Hans Graf von Sponeck

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hans Graf von Sponeck
Hans Graf von Sponeck I.jpg
Birth name Hans Emil Otto Graf von Sponeck
Birth date 12 February 1888(1888-02-12)
Place of birth Düsseldorf, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Death date 23 July 1944 (aged 56)
Place of death Germersheim, Landkreis Germersheim,[1] Rhenish Palatinate, Land Bayern, Gau Westmark,[2] National Socialist 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
War Ensign of the Reichswehr, 1919 - 1935.png Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
Luftwaffe eagle.jpg Luftwaffe (1937–1938)
Rank Generalleutnant
Commands held 22. Infanterie-Division
XXXXII. Armeekorps
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Relations ∞ 1910 Anneliese Honrichs
∞ 1938 Gertrud Könitzer

Hans Emil Otto Graf von Sponeck (12 February 1888 – 23 July 1944) was a German officer of the Prussian Army, the Imperial German Army, the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, finally Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General), division commander, deputy leader of an army corps and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in World War II.

Military career (chronology)

Hans Graf von Sponeck, 1930.png
Hans Graf von Sponeck (Reichswehr).jpg
Generalleutnant Hans Graf von Sponeck, Kriegsweihnachten 1939, gezeichnet von dem Künstler Martin Lantzsch-Nötzel, damals im Stab der Bremer Division als Dolmetscher.jpg
Hans Graf von Sponeck congratulates a NCO from the 22. Infanterie-Division in Holland, May 1940.jpg
Hans Graf von Sponeck II.jpg
General von Sponeck zu Besuch in Holland bei Major Zürn, Kommandeur des II. Bataillons, IR 65.jpg
Hans Graf von Sponeck III.jpg
  • 1898 to 1905 Entry into the Karlsruhe Cadet Corps
  • 1905 Preußische Hauptkadettenanstalt (Royal Prussian Main Cadet Institute) in Groß-Lichterfelde near Berlin
    • graduated in the to 10% of his class, therefore promoted to 2nd Lieutenant
  • 19 March 1908 Joined 7th Company/Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr. 5 in Spandau
  • 1913 Adjutant of the II. Bataillon/Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr. 5
  • 1914 To the war front with the Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr. 5
    • wounded for the first time in February 1915
  • 1915 Regimentsadjutant of the Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 262
    • Company Commander in autumn 1915
  • 1916 General staff officer at the high command of the Württemberg Army Group
    • Generalstabsoffizier beim Oberkommando der Heeresgruppe von Württemberg


  • 1921 Company Commander in the 4. (Preußisches) Infanterie-Regiment in Kolberg
  • 1923 Commander of the 2. Company/9. (Preußisches) Infanterie-Regiment in Potsdam
  • 1924 General Staff of the Artillerieführer III in Berlin
  • 1927 Army Organization Department (Heeresorganisationsabteilung), Reichswehr Ministry (RWM) in Berlin
  • 1930 Chief of operations (Ia) in the staff of the 3. Division Berlin


  • 1934/35 to 1937 Kommandeur des Infanterie-Regiment Döberitz/Infanterie-Regiment 48 in Neustrelitz
  • 1.9.1937 At the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (other officers) / at the disposal of the Reich Minister of Aviation and Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe[3]
    • 1.10.1937 to 4.2.1938 mit der Wahrnehmung der Geschäfte als Kommandierender General im Luftgau IV (Berlin) beauftragt (entrusted with management of the affairs for the time being)
    • 4.2.1938 to 11.3.1938 mit der Wahrnehmung der Geschäfte als Kommandierender General im Luftgau III (Berlin) beauftragt (entrusted with management of the affairs for the time being)
    • 1.4.1938 to 30.6.1938 mit der Wahrnehmung der Geschäfte als Kommandierender General im Luftgau VII (München) beauftragt (entrusted with management of the affairs for the time being)
  • 10.11.1938 Commander of the 22. Infanterie-Division (later reclassified ans 22nd Air Landing Division or Luftlande-Infanteriedivision) in Bremen
    • The following wartime excerpt (dated 30.8.1940) describes why Graf von Sponeck received the Knight’s Cross for the Western Campaign:
      • “Generalleutnant Graf von Sponeck distinguished himself while serving as the commander of the Luftlande-Infanterie-Division during the battle to crush Dutch resistance. The award of the Knight’s Cross to him is simultaneously a high honour for his fearless subordinated troops.”
    • from 14.10.1941 to 3.12.1941 on leave due to illness, but still officially commander, which he would stay with effect from 1 January 1942

