Wehrmacht Corporal Drayss- Valor Thief

| December 4, 2021


Eiserne Kreuz

rgr1480 took the time from his day to send us the tale of one Adam
Drayss, a Corporal in Hitler’s Wehrmacht. He was apparently dissatisfied with his place in the food chain, and sought to improve his lot by falsifying some very prestigious awards.

The following is part of a thesis sent to him by a San Jose State University professor, titled Heldenpolitik: Ritterkreuz, Ideology and the Complexities of Hero Culture under National Socialism by one Colin Gilmour. Mercifully, rgr1480 just sent us the intro.

In January 1941, a German military court heard the case of a young corporal named Adam Drayss, who had recently committed one of the more remarkable crimes of the Second World War.

Over the course of several months, he had forged a series of awards to commit a spree of fraud across several cities, ending in his hometown of Frankenthal in the Rhineland-Palatinate. It all started in the early summer of 1940, when Drayss had attempted to improve his level of care and comfort in a military hospital following a motorcycle crash. To that end, he had forged evidence of several promotions and an escalating variety of medals, ultimately graduating to the falsification of the rare and prestigious Knight’s Cross, a decoration that marked him as a superior soldier within the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces). Wearing this medal at his throat, over the following months Drayss thus enjoyed the acclaim and “red-carpet treatment” of a local hero: men bought him coffee and beer, cafés asked him to sign their guestbooks and dignitaries bestowed gifts, money and public honours on him as a hero of the Fatherland. As with most fraudsters, however, the would-be hero was not satisfied and soon strove for even greater gain.

In September 1940, he proceeded to his hometown of Frankenthal to ply his fraud there on the pretense of a well-deserved leave to visit his father. Upon arrival, the local Bürgermeister greeted him as a returning hero and ushered him to the town hall, where he subsequently named Drayss an Ehrenbürger (Honourary Citizen) of the city and announced that a square would be renamed in his honour. The beaming mayor then organized a grand reception at a local hotel where Drayss signed autographs, gave a speech to assembled dignitaries and had his photograph taken with the regional Nazi governor (Gauleiter), Joseph Bürkel.1 The following day, though, the fraud came tumbling down after several local Army officers made inquiries about the curiously sudden appearance of such a hero in their midst. Surely news of such a man would have preceded him in the press, newsreels or the Wehrmacht’s daily bulletin (Wehrmachtbericht). Arrested soon after, Drayss was court-martialed for his crimes. In his wake, though, he had also left the reputation of the local authorities in shambles. As the military court noted in its judgement, the ease with which he had manipulated them through the symbolic value of the country’s medals and respect for war heroes spoke to wider political issues being at stake, issues that demanded his crimes receive an even harsher punishment.

After receiving a substantial prison term, however, Adam Drayss vanished into obscurity.

But wait, there’s more to former Corporal Drayss’ story. Rgr1480 was able to close the circle.

The German IMM magazine (issue 125, December 2006/January 2007) had a detailed article on the case of Adam Drayß, which also includes photographs and reprints of period newspaper articles.

Drayß was arrested on 17 September 1940. On 5 February 1941, a military court sentenced him to 10 years of severe prison [Zuchthaus] and kicked him out of the army with permanent unworthiness to serve [Wehrunwürdigkeit]. He did his time at the Festung Germersheim prison. However, during the late stages of the war, this no longer saved one from having to fight for the dying Reich and so, in January 1945, he was sent to a probationary unit. His exact fate during this final stage of the war is unknown, but apparently, he survived, as there are believable accounts of witnesses who encountered him in the post-war years.

This classic case of stolen valor is actually quite amusing in a way: Drayß’ account on how he allegedly earned the Knight’s Cross was a ridiculous story about him and 22 men capturing more than 1,200 French soldiers, including a general and his entire staff. Still, all the dignitaries in his hometown apparently found it perfectly believable and fell over themselves to celebrate their local hero: He instantly became Frankenthal’s favorite son, was wined and speeched and honored, given his own gala evening, made an honorary citizen and had a square named after him. (He probably didn’t expect that, though. At the end of the day, he was just a fraud who wanted to gain some material benefits like an expensive dental treatment, money and extra leave and surely didn’t intend to draw that much attention to him.)

Sure enough, a Feldwebel named Mittelhäusel, who was billeted in the Frankenthal area at the time (and possibly others) got very suspicious reading the newspaper article on Drayß’ account of his alleged feat, did some research, notified the military authorities and the whole scam came tumbling down on Drayß’ head.

Incidentally, Drayß – who had bought his Knight’s Cross from an authorized retailer without presenting an award certificate, just a letter that mentioned him being an RKT – was probably the reason why the commercial sale of Knight’s Crosses to individuals was prohibited on 28 October 1940. After that, even lawfuly recipients could only obtain additional/replacement KCs through official authorities.

Actual Awards: SA-Sportabzeichen

Alleged additional awards made up and unlawfully worn by Drayß: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes, Eisernes Kreuz I. Klasse, Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse, Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen, Allgemeines Sturmabzeichen, Verwundetenabzeichen in Silber.

