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Guest Post: “Died in the Service of Their Fatherland”: Latter-day Saints in Germany, World War I – 1915

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - March 22, 2013

Processing the German World War I casualty lists has been an emotional process, but I will leave any more comments about that until introducing the 1919 notices.

A previous post containing the 1914 notices [Died in the Service of Their Fatherland] includes a brief description about Der Stern and what the war meant for the editors of the German-language publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’ve also previously discussed the 1917 and 1918 notices.

There were more than 7 million German casualties during World War I, including killed, wounded, missing in action, or prisoners of war. The German army published extensive casualty lists. From Casualty List No. 0318-0381, this should be the record of the death of a member of the Herne Branch, August Starbatti.

GermanyWorldWarICasualtyListsAugustStarbattiRegiment175Co3cropC

And here is his name in the list, from about the middle of the third column:

GermanyWorldWarICasualtyListsAugustStarbattiRegiment175Co3crop

Each serviceman listed in the death notices from Der Stern should show up in these German casualty lists. Some of them may be listed multiple times due to injuries, missing status, and death.

As you read through the death notices of the Mormon German servicemen in 1915, note the change in style as the year progresses. I don’t know whether this had to do with the fatigue of war, or with military censors.

1915.01.01Ehrederstern4701ger

Each notice starts with the scriptures John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” and Revelation 2:10 “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Most notices close with some words of comfort to the families and friends of each serviceman.

* * *

January 1, 1915

Since our last publication we’ve heard the news that the following brothers have died the deaths of heroes for our Fatherland.

Gustav Erich Groeschke,
Member of the Leipzig Branch, killed on October 29, 1914.

August A. Starbatti,
born on February 26, 1885; died on the battlefield by Lodz in Russian Poland on November 18, 1914.
Brother Starbati was a member of the Herne Branch.

Johann Friedrich Horn,
Member of the Königsberg Branch also died in November of last year.

Oswald Albert Grenzemann,
Member of the Erfurt Branch, born on April 23, 1885, died on December 10, 1914.

* * *

March 1, 1915

With feelings of sadness and deep pain we bring the news to our brothers and sisters, that again two of our brothers have had to give their lives in the defense of their Fatherland.

Gustav Adolf Ernst Rietz,
from the Berlin Branch was killed on November 4, 1914 by Roye, France.
He was born on September 11, 1890, baptized on September 13, 1912, and since then was a true and sincere member of our Church.

August Gleue,
from the Hannover Branch was killed on January 31, 1915 in the Argonne.
President Sonnenburg shares the sad news with the words, “Today I must share the sad news, that also in our Branch the war has claimed its sacrifice, in that Brother August Gleue died the hero’s death for his Fatherland on January 13, 1915. Only 18 years of age, he voluntarily enlisted in noble enthusiasm at the beginning of the war. Previously, he was wounded by shrapnel, but returned to the front after a few weeks. He took part in the heavy fighting in the Argonne Forest, where he distinguished himself by outstanding bravery, so he was promoted to corporal and was awarded with the Iron Cross second class. Unfortunately, he could only enjoy it a few days, since shortly thereafter he fell victim to an enemy bullet. Brother August Gleue was born on May 14, 1896 in Kloster Wennigsen (Hanover) and was baptized on September 11, 1912 by Elder Robert H. Hinckley and was confirmed by Elder August Tadje. He is the son of our dear Brother and Sister Gleue in Argestorf. Their first son, Brother Fritz Gleue also is in the service of our country. He was a fun-loving, optimistic young man, loved and appreciated by all the brothers and sisters of our branch. All who knew him will be able to imagine the pain of his parents.”

* * *

May 1, 1915

Again we find ourselves in the sad situation, to have to share the death of more of our brothers and friends, who have sacrificed their lives for the Fatherland.

Philipp Jährling,
Member of the Gadernheim Branch in Hessen, died during a patrol in the West on February 4, 1915.
He received a head wound. His comrades and superiors have always spoken highly of him, and he won the respect and love of all. He was always a true, zealous member with a strong testimony of the truth of the gospel.

Ernst Stattlich,
from the Königsberg Branch, died on February 19, 1915 by Warsaw.
“He was one of the most capable of our young brothers,” writes President Brunnert.
Brother Stattlich was born on December 16, 1892 at Pogauen, Königsberg in Prussia.

Karl Robert Finke,

member of the Breslau Branch, died on the Western Front on February 23, 1915.
He was born on February 22, 1881, joined the Church on February 13, 1910, and kept the faith until his honorable end.

Johannes Heinrich Weibel,
from the Frankfurt-am-Main Branch died on the battlefield in the Battle of the Carpathians on March 14-15, 1915. “Brother Weibel was a true member of our congregation and a good support to his mother.” He was born on March 29, 1893 and baptized in Frankfurt-am-Main on June 15, 1903.

