Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
Teaser Image

Dietrich, Josef "Sepp" (1892–1966)

German Schutzstaffel (SS) general and commander of Leibstandarte, a bodyguard unit responsible for Adolf Hitler's personal safety. Born on 28 May 1892 in Hawangen, Bavaria, Josef Dietrich volunteered for the army in 1914 and became a crewman in one of Germany's first tanks. After the war, Dietrich was active in the Freikorps before joining the National Socialist Party and the SS in 1928. He was selected as one of Hitler's bodyguards and was in charge of the buildup of the Leibstandarte. In the Blood Purge of July 1934, Dietrich led an execution squad in the elimination of the leadership of the Sturmabteilung (SA, Storm Troopers).

In early 1940, Dietrich received command of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH), which became a panzergrenadier division in 1942. With it he took part in the invasions of France, Greece, and the Soviet Union. When the western Allies landed in Normandy in June 1944, Dietrich commanded the 1st SS Panzer Corps, and in September Hitler gave him command of the Sixth SS Panzer Army. Dietrich was awarded the Reich's highest decoration, the Diamonds to the Iron Cross, and in August 1944 he was promoted to the rank of Oberstgruppenführer. His army played an important part in the December 1944 Ardennes Offensive, but it was unable to realize Hitler's far-reaching expectations.

Dietrich then fought on the Eastern Front. His last offensive, which was in Hungary during March 1945, failed. Dietrich, to that point the prototype of the National Socialist soldier, lost Hitler's confidence because he questioned Hitler's directives and ordered the retreat of his exhausted troops.

After the war, Dietrich was found guilty of being responsible for the execution of U.S. prisoners of war (the Malmédy trial) and was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment. Dietrich served only 10 years, but he was later arrested again and charged for murders committed in 1934. He was sentenced to only 18 months in prison. Dietrich died at Ludwigsburg on 21 April 1966.

Martin Moll


Further Reading
Messenger, Charles. Hitler's Gladiator: The Life and Times of Oberstgruppenführer and Panzergeneraloberst der Waffen-SS Sepp Dietrich. London: Brassey's Defence Publishers, 1988.; Weingartner, James J. Hitler's Guard: The Story of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, 1933–1945. Nashville, TN: Battery Press, 1989.
 

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  About the Author/Editor
  Introduction
  Essays
  A
  B
  C
  D
  E
  F
  G
  H
  I
  J
  K
  L
  M
  N
  O
  P
  Q
  R
  S
  T
  U
  V
  W
  X
  Y
  Z
  Documents Prior to 1938
  1939 Documents
  1940 Documents
  1941 Documents
  1942 Documents
  1943 Documents
  1944 Documents
  1945 Documents
  Images
ABC-cLIO Footer