Born May 3, 1886 at Anklam, Pommerania
Killed in Action, November 20, 1941 near Andrjewka, Soviet Union
Aficionados of the film record of the Second World War from the German point of view, often created by kriegsberichter for public consumption, likely will have seen, perhaps several times over, images of German soldiers marching on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. This parade was an impromptu affair, laid on shortly after, and to celebrate, the surrender of Paris in the spring of 1940.
Among other things, the film depicts a steel-helmeted German general officer seated on a beautiful horse and returning the salute of the soldiers passing by to his front. The mounted officer was Generalleutnant Kurt von Briesen, and the troops with whom he exchanged salutes were the soldiers of 30.Infanterie-Division, the General’s command during the western campaign in France and Flanders. The date was June 16, 1940.
Kurt von Briesen entered Army service in September 1904 as a Fahnenjunker in the Kaiser Franz Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr. 2 (Berlin), and attained the rank of Leutnant in January 1906. In October 1910 he became the Adjutant of his regiment’s 2.Fusilier-Bataillon, and occupied that position until the autumn of 1913, when he received a promotion to Oberleutnant and was appointed to the War Academy.
Von Briesen became Adjutant to the 15.Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment three weeks before the beginning of the Great War, and was almost immediately wounded in action. He returned to duty after only two months in hospital, first as a General Staff officer with 26.Reserve-Infanterie-Brigade, and then with the staff of IV.Armeekorps. Von Briesen achieved the rank of Hauptmann in January 1915, and in September 1916 transferred to the Army General Staff, where he remained until he became first General Staff officer with 239.Infanterie-Division in 1918. Following the Armistice he served as chief of operations for II.Armeekorps until October 1919, when he took and held the same position with Military District Command II until he retired from active duty at the end of March 1920.
Von Briesen returned to active duty with the Army at the rank of Oberstleutnant in April 1934, and thereafter commanded Infanterie-Regiment 69 from 1935 to 1938. He rose quickly in rank after rejoining the Army, becoming an Oberst within a month of returning to duty, Generalmajor in August 1937, Generalleutnant immediately before the invasion of Poland, and General der Infanterie in August 1940. He led 30.Infanterie-Division in both Poland (where he received a gunshot wound to his forearm) and the western campaign. In November 1940 he took command of LII.Armeekorps, which he led in Operation Barbarossa until his death a year later.
During the Great War, Kurt von Briesen served solely on the western front, beginning with the initial encounters with the French along the Sambre and near Namur in late August 1914. In 1915 he saw action in the Argonne Forest and Flanders, as well as at Arras. Later in the war he fought again in Flanders, in Lorraine, at Reims and at Antwerp. He was awarded the Iron Cross in both classes, as well as the Knight’s Cross of the Kgl. Preuss. Hausordens von Hohenzollern with Swords; he also was made an Ehrenritter des Kgl. Preuss. Johanniter-Ordens He received as well the wound badge (Verwundetenabzeichen) in Black.
In the Second World War, von Briesen received the Iron Cross in both classes once again, and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross in October 1939. General von Briesen was awarded the Knight’s Cross at the instance of Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz, in recognition of von Briesen’s energetic leadership of 30.Infanterie-Division.
General von Briesen visited the frontline positions of Infanterie-Regiment 57 along the Donetz river during the night of 19/20 November 1941, staying at the headquarters of the regiment’s commander, Oberstleutnant Hass at Spewakowskij, 15 kilometers west of Isjum. On the morning of November 20 von Briesen crossed the Donetz on a small raft to visit troops in the bridgehead from Infanterie-Regiment 57. At 10:15 a.m. the General left Spewakowskij for Kamyschewacha, 8 kilometers south of Isjum, this time to visit Infanterie-Regiment 457 and prepare it for an attack on Isjum.
In foul weather, with a ceiling of about 200 meters, the General rode in a car, sitting next to the driver, Obergefreiter Hein of the 14.Kompanie, Infanterie-Regiment 57. Leutnant Sonneborn, Reiterzugfuehrer in Infanterie-Regiment 57, and the ordinance officer for the army corps’ artillery command, Leutnant Moritz, sat behind them.
At about 12:30 p.m., two enemy aircraft attacked the car from behind, firing their machineguns from a height of about 50 meters. Both lieutenants jumped from the car and began firing at the aircraft with their pistols; Leutnant Sonneborn suffered a head wound, but Leutnant Moritz was untouched by the enemy fire. The driver was only slightly wounded, but General von Briesen was struck by a dozen bullets and killed instantly. The car was inoperable, so Leutnant Moritz and Obergefreiter Hein collected a Panje wagon and brought von Briesen and the lieutenant to the headquarters of Infanterie-Regiment 457. The next day, following an appropriate ceremony and parade, General von Briesen was taken to Poltawa by train.
“Am 20 November fiel in den Kaempfen an der Ostfront der kommandierende General eines Armeekorps, General der Infanterie von Briesen.” Bericht des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, Sonnabend, den 22. November 1941.