Ferdinand Schörner (1892 – 1973)

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Ferdinand Schörner was born in 1892 in the Bavarian city of Munich. He studied languages at three universities in order to become a teacher and while he was a student, signed on as a 'Einjährig Freiwilliger' that conferred certain privileges such as a reduction in the time one was conscripted for, being able to choose one's arm of service and being treated almost as an officer. He joined the Bavarian Leib Infantry Regiment, part of the Royal Bavarian Household Troops and saw action in the First World War, fighting at battles such as Verdun, Hermannstadt and the Isonzo River as part of the newly formed German Alpine Corps. It was here that he was awarded the Pour Le Merite (Blue Max).

After the war he became involved in right-wing politics, was a member of the Ritter von Epps Paramilitary Group (part of the Freikorps) and joined the Reichswehr, helping to put down the Munich Putsch. He joined the 19th Bavarian Infantry Regiment and was sent to the Dresden Infantry School where he was promoted to Major. He then managed to obtain a number of General Staff postings and lectured at the Dresden School before gaining command of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment in 1937 and being promoted to Oberstleutnant. The regiment, part of the 1st Gebirgs Division fought with distinction in the invasion of Poland (Second World War)and Schörner  was given command of the newly forming 6th Gebirgs Division which he led during the Balkan Campaign and then on the Eastern Front in the north of Finland, as part of Lapland Army of three corps (Norway, XXXVI and III). He was then promoted to command the XIX Corps and from there the XL Panzer Corps in October 1943, which held the bridgehead on the Dnieper River although he voluntarily withdrew it when the Red Army broke through a neighbouring corps.

In March 1944 he was promoted to Generaloberst and made commander of Army Group Ukraine and appreciating the difficult position of the 6th Army, withdrew them from behind the Dnieper River. He was then given command of Army Group North but by the time he had reached it, a Soviet offensive had trapped it in the Courland Peninsula. In January 1945 Schörner was given command of the newly created Army Group Centre (out of the remnants of Army Group A),which conducted a fighting retreat westwards, denying the Soviets the ability to sweep through Upper Silesia and Czechoslovakia and thus enabling over one-and-a-half million people from Eastern Germany to escape the Red Army.

He was taken prisoner by American forces near the small town of Tyrol while trying to make contact with some other officers and handed over to the Soviets. He spent ten years in a Soviet prison camp, where he refused to become a member of the 'National Committee for a Free Germany' run by former General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach. After his return to Germany he became the victim of a left-wing hate campaign, just at the time the West German Government was considering the formation of the Bundeswehr and joining NATO. He spent another 4-and-a-half years in prison accused of crimes against German soldiers. He died on 6 July 1973.

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How to cite this article:Antill, P. (29 November 2005) Schorner, Ferdinand (1892-1973) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_schorner.html

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