Hans Otto Georg Hermann Fegelein (30 October 1906 – 28 April 1945) was a high-ranking commander in the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany. He was a member of Adolf Hitler’s entourage and brother-in-law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister, Gretl.
Fegelein joined a cavalry regiment of the Reichswehr in 1925 and transferred to the SS on 10 April 1933. He became a leader of an SS equestrian group, and was in charge of preparation for the equestrian events of the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. He tried out for the Olympic equestrian team himself, but was eliminated in the qualifying rounds.
In September 1939, after the Invasion of Poland, Fegelein commanded the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Death’s-Head Horse Regiment). They were garrisoned in Warsaw until December. In May and June 1940, he participated in the Battle of Belgium and France as a member of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (later renamed the Waffen-SS). Units under his command on the Eastern Front in 1941 were responsible for the deaths of over 17,000 civilians during the Pripyat swamps punitive operation in the Byelorussian SSR. As commander of the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer in 1943, he was involved in operations against partisans as well as defensive operations against the Red Army.
Fegelein was seriously wounded in September 1943, and was reassigned by Heinrich Himmler to Hitler’s headquarters staff as his liaison officer and representative of the SS. Fegelein was present at the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on 20 July 1944. He was on duty at Hitler’s Führerbunker in Berlin in the closing months of the war.
By early 1945, Germany’s military situation was on the verge of total collapse. Hitler, presiding over a rapidly disintegrating Third Reich, retreated to his Führerbunker in Berlin on 16 January 1945. To the Nazi leadership, it was clear that the battle for Berlin would be the final battle of the war.Berlin was bombarded by Soviet artillery for the first time on 20 April 1945 (Hitler’s birthday). By the evening of 21 April, Red Army tanks reached the outskirts of the city.By 27 April, Berlin was cut off from the rest of Germany.
On 27 April 1945, Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) deputy commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl was sent out from the Reich Chancellery
to find Fegelein who had abandoned his post at the Führerbunker after deciding he did not want to “join a suicide pact”.Fegelein was caught by the RSD squad in his Berlin apartment, wearing civilian clothes and preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland. He was carrying cash—German and foreign—and jewellery, some of which belonged to Braun. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler’s attempted peace negotiations with the Western Allies.According to most accounts, he was intoxicated when arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker.He was kept in a makeshift cell until the evening of 28 April. That night, Hitler was informed of the BBC broadcast of a Reuters news report about Himmler’s attempted negotiations with the western Allies via Count Bernadotte.
Hitler flew into a rage about this apparent betrayal and ordered Himmler’s arrest.Sensing a connection between Fegelein’s disappearance and Himmler’s betrayal, Hitler ordered SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller to interrogate Fegelein as to what he knew of Himmler’s plans.Thereafter, according to Otto Günsche (Hitler’s personal adjutant), Hitler ordered that Fegelein be stripped of all rank and to be transferred to Kampfgruppe “Mohnke” to prove his loyalty in combat. Günsche and Bormann expressed their concern to Hitler that Fegelein would only desert again. Hitler then ordered Fegelein court-martialed.
Fegelein’s wife was then in the late stages of pregnancy (the baby was born in early May). Hitler considered releasing him without punishment or assigning him to Mohnke’s troops. Junge—an eye-witness to bunker events—stated that Braun pleaded with Hitler to spare her brother-in-law and tried to justify Fegelein’s actions. He was taken to the garden of the Reich Chancellery on 28 April, and was “shot like a dog”