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Rudolf Schmidt

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Rudolf Schmidt

Rudolf Schmidt
Rudolf Schmidt in 1942
Born (1886-05-12)12 May 1886
Died 7 April 1957(1957-04-07) (aged 70)
Allegiance German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1906–45
Rank Generaloberst
Commands held 1. Panzer-Division
XXXIX. Panzerkorps
2. Panzerarmee
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Relations Hans-Thilo Schmidt (brother)

Rudolf Schmidt (12 May 1886 – 7 April 1957) was a Panzer General in the German army during World War II who served as the Commander of the 2nd Panzer Army on the Eastern Front. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Legally it was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Rudolf Schmidt.[Note 1]

Military career

He joined Infantry Regiment 83 of the German Imperial Army in 1906 as an officer cadet and in World War I he served on the eastern and western fronts and by the end of the war he was a Hauptmann on the General Staff. He was then retained in the Reichswehr where he served as a staff officer and was promoted to Major in 1927 and Oberstleutnant in 1931. On 1 October 1934 he was promoted to Oberst as commander of the 13th Infantry Regiment in Ludwigsburg.

In October 1937 he was promoted to Generalmajor and appointed commander of the 1st Panzer Division in Weimar as the successor to Maximilian von Weichs.

On 1 June 1938 he was promoted to Generalleutnant.

World War II

In 1939 General Schmidt led the 1st Panzer Division in the invasion of Poland.

On 1 February 1940 he was appointed commanding general of the XXXIX Panzer Corps. He led the Corps in France and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his role in that campaign on 3 June 1940.

He was promoted to General der Panzertruppe and appointed acting commander of the 2nd Army which was involved in the Battle of Moscow.

On 25 December 1941 he was appointed Commander of the 2nd Panzer Army (replacing the sacked General Guderian).

In January 1942 he was promoted to Generaloberst.

Adolf Hitler held Schmidt in high regard, but on 10 April 1943 he was relieved of his command after the Gestapo arrested his brother for spying for the French and found letters that General Schmidt had written in which he was highly critical of Hitler’s conduct of the war and the Nazi Party. He appeared before a court martial but was acquitted and transferred to the leadership reserve on 30 September 1943. He was never re-employed.

His brother Hans-Thilo Schmidt sold details of the Germans' Enigma machine and other sensitive military information to the French Deuxieme Bureau from 1931 until the German invasion of France in 1940.


In 1945 Rudolf Schmidt was captured by Soviet forces at his home in Weimar. He was sent as a prisoner of war to Russia and like other high-ranking German officers was not released from captivity until 1955.

He died in 1957.



  1. ^ Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign, in the military order of the Third Reich. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was officially surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern), however the first presentation of the Swords to Adolf Galland was made prior to this date on 21 June 1941.


  1. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 270.
  2. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 671.

External links

  • Rudolf Schmidt career chronology
Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of XXXIX. Panzerkorps
1 February 1940 – 10 November 1941
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim
Preceded by
Generaloberst Heinz Guderian
Commander of 2. Panzerarmee
25 December 1941 – 10 April 1943
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Heinrich Clößner
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