Karl Decker

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Karl Decker
Karl Gustav Adolf Decker (1897–1945).png
Birth name Karl Gustav Adolf Decker
Birth date 30 November 1897(1897-11-30)
Place of birth Borntin, Kreis Neustettin, Province of Pomerania, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Death date 21 April 1945 (aged 47)
Place of death Groß-Brunsrode near Braunschweig, Gau Southern Hanover-Brunswick, German Reich
Allegiance  German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
War Ensign of Germany (1921–1933).png Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
Years of service 1914–1945
Rank General der Panzertruppe
Commands held 5th Panzer Division
XXXIX Panzer Korps
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Iron Cross
German Cross in Gold
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Karl Gustav Adolf Decker (30 November 1897 – 21 April 1945) was a German officer of the Imperial German Army, the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, finally General der Panzertruppe (General of the Panzer Troops or Armoured Corps) and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds during World War II.

Military career (chronology)

General der Panzertruppe Karl Decker.jpg
  • Entered Army Service (03 Aug 1914)
  • Fahnenjunker in the Infanterie-Regiment „von der Goltz“ (7. Pommersches) Nr. 54 (03 Aug 1914-18 Nov 1914)
    • fought in Poland, Russia and Courland
  • Transferred into the Reserve-Hospital Stolp (18 Nov 1914-10 Jan 1915)
  • Transferred to the I. Replacement-Battalion of the 54th Infantry-Regiment (10 Jan 1915-26 Jan 1915)
  • With the Regiment in the Field (26 Jan 1915-08 Mar 1919)
    • served as Zugführer (platoon leader) of a machine gun unit after he was transferred to the Feldkriegsschule of the German 8th Army
  • Detached to the Field War School of the 8th Army, Libau (08 Aug 1916-26 Sep 1916)
  • Detached to Weapon-Officers-Course in Döberitz (28 Jan 1917-07 Mar 1917)
  • Transferred to the Western Front and fought in the Battle of Lys where his division suffered heavy casualties (April 1917)
  • Weapons instructor assigned to the Infantry School in Döberitz (1918)
  • Transferred into the 29th Reichswehr-Infantry-Regiment (08 Mar 1919-16 Oct 1920)
  • Transferred into the 5th Infantry-Regiment (16 Oct 1920-01 Aug 1921)
  • Adjutant of the II. Battalion of the 5th Infantry-Regiment (01 Aug 1921-01 Apr 1923)
  • Transferred into the 6th Mounted-Regiment (01 Apr 1923-01 Oct 1930)
  • Detached to Weapon-School-Course in Dresden (03 Oct 1927-15 Feb 1928)
  • Squadron-Commander in the 6th Mounted-Regiment (01 Oct 1930-01 Oct 1934)
  • Squadron-Commander in Mounted-Regiment Schwedt (01 Oct 1934-15 Oct 1935)
  • With the Staff of the 15th Mounted-Regiment (15 Oct 1935-06 Oct 1936)
  • With the Staff of the 15th Cavalry-Regiment (06 Oct 1936-12 Oct 1937)
  • Commander of the 38th Antitank-Battalion (12 Oct 1937-10 Apr 1940) as successor of Colonel Theobald „Theo“ Helmut Lieb[1]
    • his unit was subordinated to the 2nd Panzer division during the Invasion of Poland and fought under the command of Decker near Kraków and the Jablonka Pass.
  • Commander of the I. Battalion of the 3rd Panzer-Regiment (10 Apr 1940-15 May 1941)
    • during the Battle of France, Decker commanded a battalion of the 3rd Panzer regiment in the 2nd Panzer division. This unit fought at the Maas, near Sedan, Saint-Quentin and Abbeville.
    • in Balkans Campaign, his regiment fought in Yugoslavia, northern Greece, occupied Athens and crossed the Corinth Canal.
  • Commander of the 3rd Panzer-Regiment (15 May 1941-18 Jan 1943)
  • Commander of the 35th Panzer-Regiment (18 Jan 1943-10 Feb 1943)
  • Führer-Reserve (Leader's Reserve) OKH (10 Feb 1943-01 Apr 1943)
  • Transferred into Special-Staff Panzer with the Inspection Of Panzer Troops (01 Apr 1943-20 Jun 1943)
  • Commander of the 21st Panzer-Brigade (20 Jun 1943-07 Sep 1943)
  • Delegated with the Temporary-Leadership of the 5th Panzer-Division (07 Sep 1943-30 Oct 1943)
  • Delegated with the Leadership of the 5th Panzer-Division (30 Oct 1943-01 Dec 1943)
  • Commander of the 5th Panzer-Division (01 Dec 1943-16 Oct 1944)
  • Delegated with the Leadership of XXXIX. Panzer-Corps (16 Oct 1944-27 Dec 1944)
  • Commanding General of XXXIX. Panzer-Corps (27 Dec 1944-21 Apr 1945)

