Hans Klein (soldier)

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Hans Klein (* 1921 - † 1998) was a German Gefreiter in the Afrika Korps during World War II.

Biography

Hans Klein, born in 1921, was a journeyman cabinetmaker before he entered the Luftwaffe’s Hermann Göring Division in 1942. Klein served in Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps in 1942-43, where he obtained the rank of Gefreiter (private first class) and earned the Iron Cross Second Class. He was held prisoner of war by the French in Africa for several months, during which time he nearly died of starvation. Klein then became a prisoner of the Americans, who kept him in the United States until his release. I spoke with Hans Klein in 1992 and 1993 about his time with the Afrika Korps. His experiences and observations about combat in North Africa reveal much about the fighting qualities of one of the Third Reich’s most famous fighting formations. German prisoners heard about the Holocaust relatively early, around July 1945, and were shown films about it. I personally thought it was exaggerated propaganda. We prisoners were forced to watch those films. We didn’t want to see them, because we didn’t want to believe it. They made us watch those horror films three or four times, and then they came back later on and interviewed us. We felt it was just a big bunch of lies, because we couldn’t imagine that it was possible for people to do that. But, obviously, there was a group so fanatical that those atrocities did happen. I think it’s a historical fact that the Holocaust did occur. He was also an eyewitness of the battles in Africa saying, "Flies were a problem, and we had no control over them. Nets that we wore over our faces at all times protected us from the flies and allowed us to enjoy eating. To eat some bread with jelly, first you had to get all the flies off the bread and then quickly slip it under your net hoping not to bring them all inside the net with you." He died in 1998.

Awards

  • Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse
  • Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse
  • Deutsches Kreuz in Gold on September 17th, 1944 as Oberfähnrich der Reserve in the Stab, Grenadier-Regiment 365, 211. Infanterie-Division, Heer

Further reading

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