Matthäus Hetzenauer

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Matthäus Hetzenauer
Born(1924-12-23)23 December 1924
Brixen im Thale, Austria
Died3 October 2004(2004-10-03) (aged 79)
Brixen im Thale, Austria
Years of service1943–1945
Unit3rd Mountain Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Matthäus Hetzenauer (German pronunciation: [maˈtɛːʊs ˈhɛtsənaʊ̯ɐ], 23 December 1924 – 3 October 2004) was an Austrian sniper in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. He served in the 3rd Gebirgsjäger Division on the Eastern Front of World War II, and was credited with 345 kills. His longest confirmed kill was reported at 1,100 meters (1,200 yards).[1] Hetzenauer received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 17 April 1945.[2]

Early life[edit]

Brixen im Thale's parish deanery, where Hetzenauer spent much of his youth.

Matthäus Hetzenauer was born on 23 December 1924 in the Austrian Tyrolean village of Brixen im Thale to Simon and Magdalena Hetzenauer, descendants of a long line of Austrian peasantry in the Kitzbühel region. He was baptized as a Catholic on Christmas Eve in the medieval parish church and was raised with his two brothers and sister on his parents’ farm above the village.[a]

Military career[edit]

Hetzenauer trained as a sniper from March to July 1944 at the Truppenübungsplatz Seetaler-Alpe in Steiermark, before being assigned as a Gefreiter to the 3rd Gebirgsjäger Division. He utilized both a Karabiner 98k sniper variant with 6x telescopic sight and a Gewehr 43 with ZF4 4x telescopic sight.[4] He saw action against Soviet forces in the Carpathians, Hungary, and Slovakia.

On 6 November 1944, he suffered head trauma from artillery fire and was awarded the Wound Badge three days later.

Gefreiter Hetzenauer received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 17 April 1945. Generalleutnant and Divisions commander Paul Klatt had recommended Hetzenauer because of his numerous sniper kills, which totalled two enemy companies, without fear for his own safety under artillery fire and enemy attacks. This recommendation was approved by General der Gebirgstruppe Karl von Le Suire and General der Panzertruppe Walter Nehring.[5]

Hetzenauer was captured by Soviet troops the following month, and served five years in a Soviet prison camp.

He died on 3 October 2004. His wife Maria died in 2006.[6]



  1. ^ Today, the Hetzenauer family's farm house, the Sonnleithof, is a hotel.[3]


  1. ^ Sadowski 2015, Chapter 3: A Brief History of Military Snipers.
  2. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 388.
  3. ^ "Sonnleithof". Kitzbühler Alpen. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  4. ^ Sadowski 2015, chptr 3 A Brief History of Military Snipers.
  5. ^ Thomas & Wegmann 1993, p. 306.
  6. ^ "Hetzenauer, Matthäus".
  7. ^ a b c d Thomas & Wegmann 1993, p. 307.
  8. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 225.




  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German). Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
  • 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 (in German). Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Thomas, Franz; Wegmann, Günter (1993). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil VI: Die Gebirgstruppe Band 1: A–K (in German). Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2430-3.