Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke

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Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-548-0725-28, Nordafrika, Bernhard-Hermann Ramcke (cropped).jpg
Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke
Born (1889-01-24)24 January 1889
Schleswig, Schleswig-Holstein, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 4 July 1968(1968-07-04) (aged 79)
Kappeln, Schleswig-Holstein, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine 1905–19
Flag of Weimar Republic (war).svg Reichswehr 1919–35
Balkenkreuz.svg   Heer 1935–40
Balkenkreuz.svg   Luftwaffe 1940–45
Years of service 1905–45
Rank General der Fallschirmtruppe
Unit SMS Stosch
SMS Moltke
SMS Medusa
SMS Prinz Adalbert
SMS Undine
SMS Blücher
SMS Wettin
7th Fliegerdivision
Commands held Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Ramcke, 2nd Fallschirmjäger Division
Battles/wars World War I

Russian Civil War

World War II

Awards Golden Military Merit Cross
Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Swords, Oak Leaves, and Diamonds

Hermann-Bernhard "Gerhard" Ramcke (24 January 1889 – 4 July 1968) was a German general. He was a recipient of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Swords, Oak Leaves, and Diamonds, one of only 27 people in the German military so decorated. Ramcke's career was unusual in that he served in all three branches of the German armed forces.[1] Ramcke was convicted of war crimes in a French court after the war and then released.

Early life and World War I

Ramcke was born in Schleswig to a family of farmers. He joined the German Imperial Navy in 1905 as ship's boy. During the First World War he served aboard the armored cruiser Prinz Adalbert in the Baltic and North Sea. When the Adalbert suffered extensive damage in 1915, fearing that the war might end before the ship returned to service, Ramcke transferred to the Marines. The Adalbert returned to service months later and was lost with 672[2] of her crew, as Ramcke would learn from a short telegram received at the front.[3]

Ramcke fought in the West with the German Marine-Infanterie, mainly in the area of Flanders. In 1916 he was decorated with the Iron Cross second class and later the Iron Cross first class.[4] After a defensive action against three British attacks he was decorated with the Prussian Golden Merit Cross, the highest decoration for non-commissioned officers in the German Imperial Forces, and became a deputy-commissioned officer.[5]

In 1918 he attained the rank of Leutnant der Marine-Infanterie. By the time the Armistice was signed, he had risen to the rank of Oberleutnant.[5] He had been wounded 5 times in combat and spent 18 months in hospital.[6]

In 1919 he then fought against the Bolsheviks in the Baltic as a member of the so-called "Russian Army of the West" (composed mostly of German veterans) and was wounded in the shoulder.[6] Ramcke stayed in the Reichswehr during the Weimar Republic period. He continued to serve in the new Wehrmacht during the Third Reich, climbing through the ranks until he attained the rank of Oberstleutnant in 1937.[5]

World War II

On 19 July 1940, Ramcke was transferred to the 7th Fliegerdivision under the command of General Kurt Student and was promoted to Oberst.[5] At the age of 51 he successfully completed the parachute qualification course.[4] In May 1941 working with the division Stab he helped plan and also took part in Operation Merkur, the airborne attack on Crete. Ramcke led the Fallschirmjäger-Sturm-Regiment 1, and also led Kampfgruppe West.

After the costly victory in Crete, remainders of several Fallschirmjäger units were formed into an ad hoc brigade, and command was given to Ramcke. He was also promoted to Generalmajor on 22 July 1941.[5]

In 1942 Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Afrika was sent to North Africa to join Rommel's Afrikakorps. The brigade was renamed Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Ramcke in July and supported the offensive towards the Suez Canal, but when the offensive got bogged down they entered the line at El Alamein.[citation needed]

The British attack at the Second Battle of El Alamein did not directly strike the unit but they soon became involved in heavy fighting. During the withdrawal of the Afrikakorps, the Brigade was surrounded and written off as lost by the high command since it had no organic transport. Rather than surrender, Ramcke led his troops out of the British trap and headed west, losing about 450 men in the process. They soon captured a British supply column which provided not only trucks but food, tobacco and other luxuries. About 600 of the paras later rejoined the Afrikakorps in late November 1942. Ramcke was sent back to Germany, where he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross personally by Adolf Hitler.[6]

