CS - Karl-Heinz von Behrendt: Wehrmacht Officer

Name: Karl-Heinz Dietrich Ernst Freiherr von Behrendt
Gender: M
Height: 5'11
Date of Birth/Location: 28th March, 1915, Berlin
Profession: Wehrmacht - Panzerwaffe
Rank: Oberstleutnant
Hometown: Buchholz, Province of Saxony, Germany

History: The Behrendt is a noble family originally from Thuringia with an unbroken family line since 1621, with the name of Behrendt baronated by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in 1699 for their service in the Great Turkish War when their ancestor Franz Behrendt (1672-1734) served under the command of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Despite their noble status, the Behrendt had lived a simple life in the suburban area, before the Great War that changes everything.

Karl was born in Berlin but raised in Buchholz, a small village in Thüringen near Nordhausen. The broad, dense forest of the Thüringen area earned it the nickname "the green heart of Germany" (das grüne Herz Deutschlands). As a child, Karl felt very much at home in the rural and forest, and he learned how to ride horses and hunt for food, through helping his father in providing for their family, he became accustomed to the hard work and dedication. This made Karl very comfortable in the hunt.

Karl's father, Ernst von Behrendt, had answered the fatherland's call when the Great War broke out, first as an infantryman in the 8th Infantry Regiment of the Saxony 24th Division, where he participated in chasing the Allied to their Great Retreat which culminated in the First Battle of the Marne, and then in the Race to the Sea. First as an infantryman, then as a Gefreiter (lance corporal), after his first wound and recovery, he decided to enlist as an officer aspirant (Fahnenjunker), and he was promoted to Leutnant as a pilot – first in an Fokker M.7 unarmed recon two seater, before he got to fly an Albatros D.III fighter in Jagdstaffel 1, under the command of Red Baron before command taken by Hermann Göring following the death of the flying legend. Old Ernst shot down 4 enemy aircrafts, but before he could secure his 5th kill that would qualify him as an Ace, he was wounded by his would-be victory, which put him out of fighting – by the time he recovered, the war was over.

As a young man, Karl aspired to serve his country just like his father once did, his childhood years were spent seeing his family and the nation suffer under the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles. He was a passionate reader of adventure novels, and an advocate for the Wandervogel movement in Germany. He enlisted in the Reichswehr when he was 17.

The Wehrmacht was formed in 1935, by then Karl had already proven himself as a capable soldier and was eager to advance his career in the newly established military. Karl volunteered for the Panzerwaffe, the armoured branch of the Wehrmacht, which were becoming the centrepiece of Germany's military strategy. His initial deployment was with the 1st Panzer Division, stationed in Weimar. His unit was instrumental during the Invasion of Poland in 1939, where Karl, then a Leutnant, displayed remarkable tactical acumen during the Blitzkrieg operations. His adept handling of Panzer III tanks earned him the Iron Cross 2nd Class, a Panzer Assault Badge, and a promotion to Oberleutnant by the end of the campaign.

During the Battle of France in 1940, Karl served under the command of General Heinz Guderian in the XIX Army Corps. His unit spearheaded the rapid advance through the Ardennes, bypassing the heavily fortified Maginot Line, all the way to in the encirclement of Allied forces at Dunkirk, and he was soon awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class and promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) for his contributions to the victory.

In 1941, Karl participated in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. As part of the 2nd Panzer Army (reformed from the XIX Army Corps), Karl's regiment was involved in some of the fiercest battles on the Eastern Front, including the encirclement battles of Kiev and Vyazma-Bryansk. His leadership during these operations led to his promotion to Major by the winter of 1941, and he was given command of a panzer battalion.

The harsh winter of 1941-1942 tested Karl’s resolve and the endurance of his men. Despite the severe conditions, he managed to maintain the effectiveness of his unit. His strategic retreats and counter-attacks during the Soviet winter offensives saved many lives and preserved the integrity of his forces.

By 1943, Karl was promoted to Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) and given command of a regiment within the esteemed 7th Panzer Division, known as the Ghost Division when it was under Rommel’s command. He participated in the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, where his regiment fought valiantly against overwhelming Soviet forces as part of Army Detachment Kempf.

During the Kamenets–Podolsky pocket in 1944, his command played a critical role in attempting to halt the Soviet advance. Despite suffering heavy losses, Karl managed to extract a significant portion of his men, demonstrating his ability to adapt and survive under dire circumstances. Despite the eventual battered retreat, Karl’s leadership was exemplary, and he was recognised with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his bravery and tactical competence.

In the latter stages of the war, Karl continued to lead his men with distinction during the fighting withdrawal across Eastern Europe, participated as the Kampfgruppe of the division fought a rearguard action through north Poland and Prussia. His ability to maintain unit cohesion and morale under increasingly dire circumstances was a testament to his leadership.

Following the surrender, Karl was taken as a prisoner of war by the British forces. He spent several years in captivity before being released in 1950.
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0 | Jun 10th 2024 20:00