Klünner's Soldbuch Story
following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter
& was done so with permission of the publisher.
We would like to thank him for his generosity as well
as thank all those who have contributed to this
article. It is with their efforts, we are able
to share this valuable research with the rest of you.
Nagel had his share
of transgressions with Wehrmacht military law; none of
his crimes would ever earn more than a spell in an Arreststelle.
This installment's soldier, however, could have gotten
the death sentence if they had ever caught him.
The following article has been assembled from
information in his Wehrpaß and other
associated papers which are in our possession.
Walter Willi Klünner (he used his first first
name) was born on September 26, 1926 in the small town
of Berleburg in the far eastern reaches of
Westphalia. His father was a teacher, but his
next of kin was listed as his mother Erna. By
1943, he was living at 103 Elberfelderstrasse in
Hagen. Hagen, with a population in excess of
150, 000, was located in the industrial Ruhr valley.
Elberfelderstrasse was a relatively short street and
was situated in downtown Hagen, so it appears that
Wolfgang was a genuine metropolitan German. His
1943 occupation was listed as "student", so
perhaps he was a cultured young man as well. He
had the coloring of a Viking but the build of a
acrobat: he is described as being blonde-haired,
gray-blue eyed, but of slight build and only 5'7"
tall. The Wehrpaß photograph above shows a
finely-featured individual with a worried look on his;
this is understandable when one remembers that
Wolfgang's hometown and its environs were among the
most frequently bombed regions of Germany. The
air-raid sirens could have been wailing as the picture
was being taken on June 1, 1943. Unlike many
other young Germans who sat for the photographer in
their "Sunday best", including at least a
suit jacket and sometimes a necktie, Klünner faced
the camera in a decidedly casual jacket; it was very
light colored, with a zipper front and a pair of
button-flapped breast pockets.
was noted as being an English-speaker and holder of a Freischwimmer
31, 1944, he was taken into the ranks f the Reichs
Arbeits Dienst, or RAD. Although this
organization was formed with the intention of
performing various construction tasks for the benefit
of the State (such as mending dikes, digging ditches,
draining marshlands, etc..), wartime pressures forced
come of these units to be used in support of the
military. Wolfgang's Wehrpaß describes his RAD
service to have been in support of the Luftwaffe at
another bomb-magnet of a town called Regensburg.
By the time his RAD obligation was finished on May 24,
1944, it is safe to say that he had seen more of the
cruel hand of war than some others did even as they finished
their stint in the military. At one of his
speeches, Josef Goebbels asked the German People if
they wanted "total war", and the audience
cried "JA!!". Well, they
certainly got what they asked for. Unlike many
Americans who were only touched indirectly by the war,
most Germans were unable to find the back row seats to
the show. Wolfgang was no exception; it is
likely that in some ways, he was a veteran even before
he entered the Wehrmacht.
three weeks after being discharged from RAD, Wolfgang
was inducted by the Wehrmacht. He was put into
the roll of the Stamm-Kompanie (reception
company) of Grenadier Ersatz Btl. 167 located
in Herford, on June 14, 1944. The reception
company probably performed the typical tasks: initial
processing, issue of uniform, and began to acclimate
the new recruit to military life. It was here
that Klünner was issued his dogtag: it was probably
steel, with the inscription "Stamm-Kp.G.E.B.167"
and the number "6454". He was sworn in
five days after his induction, and the next day he was
transferred to 4./Res. Gren. Btl. 184 in
Denmark where he received his basic training while
simultaneously providing garrison duty on the western
coast of the country for a possible Allied invasion.
This combination of training and occupation duty was
common feature of the German Army in occupied
training/garrison duty lasted 5 months, until November
21, 1944, when he was transferred back to Training
Regiment 426 (of which Gren. Ers. Btl. 167 was a
part). He had been trained on the k98 rifle
(oddly called the Gewehr 98k in his records
rather than the Karabiner 98k), MG42 light and MG34
heavy-machine guns, and the 120 millimeter heavy
mortar. Training Regiment 426 placed Wolfgang
back in the unit which had inducted him, the 167th
Infantry Replacement Battalion, but this time he was
assigned to the transport company (Marschkompanie)
of the battalion. This was actually a typical
process for late-war recruits: inducted, processed,
and equipped by a homeland Stamm-Kompanie, then
trained by a distant Reserve unit, and returned to the
Marschkompanie of the homeland Ersatz
unit for assignment and transport to a field unit.
