Operation Holzauge

wood knot

This was a German meteorological operation in Greenland (12 August 1942/17 June 1943).

On several occasions the Germans tried to establish weather stations on the eastern coast of the island as this would provide them with invaluable meteorological information both to assist their U-boat campaign and to predict the weather situation in the European theatre.

In August 1942 the converted trawler Hermann (ex-WBS 1 Sachsen) landed a 19-man unit under the command of a naval officer, Leutnant Hermann Ritter, and including a group of meteorologists led by Dr Gottfried Weiss, on the eastern side of Greenland. The area around 75° N had been selected by Weiss about one month earlier, on the basis of a reconnaissance flight, as an ideal location for a weather station. Once landed, Ritter selected Hansa Bay, on Sabine island, as the spot for the part to spend the winter.

The German group managed to remain undetected until March 1943 and to report their weather observations to Germany. When the group was accidentally discovered by the Nordøstgrønlands Slædepatrulje (North-East Greenland Sledge Patrol), there followed a firefight in which the only casualty of World War II in Greenland, Corporal Eli Knudsen, was mortally wounded. Two other men of the patrol were captured, but one later escaped, captured Ritter and returned to base. The remaining members of the patrol had meanwhile returned 375 miles (600 km) to the south to Scoresbysund and reported the position of the German weather station.

On 25 May four US bombers from Iceland attacked the base, and most of the German party was then evacuated by flying boat in two lifts on 6 and 17 June. Hermann had previously been holed with ice axes so that the vessel would sink as the ice melted.

The Germans made another attempt to built another weather station in the summer and autumn of 1944, but this was prevented by US military action.

It is worth noting that the Nordøstgrønlands Slædepatrulje had been established in 1941, following consultation between the Americans by the Danish governor of Greenland, to monitor possible German activities in north-east Greenland. The patrol comprised Danish police officers and a number of Danish, Greenland and Norwegian fur hunters, most of whom had operated over a period of years in north-east Greenland and well versed in matters relating to survival in this inhospitable region.