Luftwaffe (1937/1938)

Reinhard Stumpf writes in his book Die Wehrmacht-Elite:

The General Staff Officer Graf Sponeck came to the Luftwaffe in 1937 and was employed there as Luftgaubefehlshaber (Air District Commander) in Berlin and München; promoted to Generalmajor 1.3.38. Returned to the Army again in July 1938 probably on account of disagreements with the chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff, General Stumpff.

From a military-historical point of view, however, it is controversial, if Graf von Sponeck and other officers (such as Colonels Kuntze, Reinhard, Laux and Hellmich) actually officially became Luftwaffe officers during their command (at disposal; z. V.) to the Luftwaffe. The Stellenbesetzung and Dienstaltersliste from 12 October 1937 and the Personalveränderungen promoting him to Generalmajor from 10 February 1938 both list him as Heer officer "zur Verfügung des ObdH (sonstige Offiziere)".[4]

XXXXII. Armeekorps (December 1941)

Walter Kuntze was Commanding General of the XXXXII Army Corps since 15 February 1940. On 26 October 1941 (with effect from 24 October 1941), General Kuntze took over the 12th Army ("charged with deputy leadership") for Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List, who had fallen ill. Many historical sources claim, Graf von Sponeck, on leave, but still official commander of the 22nd Infantry Division, was charged with deputy leadership of the XXXXII Army Corps from 24 October to 29 October 1941, but the Kriegstagebuch (war diary) of the Army Corps shows, OKH and the superordinated 11th Army temporarily left the corps without a stand-in for Kuntze. On 29 October 1941, the XXXXII Army Corps was informed by the Army Personnel Office (HPA) that Generalleutnant Bruno Bieler, commander of the 73. Infanterie-Divison, was delegated with the deputy leadership (vertretungsweise mit der Führung des XXXXII. Armee-Korps beauftragt) until the return of General Kuntze, which he ultimately didn't do. When he was promoted to General of the Infantry on 17 December 1941, Bieler was officially named Commanding General of the corps, although at this time, he was in the Reich.

The corps had to secure the coast of the Kerch Peninsula in Crimea and the situation appeared stable. Bieler had requested a short recovery leave on 1 December 1941. Graf von Sponeck, on leave took over for Bieler on c. 6 December 1941 ("charged with deputy leadership"), when Bieler departed, although arriving at the corps headquarters on 4 December 1941. It was a misfortune that the situation would now get out of control and he, as deputy corps leader, would have to act rather unprepared. From 26 to 28 December 1941, the Soviets landed at Kerch. On 29 December 1941, the Soviets landed at night near Feodosia, which was followed by further landings on the Kerch Peninsula.

