Image size: 1161 x 1600 pixel. 514 KB
Date: Saturday, 1 June 1940
Panzerkampfwagen IV ausf.D (turmnummer 432) commanded by Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant) Karl Hanke and assigned to the Panzer Regiment 25/7.Panzer Division under Generalmajor Erwin Rommel during the Battle of France. This propaganda photo appeared in Signal magazine in 1940. Hanke was employed by the Ministry for Propaganda until he had an affair with Magda Goebbels. Hanke and Rommel, who was also a friend of Reichsminister Joseph Goebbels, understood the value of propaganda both for the home front and for their troops. They used each other to further their own aims. Rommel appointed Hanke to command the 25th in May 1940. Despite Hanke's lack of military training, he was a very successful, aggressive commander and saved Rommel's life. Hanke presented Rommel with a Knight's Cross from Reichschancellor Adolf Hitler and Rommel recommend him for the same. Hanke was bitter about several combat actions in France that he regarded as poor judgment and openly criticized Rommel, who sacked him and canceled the Knight's Cross, which angered Hanke's men. Popular with Hitler and Party Secretary Martin Bormann, they appointed him Gauleiter (Governor and Region Leader) of Lower Silesia in Poland, where he signed so many execution orders, he was known as the "Hangman of Breslau." When the Soviets attacked in January 1945, Hanke organized the toughest defense (Festung (Fortress) Breslau) in the area, and the city held out until May 7. The defense had no strategic or tactical value, but it won the respect of Goebbels. Hanke escaped Breslau on May 5 by air. He learned he was to replace Himmler at Hitler's orders and to command the SS. For unknown reasons he went to Cezchoslovakia, where he joined the 18. SS-Panzergrenadier-Dvivsion "Horst Wessel" and was captured on May 6. On June 8, 1945, his true identity still undiscovered, he attempted an escape. Either he was shot by a guard or recognized after escaping and beaten to death by former Czech and Polish displaced prisoners.