|Born||17 April 1925|
|Died||28 October 1990 (aged 65)|
Sankt Jakob, Austria
|Years of service||1943–45|
|Unit||1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Iron Cross 1st Class
Iron Cross 2nd Class
|Other work||Earned a doctorate in law (Dr. jur.)[Note 1] from the University of Vienna|
Erich Göstl (17 April 1925 – 28 October 1990) was a member of the Waffen SS who was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, which was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
Göstl was born in Vienna on April 17, 1925. In World War II, he was a member of the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler during the Normandy Campaign where he was in the 6th Company, 1st SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, deployed near the French town of Tilly, a few kilometers from Caen.
Then a 19-year-old, Göstl was a machine gunner, manning an MG-42, defending his position against a British (possibly Canadian) attack. During heavy fighting he was shot in his left eye. Shrapnel then wounded him in his upper left arm. Undaunted he continued to fire and was then hit in the other eye, which "almost tore his head off". Even then, completely blinded, he continued to return fire from his machine gun post, alone and shooting at what he could hear, as he was completely unable to see anything. He continued to hold out behind his machine gun and received another hit in his right cheek and nose area of his torn-up face. Göstl held until the enemy attack was ultimately repelled, but it is believed that only because of a jam in the machine gun was Göstl's machine gun silenced. His friend Elmar Bonn worked his way forward to him and with the help of some other men was able to bring him back to a safe position, while under fire. Throughout, he "was suffering horrible pain" and was bleeding heavily from the face.
Göstl survived and was sent to a field hospital before being evacuated to Germany. He was in the school for the War Blind in Cerninpalast, Prague when he was awarded the Knight's Cross on 11.November 1944. Göstl's story was not used, or selected for propaganda purposes in Nazi Germany; it has been speculated[according to whom?] that this was due to the severity of his injuries, but this has never been substantiated by documentation. As a result the account was not widely known during the final years of the war.
His regimental commander, Standartenfuhrer Albert Frey described awarding him the Cross and his action as follows (translated from German);
|“||It was during the combat for the invasion front in France that Erich Göstl showed this extraordinary act of bravery. Because of the enemy's enormous supremacy in manpower and material, and our own material shortages the only thing we brought against the attack was our high morale. Combat for our troops was extremely hard during that time. Expectations of the individual soldier for fitness, fighting power and bravery were enormous. Only with this situation in the background I can describe Erich Göstl act of bravery with the honor it deserves. The enemy started the attack with heavy air bombardment, with many heavy four-engine bombers and ground attack aircraft, which lasted for a long time. Every artillery and defense strongpoint including known foxholes on our side were heavy bombarded and attacked with machine gun fire. Our own defensive firing was already halted by the attack after a short time. Now with no defense against this inferno every one of us, left alone with God, could only pray and hope he would survive the bombardment. After the air attack the enemy started with an artillery bombardment of all calibers, with such an enormous intensity, which lasted an incredibly long time. The well-controlled artillery fire now hit everything spared by the air raid. So when the enemy tanks and infantry still covered by their own artillery and ground attack planes started their attack to overrun our positions, these positions were covered with bomb craters and had been several times ploughed over. Nearly every foxhole in our defensive line had casualties because of this hellfire. Our own anti-tank defense was nearly complete out of order and our artillery was totally combat unfit. In this hopeless situation it was left to the few individual Panzer Grenadiers and some heavy weapons crews to stop the heavy enemy attack with everything what they had left. It was in this situation that Grenadier Erich Göstl did this extremely [sic] act of bravery, comparable with some battle scenes of earlier heroic wars.
It was in the school for the War Blind in Cerninpalast, Prague that I could hand Erich Göstl his awarded Knight Cross over on 11 November 1944. He was circled by his blind comrades, who were pushing him to put him into the air to celebrate. They did, but then because they could not see dropped him and he fell on the floor. Every present guest at this presentation had tears in their eyes.
Göstl later described his actions as, "only doing my duty". He would also say of staying at his position, "I couldn't do anything else at the time". Along with all Axis military personnel at the end of hostilities, he became a prisoner of war and was released in April 1946. He went on, with great assistance from his wife, to earn a Doctorate Law Degree from the University of Vienna. He died, at the age of 65, on October 28, 1990, in Sankt Jakob, Austria.
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 31 October 1944 as SS-Panzergrenadier and machine gun operator 1 in the 6./SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 1 "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
- In German a Doctor of Law is abbreviated as Dr. iur. (Doctor iuris) or Dr. jur. (Doctor juris).
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) . Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link) Search this book on
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link) Search this book on
- Huß, Jürgen (2009). Ritterkreuzträger im Mannschaftsstand 1941 - 1945. Zweibrücken: VDM Nickel. ISBN 978-3-86619-042-9. Search this book on
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