Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht general)
Hans Krebs (b. 4 March 1898 in Helmstedt, Duchy of Brunswick, German Empire; d. 1 May 1945 in Berlin) was a German officer of the Imperial German Army, the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, finally becoming General of the Infantry. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves in World War II.
Krebs was born in Helmstedt. He volunteered for service in the Imperial German Army in 1914, was promoted to lieutenant in 1915, and to first lieutenant in 1925. Krebs was a career officer, and reached the position of Head of General Staff of various army groups until he became an General of Infantry.
His last decade saw the following appointments:
- 1936–1939 military attaché in Moscow (Krebs spoke fluent Russian)
- 1939 Chief of Army Training Section
- 1939–1942 Chief of Staff VII Corps
- 1942–1943 Chief of Staff German Ninth Army, Eastern Front
- 1943–1944 Chief of Staff Army Group Centre, Eastern Front
- 1944–1945 Chief of Staff Army Group B, Western Front
- 1945 Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff (OKH)
- 1 April– 1 May 1945 Chief of the Army General Staff (OKH)
Final battle 1945
Goebbels wrote of him on 30 March 1945:
- "General Krebs, who has long been Chief-of-Staff to Model, is coming [to the Führerbunker] in place of Guderian. Krebs is an outstanding personality. For a time, he was Military Attaché in Moscow, but has not been spoiled by diplomatic activity."
Appointed Chief of the Army General Staff (OKH), Krebs was in the Führerbunker below the Reich Chancellery during the Battle for Berlin. On 28 April 1945, Krebs made his last telephone call from the bunker, to General Wilhelm Keitel at the new Supreme Command Headquarters in Fürstenberg. He told Keitel that, if relief did not arrive within 48 hours, all was lost. Keitel promised to exert the utmost pressure on General Walther Wenck (de) who commanded the German 12th Army and General Theodor Busse who commanded the German 9th Army. On 22 April, German dictator Adolf Hitler had ordered both of these armies to link up and come to the relief of Berlin.
Later on 28 April, when it was discovered that Heinrich Himmler was trying to negotiate a backdoor surrender to the Allies via Count Folke Bernadotte, Krebs became part of a tribunal set up by Hitler to court-martial associates of Himmler, deemed to be sufficiently close to have known of his intentions, who could be rounded up in Berlin. One person to face this tribunal was Hermann Fegelein, Himmler's ajudant, and Eva Braun's brother-in-law. SS-General Wilhelm Mohnke presided over the tribunal which, in addition to Krebs and Mohnke, included General Johann Rattenhuber and General Wilhelm Burgdorf.
On 29 April, Krebs, Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann witnessed and signed the last will and testament of Adolf Hitler. Hitler dictated the document to his personal private secretary, Traudl Junge. Bormann was head of the Party Chancellery (Parteikanzlei) and private secretary to Hitler. Late in the evening of 29 April, Krebs contacted General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) by radio and made the following demands:
- "Request immediate report. Firstly of the whereabouts of Wenck's spearheads. Secondly of time intended to attack. Thirdly of the location of the 9th Army. Fourthly of the precise place in which the 9th Army will break through. Fifthly of the whereabouts of General Rudolf Holste's spearhead."
In the early morning of 30 April, Alfred Jodl replied to Krebs:
- "Firstly, Wenck's spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, 12th Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of 9th Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste's Corps on the defensive."
Late on 30 April, the Soviet forces continued to fight their way into the center of Berlin. Hitler then committed suicide. In accordance with Hitler's last will and testament, Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, became the new "Head of Government" and Chancellor of Germany (Reichskanzler).
On 1 May, within hours of Hitler's suicide on April 30, Goebbels sent Krebs and his Chief of Staff Colonel Theodor von Dufving, under a white flag, to deliver a letter he had written to General Vasily Chuikov. The letter contained surrender terms acceptable to Goebbels. Chuikov, as commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanded the Red Army in central Berlin. Krebs arrived shortly before 4 a.m. and took Chuikov by surprise. Krebs, a Russian-speaker, informed Chuikov that Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife, had committed suicide in the Führerbunker. Chuikov, who was not aware that there was a bunker under the Reich Chancellery, or that Hitler was married, calmly said that he already knew all of this. Chuikov was not, however, prepared to accept the terms in Goebbels' letter or to negotiate with Krebs. The Soviets were unwilling to accept anything other than complete unconditional surrender. Krebs was not authorized by Goebbels to agree to this. The meeting therefore ended with no agreement. According to Traudl Junge, Krebs returned to the bunker looking "worn out, exhausted". The surrender of Berlin was thus impeded as long as Goebbels was alive.
At around 8 p.m. on the evening of 1 May, Goebbels removed this last impediment. Shortly after their children were killed, Goebbels and his wife went up to the garden of the Chancellery. Here, Joseph and Magda Goebbels committed suicide after arranging to have their bodies burned by Goebbels's adjutant, Günther Schwägermann. But, even after the death of Goebbels, Krebs was still in a state of despair. He was now suicidal himself. The responsibility for surrendering the city fell to General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie) Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area.
As the Soviets advanced on the Führerbunker, Krebs was last seen by others, including Traudl Junge, in the bunker when they themselves left to attempt to escape. Junge relates how she approached Krebs to say goodbye and how he straightened up and smoothed his uniform before greeting her for the last time. He and at least two other senior officers, including General Wilhelm Burgdorf, stayed behind with the stated intention of committing suicide. The bodies of Krebs and Burgdorf were found when Soviet personnel entered the bunker.
- Fahnenjunker, 3 September 1914
- Hannoversche Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 10 in Goslar
- 27 November 1914 transfered to the Infanterie-Regiment „Herzog Friedrich Wilhelm von Braunschweig“ (Ostfriesisches) Nr. 78
- Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter, 11 December 1914
- Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier, 5 January 1915
- Fähnrich, 22 March 1915
- Leutnant, 18 June 1915
- Oberleutnant, 31 July 1925
- Hauptmann, 1 October 1931
- Major, 1 January 1936
- Oberstleutnant, 1 February 1939
- Oberst i. G., 1 October 1940
- Generalmajor, 1 February 1942
- Generalleutnant, 1 April 1943
- General der Infanterie, 1 August 1944
Awards and decorations (excerpt)
- Iron Cross (1914) 2nd Class and 1st Class
- 2nd Class (22 August 1915)
- 1st Class (6 February 1917)
- War Merit Cross (Brunswick), 2nd and 1st Class
- Friedrich-August-Kreuz, 2nd and 1st Class
- House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight's Cross with Swords
- Wound Badge (Verwundetenabzeichen 1918) in Black
- Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award (Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung), 4th to 1st Class
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class (14 May 1940)
- 1st Class (18 May 1940)
- Eastern Front Medal
- German Cross in Gold on 26 January 1942 as Oberst im Generalstab in the VII Army Corps
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Knight's Cross on 26 March 1944 as Generalleutnant and Chief of General Staff of Army Group Centre
- 749th Oak Leaves on 20 February 1945 as General der Infanterie and Chief of Staff of Army Group B
- Junge, Traudl, Until The Final Hour, edited by Melissa Muller, English-language edition, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2002, numerous mentions - see index. ISBN: 0-297-84720-1.
- Trevor-Roper, Professor Hugh, editor, The Goebbels Diaries - The Last Days, BCA, London, 1978, p.276, ISBN: 0-436-17966-0.