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Artur Phleps

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Artur Phleps

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS
Artur Phleps
Artur Phleps wearing Waffen-SS dress uniform
Birth name Artur Gustav Martin Phleps
Nickname(s) Papa Phleps
Born (1881-11-29)29 November 1881
Birthälm, Szeben County, Austria-Hungary now Biertan, Sibiu, Romania
Died 21 September 1944(1944-09-21) (aged 62)
Șimand, Arad, Kingdom of Romania
Allegiance Austro-Hungarian Empire
Kingdom of Romania
 Nazi Germany
Years of service 1900–1944
Rank SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS (Lieutenant General)
Unit SS Motorised Division Wiking
Commands held 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen
V SS Mountain Corps
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
German Cross in Gold

Artur Gustav Martin Phleps (29 November 1881 – 21 September 1944) was an Austro-Hungarian, Romanian and German army officer who held the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS (lieutenant general) in the Waffen-SS during World War II. An Austro-Hungarian Army officer before and during World War I, he specialised in mountain warfare and logistics, and had been promoted to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) by the end of the war. During the interwar period he joined the Romanian Army, reaching the rank of General-locotenent (major general), and also became an adviser to King Carol. After he spoke out against the government, he was sidelined and forcibly retired from the army.

In 1941 he left Romania and joined the Waffen-SS as a SS-Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) of Siebenbürgen to the Reich. In addition to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, Phleps was awarded the German Cross in Gold, and after he was killed in September 1944, he was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross.


  • Early life 1
  • World War I 2
  • Between the wars 3
  • World War II 4
    • SS Motorised Division Wiking 4.1
    • 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen 4.2
    • V SS Mountain Corps 4.3
  • Death and aftermath 5
  • Awards 6
  • Notes 7
    • Footnotes 7.1
  • References 8
    • Books 8.1
    • Journals 8.2
  • External links 9

Early life

rural village landscape with old church steeple in the mid-distance and terraced hills in the background
Phleps' birthplace of Birthälm in Siebenbürgen (modern-day Transylvania)

Phleps was born in Birthälm (Biertan), near Hermannstadt in Siebenbürgen, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (modern-day Romania).[3] At the time, Siebenbürgen was densely populated by ethnic Germans commonly referred to as Transylvanian Saxons. He was the third son of the surgeon Gustav Phleps and Sophie (née Stolz), the daughter of a peasant. Both families had lived in Siebenbürgen for centuries.[4][5] After finishing at the Lutheran Realschule school in Hermannstadt,[4] Phleps entered the Imperial and Royal cadet school in Pressburg (in modern-day Slovakia) in 1900, and on 1 November 1901 was commissioned as a Leutnant (lieutenant) in the 3rd Regiment of the Tiroler Kaiserjäger (mountain infantry).[3][6]

In 1903, Phleps was transferred to the 11th Feldjäger (rifle) Battalion in Güns (in modern-day Hungary),[3] and in 1905 was accepted into the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt. He completed his studies in two years, and was endorsed as suitable for service in the General Staff. Following promotion to Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) he transferred to the staff of the 13th Infantry Regiment at Esseg in Slavonia, and then the 6th Infantry Division in Graz. This was followed by a promotion to Hauptmann (captain) in 1911 along with a position on the staff of the XV Army Corps in Sarajevo, where he specialised in mobilisation and communications in the difficult terrain of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[5][6]

World War I

At the outbreak of

Military offices
Preceded by
New formation
Commander of 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen
30 January 1942 – 15 May 1943
Succeeded by
SS-Brigadeführer Karl Reichsritter von Oberkamp
Preceded by
New formation
Commander of V SS Mountain Corps
8 July 1943 – 21 September 1944
Succeeded by
SS-Brigadeführer Karl Reichsritter von Oberkamp

External links

  • Eyre, Wayne Lt.Col. (Canadian Army) (2006). "Operation RÖSSELSPRUNG and The Elimination of Tito, May 25, 1944: A Failure in Planning and Intelligence Support". The Journal of Slavic Military Studies (Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group) 19 (2): 343–376.  


