Generalmajor Otto-Ernst Remer

Born on 18 August 1912, Otto-Ernst Remer joined the German Army in 1932; by April of 1942 he was a battalion commander and joined GD to lead the IV (Heavy) battalion.  By February of the next year, he commanded the 1st (Armoured) battalion of Grenadier Regiment GD.  His halftrack-mounted troops managed to cover the withdrawal of an SS panzer corps from Kharkov, and the battalion also covered itself with glory during the German counter-attack on the city.  His leadership of the battalion, which helped pursue the defeated Russians as far as Belgorod, helped the German Army as a whole regain the strategic initiative for the summer of 1943, and earned Remer personally the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Major Remer led his battalion competently during the Battle of Kursk, and then again at Krivoi Rog, and in November 1943 Remer was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.   In March 1944, Remer left the GD Division to command Wachbattaillon GD (the unit entrusted with public duties and security for Hitler in Berlin.)

As the commander of the only large combat formation in the capital during the July 20 Bomb Plot, Remer was able to play a large role in crushing the rebellious elements attempting to seize control of the government.   After being ordered by one of his superiors (and a key member of the anti-Hitler forces) to arrest the Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, Remer arrived at the ministry to be persuaded by Goebbels to telephone Hitler personally, who not only convinced Remer that he was not dead (as was claimed by the conspirators), but promoted Remer to Oberst on the spot and granted full authority to take aggressive action to crush the plot.   Remer acted enthusiastically and efficiently, and by the evening of 20 July the revolt had been stopped and the key conspirators were dead or in custody.

remer1.jpg (14340 bytes)
Otto-Ernst Remer as a Major, wearing the coveted Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.  The ribbons are for the Iron Cross II Class, Winter War Medal, and Wehrmacht Long Service Medal.

Colour photo courtesy of Paal Waland


While it would appear at first blush that Oberst Remer was now in a prime position, with the full backing of Hitler and quickly becoming the darling of the Nazi-controlled press, it soon became apparent that (like Strachwitz, perhaps) he was not cut out for higher command.

rem2.jpg (18758 bytes)


While Remer had been a competent enough battalion commander, his new duties after the Bomb Plot as commander of the Führer Begleit Brigade (itself formed from a GD cadre) showed he was out of depth in higher command positions.  The brigade suffered heavy casualties (due, it is reported, to his leadership) in East Prussia.  The Brigade then transferred to the west for the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944, and again suffered high casualties for little gain.  The brigade, expanded to division status, moved to Silesia in March 1945, and again Remer was criticized for lack of ability. 
rem3.jpg (3536 bytes)
Remer finished the war in the rank of Generalmajor; his promotion had come due to his loyalty to Hitler, but unfortunately for Remer (and untold numbers of those under his command), he had never been given the proper training to lead his new commands.

 

genrem.jpg (6632 bytes)
Otto-Ernst Remer as a Generalmajor (above) and shortly before his death (left)

Remer was lucky to avoid Russian captivity, and remained an American prisoner of war until 1947. During this period, the commander of his prison camp, an officer of the US First Infantry Division, said that  "Of the 87 German generals in this General Remer is the only one whom I respect as courageous and honorable."

Remer became involved in politics after WW II, helping form the "Socialist Reich Party," which, after gaining sixteen seats in a state parliament, was banned in 1952.   Remer then lived in Egypt and Syria, in exile, for several years, eventually publishing two books, including Conspiracy and Treason Around Hitler (Verschwörung und Verrat um Hitler), which was both a memoir and a study.

Remer's devotion to Hitler and the Nazi regime lasted long after the war, and he was sentenced to 22 months in prison in October 1992 for publicly denying the scope of the Holocaust, which was a crime in the newly reunited Germany.  His arguments in a newsletter, that there was no historical basis for the accepted death toll figures of those killed at Auschwitz, and the method of execution (poison gas), were not considered by the court who refused to hear his testimony. He died in exile in Spain on October 4, 1997, aged 85.

speigel.jpg (21700 bytes)
The cover of the 1 December 1949 issue of Der Spiegel, showing Remer as a Generalmajor in 1944, and as he looked after the war.

A fellow GD veteran had this to say about the former hero of July 20:

We, his former comrades, have deeply regretted that destiny confronted this young officer in July 1944 with a situation with consequences the bearing of which I should assume are beyond the powers of any human being. No judgement will be made here as to whether his decision on July 20 was right or wrong. But the consequences of his decision were so terrible, and have cost so much of the best German blood, that we old soldiers had expected that a man to whom destiny gave such a burden to carry until the end of his life would recognize this, and would thereafter live quietly and in seclusion. We, his former comrades, lack any sympathy for the fact that Herr Remer fails to summon up this attitude of self-effacement.

- Baigent, Michael and Leigh, Richard. 1994. Secret Germany. London, New York: The Penguin Group.

Mark Weber, of the Journal of Historical Review, however, had this to say about Remer's situation in his last years (Weber also points out that Germany continued to try and extradite Remer from Spain, despite the Spanish position that Remer's "thought crimes" were not illegal under Spanish law.)

The Remer case points up the strange and even perverse standards that prevail in Germany today. Although his "crime" was a non-violent expression of opinion, to dispute claims of mass gassings in wartime concentration camps is regarded in today's Germany as a criminal attack against all Jews, who enjoy a privileged status there.

More than half a century after the end of the Third Reich and the Second World War, Germans are ceaselessly exhorted to "never forget" the anti-Jewish measures of the Hitler era, to atone for what is called the most terrible crime in history, and to regard themselves as a nation of criminals and moral misfits. As a further expression of the country's "national masochism," the July 1944 conspirators are officially venerated, while outstanding wartime combat heroes and selfless patriots such as Remer are dishonored.

Otto-Ernst Remer shall remain a controversial figure for many years.