Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

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Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by seaburn » 22 Mar 2015 19:49

Some weeks ago, I was alerted by a forum member that the book “Trois Jours en Enfer: 7 - 9 June 1944” by author George Bernage contained a startling accusation that it was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer who was in command at the Château d’Audrieu on June 8th 1944. For those unfamiliar with the events of that day, the allegation was that multiple batches of mostly Canadian prisoners were executed there by the Recon Btln of the 12th SS Hitler-Jugend Division.

The following is my own translation of what Bernage wrote:

"But Audrieu! Near Mesnil-Patry, the massacre is fast, almost improvised. In the castle Audrieu there are plans. Interrogations take place and Canadians and British soldiers are executed in four different places. Who gave the order? The men belonged to the Divisions reconnaissance group including the 1st company of SS Obersturmführer Hauk who had been involved in the massacre of 84 civilians in Ascq in April, near Lille.
Returning to the details provided by the inquiry committee, the recordings were made shortly after the incidents, between 11 and 15 July 1944. The witnesses would not have been influenced by external and posterior analysis. Monique Level noticed an officer (she believes to be a captain) bearer of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Beatrice Delafon (22 years at the time), a cousin of Monique Level as quoted in Exhibit 10: “The Germans spoke of a commander who is a rank of captain and above. He had the Iron Cross around his neck and I concluded that he was a knight of the Order of the Iron Cross”. She does not speak of the ‘Oak leaves’ evoked by Monique Level (Exhibit 12 - see .supra).

To date, within the division, only four officers are carriers of this prestigious award: Fritz Witt, Kurt Meyer, Gerd Bremer and Max Wünsche. Monique Level, now Mrs. Corblet Fallerans says that the Officer in question was "handsome” and when we brought her pictures of these four Officers, she was positive - “It was Max Wünsche." At Audrieu, that day, the head of the reconnaissance group, SS-Sturmbannführer Gerd Bremer, was not there; he was wounded. SS-Obersturmbannführer Wünsche is in the chateau Audrieu in the early afternoon of June 8 before taking the night the attack command on Bretteville.

As an officer of the rank of Commandant of the Panzer Regiment he had authority over the soldiers at Audrieu. Monique Level was sure that what happened would not have been possible without his approval. In 1991, my mind was made up, supported by additional elements that will be discussed below. But in 1991, Monique Corblet did not want to confirm her opinion; as a Christian, she did not want to burden an old man who could have become remorseful. When Max Wünsche died, Mrs. Corblet decided to confirm her opinion. Recently, she told me: "It was Wünsche"

Already in 1991, several elements had allowed me to better understand the personality of this officer. He volunteered in the SS-VT (later the Waffen -SS) in 1934. Noted for his ability, he was sent to Bad Tölz the Officer’s school and obtained the rank of SS-Untersturmführer in the Leibstandarte in 1936. In 1938 he was seconded to Hitler as an Ordinance officer and participated in the Poland campaign next to his Fuhrer, who he then builds relationships with, especially since they were both born on April 20th (1914 Wünsche). He then takes a command of a Motorcycle and group assault gun company in the LAH in 1940. He was awarded the Knight's Cross on 28th February 1943. Max Wünsche was ambitious and fanatical. Hitler's propaganda needed to put the fighters Waffen-SS in the spotlight and particularly those of the ’Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’ Führer division! This elite division is illustrated and more particularly in Kharkov in 1943.

The principal officers of value of this division are extensively photographed and presented as an example of German youth. Among the most photographed is Max Wünsche in his black Panzer uniform. While it is sometimes difficult to find a portrait of some Officers, it is easy to find dozens of photos of Max Wünsche.

