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Monday, 2 March 2015

Bruno Bräuer

Bruno Bräuer

Career:

Branch: Luftwaffe
Born: 4 February 1893 in Willmannsdorf, Silesia
Died: 20 May 1947 in Athens, Greece

Ranks:
General der Fallschirmtruppe
Generalleutnant
Generalmajor
Oberst
Oberstleutnant
Major
Hauptmann
Oberleutnant
Leutnant
Fähnrich

Decorations:
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Commands:
FschJägRgt 1
Takes command
Ends command on

Personal Information:

Bruno Bräuer was born on 4 February 1893 and became a German paratrooper from Willmannsdorf, Prussian Silesia. In 1905 he joined the regular army as a cadet and started his military career. In First World War he received the Iron Cross first and second class while serving in the 7th West Prussian Infantry regiment. Later joining the Reichswehr, he took command of the first Battalion, General Göring regiment. Whilst a major commanding this battalion (the first German unit to become airborne operational), Bruno Bräuer became the first German paratrooper to jump from a plane on 11 May 1936. By 1938 he was in command of the first Fallschirmjäger regiment Major Von Grazy followed him as commander of the 1st Battalion. He commanded this unit through Poland, France, the Netherlands and the Balkans. After he became commander on Crete and then commanded the 9th Paratroopers division as a Major General. After the war, he was executed for war crimes.

Bruno Bräuer was rather short and had a slight stutter. He was also famous for his gold cigarette case, which he could be seen holding in one of the few pictures taken of him on Crete in 1941. He was supposed to have been the most compassionate commander of fortress Crete.

Bruno Bräuer led the regiment in Poland, France and the Low Countries. In the Netherlands, he gained a reputation for outstanding courageousness. His objective was to capture two bridges: Moerdijk and Dordrecht. At Moerdijk his 2nd battalion under Captain Prager seized the bridge by dropping two of his companies at each end and storming the bridge, taking it before it could be blown. At Dordrecht the first Battalion, 1st Fallschirmjäger regiment could only drop one company-the 3rd company under Lieutenant von Brandis. Ferocious fighting took place, but the bridge remained in Dutch hands and Brandis was killed.

A nearby airfield, Waalhaven, was taken by the 3rd Battalion, 1st Fallschirmjäger regiment by luring the defenders away from the airfield and then landing in it. As Dutch opposition multiplied and Dordrecht Bridge still hadn't been taken, Bruno Bräuer commandeered Dutch vehicles. Later fearsome fighting and bravery from Bruno Bräuer, the bridge was taken intact. He was given the Knight's Cross for this deed.

Bruno Bräuer would also have been involved with the spearhead for Operation Sea Lion, the planned German invasion of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While Major Meindl's battalion would be dropped at Hythe, it was planned that Bruno Bräuer's regiment would be dropped over Paddlesworth and Etchinghill. Both these units' aims would be Sandgate. Although they were moving to their targets, the German Luftwaffe would be flying back to France to carry the 2nd wave of paratroopers Major Stenzler's battalion who would support the 1st wave.

On 20 May 1941 The Third Reich launched its air attack on Crete. Bruno Bräuer was to lead the 1st Fallschirmjäger regiment and the 2nd battalion, 2nd Fallschirmjäger regiment. His objective was to capture the airfield at Heraklion. This action wasn't a success. The 2nd battalion, 1st Fallschirmjäger regiment, landed on the coast road and came under intense enemy fire because there was little cover. Bruno Bräuer and the 1st battalion, who had landed to the east of the town promptly moved westwards to try to find any remnants of the 2nd battalion. Eight days later the airfield still had not been captured. Once the news that Germans were coming across the Island from Maleme reached the Allies, the latter withdrew to the harbour and were evacuated.

In November 1942 Bruno Bräuer replaced General Alexander Andrae as commander on Crete. He attempted to make his officers treat the Cretans with more respect. On 25 March, Greek National Day, he discharged 100 Cretan prisoners from jail. One prisoner, Constantinos Mitsotakis, would later become Prime Minister of Greece. Bruno Bräuer gained the reputation as hard but fair and the most compassionate commander of Crete. After German failures at Stalingrad and El Alamein, it was Bruno Bräuer who arranged the building of underground command bunkers, more defence around Suda Bay and increased ammunition stocks. In 1944 General Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, known for his barbarity when commander of the 22nd Infantry Division, replaced Bruno Bräuer as Commander of Fortress Crete.

In January 1945 the German 9th Parachute Division was formed under Bruno Bräuer. It had only five battalions. It comprised mainly of Luftwaffe ground forces and not the battle hardened Fallschirmjäger.

In January 1945 two of his battalions were surrounded by the 1st Ukrainian front in Breslau, where they were annihilated. The remainder of the division withdrew back to the Seelow Heights, where it entrenched and prepared to defend against an impending Russian offensive. With little experience, many of the troops fled once the Russian bombardment began. Before long, the line had nearly completely collapsed and many of Bruno Bräuer's men began to desert. Bruno Bräuer suffered a nervous collapse and was relieved of his command.

Along with General Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, Bruno Bräuer was charged with war crimes by a Greek military court. He stood trial in Athens for alleged atrocities on Crete. He was accused of the deaths of 3,000 Cretans, massacres, systematic terrorism, deportation, pillage, wanton destruction, torture and bad treatment Bruno Bräuer was condemned and sentenced to death on 9 December 1946. He was executed by firing squad at 5 o'clock on 20 May 1947, the anniversary of the German invasion of Crete. Historian Antony Beevor describes him as 'a really unfortunate person' having been executed for crimes 'committed under a different general.

Three years later, the Association of German Airborne troops called for that Bruno Bräuer's remains be moved to Crete and reinterred on hill 107, with German military personnel killed on the island during the invasion and the occupation. His remains were buried by George Psychoundakis, resistance fighter and author of The Cretan Runner. Bruno Bräuer's grave can be found in the far left corner of the graveyard adjacent to an unknown soldier.

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