SS-Oberführer Walter Harzer (1912-1982) was a German Waffen-SS officer who served in the SS-Standarte Deutschland and later commanded the 9.SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen and 4.SS-Polizei-Panzergrenadier-Division. He was also a winner of the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes. After the war, he became active in the veteran’s association HIAG.
Early Life – Pre-War SS Service
Walter Harzer was born in Stuttgart-Feuerbach? on September 29, 1912. In the Spring 1933, Walter joined Politische Bereitschaft (SS Political Readiness Detachment) in Württemberg and in October 1933 also the German Army. He was assigned to the 13.(Württemburgisches) Infanterie-Regiment?, eventually reaching the rank of Gefreiter. In March 1934 the 23-year old Harzer joined SS-Verfügungstruppe, graduating from the new SS-Junkerschule at Bad Tölz in 1936. After his graduation he was assigned to the SD-Hauptamt and later the SS-Standarte Deutschland.
Early World War II
With Deutschland, Harzer participated in the invasion of Poland and was awarded the Iron Cross II Class. However, on November 1, 1939 instead of continuing on with his regiment, Harzer was transferred as a Tactics Instructor to the SS-Junkerschule Braunschweig and later to the SS-Unterführerschule Radolfzell. He remained instructor until June 12, 1941 when he was assigned as a commander to the II./SS-Infanterie-Regiment 4. It was with this unit Harzer received the Iron Cross I Class. From mid 1942 until April 1943 Walter served as a staff officer first with the LVII.Panzerkorps and later, after completing General Staff Course, with the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division 10, later renamed the 10.SS-Panzer-Division Frundsberg.
On April 10, 1943, Harzer was assigned to the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division 9 (from October 23, 1943 the 9.SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen). He remained with the division for 19 months and saw it to become a fully equipped Panzer Division. He proved himself to be an excellent staff and combat officer during the division’s relief attack on Tarnopol and later during the Allied attacks on Caen. On August 19, 1944, Harzer was decorated with the German Cross in Gold for his exemplary leadership during the operations in Normandy.
As the 9.SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen was ordered for a refit in Holland, Walter Harzer became its fifth commander, taking over for SS-Oberführer Friedrich-Wilhelm? Bock. The division reached Arnhem on September 9, 1944, where they were to hand most of its vehicles and heavy equipment to Frundsberg in preparation for a move to Germany for refitting. However on Sunday September 17, 1944, the Allies launched Operation Market-Garden?. Harzer’s division was heavily engaged in the Battle of Arnhem, and played a key role preventing the main body of the British 1st Airborne Division from linking up with the small force under Lt-Colonel John Frost at Arnhem Road Bridge, thus preventing them from securing a bridgehead across the Rhine. Under Harzer’s command the division then played a major part in the near total destruction of the 1st Airborne at Oosterbeek, an achievement for which Harzer was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes.
End of War & Postwar
On October 10, 1944 Harzer left Hohenstaufen and went on to become the Chef des Stabes V SS Mountain Corps before receiving the command of the 4.SS-Polizei-Panzergrenadier-Division at the end of November 1944. Together with the rest of this division SS-Oberführer Walter Harzer surrendered himself to the Americans near Wittenberge-Lenzen? on May 8, 1945.
After the war Walter Harzer worked as a historian for HIAG and died after a heart failure in Stuttgart hospital on May 29, 1982.