Ludwig Crüwell

Ludwig Crüwell
Born (1892-03-20)20 March 1892
Dortmund, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 25 September 1958(1958-09-25) (aged 66)
Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1911–45
Rank General der Panzertruppe
Commands held Panzer-Regiment 6
11. Panzer Division
Afrika Korps

World War I

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Ludwig Crüwell (20 March 1892 – 25 September 1958), was a German general in the Afrika Korps during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, awarded by Nazi Germany for extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Crüwell was captured by the British on 29 May 1942 and was interned at Trent Park, the British camp for high-ranking POWs where his conversations were subject to covert surveillance.


Crüwell joined the German Army in 1911 as a Cadet in the 9th (1st Hanoveranian) Regiment of Dragoons. Being promoted to Lieutenant in 1912 he and his regiment went to the front in World War I. Besides serving as Company Commander and Regimental Adjutant in the 450th Infantry Regiment, Crüwell also was detached to the staff of the 233rd Division. In 1918, shortly before the war ended, he was appointed Adjutant of the 19th Landwehr Brigade. After the war ended he stayed in the Reichswehr, and for the next years was constantly shifted from one staff position to the next. In 1928, by then a Rittmeister, he was transferred to the 12th Cavalry Regiment. Utilized in several staff positions Crüwell was posted in the anti-tank troops in 1936, being promoted to Oberst, and in the same year he took over command of the 6th Panzer Regiment.

In the looming of the Invasion of Poland he was posted in the general staff, and, after becoming a Generalmajor on 2 December 1939, during the Battle of France he was Quartermaster of the 16th Army. Crüwell became commander of the 11th Panzer Division in August 1940 and led it into the Balkan Campaign. For his conspicuous services during the Invasion of Yugoslavia, which was a highly successful blitzkrieg due to Crüwell's division, he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Then the division took part in Operation Barbarossa. In early 1941 the division was surrounded by 12 division near Beritchev, and Crüwell narrowly managed to get his bated division out. For this he was promoted to Generalleutnant and received the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross. It was Germany's highest military decoration at the time.[Note 1]

Crüwell became commander of the Afrika Korps on 31 July 1941, under General Erwin Rommel, who on the same day took command of Panzer Army Africa, consisting of one infantry and two panzer divisions. Due to health reasons he took actual command on 15 September, and was promoted to General der Panzertruppe on 17 December 1941. On 29 May 1942, Crüwell was inspecting operations by air in Libya. His pilot mistook British troops for Italian soldiers and landed, where Crüwell was taken prisoner.[1]

Crüwell was interned at Trent Park, where, on March 22, 1943, he was intentionally placed with another POW, General Wilhelm von Thoma. During their conversation, Thoma disclosed intelligence regarding the V-2 rocket, i.e. surprise that London was not yet in ruins from German rockets being tested at Kummersdorf test grounds he had visited. This led to the British investigating Peenemünde and following confirmation, carried out a bombing raid on the Peenemünde facilities which severely disrupted the program.[2]

After the war Crüwell settled in Essen. He became Chairman of the Veterans Association of the Germany Africa Corps and died on 25 September 1958.



  1. Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was officially surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.



  1. "A Pilot's Error Leads to Capture," Chillicothe Daily Tribune, June 2, 1942, p.6
  2. PBS show "Secrets of the Dead," Episode "Bugging Hitler's Soldiers," transcript at PBS
  3. 1 2 3 4 Thomas 1997, p. 106.
  4. 1 2 Scherzer 2007, p. 263.
  5. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 148.


  • von Braun, Wernher (Estate of); Ordway III, Frederick I.; Dooling, David Jr. (1985) [1975]. Space Travel: A History (first ed.). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-181898-4. 
  • 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6. 
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Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of 11. Panzer Division
1 August 1940 – 15 August 1941
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Günther Angern
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppe Philipp Müller-Gebhard
Commander of Afrika Korps
15 September 1941 – 8 March 1942
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppe Walther Nehring
Preceded by
General der Panzertruppe Walther Nehring
Commander of Afrika Korps
19 March 1942 – 28 May 1942
Succeeded by
General der Panzertruppe Walther Nehring
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