What’s with the Wittmann Hagiography?

Dear fellow Modelers:
I know this isn’t the first Wittmann post, but when I saw a kit featuring the Wittmann Tiger I I almost puked. First of all, if we’re counting, he’s not the “ace of aces.” Knispel is. And Knispel didn’t even ask for credit for many kills he actually made and he still surpassed Wittmann by about 30 kills. I like Knispel’s legend not for his killing, but for his sense of humanity in insanity. His confrontation with the SS guard in Krakow is not a myth and ruined his career in terms of what would likely have happened if he were The Paper Hanger’s cabin boy Wittmann, the SS Nazi. Fittingly, some Fusiliers (sp?), popped Wittman’s cork in an excellent ambush. It’s sad that such an unassuming non-Nazi soldier from Sudetenland ended up in a mass grave, only to be reinterred years later. His sense of right derailed what would’ve been accolades with the old Prussian Corporal and maybe a film with Leni Riefenstahl ? Sure, Kurt got some awards, but doubtlessly he got dinged. As the story goes, but for his crew, he’d have been put under arrest. This isn’t about numbers. It’s more about what happens to the relative “good guy”. The butt-kissing, bootlicking sycophants DO get ahead and nice guys sometimes do finish last. But, where’s the Knispel Konigstiger.? I haven’t seen one. Have you.? If someone gave me the Wittmann kit I’d burn it like my old GI Joes in the 70’s after their use was played out. Despite being a Marine (SSGTOMS would like this), I’m perfectly willing to admit Pappy Boyington wasn’t our top Ace; Bong was. And Boyington’s claim for kills from grounded planes was weak. He was a great pilot who , had he not been captured, may have gone on to make the top, but facts are hard man. Joe Foss had the same 26 kills but in the air.
If you feel this topic has been overcooked fine. But it’s more about the sad fact that the morals of a man don’t matter in some cases when they should. It’s not so much about numbers, but numbers do matter. Wonder how many “kills” Knispel had in actuality, when he didn’t give credit to a crew member as he often did. He was revered for his long range kills. He was much more successful on the Eastern front. The bocage didn’t quite fancy his long barreled Tiger Royal. I’m not idolizing the guy, or war in general, but his is a sad tale and the Wittmann mania is probably the work of Weheraboos and SS lovers everywhere. He’s not worthy of his own kit IMHO. I don’t hate the man, as I don’t hate any man. We’re all sinners. It’s more about the fact that as an armor modeler and aficionado I can’t escape the man. Be well. Semper Fi.
Dan

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Haven’t seen that word in years.

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Dan,

Whilst I, more or less, understand your point of view, you must surely be aware that all history is subject to revision and even distortion, not least with the passage of time.

That Wittman was put on a pedestal, at the time, not least as a result of the German’s own propaganda machine, is hardly surprising as a result of living and fighting for a totalitarian regime (where propaganda is almost an essential tool for the regime’s very survival). Whilst Wittman may have represented a vicious, racist dictatorial regime, (as did Knispel by default) his military efforts were noteworthy; many post-war historians have noted that. He may not have been a particularly able company commander but he knew how to fight his tank (and a platoon’s worth) and was able to seize the initiative. Long before his exploits in Normandy in 1944, he was a more than capable combatant on the Eastern front. Talking of which, his efforts and effectiveness at Villers Bocage were notably identified in “A Short History of 7th Armoured Division; Sept 1945” which must be one of the first acknowledgements of the man by a western author.

Knispel’s exploits, and the lack of acknowledgement, may simply be down to the fact that he is not as well known, either within the realms of military history, or particularly the modelling world, not least as if he was fighting mainly on the Eastern front, his exploits may have taken some time to trickle down into the publishing world post-war (as opposed to 7th Armoured Division’s recognition of Wittman – above).

As I have alluded to, he also was fighting for an odious regime. This makes your concern with “the morals” somewhat slim I feel; both were effective at what they did. I’m not really sure that you can proclaim that “Wittman bad – Knispel good” with any authority. Both, after all, would have taken an oath of loyalty to the Führer.

So, to sum up: all history is subject to scrutiny and even revision. Perhaps you will indeed encounter a model of Knispel’s tank on the modelling tables as more modellers come to learn about him.

Lastly, I must just say that if you feel nauseous and inclined to cast model kits into the flames because of the subject matter, you might, just might be in the wrong hobby(!)

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Dear Boots:
why bring rationality and perspective into my onvious invective? And you left out the GI Joe burning.
really though: well thought out composition and definitely valid points. thanks for actually sharing a thoughtful riposte instead of some of the snark which is emitted here like some eructation from a bodily orifice. i’m actually serene. no hate here

Hi Dan,

Being British I almost feel I should apologize for bringing “rationality and perspective!”

Thanks for your very kind acknowledgement; I’m not too sure there’s that much snark on the site. Sometimes it rears its ugly head - and to be honest that mainly reflects on the poster I feel - though I appreciate it can be somewhat souring.

Thanks again.

