Karl Eduard August Rothenburg

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Fürstenwalde, German Empire

Army information

German Empire
Imperial German Army

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Minsk, Belarus

Cemetery or memorial

There is no known cemetery or memorial for this soldier.

Distinctions and medals 1

Points of interest 2

#1 Place of birth
#2 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Karl Rothenburg was born on 8 June 1894 in Fürstenwalde, the son of high school teacher Georg Rothenburg and Alwina Sittmann. After his Abitur, Karl became a teacher. He joined the 3rd Company of the 5. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß (GRzF5) as a "one-year volunteer". He attended basic training at Spandau near Berlin. He first fought at the siege of Namur. A battle that took place at the beginning of World War I. Afterwards, he was sent east with his unit. First they were deployed near the Masurian Lakes, in northern Poland. Then they moved to southern Poland. On 21 December 1914, he was promoted to Unteroffizier. In the autumn of 1915, GRzF5 returned to the west. Meanwhile, he was promoted to Offizier Stellvertreter. On 18 November 1915, he was promoted to second lieutenant der Reserve. At the Westhoek front, he fought on the Somme in the summer of 1916 and became acting commander of the 2nd Company. In spring 1917, he became permanent commander of this company.

The Allies are convinced that the capture of the ridge at Broodseinde will be decisive for their Flemish offensive. The capture is initially scheduled for 6 October. But with autumn weather approaching and a higher risk of bad weather, the attack is brought forward two days. Near Zonnebeke, the German Flandern I-Stellung is in full view of the opponent. This makes supplying troops and equipment extremely difficult. The German army command is forced to take drastic measures: a major counterattack at Zonnebeke christened Unternehmung Höhensturm (Storm at High Altitude). The operation turns into a catastrophe. Hundreds of Germans are killed and a multitude are taken prisoner of war or wounded.

Between 25 September and 10 October 1917, GRzF5 was also deployed near Zonnebeke, around and in the castle grounds. On 25 September, the German front and hinterland were heavily shelled by British artillery. In the early hours of 26 September, word seeped through that the Allied attack could break out at any moment. During the Battle of Polygon Forest, the German regiments are overwhelmed.

Relief follows on September 28. At 4am, for GGR5, the relief is finished. It will be until the evening before GRzF5 will also take up its positions. On arrival, the unit writes the following: "In der Trichterstellung liegen zwischen Häusertrümmern zahlreiche Tote und Geräte aller Art. Baumstümpfe zeigen an, dass einst hier auch kleine Wäldchen standen. Zonnebeke ist nur noch ein großer Steinhaufen." (In the crater site, numerous corpses and all kinds of material lie among the rubble of the houses. Tree stumps indicate that small groves also once stood here. Zonnebeke is now just a big pile of stone rubble).

On 3 October, Zonnebeke is once again under heavy fire. Even far behind the front line, streets and remains of farms are machine-gunned from aircraft. The German artillery falls short. Some shells fall on their own front line.

On the eve of Operation Unternehmung Höhensturm, scheduled for 4 October, another internal relay follows at dusk. The I./GRzF5 takes over the front. In Bereitschaft, GRzF5 now occupies the 10. and 11. Company in front with the 12. and 9. Company positions. Despite heavy losses, Karl survives the confrontation.

In the spring of 1918, Karl Rothenburg took part in the 1918 Spring Offensive. On 29 March, he was wounded by shrapnel in his right hand. For his achievements in the battles of March and April, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern on 23 May 1918. Charles was decorated with the Pour le Mérite, the highest award for bravery within the German army. He remained commander of 2./5.G.R.z.F. until he left the army on 20 December 1918.

When the Wehrmacht was established in early 1935, Rothenburg requested reactivation of army service. He became a major in the Kampfwagen-Regiment 1. Rothenburg was promoted to Oberstleutnant on 1 April 1938. A year later, he became commander of Panzer-Regiment 6. As tensions ran high on the European continent, he was promoted to the temporary rank of Oberst (colonel) in 1939. His regiment then became involved in the heavy fighting of Minsk in late June 1941. Karl was wounded by an explosion from a burning armoured train. Some soldiers offered him to be evacuated but he refused. Not wanting to further weaken his depleted regiment, he opted to ride back to the rear. On his way through enemy territory, he was killed on 28 June 1941. After his death, he was promoted to major general.

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