Furthermore, his physic is the archetype of the Germanic warrior, more than that of Kurt Meyer, an efficient fighter. Max Wünsche becomes more than ever the 'hero' shown off by Hitler under the spotlight. It must have suited the cold ambition of Wünsche. Let us recall some facts illustrating some aspects of his personality that we can analyse. Direct testimony that was provided to us by Herbert Walther, then an adjutant to SS-Sturmbannführer Prinz (II / SS-Pz.-Rgt. 12) reminds us that in the last battle for the Abbey Ardenne, in early July, the Commander of the HJ Division ordered a retreat but Max Wünsche wanted to fight to the last bullet, to "Camarón" (fight to the death) at the Abbey Ardenne. According to Herbert Walter, who witnessed the fighting, Wünsche was severely reprimanded for this madness by Kurt Meyer and had to fall back. This shows his fanatical character.

Later, while seriously injured he was captured in the Falaise pocket; Montgomery’s attitude towards him was strange. Writes Hubert Meyer in his history of the Division quoting Max Wünsche “During my first moments of captivity, I thought we would line up against a wall but I was locked in a metal cage lying in a flooded meadow. After the first shock, I have to wait patiently. After the first interrogation, I spend all day and the following night lying or crouching in the water because II hadn’t the strength to remain standing. The next day, I was taken in the company of a Captain and two Sergeants and we drove for 40 kilometers. I asked them whether I will be led to an aid station or a hospital. The Captain answered me in good German ‘No, you are brought to a senior staff or a great leader’. Astonished, I saw a large number of vehicles and tents and I learned that we had arrived. After waiting a short time, I went down. I perceive a man who then got out of a command vehicle, he is simply called ‘Monty'. This is General Montgomery with his black beret on his head. A short presentation of the Captain and I am so completely surprised by the translation of Monty's words. ‘We will treat German prisoners according to the Geneva Convention, but the SS. they will be treated for what they are, political vermin of the political shit’. When I went to answer, I was forbidden to open the mouth with the words. ‘You dare not say anything. Move out !’ Even the Captain who was with me was astonished but did not dare say anything. I was then taken with the same escort to the coast”. While the battle raged, why with all Monty’s overall responsibilities would he takes time to have this prisoner brought to him to insult? It seems futile. But could Monty have known the personality of Wünsche? Did he have serious suspicions in respect of him?

In Normandy the Memorial at the Museum in Bayeux allow us to meet many veterans, some famous. There are many Germans, at least those who had nothing to apologize for. To the question ‘And where is Max Wünsche’? We replied that he was a snob and never came to France.... Finally to complete my information on the Battle of Normandy, Hubert Meyer told me the phone number Max Wünsche, who was residing in Munich. I was always very well received by veterans of all nationalities, and I had a solid introduction. I was welcomed by a slightly high-pitched disagreeable voice. I started asking my questions and was quickly rebuffed, Max Wünsche told me he was not interested in having contact with France and hung up. I had never experienced such a welcome. All these facts associated with each other, allow us to identify a personality.

Serious historical approach does not lead to the conclusion and allows us to form our opinion only. Mrs. Corblet is sure that Max Wünsche was there that day at Audrieu and that he gave the execution order, otherwise who would have? Wilhelm Mohnke seems to have acted on his own, hence the sanctioning project. The investigation continued. The image of Wünsche, one of the 'Stars' the Hitler regime, seems to have been ‘protected’ from the cloud or mist enveloping it. He has taken his dark secret to his grave."
(Trois Jour en enfer- George Bernage pages 132/133)



My initial reaction on reading this was one of incredulity as I had always thought that the man in Command at Audrieu that day was indisputably Gerd Bremer. I was also aware that George Bernage is a well-respected author and has published many other acclaimed books in this field and therefore his allegation could not just be dismissed out of hand.

But frankly I found his evidence disconcerting – it all appears to hinge on one of the witnesses from that day ‘Monique Level’ (the daughter of the owner of the Château) being shown photographs in 1991 (47 years after the event) of four of the HJ Officers who had the RK on June 8th (named by Bernage as Witt, Meyer, Wünsche and Bremer) and stating that “it was Wünsche”. There is no doubt that Bernage takes her allegation seriously as he appears to concur with it stating “In 1991, my mind was made up, supported by additional elements that will be discussed below”

His additional evidence to indicate his suspicion of Wünsche’s guilt was (A) that he was a fanatical, fight to the death Nazi (B) The strange meeting of the captured Wünsche and Bernard Montgomery (C) That Wünsche would not be drawn in conversation or interview with the author or indeed that he would not contemplate ever returning to France for reunions.

