Hubert Lanz
Karl Hubert Lanz was a German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 officer who rose to the rank of General der Gebirgstruppe
General der Gebirgstruppe
General der Gerbirgstruppe was a rank of German Army General introduced by the Wehrmacht in 1940....

("General of Mountain Troops
Gebirgsjäger, in English Mountain Riflemen, is the German designation for mountain infantry. The word Jäger is the traditional German term for rifleman...

") during the Second World War, in which he led units in the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 and in the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

. After the war, he was tried and convicted for several atrocities committed by units under his command in the Balkans. Released in 1951, he joined the liberal Free Democratic Party
Free Democratic Party (Germany)
The Free Democratic Party , abbreviated to FDP, is a centre-right classical liberal political party in Germany. It is led by Philipp Rösler and currently serves as the junior coalition partner to the Union in the German federal government...

 and served as its adviser on military and security issues.

Early career

Lanz entered the Army on 20 June 1914, shortly before the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, as an ensign in the 125th Infantry Regiment based at Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

. He was severely wounded in combat on 9 September, and spent several months in hospital. Upon recovery he returned to the front. He served in the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 throughout the war, and ended it with the rank of lieutenant (Oberleutnant). He was retained in the reduced post-war Reichswehr
The Reichswehr formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was renamed the Wehrmacht ....

, being promoted to captain on 1 February 1928. In the period 1932-1934 he commanded a company in an infantry regiment at Gumbinnen, and was subsequently employed in staff duties, being promoted to lieutenant-colonel and Chief of Staff of IX Army Corps on 1 March 1937. After a period of command of the 100th Gebirgsjäger Regiment from November 1937 to August 1938, he assumed the position of Chief of Staff of the Wehrkreis V.

France and Yugoslavia

On 15 February 1940, he was posted as Chief of Staff for the XVIII Armeekorps
XVIII Corps (Germany)
-History:XVIII. ArmeekorpsThe XVIII. Armeekorps was formed in Salzburg, Austria, on 1 April 1938, following the Anschluss of Austria into the German Reich. During the life of the XVIII. Armeekorps, they took part in the Polish campaign, Fall Weiss, and performed occupation duties in France. On the...

. On 1 October, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

 for his performance in this position during the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

. On 26 October, he assumed command of the 1. Gebirgs-Division, which was earmarked for Operation Felix
Operation Felix
Operation Felix was the codename for a proposed German seizure of Gibraltar during World War II. It never got beyond the staff study stage, even though planning continued into 1944, primarily because of Francisco Franco's reluctance to commit Spain to enter the war on the Axis...

, the assault on Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. With Felix cancelled, the division was transferred East, where it took part in the Invasion of Yugoslavia
Invasion of Yugoslavia
The Invasion of Yugoslavia , also known as the April War , was the Axis Powers' attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which began on 6 April 1941 during World War II...

 in April 1941 as part of the 2nd Army.

Eastern Front

In June 1941, Lanz led his division in the invasion of the
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. On 30 June, his division conquered Lvov. There, the Germans discovered several thousand bodies of prisoners who had been executed by the NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

, as they could not be evacuated. As the news spread, a large-scale anti-Jewish pogrom
Lviv pogroms
The Lviv pogroms were two massacres of Jews living in and near in the city of Lwów, the occupied Republic of Poland , that took place from 30 June to 2 July and 25–29 July 1941 during World War II. 700 Jews were killed in the rioting by some Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainian militia and further...

 broke out, in which the town's Ukrainian population participated, stirred up in part by German and OUN
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists is a Ukrainian political organization which as a movement originally was created in 1929 in Western Ukraine . The OUN accepted violence as an acceptable tool in the fight against foreign and domestic enemies particularly Poland and Russia...

 posters and proclamations calling for revenge against the "Jewish Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....


