Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller

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Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller
File:General F.-W. Mueller.jpg
General Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, at Berlin, in 1944
Nickname(s) The Butcher of Crete
Born (1897-08-29)29 August 1897
Barmen, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire now Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Died 20 May 1947(1947-05-20) (aged 49)
Athens, Central Greece, Greece
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1915–45
Rank General der Infanterie
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller (29 August 1897 – 20 May 1947) was a General in the German Army in World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, awarded by Nazi Germany to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He is notorious for having been the most brutal commander of occupied Crete, where he earned the nickname "The Butcher of Crete." After the war, he was tried by a Greek military court for war crimes, convicted and executed.

Pre-war and early war

In 1915 Müller joined the German 2nd Infantry Regiment. He became a second lieutenant in the 266th Regiment in 1915. In 1936 he became a major in the German army, and by 1940 was a lieutenant colonel and commander of the 105th Infantry Regiment. He was awarded the Knight's Cross in 1941 and received oak leaves in 1942 for operations in the Soviet Union.


In August 1942 General Müller took command of the 22nd Air Landing Infantry Division, which was transferred from the Eastern Front to garrison occupied Crete. In Crete, Müller became notorious for his brutality, and he was responsible for many of the atrocities committed on the island (e.g. the holocaust of Viannos, the destruction of Anogia and the Kedros villages of Amari, the execution of civilians in Damasta, etc.). Viannos is a mountainous area in the southeastern part of Heraklion regional unit, stretching between the feet of Mount Dikti in the north and the Libyan Sea in the south coast of Crete. Following the Battle of Crete in 1941 during which the island fell to the Axis, Viannos and the nearby Lasithi were part of the Italian occupation zone. Until the end of 1942, the Italians had hardly any presence in the area, hence facilitating the set up and activation of several resistance groups. Among them was one of the largest guerrilla bands in Crete led by Manolis Bandouvas (also spelled as 'Pantouwas'). In early 1943, the increasing activity of guerrillas combined with the rumors that the Allies had plans to invade Crete, led the Italians to start the construction of coastal fortifications and install garrisons in the region. On the other hand, the Germans had started since 1942 to station forces of their own in the coastal villages of Tsoutsouros and Arvi. In May 1943, they also established an outpost with three men in Kato Simi that were in charge of collecting potatoes for the provision of occupation troops and keeping the surroundings under surveillance. The Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 followed by the Italian armistice announced on September 8 and the smuggling of the Italian commander of eastern Crete Angelico Carta to Egypt, reinforced the rumors that an Allied operation against Crete was imminent. Prompted by this misapprehension, Bandouvas ordered an attack against the German outpost in Kato Simi. According to British sources, he acted without consulting the British; he anticipated that the Allies would soon land, and hoped that he would emerge as a national hero when they did so.[2] Bandouvas later claimed that he had instructed his men to capture the Germans alive, conforming to orders from Cairo. Nevertheless, his claims were denied by SOE agents Patrick Leigh Fermor and Thomas James Dunbabin. Another theory for Bandouvas’ motives suggests that he naively fell into a provocative trap treacherously set by the British who, preparing for the post-war era, aimed to wipe out the increasingly popular local units of pro-communist EAM/ELAS.[4] In any case, on September 10 Bandouvas' partisans killed the two soldiers present at the German outpost at the time of the attack and threw their bodies in a crevice. Soon after their death, the bodies of the two German soldiers stationed in Kato Simi were discovered and news of the incident reached their superiors, which ordered an infantry company to move to the village and investigate their fate. In the mean time, Bandouvas had realized that the village was in danger and he was left with no other option but to defend it. Thus, he set an ambush with 40 of his men in a valley near the entrance of Kato Simi and waited for the Germans. They appeared on the morning of September 12 and were assaulted with running fire. Despite their initial surprise, the Germans managed to retreat and a fierce battle began that lasted until the late afternoon. In the end, the Germans were defeated, having suffered heavy losses (various sources estimated their dead between 40 and 200) whereas many were wounded and 12 were captured alive. Bandouvas’ partisans lost only one man and withdrew to the mountains.On the day following the elimination of the German company in Kato Simi, a large force numbering more than 2000 men started to gather in Viannos. Exasperated by the loss of his men and wanting to set an example for fleeing Italians who were considering joining with the partisans, the commander of Heraklion Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller ordered troops of the 65th regiment of the 22. Luftlande Infanterie-Division garrison unit to destroy Viannos and promptly execute all males beyond the age of sixteen as well as everyone who was arrested in the countryside, irrespective of gender or age. Hence, a plan for the systematic destruction of Viannos was put into place starting on September 13. Separated into smaller groups, forces from the Grenadier-Regiment 65 surrounded the region, invading it simultaneously from various directions. At the beginning, they reassured the locals that their intentions were peaceful, persuading many of the men who had fled to the mountains to return to their homes. On the following day (September 14), they went in for indiscriminate mass executions, impromptu shootings, torture, arrests, lootings, arsons, vandalisms and demolitions.

