Death cards were given to friends and family as a keepsake after a loved one died in service. They usually were religious and in Germany had either a Catholic or Lutheran theology in mind. German southern states like Bavaria were Catholic while the northern states were Lutheran.
Private Fuchs hailed from the south Bavarian village of Unterhohenstetten.
The cards are sentimental and religious and I think touching. See translation below.
Death card of Michael Fuchs. Michael was enlisted in the 11th Company of the 2nd Bavarian Landwehr Regiment. The Landwehr were a type of reservist.
I could make out some of the German words but am limited so I asked my friend Brittany who was a teacher in the local German Immersion School to give me a translation.
Here’s what she wrote:
This was difficult. Apparently this old script is called Fraktur, and it really throws a loop in the translation! I did the best I could… it seems to make sense… ha. Here goes:
A farmer from Unterhohenstetten (a place in Germany)
Owner of the Iron Cross
Who, in the fighting of the war in France, in Rheims, on the 7th of March, 1915 died a hero’s death.
He is at peace! Honor his memory!
Do not look for me on earth! I greet you from the stars!
O wife and beloved children of mine,
I will not come to you at home again
The last thought, the last picture,
Have hastened back to you.
As I die in enemy lands,
No one reached for my hand
As my eye was broken
I already saw the heavens opening.
All of you who have known and loved him in life, commemorate him with pious prayers.
My Jesus, be compassionate!
Sweet heart Jesu(s), be my love!
Sweet heart Mary, be my rescue (deliverer)!
Brittany went over the translation one more time and said she thought, “my eye was broken” is a figure of speech, something like “the light in my eyes is dimmed” or some other other death euphemism.
I think she is right and the difference is probably due to modern German versus the Bavarian German of a 100 years ago.
I belong to Ancestry.com so I ran a search for Private Fuchs. I was curious about how old he was when he died since there was not any birth date given on the card. The first entry that turned up is below:
||1 Nov 1884
||Saldenau Wolfstein Bayern (Bavaria)
|Type of Unit:
||Ersatztruppenteile der Reserve-Infanterie-Regimenter
||bayer. Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment No. 11 (Regensburg) Ersatz-Bataillon
I am relatively certain this Michael Fuchs is the same person on the death card. The birth place of Saldenau Wolfstein Bayern (Bavaria) is in southern Bavaria and the infantry regiment Private Fuchs was in (Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment No. 11 (Regensburg) Ersatz-Bataillon) is correct.
Private Fuchs would have been 30-31 years old when he died in a battle near Rheims, France in 1915. His age makes sense given he was in a reserve regiment classified as an Ersatz Battalion. I believe this meant he was what we might call a third or fourth tier reservist.
The German armies of the time were organized into regular regiments and divisions of the first tier and they were backed up by the second tier reservists although the second tier were often as well trained as the first tier. The third tier was the Landwehr. They were called up in early WW1 as garrison troops and\or to replace the regular divisions that had been burnt out in the fighting.
When Private Fuchs was killed that war was only a little older than a year. It says something about the horrific casualties that were sustained by every nation in the Great War. I’m uncertain about the meaning of “ersatz” but I think it basically means “substitute” and that would account for the third or fourth tier (Landstrum-much older that 30+) status.
We can also see that Private Fuchs was a farmer from his small village (population in 1987 was only 152) and that he was married and had children. In other words Private Fuchs is representative of the of the millions of men killed on all sides during the war.
I wonder if Private Fuchs family still has in their possession his death card.
- Typical German soldiers in 1915.