Danes in the german army 1914-1918

Senest ændret den 15. oktober 2016 11:35

Chapter 10 in “Scandinavia in the First World War” (2012)

Fighting for the Kaiser

The Danish minority in the German army, 1914—18

Claus Bundgård Christensen, Ph.D.

The Battle of Mons in August 1914 occupies an important place in military history because it was the first battle Britain fought in the Great War. A less well-known fact is that in the German regiments that were advancing against accurate rifle fire, many of the soldiers regarded themselves as Danes.

In the First World War, around 26,000 Danish-speaking German citizens from Northern Schleswig fought in the German army, because of Denmark’s defeat and the annexation of Schleswig-Holstein by Prussia in the Second War of Schleswig in 1864. As a result, a large group of Danes became German citizens, and were thus obliged to do military service in the German army.

Denmark before and after the war in 1864 in which she lost the duchies Schleswig and Holstein.

These soldiers called themselves ‘Danes’ or ‘Danish Northern Schleswigers’. Their native tongue was Danish and the thousands of letters they sent back from the front were written in Danish. The written language is important in the present context because it reveals a great deal about the men’s national orientation.

From the 1880s German was the only language taught in public schools. When soldiers in the German army wrote home in Danish, they did so because they came from families who by private initiative and as a reaction against Germanization had taught their children to write in Danish (1).

Hertugdømmerne efter 1864
The duchies of Schleswig and Holstein became german in 1864. In 1920 the northern part of Schleswig returned to Denmark after a referendum (north of the white dotted line).

When Northern Schleswig was reunited with Denmark after a referendum in 1920 it had a population of around 163,000. The majority lived in rural communities and worked in agriculture in a region dominated by medium-sized farms; the remainder in numerous, scattered villages and small market towns. The largest city in the region was Flensburg (which remained German after the referendum) with around 60,000 inhabitants.

Since the majority of the Danish soldiers came from rural backgrounds, their experience of the war in many ways resembled that of men from other rural areas of Germany.

Although relations between the German authorities and the Danish-speaking population in Schleswig had worsened in the pre-war period due to the German hard-line policy towards the Danish minority, members of that minority could still express their political views relatively freely until the outbreak of war. For example, the Danes were represented by their own MPs in the Reichstag.

The Danes, especially the soldiers at the front, often felt they were treated worse by the military authorities than the German soldiers because they belonged to the Danish minority. In some cases this was true.

In general, however, there is no doubt that the Danes were treated considerably better than the soldiers from Alsace-Lorraine. (2)

This article investigates the Danish-speaking soldiers’ war experiences, integration into the German army, and conduct as a minority fighting for a fatherland that was not their own. Because the German army archives were destroyed in a fire during the Second World War, this study draws not only on the limited surviving military sources in the military archives, but also on evidence from the German civilian authorities, letters from the front, and memoirs.

In an army of millions of men, 26,000 soldiers is not a significant number. Yet it is still possible to follow the Danes as a group because of the structure of the German army, where regiments and battalions where raised on a regional basis. Between 1914-18 the majority of Danes served in the three infantry regiments: the 84th Regiment, the 86th Füsilier Regiment, and the 86th Reserve Regiment, with battalions drawn from cities with a dominant or considerable Danish population. Germany was divided into twenty-four army corps districts of which the IX Corps covered Schleswig. The 84th and 86th Regiments belonged to the 18th Infantry Division, the 86th Reserve Regiment to the 18th Reserve Division . (3)

The men were aged between 17 and 49. (4) Around 4,000 of their number were killed and more than 6,000 were wounded, the majority of the dead and wounded being in their early twenties since the older men were often to be found serving behind the front, as territorial reservists, or on the less dangerous Eastern Front. The Northern Schleswig regiments almost exclusively fought on the Western Front and participated in many of the major battles, including Verdun, Somme, Arras, and Cambrai.

Rigsdagsmand H.P. Hanssen
Hans Peter Hanssen (MdR)

At the outbreak of war, the reaction in Northern Schleswig was in many ways similar to that in other parts of the German countryside. (5) The Danish minority’s reaction to mobilization and war was predominantly one of anxiety and sorrow, very different from the supposed Augusterlebnis, or Spirit of 1914, said to have gripped the country. (6) In his diary, the (Danish) MP H. P. Hanssen, described a typical response in the streets of the city of Aabenraa on 1 August 1914:

“I shall never forget the picture: pale, serious men, dully resigned; women in tears; young couples clinging to each other oblivious to their surroundings; sobbing children.”

When the battalions started to leave Northern Schleswig the sceptical attitude still dominated. When the 2nd Battalion, 84th Regiment marched out of the predominantly Danish city of Haderslev, the atmosphere was far from enthusiastic. One of the soldiers in the battalion, Peter Frank, remembered that when the commander held a speech the soldiers answered with a weak ‘Hurrah’. The civilians watched in silence, the only exception being some young people from a largely German local school. (8)

Regiment 84 på Haderslev banegård 8. august 1914
Regiment 84 leaving the railway station in Haderslev august 8th 1914

It is characteristic that the most enthusiastic reaction in Northern Schleswig was to be found in German-dominated Flensburg. Here a more excited crowd followed the 86th and 86th Reserve Regiments. Many had tears in their eyes, but the soldiers and civilians were singing German songs and hurrahing. (9)

There were several reasons for the widespread negative attitude toward the war and military service. One very important reason was the many practical problems the war raised in rural areas, where farmers and farm labourers had to leave their homes midharvest.

This was not a specifically Danish wartime experience, of course; on the contrary, it was shared by many other soldiers from rural backgrounds. (10)

Although the relations between the German- and Danish- minded populations were relatively calm in the years before the First World War, tensions between the German authorities and the Danish minority increased in the period. The German hard line towards the Danes manifested itself in a wide range of irritations, from economic restrictions on farmers to a series of bans targeting the Danish community. (11) In the spring and summer of 1914 the atmosphere was especially tense because of the large-scale German celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1864 victory over Denmark in Northern Schleswig. These celebrations left the Danish minority in a rather gloomy mood.

The relations between the local authorities and the Danes in Northern Schleswig deteriorated even further in the days following the mobilization. Almost immediately after the declaration of a state of siege, the military command— the General Command in Altona— ordered a wave o f arrests of members of the Danish minority in Northern Schleswig, targeting prominent men in the community.

The Germans regarded 118 o f the prisoners as politically suspect.

The remaining 172 were Danes who were arrested because of their knowledge of coastal waters; their arrest was seen as a security precaution, because it was feared that they might assist the British Navy or help deserters to cross the border to Denmark.

Civilian prisoners marching under guard in the town of Sønderborg august 1914

The German action did nothing to improve the tense atmosphere or the Danes’ mistrust of the authorities. To make things even worse, all Danish newspapers published in Germany were closed. The lack of trusted newspapers resulted in rumours about assaults and crimes carried out by the Germans. (12) The rumours were false, the newspapers were reopened, and the prisoners were released unharmed after a few weeks, but the distrustful German attitude followed the Danish Northern Schleswigers to the front and consequently marked these soldiers’ wartime experiences.

Although the Danish minority in general had few positive expectations of the German state and the German army, it is never the less possible to find a mixed attitude among the Danish men.

The most outspokenly negative reaction to mobilization was to be found among the older group of soldiers who were married and often owned a farm. They were established members of society whose status rested on marriage and property. (13)

The farmer Hans Petersen got the news about the mobilization when he was working in his cornfield and a neighbour shouted something to him. He could not hear him properly and only caught the word “mobil”. He immediately understood what had happened and explained later that the word had a choking effect as if something disgusting had just hit him. (14)

Another typical reaction is to be found in a letter of 2 August 1914 in which Peter Kræmer described the situation in Northern Schleswig to his sister in Denmark a day before he himself had to join his regiment:

“This morning around 30 from our town left. Almost all married men like Mathias Mygind, Anders Højer, and so forth . You can well imagine the reaction among women and children. One should hardly  think that something like this could be possible in our enlightened times. I do not understand how anyone can take responsibility for this.” (15)

9. jægerbataillons 3. kompagni på march fra Noyon til Dives omkring 1. april 1915. Adskillige sønderjyder gjorde tjeneste her ved jægerne fra Ratzeburg, bl.a. Peter Kræmer. Udover Ravnsgaard fra Christiansfeld, som har sendt dette kort hjem, nævner foruden Kræmer H. Kock, Mølby og H. Moos, Nybøl.
9th. Jägerbataillons 3rd cmp on the march from Noyon to Dives in april 1915. Peter Kræmer served in this regiment and is one of the soldiers on the photo.