Lanz continued to command the 1. Gebirgs-Division during its advance in the Soviet Union, participating in the breakthrough of the Stalin Line
Stalin Line
The Stalin Line was a line of fortifications along the western border of the Soviet Union. Work began on the system in the 1920s to protect the USSR against attacks from the West. The line was made up of concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, somewhat similar but less elaborate than the Maginot...

 and the advance to the Dnjepr and the Mius River
Mius River
Mius is a river in Eastern Europe that flows through Ukraine and Russia. It starts in the Donets Range of Donetsk Oblast and flows through Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine and Rostov Oblast, Russia into the Mius Firth of the Sea of Azov, west of Taganrog...

. In May 1942, Lanz's division fought in the Second Battle of Kharkov
Second Battle of Kharkov
The Second Battle of Kharkov, so named by Wilhelm Keitel, was an Axis counter-offensive against the Red Army Izium bridgehead offensive conducted from 12 May to 28 May 1942, on the Eastern Front during World War II. Its objective was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets, or the...

 and then participated in the offensive through southern Russia and into the Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 (Operation Edelweiss
Operation Edelweiss
Operation Edelweiss , named after the mountain flower, was a German plan to gain control over the Caucasus and capture the oil fields of Baku during the Soviet-German War. The operation was authorised by Hitler on 23 July 1942...

). In a symbolic propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 move, on 21 August, Lanz sent a detachment of his men to raise the German flag on Mount Elbrus
Mount Elbrus
Mount Elbrus is an inactive volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, Russia, near the border of Georgia. Mt. Elbrus's peak is the highest in the Caucasus, in Russia...

. Although the feat was widely publicized by Goebbels
Goebbels, alternatively Göbbels, is a common surname in the western areas of Germany. It is probably derived from the Old Low German word gibbler, meaning brewer...

, Hitler was furious at this.

Relieved of command on 17 December 1942, he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross on the 23rd. Following the collapse of the German front after the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, on 28 January 1943 Lanz was promoted to General der Gebirgstruppe and placed in command of the Army Detachment Lanz (Armeeabteilung Lanz), a formation made up of various German forces after the collapse of the Italian 8th Army
Italian Army in Russia
The Italian Army in Russia was an army-sized unit of the Italian Royal Army which fought on the Eastern Front during World War II...

, including the elite troops of the SS Panzer Corps
II SS Panzer Corps
The II SS Panzer Corps was a Nazi German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II.- Formation - Kharkov :...

 under General Paul Hausser
Paul Hausser
Paul "Papa" Hausser was an officer in the German Army, achieving the high rank of lieutenant-general in the inter-war Reichswehr. After retirement from the regular Army he became the "father" of the Waffen-SS and one of its most eminent leaders...

. Lanz was tasked by Hitler to hold the area of Kharkov, even though he was outnumbered by almost 4:1. Following the loss of the city to the advancing Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, he was again dismissed on 20 February, although the decision to abandon the city without a fight had been taken by Hausser against Lanz's orders. On 25 June he was appointed provisional commander of XXXXIX Gebirgskorps in the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, a post he retained for a month.

Plan to arrest Hitler

While Lanz was in command of the defence of Kharkov however, together with his Chief of Staff Hans Speidel
Hans Speidel
Hans Speidel: Born in Metzingen, was a German general during World War II and the first German NATO Commander during the Cold War.- 1914–1945 :...

 (later chief of staff to Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 and involved in the 20 July plot) and Colonel von Strachwitz
Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz
Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Groß-Zauche und Camminetz was a German Army officer. Strachwitz saw action in World War I, but rose to fame for his command of armored forces in World War II.-Early life:...

 he formulated a plan to arrest Hitler during his scheduled visit to Lanz's headquarters at Poltava
Poltava is a city in located on the Vorskla River in central Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Poltava Oblast , as well as the surrounding Poltava Raion of the oblast. Poltava's estimated population is 298,652 ....

. To accomplish this, the plotters planned to use von Strachwitz's Großdeutschland
Großdeutschland Division
The Großdeutschland Division was an elite Heer combat unit of the Wehrmacht. The Großdeutschland was considered to be the premier unit of the German Army and as such it was one of best-equipped unit of the German Armed Forces, receiving equipment before all other units.- Early history -...