General Hans Graf von Sponeck acted swiftly. At 0800 hours on 29 December 1941, he ordered the 46. Infanterie-Division, the only division in a position to be able to block the Soviet advance, under Generalleutnant Kurt Himer to disengage itself from the enemy at Kerch, to proceed to the Parpach Isthmus by forced marches, and to attack the enemy at Feodosiya and throw him into the sea. He sent a signal to Wehrmacht headquarters informing it of his move, and then ordered his wireless station to be dismantled. The Führer's order (Führerbefehl) of 26 December 1941, however, forbade a retreat, but this order only reached the 11th Army during 29 December 1941 (other sources state even later, reaching the Army Group South under Generalfeldmarschall Walter von Reichenau on 30 December 1941), and at that point the troops were already in retreat and Graf von Sponeck had had the radio connection cut off. Regardless of the belated instructions from the Führer's headquarters (Führerhauptquartier), which is also part of finding the truth, there was a halt order from the 11th Army, the existence of which Count von Sponeck must habe been aware of. In doing so, he was defying a direct order from his immediate superior command authority to hold his ground while units from Sevastopol could arrive.

Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein, Supreme Commander of the 11th Army, was furious and had him removed on 31 December 1941 (later dated with effect from 1 January 1942), after the Führer's headquarters had signaled agreement around noon of that day. Von Manstein is said to have said at the time:

"Where will we get to if every officer gives orders to retreat without knowing the overall situation."

However, von Manstein later shared von Sponeck's tactical assessment of the situation. There was no radio communication during von Sponeck's final decision. Von Manstein writes:

"This did not happen because he had acted on his own authority. I myself often had to act contrary to Hitler's operational instructions in order not to grant the leaders subordinate to me the right to act at their own discretion if necessary. Sponeck's removal from command, rather, happened because I didn't have the certainty that he was still the man at the time to get through a situation as critical as the one on the Kerch Peninsula [...]"

Von Manstein replaced Graf von Sponeck with Franz Mattenklott, commander of the 72. Infanterie-Division, who had just, as of 12 December 1941, been given the deputy leadership (stellvertretender Kommandierender General) of the XXX Army Corps (replacing Hans von Salmuth). The order for Mattenklott to take over the XXXXII. Armeekorps dates 29 December 1941, as the war diary of the XXX Army Corps shows. Mattenklott's appointment as Kommandierender General XXXXII. Armee-Korps was announced on 11 January 1942 with effect from 1 January 1942.

Trial and imprisonment

Graf von Sponeck considered his decision to be militarily correct and wanted to have his "honor" as a general restored before the military court. His withdrawal, he firmly believed, saved a significant number of lives. He was the only commanding general in Crimea who fully recognized the situation and ultimately saved the 11th Army through his actions. It seems, von Sponeck himself called for a trial.

On 23 January 1942, von Sponeck was tried in front of the Reich War Court (Reichskriegsgericht) under President Hermann Göring where he maintained that he acted on his own initiative in order to avoid the destruction of 46. Infanterie-Division. He was found guilty of disobedience to a superior officer and given the death sentence. Adolf Hitler, on the proposal of Generaloberst Curt Haase (assistant prosecutor), commuted the sentence to six years in fortress imprisonment (Festungshaft) on 20 February 1942 (another source states 22 February). On 6 March 1942, imprisonment in Germersheim began. Many officers stood up for him, later even von Manstein, but in vain. Because of his rank, he was assigned an orderly (Offizierbursche).


After the assassination attempt on Hitler on 20 July 1944, von Sponeck, like so many officers of nobility, was suspected of complicity and conspiracy, without evidence, not even circumstantial. The Gestapo demanded his immediate extradition, but this was prevented by Colonel Hans Merten, the commandant of the Germersheim Fortress (since 1941, before that he was commandant of the prison "Brückenkopf" and of the prison Fortress Glatz. On 23 July 1944, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler gave the order, without another trial, that von Sponeck was to be shot immediately by 7:00 a.m. Colonel Merten had received the phone call from Wiesbaden four hours prior a 3:00 a.m. Merten diesen Befehl aus Wiesbaden per Telefon.[5] Merten dressed and informed Generalleutnant z. V. Friedrich "Fritz" von der Lippe, at 4:00 a.m. they personally informed Graf von Sponeck, giving him the chance to get his affairs in order. Von der Lippe accepted the letters for Graf von Sponeck's family as Colonel Merten pretended not to notice.

