Battle at Itter Castle. One of the strangest battles of World War II

Battle at Itter Castle. One of the strangest battles of World War II
Soldier of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the American 12th tank divisions and German soldiers who jointly defended high-ranking French prisoners at Itter Castle

Prisoners of Itter Castle

Itter Castle, located on the territory of the Tyrolean commune of Itter, in the district of Kitzbühel (modern Austria), was allegedly founded in the 13th century. For my history it was destroyed more than once, restored, and then fell into complete disrepair again. Its ruins were used as building materials by peasants. In the 19th century, the castle was restored on the old foundation. At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style.

Since 1943, the Nazis have used Itter Castle as a prison for high-ranking political and military leaders of the French Republic that fell in 1940.

There they kept in prison: the Minister of War and the head of the French government, Paul Reynaud; former Prime Minister Edouard Daladier; former French commanders-in-chief Maurice Gamelin and Maxime Weygand; right-wing military and political figure François de la Roque; the famous tennis player and right-wing politician Jean Borotrou; entrepreneur, participant in two world wars, son of Georges Clemenceau, the famous French prime minister during the First World War, Michel Clemenceau; Marie-Agnès Caillot, the elder sister of General Charles de Gaulle, who was arrested along with her husband Alfred on charges of collaboration with the Resistance, and others.

Itter Castle in 1979

The rescue operation

On May 4, 1945, the head of the castle security and his subordinates, in the face of the complete collapse of the Third Reich and the capitulation of Berlin, decided that it was time to save themselves and fled. The prisoners were left to their own devices. However, they were afraid to leave, since SS units were scouring the area. The captured French sent the Czech Adreas Krobot, a former prisoner of the Dachau concentration camp, to search for allies.

Chef Crobot rides his bike for help. In the nearby town of Wörgl, a random Austrian Resistance fighter introduces Krobot to an unusual ally: Wehrmacht Major Joseph Gangl, who betrayed the Third Reich and supplied weapon anti-fascists.

Krobot continues to search for the Americans, but now in a car in the company of Gangl. They found American tankers from the 12th Armored Division (7th American Army of General A. Patch) in the city of Kufstein. Captain John Lee, having studied the letter from Castle Itter and talking on the radio with the command, reported that they were coming to the rescue.

Josef Gangl next to his car during a conversation with John C. Lee before defending Castle Itter. May 5, 1945

The battle

So, on May 5, 1945, a special rescue operation was organized.

The American soldiers from the 23rd Tank Battalion, 12th Armored Division, were led by Captain John Lee. Under his command was a tank platoon - 4 medium M4 Sherman tanks. But first, only the command tank arrived at the castle. They were joined, obviously, as guides (and wanting to curry favor) by a squad of German soldiers under the command of Major Joseph Gangl (13 people in total). SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt-Siegfried Schrader also joined.

A member of the Austrian Resistance and French prisoners also joined the detachment. In total there were 36 people in the detachment. Later, units of the 12th Panzer and 36th Infantry Divisions arrived to help.

The Germans tried to regain control of the castle. The operation involved 150–200 soldiers from the 17th SS Motorized Division "Götz von Berlichingen" under the command of SS Oberführer Georg Bochmann. The company was reinforced with an anti-tank battery.

The SS men use an anti-tank gun to knock out the tank of the American captain, “Mad Jenny,” who was standing in front of the castle gates. Reynaud, Clemenceau, de la Roque, Borotra, Gamelin took up arms and fired at the enemy. The Americans, French and Germans fire back until reinforcements arrive. Obviously, they were saved by the fact that the castle is located on a cliff, which can only be approached via a narrow bridge. As a result, the SS men are scattered.

Former prisoners of Itter Castle thank the Americans who came to the rescue, war correspondents talk with the rescued, and French photographer E. Schwab takes pictures. There is still shooting in the surrounding forests.

Thus, the Allies, supported by reinforcements, repelled the SS attack. The German detachment supposedly lost several dozen people killed and wounded, the rest fled and surrendered.

