Helmut Bechler

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Helmut Bechler
Helmut Bechler.jpg
Oberst Bechler
Birth name Helmut Bernard Franz Bechler
Birth date 2 June 1898(1898-06-02)
Place of birth Grün,[1] Amtshauptmannschaft Auerbach, Kingdom of Saxony, German Empire
Death date 9 January 1971 (aged 72)
Place of death Kassel, Hesse, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 National Socialist Germany
Service/branch 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 1915–1945
Rank Generalmajor
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Helmut Bernard Franz Bechler (2 June 1898 – 9 January 1971) was a German officer of the Imperial German Army, the Freikorps, the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, finally Generalmajor of the Heer during World War II and Recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. After the war he was a Lutheran lay preacher.


Helmut Bechler (center) with his officers at the Eastern Front (World War II)
Helmut Bechler's younger brother, Bernhard Max Bechler (b. 9 February 1911 in Grün; d. 30 November 2002), to the left with his wife (∞ 7 May 1938) Margret,[2][3] was an "unconditional National Socialist" and Major of the Wehrmacht, decorated with the German Cross in Gold.[4] He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Stalingrad on 27 January 1943 as commander of the I. Battalion/Grenadier-Regiment 29, became a traitor of his comrades in a Russian Gulag (member of the "National Committee for a Free Germany") and then labeled himself an "anti-fascist". He made his career in the GDR and would become a Generalmajor of the Volkspolizei. The brothers detested each other, Helmut remained a passionate anti-communist.
Family grave
  • 1898 Born as son of Bernhard Max Rudolf Bechler (1869–1946), factory director;[5]
    • Helmut's mother, who had also fled from the Soviet occupation zone of Germany, died 1955. His sister (other sources state another daughter) was the well-known organ player and Kantorin (female conductor of a church choir) Gisela Bechler.
  • Entered Army Service in WWI after his Notabitur (10 Jun 1915)
  • Fahnenjunker in the 16. Königlich Sächsisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 182 or 16th Royal Saxon 182nd Infantry-Regiment (10 Jun 1915-11 Jul 1916)
  • Detached to Fahnenjunker-Course at Döberitz (01 Sep 1915-06 Nov 1915)
  • Wounded, in Hospital (11 Jul 1916-21 Dec 1916); during this time promoted to Leutnant
  • Ordinance-Officer with the Staff of the II. Battalion of the 182nd Infantry-Regiment (21 Dec 1916-14 Mar 1918)
  • Platoon-Leader and Signals-Officer in the II. Battalion of the 182nd Infantry-Regiment (14 Mar 1918-04 Dec 1918)
    • At the same time, was Company-Leader in the 182nd Infantry-Regiment (06 Aug 1918-14 Aug 1918)
  • Adjutant of the I. Battalion of the 182nd Infantry-Regiment (04 Dec 1918-19 Feb 1919)
  • Granted Leave for Studies at Berlin (19 Feb 1919-27 Mar 1919)
  • Platoon-Leader and Temporary-Adjutant of the I. Battalion in the Assault-Infantry-Regiment of the Guards-Cavalry-Rifle-Division (Freikorps) (27 Mar 1919-21 Jun 1919)
  • Company-Leader in the 56th Reichswehr-Infantry-Regiment (21 Jun 1919-10 Dec 1919)
  • Adjutant of the II. Battalion of the 20th Infantry-Regiment (10 Dec 1919-01 Mar 1920)
  • Ordinance-Officer with the Staff of the III. Battalion of the 37th Infantry-Regiment (01 Mar 1920-01 Oct 1920)
  • Transferred into the 24th Infantry-Regiment (01 Oct 1920-31 Dec 1920)
  • Retired from Army Service (31 Dec 1920)
  • Reactivated to Army Service (15 Jul 1934)
  • Oberleutnant/Hauptmann with the 11th Infantry-Regiment (15 Jul 1934-01 Oct 1934)
  • Transferred into Infantry-Regiment Königsbrück (01 Oct 1934-01 Apr 1935)
  • Company-Chief in Infantry-Regiment Königsbrück (01 Apr 1935-15 Oct 1935)
  • Company-Chief in the 53rd Infantry-Regiment (15 Oct 1935-26 Aug 1939)
  • Staff-Officers-Course of the IV. Army-Corps in Königsbrück (15 Nov 1937-27 Nov 1937)
  • Commander of the I. Battalion of the 173rd Infantry-Regiment (26 Aug 1939-06 Jan 1942)
  • Delegated with the Leadership of the 173rd Infantry-Regiment (06 Jan 1942-25 Feb 1942)
  • Commander of the 173rd Infantry-Regiment (25 Feb 1942-29 Mar 1943)
  • Führer-Reserve – Panzer Army High Command 3 (29 Mar 1943-01 Sep 1943)
  • Führer-Reserve OKH (01 Sep 1943-15 Oct 1943)
  • Commander of the 504th Grenadier-Regiment (15 Oct 1943-31 Aug 1944)
  • Führer-Reserve – Detached to Division Leaders Course (31 Aug 1944-11 Oct 1944)
  • Delegated with the deputy/temporary leadership of the 275th Infantry-Division for Generalleutnant Hans Schmidt (11 Oct 1944-22 Nov 1944)
  • Delegated with the deputy/temporary leadership of the 85th Infantry-Division (22 Nov 1944-07 Dec 1944)
  • Delegated with the Leadership of the 85th Infantry-Division (07 Dec 1944-04 Feb 1945)
  • Severely wounded in Hürtgenwald, Eifel – in Hospital (07 Dec 1944-15 Mar 1945)
  • Führer-Reserve OKH – Reserve-Hospital (Reserve-Lazarett) in Königstein, Taunus (15 Mar 1945-00 Jun 1945)

Knight's Cross

The Knight's Cross was awarded for Bechler's leadership while his Division was fighting in the Kamenets-Podolsky pocket.

