Max Wünsche

Max Wünsche was a German officer in the Waffen SS during World War II. He was decorated with the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves and reached the rank of Obersturmbannführer. Max Wünsche was born in Kittlitz, Germany, on April 20, 1915. He attended High School in Bautzen, and in 1928 he joined the Agricultural Union and attended the Mercantile school. Temporarily employed as a manager working on a manor, Wünsche then became a Department Head at an accounting firm. In November 1932, Wünsche joined the Hitlerjugend, and the SS in July 1933. After attending a the non-commissioned officer five-month training course at Jüterbog, he decided to become an officer.

Wünsche was selected to attend SS-Junkerschule officer school at Bad Tölz. He graduated in 1936 and was promoted to Untersturmführer in April and assigned to the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler as a platoon leader in the 9th Company. In October 1938 he was assigned to the Begleitkommando des Führers as an Orderly Officer.

In January 1940 Max Wünsche returned to the Leibstandarte as a platoon commander in the 15th Motor Cycle Company under the command of Kurt Meyer, for the invasion of Holland and the Battle of France. In December 1940 he was appointed Adjutant to Sepp Dietrich. In April 1941 he took part in the invasion of the Balkans, fighting against the Greek forces during Operation Marita, and on June 22, 1941, the invasion of Russia, Operation Barbarossa.

During Operation Barbarossa, Wünsche would carry out reconnaissance flights in a Fieseler Storch flying over the Russian positions. One flight on the 31 July, contributed to the capture of Novo, Archelsk, which closed the Uman pocket and trapped the encircled Russian Divisions. In February 1942 Wünsche was appointed as commander of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hittler Sturmgeschütz Battalion, and was involved in fierce fighting, stopping numerous Soviet attempts to breakthrough the German lines.

In March 1942, his battalion again prevented a Russian breakthrough at the Muis bridgehead. On June 1, Wünsche returned to Germany to study at the Staff College, where he successfully completed the General Staff training course and was promoted to Sturmbannführer. In September 1942 he returned to the Leibstandarte and resumed command of the Sturmgeschütz Battalion until October when he was given command of the I/Battalion, SS Leibstandarte Panzer Regiment, which was in the process of being formed.

Max Wünsche and his battalion fought at Kharkov, in Blizzard conditions, with temperatures below freezing. After a number of ferocious battles which ended on the February 9, 1943, they halted the Russian advance and held the town of Merefa, at the same time inflicting heavy losses on the Red Army. On the February 10, they launched an attack in an attempt to relieve the encircled 1st SS Reconnaissance Battalion Leibstandarte SS, which was still commanded by his old commander Kurt Meyer. On February 13, Wünsche and his battalion succeeded in perforating the lines, reaching Meyer’s beleaguered troops and saving them from destruction. Together the two battalions formed a Kampfgruppe and continued the attack, defeating the Russian VI Guards Cavalry Corps on February 15, the same day that Kharkov was abandoned by the Russians. For these actions Wünsche was awarded the German Cross in Gold.

On the February 25, Wünsche’s Kampfgruppe located an enemy force approaching, the Division’s southern flank. Wünsche carried out an attack that encircled the Soviets at Jeremejwka and destroyed 52 heavy guns, causing over 900 Soviet casualties. For this action he was awarded the Knight’s Cross on the February 28. In June 1943, Sturmbannführer Max Wünsche was ransferred to France, to a new unit, which was in the process of becoming a division; it later became the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, of which Wünsche took command.

One day after D-Day, on June 7, 1944, Wünsche and the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend was committed to action, fighting in several subsequent battles. Wünsche’s Regiment was credited with the destruction of 219 tanks up to the beginning of July. Wünsche the award of the Oakleaves to his Knight’s Cross. But the 12th SS Panzer was later trapped in what became known as the Falaise pocket. On the night of August 20, Wünsche, his adjutant SS-Hauptsturmführer Isecke, SS-Untersturmführer Fritz Freitag and a wounded medical officer, escaped out of the pocket on foot. While they marched on foot, they encountered a enemy outpost where the injured Doctor was taken prisoner while Wünsche got wounded in the calf. Then Isecke became seperated and was captured, too. Wünsche’s group was now down to two. Wünsche and Frietag found a German vehicle in good working condition and drove through St Lambert in plain view of the Canadians that occupied the town. But later that day, while waiting under the cover of bushes for darkness they where captured.

Wünsche spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in camp 165 at Caithness, Scotland which was a special camp for high ranking German officers. He was released in 1948 and returned to Germany, where he got married, had a family and became a manager of an industrial plant in Wuppertal, until his retirement in 1980. Max Wünsche died a few days after his 81rst birthday, on the April 17, 1995.

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