Wehrmacht officer Joseph Gangl died while trying to save former French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud. Gangl was posthumously awarded the title of hero of the Austrian resistance. Several more people were wounded, one tank was damaged. Kurt Schrader was arrested as having fought in the ranks of the SS, but thanks to the intercession of former prisoners of Itter Castle, he was released two years later.

The Battle of Itter Castle was one of two World War II battles where Americans and Germans fought together against the Germans. The second battle took place near the village of Gostoun, in what is now the Czech Republic, during Operation Cowboy. When Americans, German prisoners of war, Allied prisoners of war and Russian deserters from the 1st Cossack Division (Wehrmacht) united against the SS troops to save rare horses.

From left to right: Maurice Gamelin, Michel Clemenceau, an unknown American soldier and Paul Reynaud in the castle courtyard after the siege was lifted. Photographer Eric Schwab

Paul Reynaud (left) and Maurice Gamelin (right) in a castle room destroyed by German shells
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  1. The comment was deleted.
  2. -2
    10 July 2024 06: 30
    It is strange that the SS captain was not immediately spanked on the spot. Usually the amers did not stand on ceremony with the SS, especially with the officers.
    1. +7
      10 July 2024 10: 45
      Yeah, they “didn’t stand on ceremony”, they en masse took them into their service, especially the SS, SD and Abwehr.
      1. +1
        10 July 2024 14: 08
        I agree on the SD, Gestapo. The latter are also fifty fifty, how and where I got caught. The Abwehr is generally from a slightly different department. I'm talking specifically about the SS field troops, who were taken by the ass in battles. And especially after the Ardennes. Yes, there are photos of crying boys from the SS GU who were captured in France. But their further fate is unknown.
        1. +1
          10 July 2024 14: 18
          By the way, I have never seen a photo of captured tankers from the SS TTB, and there were two of them during the battles in France. As a result, both two battalions were battered, their equipment was knocked out, some were abandoned, even Wittmann was killed. AND...?
      2. -1
        11 July 2024 21: 02
        they took them en masse into their service
        In case they managed to avoid falling into the hands of ordinary soldiers. After sitting out in basements or attics, they could easily have gotten away with cuffs...
    2. +4
      10 July 2024 11: 43
      Quote from: lukash66
      Usually the amers did not stand on ceremony with the SS, especially with the officers.

      Yeah ...

      The President of the United States thanks and shakes hands with the SS Sturmbannführer. laughing
      1. +1
        10 July 2024 14: 51
        So he’s a regiment and definitely not from the Waffen SS.
        1. +3
          10 July 2024 18: 53
          This is Wernher von Braun, SS Sturmbannführer and war criminal.

          To the director
          NASA space flights
          Professor von Braun,
          12 April 1961 years

          Dear Werner!
          Everyone upstairs is in panic. They call them Nazis and scare us with Russians. Guess why. By the end of April, provide a detailed plan for a manned flight to the Moon. With numbers. Real plan, Werner! I trust you.
          PS Lord Jesus! Where am I?! Hitler and I trust you, and one of us has already put a bullet in his mouth!

          At least someone protect you
          NASA director
          D. Webb

  3. +22
    10 July 2024 07: 03
    One of the strangest battles of World War II
    It's a joke, isn't it? Who knew about Itter Castle? What battle? A shootout of 20 American infantrymen and 9 Wehrmacht deserters, together with the French figures who were there in sanatorium conditions, against the SS men, the number of whom is not exactly known, who, apparently, on May 5th, also intended to surrender to the same Americans... so the battle. At the same time, the Americans did not lose not a single person, but Major Gangl was slammed by no one knows who.
    Austrian Resistance
    When did it become resistance? In 1945? Well then all of a sudden They began to resist in May, it became clear to all Germans that the Reich was in trouble, they urgently needed to change their shoes. And back in 41 there was no talk about the Austrian resistance, Austria was integral part of the Reich. Anschluss - annexation voluntary by the way. Generally a muddy topic. Maybe about the “decisive contribution” to the end of WWII by the “Austrian resistance” and French collaborators? Yes, the decisive contribution of the USSR to the defeat of Germany is erased, and unknown episodes are pulled out from somewhere. Your face when you ask an American to take you prisoner before the Russians come.
    1. +8
      10 July 2024 11: 51
      Quote: Unknown
      When did it become resistance? In 1945? Well, then everyone suddenly began to resist in May, it became clear to all the Germans that the Reich was sick of it, they urgently needed to change their shoes.