Personally, I can corroborate the first point as I have seen an Intel report of Wünsche’s in which it was stated that he was “one of the worst type of SS offr, arrogant, fanatical, Nazi....Wünsche was never the less a brilliant tank comd. and was willing to fight to the death for his own 'honour' and that of the SS”. I have also seen a poster on the WAF complain about how rude he found Wünsche when he approached him to sign a photograph many years ago, this bad mannered encounter seems to have made the same negative impression on him as it did on Bernage. Additionally, the meeting of Wünsche with Montgomery is also verified in Hubert Meyer’s history of the division through his own words. But as interesting and true as all these are, they in no way indicate that Wünsche was present at the Château on June 8th when the POWs were executed.

Bernage states the motive for Wünsche’s and not Bremer’s presence there as follows : “At Audrieu, that day, the head of the reconnaissance group, SS-Sturmbannführer Gerd Bremer, was not there; he was wounded” SS-Obersturmbannführer Wünsche is in the chateau Audrieu in the early afternoon of June 8 before taking the night the attack command on Bretteville”

However this theory has one fatal flaw, one that is not divulged to the reader. In the testimony of Karl Walter Becker (a POW from the Btln) he stated that when he arrived at the Btln HQ on the 9th of June, he was told that Bremer had been wounded in an artillery attack on the Chateau the previous day (TS26/856). This testimony coupled with the findings of an inquiry into the events that day held in July 1944 found that the shelling had only started at 18.30 hrs after 19 prisoners were already known to have been executed (WO209/5045). This contradicts Bernage’s motive for Wünsche’s presence during the executions and there is also no way he could have been there after this time as the attack on Bretteville was being prepared by him many Kilometres away.

This evidence should have put the matter to rest, but I wanted to be sure that Becker’s ‘Hearsay’ evidence stood up to scrutiny and I was also curious to see the description of the Commander given by the witness’s back in 1944. So I ordered some files from the British Archives and I also checked through other sources and books that had been written on the case.

The results of this search have thrown up some intriguing finds that I will post over the coming days. There was already a thread on one of the suspects named by the inquiry team – Willi Hansmann - http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 8&t=206233 – which I have added to. My findings indicate that the evidence for his culpability in this event are not as clear cut as has been reported. I will also post the time line from that day and clues given by witnesses present that may determine the identity of the Offices there. Intriguingly also, evidence given on the collar tabs and decorations of the Officer in Command should point to another Regimental Commander from the 12th. !

Lastly, from reading the primary documents and comparing them to the publish books on the subject, it has become sadly apparent that there have been some ‘leaps of faith’ in allegations made. As always, If anyone has information in relation to this event or any insights into Bernage’s allegation, please post.
Last edited by seaburn on 22 Mar 2015 21:24, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by PF » 22 Mar 2015 21:18


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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by jan willem stokkers » 23 Mar 2015 10:21

Well i know by name more former 12.ss veterans who never wanted to go back to france for many reasons. I know by name many who received a photo or signature from Max Wünsche after the war. Yess for what purpose would Wünsche have been at Audrieu wenn his own Pz.Rgt.12 was involved in battles, already lost many or was preparing new attacks? Personally i think he had better things to do at that moment. I have many accounts of an former 2.Kp. member who told me many times there was during the last part of the Ausbilung in France short before the D-Day landings there was a Pz.Lehr officer with them with Ritterkreuz who was with his Spähtrupp also involved in somekind of Ausbildung but despite many research and questions also on Axis. there has no Ritterkreuzträger near them or even within the Lehrdiv. (at that moment) who was carrying the Ritterkreuz. So this kind of testimony are always tricky and again, what i already wrote in the Hansmann thread on civilians during that period. Gert Bremer also has never been to France after the war!

