Joseph Dietrich

Joseph (Sepp) Dietrich was born in Hawangen, Bavaria, on 28th May 1892. He joined the German Army in 1911 and during the First World War he was decorated for valor and was a crewman in one of Germany's first tanks.

Dietrich was active in the Freikorps before joining the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). In 1928 he became a member of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and was selected by Adolf Hitler to become one of his personal bodyguards. In 1934 he led an execution squad during the Night of the Long Knives.

In 1940 Dietrich was given command of the 1st SS Panzer Division and took part in the invasion of France and Operation Barbarossa. He also fought in Italy where he was accused of badly treating Allied prisoners of war.

When the Allied forces landed in Normandy in June, 1944, Dietrich commanded three divisions of the 1st SS Panzer Corps. Dietrich led his troops well and in late 1944 Hitler placed the new 6th SS Panzer Army under his control. He now fought against the advancing Red Army and was greatly condemned for order the execution of Russian prisoners.

At the end of the war Dietrich fled west and surrendered to the USA Army on 8th May, 1945. He was found guilty of killing prisoners of war in Belgium and was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment.

Dietrich served only ten years and when he was released he was arrested and charged for murders committed during the Night of the Long Knives. Found guilty he was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. Joseph (Sepp) Dietrich died of a heart attack at Ludwigsburg on 21st April, 1966.

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