Rudolf Schmidt in 1942
12 May 1886|
7 April 1957
German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1906–45|
World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
|Relations||Hans-Thilo Schmidt (brother)|
Rudolf Schmidt (12 May 1886 – 7 April 1957) was a Panzer General in the German army during World War II who served as the Commander of the 2nd Panzer Army on the Eastern Front. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Legally it was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Rudolf Schmidt.[Note 1]
He joined Infantry Regiment 83 of the German Imperial Army in 1906 as an officer cadet and in World War I he served on the eastern and western fronts and by the end of the war he was a Hauptmann on the General Staff. He was then retained in the Reichswehr where he served as a staff officer and was promoted to Major in 1927 and Oberstleutnant in 1931. On 1 October 1934 he was promoted to Oberst as commander of the 13th Infantry Regiment in Ludwigsburg.
On 1 June 1938 he was promoted to Generalleutnant.
World War II
On 1 February 1940 he was appointed commanding general of the XXXIX Panzer Corps. He led the Corps in France and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his role in that campaign on 3 June 1940.
In January 1942 he was promoted to Generaloberst.
Adolf Hitler held Schmidt in high regard, but on 10 April 1943 he was relieved of his command after the Gestapo arrested his brother for spying for the French and found letters that General Schmidt had written in which he was highly critical of Hitler’s conduct of the war and the Nazi Party. He appeared before a court martial but was acquitted and transferred to the leadership reserve on 30 September 1943. He was never re-employed.
His brother Hans-Thilo Schmidt sold details of the Germans' Enigma machine and other sensitive military information to the French Deuxieme Bureau from 1931 until the German invasion of France in 1940.
In 1945 Rudolf Schmidt was captured by Soviet forces at his home in Weimar. He was sent as a prisoner of war to Russia and like other high-ranking German officers was not released from captivity until 1955.
He died in 1957.
Iron Cross (1914)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- Knight's Cross Second Class of the Order of the Zähringer Lion with Swords
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- Sudetenland Medal with Prague Castle Bar
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Eastern Front Medal
- Panzer Badge in Silver
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign, in the military order of the Third Reich. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was officially surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern), however the first presentation of the Swords to Adolf Galland was made prior to this date on 21 June 1941.
- Thomas 1998, p. 270.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 671.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag.
- Rudolf Schmidt career chronology
Commander of XXXIX. Panzerkorps
1 February 1940 – 10 November 1941
Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim
Generaloberst Heinz Guderian
Commander of 2. Panzerarmee
25 December 1941 – 10 April 1943
General der Infanterie Heinrich Clößner