In 1943 Ramcke, now a generalleutnant,[5] took command of 2nd Fallschirmjäger-Division. The division was deployed to Italy, to help bolster the German forces there to ensure that Italy did not join the Allies. When Italy signed the armistice with the Allies on 8 September 1943, the division, along with other German units, took part in Operation Achse to take control of the country. Ramcke led his division in an assault on Rome, and secured the city two days later. The division continued serving in Italy for a while, during which time Ramcke was wounded after his car was forced off the road by an Allied fighter-bomber.[6]

Ramcke returned to command the division in early 1944. By this time 2nd FJ was fighting on the Eastern Front, during the withdrawal from the Bug River area. Ramcke fell ill during this time and was sent back to Germany for recuperation. He assumed command again in May 1944 to oversee the rebuilding of the 2nd FJ-Division, which was based near Cologne.[citation needed]

Following the Allied D-Day landings on 6 June, 2nd Fallschirmjäger-Division was sent to the Brittany region of France, and took up the defence of Brest. Following Operation Cobra, the allied breakout from Normandy, Major-General Troy H. Middleton's U.S. VIII Corps hooked left from Normandy and attacked the Brittany region. The German defenders in the region fell back on Brest, and Ramcke assumed command of the garrison, now known as Festung Brest. Brest was largely surrounded and infiltrated by partisan guerillas who succeeded in killing one of Ramcke's junior officers in the seat next to him as they drove through an ambush. Commanding about 35,000 German troops Ramcke led the defense of Brest from 11 August until 19 September. Ramcke refused early requests to surrender and followed orders to hold out as long as possible. On the final day of battle, it was only after escaping a strafing attack during a personal reconnoiter of the area,[7] and the entry of American forces into the bunker, that General der Fallschirmtruppe Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke surrendered, on the same day as he was awarded the Swords (99th Recipient) & Diamonds (20th recipient) to the Knights Cross.[8]

Post war

Ramcke at Trent Park

Ramcke was shipped to the United States as a prisoner of war and later to England and France. While a POW at Camp Clinton, Mississippi, he wrote a letter to Byron Price. Arguing in the letter that the treatment of Germany following World War I had led to National Socialism and World War II, he protested the Morgenthau Plan as another attempt to enforce harsh treatment upon Germany.[9] Citing General Middleton's remarks as verification, Ramcke detailed his efforts to protect American POWs and otherwise uphold the laws of war and stated he was "convinced that all other German commanders have acted in the same way".[9] To keep the letter out of his guards' hands he slipped out of the camp, mailed the letter in a nearby town, and returned to camp, after meals and a brief pause in a hotel lobby to smoke a cigar and observe the holiday mood of Americans now free from fears of war, without being caught.[7]

In 1951 Ramcke was charged with war crimes in France, relating to the destruction of Brest and murders of civilians, but managed to escape from captivity to Germany. He returned voluntarily and was sentenced to five years imprisonment by a French court in March 1951, but was released on 24 June 1951.[10] Testifying in his defense was American General Troy Middleton, to whose forces Ramcke had surrendered in the autumn of 1944.

After the war, Ramcke and Middleton maintained a correspondence for about fifteen years.[11]

Following his release from nearly 7 years captivity, Ramcke, through his public actions, became seen as a dedicated nationalist[Note 1] by his fellow generals and supported extreme right-wing movements such as the Naumann-Kreis in Germany.[citation needed] In November 1952, he told a group of former SS-men attending a HIAG meeting they should be proud of being blacklisted, while pointing out that in the future their blacklist would instead be seen as a "list of honor".[12][13] Ramcke's remarks caused a furor in Germany; even the former SS General Felix Steiner distanced himself from them.[14] Konrad Adenauer was so furious with Ramcke's remarks that he directed Thomas Dehler, the German federal Minister of Justice, to investigate the possibility of prosecuting Ramcke. Adenauer publicly decried Ramcke's remarks as "irresponsible" and his associated behavior as "foolishness"—a reaction probably prompted because Adenauer's government had made a significant effort to obtain early release for Ramcke from French imprisonment.[15][16]

