ϟϟ-Obersturmbannführer der Waffen-SS Hermel

SS-Obersturmbannführer Heinz Hermel 
Heinz Harmel (June 29 1906 – September 2 2000), the son of a soldier, was born in Metz. Intent on following his father, he joined the SS in 1935. Harmel led the 9.Kompanie of the Austrian SS-Standarte Der Führer during the campaign in the Low Countries and France. In January 1941 he was given command of II.Bataillon of his regiment, which he led through the Balkan campaign, being promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer in April 1941. Operating on the central sector of the Eastern Front after the launch of Operation Barbarossa, Harmel was decorated with the German Cross in Gold on November 29 1941. In December 1941 he was given command of SS-Infantry Regiment Deutschland (SS-Infanterie-Division Reich). His success was recognized by promotion to SS-Obersturmbannführer in June 1942. During the attack that regained Kharkov in March 1943, Harmel personally launched a successful nighttime counter-attack on his own initiative, leading a combined force of tanks and armoured infantry; during this action he single-handedly destroyed a Soviet tank. This exploit brought Harmel the Knight's Cross on 31 March 1943, and on April 20 1943 he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer. Harmel was an inspirational leader, always in the thick of the fighting with his men, and was greatly admired and trusted. On September 7 1943 he received the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross, and was also awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Silver. 

SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Hermel 
In the spring of 1944 Harmel was appointed to command the recently formed 10.SS-Panzer-Division Frundsberg and saw action in the relief of the German pocket around Tarnopol in March-April 1944, before being rushed back to the West following the Allied landings in Normandy. After suffering badly from Allied air strikes on its way to the front, Harmel's division went into action on June 30 1944 against the British Operation Epsom. The Frundsberg fought most effectively in the see-saw battles during July and August 1944, being fortunate to escape over the Dives River before the final closing of the Falaise Pocket. Withdrawing into Holland, the division was resting between Arnhem and Nijmegen in September 1944 when the Allied Operation Market Garden sent them back into action. Harmel played an energetic part in defending the Waal Bridge at Nijmegen, and thereafter slowing the Allied advance along Hell's Highway. For his part in the defeat of the airborne operation Harmel was awarded the Swords to the Knight's Cross on December 15 1944. Harmel's command was one of the last to surrender and did so to the British forces in Austria in May 1945. He was a prisoner of war in the United Kingdom for two years. Upon his release, he returned to Germany and worked as a sales representative. A highly respected soldier; in fact, in 1984 Heinz Hermel was awarded the Medal for Franco-German Reconciliation by the town of Bayeux, Normandie, around which his division 10.SS-Panzer-Division Frundsberg had fought 40 years previously. He also developed a post-war friendship with Major General John Frost, against whose British paratroopers he had fought at Arnhem; Harmel had personally authorized a ceasefire to allow the collection of British wounded from the battlefield, and ensured their decent treatment thereafter. Knight's Cross holder Heinz Harmel maintained close links with his former SS-Grenadiers and was a very active participant in the postwar Waffen-SS veteran's organization, taking a personal interest in their welfare. He died in retirement in September 2000. Credit: George Mai. Images: SS-Obersturmbannführer Heinz Hermel in the Ukraine summer of 1943 and SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Heinz Hermel in December 1944. Commons: Bundesarchiv.

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