Gr.Jan Willem

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by Ste » 23 Mar 2015 20:49

jan willem stokkers wrote:there has no Ritterkreuzträger near them or even within the Lehrdiv. (at that moment) who was carrying the Ritterkreuz.!

Gr.Jan Willem
One came to my mind:
Hauptmann Karl Philipps

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by jan willem stokkers » 24 Mar 2015 13:18

Ste wrote:
jan willem stokkers wrote:there has no Ritterkreuzträger near them or even within the Lehrdiv. (at that moment) who was carrying the Ritterkreuz.!

Gr.Jan Willem
One came to my mind:
Hauptmann Karl Philipps
Oké its off-topic but wenn did he receive his RK? I found to conflicting dates on his RK?! :(

Gr.JW

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by Ste » 24 Mar 2015 14:07

RK on 7.4.1944 as Chef 5./Pz.Gren.Rgt 901.
Held the same position in Normandy.

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by seaburn » 24 Mar 2015 22:22

Thanks for posting guys, can either of you or anyone else help with the following queries ?

(1) I translated and read through Bernage's chapter on the events at Audrieu and I can confirm that in relation to witness statements given in 1944, he did report them correctly. He also stated the following:

"It is now 14.00 hours. The 61st Regiment Recon of the 50th Division was attacking and it reached the level crossing at Lower Audrieu. It is pushed on the hills north-west of Loucelles by men of Gerd Bremer who bring 15 Prisoners. Furthermore, Ostuf. Hauk, who commanded the 1st Comp and was leading the of Ascq massacre in April, is preparing to set off to the west, with a strong shock force of 16 men to find one of his NCOs, Jura, lost in the British lines. Thus, the one who directed the executions at Ascq will not be at Audrieu during the events that day". ( Trois Jour en enfer- George Bernage pp 95,96)

Can anyone verify Hauk's actions as stated here ?


(2) Also, author Howard Margolian wrote;

'....Word came that British tanks were massing on the Battalion's left flank ......he had to attend to his defences.....Under Bremer's reckless but effective leadership the 12th Recon Btln repulsed a frontal attack on the village of Audrieu by elements of a British Armours Brigade .....by 4.00pm the recon troops had once more stabilised the front. Bremer returned to his command post shortly there after..." (pp 85/ 86 Conduct Unbecoming)

Margolian states his source as Craig Luther's 'Blood and Honor' p160. It is imperative in trying to determine the whereabouts of the suspects for that day that this account is verified, can anyone who may have that book, check to see the details and confirm if Bremer personally took part in that action and also confirm his return to the Château.

Thanks !

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by jan willem stokkers » 24 Mar 2015 22:48

First Hauck was in command of 2.Kp. and yess he was on the move to find Jura (who was already dead at that moment) but Bremer wanted "his man" back. Bit like Dietrich always said. But Hauck and his Spähtrupp were on the move to find Jura and only came back after a couple of days. This story is also to be find in Meyers book. But i have to veterans accounts who have been with Hauck during that tripp.

Its also to be said that Hauck fought a long battle after the war concerning Ascq and wanted the proces to be re-opend again and wanted acces to the files of the court but was not granted. Its to be opend, the files i believe somewhere around 2025?
He left his personal archive to the Freiburg archives.

Did you get my e-mail with wetransfer?

Gr.JW

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by seaburn » 25 Mar 2015 16:41

Thanks for posting J.W. - Do you have any information on Bremer's known whereabouts during the engagement quoted by Margolian ? Also can anyone confirm that Bremer was clean shaven in that first week. He was at Fritz Witt's birthday celebrations, yet he had the moustache when pictured in the field later.

Ps - no email as yet !

