Walter Klein

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Walter Klein
Walter Klein Ib.jpg
Birth date 31 August 1890(1890-08-31)
Place of birth Drespe, Kreis Waldbröl, Regierungsbezirk Köln, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Death date 22 March 1941 (aged 50)
Place of death Mjölfjell (Rjoandalen), Norway
Allegiance  German Empire
 National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Oberstleutnant (posthumously)
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Other work Teacher

Walter Klein (31 August 1890 – 22 March 1941) was a German teacher, a reserve officer of the Imperial German Army and an active officer ot the Wehrmacht, finally Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in World War II.


Major Walter Klein during reindeer hunting in September 1940, he had made a clean shot, as Johan Husdal (1895–1989), second from right in the picture, reported after the war. He was very much liked by the local Norwegians, this was not always a given towards the German occupiers. Klein was, as always on such occasions, dressed in a humble manner. Not one decoration adorns his uniform. The hunting companions even felt sadness when they found out about his death.[1] Major Klein took Voss in April 1940, and now Voss took the Major.

After his Abitur and studies at the Royal Prussian Protestant teachers' seminar (Lehrerseminar) in Mettmann east of Düsseldorf, Klein completed his mandatory military service as a one-year volunteer (Einjährig-Freiwilliger) from 1 April 1910 to 31 March 1911 with the Infanterie-Regiment „Herwarth von Bittenfeld“ (1. Westfälisches) Nr. 13 in Münster, where he achieved the rank of Unteroffizier der Reserve (NCO of the reserves). He was a teacher (Lehrer) in Duisburg-Ruhrort from 1 April 1911 to 30 September 1914 and in Bonn from 1 October 1914 to 30 September 1927, but was of course given leave for World War I service.

Sergeant Klein fought with the 5th Company/II. Bataillon/5. Westfälisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 53 in Verdun and on the Marne and was wounded on 1 November 1914. In 1915, he was commissioned as a Leutnant der Reserve (2nd Lieutenant) and transferred to the Jäger-Regiment Nr. 3 (Alpenkorps) in May 1915. He served in the Schneeschuh-Bataillon (Snowshoe Battalion) and was therefore a mountan trooper. Interestingly, the French misinterpreted the "S" on the collars of Schneeschuhtruppen to represent a snake and nicknamed these men "Schlangen-Jäger" (snake hunters). He fought in the Carpathians, Bukovina and the Dolomites. On 14 December 1917, he participated in the storming of height 1114 on Monte Kolovrat, the breakthrough through the Julian Alps and the storming of the Sternkuppe (Monte Valderoa) in the Venetian Alps. On 1 February 1918, Leutnant d. R. Klein was severly wounded.

After the end of the war he received the rank Oberleutnant d. R. a. D. (honorary 1st Lieutenant, ret.) and returned to his occupation in Bonn his recovery. He then taught as a Oberlehrer (headteacher) at the Städtisches Gymnasium in Bonn (renamed Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Gymnasium in 1938) from 1 October 1927 until 1 November 1935.[2] In this year, he joined the Wehrmacht and served with the 2nd Company/Infanterie-Regiment Osnabrück (37th). He was promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) and received a rank seniority (RDA) from 1 May 1935. In 1937, he served as commander of the 11th Company/III. Bataillon/Infanterie-Regiment 64 (16. Infanterie-Division) in Soest. He received a new rank seniority (RDA) for his rank as Hauptmann from 1 December 1933 (99a).

On 1 October 1938, he was promoted to Major. At the beginning of the Second World War, the regiment took up positions on the western defences (Westwall) as part of the 16th Infantry Division. Shortly afterwards, he was transferred Infanterie-Regiment 193 under Colonel Karl von Beeren, established on 26 August 1939 as a regiment of the 2nd wave in Hamm as a reserve regiment of the 16th Infantry Division and subordinated to the 69th Infantry Division (VI. Armeekorps/12. Armee/Heeresgruppe A) when mobilized. Major Klein was named commander of the 3rd (Jäger) Battalion. The division under General der Artillerie Hermann Tittel served to secure the border in the Eifel.

The XXI. Army Corps was placed directly under the High Command of the Wehrmacht on 1 March 1940 for the Operation Weserübung north (Norway) as Army Group XXI under Nikolaus von Falkenhorst. The 69. Infanterie-Division was subordinated to the Army Group. At the end of March 1940, the men were transported to northern Germany. From here the division was shipped to Norway in April 1940 and unloaded in Bergen.

Major Klein's skilful leadership in the advance, in the fighting at the Bergen Railway, his capture of Voss and the forcing of the Myrdal Tunnel was crucial to the success of the campaign. For this, he was one of the first to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.


On 22 March 1941, Major Klein was in Mjölfjell east of his headquarters Voss, 75 km northeast of Bergen. Young recruits had to be trained to ski. Klein was an expert since his youth and that's why he wanted to show them how, despite his age. Mjölfjell range is a large area contained in a system of three valleys, but with high avalanche dangers. Klein and his Norwegian mountain guide Ivar Jonson Sygnabere were swallowed by an avalanche and died. Sygnabere's body was brought to his home town of Raundal, where he was buried. German authorities erected a fine monument over him.

Klein's body was transported to the German hero's cemetery (Heldenfriedhof) in Solheim, east of Bergen. The Führer sent a mourning wreath which was presented personally by Generaloberst Nikolaus von Falkenhorst at the day of the solemn burial on 28 March 1941. Final burial location: Block 3, Row 6, Grave 10.

As the personnel file of the Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv) in Freiburg (PERS 6/281772) shows, Klein was posthumously promoted to Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel). It is also listed in the personal records of the SS and SA (SA / 4000002284; R 9361-III/568195) in Berlin-Lichterfelde, which makes SA and NSDAP membership at least possible. He was very likely a member of the National Socialist Teachers League (NSLB).

Awards and decorations (excerpt)