Von Sponeck walked firmly in front of the firing squad and did not allow himself to be blindfolded or tied to the post. His last words to the soldiers are recorded:

"For forty years I served the fatherland, which I loved with all my heart, as a soldier and officer. If I have to give up my life today, I will die in the hope of a better Germany!"

The death sentence was carried out at 7:13 a.m. According to Himmler's orders, the soldiers were sworn to absolute secrecy by the fortress commandant. Count von Sponeck was shot in a “secret state matter”. The completely distraught Lieutenant General von der Lippe, although he had no official orders, brought the terrible message to the Countess in Badenweiler ( in the south of Germany north of Basel, Switzerland) on the same day. Their once beautiful home in Bremen (Horner Heerstraße 23) had been bombed by the Allies in May 1941. On 24 June 1944, General von Sponeck was buried in Germersheim. No funeral speeches were allowed to be held at his grave; only the Lord's Prayer was said. Graf von Sponeck wife wrote in der diary:

"On 23 July 1944, Hans-Christof's beloved father passed away forever. He still doesn't understand what he lost with this father. But he will later realize how noble, honorable and honest his father was, who loved his family and his job above all else, with which he always wanted to serve his beloved fatherland."

In 1952, Lieutenant General Hans Emil Otto Graf von Sponeck was reburied with all honours and in the presence of the entire family in the Dahn Cemetery of Honor (Ehrenfriedhof Dahn), where 2,407 German fallen of WWII found their final resting place.[6] In August 2006, his son Hans-Christof Graf von Sponeck wrote:

Finally, on a warm August day in 1944, my mother took me in her arms and told me about my father's shooting. Now I knew the truth and could cry. My mother and I visited my father in the fortress of Germersheim from Badenweiler as often as we were allowed. Today a short journey of a couple hours, during the war years it was a long and arduous train journey. His Bible was always ready in my father's small cell. A few moments before he was shot, he dedicated this Bible to his orderly. His faith in God helped him overcome the humiliation of his soldier's honor. My mother gave him hope through her love. I experienced incredible tenderness from my father in the brief moments we were together. I later knew from my mother that he was worried about my future.[7]

After the war, some sources reported that the Countess von Sponeck found out about her husband's death through an English radio program, they also reported that Count von Sponeck was hanged (which would have meant dishonor for a soldier), both claims are untrue fairy tales. Another theory for enmity with Himmler was Graf von Sponeck's support for Generaloberst Thomas Ludwig Werner Freiherr von Fritsch during the "Blomberg–Fritsch affair", when Himmler and Göring, to protect their own claims to power, alleged the General was homosexual and should not succeed Werner von Blomberg (de). This argument cannot be proven, but it is also not completely unthinkable.[8]



The counts or Grafen von Sponeck were counts since 2 August 1701, when the Roman-German Emperor Leopold I elevated the noble family in Vienna.[9] Hans was born the son of Rittmeister Emil August Joseph Anton Graf von Sponeck (1850–1888 München), squadron commander in the Westfälisches Ulanen-Regiment Nr. 5, and his wife (∞ 1877) Maria Auguste, née Courtin (1856–1927). Hans had two older sisters.[10]


On 29 September 1910 in Berlin, 2nd Lieutenant Graf von Sponeck married his fiancée Anneliese Honrichs (1889–1961). They would have two children:

  • Hans(-)Curt Carl (b. 23 July 1911 in Pieverstorf, Mecklenburg; d. 25 November 1999), Major of the Luftwaffe, fighter pilot with Stab/JG 132, JG 2,, II./JG 54, Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 5 and Schnellkampfgeschwader 10[11]
  • Hans(-)Wilhelm Otto (b. 21 February 1913 in Spandau), as Rittmeister of the cavalry on 5 July 1942 in Schilowo

