You are here

Unknown soldier

CLICK TO ENLARGE -German Waffen SS soldierMy dad grew up in Norway under the occupation. He had a half-brother three years older about whom he was told nothing, who joined the Germans during the war and was killed at the Russian Front. My father wasn’t told when it happened, but remembers his mother getting the telegram.
 
We recently learned the brother’s name, and my uncle has recovered a photograph from the municipal archives.

His name was Martin. I have yet to see the new picture. This is a photograph which caught my eye some years ago, and which I kept, thinking it could be my family’s lost son, just as well as any other. It remains from captured German records, depicting an unnamed soldier, anyone’s. How likely is it that no-one survives to recognize this boy?

Martin was the product of my grandmother’s ill-fated first marriage. Her husband didn’t get along with her parents. He tried to poison her father, and in the attempt killed her mother. He was sent to prison, leaving my grandmother alone with the boy. When she began a new family, the older boy grew to become too much of a reminder of the deviant father, too much apparently for her new husband to bear. My grandmother was prevailed upon to send the boy away to be raised by relatives in the country. Martin disappeared before his half-siblings were old enough to remember him, traces of his memory effaced. My father remembers seeing a family picture which included a young Martin, to which my grandmother pretended, “that’s you.” And so one weekend a month, Gudmor would leave the family to visit her old aunt in the country. In later years my dad and his siblings figured out there was no such aunt. My grandmother died without telling the story.

It’s surmised that Martin grew up unwanted, ostracized by family and extended family, which may explain why on his seventeenth year, the Norwegian boy joined with the occupiers and enlisted with the Waffen SS, the German Army unit reserved for citizens of the occupied countries. He was sent to the Russian Front where he died in 1943.

My father called his younger brother yesterday, on a lark, though sometimes he is psychic. His brother was sitting in his car in Oslo, contemplating the photograph he’d just obtained of their lost brother. My uncle had also learned of Martin’s resting place, a cemetery for German soldiers in present-day Poland. They’re making plans to go visit his grave.

25 thoughts on “Unknown soldier

  1. A very moving story. Sigh. Death and anonymity, the two combined always make for the saddest of losses. Yet like your story above suggests, the anonymity is not always a chosen path, but more often, a response. It’s sad when the beauty of family is not extended – tragic when others fail to recognize social adoption, not personal adaptation, could be such a saving grace. The rental heart is such an empty loft.

    To brothers in arms and rest in peace.

  2. I am not 100% sure but this picture is located in national us archives too.You can check out.The comment there is that the germans are back to defend Berlin.

  3. That soldier appears in documentaries on the Ardennes offensive.
    In the “World at War” series episode ‘Pincers”. You can see that very same soldier during the beginning of the offensive. It is surely not in the Russian Front

  4. Mr Ardennes

    On the National Archives WWII photo gallery, number 111, there is the photo of the German soldier sometimes known as “Mr Ardennes”. What is his name? What unit did he belong to? When was he born? Was he killed? Thanks.
    — Миборовский U|T|C|E 02:08, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

    The NARA’s image description reads “A Nazi soldier, heavily armed, carries ammunition boxes forward with companion in territory taken by their counter-offensive in this scene from captured German film.” Belgium, December 1944. but you probably already knew that. Date and place might give you a lead to figure out his unit… Lupo 08:25, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

    The photographer (or cameraman, if it’s a still from some movie) appears to have been on Fritz Winter [32], not to be confused with the painter Fritz Winter. However, on the various websites I found this image on there is some confusion on whether this is the photographer’s name, the name of the soldier, or just a generic moniker. Lupo 08:51, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

    Got some more on him: “This man was in Kampfgruppe Hansen of the 2nd Company, I./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt 1. His name is Walter Armbrusch, and he possesed the rank of SS-Schütze as an MG-42 gunner. Here he is seen after a successful attack on an Allied reconnaisance convy, with gear obtained from it. The picture is taken during the early days the Battle of the Bulge.”. See [33], where there are a few more pictures of him. Maybe you can find more info in the book by Paul Pallud, The Battle of the Bulge, 1986; ISBN 0-90091-340-1, where he even features on the title. Lupo 09:10, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

    And then again, maybe he’s not Walter Armbrush: [34]… Also, see [35] and [36]. Contact the museum at Poteau… Lupo 09:32, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

  5. I think his name is Heinz Maeger “Waffen SS leibstandarte, Adolf Hitler”

    Mail me if you wanna know why i am think so.

  6. Thank you for your help. Much as I dislike Nazism, the men who were killed in Herr Hitler’s Wermacht were both those categories… “men” and “killed”.

    Like Eric said, these men, they were all family members, of somebody’s family.

    Every man had a mother, a father, sometimes close and loving, sometimes not.

    I think there’s been not one person in all of history who wandered this Vale of Tears without ever loving and being loved.

  7. You should be proud. One of your family was the
    best of the best – a military person. Went forth to
    protect the old, to fight evil, to free human kind from
    Naizes or communism. Sad you did not know him.
    He is what will free human kind one day, soon we
    can only hope from the parsites. So hold your head
    up high flag up and march on to freedom for all.
    george

  8. umm… George… try to read the article before posting, m’kay?