C

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by jan willem stokkers » 25 Mar 2015 20:37

will send tomorrow. Had some email problems. Help me with the qutote you mean. I have seen so many now i lost it hahaha.
Which photo do you mean in the field? I know that Kurt Meyer was very keen on that soldiers shaved them even wenn they were in field. I have an account that he, he was commonder of the Div., he was on his motorbike and met a spähtrupp of 2.Kp.! There was an Uscha. (former Das Reich) who commanded one of the vehicles and he had a beard (not sure how to call it but we in holland see "a few days beard" and he ordered this Uscha. to have himselfs shave. But there an some photos of Bremer that he has a moustache (well a reall one)

Gr.JW

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by seaburn » 25 Mar 2015 20:47

bremerwitt.jpg
Above one is quite a famous one and is already posted on the forum, it's the 'Fritz Witt' Birthday one - Bremer is clean shaven here which would be end of May 1944.
stabswache-de-euros_12_ss_panzerdivision_hitlerjugend.jpg
I'm winging it here and presuming that this is later in Normandy ...but you may beg to differ - here he is with Moustache.

Are there any other pictures of him in the first weeks of the invasion ? There was no mention of a moustache by witnesses at the Château.
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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by jan willem stokkers » 25 Mar 2015 21:06

yess it has to be between 14-6 and 10-8 (wenn wright its Buchheim next to Bremer and he was wounded 10-8).
No there ar more photos of Bremer with moustache. (just try a google search and you will see many) so it is not something strange for him to have.
Think it is a very comen mans thing, does who have moustache sometime to shave it of.

Gr.Jan Willem

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by seaburn » 25 Mar 2015 21:09

Thanks J.W. I've just found this photo in Hubert Meyers book and there is an interesting date on it. Stand by for a post !

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by seaburn » 25 Mar 2015 21:23

The picture with Bremer and Moustache is from Hubert Meyer's 'The 12th SS: The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division, Volume 1' the caption reads :

"Command post of SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 12 in Crostot. Under a knocked out Sherman tank which Hauptsturmfuhrer Gerd v Reitzenstein and Untersturmführer Albert Wienecke have salvaged, are Sturmbannführer Gerd Bremer (CO) and Obersturmführer Kurt Bucheim (Adjutant)."

On page 217, Meyer writes that the date this Sherman was salvaged was June 11th-12th. Karl Walter Becker reported that Bremer was back to his unit on June 11th. The intriguing part of this this is that Bremer has the moustache on this date - yet there is no mention of a moustache three days before by the witnesses. They do not say that Commander was clean shaven either, but I would have thought it would be mentioned if he had one then - how long does it take to grow one is the question ? Three days might just be enough ....

Also in Hubert Meyer's account of the 8th is a better pin pointing of the time of Bremer's wounding. Meyer wrote as follows:

‘During these attacks, Audrieu and Cristot were under artillery fire. At 20.00 hours Audrieu came under the most concentrated artillery fire which included ships’ artillery. Within one hour, the village was destroyed. Around 21.00 hours the fire was shifted to the castle gardens south of the village where the staff and the staff company of A.A. 12 were located. They were shot to pieces. The fire attack lasted exactly one hour. Then there was a pause of five minutes, apparently to tempt the men to leave cover and retrieve the wounded. It was followed by another fire attack of twenty minutes. Most of the losses were incured during that period. Based on the report by a British Colonel who visited the then-chief of the staff company, Hauptsturmfuhrer Gerd. Frhr. Von Reitzenstein in captivity, the fire attack was carried out by three artillery units and two battleships. The remains of the companies in action near Audrieu were pulled back, a number of armoured personnel carriers and 7.5cm anti-tank gun were destroyed.....The Abteilung command post was moved to the area south of Cristot into terrain covered by meadows and hedges . Sturmbannführer Bremer, wounded in the shoulder, then handed over the Abteilung to Haupsturmführer von Reitzenstein. (page 175/176)

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Re: Was Max Wünsche and not Gerd Bremer in Command at the Château d’Audrieu 8.6.1944?

Post by jan willem stokkers » 25 Mar 2015 21:34

So Bremer was in command during the execution?

Gr.Jan Willem

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