During the autumn of 1943, he led the German forces in their victory over the Italian-British forces in the Dodecanese Campaign. On the 6th of October, on the island of Kos, under his orders, German forces killed and buried in mass graves over one hundred Italian army officers captured at the end of the battle for the island, who would not side with the former allies[1]

On 1 July 1944 he replaced Bruno Brauer as Commander on Crete.

By 1945, Müller commanded the German 4th Army on the Eastern Front. The 4th Army had already been decimated by fighting in the Heiligenbeil Pocket by the time he assumed command. Müller ended the war in East Prussia and was captured by the Soviets.

In 1946, Müller was tried by a Greek court in Athens for the massacres of hostages for reprisals. He was sentenced to death on 9 December 1946 and executed by firing squad on 20 May 1947,[2] along with former General Bruno Bräuer, on the anniversary of the German invasion of Crete.

Ill Meet by Moonlight

The original SOE plan, as described in the book Ill Meet by Moonlight written by W. Stanley Moss, later made into a film, was to capture Müller, the commander of the Sebastopol division. But, he had been replaced by General Kreipe. SOE believed that Müller had left Crete, when he was in Hania replacing Brauer as the commander of the island. The operation to capture a general was carried out, nevertheless, as it was reckoned that one German general was as good as another.


Wehrmachtbericht references

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
19 January 1942 Bei der Wiedereroberung von Feodosia hat sich der Ritterkreuzträger Oberst Müller erneut durch hervorragende persönliche Tapferkeit, Entschlußkraft und umsichtige Führung seines Regiments ausgezeichnet.[12] In the reconquest of Feodosia, the Knight's Cross bearer Colonel Mueller has once again distinguished himself by showing excellent personal courage, decisiveness and prudent leadership of his regiment.
18 November 1943 Wie durch Sondermeldung bekanntgegeben, haben deutsche Truppen des Heeres und der Luftwaffe unter Führung von Generalleutnant Müller nach viertägigem, zähem und wechselvollem Ringen gegen einen an Zahl und Bewaffnung überlegenem Feind am 16. November den englischen Seestützpunkt Leros genommen.[13] As announced by special bulletin, German troops of the Army and the Air Force under the command of Lieutenant General Müller, after four days of tough and changeful ringing, have against an enemy of superior numbers and armament, conquered the British naval base at Leros on 16 November.



  1. Isabella Insolvibile, Kos 1943-1948. La strage, la storia, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane (31 dicembre 2012)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Thomas 1998, p. 104.
  4. Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 318.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Scherzer 2007, p. 555.
  6. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 317.
  7. Von Seemen 1976, p. 246.
  8. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 59.
  9. Von Seemen 1976, p. 28.
  10. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 47.
  11. Von Seemen 1976, p. 19.
  12. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 14.
  13. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 608.


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External links

Military offices
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Ludwig Wolff
Commander of 22. Infanterie-Division
1 August 1942 – 15 February 1944
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Heinrich Kreipe
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Hermann Böhme
Commander of V. Armeekorps
4 May 1944 – 2 June 1944
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Dr. Franz Beyer
Preceded by
General der Infantrie Friedrich Hoßbach
Commander of 4. Armee
29 January 1945 – 27 April 1945
Succeeded by