A thorough study of the reactions of Danish soldiers to the mobilization and military service shows a more ambiguous reaction than the sort seen in H. P. Hanssen’s diary. The Danes’ reactions to the war also depended on the soldiers’ age and financial and social position. The younger soldiers often reacted more positively: the majority of the young men under 30 years did not have a wife, children, or a farm to care about. For this group the war and military service offered prestige and a chance to see something of the world.

Although they regarded themselves as Danes, and certainly did not have any particularly negative conceptions about France or Great Britain, many o f them looked forward to their service with a mixture of excitement and fear. Anders Jensen, who was wounded, wrote to his brother from hospital in Essen in November 1914 admitting that the summer had not been that bad ‘because it was a bit adventurous and interesting’. (16)Others described a cheerful atmosphere, with many young Danish soldiers happy to be in the company of their friends and to get away from work and home.

This positive reaction was in many cases strengthened in the first days after joining their regiments because of the opportunity to drink beer and visit restaurants in bigger cities like Flensburg. (17)

One of the most important factors in shaping the soldiers’ wartime experiences was the composition of their company and regiment.

For Danes in the German army it was crucial to be together with other Danish-speaking soldiers. Although men from the Danish minority spoke German very well, the issue of Danishspeaking comrades dominates letters from the front, diaries, and memoirs.

Just how important it was is evident from the sensitive moment when the men were placed in their different sections.(18) At this point the Danes often approached NCOs or junior officers to ask whether they could be put together with soldiers who spoke their own language. In many cases their request was accepted.

In situations where the response was negative or where the soldiers found themselves in regiments where they were the only representative from the Danish minority, the men would often go to great lengths to make contact with other Danish-speaking soldiers.

Thus it was not uncommon for men to leave their sections at the front, with or without permission, when they heard of neighbouring regiments where they knew there were Danes. In other cases they met Danish-speaking soldiers by chance: such random encounters were very often highlighted in both letters and memoirs. A typical example is to be found in Jacob Bergholdt’s memoirs. He was in the 222nd Regiment and participating in the Battle of Verdun. During heavy fighting, a soldier from another regiment jumped down into his machine-gun nest. They started to talk in German, but Bergholdt could tell from his accent that the man came from Northern Schleswig, so he asked if he would prefer to speak Danish.

The soldier’s reaction is a good example of how much such encounters were appreciated. When the man realized that Bergholdt was a Dane he threw his arms around him:

“I can still see the man before me. He was not very big, skinny and almost livid in the face. His uniform after a tour in the trenches was filthy from top to bottom. He was in short a sorry sight and, to use a German expression, ‘abgekampff [worn-out]. But the sound of his mother tongue had for a brief moment cheered him up.” (19)

I.J.I. Bergholt & comrades

For soldiers in regiments raised in Northern Schleswig it was more or less a matter of course that many or even the majority of their comrades could speak Danish. Exactly how many of the soldiers in the 84th and 86th Regiments and the 86th Reserve Regiment would have regarded themselves as Danes varied according to the period. The highest concentration was to be found in the summer and autumn of 1914.

The exact percentage of Danish-speaking soldiers in the three regiments is not known because of archival losses, but in letters and postcards the men very often list the names of Danishspeaking friends in their units. From such sources it is possible to give a fairly accurate estimate of the percentage of Danes in these regiments.

In August 1914 the MP H.P. Hanssen estimated that around 50 per cent of the men in the 86th Regiment were Danes. (20) In the two other regiments for 1914—18 the percentages of Danes were between 10—60 per cent. The highest concentrations were to be found in sections raised in the Danish-dominated cities of Sønderborg, Haderslev and Flensburg.