    And thank you once again for spouting, loudly, the notion that people who don’t go around killing people are somehow equivalent to head lice or fleas…

    Major George, if you’re being paid to write that then your boss is being ripped off and you should humbly hand him his money back…

  9. Frank, it would be difficult to tell with soldiers. They’re made to look as much alike as possible.

    Especially toward the end of the war, German soldiers would take things like boots or coats, the more generic looking articles of clothing (not to forget socks, clean socks are purest gold if you’re living on your feet….) from killed or captured Allied soldiers.

    Just not enough of the uniform that their comrades would mistake them for “The Other Side”.

    There’s a story (and true, I just don’t recall which officer did it) of an American putting on an SS uniform and walking around London with it.

    Just to prove a point. There were so many soldiers of so many armies packed onto the island before D-Day that it was just another uniform.

    That’s one of the things making it difficult to positively I.D. the soldier in the picture.

  10. Danke Schöen, Herr Mueller.
    (although I don’t know much more Deutsch-spreche than that)

    My hope is, and apparently Eric’s, that we can put a human face to what is a really inhuman exercise.

    Make it more difficult to see people as “The (nameless faceless grey) Enemy”, more difficult to declare war against anybody.

  11. i`ve heard that this picture was taken in belgium. check this out: “111. A Nazi soldier, heavily armed, carries ammunition boxes forward with companion in territory taken by their counter- offensive in this scene from captured German film.” Belgium, December 1944. 111-SC-197561.” check the number bottom-right on the picture, or the sign bottom-left, maybe it will tell ya where was realy taken the picture.
    see this site, Nr. 111: http://www.acepilots.com/ww2/low.html

  12. What a sad story!

    After googling for some pictures of SS soldiers, I’ve actually come across this picture several times. As well as other pictures of him too! Two pictures where he is smoking a cigarette and talking to his friends. Apparently those pictures are published in a book.
    Anyway, in at least one internet debate people are discussing who this young man might have been. Some says he lives in the US, and are in an odd way expecting him to come forward and tell his story to the world, even though a war museum in Ardennes says they don’t want to publish his identity.
    It’s funny that people think they just can expect someone to tell their story, I mean, those people commenting in that debate thinks he SHOULD tell everyone what he experienced, regardless of what he experienced.
    But I really think this man has a face you would recognize quite easily! Once I saw those small pictures on google, the pictures where he was smoking and talking to his friends, I instantly knew which man it was. The man I had read about here! And then, when clicked on the pictures, I was sad to find a handfull of people expecting the man to tell his story to the world. If he still had been alive (as they thought he was) I think it would be up to him to tell what he experienced.
    I think you write about him in a really nice way. 🙂 It is respectful, what you write, not shame or commercial. Be proud of having an uncle the whole world wonders who was!

    I still look for pictures of my grandfather from when he was a soldier during WW2. When, or if, I ever find a picture of him, it would be funny to see what people write in the debate of who he was. My grandfather told nothing of what he experienced during WW2, and that has made me even more curious. The only stories I have heard of what he experienced are stories his brothers have told me, and those stories are quite fascinating. And who knows, some day I might stumble upon a picture of my grandfather…

  13. I forgot to say that my grandfather wasn’t serving in SS. Even though he served on the “winner side”, he never told anything of what he experienced. Very strange, and I have no chance to ask him why he didn’t say anything. He has been dead for 22 years now…

  14. I knew a Marine named Gibson who had fought in the Pacific Campaign and had been a specialist in using a portable flame-thrower, He worked for the advertizing company I worked for, and the owner, Harold Hammond, also a World War vet and had served with him, filled me in a little. Everybody called Mr Gibson “Hoot” after a western-movie star because he physically resembled him. He had a “mouthful of empty” as in only two teeth left, and was severely alcoholic. Hoot would wear this scraggly cowboy hat, it was all beat up and nasty looking. If anybody would (and sometimes people would) give him a new hat he would have the new hat converted to a “Hoot Hat” in a matter of hours. He kind of wasted away, a lot, after breaking his ankle stepping off a porch. Our job was going door to door putting advertising flyers on the knobs.

    One day in the mid 80s he was drunk, had broken his ankle again, it was mending but not well, and he tried to catch a freight train, something he had a lot in his younger days. In his condition he shouldn’t have tried to catch a stationary, parked train. This one was moving.

    But, he never would tell anybody about what he did in the war and the people he had served with, like Harold, wouldn’t talk about it while he was present, and really provided no details other than he was a flamethrower operator. I believe if I had once held a job burning people alive I wouldn’t talk about it either and would probably have gotten even further into the drink or other drugs.

    Or any kind of killing, which is what war is all about. Most of the veterans I know have a similar way of not telling their story. They’ll talk about people they knew, served with, watched as they died… but focus on the moments of comradeship and friendship they had… not on what they were doing. And they sure did drink a lot or use a lot of dope.

    I don’t blame any of them for that, spiritual pain is just as bad as physical, and you wouldn’t put somebody down if he used medicine for physical pain. (ok, some people WOULD but I keep hoping that they’re a minority and that most people rise above that)

  15. His name is Walter Armbrusch of Kampfgruppe Hansen of the 2nd Company, I./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt 1 LAH. Poteau ambush, 18 December 1944. Battle of the Bulge. He survived the war and lives in the USA.

  16. Almost sure i got picture of this man. SS soldier in Normandie. In the full picture hes Holding à american gun “trofé”. Otherwise it strange

Leave a Reply

Top