      Just wait, in the near future they will tell us how Austria fought Hitler and Nazism.
      Never ask a man how much he earns, a woman how old she is, or an Austrian where Hitler was born. smile
    2. +2
      10 July 2024 12: 15
      When did it become resistance? In 1945?

      You shouldn’t demonstrate your turbo-patriotic ignorance so clearly. The Austrian resistance began in 1938. Have you heard of Heinrich Mayer?
      1. +9
        10 July 2024 13: 25
        Quote from Frettaskyrandi
        You shouldn’t demonstrate your turbo-patriotic ignorance so clearly. The Austrian resistance began in 1938. Have you heard of Heinrich Mayer?

        Turbo-patriotic ignorance means. Oh well. The Austrian resistance provided armed resistance during the Anschluss? Or maybe when Hitler visited his hometown of Linz, they started throwing rotten eggs at him? Not at all. We were very happy. 100th Infantry Division Austrian took Brest, and in the end perished at Stalingrad, and whoever was captured immediately disowned the Germans at the logging site, saying that we are Austrians, we have nothing to do with it. They probably also consider themselves fighters against Nazism. Mountain rangers are 80% natives of Österreicher, the troops are elite. Mayer, who is this? The priest who was executed by the Nazis? So you need to read Wikipedia less, they won’t write anything like that there, they’ll wash the black cable white and say it was like two fingers.... that’s the same thing. To say who the nationality of Kaltebrunner Skorzeny Seyss-Inquart was, commander of the SS division “Prince Eugene” Fleps that flooded Serbia with blood? So don’t talk about the Austrian resistance.
        1. +5
          10 July 2024 16: 01
          Quote: Unknown
          So don't talk about the Austrian resistance.

          It only remains to add that every FOUR Austrian, regardless of age, fought in WWII for the Nazis - this is one of the highest figures among participants.

          It’s immediately obvious that they “resisted.” Just like the Germans.
        2. +2
          10 July 2024 18: 12
          Turbo-patriotic ignorance means.

          I made a mistake. Ultra-turbopatriotic.
  4. +8
    10 July 2024 07: 28
    Was there a boy (fight)?

    who needs the French, which had been in circulation for a long time, in the conditions of a catastrophe, and who in general, except for the escaped guards, knew about them?

    Most likely, the castle accidentally ended up on the path of the SS men fleeing to the west and came under attack.
    1. +2
      10 July 2024 07: 38
      Well, some passing marauders could have slapped them or shot them for fun
      1. +2
        10 July 2024 09: 40
        this is 100%, but no one specifically bothered with their lives.
  5. +3
    10 July 2024 07: 55
    Interesting story. Without references it is perceived as fantastic.
    1. +1
      10 July 2024 08: 53
      Quote: S.Z.
      Interesting story. Without references it is perceived as fantastic.

      This is not a battle, just a bluff.
  6. +10
    10 July 2024 10: 31
    One of the strangest battles of World War II

    If we talk about strange WWII battles, then joint actions were a wild oddity..... Wehrmacht and British troops : When British paratroopers landed on Crete in 1945, they entered into battle with local ELAS formations. The British requested help from... the 212th tank battalion of the Wehrmacht, which was located on the island. The Nazis did not fail to come to the aid of the British and, together with them, defeated the communist units of ELAS.
  7. +4
    10 July 2024 11: 03
    Understood nothing. The Germans ran away, the prisoners took possession of the castle and sat there, the Americans approached and then the SS men for some reason decided to return this useless building again. Well, I don’t believe in such a description.
  8. +1
    10 July 2024 12: 14
    Yes, I know this story because I saw the documentary on television. After the capture of Austria, the castle was confiscated by the Germans in 1940. It then came under SS control in 1943 and was converted into a prison for important figures. The story begins on May 2 after the escape of a prisoner involved in the Yugoslav resistance. But the real battle begins on May 5th.
  9. +1
    10 July 2024 23: 02
    Josef Gangl next to his car during a conversation with John C. Lee