On 7 April 1938, the divorced (o¦o 21 September 1937) Generalmajor married Gertrud Könitzer (1907–1972[12]), daughter of Colonel Paul Könitzer. They divorced in 1944 at the urging of Graf von Sponeck, hoping to protect his family from reprisals. After the war, she married Dr. jur. Albert Michels.[13] Hans and Gertrud had one son:

  • Hans-Christof (b. 20 August 1939 in Bremen), German diplomat. He served as a UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

On 5 November 1939, wife Gertrud Gräfin von Sponeck writes in her diary:

Now daddy has been at war for 11 weeks and Hans-Christof is the same age. When will this war be over? It is not yet possible to predict how everything will develop. Our little child has now become a real little war child and has opened his little blue eyes at a very serious time.


  • 19.3.1908 Leutnant (2nd Lieutenant) without Patent (ernannt)
    • shortly afterwards received a Patent from 19 Juni 1908
  • 25.2.1915 Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant)
  • 16.9.1917 Hauptmann (Captain)


  • 1928 Major with rank seniority (RDA) from 1.2.1928
  • 1.10.1932 Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel)
  • 1.10.1934 Oberst (Colonel)


  • 10.2.1938 Generalmajor without rank seniority (RDA)
    • 28.2.1938 received RDA from 1.3.1938
  • 1.2.1940 Generalleutnant

Awards, decorations and honours

Hans Graf von Sponeck, Ehrenfriedhof Dahn.jpg

Awards and decorations


  • Hans-Graf-Sponeck-Straße in Germersheim
  • Graf-Sponeck-Straße in Bremen (Neue Vahr-Süd) on 3 June 1958
  • General-Hans-Graf-von-Sponeck-Kaserne (III. Bataillon/Luftwaffenausbildungsregiment 4) of the Bundeswehr in Germersheim on 1 March 1966[15]

External links


  1. Landkreis Germersheim
  2. Gau Westmark
  3. Heer officers attached to the Luftwaffe (Archive)
  4. Hans Graf von Sponeck: Missing Biblio-AF General?
  5. Gen.Lt. Hans Emil Otto Graf von Sponeck
  6. Ehrenfriedhof Dahn
  7. Hans Emil Otto Graf v. Sponeck
  8. Sponeck, Hans Emil Otto Graf von
  9. Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Gräflichen Häuser, 1908, pp. 857 ff.
  10. Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Gräflichen Häuser, 1921, p. 926
  11. 1932-34 studied aeronautical engineering at Berlin Technische Hochschule. 1934 with the Reichsmarine. 01.10.35 entered the Luftwaffe. 01.07.37 appt Adjutant JG 132. 01.11.38 appt Adjutant JG 131. 01.03.39 promo to Oblt. 01.05.39 appt Adjutant JG 2. 1939-40 Ia with Stab I.Flakkorps. 12.40 with II./JG 54. 01.02.41 Oblt., appt Staka 10.(Erg.)/JG 3 (later 1./Erg.Gr./JG 3) (to 31.12.41). 25.01.42 Oblt., appt Staka 7./JG 5 (to 01.01.43). 01.02.42 promo to Hptm. 23.04.42 Hptm., 7./JG 5. 30.04.43 Staka 5./SKG 10, trf to Schl.G. 1. 08.43 Ic with Stab/4. Fl.Schul-Div.(to 04.44). 1944 Ia in Stab/Jagdfliegerführer Dänemark. 26.01.45 Hptm., appt Ia/3. Jagddivision. 01.03.45 promo to Maj. and admitted to the Genstab d.Lw. 08.05.45 Maj., Ia Hilfsoffizier of JFl.Fü. Dänemark; Source: Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries, Section S-Z
  12. The German Line -Johann Rudolph Reichsgraf von Sponeck
  13. The Sponneck Saga
  14. Rangliste des deutschen Reichsheeres, 1931, p. 121
  15. Einweihung der Graf-Sponeck-Kaserne in Germersheim (Archive)