Rainer Stahel

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Rainer Stahel
Stahel, Rainer8.jpg
Stahel as Lieutenant General
Birth name Rainer Joseph Karl August Stahel
Birth date 15 January 1892(1892-01-15)
Place of birth Bielefeld, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Death date 30 November 1955 (aged 63)
Place of death Ivanovo Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Allegiance  German Empire (1911–1918)
Finland Finland (1918–1925/34)
 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
Coat of arms of Finland.png Finnish Army
War Ensign of the Reichswehr, 1919 - 1935.png Reichswehr
Luftwaffe eagle.jpg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1911–1945
Rank Generalleutnant
Commands held 22nd Flak Brigade
Battles/wars World War I
Finnish Civil War
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Relations ∞ 1918 Ilse Reyscher

Rainer Joseph Karl August Stahel (18 January 1887 – 11 April 1958) was a German officer of the Prussian Army, the Imperial German Army, the Finnish Army, the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, finally Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General) and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords in World War II.


Rainer Stahel.jpg
Schwerterverleihung an Rainer Stahel.jpg

Rainer Stahel was born in Bielefeld as the first son of Heinrich Stahel and Karoline, née Deuringer. The parents came from Immenstadt im Allgäu and had owned a mechanical linen weaving mill in Schildesche (Engersche Straße 35/37) since 1891, which was further expanded by purchasing a weaving mill in Berthelsdorf, Landshut/Silesia district. Rainer grew up in a well-off middle class family with his brothers Friedrich Karl, Heinrich and Helmuth and his sisters Henriette and Karoline. Around 1900, the entire family switched from Roman Catholic to Old Catholic denomination. After attending an elementary school in Schildesche, he went to the preschool of the Ratsgymnasium Bielefeld in in 1901 when he was 8 years old and a year later moved to the Sexta of the Realgymnasium branch of this school. He was member of the nationalist youth organisation "Wandervogel" (Wandervogelbewegung).[1] Stahel, like his father, loved the military, collected weapons and modelled and painted thousands of lead soldiers, with which he could react the Franco-German War. Rainer achieved his Abitur during the March exams in 1911.

On 31 July 1925, Stahel, who like his family had been given the Finnish citizenship, was forced to leave Finland due to pressure by the Entente, wanting all Germans to leave the country. Nonetheless, Stahel remained an officer of the reserves. Back in Bielefeld, Stahel joined the factory of his father and also joined the Stahlhelm Bund, where he would become Ortsgruppenführer (local group leader). Here he used his military expertise in exercises and moved forward with expansion of the Bielefeld local group, also founding of four comradeships (Kameradschaften) and two youth departments. The paramilitary-trained group was considered one of the most best organized combat units in the Minden administrative district. The primary goal was the fight against communists and social democrats, who were considered the most important political opponents in the Bielefeld district.

Military career (chronology)