Leonhard Karl Grauf,

born on October 26 in Ansbach in Bavaria, died on February 9, 1915 at Strassburg i. Els. due to a severe wound (shot in the head).
Mr. Grauf, who was not yet a member, had attended our meetings in Nürnberg, where his father and brother belonged to the Church. He had often written in his letters about his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and his last wish was that his temple work could be promptly done, which, when these goals were made public, has already happened.

H. Hofer.
From Frankfurt comes the sad news that Mr. Hofer, husband of Sister Elise Hofer, president of the Relief Society there, died on the battlefield. He was a true friend of the Church and a loving, always-conscientious husband and father.

* * *

June 15, 1915

The following members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died the hero’s death on the battlefield:

Heinrich Küffner,
from the Nürnberg Branch. As a volunteer he served on the Western Front and was killed by a grenade at age 18 years, 2-1/2 months on April 15, 1915. Born on January 29, 1897 in Nürnberg, baptized on January 1, 1909, and since then was a true, diligent member. Based on the statement from Brother Schmidt of the Nürnberg Branch, he was a noncommissioned officer, kept his covenants while in the service, and bore his testimony while stationed at the Front.
His home congregation held a well-attended memorial service in honor of the fallen young hero on April 25.

Hermann Seydel,
Member of the Barmen Branch, died on March 5, 1915 on the Eastern Front. He was also a volunteer in the service and was an exemplary young man and a diligent member of the Church of Jesus Christ, who will remain in the memory of all who knew him. He was born on July 8, 1897 in Erfurt and baptized on December 25, 1905.

* * *

July 15, 1915

The following members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died the hero’s death on the battlefield:

Herrmann E. Gögge,
member of the Berlin Branch, died on June 6, 1915 in Galicia. He was born in Irent on July 23, 1888 and was baptized on December 11, 1908. He leaves behind as well as a wife, five children, the oldest of which is only five years old. Brother Gögge was an honest, true member and diligent in his offices. [A subsequent Stern noted that he had four children under the age of five, not five.]

Gustav Friedrich Schmidt,
from the Hamburg Branch, died on August 20, 1914 in Belgium. He was born on July 13, 1880 in Stargard, Pommern, and baptized on August 5, 1914.

Helmuth Friedrich Michael Walter Kakerbeck,
from the Hamburg Branch, died from Typhus in a hospital in Hamburg on June 28, 1915. He was born on May 1, 1893 in Hamburg and baptized on June 17, 1910. He remained true to his covenants until the end.

* * *

October 15, 1915

The following members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died the hero’s death on the battlefield:

Johannes Karl Schlange,
Member of the Breslau Branch, succumbed to his wounds from the battlefield on August 1, 1915. He was born in Schöneiche, Schlesien, and baptized on October 22, 1909.

Alfred Otto Bröchtel,
Member of the Breslau Branch, died on the battlefield on July 9, 1915. He was born on November 22, 1894 in Breslau, Schlesien, and baptized on October 22, 1909.

* * *

November 1, 1915

Friedrich Dahl
Member of the Karlsruhe Branch received an abdominal wound in the fight for his Fatherland and died on August 6, 1915. He was born on October 9, 1885 in Oberotterbach, Pfalz, and baptized on February 20, 1911. He was a true, zealous member and attempted to share the happy message of the gospel among his comrades in the field, as opportunities arose.

* * *

November 15, 1915

The following members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died the hero’s death on the battlefield:

Richard Siegfried Strauch,
Member of the Dresden Branch died on the Western Front on August 23, 1915. He was born on October 26, 1894 in Dresden, Sachsen and baptized on December 10, 1911.

Friedrich Wehnes,
Member of the Frankfurt Branch was killed on October 2, 1915 from an injury that he received from a mine explosion. Brother Wehnes was a leader in the Branch and the Sunday School and was an example of the fulfillment of his duties.

* * *

December 15, 1915

The following member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died the hero’s death on the battlefield:

Gustav Wilhelm Bröchtel,
Member of the Breslau Branch died on the battlefield on October 9, 1915. He was born on February 24, 1897 in Breslau, Schlesien, and baptized on November 17, 1909. He remained a true member to the end.



12 Comments »

  1. Thanks for these, Amy. There are hints in the briefest of these notices that make us want to know more of the lives of these men.

    What, for example, of Gustav Friedrich Schmidt, baptized August 5, 1914, and killed 15 days later in Belgium, during those heady days of that first month of the war, as the Germans advanced rapidly through Belgium and into France–on the way, they thought, to a quick and relatively painless victory that would have them all home by Christmas.

    One wonders what brought a man of his age (34) into the army? Was he a career army officer? And how did it happen that he was baptized on August 5, 1914? The mobilization orders were a week old by then–wouldn’t he have joined his regiment and headed to the front by then?

    And, was his baptism a last minute decision to join with other family members in the church–a mother, or a wife, perhaps? Or to prepare himself in the event that the battlefield brought death?