Ramcke's intent, as stated by himself and his supporters, in his actions following the war was to again seek to protect his men, both in their reputations and their future, such as in cautioning against their being used as "cannon fodder" in the speech to ex-paratroopers during the rearmament debate.[17] This was consistent with his behavior throughout his career during which his superiors found him to be a demanding subordinate in his advocacy for the needs of his men.[6]

Ramcke published two books, both autobiographies, one during the war and the other in 1951. Post-war, he pursued a career in the concrete industry. Ramcke died after battling cancer at Kappeln on July 4, 1968.


Wehrmachtbericht references

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Monday, 9 June 1941 Die unter Führung von Generalmajor Meindl, Oberst Heidrich, Oberst Bräuer, Oberst Ramke und Oberst Sturm stehenden Fallschirmverbände schufen in harten Kämpfen die entscheidenden Voraussetzungen für die Eroberung von Kreta.[29] The parachute units under the leadership of Major General Meindl, Colonel Heidrich, Colonel Bräuer, Colonel Ramke and Colonel Sturm, created in hard fighting, the crucial conditions for the conquest of Crete.
Monday, 9 November 1942 Ein deutscher Verband unter Führung des Generalmajors Ramcke, der vorübergehend abgeschnitten war, hat dem Feinde in dreitägigen Kämpfen schwere Verluste zugeführt, eine größere Anzahl von Kraftfahrzeugen erbeutet, sich mit ihrer Hilfe beweglich gemacht und den Anschluß an die Hauptkräfte wiedergewonnen.[30] A German unit under the leadership of Major General Ramcke, which was temporarily cut off, in three days of fighting has inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, captured a greater number of motor vehicles, with their help made them mobile again and regained the connection to the main forces.
10 September 1944 (addendum) In der seit dem 25. August tobenden Abwehrschlacht um Brest hat die 2. Fallschirmjägerdivision unter Führung des Generalleutnants Rameke, der gleichzeitig Kommandant der Festung ist, als Gerippe der Gesamtverteidigung ausschlaggebenden Anteil an den bisherigen Abwehrerfolgen.[31] In the since the 25 August raging defensive battle over Brest has the 2nd Parachute Division under the command of Lieutenant-General Rameke (sic), who is also commander of the fortress, as a skeleton of the overall defense had a decisive share of recent defense successes.
21 September 1944 Der letzte Widerstand der Besatzung Brest auf der Halbinsel Le Crozon ist zu Ende.
In wochenlangen schwersten Kämpfen hielt die heldenhafte, aus Truppen aller Wehrmachtteile bestehende Besatzung unter der vorbildlichen Führung des Festungskommandanten, General der Fallschirmtruppe Ramcke, die Festung gegen den an Zahl und Material weit überlegenen Gegner.
Dadurch ist dem Gegner nicht ein Hafen, sondern nur ein Trümmerhaufen in die Hände gefallen.
Der Heldenkampf der Besatzung Brest wird in der Geschichte weiterleben.
The last resistance of the garrison Brest on the Le Crozon peninsula is over.
After weeks of heavy fighting, the heroic garrison, consisting of troops of all branches of the Wehrmacht, under the exemplary leadership of the fortress commander, General of the Paratroops Ramcke, held the fortress against a far superior opponent in numbers and material.
Thereby not a port, but only a heap of ruins, has fallen into the hands of the enemy.
The heroic Battle of the garrison Brest will live on in history.

See also


  • Vom Ritterkreuzträger zum Angeklagten. Nation-Europa-Verlag, Coburg 2001. ISBN 3-920677-57-9.
  • Fallschirmjäger. Schütz, Preußisch Oldendorf 1973.
  • Fallschirmjäger, damals und danach. Lorch, Frankfurt am Main 1951.
  • Vom Schiffsjungen zum Fallschirmjäger-General. Verlag Die Wehrmacht, Berlin 1943.


