The Murder of
General Friedrich von Rabenau
When, Where and How Did It Happen?
|Friedrich von Rabenau||
Photo: GDW © 1996 - 2005 Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand
Among the Flossenbürg messages there is one message that shows when, where and how General Friedrich von Rabenau died. When looking up information on General Rabenau you will usually find the following:
Friedrich von Rabenau
(10.10. 1884 - 9./.14.04.1945)
His date of death is not known exactly and even his family does not know what
really happened to him. Professor Dr. Eberhard Dünninger’s presentation
Gefangene des Widerstands
(The prisoners of the Resistance)
gives a good overview of the existing information.
What we have discovered is that General Rabenau was executed in the early morning of Sunday 15 April 1945 at Flossenbürg. Exactly how he was killed is not known but it is presumed that he was shot. As the secrecy of this killing was at the extreme it is unlikely that a normal execution platoon was used. It is more likely that he was executed by one or two persons only with the necessary help to dispose of his body. The message below shows that the person who gave the final order to kill General Friedrich von Rabenau, was a man named Stawitzki. If Stawitzki also was the man who fired the shots will probably never be known.
15.04.1945 – Nr. 122 – Kr – 0803 – 198 – QDF CRH –
An Gruppenführer Glücks. Persönlich. Mit der Bitte um
sofortige Durchgabe an RSHA Gruppenführer Müller persönlich.
Rabenau auf Marsch nach hier durch amerikanische Tiefflieger
Angriff tödlich verletzt.
Abmarsch heute Richtung Berlin. Stawitzki.
To Gruppenführer Glücks. Private. With the request for
immediate announcement to RSHA Gruppenführer Müller in person.
Rabenau mortally injured by American low flying airplane
attack while on the way to here.
Leaving today in direction Berlin. Stawitzki.
Further details about this message and two other message sent by Stawitzki while he was at Flossenbürg is given here:
The message might give the impression that General Rabenau was accidentally killed during an American air raid while being transported to Flossenbürg. However, this message is in reality a coded message meant to report the execution of General Rabenau. Luckily an order from Gruppenführer Müller with a similar message has survived the end of the war. The hand delivered express letter (Schnellbrief) was addressed to the Commander of KL Dachau, SS-Obersturmbannführer Weiter, and delivered to him in person by SS-Obersturmführer Gogalla. The letter was supposed to have been destroyed as soon as the order had been executed, but in the confusion of the last days of the war it was passed on to SS-Obersturmführer St. (SS-Obersturmführer Edgar Stiller) who was in charge of transporting the special prisoner from Dachau.
Die Vollzugsanzeige hierüber würde dann etwa an mich lauten:
“Am .... anlässlich des Terrorangriffs
auf .... wurde u.a. der Schutzhäftling
“Eller” tötlich verletzt.”
The phraseology and the similarity in the content shows beyond doubt that the Stawitzki message also is of the same type. Gruppenführer Müller prepared similar express letters for the commanders of KL Flossenbürg and Schönberg, which also were delivered by SS-Obersturmführer Gogalla. Unfortunately none of these letters have survived as the destruction order probably was fulfilled. It is quite obvious that Stawitzki also would have been issued with such an order and what the Stawitzki message shows is the completion of the order he got to kill General Rabenau.
The Müller Schnellbrief with the orders for the Commander of KL Dachau is given below together with a link to excerpts from the court proceedings for the case against Walter Huppenkothen and Dr. Otto Thorbeck. These proceeding give detailed information which is most useful in understanding what happend at KL Flossenbürg during these fatal days in April 1945.
We cannot be completely sure that General Rabenau was killed in the early morning on 15 April 1945. It is possible that he was killed late in the evening of 14 April or during the night. However, seeing that the message was sent with the high priority code Kr, urgent, one would have expected the message to have been sent late the previous evening if Rabenau was already dead then. The last message on 14 April from KL Flossenbürg was sent at 13:45, but the radio station was still receiving incoming messages as late as 20:32. Other days in April 1945 shows that when required Flossenbürg had radio communication at 22:00 or later. On 4 April, message Nr. 30 was enciphered at 23:02 and transmitted by radio at 00:14 on 5 April. This was perhaps an exception but the radio station was often handling traffic at 07:30 and onwards. Nor was Nr.122 the first message to be transmitted. Message Nr. 121, the first message of the day and also with priority code Kr, was enciphered at 08:01 and transmitted 08:39.
From the existing evidence it is therefore most likely that General Rabenau was killed some time in the early morning of 15 April 1945. A likely time frame would be from 6 - 7 o’clock. This is the same time period when Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, General Hans Oster, Heereschefrichter (Chief Army Judge) Dr. Karl Sack, Hauptmann (Captain) Ludwig Gehre and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer were hanged in the courtyard at KL Flossenbürg on 9 April 1945.
Where was he killed? The message from Stawitzki does not tell us this. The only
thing we know for sure is that the message was sent from Flossenbürg. Until now
it has been assumed that General Rabenau and pastor Bonhoeffer were transported together from Schönberg to Flossenbürg in the early afternoon of 8 April 1945. This information is reported in the court proceedings for the case against Walter Huppenkothen and Dr. Otto Thorbeck.
On what evidence the information is based is not revealed, therefore it is impossible to evaluate its accuracy. However, in Professor Dr. Eberhard Dünninger’s presentation
Gefangene des Widerstands,
Anneliese Goerdeler, the widow of Carl Goerdeler, is quoted as reporting that General von Rabenau was transported from Schönberg first three days later, on Wednesday 11 April 1945. It is hard to believe that this witness report can be wrong because the removal of pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Schönberg must have made a deep impression on all the family or special prisoners being held there. Furthermore, General von Rabenau would have been known to most of these prisoner and specially
Anneliese Goerdeler would know him well. There are no other reports of General Rabenau
being moved in the days between 8 April and the morning of 15 April. Therefore all available
evidence points to that he was killed at Flossenbürg.
Who is his executioner, the person Stawitzki? It is suspected that Stawitzki is
identical with the former chief of Gestapo in Lemberg (Lwów), SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt Stawitzki. Archive research is currently being undertaken to try to further corroborate this hypothesis. Apart from his position in Lemberg nothing much is known about
him. Gerhard Paul wrote an article,
Flensburger Kameraden, in Die Zeit in June 2001 where he mentions Kurt Stawitzki. Apparently Kurt Stawitzki escaped to Flensburg together with Heinrich Himmler and other people from RSHA in Berlin. From Flensburg he moved to Bad Godesberg where he seems to have settled under the assumed name Kurt Stein. In 1953 he started to work with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) where he was
employed until his death on 20 September 1959.
Updated and corrected on 25 July 2007. See the PDF file The Stawitzki Messages for detailed information about the correction.
LINKS TO OTHER INFORMATION:
All rights to the material described on these pages belong to
Geoff Sullivan & Frode Weierud, © April 2005
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