|Born||13 June 1915
|Died||19 January 1945
|Years of service||1935–45|
|Unit||3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
German Cross in Gold
Iron Cross 1st Class
Iron Cross 2nd Class
Close Combat Clasp in Gold
Infantry Assault Badge in Bronze
Wound Badge in Silver
Eastern Front Medal 1941/42
Wilhelm Hermann Kurt Franke (13 June 1915 – 19 January 1945) was an Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant) in the Waffen SS during World War II who was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership by Nazi Germany during World War II. He was also one of only 631 men to be awarded the very rare Close Combat Clasp in Gold.
Kurt Franke was born on the 13 May 1915, in Wurzen, Saxony. In 1935 he volunteered to join the SS and in 1938 served in the concentration camp service of the SS until 1940 when he was transferred to the new SS Division SS Totenkopf as a platoon commander.
In 1941 Franke participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa). Franke, now an Unterscharführer (The Waffen-SS use of Unterscharführer was as a junior squad commander, one of several attached to company and platoon sized formations. The rank was considered the equivalent to the first Waffen-SS Officer Candidate rank of SS-Junker), and was awarded the Eastern Front Medal for service on the Eastern Front during the 1941 to 1942 winter and the Demyansk Shield awarded to all troops involved in the battles for the Demyansk Pocket, thereafter he, along with the rest of the Division was withdrawn to France to recover.
Kurt Franke returned to the Eastern Front, for the Battle of Kharkov, where he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st class.
He was noticed by his superiors as a man to turn to in difficult situations and time after time was given missions to lead against the Soviet positions for which he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze.
In August 1943 he was involved in the fighting on the Mius-Front where he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Silver, followed in October 1943 by the award of the Knight's Cross.
In January 1944, Franke was given the position of the Battalion Ordnance officer. In this capacity Franke on the 21 March gathered a command of store men, radio operators and drivers to cover a gap in the German front at Olgopol[disambiguation needed]. A short time later he returned to command the 11th Company at Kotowsk and was promoted to Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) in April 1944. For his achievements as the Ordnance officer he was awarded the German Cross in Gold.
In December 1944, the Totenkopf was sent to Hungary, together with the SS Wiking Division. Franke and his company was selected to lead the Battalion in the coming fighting and on the 19 January 1945, he was mortally wounded and died in the Hospital.
Two months later when the reports of the fighting had been submitted Franke was given a posthumous award of the Close Combat Clasp in Gold.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Wound Badge
- in Black (27 May 1940)
- Infantry Assault Badge in Bronze (1 October 1941)
- Close Combat Clasp
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 3 October 1943 as SS-Hauptscharführer and shock troops leader in the 11./SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 6 "Theodor Eicke"
- German Cross in Gold on 18 December 1944 as SS-Untersturmführer in the 11./SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 6
- Berger 2004, p. 6.
- Wegmann 2010, p. 112.
- Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 185, 491.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 316.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 120.
- Berger, Florian (2004). Ritterkreuzträger mit Nahkampfspange in Gold [Knight's Cross Bearers with the Close Combat Clasp in Gold] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-3-7.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Henschler, Henri; Fey, Willi (2003). Armor Battles of the Waffen-SS, 1943–45. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-2905-5.
- Kurowski, Franz (1994). Infantry Aces. New York: Ballantine Book. ISBN 978-0-345-45194-1.
- Mitcham, Samuel W (2007). Retreat to the Reich : the German defeat in France, 1944. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3384-7.
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Wegmann, Günter (2010). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil III: Infanterie Band 7: Fl–Fu [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the German Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Part III: Infantry Volume 7: Fl–Fu] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2380-1.