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Hermann Hoth (1885-1971) was a German general who was responsible for a series of impressive successes on the Eastern Front but who was sacked late in 1943 for urging Hitler to allow him to retreat, and wasn't given another command.
Hoth joined the Army in 1904, and by 1914 had risen to the rank of Hauptmann and was serving on the General Staff. He continued to advance during the First World War, and by 1918 was a General Staff officer serving with an infantry division.
Hoth remained in the army after the war, rising steadily through the ranks. By 1935 he had been promoted to Generalmajor and was appointed to command the 18th Infantry Division, a post he held until 1938 when he was promoted to command the 15th Motorized Corps.
This corps formed part of General Reichenau's 10th Army during the invasion of Poland in 1939, and advanced into southern Poland from Upper Silesia. Hoth was rewarded with the Knight's Cross for his part in this campaign (27 October 1939).
During the campaign in the west in 1940 Hoth commanded Panzer Group Hoth (or 10th Army). This group contained Lemelson's 5th Panzer Division and Rommel's 7th Panzer Division) , and took part in the attack through the Ardennes and the advance to the channel coast. Hoth then advanced west along the coast, occupying Normandy and Brittany. On 19 July 1940 he was promoted to Generaloberst.
At the start of Operation Barbarossa Hoth commanded Panzergruppe 3 (Schmidt's 39th Panzer Corps and Kuntzen's 57th Panzer Corps). Hoth operated alongside General Strauss's 9th Army and took part in the envelopments around Minsk and Vitebsk, capturing huge numbers of Soviet prisoners. On 17 July 1941 Hoth was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross.
These early successes put Hoth on the road to Moscow, but on 19 July he was ordered to turn north to aid the advance towards Leningrad. He wasn't ordered to turn back towards the Soviet capital until 5 September. This new offensive had only just begun when Hoth was moved to command the 17th Army in the Ukraine.
Hoth's new command began with an advance from Poltava towards the Donetz, but he was soon forced onto the defensive by the Soviet counterattacks of early 1942. These were eventually halted, and something of a stalemate developed. This was broken by the great German summer offensive of 1942. The original plan was for Army Group South to capture Stalingrad, then turn south into the Caucasus. Hoth was appointed to command the 45th Panzer Army in this offensive, with orders to encircle Voronezh, and then advance to the Don. Hitler then changed his mind, split Army Group South in half, and attempted to carry out both operations at the same time.
By the autumn of 1942 Hoth's army was positioned to the south of Stalingrad. Many of his armoured troops had gone, and like many units protecting the flanks of the Stalingrad position he had a large number of allied troops under his command, in this case seven Romanian divisions. Inevitably the German line crumbled when the Soviets launched their great counterattack in November 1942. Hoth came under Manstein's command in a newly formed Army Group Don, and played a major part in the fighting that allowed Army Group A to escape from a potential trap in the Caucasus, holding an escape route open around Rostov.
By the summer of 1943 Hoth's 4th Panzer Army had been massively reinforced, and contained more tanks than any other German army of the war - a total of 700 including 60 Tigers, provided by the II SS-Panzer Corps, XLVIII Panzer Corps and LII Corps. His army was to form the armoured spearhead for Manstein's Army Group South, which was to form the southern pincer of the massive German attack at Kursk (Operation Citadel).
The German offensive was repeatedly delayed, and by the time it was launched on 5 July the Soviet defences were too thick to be breached. Hoth made rapid progress at first, but was unable to break through the Soviet lines. On 12 July the Soviets launched Operation Kutuzov, a counterattack on the northern side of the Kursk salient, and 10 July the Western Allies landing on Sicily. These twin attacks convinced Hitler to cancel the Kursk offensive. Hoth's army was weakened by the transfer of a number of his best units to the west, weakening Hoth during the struggle against the general Soviet offensive that followed.
Hoth was still able to fight an impressive defensive battle on the Dnieper River, and was awarded the Swords to the Knight's Cross on 15 September 1943. He soon fell from favour. On 3 November the Soviets launched another offensive, and quickly liberated Kiev and Zhitomir. Hoth wanted permission to withdraw to a more defendable position, and as often happened at this stage in the war Hitler responded by sacking him. On 26 November Hoth was replaced by General Rauss, and joined the Reserve, where he remained for the rest of the war.
After the war Hoth was charged with responsibility for crimes against humanity committed by troops under his command, and in 1948 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released after six years, and spent much of the rest of his life writing military history. His memoirs were published as Panzeroperationen in 1956.
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