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Dietrich von Choltitz

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General der Infanterie Dietrich von Choltitz (born November 9, 1894, Schloss Wiese, Silesia; died November 4, 1966, Baden-Baden) was the German military governor of Paris during the closing days of the German occupation of that city during World War II.

In World War I, von Choltitz served on the Western Front, eventually as a lieutenant. He remained in the Reichswehr during the Weimar Republic, becoming a cavalry captain in 1929. Later he became commander of the 3rd battalion of the Luftlande-Infanterieregiment 16, first as a major, and from 1938 as a lieutenant colonel.

In World War II, von Choltitz' battalion was engaged in the occupation of Rotterdam via air landings in 1940 (von Choltitz earning a Knight's Cross). In September 1940, he became commander of the whole regiment, from 1941 as a full colonel. In the war against the Soviet Union, von Choltitz' regiment was engaged in the siege of the city of Sevastopol in June 1942. In the same year he became a major general, in 1943 a lieutenant general. His command posts included, for example, the 260th Infantry Division, assistant commander and later commander of a panzer corps; from March 1944, he served in Italy, and from June 1944, on the Western Front.

On August 1, 1944 von Choltitz was promoted to the rank of general of the infantry, and on August 7, he became the military governor of Paris. He arrived at Paris on August 9. In the following 16 days, he disobeyed several direct orders from Adolf Hitler to defend the city "to the last man" and to destroy the city. Hitler's order from August 23 said: "The city must not fall into the enemy's hand except lying in complete debris." A common account holds that Hitler phoned him in a rage, screaming, "Is Paris burning?"

Von Choltitz prevented a complete uprising of the city's inhabitants and direct battles within the city by a mix of active contacts with his enemies, negotiations with the Resistance and demonstrations of power. Therefore, he prevented any larger damages to the famous city. He and 17,000 men under his command surrendered to French general Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque and the Resistance leader Henri Rol-Tanguy at the Gare Montparnasse on August 25, 1944. For preventing a second Stalingrad, many regard von Choltitz as "savior of Paris".

He was released from Allied captivity in 1947. Dietrich von Choltitz died in November 1966 due to a longtime war illness in the city hospital of Baden-Baden. He was buried at the city cemetery of Baden-Baden in the presence of high-ranking French officers. Baden-Baden was the post WWII French headquarters in Germany.

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