Lieutenant Colonel Schörner took command of the 98th Mountain Regiment in 1937. Promoted to the rank of colonel in 1939, he led his unit in the invasion of Poland in September 1939. He then commanded the 6th Mountain Division in the invasion of France and the Low Countries in May 1940. Promoted to Generalmajor (U.S. equiv. brigadier general) in August, he led the same unit in the April 1941 German invasion of Greece. Schörner's division was then transferred to the Arctic in 1941 and 1942. There he took command of Mountain Corps Norway in January 1942 as a Generalleutnant (U.S. equiv. major general). He was promoted to the rank of general of mountain troops, and his force was reorganized as the XIX Mountain Corps in June 1942. Transferred to south Russia in October 1943, Schörner took charge of Army Detachment Nikopol. Following a brief period in staff work with the High Command in March 1944, Schörner was promoted to full general. He commanded Army Group South Ukraine from March to July 1944 and Army Group North from July 1944 to January 1945.
Schörner commanded Army Group Center from January to May 1945, which he managed to keep largely intact until Germany's surrender. Promoted to field marshal in April 1945 and named in Adolf Hitler's testament to succeed Hitler as head of the Wehrmacht, Schörner caused several of his own men to be executed for cowardice. He was one of the most brutal of German army generals.
Held prisoner by the Soviets after the war, Schörner was sentenced to 25 years in prison as a war criminal, but he was released in January 1955. He returned to the Federal Republic of Germany, where he found himself accused by the Association of Returned Prisoners of War and his former chief of staff, Generalleutnant Oldwig von Narzmer, with ordering the execution of thousands of German soldiers in drumhead courts-martial. In 1957, a Munich court found him guilty and sentenced him to four and a half years in prison and loss of his military pension for executing without trial a soldier found drunk at the wheel of an army truck. Veterans of the 6th Mountain Division raised the sum lost in the pension and more to give to their former commander. Following his release, Schörner lived in Munich, where he died on 2 July 1973.
Spencer C. Tucker and John P. Vanzo
Mellenthin, Friedrich. German Generals of World War II as I Saw Them. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977.; Mitcham, Samuel W., Jr. "Ferdinand Schoerner." In Hitler's Field Marshals and their Battles, 339–354. Chelsea, MI: Scarborough House, 1990.; Taylor, Telford. Sword and Swastika: Generals and Nazis in the Third Reich. 1952.