Very interesting post. As a teenager and much younger man (I am 68) I built mostly WWII German armor, and mostly SS units. As I grew older and perhaps wiser I began to question my “fascination” with depicting SS units. I came to the conclusion that while there was nothing inherently wrong with depicting instruments of war it was for me no longer appropriate to “glorify” the exploits of the SS knowing what I did of their inherent evil.

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oh i was waxing hyperbolic. I’d call it “smart a**” not snark so much. Especially the Dunkelgelb post. That brought out some zingers.
i enjoy conversing with the Brits; their elocution, diction and propriety is refreshing. L love the USA but the public discourse here has devolved into raw sewage.
on another internet Channel i enjoy jousting with Drachinifel over his disdain for John Paul Jones, the Scot. i trade barb’s with him good-naturedly by recriminations about Sir Francis Drake being no less the scoundrel and brigand than he claims Jones was. I think he’s still smarting about Flamborough Head and who struck whom’s colors. oh well, thank you for being an intelligent corrrespondent. Dan

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i had a conversation about this topic with an internationally renowned Polish modeler and i’m Polish American. Historically, Poles have little love for Germans or Russians but he said he puts aside the evil issue and simply recreates the historical figure.

As I stated, for me it was a personal decision. The Polish fellow also made a personal decision. We are all different.

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@Sladenyv Daniel, lot of what filtered into the mainstream about Knispel came from Franz_Kurowski who wrote Panzer Aces. If one reads up on Kurowski one quickly learns his research and stories aren’t credible.

On the Axis History Forum there was a thread that delved deep into Knispel. His grave was located & moved in ~ 2018. AHF - Knipsel

1000023749

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I don’t claim to be an authority on Knispel, but the preponderance seems to be consistent with what I stated. I’m not dogmatic. I’ll read something until I suspect it’s not legitimate scholarship or it’s propaganda. Thanks

Any chance of a link? It’s a subject I have an interestin, if no great knowledge…

Cheers,

M

As long as you don’t buy into the Franz Kurowski narrative which is where most of the “information” on Knispel available in the USA came from your good. Majority of sources on Knispel tie their research back to the worthless work of Franz Kurowski and keep repeating his narrative.

I’m referring to the hogwash about Knispel saving prisoners, Jews and being turned down for the Knight’s Cross like four times.

All of that is horse manure from Kurowski fabrication.

Axis History Forum: Roman Töppel: ‘The War, One Great Adventure: The Writer and “Historian” Franz Kurowski’ post #28 regarding the “legend” of Kurt Knispel

From post #28

In 2007, Kurowski published a book on Kurt Knispel, member of the Heavy Panzer Battalion
503.With his roughly 165 tank kills, Knispel is considered the Wehrmacht’s most successful
tank gunner. Since he was killed in action in April 1945, Kurowski could not interview him
and thus referred to Alfred Rubbel as key witness for most of the accounts depicted in the
book. Rubbel was not only Knispel’s superior officer during the war but also aide-de-camp in
the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion. So Kurowski really had an expert on hand. However, when
Rubbel read Kurowski’s book on Knispel, he was shocked and called it “a sheer outrage.
What he wrote in there, it is all made up
. Alone the quotes he puts in my mouth. It is all
completely untrue.”
According to Rubbel, it was one of Kurowski’s numerous fabrications
that Knispel had (in vain) been nominated for the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross four
times.
Rubbel dismissed Kurowski’s claim as “utter nonsense.” After all, “I was aide-decamp
and these things were part of my work in battalion headquarters. I kept the war diary,
and all proceedings of that kind had to be documented. I would have had to write: Today, the
commander recommended so and so for this or that award. Why, it was the unit’s commander
who had the right for nominations. That was never the case with Knispel. He was never
nominated for the Knight’s Cross.” Rubbel’s overall rating of Kurowski’s book was
devastating: “The book is a botched piece of work not worth being printed. My comrades who
are still alive all refused to buy it. The reason why Kurowski persistently makes me a ‘key
witness’ is probably because he is rather economical with the truth.‘


Regarding Wittman Tiger’s, I have one Dragon kit of one of this Tiger’s in my stash of ~235 kits. Have three Otto Carius Tiger kit’s. Eventually one day, I might get around to building my Dragon Wittman Tiger but there’s at least a half dozen other Tiger’s I want to build first.

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I agree. The mythology surrounding Kurt Knispel was completely fabricated by Franz Kurowski and is, for the most part, totally BS. Alfred Rubbel was not only Knispel’s direct superior, but he was one of the editors of The Combat History of sPzAbt. 503, where Knispel is noted as “arguably the best tank gunner in the Wehrmacht” (page 354), but little mentioned elsewhere in the book.

