Erwin König Was a sniper supposedly killed by Vasily Zaytsev in the Battle of Stalingrad. The diary of Vasily Zaytsev mentions killing Erwin Konig, and there is a sniper scope in Russia, but there is no record of Erwin in Germany.

Now the conspiracy theory: (from Erwin Konig's wiki page)

Since the German Army has no record of a Maj. Erwin König it is possible that the German Army destroyed any record of König after learning of his possible death at the hands of Zaytsev. The defeat of the German forces by the Soviet forces in the Battle of Stalingrad was a major blow to German morale and according to many historians, was the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. This explains one possible motive for the German military to destroy records of König, as König's death at the hands of a "sub-human" Russian Communist would add to the humiliating defeat of the German forces at Stalingrad....

At the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow there is a rifle scope that supposedly belonged to a Wehrmacht sniper called Erwin König. In a post-war visit to Berlin, Zaytsev was allegedly confronted by a woman who told him she was König's daughter, with Soviet authorities quickly evacuating Zaytsev to avoid any confrontation.

Oh the other hand, Soviet propaganda was rife with fictitious stories to boost morale during a time when the war was so uncertain.

  • 4
    I asked this on skeptics.se 6 months ago without reply: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/10474/…
    – Dale
    Feb 11, 2013 at 3:29
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    Hmmm, hard to tell. I found this page where it's discussed forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=34&p=1329007 but the conclusions do not seem to be definitive. The best way to research it seems to start with the fact that Konig was alleged by the Russians to be the head (or at least an instructor in) of the German Snipers School. Was there such an institution? The thread I posted seems to indicate that there was such an institution, but only organized after Stalingrad. But it's a thorny subject I do not presume to settle with this comment. Feb 11, 2013 at 9:45
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    The name Erwin König would be more likely to be Prussian or Austrian, not German. Also, if he existed, he could have been a Hungarian or Romanian national, who was an immigrant. On the other hand, snipers were not officers in the Wehrmacht, and certainly not majors. It's probably a bunch of Soviet poppycock. Aug 4, 2014 at 19:13
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    I hope you realise that Prussia is part of Germany. Austria is a German-speaking country. "Erwin" and "König" are very common names across the whole of the German-speaking world.
    – fdb
    Aug 5, 2014 at 10:17
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    ....which I contest.
    – fdb
    Aug 5, 2014 at 21:10

2 Answers 2


In "The Battle For Stalingrad," the Soviet Union's General Vasili Chuikov refers to a "Major Konings" as a "Nazi supersniper." (page 142). He assigns the task of finding and killing him to the sharpshooters of Lt. Colonel Nikolai Filippovich Batyuk's 284th Siberian division. These were a group of snipers led by Vasiliy Zaitsev. On pages 143-145 of his book, Chuikov include's Zaitsev's own account of the "hunt." "Konings" reportedly kills or wounds two of Zaitsev's better students and a political agitator, but reveals his position to Zaitsev in the process, allowing Zaitsev to shoot him.

Incidentally, Batuk is an example of Russian "underpromotion" of their officers.

During the battle of Stalingrad, he gets two promotions to Colonel and Major General (the Russian army has no brigadier generals), finally achieve a rank commensurate with his status as division commander.

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    wouldn't call it "underpromotion" so much as in the rush to get new units formed pushing experienced officers into command roles they wouldn't normally have the seniority to carry.
    – jwenting
    Mar 9, 2013 at 5:01
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    This doesn't, IMO, answer the question (even if the answer has been accepted by the questioner!). The USSR's claim about König is known. What isn't know is if such a German actually existed as none of his German military or other records have been found. Mar 9, 2013 at 7:24
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    Sorry, I downvote. As @Coleopterist has pointed out, the answer does not add new information. Since the whole point of the question was to seek independent conformation of the standard account, I feel thath the answer is not helpful. Mar 10, 2013 at 11:47
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    I find it interesting that the guys name is Konings (or Könings?!) in your answer and not König, as it was stated in the question. I wonder, if there are army records with that different spelling.
    – Arsak
    Nov 23, 2018 at 10:36

I seriously doubt that Maj. Erwin König, or any "German supersniper sent out to get Zaytsev" existed, let alone an effort to "remove him from history" after Zaytsev killed him.

Since there cannot be proof of non-existence, you'll have to take personal reasoning:

1) Propaganda. If there had been such a "super-sniper", he'd have had his appearance in the German war propaganda previous to the incident with Zaytsev. No such records exist, neither official nor unofficial. Snipers with comparable success existed (see 3) below), and weren't used as propaganda material. German propaganda focused on heroics and bravery, and a sniper provides for neither. So apparently there was nothing "super" about a sniper with a couple hundred kills in German eyes, let alone a reason for a big "clean-up effort" if he was killed.

2) School. As teacher at a Berlin sniper school, it should be easy to come up with records of at least that school existing. To my knowledge it never even has been properly named.

3) Rank. The most successful German sniper with historical record is Matthäus Hetzenauer. He has 345 kills credited to his name, not that much less than König's supposedly "over 400". Yet he never rose beyond Gefreiter rank (that's a rank lower than a Private First Class (US) or Corporal (UK)). This makes sense, because the moment you promote a sniper beyond enlisted, or possibly NCO rank, he'll stop serving as a sniper (which he's apparently good at), and start serving as a leader (which he might not be good at, and certainly stops him from lying in ambush with a sniper rifle). Only really prominent people were urged to retreat from the front lines for propaganda purposes -- we're talking the likes of Ulrich Rudel or Erich Hartmann. Having a sniper promoted all the way to Major in the German military and still have him serving actively (or recalling him to active duty) is highly unlikely.

4) Procedures. There are several other high-profile soldiers that were killed without "having all records deleted" to cover up. While the German propaganda machine certainly preferred positive news, the death of Hans-Joachim Marseille -- certainly a much more prominent soldier than this elusive Maj. König -- was even mentioned in the Wehrmachtsbericht, at around the same stage of the war. The effort to remove a certain sniper from history for propaganda reasons would be simply inconsistent.

5) Chances. Stalingrad was a battlefield for millions of soldiers. One enemy sniper that might have killed about 200 of your troops hardly matters if casualties ran into many hundreds of thousands, not even for propaganda reasons. (See 1) above.) Even if he mattered, the chances of an assassin actually finding that specific man on the battlefield (as opposed to "finding some random one of the thousands of Soviet snipers operating in the city bounds") are so infinitesimal that I seriously doubt anyone would have bothered.

So, in my eyes, this conspiracy theory is a poor attempt to cover up for what has been an embellishment of Zaytsev's (already remarkable) exploits with a superman story.

  • Sounds about right to me. Nov 25, 2014 at 16:31
  • I'd disagree with reasons 1 and 5 (although not with the conclusion). Recall the prominence of Simo Hayha, the demoralizing effect he had on the same Red Army that fought at Stalingrad only a few years later, and the efforts Soviets expanded to get him, including multiple counter-snipers (just as in the story that prompted the question) and concentrated artillery fire on suspected sniper position. The paralyzing effect of his fire was far beyond the 500+ dead.
    – Michael
    Nov 25, 2014 at 21:53
  • @Michael: I agree that it is possible to find counter-arguments for every single point I brought up. But in combination, together with Occam's Razor, they make a pretty compelling reason to assume this Maj. Erwin König, teacher at a Berlin sniper school and sent to Stalingrad to assassinate Zaytsev in particular, then later erased from history, is an invention. And the Russians employed counter-snipers and artillery against any reported sniper positions, not against Häyhä personally
    – DevSolar
    Nov 26, 2014 at 8:36
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    @Abyx: While you are generally correct, a group leader would be a Unteroffizier, Feldwebel, or -- possibly -- a Leutnant. A Major is a field officer, and as such more likely to be found in a staff position than serving as a sniper, or even as the commander of a group of snipers. As for 5), I was not talking about Zaytsev finding König, I was talking about the futility of assigning some "legendary super-sniper" to find Zaytsev. The whole thing is smelling of fish.
    – DevSolar
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:35
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    @StefanH Too much to really cover in a comment, with a lot of changes over rather short time periods as well as an ambiguous definition of what constitutes a "sniper" and what doesn't, sorry. I found the English Wikipedia article "Sniper" to be rather poor in that regard; if you can understand German, Scharfschütze#Zweiter Weltkrieg gives a more nuanced intro.
    – DevSolar
    Apr 4, 2023 at 22:03

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