Photo: WW2: High Ranking Austrian NAZI General Erhard Raus – A good Panzer General

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[I was unaware of Austrians who reached a high rank in the Wehrmacht in WW2. This General Raus wrote a number of books. I was actually browsing and reading some of his assessments of the War in Russia. I was browsing his assessments of the war on the Eastern Front, especially his description of partisan warfare which I've never studied before. Until now I'd never heard of Raus, but it seems he won a number of battles and gave the enemy a good mauling. He took part in some of the operations that Von Manstein commanded – especially the Third Battle of Kharkov – a battle that interests me a lot. This is where Manstein was superior to Hitler. This is one of the few times when Hitler was inferior in his thinking to Manstein. Raus is fascinating. There are a great many German Generals whom I have hardly looked at. This guy is a fine White man. Jan]

World War IIedit | edit source

Raus was appointed chief of staff to XVII Corps a few months before the war started but due to his staff role, he did not see any combat with these units. They first attacked Poland and then headed west in 1940.

Following the practice of sending staff officers into the line, he took command of the 243rd Infantry Regiment in June 1940, then the 4th Motorised Infantry Regiment in July. In May 1941 he took command of the 6th Motorised Infantry Brigade of the 6th Panzer Division. However, he had never led any of these formations into any sort of battle prior to Operation Barbarossa, which commenced on 22 June 1941. His previous combat experience had been in World War I.

Into Barbarossaedit | edit source

On 22 June 1941, Kampfgruppe Raus (the 6th Panzer Division was operating with two KampfgruppenRaus and von Seckendorff, under his leadership), launched into the Baltic States and by August 20 had crossed through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia; it fought alone for several days after capturing a bridgehead over the Luga River It took part in some of the early Eastern Front’s most infamous battles and actions, broke through the Stalin Line and had arrived at the outskirts of Leningrad.

On 7 September 1941, Raus was appointed the acting commander of the 6th Panzer Division.

On 15 September, the 6th Panzer Division, minus its artillery, was ordered out of the line outside Leningrad. It was to be transferred to Army Group Centre to take part in Operation Typhoon – the attempt to capture Moscow. In Raus’ opinion, the Soviet strength in his division’s sector had been crushed, opening an opportunity to break into the city. He told of how his men in one week during the furious fighting outside the city, had rolled up 12 Soviet defensive positions and captured 248 bunkers.[1]

On 11 October he was awarded the Knights Cross for his seizure and defence of the Luga River bridgehead.[2]

Moscow and the winter fightingedit | edit source

Raus and his men were transferred to the LVI Panzer Corps and formed part of the spearhead striking for Moscow. During this drive, his men working in combination with other panzer divisions, helped encircle 400,000 men at Vyazma.

At the beginning of December, they stood only 14 km from the outskirts of Moscow. During the Soviet winter counterattack, Raus claimed to have saved his entire division by giving orders to blast holes into the frozen soil – each large enough to shelter three to five soldiers. Within hours his men were dug-in and able to repel further Soviet attacks and withstand the terrible weather with fewer losses.[3]

During the beginning of January 1942, Soviet counterattacks were threatening to cut off the Fourth and Ninth armies, here Raus gained a new command of high importance. General Walter Model, (commanding the Ninth Army), issued orders that all rear area personnel would be placed under the command of Raus and he was given the job of organizing these men to protect the lines of communications and stop any encircling operation by the Soviets.[4] By February, Raus states that he had collected around 35,000 men and by mid-February, he was counterattacking the Soviet positions, helping to stabilise the line and halt any chance of large chunks of Army Group Centre from being encircled.

In early April, now with only his 6th Panzer Division under his command, he and they were transferred to France to refit and rest and he was appointed the commander of the division on 29 April.[2]

Stalingradedit | edit source

In mid-November 1942, the division left France for the Soviet Union via train. Raus claimed to have saved much of his division from needless casualties by ignoring protests by train officials and organizing the transport of his men in what he called "Combat Trains", that being each trainload of men would be able to deploy into small combined arms groups and thus be able to effectively repel partisan attacks for minimal material damage or loss of life. [5]

By the end of November, the division was detrained and its mission became clear: To take part in Operation Winter Storm – breaking into Stalingrad.

As the division along with the other elements of XLVIII Panzer Corps attacked, Raus later claimed that his division’s ability to inflict such heavy losses upon the Soviet forces facing them was in part due to his leadership skills and inspiration. In December 1942, Raus fought a masterpiece of attack and defense that shattered the 2nd Guards Army (of the Soviet Union’s Red Army).

When the offensive was called off and the Panzer divisions were withdrawn, Raus made the claim that his troops were within striking distance of Stalingrad and that his force could have saved the encircled Sixth Army claiming there was no resistance between them. He failed to mention that the relief force was unable to carry on fighting towards the city because of increasing numbers of Soviet formations moving between the two and that Paulus – the 6th Army’s commander, was also unwilling to breakout.

