Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Meyer, Kurt (1910–1961)

German army general who commanded the 12th SS Panzer Division in Normandy. Born in Jarxhelm, Brunswick, Germany, on 23 December 1910, Kurt Meyer initially became a policeman. He joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1932 and the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH) in 1934. During World War II, Meyer fought with distinction in the September 1939 invasion of Poland and received command of the LAH Motorcycle Reconnaissance Battalion. Known for his aggressive and resolute command style, he participated in the invasions of France and the Low Countries between May and June 1940 and Greece in April 1941. He then fought in the Soviet Union for three years as a regimental commander.

Meyer commanded the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 12th SS Panzer Division (Hitlerjugend) when the Allies invaded Normandy. He took over the division on 17 June following the death of its commander, SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Witt. During the Normandy Campaign, the 12th SS fought hard along the British-Canadian front, particularly frustrating the Canadians. A brilliant commander, Meyer excelled in relentless, close-quarters combat, and his division was known for its fanaticism and refusal to surrender. It played a key role in holding the northern edge of the Falaise pocket long enough to allow much of the German Seventh Army to escape to the east. By the time the division broke free of the pocket, it had been reduced from 20,000 men with 150 tanks on D day to fewer than 300 men and 10 tanks. Belgian partisans captured Meyer and turned him over to American forces in September.

In December 1945, Meyer was tried and convicted for the mid-June 1944 execution of 40 Canadian prisoners of war at Chateau Audrieu in Normandy. Although no direct evidence linked him to the crime, there was strong circumstantial evidence. A sentence of death was commuted to life in prison at Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada. In October 1951, Meyer was transferred to a prison in Werl, Germany, from which he was released because of poor health in September 1954. He died at Hagen, Germany, on 23 December 1961. Konrad Adenauer was among the prominent German leaders who sent tributes.

Britton W. MacDonald


Further Reading
Foster, Tony. Meeting of Generals. New York: Methuen, 1986.; MacDonald, B. S. S. The Trial of Kurt Meyer. Toronto, Canada: Clarke, Irwin, 1954.; Margolian, Howard. Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1998.; Meyer, Kurt. Grenadiers. Winnipeg, Canada: J. J. Fedorowicz, 2001.
 

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