Christen, Fritz.

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Christen, Fritz, born 29-06-1921, in Wredenhagen; Bayern, The son of a forestry worker and trained blacksmith Christen joined in 1940 as a volunteer in the Waffen-SS.  In the rank of SS-Sturmmannes Christians belonged to the attack on the Soviet Union on 22-06-1941 in the area of Army Group North to the 2nd Company  of SS Panzerjäger Division of the SS-Totenkopf Division , under command of SS-Gruppenführer Theodor Eicke  , where he served as a gunner of a 5-cm PaK 38. On the morning of 24-09-1941, Christen and his anti-tank battery were fighting Russian forces north of the Russian village of Lushno.  During this fight, all of Christen’s comrades had been killed or had left the field of battle while Christen remained. While exposed to artillery and small arms fire, Christen manned his 50mm cannon alone, holding on without supplies or provisions for the next two days. At night, he would sneak from his firing pit out to other gun sites and retrieve ammunition to replenish his supplies to continue his fight.  When a counterattack by other Totenkopf troops recaptured Lushno, Christen was credited with having knocked out 13 Soviet tanks and single-evenhandedly killing approximately 100 enemy soldiers. The SS men that relieved him were amazed that a single soldier could hold his position against hundreds of Soviet troops and a formidable armor presence. SS-Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke, the commanding General of the division, awarded Christen with the Iron Cross, First Class and recommended him simultaneously for the Knight’s Cross due to this magnificent act of bravery. Christen was called back to Germany where Adolf Hitler

  personally awarded him the Knight’s Cross, making Christen the first enlisted man in his division to be given the honor.

The National Socialist propaganda showed the young Knight’s Cross  bearer in the 588th newsreel (10-12-1941) when visiting the parents and staged Christians as a role model of the “heroic” and at the same time “down to earth” remaining SS fighter. From November 1941 to February 1942 he completed an education as an Unterführer driver to SS-Unterscharführer at the SS-Unterführerschule Radolfzell. As SS-Oberscharführer he came to the SS Unterführerschule Lauenburg and later back to his base unit.Upon receiving the decoration, Christen here with his parents after the decoration,  returned to his unit and continued to fight bravely throughout the rest of the war. In May of 1945, he  was captured after the remainder of the severely diminished Totenkopf Division, under command now of Hellmuth Becker, surrendered to American forces in Czechoslovakia.  Post-war, Hellmuth Becker was tried by Soviet authorities twice, for war crimes and sabotage. While serving his sentence, Becker “tried his jailers’ patience” by attempting to manufacture explosives, leading to his retria, but was executed 28-02-1953, aged 50, in Prison camp No. 337, Sverdlovsk, Soviet Union. The Americans turned them over to the Russian Red Army. While in custody of the Russians, the Totenkopf men received especially harsh treatment due to their reputation as an organization that committed outrageous war crimes on Russian soil.

Death and burial ground of Christen, Fritz.

 

As a result, many of these men died while in a Soviet gulag. Christen survived ten years of this brutal treatment and was released to return home in 1955. He died quietly at his home in Neusorg, Bavaria on 13-09-1995, age 74. He and his wife Maria, who died age 69 in 1992, are buried in Neusorg, Bavaria, Germany, on the local cemetery.

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