Dietrich file photo [647]

Josef Dietrich

Given NameJosef
Born28 May 1892
Died22 Apr 1966


ww2dbaseJosef "Sepp" Dietrich joined the German Army in 1911 and was decorated for bravery during WW1. As a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party, he joined the Schutstaffel, the SS, in 1928. He was taken notice by Adolf Hitler, and named the head of Hitler's personal bodyguard unit. In 1934, Dietrich led an execution squad during the Night of the Long Knives.

ww2dbaseDuring the invasion of France Dietrich led the 1st SS Panzer Division. He also participated in Operation Barbarossa and later in the defense of Italy. When the Normandy invasion began, Dietrich was in Brussels visiting a base of Hitler's bodyguards. He returned to Paris and prepared to deploy to Normandy. His immediate superior at that time was Gerd von Rundstedt, who ordered him to take the Panzer Lehr Division, the 21st Panzer Division, and 12th SS Grenadier Division to drive the Allies back into the sea. Dietrich was unable to do so, with his movement limited heavily by the Allied air supremacy. "He is decent but stupid", Hermann Göring later said in an interview. "He had at most the ability to command a division." Despite Dietrich's unimpressive abilities, he was promoted to Oberfuhrer on 1 Aug 1944 after repulsing a British armor assault and continued to take on important responsibilities including commanding a key element in the later Ardennes offensive (the Battle of the Bulge). The reason for the continued promotion dated back to the beginning of Dietrich's career in Nazi Germany government as a member of the SS. After the 20 Jul assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, the untrustful German leader relied more and more upon members of the Nazi party in military matters, fearing that disloyal men now filled the command ranks. As such, Dietrich the former butcher took on important military posts even without the leadership abilities. Rundstedt and Walther Model both disrespected Dietrich's abilities, but had no say in Hitler's orders; all they could do was assign Dietrich with the best staff officers they could find to prevent Dietrich from committing any mistakes.

ww2dbaseThroughout the war Dietrich was known as a brutal commander with a merciless reputation with prisoners of war. This reputation came largely from his days on the Russian front when he routinely executed captured Russian soldiers. During the Battle of the Bulge, Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army massacred 100 surrendered American soldiers in Malmédy.

ww2dbaseDietrich surrendered to the US Army in 1945 in Austria, and was later tried and convicted of killing prisoners of war. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, though was released after serving 10 years. He was later arrested and charged for murders during the Night of the Long Knives, with punishment of 18 months imprisonment. Dietrich suffered a heartattack in 1966 and passed away in Ludwigburg, Germany. 6,000 former Waffen SS members turned out for his funeral, a statement for the loyalty his men had for him.

ww2dbaseSources: Battle of the Bulge/Dark December, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Sep 2005

Josef Dietrich Interactive Map

Josef Dietrich Timeline

28 May 1892 Josef Dietrich was born.
27 Jun 1934 Sepp Dietrich requested the German Reichwehr authorities for arms so that the Liebstandarte could carry out what he called "a secret and most important mission ordered by the FĂĽhrer" (ie. the slaughter of dissident elements within the SA).
16 Jul 1945 The US Military Tribunal at Dachau, Germany sentenced Josef Dietrich to life in prison (later commuted to 25 years in prison) for the execution of US prisoners of war at Malmedy, Belgium in 1944.
14 May 1957 A German court sentenced Joseph Dietrich to 29 months in prison for his participation in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.
22 Apr 1966 Josef Dietrich passed away.


SA-Oberführer Schäfer, Joseph Goebbels, Josef Dietrich, and police president Graf Helldorf, 1936Chancellor Hitler, General Witzleben of German III Corps, and SS-Obergruppenführer Dietrich leaving the 300m freestyle swimming event of the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, Berlin, Germany, 5 Aug 1936Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler at a party, Berlin, Germany, 30 Oct 1936; note Josef Dietrich in backgroundJosef Dietrich, Adolf Hitler, and Heinrich Himmler at the entrance of the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 20 Apr 1937 during a celebration for Hitler
See all 10 photographs of Josef Dietrich

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
20 Aug 2006 04:51:17 PM

2. Mike Dunne says:
27 Jan 2007 01:23:17 AM

Seppi was not as bad as you make out. He had more than one serious run-in with Hitler about his horror at witnessing the execution of Jewish civilians in sectors he operated in and as far as I am aware fought with galantry and considerable elan. It is true that he had some of the best staff officers available, including the brilliant Rudolph Lehmanm and he relied on them (his tall fellows) a great deal. It can also be said that he inspired them and earned their respect as a good leader. He was also more chivalrous than most as evidenced by his treatemt of the Greek Army that surrendered to him in the battle for Greece. Unfortunately, it is still fashionable to denegrate the achievements of SS Officers, but the truth is that were some incredibly able leaders amongst them...a few of them practising Christians with high humanitarian ideals and principals...but that is another story.
3. Anonymous says:
8 Feb 2007 01:34:23 PM

His treatment of greek prisoners doesnt make up for his treatment of Russians and Americans later on.
4. Anonymous says:
5 Feb 2012 06:57:31 PM

as far as the eastern front, neither side took many prisoners after a while. the russians were indoctrinated to behave on the level of brutal animals towards their prisoners and civilians, with no regard for the rules of war.
5. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
26 Apr 2015 04:53:16 AM

After the Ardennes retreat, Sepp Dietrich performed a masterly delaying action against the Russians from Hungary into Austria, but Hitler, unimpressed stripped him of his medals - which Dietrich reputedly sent back in a chamber pot.

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More on Josef Dietrich
Event(s) Participated:
» Invasion of France and the Low Countries
» Battle of the Bulge

Josef Dietrich Photo Gallery
SA-Oberführer Schäfer, Joseph Goebbels, Josef Dietrich, and police president Graf Helldorf, 1936
See all 10 photographs of Josef Dietrich

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