Very rarely mentioned in resources about the Battle of Arnhem is Befehlsstelle 'Sonnenstuhl' (Command Post 'Sonnenstuhl') or more commonly known as Kampfgruppe 'Sonnenstuhl'. This group was mentioned as the unit that Major Hans-Peter Knaust was in command of in the Honours List printed in 1944 seen below (the full list can be seen here). But wasn't he in command of Kampfgruppe 'Knaust'?
On the 17th September 1944 when the British 1st Airborne Division landed west of Arnhem, Field Marshall Model had at his immediate disposal the II SS-Panzer Korps made up of the 9th and 10th SS-Panzer Divisions. He quickly identified that the Allied paratroopers would need to be linked with ground forces so he dispatched the II SS-Panzer Korps. The intent was to send the 10th SS-Panzer division to Nijmegen to stop the eventual allied advance from the south and the 9th SS-Panzer Division was sent to destroy all airborne units north of the Rhine River.
However as the first units of the 10th SS-Panzer Division approached the northern end of the Arnhem bridge they came under fire from the British 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment who had arrived earlier that afternoon. The 10th SS would need to find another route to Nijmegen. The 10th SS-Panzer-Division was directed to the ferry site near the village of Pannerden. They made a crossing of the river Rhine and through the Betuwe advanced in the direction of Nijmegen.
So what was the make up of Kampfgruppe 'Sonnenstuhl'? From the Honour List above it is written that the commander of the Combat Group was a Heer Officer, Major Knaust. But is known through research of other original German Documents that Knaust's unit was always referred to as Kampfgruppe 'Knaust' which was made up of Panzer-Grenadier-Ausbildungs und Ersatz-Battalion 64 and Panzer-Kompanie Mielke during Operation 'Market Garden'. So who was in command of Kampfgruppe 'Sonnenstuhl'?
In most cases a Kampgruppe was named after its commander - so there must of been an officer by the name of Sonnenstuhl. Looking through SS-files from Führerliste der Waffen-SS, compiled by John Moore, there was a name: Hans-George Sonnenstuhl.
Hans-George Sonnenstuhl was born on the 25 September 1914 in the town of Balga, Ostpreusen. In 1933 he was selected in the Leibstandarte 'Adolf Hitler' and later went on to become an officer at the Junkerschule Tölz. As war broke out he was a SS-Obersturmführer in the 4th SS-Polizei Division. In 1942 as the 8th SS-Kavalerie Division was raised, Sonnenstuhl was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer and given the position of Divisional Adjutant under the command of SS-Gruppenführer Willi Bittrich. Unfortunately in this function he made a mistake and to protect him Bittrich sent him to an Artillery school. After he finished this school, Bittrich ordered him to become a commanding officer of one of the newly formed Abteilung (battalion) in the SS-Artillerie-Regiment 9 ('Hohenstaufen').
In July 1944 during the Battle of Normandy the commander of the Artillery unit of the 10 SS-Panzer-Division was moved into the position of Korps-Artillerie commander leaving this position vacant. Bittrich decided that Sonnenstuhl would take over command of the SS-Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 10 (Frundsberg). It was in this role that SS-Sturmbannführer Hans-George Sonnenstuhl took part in the battle of Arnhem.
SS-Sturmbannführer Hans-Georg Sonnenstuhl (left) meets with his younger brother Unteroffizier Alfred Sonnenstuhl on the Russian Front in May 1944.
© Die Hellebarde - 2005
So on the 17th September 1944, Sonnenstuhl received a message from the IA of the 'Frundsberg' Division that there were reports of an airborne landing on the western side of Arnhem. Because the Divisional commander (Harmel) was in Berlin, the IA ordered him to go and occupy the Arnhem Bridge. There were originally two ‘Alarmkompanien' available but they were already tasked elsewhere. So Sonnenstuhl had to do what was left. This was the start of the formation of Kampfgruppe 'Sonnenstuhl'. With 3 officers and 65 men Sonnenstuhl moved out towards the bridge.
At around midnight on the 17th September, SS-Sturmbannführer Hans-George Sonnenstuhl arrived in Arnhem and as they approached the bridge they were fired upon by an unknown force. Kampfgruppe 'Sonnenstuhl' took up defensive positions. Already located at the bridge was a part of the SS-Panzer-Aufklärungsabteilung 10 under command of SS-Sturmbannfüher Heinrich Brinkmann. Arriving a few hours later (0400h 18 Sept. 1944) was the lead elements of Kampfgruppe 'Knaust' which approached east of the Bridge.
During the next few days as the battle raged for the Arnhem Bridge, Befehlsstelle 'Sonnenstuhl' or Command Post 'Sonnenstuhl' was the reception centre for all units and military personnel who were sent to reinforce the bridge. These groups were sometimes as small as 8 to 10 individuals. As they arrived they were integrated in the Kampgruppen fighting for the bridge.
However, SS-Sturmbannführer Sonnenstuhl's next task to perform was to command all Artillery supporting the German units south of the River Rhine. With his own SS-Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 10 'Frundsberg' (4 Batteries with 6 guns each!) and the V./SS-Art.-Ausb.u.Ers.Regiment under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Oskar Schwappacher (R.K. 26.12.44), Sonnenstuhl was responsible for providing concentrated artillery fire against allied advancements and positions.
To achieve this, Sonnenstuhl created a Sperrfeurlinie (Artillery Blocking Line) which can be seen on the map below. It meant the forward observers only needed to provide a number and the whole Artillery Regiment would decend into that area in a short period. This of course halted any attack by the Allies and boosted the confidence of the defending Germans. Even the commander of Artillery OB West was impressed by this solution that he visited Sonnenstuhl's command post to see it in action for himself so he could pass this method onto other units.
Map of the Artillery Blocking Line created by Sonnestuhl in Sept. 1944.
© It Never Snows in September - Kershaw
Sonnenstuhl remained with the 'Frundsberg' division for the remainder of the war (except for 1 month) as the commander of the Artillery Regiment.