FRITZ KLINGENBERG AND BELGRADE

Fritz Klingenberg was born in Meckelenberg on 17 December 1912. In 1934 he joined the SS-VT, attend- ing the SS-Junkerschule at Bad Tölz. As a young SS officer he was posted to the Germania Regiment. Within a short while, he became an inspector of the SS-VT under Paul Hausser. Klingenberg commanded a battalion of assault motorcycles after the campaign in the West, and it was with this unit that he gained fame as the man who captured Belgrade. With a small group of Das Reich men he took the city, simply by raising a swastika over the German Embassy and declaring the capital captured. Two hours later the mayor of Belgrade surrendered to Klingenberg, not knowing that sizeable German forces were some miles away and Klingenberg was virtually alone! For this audacious action Klingenberg was awarded the Knight’s Cross,that particularly annoyed the Army because the SS beat its elite Grossdeutschland Regiment to the Yugoslav capital. He moved back to the SS-Junkerschule at Bad Tölz in 1942, training young men to become officers in the Waffen-SS. In 1945 he assumed command of the 17th SS-Panzergrenadier Division Götz von Berlichingen. It was while leading this division that he was killed in action near Herxheim on 22 March 1945.

Belgrade

The German Twelfth Army had broken through a strong defense line of bunkers and antitank batteries then driven northwest 213 miles through the Morava Valley in seven days toward Belgrade. Other Wehrmacht units were closing in from the southeast, through Serbia where resistance had been the stiffest, and from the west, but all were beaten to the prize by a tiny unit of the hated rival, the Waffen SS.

A motorcycle assault company of the SS Das Reich Division led by Captain Fritz Klingenberg and attached to the German Second Army reached the opposite, north bank of the Danube on the morning of April 12, 1941. Though the river was flooded, Klingenberg located a motorboat and with a lieutenant, a pair of sergeants, and five privates grandly set off to conquer a capital.

They were nearly swamped, but crossed successfully. On shore they surprised a score of Yugoslav soldiers who, at the sight of them, just dropped their weapons and threw up their hands. When Yugoslav military vehicles arrived shortly afterward, Klingenberg fired on them, boarded, and then headed into the ruined city.

With no one to stop him, he made his way to the wreck that had been the Ministry of War, then drove on, weaving through the rubble, to the German Legation. It was untouched. The Luftwaffe had spared the blocks around it.

The military attaché, Robert St. John noticed, had not left, and Klingenberg ran up the Swastika at 5 PM to proclaim Belgrade’s fall. The mayor appeared two hours later with what little authority he had left to make it official, and the next morning German armor crunched the debris to make it final.

The last major city left, Sarajevo, fell two days later. Cruelly fitting, the Yugoslav government official who surrendered the country had signed Yugoslavia’s first capitulation to Hitler in Vienna just a month before-Foreign Minister Aleksander Cincar-Markovich.

Invasion of Yugoslavia: Waffen SS Captain Fritz Klingenberg and the Capture of Belgrade During World War II

 

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