On the night of the 9./10.3.1944, the Grenadier-Regiment 504 was tasked with occupying the village of Sapadinzy (located 3 km to the east of the Schepetowka—Proskurow road). Its mission was to hold this village and prevent the enemy from reaching the road while the bulk of the Korps (i.e. 3 Divisionen) were retreating along it. As the first regimental elements arrived they were surprised by the sudden appearance of Soviet armour. Acting swiftly himself, Oberst Bechler was able to stabilize the situation with the immediately available elements of his unit (some 30 men). He then used the follow-up regimental elements to create a defensive front in the extended village and was ultimately able to hold Sapadinzy for three days against all Soviet attacks, some of which were supported by tanks.

Bechler would be recognized appropriately for this brave and important operational victory.


Bechler was a Russian POW for a short while, was released, was arrested twice without cause by the Soviet occupation force, until finanly, in June 1948, he succeeded to escape to the West Zone. He lived in the city of Kassel, with many fellow Generals, like Generalmajor z. V. Friedrich von Both (1871–1945), Commandant of the Troop-Exercise-Grounds at Wildflecken, Generalleutnant der Luftwaffe Walter Friedensburg (1889–1959), Generalmajor der Artillerie Friedrich "Fritz" von Buch (1876–1959), Inspector for the Officers-Training in the Staff of the Commanding General of the Training and Replacement Troops of the Parachute-Army, and many more.


Helmut Bechler died at the age of 72 in 1972 in Kassel. He is buried with his wife Ilse, née Herrmann, who died age 86 in 1987, and his daughters Ruth (b. 1927) and Elisabeth (b. 1929). Lying to the left of the grave is Helene Herrmann, née Lange, Ilse's mother. Nearby the grave of his fellow Generals in the cemetery of Niederzweren in Kassel (Friedhof Niederzwehren in Kassel).

Promotions (day, month, year)

  • 10.6.1915: Fahnenjunker
  • 3.9.1915: Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier
  • 3.12.1915: Fähnrich (Officer Cadet)
  • 21.10.1916: Leutnant
  • 31.12.1920: Charakter als Oberleutnant
  • 1.2.1935: Hauptmann with rank seniority (Rangdienstalter) from 15.7.1934
  • 1.4.1939: Major
  • 1.2.1942: Oberstleutnant
  • 1.12.1942: Oberst with rank seniority (Rangdienstalter) from 15.2.1943
  • 16.2.1945: Generalmajor with rank seniority (Rangdienstalter) from 30.1.1945

Awards and decorations

Further reading

  • Walther-Peer Fellgiebel: Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German), Podzun-Pallas, Wölfersheim 2000, ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6
    • English: The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches, expanded edition, 2000
  • Klaus D. Patzwall / Veit Scherzer: Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941–1945 Geschichte und Inhaber, Band II (in German), Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall, Norderstedt 2001, ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8
  • Veit Scherzer: Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German), Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag, Jena 2007, ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2


  1. Since 1. April 1935 a part of Lengenfeld (Vogtland).
  2. Margret Bechler: Warten auf Antwort – Ein deutsches Schicksal, 1978 (second edition 1990); Margret, née Dreykorn (1914–2002), daughter of an Imperial naval engineer, was also betrayed by her husband Bernhard Max Bechler, she spent many years, after being arrested in Altenburg by the US-Americans in June 1945 and then, after they left, turned over to the Russians, until 1950 in Russian Gulags (Speziallager) in Germany (on 16 September 1946 judicially declared dead at the request of the husband, although he found out in June 1946, that she was alive; Bernhard married his secretary, the war widow Erna Voll on 19 September 1946) and until April 1956 in the prison Hoheneck, her ex-husband would not help her, filed for divorce in 1950, when he found out, she was still alive. She would become a teacher in Wedel near Hamburg in 1959, still searching for her two children (Heidi, born 2 October 1939, and Hans-Bernhard, born 23 July 1940), who had disappeared 1945. They were abducted by the Russians and handed over to the father 1946. She was supported by Helmut Bechler and his family. She finally saw her son again after the German Reunification 1990, her daughter Heidi had died.
  3. Hans Ehlert / Armin Wagner: Genosse General! – Die Militärelite der DDR in biografischen Skizzen, 2010
  4. Bechler, Bernhard, Traces of War
  5. Vorstandsvorsitzender der Vogtländischen Carbonisieranstalt AG
  6. Bechler, Helmut, Traces of War
  7. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 107.