Kharkov and Kurskedit | edit source

With the collapse of the front following Stalingrad, Raus found himself being placed in command of a newly formed XI Corps known until midsummer as Provisional Corps Raus,[6] as well as promotion to General of Panzer Troops.[2] He was now under the command of Army Detachment Kempf and was himself commanding the 168th, 298th and 320th Infantry Divisions.

His men took part in the counterattack during the Third Battle of Kharkov; he then led his men across the Donets River during the Battle of Kursk (he was now commanding the 106th, 168th and 320th Divisions), their mission being to screen the Fourth Panzer Army while it broke through the Soviet defenses and drove on for Kursk to complete the encirclement.

In late July, following the failure of Operation Citadel (the Kursk offensive), Raus’ badly mauled Corps fought a rearguard action towards the Donets while the rest of the Army crossed the river, before it too, finally crossed over.

There would be no relief for Raus or his men as the Red Army kept up its attacks. At this time the whole front was being pushed back by the Soviets, but he nevertheless managed to stabilise a major crossing point across the Donets. In doing so, he halted the Russians that threatened to outrun the retreating German army, which was scrambling to establish themselves on the Panther-Wotan Line; which was only partially completed at the time.

When they were finally ordered to fall back, his men had taken heavy losses. They fell back on Kharkov where they took part in the final battle for the city.

For his leadership during the defensive fighting from Belgorad to Kharkov he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross.[2]

He was soon again on the retreat, leading his men from Kharkov back to the Dnieper River, having to fend off constant Soviet attacks and attempts to envelop the Corps until it reached the bridgehead at the river on 20 September.

The Dnieper and beyondedit | edit source

After his arrival, 8th Army gave Raus the mission of organizing the withdrawal of all Axis units in its sector (13 divisions) from the east side of the river to the west.[7]

Following these events, Raus spent the rest of the year fighting in the Ukraine. On 10 December 1943 he was appointed acting commander of the Fourth Panzer Army.

Several days later after setting up effective administration and improvising whatever craft he could lay his hands on, he had succeeded in his mission, pulling all divisions back across the river as well as thousands of cattle and horses.[8]

The first test of his new command was to blunt the Soviet Christmas offensive launched on the 24th. Having deployed his units to be able to absorb the initial Soviet attack, he ordered the construction of an anti-tank ditch behind his lines, as well as the evacuation of all unneeded material along with other efforts, but the Germans were not to able to halt the Soviets.[9]

However, through the skilful use of his forces, Raus halted the Soviet offensive and scored a major defensive success, although losing many men and being pushed back around 100 kilometres. He had kept the Soviets from breaking through [10] although Raus openly admitted that General Hermann Balck’s Panzer Corps played a key role in halting the Soviet attack.[11]

More fighting was to follow through April 1944 which resulted in the loss of further men unnecessarily due to Hitler’s orders to turn cities and towns into fortresses and fight to the last man.

In May, Raus took command of the First Panzer Army. A few months later, he transferred to the Third Panzer Army.

In February 1945, Hitler transferred Raus to command the XI SS Panzer Corps in the Pomeranian area. When the Soviet Union crossed the German border, Hitler dismissed Raus from command of the Panzer Army.

Later lifeedit | edit source

After his release from American captivity, Raus lived in Bad Gastein. He subsequently wrote and co-wrote a number of books and publications focusing on strategic analysis of the tank tactics used by his forces on the Eastern front. Raus spent the last year of his life in Vienna General Hospital, where he died of lung disease on 3 April 1956. He was buried there with full military honors on 6 April.[12]

Awardsedit | edit source

  • Bronze Military Defence Medal of the Military Defence Cross with War Decoration and Swords (6 February 1915)
  • Military Defence Cross, 3rd Class, with War Decorations and Swords (5 October 1915)
  • Charles Troop Cross (15 March 1917)
  • Silver Military Defence Medal of the Military Defence Cross with War Decoration and Swords (2 July 1917)
  • Hungarian War Service Medal (9 March 1931)
  • Austrian War Service Medal with Swords (15 May 1933)
  • Silver Honors Badge (21 April 1934)
  • Military Service Badge, 2nd Class (8 October 1934)
  • Honors Decorations, 4th through 1st Classes (1 December 1939, dated to 1 January 1939)
  • War Service Cross, 2nd Class (20 November 1940)
  • Iron Cross, 2nd Class (29 June 1941)
  • Iron Cross, 1st Class (6 July 1941)
  • Armoured Combat Badge (1 September 1941)
  • Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (11 October 1941)
  • Eastern Campaign Medal (1 August 1942)
  • German Cross in Gold (14 February 1943)
  • Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross (22 August 1943)

Source: https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Erhard_Raus

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