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Remembered Today:

German Deserter's War Experience (was in the army in 1914)


206thCEF
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THE following narrative first appeared in German in the columns of the New Yorker Volkszeitung, the principal organ of the German speaking Socialists in the United States. Its author, who escaped from Germany and military service after 11 months of fighting in France, is an intelligent young miner. He does not wish to have his name made public, fearing that those who will be offended by his frankness might vent their wrath on his relatives. Since his arrival in this country his friends and acquaintances have come to know him as an upright and truthful man whose word can be relied upon.

TRANSLATED BY J. KOETTGEN,1917

from the WW1 Document Archives. As for the authenticity of the narrative,it's up to you to judge........

http://www.gwpda.org/memoir/Deserter/GermanTC.htm

Joe

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Yes I found a copy some time ago, never been sure how reliable or otherwise it is. Throughout the war there appears to have been a small but steady trickle of German soldiers into the Netherlands where the Dutch interned them albeit in quite a relaxed manner. The numbers were into four figures by the end of the war. What few mentions I have found suggest that they were a mixed bunch - some being politically opposed to the German monarchy, some having moral or philosophical objections to the war, some being members of the self preservation society and a few being criminals possibly liable to punishment in Germany if they hadn't already deserted. These latter seem to have given the Dutch many problems. The Germans do appear to have requested their repatriation from time to time. As there were a few genuine German internees in the Netherlands (airmen, downed zeppelin crew, survivors from conflict at sea etc) the Dutch seem to have made some effort to keep them apart. This became a problem when the practice of exchanging POWs into the Netherlands began and the number of German POWs so exchanged began to rise. I have the impression that if one of these deserter internees decided to take himself off to the USA (or anywhere else) the Dutch authorities would not be over zealous in stopping him.

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As always centurion, I greatly appreciate your comments. After reading, I asked myself a couple of questions. If life was so good in the Netherlands in those days, why not wait out the end of the war ???. Another one, how could he hide on board a vessel until it reaches the US without being noticed ???? Then, how to explain to the US authorities that he was a deserter and was asking for "political asylum" ????

Joe

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As always centurion, I greatly appreciate your comments. After reading, I asked myself a couple of questions. If life was so good in the Netherlands in those days, why not wait out the end of the war ???. Another one, how could he hide on board a vessel until it reaches the US without being noticed ???? Then, how to explain to the US authorities that he was a deserter and was asking for "political asylum" ????

Joe

I don't know if its the same man but somewhere I've read about a German deserter in the Netherlands being sent funds and a ticket (for passage in a US ship) from 'sympathisers' in the US. If this was the case then he wouldn't need to hide on board if he managed to get on without alerting the Dutch authorities (who might in any case be glad to see him go). His trip might generally have been 'smoothed' for him.

As for conditions in the Netherlands - if he couldn't obtain paid employment in the Netherlands (not particularly noted for its mining) he'd be on very basic rations. 'Ordinary' British and German Internees often got help from their governments, not something he could count on. Times were hard in general and he'd be near the bottom of the heap in the Netherlands for hand outs. Waiting out the war doesn't gain him much - he still probably couldn't go home and the Dutch could legitimately say 'on your bike' or even deport him to Germany where he'd be about as popular as a blue shirt in the Celtic stand (pick your own football metaphor of choice).

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You're probably right centurion or his claim of being a "Socialist" or having "Socialist leaning" could account for some mysterious help he received from organizations in the Netherlands.

Joe

As for the blue shirt in a Celtic stand, I'm a bit lost here. I guess it's similar to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey at a Montreal Canadiens' game,without the violence........ Remember this is a hockey country.

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