    The officer in the photograph is clearly not Josef Gangl.
    Firstly, he is not a major - the shoulder straps are maximum Hauptmann (i.e. captain's).
    Secondly, this is a mountain rifleman (the “edelweiss” on his cap is clearly visible), in whose units Gangl never served. He served mainly in artillery units, for a short time in the reconnaissance of an infantry regiment, but never in mountain rifle units.
    And thirdly, he does not have the “fried egg” (badge of the Order of the German Cross), which Gangl was awarded in March 1945.
    1. The comment was deleted.
      1. The comment was deleted.
    2. +1
      11 July 2024 01: 25
      It's still him
      1. 0
        11 July 2024 01: 26
        I gave very specific reasons why the officer in the photograph is not Josef Gangl.
        And I would be interested if you tried to explain them or refute them if you do not agree.
        And the fact that the photo in the article was taken from Wikipedia is not an argument for me. There have always been more than enough errors in Wiki.
        1. 0
          11 July 2024 10: 23
          This is a very famous photograph. Google Josef_Gangl.
          She's actually colored.

          The shoulder strap, of course, is not a major's
          PS And his buttonholes don’t bother you?
          1. -1
            12 July 2024 11: 45
            Dear Sergey, what does it have to do with the fact that the photograph is famous and is included in absolutely all articles dedicated to Josef Gangl? Does it matter that she's colored?
            An article about an artillery major awarded the German Cross is illustrated with a photograph of a mountain gunner captain who does not have this award.
            And nothing bothers you? Why would Gangl, if it was him, put on someone else’s shoulder straps, remove one of the awards (while leaving the others) and attach the emblem of someone else’s unit to his headdress? He didn’t serve in Brandenburg 800 and wasn’t heading anywhere on a secret mission at that moment!
            Regarding the last photo, pay attention not only to the shape of the buttonholes, but also to the cap, as well as the location of the non-commissioned officer's braid along the upper edge of the collar, and not along the lower, as was customary in the Wehrmacht.
            But the photograph, nevertheless, does not bother me - it is just an example of an early variation of the Wehrmacht military uniform based on the Reichswehr uniform. Here everything is quite adequate to Gangl’s biography, taking into account the time of the photo.
          2. -1
            12 July 2024 12: 15
            Regarding the “very famous photograph” and the fact that it is actually replicated in all articles devoted to the battle at Itter Castle, and therefore is true, I dare to recall the legendary story with Haeckel’s drawings about the stages of development of the human embryo (you probably remember, where the embryo consistently resembles a tadpole, a fish, a turtle, a bird, a pig and, in the end, a little man), the absolute fantasticness and falsification of which did not prevent them from being included in all the anatomy textbooks of their time.
  10. 0
    11 July 2024 08: 01
    What battle? What battle? Such epic words are used to describe an ordinary shootout... If this is a battle, then what happened in Stalingrad and on the Kursk Bulge?))) it feels like the article is again dripping like ordinary Germans of the Wehrmacht are white and fluffy, and all the atrocities are exclusively SS...
    1. 0
      13 July 2024 12: 35
      Such epic words are used to describe an ordinary firefight... If this is a battle, then what happened in Stalingrad and on the Kursk Bulge?)))
      Then you apparently understand why we have a Northern Military District and not a war.
      In war, populated areas cannot be taken by a platoon with the support of 1 tank...
  11. +2
    11 July 2024 09: 57
    Interesting story. I haven't heard anything about her
    But, in principle, nothing surprising. The most incredible stories happen in wars
  12. 0
    12 July 2024 03: 30
    The events reminded me of an episode from a Soviet film about a German translator in the Soviet army, who was appointed commandant. At the end, Soviet soldiers and German prisoners work together to repel an attack by the German SS.