History of War

KARL KOENIG GEFREITER (LANCE CORPORAL)

“WE THOUGHT THE VERDICT OF VERSAILLES WAS A REAL CRIME AND THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL. WHEN WE GOT INTO THE SECOND WAR WE WERE ALL CONVINCED THAT WE WERE RIGHT IN DEFENDING OUR INTERESTS AND COUNTRY”

Born in Saxony and brought up in Hamburg, Koenig came from a military family. His father received Saxony’s highest decoration during WWI, while his grandfather received the same award during the Franco-Prussian War.

Koenig served in the 21st Panzer Division and was a candidate for officer training in the Afrika Korps. He first experienced combat in a Panzer IV tank at the Tebega Gap and went on to fight in the Tunisian mountains against US forces. Koenig was captured near the coast in May 1943 and was a POW in the USA and England until 1947.

“MY MOTHER WAS STRICTLY AGAINST IT. SHE WROTE MANY LETTERS AND TRIED TO PERSUADE ME NOT TO DO IT. I EVEN REMEMBER THAT SHE WROTE, ‘WHY DON’T YOU GO INTO THE COASTAL ARTILLERY?’ THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SHAMEFUL FOR ME TO REMAIN IN THE REAR”

A KEEN VOLUNTEER

When did you join the Wehrmacht?

It was in March 1942. I was afraid of not being able to participate because I was so young, and even went down into the city twice a week to talk to army officials.

We were all volunteers, and it was a question of conviction, honour or whatever you might call it. Before we went into the Wehrmacht we had been in the Hitler Youth. We were trained to be honest, chivalrous and brave, and we took lessons once a week where we learned about Frederick the Great and German history. The other day was for sports, and we did a lot of those, which was very good because I benefitted from this hard training.

We volunteered because we thought it was our duty. We did not believe that we were guilty for 1914-18. We thought the verdict of Versailles was a real crime and the root of all evil.

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