Walter Heitz (8 December 1878 – 9 February 1944) was a German general (Generaloberst) in the Wehrmacht during World War II. He commanded the VIII Army Corps on the Western and Eastern Fronts.
Heitz surrendered the central pocket of German forces in Stalingrad on 31 January 1943 and died as a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union.
World War I
Heitz joined the German Army on March 7, 1898 and was assigned to the 2nd West Prussian Field Artillery 36th Regiment. He reached the rank of captain (Hauptmann) and commanded a company in the First World War.
During the war he received in addition to the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st class; the Wound Badge in black, the Prussian Service Decoration Cross, the Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with swords and the Hamburg Hanseatic Cross.
After World War I he served in the Reichswehr as a Colonel (Oberst) and in 1931 was given command of the fortress Königsberg.
Heitz was a staunch supporter of Nazism and Hitler. Which may have played a role in his appointment as the President of the Reichskriegsgericht on 1 August 1936. In this capacity, he was promoted on 1 April 1937 to General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie).
World War II
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Heitz was already 60 years old and would have gone into retirement. Nevertheless, he requested to be sent into the frontlines. After a four-week interlude as commander of the Danzig-West Prussia garrison, Heitz was appointed as the commanding general of the VIII Army Corps in October 1939 and participated in the Western Front. On 4 September 1940 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for personally scouting river crossings over Oise under enemy fire.
During the Battle of Stalingrad, as the situation worsened for the Germans, he ordered that defeatists and every man who attempts surrender were to be shot in the back. Meanwhile, other generals such as General of the Artillery Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, had already given their regimental and battalion commanders permission to act and surrender independently according to local conditions. On 26 January 1943, the German forces inside Stalingrad were split into two pockets north and south of Mamayev Kurgan. The northern pocket consisted of the XIth Corps, and the VIIIth Corps, under Heitz. The next day, the southern pocket collapsed. On 28 January, the cauldron was split into three parts. The northern cauldron consisted of the XIth Corps, the central with the VIIIth and LIst Corps, and the southern with the XIVth Panzer Corps and IVth Corps "without units". The sick and wounded reached 40,000 to 50,000. On 31 January 1943, Heitz surrendered the central cauldron.
In prison, he vehemently refused to cooperate with the anti-Nazi National Committee for a Free Germany that operated out of the Soviet Union, despite being pressured by the Soviets, who beat him and threatened his family. He died of cancer in 9 February 1944 while in Soviet captivity.
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939) 2nd Class (10 October 1939) & 1st Class (19 May 1940)
- German Cross in Gold on 22 April 1942 as General der Artillerie and commanding general of the VIII. Armeekorps
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Knight's Cross on 4 September 1940 as General der Artillerie and commanding general of the VIII. Armeekorps
- 156th Oak Leaves on 21 December 1942 als General der Artillerie and commanding general of the VIII. Armeekorps