  • Bergel, Hans (1972). Würfelspiele des Lebens: vier Porträts bedeutender Siebenbürger: Conrad Haas, Johann Martin Honigberger, Paul Richter, Artur Phleps [The Dice of Life: Four portraits of Important Transylvanians, Conrad Haas, Johann Martin Honigberger, Paul Richter, Artur Phleps] (in German). Munich: H. Meschendörfer.  
  • Bergel, H. (2011). "Phleps (Stolz) Artur, General". Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815–1950 [Austrian Biographical Encyclopedia] (in German) 8. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. pp. 45–46.  
  • Bishop, Chris; Williams, Michael (2003). SS: Hell on the Western Front. St Paul: MBI Publishing.  
  • Kaltenegger, Roland (2008). Totenkopf und Edelweiss: General Artur Phleps und die südosteuropäischen Gebirgsverbände der Waffen-SS im Partisanenkampf auf dem Balkan 1942–1945 [Skull and Edelweiss :General Artur Phleps and the Southeastern European Mountain Units of the Waffen-SS in the Partisan Struggle in the Balkans 1942–1945] (in German). Graz: Ares Verlag.  
  • Lepre, George (1997). Himmler's Bosnian Division: The Waffen-SS Handschar Division 1943–1945. Atglen, Philadelphia: Schiffer Publishing.  
  • Lopičić, Đorđe (2009). ]German War Crimes 1941–1945, the judgements of the Yugoslav Military Courts [Nemački Ratni Zločini 1941–1945, presude jugoslovenskih vojnih sudova. Belgrade: Muzej žrtava genocida [Museum of Genocide Victims].  
  • Lumans, Valdis O. (2012). "The Ethnic Germans of the Waffen-SS in Combat: Dregs or Gems". In Marble, Sanders. Scraping the Barrel: The Military Use of Sub-Standard Manpower 1860–1960. New York: Fordham University Press. pp. 225–253.  
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall.  
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag.  
  • Schulz, Andreas; Zinke, Dieter (2008). Die Generale der Waffen-SS und der Polizei : [1933–1945] : die militärischen Werdegänge der Generale, sowie der Ärzte, Veterinäre, Intendanten, Richter und Ministerialbeamten im Generalsrang / 3 Lammerding – Plesch [Germany's Generals and Admirals – Part V: The Generals of the Waffen-SS and the Police 1933–1945]. Bissendorf: Biblio-Verlag.  
  • Stein, George H. (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War, 1939–45. Ithaca, New York: Cornell UP.  
  • Thomas, Franz; Wegmann, Günter (1994). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil VI: Die Gebirgstruppe Band 2: L–Z [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the German Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Part VI: The Mountain Troops Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag.  
  • Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag.  
  • Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. San Francisco: Stanford University Press.  
  • Williamson, Gordon (2004). The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror. St. Paul, Minnesota: Zenith Press.  
  • Windrow, Martin (1992). The Waffen-SS. Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing.  
  • Wolff, Stefan (2000). German Minorities in Europe: Ethnic Identity and Cultural Belonging. New York: Berghahn Books.  



  1. ^ Lopičić 2009, pp. 26–30.
  2. ^ Lopičić 2009, pp. 112–113.
  3. ^ a b c d e Glaise von Horstenau 1980, p. 204.
  4. ^ a b c Kaltenegger 2008, p. 96.
  5. ^ a b Kumm 1995, pp. 8–9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Bergel 2011, p. 45.
  7. ^ a b c Kumm 1995, p. 9.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Thomas 1998, p. 154.
  9. ^ Bergel 1972, p. 87.
  10. ^ a b Kumm 1995, pp. 9–10.
  11. ^ a b Lumans 2012, p. 229.
  12. ^ Bergel 1972, p. 88.
  13. ^ Kaltenegger 2008, pp. 100–101.
  14. ^ Bergel 1972, p. 89.
  15. ^ a b Kaltenegger 2008, p. 101.
  16. ^ a b c d Kumm 1995, p. 10.
  17. ^ Bergel 1972, p. 92.
  18. ^ a b Stein 1984, p. 170.
  19. ^ Kumm 1995, pp. 19–21.
  20. ^ a b Lumans 2012, p. 231.
  21. ^ Kumm 1995, pp. 27–28.
  22. ^ Lepre 1997, pp. 20–24.
  23. ^ Kumm 1995, pp. 30–40.
  24. ^ Kumm 1995, pp. 43–53.
  25. ^ a b Lumans 2012, p. 236.
  26. ^ Lumans 2012, p. 237.
  27. ^ Wolff 2000, pp. 154 & 161.
  28. ^ Rosenbaum & Hoffer 1993, pp. 32 & 79.
  29. ^ Kumm 1995, p. 55.
  30. ^ Bishop & Williams 2003, p. 186.
  31. ^ Stein 1984, p. 210.
  32. ^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 71 & 147.
  33. ^ Tomasevich 1975, p. 398.
  34. ^ Lumans 2012, p. 238.
  35. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 310.
  36. ^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 319–320.
  37. ^ Kaltenegger 2008, pp. 181–189.
  38. ^ Lepre 1997, p. 187.
  39. ^ Eyre 2006, p. 373–376.
  40. ^ Bergel 2011, p. 46.
  41. ^ Bergel 1972, p. 106.
  42. ^ Bergel 1972, p. 104.
  43. ^ Schulz & Zinke 2008, p. 511.
  44. ^ Williamson 2004, p. 121.
  45. ^ Kaltenegger 2008, p. 105.
  46. ^ Schulz & Zinke 2008, p. 551.
  47. ^ Kaltenegger 2008, p. 15.
  48. ^ Windrow 1992, p. 14.
  49. ^ Kaltenegger 2008, p. 111.
  50. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Thomas & Wegmann 1994, p. 149.
  51. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 351.
  52. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 338, 499.
  53. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 593.
  54. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 93.


