Georg Gärtner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Gaertner.

Georg Gärtner (German pronunciation: [ˈɡeːɔɐ̯k ˈɡɛɐ̯tnɐ]; December 18, 1920 – January 30, 2013) was a German soldier of World War II who escaped from a prisoner of war camp in the United States, took on a new identity, and was never recaptured, though he did reveal his true identity some 40 years later.


Dennis at the age of 89 (Independence Day 2009)

Gärtner came from Schweidnitz, Lower Silesia (now Świdnica, Poland). He served with the Afrika Korps. He was captured by Allied troops in Tunis in 1943 and was brought to America as a prisoner of war. He escaped from his prison camp in Deming, New Mexico, at the war's end because he was afraid of being turned over to the Soviets. He created a new identity as Dennis Whiles, marrying and leading a relatively quiet life. According to his book, an exception was taking part of the first ski rescue team to the City of San Francisco in January 1952, immediately after which Life magazine took his and the group's picture. Meanwhile, his FBI wanted posters were in most post offices. For 40 years Gärtner was listed as one of the FBI's most wanted persons.[1]

Gärtner was never caught by the authorities, but came forward 40 years later in 1985, and, together with his wife Jean, contacted history Prof. Arnold Krammer, a well-known authority on the history of the 371,000 German POWs held in the United States during WW II. Together they published Hitler's Last Soldier in America (1985). That year, Georg "surrendered" to Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show. He effectively became the last World War II German prisoner of war in America.[2]

But when he surrendered, the government was bewildered about what to charge him with. Gärtner was not an illegal immigrant, since he had been brought to the United States against his will. He hadn't really escaped from prison because all German POWs were to be repatriated to their original homes and he was due to be sent back to his hometown in Silesia, which was now occupied by the Russians. Moreover, he had escaped several weeks AFTER the end of the war on Sept. 1, 1945, and there was some question if he was still a prisoner of war. Because of this, he was not charged with any offenses and invited to become an American citizen. Due to bureaucratic delays, it was not until November 2009 that he was finally naturalized as a citizen of the U.S. in South Denver. Gärtner lived in Boulder, Colorado until his death in Loveland, Colorado in 2013. He and Prof. Arnold Krammer, of Texas A&M University, published a book about his experiences called Hitler's Last Soldier in America, available in both German and English. A popular German film, Hitlers letzter Soldat by noted filmmaker Wolfgang Schoen appeared in the late 1990s.


  1. ^ TVSchoenfilm: Georg Gärtner – Hitler’s Last Soldier
  2. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (September 11, 1985). "EX-P.O.W. ENDS 40 YEARS OF HIDING". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 

External links[edit]