09 Marchkort til Moulin mindre
Map of FR86’s route august-september 1914.

During 1914 the regiments were involved in the Battle of Mons in August and a few weeks later in the First Battle of the Marne. On the 6 September, the 86th Füsilier Regiment lost around 700 men in the battle around Esternay, many of whom were Danish-speaking soldiers. (21)

Reg 86 i Belgien Chateau Thierry 1
FR86 on the march at Chateau Thierry september 5th 1914

In the following year the 86th Reserve Regiment took heavy causalities in the Battle of Soissons and 86th Füsilier Regiment in trench fighting at Moulin-sous-Touvent. (22) The casualties in these early battles had to be replaced with reservists and volunteers who often came from other parts of Germany than Northern Schleswig.

14 86ere Skyttegrav Moulin
Danish speaking soldiers from FR86 in a trench at Moulin-sous-Touvent 1915. On the back side it reads: “Everyone in the picture are gone – fallen or taken prisoner, nobody knows …”

From late 1914 and onwards the declining number of Danish-speaking soldiers in the regiments is a returning issue in letters from the front. The lack of Danish-speaking comrades was often described as a problem. From 1916 onwards the German army in general tried to maintain the regional composition of its regiments, but the numbers of Danes in these three particular regiments were never as high as in the summer of 1914.

The Danes’ national identity manifested itself in many situations. One of the most visible was the use of national symbols such as the Dannebrog, the red-and-white Danish national flag. Many soldiers carried a Dannebrog in the pocket of their uniform, and in group photographs the soldiers sometimes posed with it. (23)

Pictures were in general an important medium in displaying national identity. In the regional archives in Southern Jutland there are numerous examples of group photographs where soldiers carry placards w ith messages written in Danish— the most common message simply read ‘Nordens Sønner (‘Sons o f the North ’)— or held examples of the Danish minority’s own newspapers.

Soldater med danske aviser
Soldiers posing with danish newspapers

Holidays such as Christmas were also typical occasions when national identity was on display. Danish-speaking soldiers often chose to celebrate with other Danes if at all possible, and Christmas trees in trenches and barracks were often decorated with the Dannebrog. (24)

Despite the fact that many of these soldiers expressed a longing to be with other Danish-speaking men, they also established positive relations with ethnic German soldiers. To survive trench warfare on the Western Front, friendship was one of the most important coping strategies. (25) Especially for those men who transferred to units with few or no other Danish-speaking soldiers, it is obvious that the men established positive contacts with the ethnic Germans in their squad or section without any great problem.

Although the regiments with many Danes performed relatively well on the battlefield and the 18 th and 18 th Reserve Divisions were considered reliable, the Germans in many cases mistrusted the Danish soldiers’ loyalty. Danes were eligible for promotion to NCO ranks, military law did not recognize ethnic distinctions, and the Danish-speaking soldiers received the same training and equipment as ethnic German soldiers, yet despite this German officers repeatedly demonstrated their mistrust of the Danes under their command— a mistrust that was rooted in the b elief that men from the Danish minority were more unreliable than their German comrades.

One such occasion unfolded in the aftermath of a French attack on the 86th Regiment at Moulin on 6 June 1915, a day known in the official regimental history as the ‘Black Day at Moulin’. (26) In one day the French army managed to press 50—500 metres into the German trench system along a front almost a kilometre long. The Germans lost more than 1,000 men in the day’s action.

Kort over skyttegravene ved Moulin-sous-Touvent 6.-16. juni 1915. De tyske skyttegrave er markeret med blåt, de franske med rødt (Les armées françaises dans la Grande guerre, Tome III, Carte10)
(Les armées françaises dans la Grande guerre, Tome III, Carte10)

In the official regimental history, the author, the former company commander Wilhelm Jürgensen, explained the defeat as the result of Danish espionage. Although Jürgensen admitted that he had no real evidence of this, he claimed that information about the German trenches and positions had been given to spies in Denmark. (27)

Naturally, this does not suffice as evidence of German mistrust since the regimental history was published many years after the war, but it was not an isolated example. The Black Day at Moulin also resulted in similar examples of German wariness in the summer of 1915. In July 1915, IX Corps contacted the local civilian authorities in Northern Schleswig with information about the conduct of Danish-speaking soldiers after the French attack. After a large group of soldiers had surrendered, men from the 86th Regiment removed national symbols from their uniforms and mocked the German nation. The French treated and welcomed these soldiers as their brothers, and some of the French officers even addressed them in Danish.