  • Entered the Army as an Fahnenjunker, Platoon-Leader and Battalion-Adjutant in the 130th Infantry-Regiment (01 Apr 1911-31 Jul 1915)
  • Detached to the War School in Hersfeld (01 Oct 1911-00 Jul 1912)
    • Severely wounded on 11 February 1915
  • Company-Leader in the 130th Infantry-Regiment (01 Aug 1915-30 Apr 1916)
    • Severely wounded on 18 March 1916[2]
  • With the Replacement-Battalion of the 130th Infantry-Regiment (01 May 1916-14 May 1916)
  • Detached to the Training-Troops Lokstedt (15 May 1916-30 May 1916)
  • Chief of the MG-Company of the 27th Jäger-Battalion (31 May 1916-08 Jul 1917)
  • Detached as Artillery-Observer (18 Feb 1917-28 Feb 1917)
  • Detached to Assault-Battalion Rohr (18 May 1917-26 May 1917)
  • MG-Officer with the Staff of the 27th Jäger-Battalion (09 Jul 1917-19 Feb 1918)
  • Released for Service in the Finnish Army
    • At disposal (z. D.) on 2 March 1918
    • Retired on 11 April 1918
  • Commander of the 27th Finnish Jäger-Battalion (19 Feb 1918-09 Mar 1918)
  • Commander of the 2nd Finnish Jäger-Regiment (10 Mar 1918-31 Mar 1918)
  • Commander of the 3rd Finnish Jäger-Brigade (01 Apr 1918-05 Jun 1918)
  • Chief Of Staff of the 1st Finnish Division (06 Jun 1918-05 Sep 1918)
  • Commander of the 1st Finnish Baltic-Sea-Regiment, Helsingfors (06 Sep 1918-05 Nov 1919)
  • Retired (05 Nov 1919)
  • Entered Service with the Finnish Border-Police as Commander of the Finnish Protection-Corps Turku (Abo) (15 Mar 1920-31 Jul 1925)
    • Finnish Reserve-Officer (22 Feb 1922-19 Dec 1934)
  • Employed by the German Army as Advisor Wa Prw. 2 in the Army Weapons Office (HWA) (Development of On-Board-MG for Aircraft and for Heavy MG) (06 Nov 1933-31 May 1935)
    • Hauptmann a. D. and Hilfsreferent with HWA/Reichswehrministerium
    • Territorial-Officer (Landesschutz-Offizier) on 1 March 1934 with effect from 23 February 1934
  • Transferred into the Luftwaffe as a Supplemental-Officer (Activated in August 1941) and Advisor for the Development of light Flak-Weapons, RLM (01 Jun 1935-14 Nov 1938)
  • Battery-Commander in the 73rd Light Flak-Battalion (15 Nov 1938-25 Aug 1939)
  • Commander of the 731st Light Reserve-Flak-Battalion (26 Aug 1939-18 Feb 1940)
  • Commander of the 226th Reserve-Flak-Battalion (19 Feb 1940-30 Apr 1940)
  • At the same time, Course for Battalion-Commanders at Flak-Artillery-School I (26 Feb 1940-20 Mar 1940)
  • Commander of the 151st Reserve-Flak-Battalion (01 May 1940-31 Jul 1940)
  • Luftwaffe-Control-Officer with the Control-Commission I in Unoccupied France, Bourges (01 Aug 1940-24 Mar 1941)
  • At the same time, Acting-Chief Of Staff of the Luftwaffe-Control-Commission I, Bourges (10 Jan 1941-24 Mar 1941)
  • Commander of the 34th Motorised-Flak-Regiment (25 Jan 1941-14 Apr 1942)
  • Commander of the 99th Flak-Regiment (15 Apr 1942-25 Sep 1942)
  • Delegated with the Leadership of the 4th Luftwaffe-Field-Division (Formation-Commander) and for a time, Commander of Luftwaffe-Battle-Group Stahel (25 Sep 1942-31 Jan 1943)
    • For several weeks, he defended the Oblivskaya airport, which was strategically important for supplying the troops encircled near Stalingrad. He explained to his superior, Lieutenant General Martin Fiebig, that four weeks in front line soldiers were emaciated and rendered unable to resist. Just at the word “the Russians are coming” they let everything down, especially because the Russian "beast" destroys everything. After heavy fighting and with heavy losses, he ultimately escaped being surrounded by Russian troops "with a pitiful remainder" of his men.
    • In January 1943, he was promoted to Major General and personally awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross by Hitler.
    • In February 1943, he had another meeting with the Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht at the provisional Führer headquarters in Vinnitsa (Ukraine), where Hitler appointed him “Chief of the Defense of the Zaporozhye Region" (Ukraine) and was officially named the "Special Representative of the Führer for Difficult Military Situations".
  • Detached into the Service-Area of Air-Fleet-Command 4 (01 Mar 1943-20 May 1943)
  • Commander of the 22nd Flak-Brigade (21 May 1943-05 Jun 1943)
  • Proposed Service with the Reichsführer-SS and Chief of Special-Staff Stahel but command did not become effective (01 Jun 1943-16 Jun 1943)
  • Delegated with the Flak-Security of the entire North Coast of Sicily (28 Jul 1943-1944)
    • After Allied troops landed in North Africa at the turn of 1942/43, Rainer Stahel was personally assigned to Italy by Hitler and entrusted with air defense and protection of the Strait of Messina.
  • At the same time, Commandant of Rome (10 Sep 1943-30 Oct 1943)
    • appointed by Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, after Italy's betrayal, which led to it's disarmament by the Germans (Fall Achse). The cooperation with the church in Rome obviously worked, as Stahel, for example, received information from the Vatican Secretariat of State about an impending communist uprising and was informed that Pope Pius XII had spoken "words of appreciation about the German commander of the city of Rome." On 30 October 1943, he flew to the Führerhauptquartier, reported to Hitler and was was placed in the Führerreserve for health recovery.
    • Stahel, who was living in Leipzig in the meantime, was reactivated in March 1944 and personally entrusted by Hitler with several "special assignments" on the Eastern Front, which showed the general the special trust the Führer had in him.
  • Commandant of Fortress Vilna (07 Jul 1944-11 Jul 1944)
  • City-Commandant of Warsaw (25 Jul 1944-25 Aug 1944)
    • In late July 1944, the German units stationed in and around Warsaw were divided into three categories. The first and the most numerous was the garrison of Warsaw. As of 31 July, it numbered some 11,000 troops under General Rainer Stahel. During the Second Warsaw Uprising the German side received reinforcements on a daily basis. Stahel was replaced as overall commander by SS-General Erich von dem Bach in early August. As of 20 August 1944, the German units directly involved with fighting in Warsaw comprised 17,000 men arranged in two battle groups.
  • Battle-Commandant north of Bucharest (26 Aug 1944-27 Aug 1944)
    • On 27 August 1944, he reported high losses and the abandonment of the fight for the Romanian capital. While trying to break out of the encircled area, he and Lieutenant General Alfred Gerstenberg (1893–1959) were taken captive by traitorous Romanian soldiers and handed over to the Soviets three weeks later.
Eichenlaubträger Rainer Stahel auf dem Generalsfriedhof in Tschernzy.jpg
  • In Romanian, then Soviet Captivity (28 Aug 1944-30 Nov 1955)[3]


