Erwin König

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Erwin König
Stalingrad, Soviet Union
AllegianceNazi Germany
Battles/warsBattle of Stalingrad 

Erwin König is a name of an apocryphal Wehrmacht sniper allegedly killed by the Soviet sniper Vasily Zaytsev during the Battle of Stalingrad.[1][2]

König is mentioned both in Zaytsev's memoirs Notes of a Sniper (a "Major Konings", potentially SS) and William Craig's 1973 non-fiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad.[3] He was portrayed by Ed Harris in the 2001 film Enemy at the Gates.[4]

The alleged duel between Zaytsev and König took place over a period of three days in the ruins of Stalingrad.[1]

In a post-war visit to Berlin,[when?] Zaytsev was allegedly confronted by a woman who told him she was König's daughter, with Soviet authorities quickly evacuating Zaytsev to avoid any confrontation.[5]


Zaytsev's personal account is the only source for the story. No other historical documentation exists and no secondary source for the events in question exists. None of the Germans mentioned by Zaytsev including König, König's daughter, or the German prisoner of war who Zaytsev says identified König have ever been identified in other records.

The story of the Soviet discovery of König's arrival came from a German soldier who had been interrogated by the Soviet forces (as stated in Zaytsev's memoirs). Also Zaytsev claims in his memoir to have found the enemy sniper in a run-down industrial area, locating him under a sheet of scrap metal by the glint of his enemy's rifle scope. He then claims to have taken the scope as a souvenir.

In his memoirs, Zaytsev refers to him as being a German sniper named Herr Koning ("Koning" is Dutch for King, cognate to König in German), identified as the head of a sniper school in Berlin, by documents taken from his dead body.[citation needed] This is unconfirmed as German Heer personnel records make no mention of any German sniper called König or Koning. It was also stated by Zaytsev that the existence of König came from an unidentified German prisoner.

In popular culture[edit]

A fictionalized account of the duel in the film Enemy at the Gates portrays Erwin König—played by Ed Harris—as the head of the Wehrmacht Sniper School.[6] He is sent to Stalingrad to take on the increasingly aggressive Soviet snipers.[7] Initially he is successful, killing four of Zaytsev's partners, but eventually he is outwitted by the Russian, portrayed by Jude Law.[8] König is depicted in fictional accounts as a ruthless Bavarian aristocrat pitted against Zaytsev. In the end of the film, he is killed at the Stalingrad train yard.[citation needed]

Erwin König also appears in War of the Rats, a 1999 novel by David L. Robbins, in which he is named Heinz Thorvald.

Ramón Rosanas wrote a comic about the conflict between Zaytsev and König.[9]


  1. ^ a b Zaytsev, Vasily (2010). Okrent, Neil (ed.). Notes of a Russian Sniper: Vassili Zaitsev and the Battle of Stalingrad. Frontline. p. 193. ISBN 9781848325654.
  2. ^ Craig, William. Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad. Reader's Digest Press. p. 457. ISBN 0141390174. OCLC 613817.
  3. ^ Naughton, John (28 February 2013). "War mentality: How a man boosted the morale in Stalingrad". Russia Beyond. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Famous Snipers in History". CBS News. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  5. ^ "Vassili Zaitsev (Russian)". Fakty (in Russian). Archived from the original on 14 August 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  6. ^ MP Film Management. "Famous snipers in history". CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. p. 10. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  7. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (28 March 2001). "Ed Harris in Enemy at the Gates". NY Press. Straus News. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  8. ^ Jones, Robert (30 September 2016). "Best Netflix films: top movies to check out now". Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  9. ^ Jiménez, Jesús (19 August 2013). "Ramón Rosanas lleva al cómic al famoso francotirador ruso Vasili Záitsev". Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española (in Spanish). Retrieved 26 January 2019.