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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Join a worldwide leader in data-driven marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Adviser - Sales and Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a desire to help sm...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Support - Helpdesk Analyst

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a customer focu...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn