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 Helmut Kämpfe

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Helmut Kämpfe

Birth
Jena, Stadtkreis Jena, Thüringen, Germany
Death 10 Jun 1944 (aged 34)
Departement de la Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France
Burial Berneuil, Departement de la Charente-Maritime, Poitou-Charentes, France
Plot Block 1 Row 6 Grave 176
Memorial ID 95394002 View Source
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Soldier/Murder victim - Helmut Kämpfe was a typographer by training, as was his father. He also owned a printing business prior to entering the German Army in 1934, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant. After his service in the Army was over, he joined the Waffen-SS as an Untersturmführer on November 11, 1939, the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch where Adolf Hitler tried to seize power of the Bavarian government in 1923. On January 30, 1940 he was promoted to Obersturmführer and on Hitler's birthday, April 20, 1942 he was promoted to Hauptsturmführer (captain). He saw service on the Russian Front and was the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion, 4th SS-Panzergrenadier Der Führer Regiment of the Das Reich Division. He proved to be an excellent soldier and was awarded numerous honors to include the coveted Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for bravery and exemplary leadership during the fighting east of Zhitomir, Russia. On September 1, 1943, he was promoted to Sturmbannführer (major). The Das Reich Division was withdrawn from Russia and sent to France for refitting in preparation to shore up defenses in that country for what was believed to be the forthcoming Allied invasion. Sent to Southern France, they also were to begin operations on the French Resistance, also known as the Maquisards or simply, the Maquis, who were highly active in that area according to German intelligence reports. The Maquis caused the division to remain in the area longer than they had planned and prevented them from being present on the day the allies did in fact land at Normandy. On June 9, 1944, Kämpfe was captured by a Maquis group headed by Jean Canou. Canou then placed him in the custody of Georges Guingouin, a Maquis leader and communist. The next day he was executed on the orders of Guingouin and his body was burned. Some have put forth he was burned alive. This occurred in the area of Cheissoux in the Limousin region, Haute-Vienne department of France. When it was clear that he had been kidnapped, the Germans sent out forces to try to locate him. Among these was a unit under the command of Sturmbannführer Adolf "Otto" Diekmann, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 4th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment and a close personal friend of Kämpfe. On June 10th, Diekmann was given information on Kämpfe ‘s capture by French resistance fighters in the Oradour-sur-Vayres area and they were planning to execute Kämpfe by ceremoniously burning him alive that day. In response to this information, Diekmann took two platoons of his battalion and went mistakenly to nearby Oradour-sur-Glane, a similar village as Oradour-sur-Vayres , which is located not too far away. Upon arrival outside of the town, a German military ambulance was found that contained the burned bodies of several German soldiers to include the driver and front seat passenger who had been tied to the steering wheel with wire and undoubtedly living when the vehicle was set ablaze. As a result, Diekmann took reprisal on the village massacring 642 people, mostly women and children. The massacre was, according to Diekmann's superior, Sylvester Stadler, an act outside of his orders and resulted in Diekmann being charged in a court martial. Diekmann would soon be killed in action so the SS dropped the matter. Kämpfe was the highest ranking officer ever to be captured by the resistance and his execution was considered to be a major event. Kämpfe was one of only 98 German soldiers awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and the Close Combat Clasp in gold. He was wounded 10 times throughout the war and was posthumously promoted to Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel), after his death. His other awards included the Iron Cross second class, Iron Cross first class, the Eastern Front Medal, Prague Castle Bar, Close Combat Clasp Silver Class, the General Assault Badge for 25 or more combat assaults, the 1939 Wound Badge in Silver, The Prague Castle Bar, the Close Combat Clasp in Gold, the German Cross in Gold, and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He was also one of only 631 men to be awarded the very rare Close Combat Clasp in Gold and one of only 91 men to earn it and the Knight's Cross. His grave is in the German Military Cemetery at Berneuil , about 170 kilometres or 106 miles west of Oradour-sur-Glane. At the time of his death he was married with three children. His last name roughly translates into English as, "Fighter".


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  • Created by: Rick Lawrence
  • Added: 15 Aug 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 95394002
  • Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/95394002/helmut-k%C3%A4mpfe : accessed ), memorial page for Helmut Kämpfe (31 Jul 1909–10 Jun 1944), Find a Grave Memorial ID 95394002, citing Berneuil German War Cemetery, Berneuil, Departement de la Charente-Maritime, Poitou-Charentes, France ; Maintained by Rick Lawrence (contributor 47207615) .