“Fritz” Herzig was born on July 18, 1915 in the industrial town of Wiener Neustadt, Austria, near the Hungarian border. On February 20, 1933, shortly after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Herzig’s nearly three-month probation for acceptance into the SS ended and he was made an SS-Mann. After promotion to SS-Rottenführer he joined the Party’s newly created paramilitary /combat element, SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), as part of 5th Company, II Battalion, Deutschland Regiment under SS-Brigadeführer Felix Steiner, on October 23, 1934. A year-long stint at the new SS-Junkerschule (Officer School) in Braunschweig was followed by additional service with Deutschland until mid-1939.
When war broke out with Poland, SS-Obersturmführer Herzig was the ordnance officer for SS Artillery Regiment SS-VT. On October 1, 1940 he was made commander of 3rd Company, 5th SS Motorcycle Reconnaissance Battalion, as part of Nordische Division (Nr. 5) (known as SS Infantry Division (mot.) Wiking after December 21, 1940, when Steiner merged SS-VT Regiment Germania with the Flemish and Dutch volunteers of Westland and the Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes of Nordland). Following staff work with Das Reich’s 2nd Regiment throughout 1942, Herzig, now an SS-Hauptsturmführer, was given command of the division’s 8th (Heavy) Company of Tiger Is. From May 1943 to August 1944 Herzig’s military career continued to focus on armored commands, and related training and instruction duties.
With experienced commanders needed at the front, Herzig was sent to the staff of SS Panzer Brigade Gross where the formation attempted to keep Soviet forces out of Riga and the Kurland Peninsula. Five months later SS-Sturmbannführer Herzig accepted his final command with 503rd Heavy SS Panzer Battalion, which he led from Arnswalde to the fall of Berlin. After days of desperate fighting in the German capital, Herzig won the Knight’s Cross for destroying eight Soviet tanks. By May 2, 1945, with all of his Tiger IIs destroyed or immobilized, he led what was left of his command from the Reich Air Ministry, and crossed the Elbe River to US lines.
Considered an effective commander by his men, Herzig was often distant and impersonal. His devotion to the cause, and bravery on the battlefield, were not doubted, as evidenced by his numerous political, combat, and sports awards. Herzig survived the war only to be killed in an automobile crash less than nine years later.
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