"Kurowski produced numerous accounts featuring the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS , providing laudatory and non-peer reviewed wartime chronicles of military units and highly decorated personnel. Historians dismiss his works, pointing out that Kurowski mixes fact and fiction and advances the discredited concept of Nur-Soldat (“merely soldier”). Rather than providing an authentic representation of the war experience, his works emphasize heroics and convey a distorted image of the German armed forces in World War II. Critics have been dismissive of Kurowski, describing him as a “hackwriter”[1] and his works as Landser-pulp (“soldier-pulp”)[2] and “laudatory texts”,[3] that provide a “mix of fact and fancy”.[1] "

-Quoted from Wikipedia

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have you built any of Knispel’s rides?

perhaps you could organise a campaign on here as a way of shedding light onto his story.

you could make a decal sheet with markings for the tanks he used and then sell them on here and other sites, at least that would give people the option should it not be available.

just my tuppence worth

kind regards

Klaus

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If I’m correct, I think the order was Knispel, Carius, Wittman in terms of overall “kills”? Be that as it may, irrespective of their personal thoughts and feelings, they all served an odious regime and served it well by definition. So any discussion of morals is specious. Other examples spring to mind of “good Germans” such as Rommel and Adolf Galland, both of whose status belong to post war reconstruction. They both served their Fuhrer well, in that Hitler and their country were indivisible at the time, whatever their personal politics. It so happens that all the figures discussed used iconic machinery and served in iconic units, so from the purely modelling perspective, a lot of people want to model their vehicles and why not, so long as the politics is kept separate? After all, I’m sure that modellers other than British ones want to model the LRDG, SAS and Desert Rats etc.
Apropos of nothing, there are plenty of kits of Otto Carius and his vehicles (more assorted than Wittmann’s also!) if the SS really offends. Also is it significant that Carius and Wittmann were officers, whereas Knispel never made more than sergeant? The old class thing rears it’s ugly head again! Knight’s Cosses were awarded for leadership also, as the Germans had no award such as the DSO. Knispel had the German Cross in Gold in the pictures, which was a bridge between the Iron Crosses 1 and 2, and the Knight’s Cross. The “Fried Egg” was a comparatively rare and respected award.

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Well said.

Sometimes modelers build models because the color scheme or the machine is interesting to them.

I didn’t know about Marseille (Star of Africa) when slapping that 109 together back in the early 1990’s. I just wanted to build an Bf-109F4 and that was the only one available at the time.

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I get that; I think that as the display tables (way back when admittedly) at many shows seemed to be groaning under the weight of SS Tigers and the like, it drove me to sort of counteract the almost “deification” of the Nazi regime; of course, it wasn’t deification by any means, just modellers building what they liked - as it should be, but it sparked in me a desire to show the down-side as it were, and I built in small scale a rather grim model of the Kommandbefehl being enacted. I won’t show a pic as it’s been done to death (no pun intended!) in other threads; of course, this makes me sound a tad sanctimonious, and that was never my intent. As a modelling project I found it quite hard to do, almost at an emotional level - it was just so, well, bloody grim.

It did garner no small interest, and on occasion, some raised eyebrows, but I’,m glad I did it, save for one female spectator at a show who merely remarked “Nice trees” (it was set in a forest).

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and I would have responded ‘Nice t-ts’
but I am a jackass so my impulses shouldn’t
be taken seriously
:grin: :rofl: :rofl:

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I’m not quite sure that I follow the comparative excoriation of one Nazi tanker (mostly for being a Nazi, if I am following…) while ranking other Nazi tankers as more deserving of the accolades (because, again, if I’m following, they appear to “less” Nazi than the first guy). If the one was bad, then the relative “less badness” of the others by comparison seems like pretty weak grounds on which to condemn the first while decrying the lack of recognition of the others. Nevertheless…

Wittmann’s reputation and fame (of infamy) is the result of a multitude of reasons, mostly the deliberate propaganda themes and historical slants employed by BOTH sides, during AND after the war. These positions were deliberate, and while their objectives were different, the collective result was synergistic and eventually created a singular mythic figure out of Wittmann.

To the German propagandists he was (or could be manufactured into) a heroic figure to feed the demand to build and sustain domestic support, as well as an example for others in the military to emulate. In this regard, Wittmann was only one of hundreds of such romanticized figures that the German public was fed by the Nazi propaganda machine. In other words, he was really nothing remarkable or exceptional when compared to his fellow Nazi “Helden.”

To the Allied propagandists (especially and particularly) on the Western front, Wittmann was made into both an excuse (or rational) for what was essentially an operational and tactical blunder and multiple-layered leadership failure at VB (which ultimately reinforced the Nazi propaganda theme) and then he became a “vanquished boogieman” and example of Allied military superiority.

After the war (the victors generally having all the advantages in deciding what facts and other aspects of history to emphasize and which to ignore), Wittmann becomes the main excuse and rational for the “bloody nose” suffered by the 7th AD at VB while also serving as the mirror in which to reflect the glorified heroic actions of the soldiers and commanders who faced him there. He was used as the “random act of God / act of Mother Nature” against which the best laid plans of mortal men are helpless. This theme grew in significance over the years of re-telling (in individual post-war memoirs and other derivative histories) until, coupled with the war-time propaganda, the man became larger than life.

In the end, Nazi and Allied propaganda combined together to create the mythological “super tanker,” capable of both selfless sacrifice to the German Volk (the Nazi) and superhuman military prowess in the face of which, his Allied opponents were nearly helpless (and who could only be overcome by equal or ultimately superior Allied military wherewithal).

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