Wolfgang waited in this transport command (Marsch.
Btl.z.b.V.Inf.809) which was en route to the
front. Along with a number of other new
soldiers, some of whom were inducted on the same day
and probably were with him all through basic training,
Wolfgang arrived at Füsilier Kompanie 272 on
December 22, 1944. The company was refitting
after some participating in some particularly heavy
fighting in the middle of the month. Wolfgang
was probably assigned to either one of the two mortars
or the pair of heavy machine guns of the company.
Most of his buddies went into one of the three
after these rookies arrived, they were fighting for
their lives south of Bickerath in the battles for
Bunkers #27 and #24. Although Wolfgang survived
this combat, he must have been touched in another way:
many of the young Landser who he trained and traveled
with had been killed.
be interesting to speculate that the wholesale
slaughter of his friends had some influence on what he
did next, but it would be only that:
speculation. What we do know is
that Wolfgang was either wounded or sick and therefore
assigned to light duty with the company supply column
(the Troß). The Germans called this
condition troßkrank, and it allowed the unit
to utilize ailing soldiers to a limited extent without
losing them entirely. On the night of March 23,
1945, the commander of the company's rear echelon (the
company Hauptfeldwebel, or Spieß as he
was commonly called), ordered at least four men to
accompany a wagon on a supply run to the combat troops
at the front line. The four men were identified
as Füsiliers Klünner and Ahrens, Gefreiter Schönherr,
and a Feldwebel named Hans Klose. The party
departed in the night, this was also common practice
to prevent supply vehicles from becoming prey for the Jabos.
When the wagon returned however, only Schönherr and
Ahrens were with it. The only idea we have about
what happened in between comes from the official
statement made by Gefreiter Schönherr the next day.
to the Gefreiter, they proceeded on their way until
they reached the town of Strassenhaus, where
they were informed that the place was under artillery
fire. The best course of action, it was ordered,
was to split up, pass through the town, and meet on
the other side. On passing through the town, an
explosion was heard. Ahrens and Schönherr
waited with the wagon in vain at the other side of
town for about 45 minutes, but Klose and Klünner
did not appear. After Ahrens repeatedly called
out their names, he and Schönherr resumed their
mission. Neither of the missing men had their
weapons with them; they had been hauling them in the
wagon. The guns were brought back to the supply
column on the return trip. At least this is the
story that Schönherr told the company commander.
With the war clearly lost, an English-speaking
educated soldier in the company of a (probably)
war-weary sergeant disappear in the middle of the
night after a convenient "explosion".
Perhaps the explosion part was fabricated in an
attempt to suggest that the two were blown to bits.
A more likely story is that the disenchanted pair told
the other two of their plan and walked off when they
split up in Strassenhaus.
company administration certainly had its doubts,
because they immediately drew up papers accusing Klünner
of going AWOL and desertion. Interestingly
enough, the papers were typed out in quadruplicate and
were unsigned and un-notarized which suggests that
they were never officially filed. This is
reasonable since within two weeks, much of the 272nd
Volksgrenadier Division surrendered in the Ruhr
Pocket. The remains of the Füsilier Company
escaped and retreated towards the Harz mountains where
they were captured at the end of the war. In the
chaos of these final weeks of the war, I doubt that
anyone really had much enthusiasm to pursue a couple
of "deserters". There is one
interesting thing about the AWOL report, however, for
there is a detailed description of what the missing
man was wearing when he disappeared: Wolfgang is
described as wearing a grayish wool uniform with the
belted field trousers (Rundbundhosen), a billed
field cap, lace-up low-quarter boots, and gaiters.
really a deserter? Could anyone really be called
a "deserter" at this period of the war?
What happened to him? We don't know.
Perhaps we don't want to know, for although he managed
to leave the ranks of his company, he could have been
caught later by a roving patrol of Feldgendarmerie
(chained dogs), and many of us know what that would
have meant, especially in this rather brutal and
desperate period of the war. Perhaps he was
gunned down by a group of nervous GIs he intended to
surrender to. Maybe he really was blown up in an
explosion in Strassenhaus that night. Perhaps he
made it home; at least I hope he did.
Wolfgang, if by some weird quirk of fate you should
ever read this, believe us when we say that the only
judgment we are making, is that we are happy
never to have been in your shoes. 49 years after
experiences like yours, this is the only judgment anyone
should be able to make.