  1. Nationalist is a term to be treated with caution. Included in one Orders of the Day for Ramcke's command in September 1944 was The US Army was the “instrument of the international Jewish clique which is based in Wall Street, New York, and from there wants to subjugate the entire world in co-operation with Russian Bolshevism... The people of the United States of America are no single, united race. They are made up of all the world’s races, the good and the inferior. Among the inferior, the blacks and mixed races stand out" -- comments which reflect the peculiarly racist outlook of the Third Reich.. Mitcham points out that Ramcke's second in command,Hans Kroh, who assumed command of Ramcke's 2ndFJD at Brest, is believed to have had strong Nazi party connections and reasonably may have functioned in the political officer role in preparing orders
  2. According to Scherzer as Generalmajor and commander of the Ergänzenden Einheiten und Schulen des XI. Fliegerkorps (auxiliary units and schools of the 11th Air Corps) and leader of the Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1.[23]
  3. 3.0 3.1 According to Von Seemen as Generalleutnant at the same time promoted to General der Fallschirmtruppe.[27]



  1. Williamson and McGregor 2006, p. 48.
  2. City of Kiel Cemetery website http://www.kiel.de/Aemter_61_bis_92/67/Friedhoefe/Friedhoefe/Nordfriedhof/marine/prinzadalbert.htm retrieved 1/26/2011
  3. From Ship's Boy to Paratrooper General, Herman Bernhard Ramcke, German Army Press, 1943
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Williamson 2006, p. 49.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Quarrie 2005, p. 13.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Mitcham 2009, pp. 182–184.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ramcke, H.B., Paratrooper then and always, Lorch (publishers), Frankfurt am Main, 1951
  8. Fellgiebel, Walther-peer, Elite of the Third Reich, Helion & Co, West Midlands, UK, 2004, P.34
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gen.H.B. Ramcke, Letter of 25 December 1945 to Byron Price
  10. Brooks, Lars Hellwinkell ; translated by Geoffrey (2014). Hitler's gateway to the Atlantic : German naval bases in France 1940-1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. p. 158. ISBN 1848321996.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Price, p. 201
  12. www.bundesarchiv.de
  13. Rabble-Rousing General Is Worrying the Allies, Ottawa Citizen 1952 article
  14. Hitler's Guard Cheers Ex-chief, Sarasota Herald-Tribune 1952 article
  15. Frei, p. 383.
  16. Google books reproduction of Frei, p. 383
  17. Searle 2003, p. 164.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Thomas 1998, p. 182.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Thomas & Wegmann 1986, p. 217.
  20. German Federal Archive, photo library, H.B. Ramcke
  21. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 349.
  22. Von Seemen 1976, p. 274.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Scherzer 2007, p. 612.
  24. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 63.
  25. Von Seemen 1976, p. 31.
  26. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 45.
  27. Von Seemen 1976, pp. 13, 18.
  28. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 38.
  29. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 555.
  30. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 350.
  31. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 238.
  32. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, pp. 252–253.


  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • Kurowski, Franz (1995). Knights of the Wehrmacht Knight's Cross Holders of the Fallschirmjäger. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military. ISBN 978-0-88740-749-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mitcham, Samuel W. (2009). Defenders of Fortress Europe: The Untold Story of the German Officers During the Allied Invasion. Washington DC: Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1-59797-274-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Price, Frank J. (1974). Troy H. Middleton: A Biography. Clinton: The Colonial Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8071-2467-2.
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  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2005). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe III Radusch – Zwernemann (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-22-5. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • Thomas, Franz; Wegmann, Günter (1986). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil II: Fallschirmjäger (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-1461-8. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-644-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Williamson, Gordon; McGregor, Malcolm (2006). German commanders of World War II. 2, Waffen-SS, Luftwaffe & Navy. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-828-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Ramcke
1 April 1942 – 30 November 1942
Succeeded by
Oberst Hans Kroh
Preceded by
Commander of 2. Fallschirmjäger-Division
2 February 1943 – 13 September 1943
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Walter Barenthin
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Hans Kroh
Commander of 2. Fallschirmjäger-Division
1 June 1944 – 11 August 1944
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Hans Kroh