What happend at the Battle of Castle Itter? Why did the German soldiers fight for the allies?


What happend at the Battle of Castle Itter? Why did the German soldiers fight for the allies?

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It’s 4 May 1945. Germany is overrun on both fronts, Hitler has been dead for a week, the writing is on the wall for all to see and Germany surrenders to the allies that same day.

Castle Itter is held by the SS and attacked by US and partisan forces.

Imagine you’re in charge of a Wehrmacht unit in the area and desperate to make a reputation for yourself that will keep you out of the inevitable war crimes trials. What do you do?

Castle Itter was used by the german SS as a prison for french VIPs that they considered high-value hostages (former prime ministers, former generals, celebreties, etc)

During the end of the war, when Germany’s defeat was pretty much set in stone, the german SS had pretty much gone ‘F- everyone’ and started going around killing any german they would find who was showing the least inclination of just giving up instead continuing to fight against the Allies.

A group of german soldiers from the regular german army (the Wehrmacht) didn’t like this, so they joined up with the austrian resistance movement to defend an austrian town near castle Itter from these SS reprisals.

The SS guards at castle Itter eventually abandoned the castle as the Allies drew closer, leaving the prisoners there behind (with a single unrelated SS officer who had come to the castle to recover from injuries). They feared the SS would come back however, so they sent a messenger to the town asking for help in defending themselves. The messenger reached the german soldiers, who sent a messenger toward the Allied forces to ask for their help in turn.

This resulted in a small group of allied soldiers (+ 1 tank), german soldiers and some austrian resistance members arriving at the castle. They, together with the french prisoners and the remaining SS officer there then defended the castle against more than a hundred SS soldiers who’d come back to execute the prisoners until additional allied forces arrived to relieve. The only defender killed during the battle was the leader of the german soldiers, Major Josef Gangl, who was killed by an SS sniper while moving former french Prime Minister Paul Reynaud out of the line of fire.

Edit: As a sidenote, it was not the only battle in WWII in which german soldiers fought alongside allied forces. Another, operation Cowboy, saw a german unit help allied forces penetrate into german-held territory to liberate a stable full of horses from a specific highly-valued horse breed before soviet forces could take the area, out of fear that the soviets would slaughter all the horses instead.