Gefreiter Matthäus Hetzenauer
Geboren am 23.12.1924 in Brixen im Thale (Tirol)
Ritterkreuz am 17.04.1945 als Scharfschütze im 7./GebJägRgt 144
345 confirmed kills.
He was the no.1 sniper in the German army and he's still alive. If Thorwald/Thorvald wasn't fictional he would have won at least an RK or a DKiG, given his alleged 400+ kill score (Hetzenauer got the RK for 144 kills). The fact that König aka Thorwald didn't certainly does not make it plausible that he existed.
Here are 2 articles on "The Duel"
Thorvald and/or Konig
There is great debate over wether the legendary WWII German sniper that was sent to Stalingrad to dispatch of Vasili Zaitzev was Konig, Thorvald, or even wether he existed at all. In fact in the actual Soviet war records, it originally showed up as a Maj. Erwin Konig, which is in fact a very basic and plain German Name at the time. In Vasili Zaitsev's war memoirs, he later refers to him as Heinz Thorvald, which was yet another popular German name in that time period. Thorvald seems to be the name that is used more now, and its confusing as to which it was, and if they were the same person, or one was a mistake, or wether the German Super Sniper was fabricated by the Soviet press to represent the German army, or German snipers on a "whole", and that the story was just a means of providing morale for the Soviet troops. The two names are on official Soviet war records, but there is no record of either name in the German record books (not to say they couldn't have removed the name to save grace). Any way you look at it, its confusing and debatable. Since both names appear in Soviet propaganda and war records, Konig in early war records and Thorvald in Zaitsevs memoirs and in later war records, I have included them both on the list until there is concrete proof that one or the other, or both, did not exist.
In regards to Vasili Zaitsev, there is no doubt he existed, and was a very accomplished and successful sniper.
Zaitsev versus Thorvald
Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev (and all the Russian Snipers of Stalingrad)
The name of Zaitsev has become synonymous with snipers at Stalingrad. While many of the German soldiers did not know his name, he set fear and dread into the hearts of those who did and outright desperation in those who only knew of his work. While the political commissars of his time went out of their way to turn him into a hero of the people, his record withstands their propaganda efforts. He is credited with killing 242 German soldiers during the late 1942 siege at Stalingrad. His final count tallied 400 by the end of his service in WWII. His impact on the history of battle can only be surmised but his deeds had to certainly have affected the way his enemy operated. Fear can paralyze and no fear is worse for the average grunt than that of being shot while doing nothing. To the Germans in that cauldron city, Zaitsev represented their doom. Unseen, but certain. Just raise your head above the trench and meet your maker.
Known to the world for his famous and ultimately victorious sniper duel with SS sniper Colonel Heinz Thorvald in the Ninth of January Square in the southern end of the city, Zaitsev has earned a special note in history if for no other reason than to have been known so well by his enemy and survived. But his deeds go far beyond that single duel. His success deprived the Nazis the freedom of movement so needed to take and hold ground. To the average grunt, it reduced the war to animal survival and nothing more.
The duel between Zaitsev and Thorvald (also refered to as Keonig in other reports) has long been contested as to its historical accuracy. One such comment is well worth repeating and I have agreed to add it to Sniper Country as it does have merit.
Addendum by Martin Pegler
Curator of Weapons, The Royal Armouries, Leeds, UK
While researching for a book on sniping, I used some contacts at Russian museums to look into the veracity of the much reported fight between Zeitsev and Koenig [Thorvald]. Despite the fact that Russian company and regimental records were faithfully kept even throughout the worst days of the Stalingrad seige, nowhere is this duel reported in war diaries. This would seem to be an odd omission, particularly in the face of the cult of 'Sniperism' that the Soviet press were so keen to extoll.
I tend to agree with Anthony Beevor's opinion that the shooting match never actually happened and was the result of propoganda reporting by the press who were always keen to promote new 'Heroes of the Soviet Union'. Apparently Zeitsev himself never confirmed or denied the event, an odd attitude in view of its apparent historical importance.