Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
German General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.png
Birth name Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski
Birth date 1 March 1899(1899-03-01)
Place of birth Lauenburg i. Pom. near Danzig, Province of Pomerania, German Empire
Death date 8 March 1972 (aged 73)
Place of death Harlaching Hospital, Munich, Bavaria, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 National Socialist Germany
Service/branch War and service flag of Prussia (1895–1918).png Prussian Army
Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
Freikorps Flag.jpg Freikorps
War Ensign of the Reichswehr, 1919 - 1935.png Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank SS-Obergruppenführer
Commands held SS and Police Leader (SSPF) for Silesia
Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF), Army Group Centre Rear Area
Bandenbekämpfung Chief for occupied Europe
Generalkommando Korps Oder
Battles/wars World War I
Silesian Insurection (Aufstände)
World War II (Warsaw Uprising)
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Relations ∞ 1921 Ruth Apfeld

Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski, and from 1925 von dem Bach-Zelewski (from 1940 to 1945 often just referred to as von dem Bach; 1 March 1899 – 8 March 1972), was a Kashubian German officer, member of the Reichstag (1932–1944) and an SS-Obergruppenfuhrer[1] and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during the Second World War, often engaged in anti-terrorist operations (Bandenkampf).


The only known picture where his Honour Chevron for the Old Guard can be seen
SS-Gruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
Erich von dem Bach and his wife Ruth at their Villa in Breslau-Burgweide
With the family in the garden in Burgweide; from left: daughter Ines, daughter Ilse, wife Ruth, Erich von dem Bach with the youngest son Eberhard, the oldest daughter Gisela, son Ludolf and oldest son Heinrich.
Von dem Bach receives the surrender of the Polish Uprising insurgents Commander-in-Chief Generał Tadeusz Komorowski (1 June 1895 – 24 August 1966), better known by the name Bór-Komorowski, at Ozarow on 2 October 1944.
Erich Julius Eberhard von dem Bach-Zelewski.jpg
Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, Grabstätte in Roth.jpg

Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski was born in Pomerania, German Empire, to Kashubian parents, Otto Jan Józefat (Otto Johannes) von Żelewski (1859–1911), a Roman Catholic, and his Lutheran wife (married c. 1890), Elżbieta Ewelina Szymańska (b. 16 April 1862 in Thorn, West Prussia; written in German legal documents as Amalia Maria Eveline Schimansky). Erich had six siblings. The children grew up mainly in the vicinity of Biala, Silesia.

Erich's grandfather was Otto August Ludwik Rudolf von Zelewski (1820–1878), according to Roman Catholic Church records (Linde). Erich's great-great-great-grandfather was Michał Żelewski (c.1700–1785), a Kashubian landowner, who owned three villages and land in eastern Pomerania then part of West Prussia. His family had roots in Seelau and belonged to the landed gentry. Erich was also the nephew of Emil von Zelewski (1854–1891), who, as commander of the Schutztruppe for German East Africa, was during the Battle of Rugaro against the Wahehe near Iringa on 17 August 1891, when the 14 Germans and their 320 Askari were ambushed by 3,000 native warriors.

When Erich was twelve years old, his father died in Dortmund, whereupon the children were distributed to foster families due to a lack of inheritance. Erich was taken in as the foster son of the lord of the manor von Schickfuß in Trebnig, 23 miles south of Breslau in Silesia. Erich attended Gymnasiums in West Prussia, in Neustadt, in Strasburg and in Konitz. He experienced the outbreak of the First World War as a traumatic event during his summer holidays with his mother in Biala, Silesia.


On 9 November 1914, he volunteered for the Prussian army — as the youngest recruit of the German Army —, joining the 9th West Prussian Infantery Regiment Nr.176 (basic training until 27 November 1914) and served with the Infantry -Regiment „Generalfeldmarschall von Mackensen“ (3rd West Prussians) Nr.129, the Jäger-Bataillon „Fürst Bismarck“ (Pommeranian) Nr.2 and the Grenadier-Regiment „König Friedrich Wilhelm II.“ (1st Silesian) Nr.10 throughout World War I. He was wounded twice, shot in the shoulder, and then gassed in 1918, and was awarded both classes of the Iron Cross.[2]

After the war he remained in the Reichswehr, and fought in the Freikorps against the Polish terrorist insurgency in Upper Silesia, where, with a grasp of the Polish language, his services were valued. He became a member of the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund (German Nationalist Protection and Defiance Federation) and the Stahlhelm-Bund. In July 1924, he resigned his army commission (some sources state, albeit without proof, he was forced to do so because of his National Socialist convictions), and opened a taxi company in Berlin. In 1928, he purchased a country estate in Dühringhof in the Landsberg an der Warthe district (Pomerania).


On 23 October 1925, he legally changed his surname to "von dem Bach-Zelewski" by license. In January 1930, he left the border guards and joined the NSDAP (# 489,101) and on 15 February 1931, he joined the SS (# 9,831). By the end of 1933, Erich had been promoted to SS-Brigadeführer, and was said to have been involved with the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. He was present at the 1938 Party Congress (Reichsparteitag) at Nuremberg.[3]


Throughout the Second World War he was stationed in Silesia, White Russia and Poland with tasks such as anti-terrorist warfare. After the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, he was considered for his replacement, but the position went to Kurt Daluege. During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising he was placed in control of all the troops engaged in its suppression[4], and after two months of fighting defeated the Polish insurgents. He formally accepted the surrender of Polish Major-General Bor-Komorowski, Commander of the insurgents, at Ozarow, on 2 October 1944. Von dem Bach-Zelewski gave a personal guarantee that they would be treated as prisoners of war, which they were.[5][6]

In October 1944, von dem Bach was sent by Hitler to Budapest to stop the Hungarian government's armistice negotiations with the Soviet Union. In a telegram to Reich Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop dated 18 October 1944, Edmund Veesenmayer from Budapest reported a meeting between the “SS Obergruppenführer and General of Police von dem Bach who was sent here,” “Ambassador Rahn,” and himself on 17 October 1944. Rahn “expressed that it was the first time he had experienced such an ideal interaction between the political, military and police sides. For this reason it was possible to carry out the operation [meaning: Operation Panzerfaust] smoothly and with almost no bloodshed.” After the Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy was taken into custody during Operation Panzerfaust (Unternehmen „Panzerfaust“), an Arrow Cross Party government under Ferenc Szálasi took power.