We all despise Valor Thieves, yet somehow I’m glad Drayss managed to survive the war, and am a bit in awe of the stones he had to make such claims in WWII Germany. Thanks, rgr1480 and Mr. Gilmour.

Category: Guest Post, Historical, Valor Vultures

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Hatchet

It would seem that all valour-vultures have the commonality of absolutely no scruples and in this case, no historical boundaries. Very interesting story. Thank you AW1-Ed, rgr1480 and Mr. Gilmour!

rgr1480

Ed, thanks for posting this. I would like to thank “HPL2008” of the Wehrmacht Awards Forum for providing the follow-up data about Drayß, including the 10 years hard labor then off to the Probationary unit to fight on the Eastern Front. https://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/forums/forum/wehrmacht-era-militaria/order-of-battle-and-individual-research-forum/12759415-adam-drayss-court-martial-for-forging-rk-etc-in-his-soldbuch#post12762526. For those who are unfamiliar with the mentioned awards: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes [Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross; roughly equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross and/or Medal of Honor. Additional awards to… Read more »

ChipNASA

” Es ist die Schuld von Führer Trump..”
ಠ▄ಠ

rgr1480

Genau!

rgr1480

From one of the footnotes in the thesis:

“Witnesses at the trial, however, gave a much darker picture [of Drayß]: that of a man whom one medical witness described as a “psychopathic liar and swindler” (BAMA RW 4/300)….” [emphasis added]

The TAH “Rancid cherry on top of a Sheiße sandwich” adjudication — even back then!

Sgt K

Tragedy + time = comedy. That’s pretty much been the formula since two cavemen watched as a third dropped a heavy rock on his foot.

KoB

Aren’t ALL Valor Thieves a “psychopathic liar and swindler”?

Maybe his sentence of 10 years hard labor another idea we could steal from the Germans for our Valor Thieves.

Deckie

There’s a book documenting the voyages of the liberty ship SS John W. Brown in WW2. In one chapter it was mentioned that a seaman, part of the navy armed guard crew was arrested and sent ashore for court martial having been caught on liberty wearing medals he never earned and I believe the insignia of a petty officer first class. They don’t mention what happened to him, but it was interesting to read nonetheless.

USAFRetired

Remember The old Dragnet TV program starring Jack Webb and Harry Morgan.

“Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

One of the ones I remember involved a young man using his deceased fathers CMOH as part of his scams.

Devtun

Sorry, off the trail. Passing along the news that the last surviving officer & the oldest surviving member of Easy Company 506th PIR (The Band of Brothers), COL Edward Shames, has passed away. He was 99. RIP, sir.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2021/12/04/WWII-veteran-Edward-Shames-dies/9311638651436/

Cptsmith

You did not want to mention Band of Brothers around COL Shames, he was not a fan.

AtlanticCoast63

…I wonder if this fella qualifies as SV:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Voigt

Mason

It does, but I like the guy’s style. Gotta admire the balls to do that. Also gotta admire that he could carry himself with the command presence of a Prussian officer enough to convince 11 soldiers, the police, the treasurer, and the mayor.

Hack Stone

After the war ended, he had a lucrative career filing disability claims, driving a tour bus around Portland Oregon, and filing frivolous lawsuits. To his dying day he swore that he was the recipient of an Homoray Knight’s Cross bestowed upon him by the National Association of Naval Photographers.

Just An Old Dog

LOL he’s a piker compared to this Guy… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willi_Herold… Dude was a deserter in 1945 who posed as a Luftwaffe Captain and took over a Camp Where German Deserters were held by Nazi Authorities… He bluffed them saying he was there by Orders of Hitler and had the guards execute close to 100 Prisoners over the next few days,,, with the Allies approaching he and some guards fled,,, committing murders over the next few weeks… Read more »

rgr1480

Just … wow! I knew fallbeil [guillotine] continued to be used by German authorities up until 1966 [East Germanay], but wasn’t aware that it was used by the allies. …The fallbeil was used to carry out nine executions for common crimes (not war crimes) between October 1946 and June 1949, when the death penalty was abolished throughout West Germany. This fallbeil was used for one of the last execution in West Germany in February 1949.… Read more »

xyzzy

Nazi valor? No such thing. There’s no valor in fighting for a genocidal monster.

I respect Rommel, Schindler, and Niemoller, though. Those were the exceptions. For the typical Nazi, fuck his ass.

Boiling Mad CPO

Back in the ’60’s I was at the EM club and met a young man from the USS Essex (CV9). He was wearing WW2 ribbons and claimed that he was wearing what the ship had been awarded. After setting him straight about awards, his companions hauled him back to his division.

Slow Joe

The first valor thief probably lived in a cave, had a hand axe for his assigned weapon, and use seashells for long range communications.

Sandman

So this guy got busted for SV, sent to prison, then given the “dirty Dozen” treatment towards the end of the war,,,interesting.

Green Thumb

I did not realize The False Commander “Phony” Phil Monkress (CEO of All-Points Logistics) had German lineage, heritage or relatives.

I thought Phil Monkress was of Native American descent.

It seems that I learn something new everyday.