6 Comments

Ancestor in German Army II

This is an update. Back on Apr 4th I posted the following:

I did a little research on my great-grandfather on my mother’s side. He was born in Poland when it was not Poland but part of Germany. He served in the German Army in the Herzog Von Holstein Regiment in 1895-96. He came to America shortly after his service. I have his discharge papers and that enabled me to find out his unit’s history. More to come as I find out more.

Since that time I have been able to find out that great-grandfather Zuromski (Zoromski) was from a town called Karczy a town SW of modern day Gdansk (Danzig in grandpa’s day). Back in grandpa’s time the place had two names, the Polish one (Kartuzy) and the German one (Karthaus). The name of the province was Pomerania.  After WW1 the nation of the Poland was reestablished and had grandpa been born 20 years later he would have been in the Polish Army rather than the German.

Where Grandpa's Regiment was recruited.

Nevertheless, the area that grandpa was from had been Germany probably for a couple of centuries and it contained many ethnic Germans as well as the Polish population. My mother told me that her grandparents spoke both German and Polish which makes sense since their area of origin had both linguistic groups in large numbers.

Great-grandpa Teofil Zuromski served in a time of peace. Although I am not certain, the fact he served only two years seems to be an indication that he was a reservist in the Herzog Von Holstein Infantry Regiment. Mandatory military service of this type would have been common in most of the European nations at this time. The red part of the map shows the recruitment state of the Herzog Von Holstein Infantry Regiment. The name of the state is SchleswigHolstein and it is the most northern of the German states.

I am uncertain how grandpa ended up in an infantry regiment recruited in a German state considerably east of where he was born. I have to surmise that he must have migrated to the area and thus was drafted as a reservist.

I do not have any information on him while he lived in Germany in Schleswig-Holstein. I have only his discharge papers that contain his place of birth, dates of service and name of infantry regiment.

My research shows that grandpa’s parade uniform would have looked similar to the picture below.

The gent in the middle is West Prussian and models grandpa's uniform.

The uniforms of the time period were still a bit colorful. The British for example did not abandon their famous red coats until the 1880’s. In the picture the fellow on the left is Bavarian and he sports the sky blue uniform of the Napoleonic Wars. The fellow on the far right is a Prussian guardsman. All three wear the famous spiked helmet which did not fall out of favor until 1916 when the realities of trench warfare made it almost useless. Grandpa’s uniform would be similar to the guy in the middle.

All three of these gents are armed with what appears to be an early version of the famous Mauser. It’s impossible to tell which model grandpa might have been issued with but being a reservist he probably had the 1891 version of famous gun.

1891 Mauser

Shortly after grandpa’s service to the Kaiser he immigrated to America. It seems that all of my grandparents on both sides of my family immigrated to America at roughly the same time.

What’s more interesting they all seemed to come from different areas in Pomerania. I remember asking both my parents if they knew why their parents or grandparents left. The answer was to get away from the Kaiser’s Army.

However, I doubt that is true. When I asked these questions it was already the 1970’s well after WW1 and WW2 and my great-parents were either dead or unavailable (great-grandpa Zurmoski lived well into the 20th century but my mom never directly mentioned knowing him). During WW1 there was much anti-German sentiment. Sauerkraut became liberty cabbage and the German’s themselves were characterized as “Huns” because they invaded Belgium, a historical British ally. The entangling alliances of the period created WW1 but due to British propaganda the Germans got most of the blame. This made it tough on German-Americans and Polish-German Americans. In fact great-grandpa Zuromski had changed his name from Teofil to Charles in an effort to better fit into American culture and diffuse some of the general prejudice for immigrants. So I doubt they left because of military service. All the European countries had a reserve system and Europe was between wars when they left. The last major war was war was the brief Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and WW1 was still 15-20 years in the future. I think it is more likely they left Europe for America for the same reasons many did before them.

I remember my dad (the Roeder side of my family) telling me that two of his uncles were drafted in 1917. They were reluctant to go because they didn’t want to go to war against their cousins and they meant literal cousins. Unfortunately, I have been unable thus far to trace the Roeder side as well as the Zuromski side. I’ve heard that many German families living in Milwaukee felt the same way since most still had many relatives in Germany.

In any event great-grandpa Zuromski escaped the horrors of WW1. Had he stayed in his homeland his unit, the Herzog Von Holstein Infantry Regiment would have taken part in the following WW1 bloodbaths: 

During the opening phases of World War I, the 18th Infantry Division participated in the Battle of Liège, the Allied Great Retreat, the First Battle of the Marne, and the First Battle of the Aisne. In 1916, it saw action in the Somme, and in 1917 it was involved in the Battles of Arras and Passchendaele. In 1918, it participated in the German Spring Offensive and the subsequent Allied counteroffensives, including the Hundred Days Offensive. Allied intelligence rated it a first class division. 

6 comments on “Ancestor in German Army II

  1. This post caught my eye and interested me very much. I also have German ancestors that lived near the Polish border in Germany and survived World War II. Very good and interesting post.
    Judy
    Austin, Texas

  2. My mother is German. My father American military. I spent most of my childhood living in Germany – so I knew my German grandmother. And importantly, I have a copy of my grandfather’s Ahnenpass…which listed names, dates and locations for about 6 generations of his family. I lucked out. However, the German genealogy has proven very difficult for me so far. Not much on line. You almost have to travel there.
    Best regards, Judy

    • Nice. My grandfather died when I was nine and my dad’s memory of his grandfather was non-existent. I got a lead on ancestry.com and found him but was only able to go back to around the 1880’s when he came to America. Found out that my great grandmother though was from Pomerania. On my mom’s side (the Polish-German side) found out they were eastern Pomerania. Bottom line is I only knew 1 out 4 of my grandparents so that makes it tough. Thus far I’ve resisted paying more to ancestry to get to look at some European records. Doesn’t do you much good unless you know the town\parish anyway. Thanks for sharing your story. Very interesting.

  3. My father was in the German army I want to find out what unit he was in. Can any one help me.

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