Thanks to the movie Downfall, if Americans were asked to name the most famous German general of World War II, the winner would probably be Waffen SS General Felix Steiner.
Steiner has no lines, and does not even appear in the film. But he is the catalyst of one of its most dramatic scenes. In it, Hitler confers with his generals in his bunker as the Red Army surrounds Berlin. Despite the danger, Hitler believes that salvation is at hand. Once Steiner attacks, he will cut off the Russian salient, ending the encirclement and saving the Reich. Hitler’s staff exchange nervous glances before one haltingly informs the Fuhrer that Steiner has not and will not attack. A 4-minute rant follows, as Hitler rages against the Army and the SS. His fury gradually cools down to melancholic resignation as he sees that the end is inevitable.
The scene has spawned a thousand parodies, elevating Steiner to a level of fame few if any other German commanders can match.
But who was this Steiner who so infuriated the Fuhrer?Continue reading