Neither the Russian attack nor
the breakthrough surprised the Army General Staff.
The General Staff had no means with which to strengthen the
front and, as has been
made clear, Hitler had refused to allow a timely withdrawal of
The situation was regarded as grave in the extreme. When Hitler
learnt of the Russian
breakthrough, he flew into a rage. But the collapse of the Third
Rumanian Army should have
given him an indication of the fate that awaited Stalingrad and
the German forces there.
Yet nothing happened to indicate that he had in any way revised
his preconceived opinions.
Colonel-General Halder had uttered his warnings in vain and
General Zeitzier had done
the same. And now the 'exhausted foe' was on his feet again, and
with six army corps had
broken the German front at that very spot which had been pointed
out to Hitler in a
thousand and one reports.
It was necessary to find a
scapegoat, and one was duly found. In an order of the day
which Hitler communicated to all senior officers, he sought to
lay all the blame on the Com-
mander of the XXXXVIHth Panzer Corps. The text of the order was
as follows :
The Führer and Supreme Commander
of the Army. 5 December 1942.
During the course of the
operations against Stalingrad there arose, as early as October,
the danger of a threat developing to the long northern flank of
our attacking front.
In the first half of November
there were indications of an impending attack against the
Third Rumanian Army. To meet this threat, I gave orders that the
22nd Panzer Division
should take up a position behind the right wing of the Third
Rumanian Army and together
with the 1st Rumanian Panzer Division should constitute the
XXXXVIIIth Panzer Corps,
under the command of Lieutenant-General Heim.
In the event of an enemy attack
or breakthrough, this Panzer Corps was under orders to
make an immediate counter-attack, and to prevent at all costs
the forcing back of the right
wing of the Third Rumanian Army.
The forces which were thus
deployed to oppose the enemy's attack were exceptionally
From the very beginning the way
in which the 22nd Panzer Division was brought up
and deployed gave rise to grave doubts concerning the Corps
Of more than one hundred tanks,
only a little over thirty reached their appointed
assembly area. I regard it as a most serious dereliction of an
officer's duty if,
at such a time and in such conditions, he fails lo exert the
utmost energy in bringing the
fighting strength of his units to the highest possible pitch, or
alternatively in redressing
errors already made.
The leader of the Panzer Corps
had a duty to make himself immediately conversant
with every aspect of the operation which confronted him.
It was his further duty to keep
in close touch with the Panzer Divisions assigned to him
and to discuss thoroughly with the two divisions all questions
concerning this operation.
Speed of action was all the more essential, in that it must have
first, that the organisation, leadership and general condition
of our Rumanian allies was
not of a sufficiently high standard to make them equal to tasks
which could be
undertaken by German divisions in similar circumstances;
secondly, that, especially with regard to anti-tank weapons,
they did not possess the
When the Russians launched their
expected attack on the 19th of November, the sector
of front directly concerned was to begin with comparatively
narrow. If the Panzer Corps,
with a strength of over one hundred and fifty tanks, had been
rapidly sent into action,
this would beyond any question of doubt have resulted in a
But the Panzer Corps did not in
fact go into action at all during the first twenty-four hours.
During the next twenty-four hours the Corps Commander was
attempting to establish
contact with the ist Rumanian Panzer Division. It was thus
impossible immediately to
concentrate the two divisions, so that a concerted
counter-attack could be launched.
Then, instead of at least grimly
battling through to join the Rumanian Panzer Division,
so that a joint counter-attack could be mounted, operations by
the 22nd Panzer Division
continued to be as hesitant as they were unsafe.
This failure by the XXXXVIIIth
Panzer Corps was alone responsible for the fact that
the Third Rumanian Army was broken through on both wings. This
has resulted in a
catastrophe of immense proportions, the ultimate consequences of
even now be foreseen. In view of the extremely grave
consequences that have followed
this disaster, namely the loss of a large number of units and an
immense amount of war
material and the encirclement of the Sixth Army, the conduct by
the Corps Commander
must be regarded as not merely grossly careless, but as a crime
of negligence hitherto
unparalleled in the course of this war.
In addition, the moral effect
will have serious repercussions on the German war effort.
I am determined that the
conditions which prevailed during the Battle of the Marne in
and which German military and historical research has not, after
twenty-five years, yet
succeeded in explaining, shall in no circumstances be allowed to
reappear in the new army.
In view of the disastrous consequences that have resulted from
the failure of this general
I have decided :
1. That he shall be immediately dismissed from the Army.
2. That while awaiting final elucidation of the failure of this
German officer, no further decisions
will be made concerning the ultimate action which, in accordance
with military tradition in
such cases, may have to be taken against him.
Signed: ADOLF HITLER.
This is a suitable moment to
describe briefly the further course of events in the 'Heim
and to see what were the decisions made, in Hitler's words 'in
accordance with military
tradition in such cases'.
The XXXXVIIIth Panzer Corps had
just fought its way through to the Chir, when
Lieutenant-General Heim was recalled by radio to Hitler's
ofthe Army Group in Starobelsk,Colonel-General von Weichs,
'knew nothing' of the matter, and at Army High Command General
Zeitzler 'had no idea what
it was all about'. Both men believed that there had been a
misunderstanding. They certainly
knew that Hitler was furious about something, but they could
think of nothing with which he
could reproach General Heim.
That there was no
misunderstanding was only shown when Field-Marshal Keitel
the thunderstruck commander of the Panzer Corps that he was
dismissed from the Army,
stripped him of his decorations, and had him flown to the Army
prison at Moabit.
After that, nothing more happened.
Lieutenant-General Heim was kept
in solitary confinement until April 1943.He was neither
charged, nor interrogated, nor tried, nor was the affair ever
investigated. He was not
allowed to see anyone or to receive any letters. At the end of
April he was transferred,
without any reason being given, to the military hospital at
Zehlendorf. Three months later the
'accused Heim' was informed that his dismissal from the Army had
been cancelled, and that he
was to be placed on the retiredlist. There the matter seemed to
Exactly a year later, in August
1944, Lieutenant-General (Retired) Heim was once again
given a front-line command. He was made commander of the forces
fighting a lost battle
at Boulogne. The 'decision in accordance with military
tradition' had been made.
Generalleutnant Fedinand Heim
Sources : Stalingrad : Heinz Schröter
Heim was replaced by Major
General Eberbach on November 29, 1942.
The same day Eberbach was wounded and was replaced by Major
commander of the "Schnellen Truppen".
December 5, 1942 General of Panzertroops von Knobelsdorff took
over command of
the XXXXVIII Army-Corps.