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

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little