  1. ^ According to Scherzer as commander of SS-Volunteer-Mountain-Division "Prinz Eugen".[53]


Phleps received the following awards during his service:


Phleps was posthumously awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross on 24 November 1944,[44] which was presented to his son, SS-Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant) Reinhart Phleps,[45] a battalion doctor serving in the 7th SS Division.[46][47] Soon after his death, the 13th Gebirgsjäger Regiment of the 7th SS Division was given the cuff title Artur Phleps in his honour.[48] Phleps was married; his wife's name was Grete and in addition to their son Reinhart, they had a daughter, Irmingard.[49] One of Phleps' brothers became a doctor, and the other was a professor at the Danzig technical university, now Gdańsk University of Technology.[4]

While en route to a meeting with Himmler in Berlin, Phleps and his entourage made a detour to reconnoitre the situation near Arad, Romania after receiving reports of Soviet advances in that area. Accompanied only by his adjutant and his driver, and unaware of the presence of Red Army units in the vicinity, he entered Șimand, a village approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Arad, on the afternoon of 21 September 1944. The villagers failed to warn him of Soviet presence in the village, and Phleps and his men were captured by Soviet forces and brought in for interrogation. When the building in which they were held was attacked by German aircraft later that afternoon, the prisoners tried to escape and were shot by their guards.[41] Bergel suspects that Phleps had been set up by Hungarian army officers who had found out that Phleps knew of plans for Hungary to switch sides as Romania had done shortly before.[42] Phleps' personal effects, including his identity card, tags and decorations, were found by a Hungarian patrol and handed over to German authorities on 29 September 1944. Phleps had been listed as missing in action since 22 September 1944 when he did not show up for his meeting with Himmler, who had issued a warrant for Phleps' arrest.[43]

Death and aftermath

On 20 June 1944, Phleps was awarded the Soviet Red Army.[40]

Due to the unreliable nature of the troops loyal to the NDH government, Phleps utilised Chetnik forces as auxiliaries, stating to a visiting officer that he could not disarm the Chetniks unless the NDH government provided him with the same strength in reliable troops.[35] In January 1944, due to fears that the Western Allies would invade along the Dalmatian coastline and islands, V SS Mountain Corps forced the mass evacuation of male civilians between the ages of 17 and 50 from that area. Phleps was criticised by both NDH and German authorities for the harshness with which the evacuation was carried out.[36] During the first six months of 1944, elements of the V SS Mountain Corps were involved in Operation Waldrausch (Forest Fever) in central Bosnia,[37] Operation Maibaum (Maypole) in eastern Bosnia,[38] and Operation Rösselsprung (Knight's Move), the attempt to capture or kill the Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito.[39]

The formations under the command of V SS Mountain Corps varied during Phlep's command. In July 1944, it consisted of the 118th Jäger Division and 369th (Croatian) Infantry Division in addition to the 7th SS and 13th SS divisions. Throughout Phlep's command, the corps was under the overall control of 2nd Panzer Army and conducted anti-Partisan operations throughout the NDH and Montenegro.[32] These operations included Operations Kugelblitz (ball lightning) and Schneesturm (blizzard), which were part of a major offensive in eastern Bosnia in December 1943, but they were only a limited success.[33] Phleps had met personally with Hitler to discuss the planning for Operation Kugelblitz.[34]

V SS Mountain Corps

In July 1943, Phleps was promoted to Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS (lieutenant general),[3] awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross,[30] and placed in command of the V SS Mountain Corps.[31]

In early October 1942, the division commenced Operation Kopaonik, targeting the Chetnik force of Major Dragutin Keserović in the Kopaonik Mountains, which ended with little success, as the Chetniks had forewarning of the operation and were able to avoid contact. After a quiet winter, in January 1943 Phleps deployed the division to the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) to participate in Case White.[21] Between 13 February and 9 March 1943 he was responsible for the initial aspects of raising the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) in the NDH in addition to his duties commanding the 7th SS Division.[22] During Case White, the division captured Bihać and Bosanski Petrovac, killed over 2,000 Partisans and captured nearly 400.[23] After a short rest and refit in April, the division was committed to Case Black in May and June 1943, during which it advanced from the Mostar area into the Italian governorate of Montenegro, killing 250 Partisans and capturing over 500.[24] In May 1943, Phleps became frustrated by the failure of his Italian allies to cooperate with German operations, which was demonstrated in his reputation for forthright speech. During a meeting with his Italian counterpart in Podgorica, Montenegro, Phleps called the Italian Corps commander General Ercole Roncaglia a "lazy macaroni".[25] Phleps scolded his Wehrmacht interpreter, Leutnant Kurt Waldheim for toning down Phleps' language, saying, "Listen Waldheim, I know some Italian and you are not translating what I am telling this so-and-so".[25] On another occasion, Phleps threatened to shoot Italian sentries who were delaying his passage through a checkpoint.[26] While under Phleps' command, the division committed many crimes against the civilian population of the NDH, especially during Case White and Case Black.[27] These included "burning villages, massacre of inhabitants, torture and murder of captured partisans", and the division thereby developed a distinctive reputation for cruelty.[20] This was the subject of international controversy when Waldheim's service in the Balkans became public in the mid-1980s, during his successful bid for the Austrian presidency.[28] On 15 May 1943, Phleps handed over command of the division to SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen SS Karl von Oberkamp.[29]