Knight's Cross (award reasons)

Knight’s Cross (Balkans Campaign):

“On the 18 April 1941, Oberstleutnant Decker distinguished himself while leading at the forefront of Kampfgruppe Balck. He and his troops crossed over the Pinios, broke through the Australian/New Zealanders’ fortified line, thrusted towards Larissa and thereby forced the enemy to give up their Olympus position. By smashing the Yugoslavian defense in the Strumica basin he created the necessary conditions for the 2. Panzer-Division’s thrust to Salonika.”

Oakleaves (Eastern Front):

“For the outstanding leadership of the 5. Panzer-Division north of Rogatschew in the time period 22 February to 21 March 1944 and the subsequent relief battles at Kovel. On the morning of the 5 April 1944 contact was established with an outermost strongpoint of Fortress Kovel; the villages of Dubowa and Rudniki (northwest of the city) were taken.”
“At the end of February 1944, the Soviets achieved a penetration north of Rogatschew, and in response the 5. Panzer-Division was thrown into battle in a piecemeal fashion as soon as each Bataillon arrived. In order to buy time for the arrival of further forces, Generalmajor Decker created a thin, strongpoint-like defensive front that initially halted the enemy advance. However, on the next day, the Soviets attacked the weak elements of the 5. Panzer-Division with three of their own divisions. They launched an enveloping thrust through a gap in the German frontline with strong forces and proceeded to a key German position along the Pruth river. To deal with this, the divisional commander rushed to the threatened site with a handful of reserves, a few heavy Pak guns (anti-tank guns) and a company of pioneers (engineers). He set up a defense just before the Soviets arrived and in the ensuing battle, during which he personally fought in the foremost line and positioned the Paks, he and his men defeated all enemy attacks until the arrival of friendly reinforcements. A few days later, on the 2 March 1944, the Wehrmachtbericht reported that in this fighting the Silesian 5th Panzer-Division under the command of Generalmajor Decker had outstandingly acquitted itself. This was the second time within three months that Generalmajor Decker and his Division had been named in the Wehrmachtbericht.”

Swords (Defence of the Reich):

“For the thrust of Panzer division Clausewitz under his corps command. Decker’s mission was to thrust from the Uelzen area towards the south via Helmstedt, with the ultimate aim of establishing contact with the 11. Armee in the Harz. Initial successes were achieved, and these led to the occupation of the bridges over the Weser-Elbe canal at Fallersleben. The Panzer division of the corps thereby accomplished its mission of tying down enemy forces and relieving the pressure on our forces positioned at the Elbe river on both sides of Magdeburg.”

