Kommandant Oberst Wilhelm Klink
Kommandant Oberst (Colonel) Wilhelm Klink was a German Luftwaffe (Air Corps) officer of aristocratic (Junker) Prussian descent. He was born in Leipzig in 1891, though he referred to Düsseldorf, where he attended the Gymnasium, as his home town. After failing exams to study law and medicine, he received an appointment from Kaiser Wilhelm II to a military academy, through the influence of his uncle, the Bürgermeister's barber, and graduated 95th in his class.
A veteran aviator of the First World War, Klink served as commandant of the German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag 13 during WWII. Colonel Klink was awarded the Citation of Merit-Second Class in 1944.
Klink, like many officers in the German military, was never a member of the Nazi party. Nevertheless, he was tried for war crimes along with the high-ranking Nazi defendants. Klink was found guilty on October 1, 1946, on a four-count indictment: Conspiracy to commit crimes alleged in other accounts, Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity.
Sergeant Johann Schultz (pictured left), who served under Klink at Stalag 13, was compelled to testify at the trial. The Sergeant, who went into diabetic shock several times during the proceedings, claimed under oath that he "knew nothing" of Klink's wartime activities. However, he did recount for the court a number of his former commander's anecdotes and claims regarding his, Klink's, importance and influence among the higher echelons of the Nazi government. Though dismissed by the defense as hearsay, many believe that Schultz's recitation of Klink's grandiose claims tipped the balance among members of the tribunal in favor of a guilty verdict. Until that point, it was agreed among spectators and other trial participants that Klink would receive a lenient sentence, if not outright acquittal.
In the event, Wilhelm Klink was sentenced to death by hanging. His sentence was carried out at Landsberg prison on October 16, 1946.
There has been a great deal of speculation about Klink's enigmatic last words. Witnesses say that the condemned man shouted, in a strident voice, the syllables "Colonel Ho..." just as the trap beneath his feet was sprung.
Though histories of the period are filled with competing theories, we will probably never know the identity of the mysterious Colonel to whom Klink cried out with his last breath.
(Article researched and written by Chuck Miller)