In late autumn of 1944, he set up the XIV SS Army Corps in the Baden-Baden area and later the X SS Army Corps in Pomerania. He then commanded the Oder Corps of the Vistula Army Group from 17 February 1945. The Oder Corps on the lower Oder front was deployed as part of the 3rd Panzer Army. During the Stettin-Rostock operation, the 2nd Belorussian Front managed to cross the Oder near Gartz on 20 April 1945. The defeated German general command of the Oder Corps was dissolved at the end of April, and the area of ​​command went to the XXVII Corps under General of Infantry Walter Hörnlein, who was brought in from East Prussia.

Post World War II

When the war ended, von dem Bach-Zelewski was arrested by American troops in early August 1945. In exchange for not being charged with alleged war crimes and not being extradited to the Soviet Union or Poland, he gave some testimonies against others at the Nuremberg Show Trials on topics such as the Einsatzgruppen, Lebensraum, and the 4 October 1943 Posen speech.

In March 1951, von dem Bach-Zelewski was classified as the main culprit by the Munich Supreme Court in the denazification process and sentenced to ten years in a labour camp and confiscation of assets. In December 1951, an appeals chamber gave him credit for the five years he had spent in custody since 1945. Afterwards he was only under house arrest, which he spent in his apartment in Laffenau, Franconia (today a district of Heideck). From 1954, he lived in Eckersmühlen near Roth and worked as a night watchman in Nuremberg for 400 DM per month, which was above the average wage at the time.

In December 1958, he was arrested again and charged with the murder of a SS officer of the Reiter-SS (Anton Adolph Erdmann Wilhelm Heinrich Freiherr von Hohberg und Buchwald) during the 1934 Night of the Long Knives. In the trial that began in January 1961 at the Nuremberg-Fürth regional court, he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for manslaughter in February 1961.

In November 1961, he received a six-month prison sentence due to negligent false oath in the trial against the former SS Obergruppenführer and Police General Udo von Woyrsch and was therefore sentenced by the Nuremberg-Fürth Regional Court to a total sentence of four years and ten months. On 3 August 1962, he was sentenced to life in prison in another trial for the murders of five communists and attempted murder in another case in the spring and summer of 1933. Von dem Bach-Zelewski was called to testify as a defence witness at the Eichmann trial in Israel in 1961.


After General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who was seriously ill and in hospital, had received an official release from custody (Haftverschonung) at the beginning of March 1972, he died a few days later – shortly after his 73rd birthday – on 8 March 1972 in the Munich-Harlaching prison hospital. His children, who came to bring him home, were deeply upset. His archives were taken over by Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski's son Ludolf and presented to the Federal Archives in Berlin in 2017. The grave of the parents in Roth bei Nürnberg in Bavaria was lovingly cared for until 2022 by loving daughter Ilse (then 88 years old).


On 21 September 1921, von dem Bach-Zelewski married his fiancée Ruth Apfeld (b. 22 August 1901 in Neisse, Silesia; d. 13 September 1967 in Roth near Nürnberg), with whom he would have six children born between 1923 and 1940; three daughters as well as three sons. His wife and the children were always loyal, in prison in Nürnberg and later in Munich, every month Ruth would travel to her husband for visits.



  • Giesele
  • Ines
  • Ilse


  • Heinrich
  • Ludolf
  • Eberhard


Imperial German Army

  • November 1914 Fahnenjunker-Kriegsfreiwilliger (Officer Candidate and War Volunteer)
  • 1915 Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter
  • 7 April 1918 Leutnant (2nd Lieutenant)
    • He later received rank seniority (RDA) from 1 March 1916 (1)[7]


  • 1 December 1936 Hauptmann der Reserve (Captain of the Reserves)


Awards and decorations


See also

External links

Note that besides the external sources listed here, an alleged Holocaust confessor/witness may be extensively discussed in the external sources listed in the articles on the particular Holocaust camps and/or other Holocaust phenomena the individual is associated with.


  1. Mollo, Andrew, "A History of the SS 1923-1945", with an introduction by Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, Purnell Books Ltd., Abingdon, Oxon, U.K., 1976, p.162.
  2. Goldensohn, Leon, The Nuremberg Interviews: Conversations with the Defendants and Witnesses, Random House Publishing, 2010.
  3. Mollo, 1976, p.81.
  4. Williamson, Gordon, The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror, London 1994/5, pps:135 & 191, ISBN 0-283-06280-0
  5. Mollo, 1976, p.163.
  6. Williamson, 1995, p.191.
  7. Rangliste des Deutschen Reichsheeres, 1923, p. 30
  8. Rangliste des Deutschen Reichsheeres, 1924, p. 187
  9. Thierry Tixier: Allgemeine SS – Polizei – Waffen SS, Volume 3, 2019