Panzer regiment to overpower Hitler's SS bodyguard. This "Plan Lanz" was known in certain military circles, including the leadership of Army Group B
Army Group B
Army Group B was the name of three different German Army Groups that saw action during World War II.-Battle for France:The first was involved in the Western Campaign in 1940 in Belgium and the Netherlands which was to be aimed to conquer the Maas bridges after the German airborne actions in Rotterdam...

, and was even communicated to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

. However, on 17 February, when Hitler made his front visit, he chose Manstein
Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein was a field marshal in World War II. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Germany's World War II armed forces...

's headquarters at Zaporozhye instead of Poltava. The plotters did not have the opportunity to carry their plan out, and Lanz was relieved of his command in the East soon after.

Anti-partisan operations in Epirus

On 9 September 1943, Lanz assumed command of the newly formed (on 20 August) XXII Gebirgskorps in Epirus
Epirus (periphery)
Epirus , formally the Epirus Region , is a geographical and administrative region in northwestern Greece. It borders the regions of West Macedonia and Thessaly to the east, West Greece to the south, the Ionian Sea and the Ionian Islands to the west and the country of Albania to the north. The...

, Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. The Germans feared an Allied landing in Greece, and were engaged in continuous anti-partisan
Partisan (military)
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

 sweeps, during which several hundred villages were evacuated and often torched. Collective punishment
Collective punishment
Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals or groups. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions...

 of entire localities for guerrilla attacks was common, with directives to execute 50 to 100 hostages for each German casualty, and was carried out with brutality; only four days before Lanz assumed command, men of the 98th Regiment of 1. Gebirgs-Division under Lieutenant-Colonel Josef Salminger, an ardent Nazi, had executed 317 civilians in the village of Kommeno
Kommeno is a village and a former community in the Arta peripheral unit, Epirus, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Nikolaos Skoufas, of which it is a municipal unit. Population 835 . During the Axis Occupation of Greece in World War II, the village was...


Lanz himself was often at odds with his new subordinates. A conservative officer of the old school, and a devout Catholic, he had little in common with the energetic and fanatical young officers of the 1. Gebirgs-Division like Salminger. Lanz was certainly no Nazi, and his involvement with the circles of the 20 July plot was known; after its failure, he was said to sleep with a revolver under his pillow. Despite Lanz's personal inhibitions and his clashes with his subordinate, General von Stettner, over the treatment of civilians, reprisals remained a standard tactic: following the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Salminger at a guerrilla ambush in late September, Lanz issued an order demanding "ruthless retaliatory action" in a 20 km area around the place of the ambush. As a result, at least 200 civilians were executed, 87 of whom in the village of Lingiades alone.

Although the large-scale operations proved of little permanent effect on the guerrilla groups themselves, the reprisals instilled sufficient terror into the local population to deter cooperation with the guerrillas. Furthermore, in late 1943, pressed by both the Germans and the rival leftist ELAS guerrillas, General Napoleon Zervas
Napoleon Zervas
Napoleon Zervas was a Greek general and resistance leader during World War II. He organized and led the National Republican Greek League , the second most significant , in terms of size and activity, resistance organization against the Axis Occupation of Greece.-Early life and army career:Zervas...

, the leader of EDES, the dominant guerrilla group in Epirus, reached a tacit agreement with Lanz and restricted his forces' operations against the Germans.

Cephallonia and Corfu massacres

On 8 September, Italy surrendered to the Allies. This began a race to disarm and intern
Operation Achse
Operation Achse , also called Operation Alaric, were the codenames of the German plans to forcibly disarm the Italian armed forces after their expected armistice with the Allied forces...

 the Italian garrisons of the Balkans before the Allies could take advantage of it. Lanz was tasked with overcoming the Italian forces in Epirus and the Ionian Islands
Ionian Islands
The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e...

