Incredible saga of German gallantry: Fritz Christen-The One-man army


Throughout the history of warfare, there have been many last stands. But of these heroic events of gallantry and courage, the last stand of a single German soldier against a Tank Regiment of Red Army supported by a Battalion of Infantrymen stands out. Let us know about the gallant young soldier.

Throughout the world, the military historians are specifically interested in the incidents of ''last stand''. Last stand indicates military situation when a small troop holds a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds against a numerically superior troops formation of the enemy. Many films are made on many heroic sagas of last stand. Battle of Rezang La (1962) and Battle of Longewalla (1971) are the most famous last stands of Indian Army. A film has been made on the heroic fight of 23 Panjab under Major (later Brigadier) Kuldeep Chandpuri at Longewalla (although the film is not fully accurate). The name of the film is ''Border''.

During the Second World War, there were many sagas of gallantry from both sides (Allied and Axis). All these stories are incredible to believe but are true. Fritz Christen is one hero of one such stories of last stand. This very young German soldier resisted an entire regiment of Red Army tanks supported by a battalion of infantrymen single-handedly for three long days with a single 50 mm AT Gun (cannon) near the Russian village of Lushno. Let us know the unbelievable story of gallantry.



Early life of Fritz Christen

The hero of this story was born on 29th June, 1921 in the German province of Bavaria. His parents were ordinary Germans. Fritz was born in an era when entire Germany was reeling under the terrible effect of defeat in the First World War and signing the Treaty of Versailles. The economic crisis was further accentuated by the inefficiency of the Weimar regime. Later, Adolf Hitler came to power and the economic condition of Germany improved. Fritz' parents became ardent supporters of Hitler and his National Socialist Party. Fritz soon joined the Hitlerjugend, which drilled its members with core virtues of honour, courage, order and sacrifice. He firmly believed in the ideology of the National Socialist Party.

Fritz joined the Army

In 1940, Fritz joined German Army and volunteered for the Waffen-SS. He got selected. At that time, Field Marshal Guderian started Operation Barbarossa and the German Army invaded the USSR.

Nineteen-year-old Fritz Christen was serving in the AT Gun Battalion of the SS-Division Totenkopf. Totenkopf was ferocious in Russia. Christen celebrating his twentieth birthday in the early days of the invasion. German Army was tearing apart the Red Army, and the moral of Totenkopf was very high. The German Generals were more concerned about the winter than the Red Army.

Totenkopf reached the north of the village of Lushno

On 24th September, 1941, Fritz' Battalion reached the outskirt of the village of Lushno. They dug the trenches, found covers and waited for the next day. With the dawn, Soviet tanks appeared in the village followed by the Infantrymen.

The German gunners fought fiercely, disabling several tanks and inflicting significant casualties on the Red Army. The cover and trenches were not fully effective. Soviet tanks continued firing; German soldiers went down fighting. Eventually, after losing several tanks and many soldiers, the Soviets pulled back to re-group. Christen was temporarily relieved and tried to find his comrades.

He received no answer. The entire German Gun Battalion, except Fritz, was dead or dying.

One-man Army versus Soviet Tank Regiment

Thereafter, the entire AT Gun position north of village Lushno was being manned by a single twenty-year-old soldier with a single intact AT gun without a working sight. The Soviet force consisted of the remnants of the Tank Regiment and a regular Infantry Battalion.

The re-grouped Red Army returned in the evening. Christen opened fire with his AT Gun and a collection of small arms gathered from his dead comrades. He moved from position to position to create the illusion of numbers. At night he scavenged for food, water and ammunition and skirmished isolated Soviet pickets. During the day-time, he held off enemy attacks with his AT Gun and small arms fire. He even partially dismantled his very heavy AT Gun, somehow took it to a new firing position, got it supported against a log and kept on firing.

By the morning of 27 September, 1941, he was left with no ammunition. He hadn't slept, had not eaten or taken any water. He remained to man his position with only a pistol.

The morning came. There was no attack from the enemy. But soldiers came. German reinforcement ultimately reached Lushno.



Honour and recognition

German soldiers were shocked beyond belief. Fritz was taken from the battlefield by the German soldiers. Theodor Eicke, the Commander of the Totenkopf Division, personally awarded Fritz with the Iron Cross, First Class, and recommended him for Knight's Cross. In Germany, Fritz was personally presented the Knight's Cross by Adolf Hitler. He was the first enlisted man in Totenkopf and the youngest Waffen-SS soldier to acquire the Knight's Cross.

Fritz returned to the battlefield

After receiving the Knight's Cross, Fritz returned to the battlefield in Russia. In May, 1945, severely diminished Totenkopf Division surrendered to the American forces in Czechoslovakia. The Americans handed over the Germans to the Red Army. While in custody of the Russians, the Totenkopf soldiers received very harsh treatment due to alleged war crimes on Russian soil. Many German soldiers died in captivity, but Fritz Christen survived ten years of brutal punishment and returned to Germany in 1955.

Final days of Fritz Christen

The great soldier spent his last days with his wife Maria in his home-town in Bavaria province. He breathed his last on 23rd September, 1995.

Although we don't support the ideology for which Fritz Christen fought, let us pay our respect to the gallantry and indomitable courage of this great soldier.


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More articles: Gallantry and Courage Last stand Second World War Gallantry Army Saga of gallantry

Comments

Author: umesh12 Jul 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

A well researched article written by the author. Very interesting and impressive.

No doubt that such examples of gallantry reside in history for long and people take patriotic motivations from such historical episodes. During the second world war people witnessed many such great act of heroism as the war was also a long lasting conflict between the various countries and allied powers. I am not a historian but I like to read historical satires and that is urging me to add my views here.

There were many heroes during the second world war like:
- Vasily Zaytsev, the Russian sniper who fought during the desperate Battle of Stalingrad and killed 225 enemy soldiers during the battle.
- Leonard Cheshire, a bomber pilot who made over 103 missions and was awarded the Victoria Cross for four years of courageous service.
- Oskar Schindler, an ethnic German who joined the Nazi party and bought a factory in Poland. He used his own money to successfully protect over 1,000 Jews who were employed in his factory.

The list is endless. there were even many Germans who opposed the nazi policies and helped in protecting the jews. So the war time is the only test of real heroes and patriots who fought not only for their country but also for the welfare of the whole humanity.

Author: Partha K.29 Jul 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2

Sincere thanks to Mr. Umesh for reading this article and for his very valuable comments. I have been planning to write an article on Vasily Zaytsev for a quite long time, and have already collected the relevant materials. I hope that I would be able to write about him in another one month.

So far as Oskar Schindler is concerned, he performed a great courageous act during the Second World War, but he has not shown any gallantry in war. Almost all of us have watched Schindler's List directed by Steven Spielberg.



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