Brothers von Blücher: Killed in Action on 21 May 1941 – Their sister’s story

Interviews, WW2, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

“…the Fallschirmjäger running short of ammunition and medical supplies, were amazed to see a rider and horse galloping towards them with boxes of supplies.

The soldiers of the Black Watch were similarly stunned and only fired at the last moment, hitting both horse and rider.

 asked who the rider was, to be told it was his youngest brother Hans-Joachim, and that he was now dead …

For many years afterwards, a number of poor families living in a shanty village in the area reported seeing a ghostly horse and rider…”

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This is what respected researcher and acclaimed author Peter Antill wrote in his book “Crete 1941: Germany’s lightning airborne assault”.

Strange and tragic was the fate of the three von Blucher brothers, Wolfgang Henner Peter Lebrecht Graf von Blücher, Leberecht Wilhelm Konstantin Wolf Axel Graf von Blücher and Hans-Joachim Gebhard Leberecht Graf von Blücher.

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They all died, within hours of each other, on May 21st, 1941, during the Battle of Crete. Their other brother, Adolf Graf von Blücher, was released from duty and left the Kriegsmarine to take care of the agricultural firm at home. He was accidentally shot and killed in 1944 while hunting.

In 1974, Wolfgang and Hans-Joachim were reunited in a single grave at the German War Cemetery on a hill behind the airfield at Maleme, Crete, which was newly inaugurated on 6 October in the presence of their sister Gertrud Freifrau von Ketelhodt and hundreds of guests from Germany.

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Because Leberecht’s body was never retrieved or identified, his name is on a plaque of honor (Ehrentafel) for the unknown fallen close to the grave of his brothers.

Here’s the account of Gertrud Freifrau von Ketelhodt, as it was published (in German) at denkmalproject 

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“Among the many hundred people who participated in the inauguration of the Maleme cemetary on October 6, 1974, Gertrude Freifrau of Ketelhodt was also present.
She had lost three of her four brothers during the fighting in one day, and stood at her graves for the first time.
She tells about her brothers:
“Wolfgang was the oldest, but we called him Wolf, he had been a trained landowner and forester since our father’s early death, and had been a member of the fallschirmjager since January 1940, then 23 years old.
After his military operations in Norway and the Netherlands, he returned to his estate in Mecklenburg. In the spring of 1941 he returned to his regiment and was transferred to Greece.
Lebrecht, born in 1922, graduated from high school in 1940 and was actually an engineer. He moved to the navy, but then came to the infantry to East Prussia. Wolfgang, his “big brother” convinced him to go to the fallschirmjager too. In January 1941 Lebrecht received his basic training at Tangierhütte. His first mission was to be on the 21st of May 1941 in Crete.
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Hans-Joachim, the youngest, went to a boarding school. Wolf was his great example. And so Jochen, as a 17-year-old boy, joined the fallschirmager too, with our mother’s consent. He received a brief special training and took part in the air invasion of Crete shortly afterwards.
On 19 May, two days before their deployment, Wolf wrote us a letter from Athens, which our mother has kept. When the letter reached us, a few days later, my brothers were already dead.
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For four long weeks we remained without any certainty. Then the terrible news came that all three brothers had been killed on the same day, May 21, 1941.
On the morning of the 21st, Wolf was to land at Iraklion. Immediately after the landing his unit got involved in violent fighting. Jochen wanted to come to his aid, but was shot and killed a little later.
Lebrecht, who belonged to a different battalion of the regiment, had also jumped at Iraklion and was killed with many of his comrades.
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Wolfgang and Hans-Joachim have received a joint tomb here on Maleme.
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The mortal remains of Lebrecht could not be recovered despite intensive search by the employees of the Volksbundes. His name is on the list of honour, which recalls the 360 German fallen who were not found.”