. In two cases, in Cephallonia and Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

, the Italians offered resistance. Lanz himself was initially in favour of negotiating the Italian surrender, but in the end followed his orders and stormed these islands. In Cephallonia, the battle raged for a week before the Italians surrendered. After their surrender, and according to a directive from Hitler himself, more than 5,000 Italians were executed
Massacre of the Acqui Division
The Massacre of the Acqui Division , also known as the Cephalonia Massacre , was the mass execution of the men of the Italian 33rd Acqui Infantry Division by the Germans on the island of Kefalonia, Greece, in September 1943, following the Italian armistice during the Second World War. About 5000...

 by the Germans. Lanz was present in Cephallonia both during the battle and the subsequent massacre. In Corfu, resistance lasted only for a day, but all 280 Italian officers on the island were shot and their bodies were disposed of in the sea, on Lanz's orders.

End of the war

Following the German retreat from Greece in October 1944, Lanz and his troops moved through the Balkans towards Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, where they participated in Operation Margarethe
Operation Margarethe
During World War II, the Germans planned two discrete operations using the codename Margarethe.Operation Margarethe I was the occupation of Hungary by German forces on 19 March 1944. The Hungarian government was an ally of Nazi Germany, but had been discussing an armistice with the Allies...

, and the Austrian Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, where he surrendered to the US Army on 8 May 1945.

Trial and subsequent life

Lanz was brought to trial in 1947 in the so-called "Southeast Case" of the Nuremberg Trials
Subsequent Nuremberg Trials
The Subsequent Nuremberg Trials were a series of twelve U.S...

, along with other Wehrmacht generals active in the Balkans. The trial was concerned with the atrocities carried out against civilians and POWs in the area. In Lanz's case, the biggest issue was the Cephallonia massacre. However, his defence team was able to cast doubt on the allegations concerning these events, and as the Italians did not present any evidence against him, Lanz was able to convince the court that he had in fact resisted Hitler's directives and that the massacre did not happen. He claimed that the report to Army Group E reporting the execution of 5,000 soldiers had been a ruse employed to deceive the Army command, in order to hide the fact that he had disobeyed the Führer’s orders. He added that fewer than a dozen officers were shot and the rest of the Acqui Division was transported to Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

 through Patras
Patras , ) is Greece's third largest urban area and the regional capital of West Greece, located in northern Peloponnese, 215 kilometers west of Athens...

. His defence also falsely claimed that the Italians were under no orders to fight from the War Office in Brindisi
Brindisi is a city in the Apulia region of Italy, the capital of the province of Brindisi, off the coast of the Adriatic Sea.Historically, the city has played an important role in commerce and culture, due to its position on the Italian Peninsula and its natural port on the Adriatic Sea. The city...

, and would therefore have to be regarded as mutineer
Mutineer is an album by American singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, released in 1995. .-Track listing:All tracks composed by Warren Zevon, except where indicated.#"Seminole Bingo" – 3:10...

s or franc-tireurs who had no right to be treated as POWs under the Geneva conventions
Third Geneva Convention
The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was first adopted in 1929, but was significantly updated in 1949...


In the end, Lanz was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, a comparatively light sentence compared with other commanders involved with operations in the Balkans, like Lothar Rendulic
Lothar Rendulic
Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic was an Austro-Hungarian and Austrian Army officer of Croatian origin who served as a German general during World War II. He commanded the 14. Infanterie-Division, 52. Infanterie-Division, XXXV Armeekorps, 2. Panzer-Armee, 20...

. However, after only three years, on 3 February 1951, he was released. To date, he is the only person to have served a prison sentence for the atrocities committed in Epirus or the Ionian islands.

After his release, Lanz became active in the ranks of the FDP party and served as its adviser on military and security issues. In 1954, he published a book on the history of the 1. Gebirgs-Division. He died in Munich in 1982.

Sources and bibliography

Biography at the Lexikon der Wehrmacht website
  • Biography at the Axis Biographical Research website Charles B. Burdick: Hubert Lanz. General der Gebirgstruppe 1896-1982, (= Soldatenschicksale des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts als Geschichtsquelle, Bd. 9), Osnabrück, 1988, ISBN 3-7648-1736-4 Schreiber, Gerhard: Die italienischen Militärinternierten im deutschen Machtbereich 1943 bis 1945. Verraten - Verachtet - Vergessen, (= Beiträge zur Militärgeschichte, Bd. 28), München, 1990, ISBN 3-486-55391-7
  • Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.
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