Jeremias Schmidt

  • Posted on: 13 September 2015
  • By: marijke
About the participant: 

2013-2015 (presumably): postgraduate studies in History at the Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität Munich.

Since September 2014: student trainee at the Dokumentations-und-Informationszentrum (DIZ) of the Süddeutsche Zeitung Archiv and occasional writer for Sueddeutsche.de.

Title of lecture: 
The war-experience of the Bavarian Army on the Eastern Front 1915-1917
Abstract: 

Having spent several weeks as a student apprentice at the Bayerische Hauptstaatsarchiv, I soon realized that its extensive collection of Wold War I documents would make for an interesting work for university. So far, these documents have largely been neglected and only a very small portion was used for academic papers on the Eastern Front. The finding aids of the archive are fairly vague, which might be one reason for the obscurity of those documents. One might only get as much information as the name, the unit and the timeframe for a certain Soldier (i.e. Friedrich Wörlen, Leibregiment, 1915-1918). Nothing tells you that this document includes a rich first-hand account of the Battles in Romania 1916; you just could have guessed it from your knowledge on the respective Unit. I also made extensive use of the regimental files of certain units to back up information I found in certain diaries. Unlike others archives, the Bayerische Kriegsarchiv made it through World War 2 without losing a majority of its files to fire-bombing. This makes it possible to reconstruct every single day of combat for every Bavarian Unit on the Eastern Front, if necessary. It would certainly be possible to spend the 15 minutes presentation just talking about sources and how to find them. Nevertheless, I think it is even more interesting to see what’s inside of them. For that matter, I divided the title-giving ‘war-experience’ into the following subtopics:

1. Beyond the trenches: mobile warfare in the East. This part is mainly based on diaries of Bavarian cavalrymen and their experience in the 1915 campaign, but also the sweeping advance through Galicia 1917.

2. Facing the unknown: German Soldiers and the native populations of Eastern Europe. Hardly any Bavarian soldier failed to mention his bewilderment on the living conditions of people in Poland, Romania or Galicia.

3. Drôle de guerre 1917: Fraternisation and unofficial cease-fires. It is no secret that fraternisation between Russian and German forces was a common sight after the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but diaries of Bavarian soldiers indicate that as early as December 1916 hostilities on certain parts of the front had virtually stopped.

4.”We are chained to a corpse”: Coalition Warfare in the East. Unlike in France, German forces in the east seldom fought alone. There was comradeship between Germans and Austro-Hungarians, but also bitter frustration and hostility.

Working at the archive of one of Germany’s biggest newspapers, I have free access to its enormous collection of World War I photographs, which I am planning to use to visualize certain parts of my lecture.