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14 May 1924|
Tannenwalde, East Prussia (today Chkalovsk in Kaliningrad, Russia)
|Died||29 August 2003(aged 79)|
|Years of service||1943–May 8, 1945|
|Unit||68th Infantry Division|
|Awards||Iron Cross 2nd & 1st class
Infantry Assault Badge
Wound Badge (silver)
Sniper's Badge (gold)
Bruno Sutkus (Lithuanian: Bronius Sutkus, 14 May 1924 – 29 August 2003) was a Lithuanian-German sniper in the 68th Infantry Division of the German Army, on the Eastern Front of World War II, and was credited with 209 kills. Every kill was recorded in an individual "sniper's book" and had to be confirmed by at least one observer and authenticated by the battalion commander. Facsimile copies of various diary pages are reproduced in Sutkus' memoir. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Sutkus held lectures for Lithuanian soldiers and presented his wartime records to Lithuanian officers.
Sutkus was born in Tannenwalde, then a suburb of Königsberg, East Prussia. His father was Lithuanian, which meant that Sutkus was not automatically German, German nationality had to be applied for (see Prussian Lithuanians). Since no application was made he remained officially stateless until 1941 when he became a naturalized German. He joined the Hitler Youth in 1938, achieving the rank of a Scharführer. When he was 18 years old he became a member of the SA, where his shooting skills were acknowledged, and he was given a rifle to take home and practise marksmanship.
Sutkus trained as a sniper from August 1943 through the end of December 1943 at the Sniper School in Vilnius, before being assigned to the 196th Grenadier Regiment of the 68th Infantry Division. In January 1945 while recovering from a wound he was promoted and informed that he had been appointed as an instructor at a sniper school.
In his autobiography, Sutkus describes that after the war he came into contact with the anti-Soviet Lithuanian resistance, how he was captured and tortured by the KGB. He was in possession of forged documents declaring him to be stateless and of having worked throughout the war as a farm labourer, but knew the Russians suspected him of having served in the Wehrmacht as a sniper. So Sutkus decided to stay together with several Lithuanians he knew who were deported to Siberia for forced labor, partly to escape Soviet attentions, and expecting to be deported anyway.
By the time the Russians had the evidence to prosecute him for the war crime of being a sniper, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer had negotiated amnesties for many Germans being detained in the Soviet Union. He worked on collectives, in the Taiga forests and down the pits at Sheernkov from 1949 until 1971 when he was allowed to relocate to Vilnius. Sutkus went into voluntary banishment to accompany a Lithuanian woman, Antoniena, (d. 1995) nineteen years his senior, who had been linked to the resistance. He had a son, Vytautas, by her in 1951. In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sutkus, now Lithuanian after having been forced to accept Soviet citizenship, visited Germany. In 1994 he received a certificate of German citizenship and passport, and relocated to Germany in 1997.
Sutkus quoted two members of the Lithuanian resistance who tried to persuade him not to join their ranks (Diary of a sniper, page 75):
- "If you can live legally, you'll grow to be eighty years old. Joining the guerrillas, you will die. They will torture your parents and send them to Siberia. We can't achieve anything because the Soviet predominance is crushing. We're constantly hunted. We have no area for retreat, no supplies, and no food. Large Soviet forces are searching the woods. Often we are starving, and the wounded get no treatment. The people who support us are arrested, viciously tortured, and sent to Siberia. Sooner or later, the Soviets will choke the whole Lithuanian resistance in blood. We're all going to die. They will throw our desecrated bodies into the marketplace. Reconnaissance planes are often flying over the woods to take pictures. Spies are infiltrating our ranks. Day and night we can't feel safe in the bunkers and are therefore always moving, to, again and again, like rats, dig new bunkers in the soil. There's no other way. One of us shall survive to be able to tell how we lived, fought, and died."
- Iron Cross 2nd Class on July 6, 1944
- Wound Badge in black on September 7, 1944
- Iron Cross 1st Class on November 16, 1944
- Sniper's Badge (1st class - gold) on November 21, 1944
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on November 25, 1944
- Infantry Assault Badge in silver on November 29, 1944
- Wound Badge in silver on March 1, 1945
- "Respublika", Nr. 284(1694). Gražina Ašembergiene. "209 kartus gyvas". December 4, 1995 (Lithuanian newspaper)
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
- "Lietuvos aidas", Nr. 93(6814). Saulius Šaltenis. "Karo meistras". May 6, 1995 (Lithuanian newspaper)
- Murawski, Erich. Der deutsche Wehrmachtbericht 1939 - 1945, vom 1.7.1944 bis zum 9.5.1945. Schriften des Bundesarchivs 9, Boppoard am Rhein: Harald Boldt Verlag, 1962
- Sutkus, Bruno (2003), Im Fadenkreuz – Tagebuch eines Scharfschützen [i.e. Inside the crosshair - the diary of a sniper]. Munin.