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Warning, there are photos of dead or injured people on this page. If the viewer is sensitive to this, this page should not be viewed. Unless otherwise stated, picture source: NARA|
|The shredded corpse of Katharina Esser - Short Version
|To say it right away. Katharina Esser was not run over by a US tank. She "simply" died from the gunshot wounds she suffered. The horrible death under a tank is a myth driven and promoted by a single German journalist who - presumably against his own conviction - ignores all signs that it did not happen at all and has only the increased sales of his journalistic products in mind.|
During his research on the death of Katharina Esser, the journalist Rheindorf found an affidavit of an alleged eyewitness, according to which Katharina Esser was supposed to have been run over by a U.S. tank while lying injured on the ground on March 6, 1945, in Christophstraße during the American invasion of Cologne after the car was initially fired upon.
Corresponding excerpt from the affidavit. In it, the witness states in poor German that she ...
source: Rheindorf, 1945 Kriegsende in Köln
.. personally watched the incident on Christophstr. (Gerling H) on March 6, 1945 morning between 10 u. 11 o'clock, how the car private car was shot at by an American tank, the owner was killed by a head shot and the employee, who was trying to look after her boss, whereby she was also shot at and fell down sideways next to the car. The employee was then run over by the tank so that afterwards only remains as well as hand, foot and some body remains were to be found, I recognize the girl who was run over by the tank."
It really sounds like Katharina Esser was actually run over by a tank ?
However, this does not match the film images taken by the US Signal Corps cameramen accompanying the troops at the time.
They show the car being shot at, but then Katharina Esser is lying on the passenger side injured and being treated by paramedics.
On the movie images after that, the US units continue to move towards the cathedral.
Since Katharina Esser is clearly still alive next to the car when the last film images are taken on site, Rheindorf puts forward the theory that after these filmed events and while the U.S. troops have already moved on with the cameramen, new fighting has once again broken out. This was because a bazooka was fired at the Americans from a building on the ground. The crew of a US tank panicked and then rolled over the injured Katharina Esser without intention and killed her cruelly.
This theory is only put into the world so that the affidavit can be correct in content and can be confirmed.
The question, however, is whether one should not rather question the affidavit ?
None of the alleged further evidence that Rheindorf presents in his films and books survive close scrutiny. They are not valid or clearly false. More information about this on my long version site.
There is NO evidence that can prove that there was renewed fighting from a tank fusillade in Christophstrasse. New fighting is alone an invention by Rheindorf to support the affidavit. Even the best-selling American author Adam Makos, who has neutrally and thoroughly studied the events of March 6, 1945 and has written a book on the subject, rejects this theory as false and therefore does not mention it at all in his book.
After a thorough examination of the contents, the affidavit is false and in the essential points does not represent the processes as they actually took place at the time.
The witness probably did not deliberately misrepresent. She may have been aware of some of the circumstances at the time. Unfortunately, however, she drew wrong conclusions from these circumstances and found traces at the place.
The witness was certainly only able to roughly follow the events on that day. She was hardly standing in the street or looking out of a window while American units were advancing and firing at the German side and in particular exchanging fire with a German tank in Christophstraße, during which the fronts of houses were also brought down. Presumably, she sat protected in a house cellar for a long time and only came out of the house after hours, when the American soldiers had searched the houses in the streets.
Therefore, the witness was only able to draw conclusions from individual circumstantial evidence and was not able to observe the exact events - such as the alleged rolling over of Katharina Esser by a tank - herself.
What the witness then imagined in her imagination and made the basis of her affidavit, once visualized as a montage:
Tank shoots at car - so far also reality ...
original source: John Florea - LIFE Photo Collection
Woman runs around car, takes care of driver, gets shot, falls sideways next to car, gets run over by tank ...
source: John Florea - LIFE Photo Collection
After being run over by tanks, in the witness's conclusion, pieces of the woman's body are left lying on the road ...
For the witness, this was probably the only plausible explanation for the situation she later found herself in and led to her affidavit.
But it clearly does not match the film images and photos of the American cameramen, which the witness almost certainly did not know at the time. There Esser lay just badly injured on the passenger side.
Thus, in reality it looked like this:
Katharina Esser injured on passenger side, right circle, body parts from the occupant of the car on the other side of the road are already lying on the road at this time, arrow ...
Moreover, there is clearly visible on the side where Katharina Esser lies no place for a tank driving there. Directly there are the ruins of the destroyed houses. A tank would have to have driven against or over the car to run over Katharina Esser at this point.
The body parts, right arrow, from the occupant of the other car, left arrow ...
source: John Florea - LIFE Photo Collection
Two women look at the body parts that are not Esser's, but from the other car's occupant on the right side...
The body parts, however, actually came from a passenger of the car standing there on the other side of the road, which had already been hit by a grenade before Esser's car arrived at this spot. The car and the soldier's body were torn apart by the explosion. Even Rheindorf admits that the body parts on the road were not from Katharina Esser but from a German soldier who was sitting in the other car.
The photo by John Florea, which he took when the fighting units had already moved on to the banking district with the other cameramen, shows in my opinion once again very clearly what actually happened in the witness's mind on that day in the Christophstrasse:
source: John Florea - LIFE Photo Collection and NARA
Four key findings in one photo:
1.) Esser is no longer lying next to the car.
2.) The driver Delling is still sitting dead on the driver's seat.
3.) Two civilian women in fur coat are walking leisurely along Christophstraße and at this moment they are looking at the crushed human torso (from the German soldier as WE know) lying in the middle of the street not far from Esser's car.
4.) And just the crushed human torso lying on the street. Under the big picture three smaller, different angles on this torso.
It is easy to imagine that one of the two women is actually the later witness (who lived there in Christopstraße). Clothing and the fact that they are walking slowly on the street leads to the assumption that they have their apartment in this area and "want to take a look" at what has happened in their environment after the passage of the US troops.
The torso gives the impression that a tank drove over it. If one know (from wherever) that there was also a woman sitting in the car next to the dead driver and that she is now no longer there, but next to the car with the open driver's door lies a torso wearing boots, an observer of the scene on the ground that morning can certainly draw the conclusion that the torso must be this woman.
However, we know from a close examination of all the film images that the torso was not Esser but a soldier from the destroyed other car in the intersection.
Together with the formulation in the affidavit that Esser still wanted to help the driver, then was hit by bullets and fell next to the car, where she was then run over by the tank, this results in an explanation for the formulations in the affidavit of the witness that is obvious from my point of view.
But this scenario has never existed. It was a mistaken identity. Likewise, there was never a bazooka attack on Christophstraße that resulted in a panicked U.S. tank. There were no downed US tanks on Christop Street in John Florea's photos taken in the afternoon, nor were there any bodies lying around in the area of Esser's car other than those of the occupant of the other car. The Esser's car is also still there in the same place, it has not been pushed away or rolled over by a tank.
Quintessence: Katharina Esser first sat injured in the car next to the dead Delling for a long time, then lay injured on the passenger side next to the car and was then quite obviously taken away by the Americans.
And why does journalist Rheindorf, with this obvious solution, continue to stick to his thesis of death by being run over by a tank ?
Quite simply, that is easier to sell in books and films ... "a cruel death of a young woman" !