Walter Riedel (1919)

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Walter Riedel
Walter Riedel (1919).jpg
Birth date 6 April 1919
Place of birth Alt-Harzdorf near Reichenberg, Sudetenland
Death date 24 September 1943
Place of death Eastern Front
Allegiance  National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
Rank Leutnant der Reserve
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Walter Riedel (1919–1943) was a German officer of the Wehrmacht, finally lieutenant of the reserves during World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He was hardly 1,60 m tall but had the heart and courage of a lion.


Left: Regimental commander Colonel Källner leads the Knight's Cross ceremony for Walter Riedel in April 1943; right: Division commander Generalleutnant Gustav Richard Ernst Schmidt, recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, congratulates Leutnant der Reserve Riedel.

Walter Riedel was born in Alt-Harzdorf (other sources claim Einsiedel) and joined the Wehrmacht in 1938/39. He served with the Schützen-Regiment 73, which, under Oberst Hans Källner, was renamed Panzergrenadier-Regiment 73 on 13 July 1942 and was further subordinated to the 19th Panzer Division.

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

The war correspondent (de) Dr. Fischer wrote an article in the newspaper “Panzer voran” (dated 30.04.1943) that described why Riedel was awarded the Knight’s Cross. This article reads as follows:
“A Kompanie Trumps a Massive Onslaught - How the will of a Leutnant and the resolve of his Panzergrenadiers held onto a hotly contested position: ‘I don’t want too much to be made of me’ - this is what he said in front of the shack that served as his quarters. They are the words of the south German Leutnant Walter Riedel. Hailing from Einsiedel (near Reichenberg), this 24-year old soldier has been awarded the Knight’s Cross. A quarter of a year had passed since he undertook the deed that would merit him this high award. At the end of 1942 our southern front along the Don river was wavering under a massive onslaught of Soviet armies. This necessitated the arrival of reinforcements in order to close the gaps that had formed. Among those units chosen for this task was a Hanoverian Panzergrenadier-Regiment that had just recently proven itself in the combat near Beloi/Bjeloy (in the middle sector of the eastern front). It was pulled out of the line and sent southwards as fast as possible without any opportunity to replenish itself. It was detrained on Christmas Eve, however it was nonetheless able to celebrate the occasion for the time being. The real action came on the following morning. They conducted a surprise counterthrust against the unsuspecting Soviets, which were forced to pull back. But a ~15 km gap now existed between two Bataillonen, and the enemy was repeatedly able to infiltrate through this gap and into our rear areas during the night. In the middle of this gap the village of Kirskoje lay in the hollow of a valley. Early on the 09.01.1943 a Bataillon commenced an attack, and despite heavy resistance it was able to take the village thanks to the effective support provided by Panzers and Sturmgeschützen. But the Soviets also recognized the value of this position, and already on the following night they launched the first of an unbroken chain of attempts to wrest back control of the village from us. Attack after attack was carried out against our thin lines. Day and night, without interruption, for almost 100 hours. Our own forces were insufficient to occupy the hills surrounding Kirskoje. On the other hand the enemy did not hesitate to do so, and from these favourable positions they brought down hellish fire on our entrenchments. Anti-tank guns, MGs, mortars and artillery. All of these damaged the positions, and snipers put paid to any suspicious movement. And the enemy onslaught outnumbered our forces by a factor of 10-1. Over 400 men stormed solely against the ever-shrinking Kompanie of Leutnant Riedel, which had already been badly depleted by the previous winter fighting. Tanks penetrated into the position from the side. The situation was anything but rosy. The long-anticipated replacements finally arrived during the course of the 10.01.1943, as the fighting was raging at its hardest. But they were all of the older age classes, and without any previous experience on the Eastern front. Now they were being subjected to the toughest of ordeals in bitterly cold weather. Almost all the NCOs of the Kompanie had fallen by this time, and without their help the replacements had to somehow incorporate themselves into the defensive front without much-needed guidance. There was no time to get accustomed to combat here, everyone had to either sink or swim. There were always new difficulties, new moments of danger. The Kompanie often looked as if it would disintegrate as it was repeatedly assailed by furious attacks from all sides. At any rate it was definitely very hard pressed. Would they be able to hold out? This was the hour of highest achievement for the young company commander, the time when he showed what kind of man he was. He had managed to overcome the severe fever that he had been battling with for 14 days. He was also no bull of a man, quite the contrary, being small and slender with a stature of no more than 160 cm. But now here he was, rushing to every place that required his attention. His will to hold out at any cost was iron, and it forced the body to do what was required of it. He had no rest for four days and four nights. One moment he had to take care of broken-in Panzers, the next he had to iron out a threatening situation, and the very next he had to jump from man to man and trench to trench in order to strengthen the resolve of his men, all while under enemy fire. And he knew how to deal with everything correctly. His will compelled everyone, and from his ragtag Kompanie he was he able to form a unit united in its steadfastness. He repeatedly led them in counterthrusts or missions to seal off dangerous penetrations. Finally, on the fifth day of battle, the onslaught slackened. The enemy had perceived that any further attacks against this position would be senseless while we still held it. Leutnant Riedel himself however had to go into the hospital on the same day. His superhuman efforts of the previous days had finally proven too much for his overtaxed body. However he did know one thing: The orders were fulfilled, the important cornerstone of the German position was firmly in our hands. His regimental commander wrote in his Knight’s Cross recommendation that ‘His deeds are singular’. For this reason he is now a holder of the Knight’s Cross.”[1]


Riedel, some sources assume, although not documented, he was by now Oberleutnant der Reserve (1st Lieutenant of Reserves), was severely wounded north of Kanev and taken to the Feldlazarett or field hospital (Sanitäts-Kompanie 2/19) where he died on 24 September 1943. After the war, his remains were found and reburied at the German collective cemetery (Sammelfriedhof) 20 kilometers southwest of Kiev.

Awards and decorations


  1. Riedel, Walter, Traces of War