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View Full Version : Last German World War One Vet Dies



redsmetz
01-26-2008, 05:12 PM
I found this on the BBC today - the last German veteran of World War One died on New Years day - the article notes the last French veteran a bit before that. I believe we only have a small handful left here in the U.S.



Germany's 'last' WWI veteran dies
The man believed to have been Germany's last World War I veteran has died peacefully at the age of 107.

Erich Kaestner, who at 18 was sent to the Western Front but served only four months in the army, died in a Cologne nursing home, his son said.

The death on Sunday of Louis de Cazenave, France's second-last World War I veteran, made global headlines.

But in a country that keeps no record of its veterans, Kaestner's death on 1 January went largely unnoticed.

"That is the way history has developed," said Peter Kaestner, the soldier's son. "In Germany, in this respect, things are kept quiet - they're not a big deal."

Erich Kaestner was unrelated to the writer and poet of the same name.

End of an era

Reports in Die Welt daily and Der Spiegel magazine identified Kaestner as Germany's last World War I veteran, but verification of the claim was difficult as the country keeps no record of its war veterans.

The German public was within a hair's breadth of never learning of the end of an era Der Spiegel

In a country where the shame of the Nazi genocide and memories of two world war defeats still cast long shadows, both publications focused more on the German national psyche than the death itself.

"The German public was within a hair's breadth of never learning of the end of an era," wrote Der Spiegel, until someone updated his death notice on the internet encyclopaedia site, Wikipedia.

In its obituary for Kaestner, Die Welt noted: "The losers hide themselves in a state of self-pity and self denial that they happily try to mitigate by forgetting."

Officer, judge, husband

Born in 1900, Kaestner had joined the army when he left school in 1918.

He rejoined the military as a Luftwaffe first lieutenant in 1939, where he served mainly as a ground support officer in France.

After the war, he became a judge in Hanover, where his work earned him Lower Saxony's Merit Cross.

His 75-year marriage was recognised by Germany's president in 2003 shortly before his wife, Maria, died aged 102.

Dom Heffner
01-26-2008, 06:20 PM
But in a country that keeps no record of its veterans,

If they don't keep a record, how do they know this guy is the last one? Someone steer me straight here.

Ltlabner
01-26-2008, 06:25 PM
If they don't keep a record, how do they know this guy is the last one? Someone steer me straight here.

The Germans keep records of everthing. I mean everything.

I find it hard to believe they don't have records tracking vets.

IslandRed
01-26-2008, 07:12 PM
The Germans keep records of everything. I mean everything.

I find it hard to believe they don't have records tracking vets.

Well, remember the history here... we're talking World War I records. In the unlikely event any records survived the leveling of Berlin in 1945, they fell into Soviet possession. For the next 45 years until reunification, who knows what the East German government bothered keeping track of. I don't think the West German government would have made it a priority, either. At best, they could have asked people signing up for old-age benefits to check a box, but they'd have no way of verifying it.

Ltlabner
01-26-2008, 07:20 PM
Well, remember the history here... we're talking World War I records. In the unlikely event any records survived the leveling of Berlin in 1945, they fell into Soviet possession. For the next 45 years until reunification, who knows what the East German government bothered keeping track of. I don't think the West German government would have made it a priority, either. At best, they could have asked people signing up for old-age benefits to check a box, but they'd have no way of verifying it.

Sure, lots could have happened between WWI and now. But the comment in the article was that Germany keeps no records on vets. Maybe they didn't at the time, but as far back as WWII plenty of records on various topics have been unearthed post bombing of Berlin, the Soviet occupation, etc.

Maybe they didn't keep records back then. Just working for a German company (I think they keep records on when anyone in the office farts) and knowing the German millitary dating back to WWII I'm was a bit supprised by the comment.

SandyD
01-27-2008, 02:16 PM
But do they keep records on where former employess are, when they married, had children, moved, and/or died?

I'm thinking maybe they didn't keep records on the post-military life of the WWI vets.

*BaseClogger*
01-27-2008, 07:42 PM
All the vets of WWI and WWII passing away is very saddening...