The Deputy General Command of IX Corps launched an investigation, conducted by the civilian authorities in Northern Schleswig. Their investigations concluded that of the soldiers who had surrendered, only a minority were Danish-speaking: thus the response from the highest civil authority in Northern Schleswig, the Landrat, was plain, and it did not correspond with mistrust of the military authorities. The Landrat, Hugo von Löw, stated that the investigation was an unfair attempt to blame the Danes for a military defeat and that the Danish-speaking population of Northern Schleswig never would commit such treason. (28)

The investigation had no consequences for the Danish minority, but it is a clear example of how in some cases the military authorities were openly mistrustful of this group of soldiers.

It has been suggested that ethnic minorities fighting in the German army during the First World War were more inclined to go over to the enemy. (29) Certainly some 4,000 Danes in the German army became prisoners of war, and while because of archival losses it is impossible to determine the exact and general circumstances under which they surrendered, it seems those who did often displayed a positive attitude towards surrender, evident in their letters home.

Høpreskommando Aurillac_s_78
Danes from North Schleswig as POWs in France

One reason was the camps established by the French and later the British. In August 1914, the French professor and Schleswig expert Paul Verrier contacted the French minister o f war and explained the situation o f the Danish-speaking soldiers. He suggested that France ought to do something for this particular group. The minister agreed and in 1915 the French government established a special prisoner-of-war camp in Aurillac for the Danes from Schleswig.

Here they received better treatment than in the normal camps and enjoyed a far greater degree of freedom. A year later a similar camp was established in Feltham in England.

Danish football team in POW camp Feltham 1918

In both camps the soldiers had access to libraries and, especially in England, priests from Denmark, who were active in what is best described as D anish agitation and propaganda— admission to the camp was decided by the ‘General Assembly, in which one of the priests and a group of POWs decided if the prisoner in question really belonged to the Danish minority in Germany. (30)

The exact number of POWs in the two camps is not known, but it was around 1,100.

The existence of the Feltham and Aurillac camps was known by many soldiers at the front. Kresten Andresen wrote in a letter of April 1916 that ‘It might be fun to come home on one of Paul Verrier’s boats’ .

The Germ an authorities were of course not best pleased about the camps, consistently calling them ‘traitor camps’, and threatened a variety of consequences such as withholding financial support for relatives of the POWs there. (32)

In 1919 more than 2,000 Danish POWs were repatriated to Denmark with the help of the Danish government. Among them were former inmates of Aurillac and Feltham. That same year they returned from Denmark to Germany, where the German authorities treated them on equal terms with other veterans. The reason for this restrained German reaction probably had to do with the situation in Schleswig in 1919, where circumstances had changed considerably since the end of the war. In 1919 a referendum was on its way and the political situation very different from the wartime period.

The German army was always alert to desertions amongst the Danes. It was relatively easy to cross the border between Germany and neutral Denmark, and when a German soldier deserted and crossed the border the Danish authorities would not send him back.

However, in 1914-15 very few Danes from Northern Schleswig fled to safety in Denmark. The reasons were partly practical— many expected the war to be over quickly— and partly political. The politicians who represented the Danish minority in Germany sent an unmistakable message in August 1914 that the Danes from Northern Schleswig should stay and do their duty, a stance that was generally accepted by the Danish minority. (33)

In 1916 the Northern Schleswig regiments participated in the Battle of Verdun, where the 84th Regiment suffered heavy losses. (34) The same year the 86th Füsilier and 86th Reserve Regiment took part in both the First and Second Battles of the Somme. In July the 86th Füsilier Regiment alone lost more than 1,300 men; in August the regiment returned to the battlefield, where it sustained more than 1,900 casualties, many of whom were Danish-speaking. (35)

The terrible battles, the losses, and the prospect of no end to the war eroded the loyalty towards the German army. From 1916, desertion became more common than before. During the First World War, some 2,500 men illegally crossed the border to Denmark as deserters, but not all of them were Danish-speaking men from Northern Schleswig a number that also included ethnic Germans.

It was fairly easy to cross the border since a network of helpers existed on both sides, and it is clear that a more positive conception of desertion developed in the last three years of the war— a conception very different to the one common to ethnic German soldiers, for whom the subject was taboo. (36)

Grænsen ved Vr. Vedsted fotograferet fra den danske side
Danish-german border at Vester Vedsted

Options and consequences regarding desertion were openly discussed between Danish-speaking soldiers at the front. There was never any consensus on the subject. Some thought they should stay since desertion could result in all leave being cancelled at the front. (37) Others were more positive, saying that they had already done more than their duty to the Kaiser and the Imperial German Army.