an Italian officer and three German officers in uniform standing beneath the wing of an aircraft on a grassed airfield
From left: Italian General Ercole Roncaglia, Kurt Waldheim, Oberst (Colonel) Macholz and Phleps (with briefcase) at Podgorica airfield in Montenegro during Case Black, 22 May 1943. This photograph caused much controversy when it was published while Waldheim was running for the Austrian presidency in 1985–1986.

[20] During his time with the 7th SS Division, Phleps was referred to as "Papa Phleps" by his troops.[19], the division continued to train. Some artillery batteries, the anti-aircraft battalion and the motorcycle battalion and cavalry squadron continued to form in the Banat.Raška and Užice, with its two mountain infantry regiments centred on Kraljevo force. Headquartered in Partisan as an anti-Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia in October 1942, the two regiments and supporting arms were deployed into the southwestern part of the Banat (major general) on 20 April 1942. After recruitment, formation and training in the SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen SS Phleps was promoted to [18].SS-Freiwilligen-Division "Prinz Eugen" On 1 March 1942, the division was officially designated the [16] On 30 December 1941,

7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen

In November 1940, with the support of the leader of the Volksgruppe in Rumänien (ethnic Germans in Romania), Andreas Schmidt, Phleps had written to the key Waffen-SS recruiting officer SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen SS (Brigadier) Gottlob Berger offering his services to the Third Reich. Phleps subsequently asked for permission to leave Romania to join the Wehrmacht, and this was approved by the recently installed Romanian Conducător (dictator) General Ion Antonescu.[15] Phleps volunteered for the Waffen-SS instead,[16] enlisting under his mother's maiden name of Stolz.[6] According to the historian Hans Bergel, Phleps joined the Waffen-SS because Volksdeutsche were not permitted to join the Wehrmacht.[17] He was appointed as a SS-Standartenführer (colonel) by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and joined the SS Motorised Division Wiking,[16] where he commanded Dutch, Flemish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish volunteers.[6] When Hilmar Wäckerle, the commander of SS-Regiment Westland, was killed in action near Lvov in late June 1941, Phleps took over command of that regiment. Phleps distinguished himself in the fighting at Kremenchuk and Dnipropetrovsk in the Ukraine, commanded his own Kampfgruppe,[6] became a confidant of Generalmajor (Brigadier General) Hans-Valentin Hube, commander of the 16th Panzer Division, and was subsequently promoted to SS-Oberführer (senior colonel).[16] In July 1941 he was awarded the 1939 clasp to his Iron Cross (1914) 2nd Class and then the Iron Cross (1939) 1st Class.[8]

SS Motorised Division Wiking

World War II

[6] he was transferred to the reserves in 1940 and forcibly retired from the service in 1941.[15] and publicly calling King Carol a liar when another general tried to twist his words,[14] After criticising government policy[13] (major general) despite his disdain for the corruption, intrigue and hypocrisy of the royal court.Generalleutnant Phleps reached the rank of [11][10] in the 1930s.Carol II (mountain troops) and also acted as a military advisor to King vânători de munte He commanded various Romanian units, including the 1st Brigade of the [12] Ironically, after the book was published, Phleps failed his first general's examination on the topic of logistics.[11][10] After the war the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Between the wars

On 1 August 1916, Phleps was promoted to Major.[3] Later that month, King Ferdinand of Romania led the Kingdom of Romania in joining the Triple Entente, and subsequently invaded Phleps' homeland of Siebenbürgen. On 27 August, Phleps became the chief of staff of the 72nd Infantry Division, which was involved in Austro-Hungarian operations to repel the Romanian invasion. He remained in this theatre of operations for the next two years, ultimately serving as the chief quartermaster of the German 9th Army,[7] and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 27 January 1917.[8] In 1918 he returned to the mountains when he was transferred to Armeegruppe Tirol, and ended the war as an Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) and chief quartermaster for the entire Alpine Front.[6][7]


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