Wehrmachtbericht references

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
11 December 1943 Die im mittleren Frontabschnitt eingesetzte pommerisch-mecklenburgische 292. Infanteriedivision unter Generalmajor John und die schlesische 5. Panzerdivision unter Generalmajor Decker haben hervorragenden Anteil an den in den letzten Wochen im mittleren Frontabschnitt erzielten Abwehrerfolgen.[2] The Mecklenburg-Pomeranian 292nd Infantry Division under Major General John and the Silesian 5th Panzer Division under Major General Decker deployed in the middle front sector of have played a prominent part in the defensive successes achieved on the middle sector of the front during the last few weeks.
2 March 1944 ... In diesen Kämpfen hat sich die schlesische 5. Panzerdivision unter Führung des Generalmajors Decker zusammen mit den ihr unterstellten Infanterie-, Panzer-, und Flakartillerieverbänden hervorragend bewährt.[3] ... The Silesian 5th Panzer Division under the leadership of Major General Decker along with its subordinated infantry, armor, and anti aircraft artillery detachments have proven themselves exceptionally in these battles.
5 August 1944 (Addendum) Im Kampfraum südwestlich von Kauen zeichnete sich die schlesisch-sudetendeutsche 5. Panzerdivision unter Führung von Generalleutnant Decker durch hervorragenden Angriffsgeist aus.[4] The Silesian-Sudeten 5th Panzer Division under the leadership of Lieutenant General Decker distinguished itself by showing excellent attacking spirit in the battle area southwest of Kaunas.
12 October 1944 (Addendum) In den schweren Abwehrkämpfen nördlich der Memel hat sich die schlesisch-sudetendeutsche 5. Panzerdivision unter Führung von Generalleutnant Decker durch beispielhaften Kampfgeist erneut hervorgetan.[5] The Silesian-Sudeten 5th Panzer Division under the leadership of Lieutenant General Decker distinguished itself again by showing excellent fighting spirit in the heavy defensive fighting north of the Memel.


At the end of March 1945, the corps joined the 9th Army (Heeresgruppe Weichsel under Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici) to liberate the enclosed Küstrin. However, the attack failed. After heavy defensive battles, the corps was moved west in April 1945. On 15 April 1945, General Command XXXIX. Panzer Corps as part of Army Group Blumentritt (under Günther Alois Friedrich Blumentritt) received the order to attack immediately from the Uelzen-Gifhorn area in the direction of Braunschweig and thus to push into the rear of the American 9th Army, which had advanced on Magdeburg. After an initial success, this attack came to nothing in the American defensive fire near Bornum am Elm. In this attack, all combat troops of the Clausewitz Panzer Division (parts of the division staff killed, oters were captured) as well as large parts of the Decker's corps staff were . On 21 April 1945, the wounded and discourged General der Panzertruppe Karl Decker, who had always vowed never to become a POW, committed suicide in a forest area on the edge of Groß-Brunsrode northeast of Braunschweig.

Lieutenant General Karl Arndt took over the troopless General Command XXXIX. on 25 April 1945, which was now subordinated to the 12th Army (Walther Wenck). At the beginning of May 1945, the corps secured the Wulkau-Molkenberg line with motley units, while the subordinate divisions of Generals Heun and Konitzky secured the Havel line between Rathenow and Brandenburg. The retreat to the west in front of the Soviet 47th Army took place fighting. The passage into American captivity took place via the Elbe bridgeheads of Fischbeck and Tangermünde by 8 May 1945.


Karl was the son of Emil Decker, retired officer and administrator of the estate district Borntin, and his wife Elsbeth, née Trabandt. He had two siblings:

  • Anne-Marie Arrah Rosa Emilie (b. 1 October 1894)
  • Katharina Margaretha Ilse (b. 8 June 1900)


General der Panzertruppe Karl Decker II.jpg
  • 3.8.1915: Fahnenjunker (Officer Candidate)
  • 8.5.1915: Fähnrich (Officer Cadet)
  • 12.7.1915: Leutnant (2nd Lieutenant)
  • 31.7.1925: Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant)
  • 1.5.1931: Rittmeister
  • 1.3.1936: Major
  • 1.4.1939: Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel)
  • 1.2.1942: Oberst (Colonel)
  • 1.12.1943: Generalmajor
  • 1.6.1944: Generalleutnant
  • 27.12.1944: General der Panzertruppe

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

External links


  1. Theobald Lieb
  2. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Volume 2, p. 625.
  3. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Volume 3, p. 48.
  4. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Volume 3, p. 191.
  5. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Volume 3, p. 287.
  6. The German National Archives hold no records for the presentation of the Swords. The Association of Knight's Cross Recipients (AKCR) assumes that the presentation fell into the timeframe up to 20 April 1945. It is assumed that the nomination was approved on 26 April 1945. Scherzer states that the assumption is based on a statement from Decker's widow. She stated that she had been informed that her husband had received the award. The date and sequential number "149" were assigned by the AKCR.