Although there was no agreement on the subject, the soldiers in general regarded the choice to be a personal one, and thus deserters were by no means excluded from the Danish-speaking soldiers’ community during or after the war.

An example o f this comes from the 86th Regiment. Just before going on leave, Peter Toft told his Danish-speaking comrades that when he was back in Northern Schleswig he intended to cross the border into Denmark. His lieutenant, who also belonged to the Danish minority, knew that Peter Toft would not return and just asked him to say hello ‘over there’. (38)

After the war it was not uncommon for members of the veterans associations to reminisce in yearbooks and the like about how they had tricked the German border patrols and escaped to safety in Denmark. (39)

An important reason for the problems between the German military authorities and the Danes was language. The army’s single language of command was German and therefore many regiments forbade the use of Danish. The MP H.P. Hanssen investigated the treatment of the Danish-speaking soldiers on a tour of inspection in Germany in the summer of 1915, and his report to the Ministry of War showed that in twenty-two regiments in Germany the commandant had banned the use of Danish. (40)

It is difficult to gauge whether such bans were the result of mistrust or of more practical considerations, given that most officers did not understand Danish. Language bans were frequent in the early years of the war, but were largely abandoned from 1916 on. The Danish-speaking soldiers responded very negatively to such bans, and complained on numerous occasions to their politicians or higher-ranking officers. Their reaction became even more negative when divisional or regimental commanders tried to forbid the writing of letters in Danish because of the difficulties in carrying out censorship since very few censors were able to read Danish.

Ullerup-soldater 6a44-065
Danes from the municipality of Ullerup near Sønderborg 1917/1918

In general the Danes saw such measures as German harassment and discrimination. The reaction among the soldiers was almost always the same: they simply ignored orders and continued to write home in their own language. The soldier Thorvald Dau felt insulted, and stated in a letter— in Danish— from the front that he would ignore the order: ‘It is enough that I am doing my duty as a soldier’. (41)

How typical Thorvald Dau’s reaction was is evident from the many thousands of letters from Danish-speaking soldiers: very few letters from this group were written in German.

When hostilities ceased in November 1918, most Danishspeaking soldiers in the German army were happy to go home. Although patriotic sentiment may well be important in generating good performances on the battlefield, the Danes still performed relatively well. (42)

As already noted, the divisions that comprised troops from Northern Schleswig were generally rated highly: in 1918, US military intelligence undertook a study of the German divisions fighting on the Eastern and Western Fronts that showed that during the war the 18 th Division had been rated as first class, and it ‘has always passed as being a good division’. (43) The performance of the 18 th Reserve Division was never rated as highly as its sister division, but ‘The morale of the division may be considered as passable’. (44)

In many cases the Danish-speaking soldiers mistrusted the German army, and the army often mistrusted the Danes. Why, in spite of this, the Danish-speaking soldiers acquitted themselves well on the battlefield can perhaps best be explained by political and psychological factors. In the first years of the war most Danes in Northern Schleswig supported a political line of cooperation with Germany in which military service played an important part.

Another reason why almost no Danish-speaking soldiers escaped to safety by crossing the border to Denmark was the widespread expectation that the war would be short. In the last years of the war it became more common, and acceptable, to desert to Denmark when on leave in Northern Schleswig. Although it was relatively safe to cross the border, the numbers who did so were still relatively modest.

An important reason here was German threats of what would happen to deserters who fled to neutral countries such as Denmark: they would lose their right to return home after the war. To the very end of the war this threat meant that relatively few Danish-speaking soldiers illegally crossed the border, although the number of deserters were higher among the Danish-speaking soldiers than their German peers. In units with many Danes, factors such as patriotic loyalty to Germany did not play any significant role, as many were fighting with soldiers from Northern Schleswig in a territorially conscripted force.

This deployment policy resulted in German units with strong primary groups that successfully integrated Danish-speaking soldiers into the army. Although from 1915 more Danes than before served in units with a German majority, many of the Danish-speaking soldiers were in squads and sections with other Danes or Germans from Schleswig, where they also were integrated into the primary groups.

