This Week: Privates Johann and Josef Berger

Our story this week comes from Franziska Langer of Ettlingenweier in the district of Ettlingen, whose father und uncle fought in the Great War.

Franziska's family was originally from Bavaria, but she has lived in Ettlingenweier most of her life. At the outbreak of war, the family owned a small farm in the village of Hintergrub, Bavaria. Back then, in order to be accepted by the community, a farmer's obligations were to build a house, plant a tree, and to produce a son and heir.

Franziska's father Johann Berger was born on August 20, 1877 in Hintergrub. Before the outbreak of war, he had already been called up for military training and in 1914, aged nearly 37, he was sent to fight in France.

Private Johann Berger, 1914

As a farmer, Johann had valuable experience in working with horses and as such he was entrusted with the task of looking after the horses with which his regiment went to battle.

Johann fought in the Ardennes, one of the opening battles of the First World War, and Sedan. He spent the rest of the war at the Western Front.

Johann survived the war and returned home, where in 1920 he married Anna, who was 20 years his junior and with whom he had a total of thirteen children. Franziska was the sixth child.

Johann died on January 24, 1949.

Franziska is still able to recite some of the songs of the Great War sung by her mother, such as "Der Gute Kamerad" ("The Good Comrade"):

Eine Kugel kam geflogen
Gilt sie mir oder gilt sie dir?
Ihn hat es weggerissen
Er liegt vor meinen Füssen
Als wär's ein Stück von mir.
Will mir die Hand noch reichen
Derweil ich eben lad.
"Kann dir die Hand nicht geben
Bleib du im ewigen Leben
Mein guter Kamerad.

The song is about two soldiers, one of whom is killed by a bullet that could have hit either one of them. The dying man reaches out to his friend, who cannot give him his hand because he is loading his rifle. His friend tells him, "Kann dir die Hand nicht geben, bleib du im ewigen Leben mein guter Kamerad" - "I can't give you my hand, but you will always remain my good comrade, in eternal life".

Anna and Johann with eight of their thirteen children in 1938

The other five children in 1938. Franziska is in the middle of the back row in this photo. Her brother Hans, next to her, was reported missing in World War II and did not return.

Johann's older brother, Josef Berger, was born in February 1875 and went to war together with his brother in 1914. He also returned home after the war in 1918, when he left the farm to live in Munich.

Private Josef Berger in 1914

Story Of The Week: Professor Karl Görlacher

Our story this week comes from Rainer Görlacher of Karlsruhe, whose grandfather Karl Görlacher of Ettlingen fought in the Great War.

Karl was born on September 21, 1869 in Villingen. He married Sophie Regensburger, born on February 19, 1880 in Eppingen. Their marriage took place on November 20, 1900 in Freiburg.

Karl and Sophie lived in the Bismarckstrasse in Ettlingen, and Karl worked as a teacher at the local school - the Realprogymnasium with Realschule - where he held the title of Professor.

Karl and Sophie Görlacher

By the outbreak of war in 1914, Karl and Sophie had three children: Gertrud, born in 1901 in Heidelberg, Hans, born in 1903 in Ettlingen and Werner, born in 1905 in Ettlingen.

Although Karl was almost 45 when the Great War broke out, he was called up to fight in August 1914. Karl held the rank of "Hauptmann der Landwehr", which is equivalent to a Captain.

This extract from the school's accounts records of December 10, 1914 shows that "the married Professor Karl Görlacher, employed at the Realprogymnasium with Realschule in Ettlingen has been called up as Hauptmann der Landwehr following military mobilization. According to notification by the military authorities, he will receive his monthly salary as 'battlefield remuneration' in August and September 1914 and from October 1, 1914 he will receive a monthly salary as a Hauptmann at the Ettlingen Military Preparation Establishment". (The figures in Reichsmark have been eliminated in this photo).

In his "War Diary" of 1914, Dr. Richard Barth, editor of Ettlingen's newspaper "Mittebadische Courier", reported the following on September 2, 1914. Here, he mentions that Professor Görlacher, brought wounded to the lazarett in Ettlingen, provides news on the fighting at the Vosges in France:
"At 12 o'clock, Town Councillor Buhl came to my office. He reported that wounded soldiers transported to Karlsruhe brought the news that the French had once again penetrated German territory at Saarburg. He reminded me that the French Supreme Commander had announced that he would send his troops to the threatened northern part of France. Buhl believes that this maneuver was intended to confuse the Germans, as our wounded arriving from Alsace, such as the sick Professor Görlacher, report that the French have large numbers of armed forces at the Vosges. He considers it worrying that we are no longer hearing anything from the army of the Crown Prince of Bavaria [Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria] other than that they have stalled at the fort belt and the last news we had was that they and the army of the Crown Prince [presumably of Germany, Prince Wilhelm] are in battle with the French.

Karl with his pupils, a pre-war photo

Strict accounts of the payments to men called up to fight from the school were kept in the school's accounts records.
Karl's entry is shown on the left (the figures in Reichsmark have been eliminated in the photo).

Karl together with his colleagues. An arrow has been inserted to show where Karl is standing.

Karl survived the war and returned to Ettlingen, where he once again took up his position as Professor at the school. He and Sophie had one more child, sadly, their son was stillborn on July 28th, 1919.

This photo shows Karl with his colleagues in the 1920s. Karl is standing directly in front of the stove. In contrast with the photo above, there are now four ladies on the teaching staff.

Karl died on March 9, 1943 in Karlsruhe, but he is buried in Ettlingen. Sophie died on May 24, 1945 in Furtwangen.

This Week's Story: Parades and Feldmesse

This week our story contains original photographs sent from both the Eastern and Western Fronts, of parades and the "Feldmesse" (field church service).

This photo was sent by Tor Kiefer to his family in a letter dated August 24, 1916. Tor's regiment is fighting near the Stokhid (Stochod) river on the Eastern Front at this time, and is lying between Polish and Austrian legions.
Tor served in the RIR 249 and later in the RIR 250.

"Hab acht!" Tor writes on the back, which means "Stand to attention!"

"The German and Austrian officers in front of the altar" Tor captions this photo.

Tor's regiment joined the mass held by the Austrians on August 18, 1916, in honor of the Austrian Kaiser Franz Josef's 86th birthday. The Austrians were very pleased that the Germans participated in the mass. The Kaiser died 4 months later.

It was a Catholic mass, a "Feldmesse". A Protestant service would have been a "Feldgottesdienst".

This photo was sent by Rudolf Kessler to his family from the Western Front.

The troops are marching past a commanding officer. Rudolf served in the Leibgrenadier-Regiment 109.

Rudolf also sent this photo, which shows troops on parade and about to be inspected by a commanding officer approaching from the left.