Theodor Tolsdorf, 1909-1978

General Theodor Tolsdorf (1909-1978) was the youngest German Generalleutnant of the Second World War, and after taking part in the Ardennes offensive in 1944 ended the war commanding a corps on the Eastern Front.

Tolsdorf didn't join the army until 1934. Before the war he was promoted to Oberleutnant, and during the invasion of Poland in 1939 he commanded a platoon in Infantry Regiment 22's 14th (Anti-Tank) Company. During the short Polish campaign he won the Iron Cross First and Second Class.

Tolsdorf wasn't involved in the fighting in the west in 1940, but he did take part in Operation Barbarossa. He was wounded during the advance towards Leningrad, and was rewarded with the Knight's Cross (4 December 1941). He was wounded a second time soon after this, this time losing his right foot. He was given a prosthetic foot, and returned to the front, as a Hauptmann commanding 1st Battalion, Infantry Regiment 22.

Tolsdorf wasn't promoted to major until 1943, when he was given command of Infantry Regiment 22. He was awarded the Oak-Leaves to the Knight's Cross on 15 September 1943. Once again an award was followed by a wound, this time a stomach wound. His bad luck continued, and while being evacuated for treatment on his stomach wound, he suffered a head wound!

After recovering from both wounds, Tolsdorf was given a safer post, as a tactics instructor at the Metz officer candidates' training school. He was then promoted to Oberstleutnant and in March 1944 given command of Grenadier Regiment 1067. His task was to defend Vilnius, but by this point the Soviets had already cut off that city. Tolsdorf was able to fight his way into Vilnius, and then managed to defend the city until a relief force from the 3rd Panzer Army arrived. He was awarded the Swords to the Knight's Cross on 18 July 1944, and promoted to Oberst on 1 August.

Late in 1944 Tolsdorf was given command of the 340th Volks Grenadier Division. He commanded this unit during the Ardennes offensive. Although the offensive ended in failure, Tolsdorf's division managed to capture an important river cross. He was rewarded with promotion to Generalmajor on 30 January, the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross on 18 March 1945, and promotion to Generalleutnant on 1 April 1945, the youngest man to hold that rank in the Wehrmacht.

The new Generalleutnant was appointed to command the 82nd Corps in the Balkans. His main concern over the last few weeks of the war was to make sure his men surrendered to US forces. Tolsdorf was a prisoner of war until 1947. After his release he worked as a driver. He died in 1978 of injuries sustained in an accident.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 November 2011), Theodor Tolsdorf, 1909-1978 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_tolsdorf_theodor.html

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