Johannes Kunze

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Johannes Kunze (March 5, 1904 - November 4, 1943[1]) was a German World War II prisoner of war (POW) held at Camp Tonkawa, Oklahoma.[2][3] He was a Gefreiter in the Afrika Korps.[3] Following a trial before a kangaroo court on November 4, 1943, he was beaten to death by fellow POWs for being a traitor. There was very strong evidence that Kunze had indeed been spying for the Americans. The unmasking of Kunze happened by accident: he had been in the habit of passing notes to the American doctor at the camp during sick call. These notes contained useful information regarding the activities of various POWs in the camp, some of whom were loyal Nazis. One day a new American doctor was on duty who did not know about Kunze's role as spy and who could not speak German. When Kunze handed over his note, the American doctor accidentally blew Kunze's cover by sending it back via another POW, who read the incriminating note and quickly realised that Kunze was a spy.[2][3] News of this discovery spread quickly and soon afterwards Kunze was killed inside the camp by his fellow POWs. He is buried in the Fort Reno prisoner of war cemetery.[2]

Five German POWs were charged with Kunze's murder:[2]

  • Walter Beyer
  • Berthold Seidel
  • Hans Demme
  • Hans Schomer
  • Willi Scholz

The case was prosecuted by Leon Jaworski, later to become famous as the special prosecutor in the Watergate case.[4] The trial took place at Camp Gruber near Muskogee.[4] All five defendants were found guilty, and subsequently executed by hanging at the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on 10 July 1945.[4] Their executions were delayed until after the end of the war in Europe due to the fear of reprisals against Allied prisoners held by Germany.[5] Afterwards, the bodies of the executed men were buried in Fort Leavenworth Military Prison Cemetery.[6]

The death of Johannes Kunze is the subject of a novel by Vince Greene, entitled Extreme Justice.[7] and a non-fiction work by Wilma Parnell, entitled Killing of Corporal Kunze.[8]

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