Gunter Kießling: General whose dismissal following a sex scandal caused a political storm in West Germany

The dismissal of General Günter Kießling at the end of 1983 sent shock waves through Nato and the German military and political establishments. The German officer was accused, in secret, of homosexuality, which in his position was regarded as a security risk. Despite his denials, he was dismissed.

The Militärischer Abschirmdienst (MAD, the military counterespionage service) had compiled the report on him, claiming that he had been identified as a frequent customer in two gay bars in Cologne. The fact that he was unmarried also added fuel to the suspicions. Kießling strenuously denied homosexuality or that he had visited gay bars. Once the press got hold of the story the sacking caused widespread controversy. The 58-year-old had been one of two deputies to the US general Bernard W Rogers, Nato's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, 1979-1987.

The "Kießling affair" was one of a number of scandals which had blighted the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, since their establishment in 1955. Chancellor Helmut Kohl had been in office for less than a year and the case threatened his government and, in particular, the defence minister Manfred Wörner. Kohl defended Wörner, but also saw to it that the general was reinstated four weeks after being dismissed. Kießling left the armed forces a little later with full military honours. The commander of MAD was replaced and later reforms were introduced.

Kießling was born the son of a First World War soldier who became a factory foreman. He grew up in Berlin where he attended an elementary school (Volksschule). On leaving, he was successful in his application to join a military NCO's school in Dresden. He was 14, and the war was about to start. During the Second World War Kießling advanced to infantry lieutenant and was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for bravery "in the face of the enemy". When peace came in 1945 he worked on building sites during the day and studied in the evenings to gain his university entrance certificate (Abitur), succeeding in 1947. He joined the newly formed Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Frontier Force) in 1951. During his free time he studied economics at Hamburg University, gaining a doctorate in economics from Bonn University.

Like many of his colleagues in the Frontier Force, he took the opportunity to transfer to the Bundeswehr when the armed forces were established in 1955-56. Serving as an Oberleutnant [first lieutenant], he advanced to general in 1971, becoming, aged 46, the youngest general in the armed forces, responsible for army education and training. He was then sent to the Royal College of Defence Studies in London, and from there put in charge of the 10th armoured division at Sigmaringen. His next appointment was as deputy head of the personnel department of the MoD. Two years later he moved to take over as commander of allied land forces, Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland. Finally, on 1 April 1982, he moved to Nato-HQ (SHAPE), at Casteau in Belgium. At the same time he was promoted to a four-star general. However, he did not get on with his new boss, General Rodgers, and did not fit into Nato social life. Rodgers was soon signalling Bonn to look for a replacement.

Inevitably, Kießling made enemies on the way up. Perhaps one of them was Colonel Joachim Krase, who had made a similar journey serving as a wartime lieutenant and joining the Bundeswehr in 1956. He rose to become a colonel and deputy head of the MAD. Retiring in 1985, Krase was exposed as an East German spy after his death in 1988. Even if Krase was not to blame in this case, many believe that the East German intelligence service had a hand in the affair. Kießling himself believed that the East Germans got in on the act once the accusations against him had been made.

Kießling again achieved public prominence in 1997 when he spoke at the funeral of Joseph W. Rettemeier, a highly decorated Second World War officer and one of the few soldiers to be awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves.

In commenting on Kießling's death, the defence minister Franz Josef Jung hailed him as one of the leading officers of the Bundeswehr, in retirement a valued adviser, and an outstanding soldier who made a lasting contribution to Germany.

David Childs

Günter Kießling, German general: born Frankfurt (Oder) 25 October 1925; died Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein 28 August 2009

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road