Lieutenant General Stahel died in 1955 in the Voikovo (Woikowo) officer prison camp (NKVD special camp No. 5110/48), officially of a heart attack (Myocardial infarction) when he, after over eleven years of harshest imprisonment, was informed of his impending release and transfer to Germany in January 1956. Other sources believe he, like many others, was murdered before his release. He was buried at the General Cemetery of the Chernzy/Cherntsy War Cemetery (row 5, grave 6).

When his death was announced in Bielefeld in January 1956, the newspaper "Westfalen Blatt" praised him as the "last defender of Bucharest", as a "knight without fear and blame". In 1958, the Gymnasium's alumni followed suit and included him in the school's book of honor (Ehrenbuch) and on the war memorial (Kriegerdenkmal) as a victim of the Second World War. His son Rainer-Eric is also listed in the Ehrenbuch and on the Kriegerdenkmal. As late as 1965, Stahel was celebrated in a Bielefeld newspaper as a fighter for the "freedom of his own fatherland and the liberation of Finland from the Russian yoke."


Daughter Anneliese Welker-Stahel


It was as a German volunteer in Finland that he learned that his beloved younger brother Heinrich, who also served in the 1st Lorraine Infantry Regiment No. 130, had fallen at the Western Front as a 2nd Lieutenant and leader of the 11th Company just eleven days after the breakthrough battle at St. Quentin-La Fère on 31 March 1918 during the pursuit battles until Montdidier-Noyon. Another brother, Friedrich Karl Stahel (b. 30 May 1894 in Bielefeld), was as a Rittmeister on the Eastern Front on 25 September 1942.


In Februray 1918, 1st Lieutenant Stahel married his fiancée Ilse Reyscher, daughter of builder (Baumeister) and architect in Bielefeld Gustav Reyscher (1853-1928). They had two children:

  • Rainer-Eric (b. 21 March 1919), graduate of the Ratsgymnasium Bielefeld, general staff officer of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front, mid-April 1945[4]
  • Anneliese (b. 1922 in Lambrecht, Pfalz; d. 11 August 2010[5]), sculptor in Kaiserslautern, Palatinate; ∞ Wilhelm Welker, Protestant pastor and dean (Dekan); 2 children, son Georg (b. 1946), pastor, politician, mayor (since 2018 of Herxheim am Berg) and daughter Elisabeth (b. 3 July 1948 in Lambrecht), Gymnasium teacher (Studienrätin)

The children grew up first in Abo (Turku) and then returned with the parents to Germany in 1925.


Obituary from the family; Mrs. Ilse Stahel assumed for a long time that her husband was killed in action in the summer of 1944; Officially he was documented as missing in September 1944 with the Wehrmacht and in Bielefeld. Only in January 1954, did she receive a sign of life from the USSR and waited hopeful for his return.
  • 1 April 1911 Fahnenjunker (Officer Candidate)
  • 1 August 1911 Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier (Senior Officer Candidate)
  • 19 December 1911 Fähnrich (Officer Cadet)
  • 18 October 1912 Leutnant (2nd Lieutenant) with Patent from 23 August 1910
  • 27. Januar 1916 Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant)
  • 8 October 1921 Charakter als Hauptmann (Hononary Captain)

Finnish Army

  • 28 February 1918 Major
    • another source states 6 March 1918
  • 27 May 1918 Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel)


  • 23 February 1934 Hauptmann (Landesschutz-Offizier; L-Offizier)
  • 1 April 1934 Hauptmann (Ergänzungsoffizier; E)


  • 1 April 1936 Major (E)
  • 1 November 1939 Oberstleutnant (E)
    • active officer as of August 1941
  • 1 March 1942 Oberst (Colonel)
  • 21 January 1943 Generalmajor
  • 22 July 1944 Generalleutnant

Awards and decorations

Rainer Stahel II.png

Further reading

  • Franz Thomas: Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German), Biblio-Verlag, Osnabrück 1998, ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6
  • 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German), Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag, Jena 2007, ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • 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


  1. 103. Jahresbericht des Historischen Vereins für die Grafschaft Ravensburg, 2018, p. 194
  2. Personal file
  3. Generalleutnant Rainer Stahel
  4. BA-MA Freiburg, Personalakte Rainer Eric Stahel, PERS 6/165252
  5. Nachruf Anneliese Welker-Stahel
  6. 6.0 6.1 Thomas 1998, p. 340.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 716.
  8. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 44.