Heinz Reinefarth
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Heinz Reinefarth

Heinz Reinefarth
Heinz Reinefarth.jpg
Born(1903-12-26)26 December 1903
Gnesen, German Empire
Died7 May 1979(1979-05-07) (aged 75)
Westerland, West Germany
Allegiance Germany
Service/branchFlag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
Years of service1933-45
RankSS-Gruppenführer, also Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS and Police
UnitKampfgruppe Reinefarth
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Other workPolitician and judge

Heinz Reinefarth, 26 December 1903 - 7 May 1979) was a German SS commander during World War II and government official in West Germany after the war. During the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944 his troops committed numerous atrocities. After the war Reinefarth became the mayor of the town of Westerland, on the isle of Sylt, and member of the Schleswig-Holstein Landtag. Polish demands for extradition were never accepted, nor was Reinefarth ever convicted of any war crime.

Early years

Reinefarth was born in Gnesen (Gniezno), Province of Posen. After finishing the gymnasium in 1922, he joined the law faculty of the University of Jena. He became member of the student fraternity Landsmannschaft Suevia Jena (this was the origin of the "Schmiss" - German for "dueling scar" - on his left cheek). He graduated in 1927 and passed the 1st degree state exams. Until 1930 he completed his application at the local court in Jena and was promoted to judge. On 1 August 1932, he joined the NSDAP and received party id card 1,268,933. In December of the same year he joined the SS.

World War II

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II Reinefarth was conscripted as a reserve Feldwebel. For his actions during the invasion of Poland he received the 2nd Class Iron Cross. He took part in the 1940 campaign against France, for which he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. On 20 April 1942, he was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer, the equivalent of Generalmajor in the Wehrmacht.

After promotion to brigadier, Reinefarth was appointed as General Inspector of SS in the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. In September 1943, he was transferred to Berlin where he served in the Ministry of Order Police (Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei). On 29 January 1944, Reinefarth was assigned to be SS and Police Leader in Reichsgau Wartheland (Polish Pozna? Voivodeship annexed by Germany in 1939). In this post he was responsible for organising repressions against Poles and other nationalities.[1] During the Warsaw Uprising he complained that his soldiers lacked ammunition to murder all prisoners.[2]

Warsaw uprising

After the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, Reinefarth was ordered to organise a military unit consisting of personnel from various security units and head for Warsaw. Upon arrival, his forces (Kampfgruppe Reinefarth) were included in the Korpsgruppe von dem Bach of General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski who was ordered by Heinrich Himmler to quell the rebellion. From 5 August 1944, Reinefarth's group took part in fighting in the Wola area.

Murder of civilians

Polish civilians murdered in the Wola massacre. Warsaw, August 1944.

In two days, the units of Reinefarth and SS-Oberführer Oskar Dirlewanger murdered approximately 60,000 civilian inhabitants of Warsaw in what is known as the Wola Massacre. In one of his reports to the commander of the German 9th Army Reinefarth stated that "we have more prisoners than ammunition to kill them".[1] After securing the Wola area, his troops took part in heavy fighting against the Armia Krajowa in the Old Town. In September, his forces were transferred to attack the boroughs of Powi?le and Czerniaków, where they committed further atrocities, including killing of POWs and wounded found in military hospitals. In all 150,000-200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the uprising. For his actions during the Warsaw Uprising Reinefarth was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 30 September 1944.

Later war activity

In November 1944, Reinefarth was given command over the XIV SS Corps on the Upper-Rhine and in December 1944 over the XVIII SS Corps in the central Oder river area. Between January and March 1945, he commanded the defence of "Festung Küstrin" (Kostrzyn nad Odr?). He declined to defend it to the last man and Hitler found fault with the way he withdrew his troops. Himmler, acting on Hitler's order, had Reinefarth arrested at the end of March 1945. Later he was sentenced to death by a military court. However, the sentence was not carried out, and he continued to command those of his troops that managed to leave the fortress. He moved his troops to the west and surrendered to the British.


After World War II, the Polish authorities demanded his extradition. However, the British and American authorities of occupied Germany decided that Reinefarth could be useful as a witness at the Nuremberg Trial. After the trials, he was arrested for war crimes, but the local court in Hamburg released him shortly afterwards on the grounds of lack of evidence. West Germany ruled that depositions were not sufficient to secure his conviction, and also, that genocide was not in the criminal code of Nazi Germany and therefore, would not be applied retroactively.[3]

Reinefarth went on to live a normal life. In December 1951, he was elected mayor of the town of Westerland, the main town on the island of Sylt. In 1962, he was elected to the parliament (Landtag) of Schleswig-Holstein.[4] After his term ended in 1967, he worked as a lawyer. Despite numerous demands by Poland, he was not extradited. Since the German courts had ruled that there was no evidence of him committing any crimes, he was considered not guilty in the eyes of the law and the federal government. He received a general's pension upon retirement.[5] He died on 7 May 1979 in his mansion on Sylt.


Postwar condemnation

In 2014 the local authorities of Westerland raised a memorial table remembering Polish victims of Reinefarth. A local SPD member Ernst Wilhelm Sojan present at the ceremony campaigned since the 1960s to raise awareness of acts committed by Reinefarth but said he always met with a "wall of silence". The regional Schleswig-Holstein government issued a special statement expressing regret that Heinz Reinefarth was allowed to work as politician in the region. The Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski praised the authorities of Sylt for attempting to deal with its past.[6]



"Holiday on Sylt" 1957 by the Eastern German film director Andrew Thorndike

See also



  1. ^ a b Jacek Tebinka, ibidem.
  2. ^ Marcin Zasada, "Syn warszawskiej Niobe" (ibidem).
  3. ^ PGI (2013). "Paragraph §220a (genocide) of Germany's Strafgesetzbuch". Genocide and international crimes in domestic courts. Chapter: Germany. Prevent Genocide International. Retrieved 2013.
  4. ^ Catherine Epstein (22 March 2012). "Model Nazi" (Google Books). Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. Oxford University Press. p. 338. ISBN 0199646538. Retrieved 2013.
  5. ^ Marcin Zasada (2009-07-31), Syn Warszawskiej Niobe (The son of Warsaw Niobe). Polska: Magazyn, pp. 1-5. Polskapresse 2013. Retrieved May 26, 2013.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Thomas 1998, p. 190.
  8. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 620.


  • 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 Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Sennerteg, Niclas (2003). Warszawas bödel: Ett tyskt öde [Warsaw's Executioner: A German destiny] (in Swedish). Lund, Sweden: Historiska Media. ISBN 91-89442-95-4.
  • Tebinka, Jacek. "Ciche lata kata", Polityka - nr 32 (2362), 2002-08-10; page 66.
  • 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. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.

External links

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