Günther Wiese

The rise and fall of a Wiking
Author:
Updated:
Original:

by Chris William

 During the years of the Third Reich, many of Europe’s young men found themselves in the ranks of the Waffen-SS, whether by enlistment or conscription. Günther Wiese was one German who chose to join. The decision would cost him his life.

During the years of the Third Reich, many of Europe’s young men found themselves in the ranks of the Waffen-SS, whether by enlistment or conscription. Günther Wiese was one German who chose to join. The decision would cost him his life.

Günther Wiese was born the youngest of the Friedrich Wiese family on August 9, 1921, in Dannenberg, a small farming community in Neu-Darchau located in the Saxon principality of northern Germany. When old enough to leave his mother’s side, Günther’s routine centered around attending the local one room school house and working on the family farm, only breaking away on Sundays to attend the town’s Evangelist church. His tranquil and mundane life changed dramatically in 1933, when the 12-year old farmer’s son became part of the growing Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (N.S.D.A.P —Nazi party) movement by joining the nearby branch of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth).

 Photos of SS-TV member Günther Wiese taken from his official record file. Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

Photos of SS-TV member Günther Wiese taken from his official record file. Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

Günther proved an excellent member of his troop, eagerly participating in the many physical exercises meant to strengthen the bodies of the young boys. His attitude towards his homeland and its place in the world were molded through the blatant ideological instruction intended to compel their thoughts and ideals to coincide with that of Adolf Hitler’s concept for the perfect warriors of the Reich. By 1938, Günther had received his golden Hitler Youth Honor Badge for five years of faithful service, and on July 1, began his total commitment to the Nazi cause by joining the Schutzstaffel Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV -— Protection Squadronalso known as the “ Death’s Head Unit”).

 While stationed at Oranienburg, Günther Wiese received a promotion to SS Unterführer-Anwärter on December 1, 1939. Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

While stationed at Oranienburg, Günther Wiese received a promotion to SS Unterführer-Anwärter on December 1, 1939. Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

Günther’s introduction to the SS-TV consisted of an intense course of physical fitness training as was given to all other members of the German armed services, along with a consistent stream of Nazi Welttanschaulicher Unterricht (philosophical instruction). This indoctrination stressed the superiority of the German Aryan people, while disregarding those of other races and creeds, the need for increased living areas for the German people, efforts to increase the individual paranoia regarding corruptive forces at work against the German nation, and all of the other points featured in the more devious programs of Nazi doctrine. Günther studied these principles well and gave himself entirely over to the National Socialist cause, going as far as renouncing his membership in the Evangelistic Church on July 1, 1939.

 After receiving his golden Hitler Youth Honor Badge for 5 years of faithful service, Wiese joined the Schutzstaffel Totenkopf- verbände (SS-TV) on July 1, 1938. Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

After receiving his golden Hitler Youth Honor Badge for 5 years of faithful service, Wiese joined the Schutzstaffel Totenkopf- verbände (SS-TV) on July 1, 1938. Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

He excelled in physical testing during this time and received both the SA-Wehrabzeichen (Sturmabteilung (SA) Sports Badge) and the Reichsportsabzeichen (German National Sports Badge)He rose rapidly through the ranks of the SS-TV to become a non-commissioned officer with the rank of Unterführer-Anwärter” on December 1, 1939. This was quickly followed by a promotion to Unterscharführer, a rank that gave the 18-year-old the supervisory position of Blockführer in Günther’s first posting to a guard unit at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, located 22 miles north of Berlin in Oranienburg.

This early SS-run prison supplied workers for the nearby brick works andwas originally intended as a detention center for political prisoners of the Third Reich — unlike the mass extermination camps as those located later in the East. However, as the war progressed, it became a killing field for its inmate population of mostly Soviet POWs, who were regularly treated in the most inhumane and brutal manner.

On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler, drunk with his successes on the Western Front, unleashed the greatest army in history on the Eastern Front through operation “Barbarossa.” He hoped to deliver his ideological goal of dominating the Communist world and achieving Lebensraum (unrestrained room for growth of the Germanic people). In early 1941, Günther was sent to a motorized infantry unit facility to be trained as a combat member of the Waffen-SS.

Image placeholder title
 Awards earned by Günther Wiese included the Sturmabteilung (SA) Sports Badge and the Reichsportsabzeichen (German National Sports Badge). Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

Awards earned by Günther Wiese included the Sturmabteilung (SA) Sports Badge and the Reichsportsabzeichen (German National Sports Badge). Courtesy of Mark Pulaski

In May 1941, he headed into the “Lightning War” of the Eastern Front, being assigned as an NCO in the Nordland infantry unit, part of the Wiking Division. This division of the Waffen-SS was comprised of both Nordic volunteers and ethnic Germans commanded by German officers. Beginning with its advance into the Ukraine, the Wiking Division took part in a number of fierce battles in the Soviet Union, trying — but failing — to defeat the Russians and their allies on their own soil. During this time of violent combat, Günther was awarded the Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen (motorized infantry assault badge), and was promoted to the rank of Oberscharführer.

On February 21, 1943, Günther’s meteoric rise in the SS came to an abrupt end. He was shot dead by Russian troops during the brutal fighting in Krasnoarmeyskaya, Russia. His company commander, Obersturmführer Otto Kroll, hand-wrote a letter to Günther’s family in which he expressed his condolences. In keeping with the dogma of the SS, Kroll wrote that Günther’s last words were “Es lebe der Führer! Heil Deutschland!” (Long live the Leader! Hail Germany!).

In addition, the Wiese family received other letters of condolence, including one from the commander of the SS-Wiking Division and another from Herman Hofle, the SS and Police Führer of Gruppe Mitte (just a few years later, Hofle would be tried and hung as a war criminal in Yugoslavia).

Günther Wiese, like so many other young German men of the time, lived and believed in the fatal doctrines formulated by Adolf Hitler and the hierarchy of the Third Reich. His meaningless death in the snows of the Russian winter was but one of the millions who were sacrificed for the ideals of a truly corrupt and self-defeating, evil regime. His small group of documents and medals, though, preserve the memory of this fallen warrior.

Frontline Feature