Although their wartime experiences were often conflict-ridden, the study of the Danish minority in the German army shows that patriotic commitment proved not to be essential in generating compliance during wartime.

(1) Claus Bundgård Christensen, Danskere på vestfronten 1914-1918 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2009).

(2) For the soldiers from Alsace Lorraine, see Alan Kramer, ‘Wackes at war: Alsace-Lorraine and the failure of the German national mobilization, 1914—1918’, in John Horne (ed.), State, society and mobilization in Europe during the First World War (Cambridge: CUP, 1997).

(3) Hermann Cron, Geschichte des Deutschen Heeres im Weltkriege 1914—1918 (Berlin: Militärverlag Karl Siegismund, 1937).

(4) Christensen 2009, 12.

(5) Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit 0 /19 14 — Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany (Cambridge: CUP, 2002); Benjamin Ziemann, Front und Heimat: Ländliche Kriegserfahrungen im südlichen Bayern 1914—1923 (Essen: Klartext, 1997).

(6) Christensen 2009, 24.

(7) H. P. Hanssen, Fra krigstiden — Dagbogsoptegnelser (Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1925), “Aldrig glemmer jeg billedet: Blege, alvorlige mænd, dumpt resignerende, kvinder opløst I gård, unge par, som uden at ænse omgivelserne holdt hinanden fast omslyngende, hulkende børn.”

(8) DSK Årbog (196 5), 98.

(9) Stadtarchiv Flensburg, XII Hs-Handschriften, Flensburg als Garnison.

(10) See Ziemann 1997.

(11) Christensen 2009.

(12) René Rasmussen, ‘Sønderjylland ved krigens udbrud 1914’, in Inge Adriansen & Hans Schulz Hansen (eds.), Sønderjyderne og den store krig (Historisk samfund for Sønderjylland, 2006), 59-76.

(13) Christensen 2009, 27.

(14) Hans Petersen, Et Aar i krig (Haderslev: Andelsbogtrykkeriet, 1920),

(15) Lokalhistorisk Forening for Øster Lindet Sogn, Rødding, Brd. Kræmers privatarkiv, d.2.8 1914. ‘Dags morgen rejste allerede ca. 30 her fra byen. Det var næsten udelukkende gifte mænd som Mathias Mygind, Anders Højer og så fremdeles. Du kan vel omtrent tænke dig, hvordan kvinder og børn forholder sig. Man skulle næsten ikke holde sådan noget for muligt i vor oplyste tid. Jeg forstår ikke, at nogen kan påtage sig ansvaret derfor’.

(16) Christensen 2009, p. 28. ‘For der var jo dog sådan lidt eventyrligt og interessant ved det, som stod for’.

(17) Ibid. p 28.

(18) Ibid. 140-2.

(19) I. J. I. Bergholdt, Pligtens vej. En sønderjyde i 1. Verdenskrig (Haderslev: Historisk samfund for Sønderjylland, 1969), 76. ‘Jeg kan se manden for mig endnu. Han var ikke ret stor, mager og nærmest gusten i ansigtet. Uniformen var efter en tur gennem løbegraven tilsølet fra øverst til nederst. Han var kort sagt et ynkeligt syn og for at bruge et tysk indtryk- “abgekämpft” . Dog havde modersmålets toner for en kort tid kvikket ham op.’

(20) Christensen 2009, 150.

(21) Ibid. 81— 91; Wilhelm Jürgensen, Das Füsilier Regiment ‘Königin Nr. 86 im Weltkriege (Berlin: Verlag von Gerhard Stalling, 1925), 32-37.

(22) Friderich Klähn, Geschichte des Reserve Infanterie Regiments Nr. 86 im Weltkriege (Berlin: Verlag von Gerhard Stalling, 1925), 53—66.

(23) For examples, see Christensen 2009, 284 & 291.

(24) Ibid. 146.

(25) For coping, see Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War. Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914—1918 (Cambridge: CUP, 2008), 85-108.

(26) Jürgensen 1925, 64—75.

(27) Ibid. 74.

(28) Landesarchiv Schlesw ig-Holstein, Abt.3 0 3 / 1 7 1 1, 1. A rm ee, Arm ee Oberkommando, v. Kühl, d.21.7 1915.

