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The Battle of Itter Castle 1945

The Battle of Itter Castle

The Battle of Itter Castle was undoubtedly one of the strangest events of the Second World War, being one of only two occasions during the war in which Americans and Germans fought side by side.

The castle was seized by the Nazis on 7 February 1943, on the direct orders of Heinrich Himmler, and in just ten weeks was changed into a five-star prison for a number of high-ranking French dignitaries, both civilian and military. In the final days of the war, in May 1945, with the castle’s German guards having deserted their posts and an attack by SS units imminent, those inside the castle realised they needed help.

Having sent out two men to try to make contact with American forces, it was then a case of sit and wait, not knowing if they had been successful in their task or had been captured and killed by the SS. Help eventually arrived in the shape of United States Army Captain John C. “Jack” Lee, his tank and a handful of men, along with German Wehrmacht officer Major Josef “Sepp” Gangl, and some of his men.

Although happy that their ‘prayers’ had been answered and help had arrived, the French dignitaries could not hide their disappointment at such a small force of rescuers. The subsequent battle started early on the morning of Saturday, 5 May, and continued until mid-afternoon when a larger American force arrived and defeated the remaining SS forces.

The victory came at a price for Major Gangl, who was the only one of the defenders to lose his life in the fighting.

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