The World War II service records of German soldiers can be of great genealogical value. However, getting access to German army WWII service records may be difficult because many of them were destroyed during times of war.
records that have information about a German soldier may be tricky—but not necessarily
impossible. Below are some of the ways you can find out more about your German
ancestor’s military service in World War II.
Start at Home
The first place to start finding
records and information about your ancestor is right at home. Ask relatives what
they know about members of the family who served in the war. Try to identify
what branch of military service a person was in and where the individual lived.
Obituaries, photographs, letters, and
other records of military service that are often found at home can start you on
the right track to learning more about your ancestor’s military service.
Search for the Grave
If the soldier died in battle, consider searching the Volksbund war graves website. Using this site, you may be able to discover when and where the soldier died and where the remains were buried.
Keep in mind that the information you
may find will likely not
include details of the person’s military career, such as what troop the
individual was part of.
Contact the German Federal Archive
The German Federal Archive, known in German as Bundesarchiv, may hold key information about the German soldier you are researching. To access information from this archive, you will need to fill out two forms: the Benutzungsantrag (here is an English version for reference) and the form Order for Person-Related Research. Then fax or mail the forms to the Personal Information Department. Keep in mind that you may need to pay a fee to access the information.
It is important to note the two
divisions of the archive and what records each offers.
Personal Information Department
The Personal Information Department (PA) of the Federal Archives is located in Berlin-Reinickendorf. It can provide information about the following:
members of the army, Reichsmarine, Kriegsmarine, and the Air Force.
- Wehrmacht civil servants, employees, and workers.
- Members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Imperial Labor
Military Archives Department
The Military Archives department is located in Freiburg and can provide information from service records of military officers and officials, military court records, and documentation of military medals and honors bestowed.
Search Records at the United States National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration in the United States has a collection of records for the German military. See Record Group 242, titled “Collection of Foreign Records Seized” for more details.
Additionally, prisoner of war records
of German servicemen also can be located at the National Archives. Here are
just a few:
- Prisoner of War Rosters, 1942–1947, National Archives NAID 849166. This collection contains records of German prisoners of war interned in the United States.
- Records Relating to Prisoners of War, 1942–1947, National Archives NAID 849166. This collection includes death lists sent to the International Red Cross.
- Records Relating to German Prisoners of War, 1943–1952, National Archives NAID 876973
Although some of these records are available to view online, you may need to visit or contact the National Archives to obtain or view some of the records.
Although finding German army WWII service records will likely be a challenge, it is sure to bring a more complete understanding of your family’s history. If all you know or have about your ancestor is a few stories or a few stray photos, then be sure to upload what you do know to that family member’s memories on FamilySearch.org.
Amie Tennant and Jessica Grimaud contributed to this post.
Source: Family Search