German army general in command of Germany’s forces in Italy in 1945. Born on 6 December 1887 at Mainz, Germany, into an old noble family, Heinrich Vietinghoff genannt Scheel joined the Garde-Grenadier Kaiser Franz Regiment in 1906 and was commissioned a year later. In 1914, he was promoted to lieutenant and the next year to captain. During World War I, he served on both the Western and Eastern Fronts and was awarded the Iron Cross, both First and Second Class. In December 1916, he was assigned to the Army High Command; in April 1917, he was posted to the General Staff, where he remained until the end of the war.
Vietinghoff remained in the Reichswehr after the war and served on the staff of army commander General Hans Seekt and later at the War Ministry. He also held various troop assignments. In November 1938, as a Generalleutnant (U.S. equiv. major general), Vietinghoff assumed command of the 5th Panzer Division, and from October 1939, he commanded XIII Army Corps. He served ably in these positions, and in June 1940, he was promoted to General der Panzertruppen (U.S. equiv. lieutenant general) and given command of the XLVI Panzer Corps under General Heinz Guderian on the Russian Front until June 1942. After briefly leading Ninth Army in the Soviet Union on an interim basis, he took charge of the Fifteenth Army on the Channel coast.
In August 1943, Vietinghoff assumed command of Tenth Army in Italy and the next month was promoted to Generaloberst (U.S. equiv. full general). He temporarily replaced the wounded Field Marshal Albert Kesselring as commander of Army Group C and the Southwest Front and, following a month in command of Army Group Kurland from the end of January to early March 1945, he returned to Italy to be named commander of German forces in that country, on 10 March. That same month, he and Schutzstaffel (SS) General Karl Wolff met in Switzerland in secret talks with the Allies regarding a separate surrender of German forces in Italy. Following discussions at his headquarters at Recoaro and pressed by his chief of staff, General Hans Röttiger, Vietinghoff dispatched the special envoys who signed the surrender on the Italian Front that went into effect on 2May 1945. Taken prisoner by the Allies, Vietinghoff was held until 1948. He died at Pronten on 25 February 1952.
References Graham, Dominick, and Shelford Bidwell. Tug of War: The Battle for Italy, 1943–45. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986. Morris, Eric. Circles of Hell: The War in Italy, 1943–1945. New York: Crown Publishers, 1993. Vietinghoff Sheel, Heinrich von. La fine della guerra in Italia: Appunti dell’ultimo comandante in capo tedesco in Italia. Ed. Peter Hattenkofer, Alessandro Massignani, and Maurizio Dal Lago. Valdagno, Italy: Lions’ Club, 1997.