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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Swiss Born Soldiers on both sides


BKK

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This is a topic which I have found LITTLE about, or little mentioned.

 

My Grandfather was born and grew up in St Gallen, Switzerland. His father was German and came from Ettenhiem, Germany. Switzerland did not change it's birth citizenship laws until the 1950's, so since his father was German, he to was still considered German. Family legend has it that he volunteered to serve for Germany, after his father told him to go fight.

 

I thought that his case might have been rare, but when I typed Schweiz (Switzerland) into the birthplace of this wounded/loss database http://des.genealogy.net/eingabe-verlustlisten/search?lang=en Nearly 3800 entries came up. Nearly 700 in his hometown.

 

Current Swiss articles on WW1 do not acknowledge Swiss fighting for Germany. They only seem to acknowledge Swiss fighting for the French (Which I am sure many did). https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/culture/the-great-war_swiss-tell-of-horror-in-the-trenches-of-1914-18/38189524#.W_cZDsTAZVs.gmail

 

In one passage from John Reich's "IRON REGIMENT" book there is a passage taken from Otto Lais' book in which he says that at the end of the war, Swiss Citizens were not being let back into the country if they fought for Germany.

 

My Grandfather fought with IR169, and IR111 through 1917 until the end of the war in the Argonne. In 1919 he went back home to Switzerland.

 

I would love to hear if anyone has something to add to this topic. Thank you!

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Hello,

Thanks for sharing that. I have a German identity disk named to Albert Staiger also from St Gallen, and serving with the Bavarian 20th I.R. I have now seen his name on your list which appears to state "gefallen". I don't seem to see his name on the German war graves site. Has anyone got any advice on furthering my research?

 

Many thanks,

 

Owain.

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The Baden units are all online. I have found about a dozen of my grandfathers records there from basic training to outprocess of the Army. 

 

https://www2.landesarchiv-bw.de/ofs21/olf/struktur.php?bestand=13908&sprungId=3474810&letztesLimit=suchen

 

I have not researched any Barvarian Units, but I believe all their records are still intact, and possibly online.

 

https://www.erster-weltkrieg.clio-online.de/site/lang__de-DE/40208788/default.aspx

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 5 years later...

Unfortunately missed this exhibition. But there is a book.

https://www.pr2.de/pressetext/3176/schweizer+maenner+im+grossen+krieg

Napoleon Museum Thurgau, entitled "We were there too - men from Switzerland and the Konstanz Regiment No. 114 in the war of 1914-1918", is dedicated to a forgotten chapter of European history: the war experiences of the more than 50,000 soldiers from Switzerland who fought on the German side between 1914 and 1918. 

 

https://amzn.eu/d/fKsDDzp

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Its a field not mentioned much, but those countries not at war joining up on both sides.

We all know about the Yanks, joining Canadian and British forces before they came into it. but many others joined Germany including many Sweds, Danes and Norwgians

Our own AIF had many from places like Finland in the ranks.

A check of the my DB of ALH units failed to find any Swiss, but I would not be surprised.

While serving with the UN in Bosnia I ran into blokes from strange countries like Iceland, and Mexico, so you never know who will turn up?

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1 hour ago, stevenbecker said:

Its a field not mentioned much, but those countries not at war joining up on both sides.

We all know about the Yanks, joining Canadian and British forces before they came into it. but many others joined Germany including many Sweds, Danes and Norwgians

Our own AIF had many from places like Finland in the ranks.

A check of the my DB of ALH units failed to find any Swiss, but I would not be surprised.

While serving with the UN in Bosnia I ran into blokes from strange countries like Iceland, and Mexico, so you never know who will turn up?

It is an interesting subject. I just wish it was a little more simple to get information on. I will keep trying. I guess I should start on the policy of the German Army conscription. Did they hunt down guys in other countries who were still technically "German",  despite being born in other countries. Laws were complicated then, and no birth right citizenship. At least in Switzerland's laws were strict.

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Mate,

Of cause in the 70's I served with a Swiss bloke, who had served in their Army, or at lest did his Military service before coming to Australia

The Swiss have a long History of serving other Countries around them, as mention Germany, and France, but also Italy and Austria

The different cantons each can speak these, so transtion to their Armies would not seam hard?

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5 hours ago, stevenbecker said:

serving other Countries around them

Not to mention the Vatican:).

GreyC

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16 hours ago, BKK said:

I just wish it was a little more simple to get information on.

A year or two ago I used the names in the Verlustlisten and searched for them in local Norwegian newspapers. There was substantially less to find than I had hoped, mostly short announcements that they had returned to serve, had been wounded, or died. IIRC at least one was a naturalised Norwegian and had grown up in Norway but had such strong feelings for Germany that he went back despite not being required to serve.

As soon as hostilities were officially declared, male citizens of Germany living abroad in many countries were detained and/or interned in order to prevent them from returning to join the military so even if Germany had tried to hunt them down (as you say) those efforts might have been in vain. The neutral countries might have provided the bulk of returning Germans, although if they came from the US they might have been detained by the British since I think they commonly traveled through Portsmouth to reach the continent.

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