

Sample pages