Hans Otto Georg Hermann Fegelein (30 October 1906 – 28 April 1945) was a high-ranking commander in the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany. He was a member of Adolf Hitler’s entourage .Fegelein was born in Ansbach, Bavaria, to the retired Oberleutnant Hans Fegelein. As a boy working at his father’s equestrian school in Munich, he became proficient in riding skills and participated in jumping events. During this period he met Christian Weber, an original member of the Nazi Party. Weber later sponsored Fegelein’s entry into the Schutzstaffel (SS).
In September 1939, Fegelein commanded the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Death’s-Head Horse Regiment), which arrived in Poland shortly after the end of the Polish Campaign.The unit was placed under the command of the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo; order police) and was split into small groups assigned to support police activities at posts throughout the Poznan district. On 15 November, Himmler ordered the expansion of the regiment from four to thirteen squadrons and renamed it as 1. SS-Totenkopf-Reiterstandarte (1st Death’s Head Cavalry Regiment). Additional men were recruited from ethnic Germans living in the General Government and further afield. Many of the officers, including Fegelein, had never attended officer training school, so much of the training provided to new recruits was rudimentary. However, it was rigorous, and the men developed a strong camaraderie.Fegelein’s unit was involved alongside the Orpo in the extermination, ordered by Hitler, of members of the Polish elite such as intellectuals, aristocrats, and clergy, in an action called Intelligenzaktion. On 7 December 1939 Fegelein’s unit was involved in the mass shooting of 1,700 such people in the Kampinos Forest.
By early 1945, Germany’s military situation was on the verge of total collapse. Hitler, presiding over a rapidly disintegrating Third Reich, retreated to his Führerbunker in Berlin on 16 January 1945. To the Nazi leadership, it was clear that the battle for Berlin would be the final battle of the war. Berlin was bombarded by Soviet artillery for the first time on 20 April 1945 (Hitler’s birthday). By the evening of 21 April, Red Army tanks reached the outskirts of the city. By 27 April, Berlin was cut off from the rest of Germany.
On 27 April 1945, Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) deputy commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl was sent out from the Reich Chancellery to find Fegelein who had abandoned his post at the Führerbunker after deciding he did not want to “join a suicide pact”.Fegelein was caught by the RSD squad in his Berlin apartment, wearing civilian clothes and preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland. He was carrying cash—German and foreign—and jewellery, some of which belonged to Braun. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler’s attempted peace negotiations with the Western Allies.According to most accounts, he was intoxicated when arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker] He was kept in a makeshift cell until the evening of 28 April. That night, Hitler was informed of the BBC broadcast of a Reuters news report about Himmler’s attempted negotiations with the western Allies via Count Bernadotte.Hitler flew into a rage about this apparent betrayal and ordered Himmler’s arrest.Sensing a connection between Fegelein’s disappearance and Himmler’s betrayal, Hitler ordered SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller to interrogate Fegelein as to what he knew of Himmler’s plans.Thereafter, according to Otto Günsche (Hitler’s personal adjutant), Hitler ordered that Fegelein be stripped of all rank and to be transferred to Kampfgruppe “Mohnke” to prove his loyalty in combat. Günsche and Bormann expressed their concern to Hitler that Fegelein would only desert again. Hitler then ordered Fegelein court-martialed.
Journalist James P. O’Donnell, who conducted extensive interviews in the 1970s, provides one account of what happened next. SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, who presided over the court martial for desertion, told O’Donnell that Hitler ordered him to set up a tribunal. Mohnke arranged for a court martial panel, which consisted of generals Wilhelm Burgdorf, Hans Krebs, SS-Gruppenführer Johann Rattenhuber, and himself. Fegelein, still drunk, refused to accept that he had to answer to Hitler, and stated that he was responsible only to Himmler. Fegelein was so drunk that he was crying and vomiting; he was unable to stand up, and even urinated on the floor. Mohnke was in a quandary, as German military and civilian law both require a defendant to be of sound mind and to understand the charges against them. Although Mohnke was certain Fegelein was “guilty of flagrant desertion”, it was the opinion of the judges that he was in no condition to stand trial, so Mohnke closed the proceedings and turned the defendant over to General Rattenhuber’s security squad. Mohnke never saw Fegelein again.
An alternative scenario of Fegelein’s death is based on the 1948/49 Soviet NKVD dossier of Hitler written for Joseph Stalin. The dossier is based on the interrogation reports of Günsche and Heinz Linge (Hitler’s valet). This dossier differs in part from the accounts given by Mohnke and Rattenhuber. After the intoxicated Fegelein was arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker, Hitler at first ordered Fegelein to be transferred to Kampfgruppe “Mohnke” to prove his loyalty in combat. Günsche and Bormann expressed their concern to Hitler that Fegelein would desert again. Hitler then ordered Fegelein to be demoted and court-martialed by a court led by Mohnke. At this point the accounts differ, as the NKVD dossier states that Fegelein was court-martialed on the evening of 28 April, by a court headed by Mohnke, SS-Obersturmbannführer Alfred Krause, and SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Kaschula. Mohnke and his fellow officers sentenced Fegelein to death. That same evening, Fegelein was shot from behind by a member of the Sicherheitsdienst. Based on this stated chain of events, author Veit Scherzer concluded that Fegelein, according to German law, was deprived of all honours and honorary signs and must therefore be considered a de facto but not de jure recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.
Fegelein’s wife was then in the late stages of pregnancy (the baby was born in early May). Hitler considered releasing him without punishment or assigning him to Mohnke’s troops. Junge—an eye-witness to bunker events—stated that Braun pleaded with Hitler to spare her brother-in-law and tried to justify Fegelein’s actions. He was taken to the garden of the Reich Chancellery on 28 April, and was “shot like a dog”.Rochus Misch, who was the last survivor from the Führerbunker, disputed aspects of this account in a 2007 interview with Der Spiegel. According to Misch, Hitler did not order Fegelein’s execution, only his demotion. Misch claimed to know the identity of Fegelein’s killer, but refused to reveal his name.