    I suspect that those questions may be impossible to answer. But that doesn’t stop me wishing we could.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 22, 2013 @ 8:48 am

  2. Thank you, Amy. I wonder what these (mostly) young men would have contributed to the Church and the world, had they lived? The Church grew so rapidly in Germany in the next generation, led largely by men who were the peers of these brothers — we needed every one of them.

    Joseph F. Smith was keenly aware that LDS men were fighting on opposing sides of this war. Especially during the months of the deaths reported here, he repeatedly asked the Saints to remember that, and not to demonize the other side, whichever side that meant.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 22, 2013 @ 10:56 am

  3. I wonder if that Elder Robert Hinckley was a relative of Pres. Hinckley, who as we know lost a brother Stanford in the war.

    Comment by Cameron — March 22, 2013 @ 11:47 am

  4. Mark — the notice that really got me this time was the one for August Gleue from March 15, with the letter from his branch president.

    Ardis — JFS will play into the eventual wrap-up of the series with the final notices from 1919.

    Cameron — Probably. Anyone familiar with Robert H. Hinckley?

    Comment by Amy T — March 22, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_H._Hinckley

    Crikey! Looks like Elder Robert Hinckley is a cousin of Pres. Hinckley, as both their fathers were sons of Ira Hinckley.

    Comment by Cameron — March 22, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  6. Good to know. Thanks, Cameron! It looks like he may have taken flying lessons (?) at the end of his mission from Amelie Beese, a tragic female German aviator, but he doesn’t seem to have been involved in the war.

    It would take more time than I have right now to pull up the subscription numbers for Der Stern, but many copies were going to America, so Hinckley may have learned fairly quickly about August’s death in the war.

    And, finally, that Wikipedia article needs some editing. I’ll leave it up and see if I get around to rating it start-class.

    Comment by Amy T — March 22, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  7. @ Mark B.-I just talked to my dad was was born and raised in Germany and his dad, my Grandpa, was in training during WW1 (wasn’t a member of the Church) but my dad said that as long as it didn’t interfere with the country and your obligations towards it then baptism was no problem and Germany has always been very religious and my dad said accepting of newer religions (except JWs who were opposed to the war and rounded up). So, in short this man may have been in training but two missionaries could have been teaching him or he may have been taught previously and baptized later if he came across two missionaries. My Dad thinks that military service was compulsory but don’t quote him on that! His dad was forced into the service when he was 18 but the war ended and they didn’t need him anymore

    Comment by Cameron — March 22, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

  8. @ Cameron–I was mainly puzzled by the timing: The Germans ordered mobilization on July 31. Mobilization was the process of gathering and organizing their armies, including huge numbers of reservists, and sending them to the appropriate places in the line. Presumably, Brother Schmidt was a reservist, and would have received orders on that day to report for duty. I wondered how he would have squeezed a baptism into the preparations and travel from his home in Hamburg to the lines in Belgium during those hectic days in early August.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 22, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

  9. Although Germany had made great progress toward what the modern world recognizes as religious liberty, it wasn’t until the 1919 Weimar constitution that real individual religious freedom was recognized. Latter-day Saints met publicly during the war and before, depending on local police tolerance. Many smaller branches and isolated families met with missionaries secretly, again depending on local tolerance. Cameron’s father is generally right … but what constituted “interference with the country” was very much open to local interpretation.

    Thanks, Cameron, for identifying Elder Hinckley. That’s just cool!

    It feels strange to take part at Keepa as a reader instead of a blogger, but it’s also kind of fun and a lot easier on a fuzzy brain. Thanks again, Amy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 22, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

  10. The diaries I’ve read recently are all by missionaries trying to organize the branches to get along without missionaries in those last hectic days before evacuating. I haven’t seen anything from a soldier’s point of view during those same days — that IS an interesting question, Mark.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 22, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

  11. @Mark B-it says he is from the Hamburg Branch but he may not have been baptized there, he could have been baptized anywhere really. A reservist could be a possibility and his number was up and so maybe he got baptized before he shipped out. It’s very interesting!

    @Ardis-what you say is true about local interpretation. My Grandad joined up in Oct. 1918 at age 18 yet they were kids joining up earlier who lied about their age or they had special skills that the German Army needed. Luckily Grandad had skills but they were not needed until he was 18! haha!

    Comment by Cameron — March 22, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  12. According to this on Aug. 20, 1914 the Germans had made their way to Brussels, so it is possible Bro. Schmidt was killed there? Hamburg is about 6 hours of todays travel to Belgium. Back then the German army was packed into troop trains and sent either in or as close to Belgium as possible and then they had to hoof it! haha! So, maybe that train took a day or two to get to Belgium or maybe he didn’t even leave Germany until a week before he was killed. The timing is tight but there are so many unknowns!
    http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/firstworldwar/index-1914.html

    Comment by Cameron — March 22, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

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