(29) Benjamin Ziemann , ‘Fahnenflucht im deutschen Heer 1914—1918 ’ , Militärgeschichtlichen Mitteillungen (1996), 93—130.

(30) Landsarkivet for Sønderjylland, Aabenraa, Feltham-arkivet, Breve fra A.Troensegaard-Hansen, November 1916; René Rasmussen, ‘Sønderjyder i allieret krigsfangenskab’, in Adriansen & Schulz Hansen 2006 (above, n. 12).

(31) Claus Bundgård Christensen, “‘Gud naade os der skal med”. Kresten Andresen og Første Verdenskrig’, in Claus Bundgård Christensen (ed.), Krestens breve og dagbøger. En dansker på vestfronten i Første Verdenskrig (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2012), 13, ‘Det kunde være morsomt at skulle opleve at komme med Poul Verriers skib hjem’.

(32) Landsarkivet for Sønderjylland, Sønderborg landråd, ks. 694, Korpsverordnungsblatt für das IX. Armekorps, 4.5. 1918.

(33) Christensen 2009, 264-77.

(34) Ibid. 235-47; Hülsemann, Geschichte des Infanterie Regiments von Manstein (Schleswigsches) Nr. 84 1914-1918 (Berlin: Oldenburg, 1929), 21.

(35) Christensen 2009, 257.

(36) Christoph Jahr, Gewöhnlichen Soldaten. Desertion undDeserture im deutschen und britischen Heer 1914—1918 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996).

(37) Christensen 2009, 280.

(38) Ibid. 268; for another example, see Landsarkivet for Sønderjylland, Hansen, Hans R, gårdmand, 1914-18.

(39) DSK Årbog (1962), 106.

(40) Hanssen 1925, 127.

(41) Landsarkivet for Sønderjylland, Dau, Nicolai, RA0134, 1913-1918, breve, August 1914.

(42) O n patriotic commitment and performance on the battlefield, see A lex a n ­der Watson, ‘Fighting for Another Fatherland: The Polish Minority in the German Army, 1914—1918’, English Historical Review, 126/522 (2011), 1137-65.

(43) Histories o f two hundred a n d fifty-one divisions o f the German Army which participated in the war (1914—1918) (London: London Stamp Exchange, 1989), 287.

(44) Ibid. 291.

From: Scandinavie in the First World War. Studies in War Expierience of the Northern Neutrals. Edited by Claes Ahlund. Nordic Academic Press, Lund, 2012.

Brought with permission from the author.

3 tanker om “Danes in the german army 1914-1918”

  1. Sehr geehrter Herr Hansen,
    Ich bin aus Texas, aber der Großvater meiner Frau diente in der 10. Batterie der 17. Reserve-Feldartillerie, die zur 17. Reserve-Division gehörte. Er wurde in Dassaw geboren, lebte aber 1914 in Schwerin. Ich habe die Geschichte der RFAR 17 ins Englische übersetzt. In dem Buch gibt es viele Verweise auf Holsteiner.
    Wir planen eine Reise im Mai, um einige der Orte zu sehen, an denen er gedient hat. Wir haben ein gutes Foto der 10. Batterie, die nach März 1917 gemacht wurde, und auch einige kleinere Fotos.
    Wenn Sie eine Kopie haben möchten, sende ich sie gerne zu. Ich verstehe die Probleme mit Übersetzen. Einige der Wörter übersetzen nicht und manchmal muss man aus eine Deutsche Satz drei englische Sätze machen.

    Randal Gilbert
    Tyler, Texas

  2. I have an original letter written from one of my predecessors, which I helped my dad translate; as he wasn’t familiar with a lot of military terminology. He’s a little vague, as we assume he was trying to avoid sensory of his letter. He was writing his family after being taken as POW after being wounded by a grenade and taken prisoner by French troops. He and his brother served in the Western front, where is brother was wounded and later returned to service; and then both he and his brother were captured after his wounding. He made the observation that the French troops treated them better than the German POWs after identifying them as Danish. He laments how many young men have died from his hometown. He spent the remainder of the war working at a French depot and railyard. Is there a database where I can enter his name and find out specifically what unit he and his brother served in?

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Sønderjyderne og Den store krig 1914 – 1918