German Woman in WWII

Discussion in 'Axis Units' started by charlh, Apr 10, 2016.

  1. charlh

    charlh Member

    I would love any assistance and suggestions on where to look for information about German Women in WWII.
    I am specifically trying to find if there are service numbers and records for them.
    My Oma, was in the Land Army and then I believe a Luftwaffen helferin in the Air force. I am guessing this based on her uniform and the stories she told about listening in towers for incoming planes. She was with a group of helferin who walked west from Berlin to Celle at the end or near the end of the war.

    I am visiting Berlin next month (from Sydney Australia) , and will be visiting Lambsdorf Stalag 344 where her future husband, my Grandfather was a British POW. I would dearly love to try and find some idea of where my grandmother was posted. She was only 13 when the war started.

    Any suggestions on where to find records or even on the role of the helferin would be greatly appreciated.


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  2. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Good day Charlotte,

    I believe that the place you need to try for the German military records of your grandmother would be the Deutsche Dienstelle (Wermacht service records) (WASt).

    As you are visiting Berlin, it seems you are in luck as that is where the office is based. Perhaps it would be worth trying to make an appointment in advance to see if they have the relevant family records you seek and, if so, make an appointment to visit in person while you are in the city.

    This is a link to the English language 'home' page of the WASt website:

    You should see the link on there to make an official enquiry. If you are reasonably fluent in German, then all the better as the records are obviously kept in German. This website gives details of relevant charges for the research. You will also see they ask for some details of the person (name, place and D.O.B., etc. and your family relationship).

    Viel Glück !
    CL1 likes this.
  3. charlh

    charlh Member

    Danke! I have sent off a request and will also try and visit when I am there. I have really struggled knowing where to look for this info, so I am truly thankful!
  4. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

  5. charlh

    charlh Member

    Thanks for the book link, I have struggled to find anything in English, look forward to the books release!
  6. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Kein Problem, Charlotte!
  7. Rav4

    Rav4 Senior Member

    Is the WASt site just for POW,s?
  8. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

  9. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Hi Charlotte - have you tried looking for her (and your Grandfather's) immigration paperwork for when they came to Australia.

    Depending on when they came over and how (assisted passage, refugee, sponsored) they had to fill out different official forms - some of which asked questions about previous military service.

    I have seen quite a few files containing service details for Italian immigrants plus of course British "10 pound Poms".

    It never can hurt to add their details to your request, someone might be able to find out something you don't already know.

    But make sure that you include what steps you have already tried yourself - there is nothing worse to chase info only to find out that the person you are helping has already obtained that info.

    cheers & good luck


    PS - I remember reading that Pope Benedict XVI had been a Luftwaffe helferin late in WW2 (from Wiki - in 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer)

    Technically - Luftwaffenhelfern (masculine plural) and Luftwaffenhelferinn (feminine plural)

    PPS - the Wiki page on Luftwaffenhelfer has a potted history of the service plus a couple of photos, one of which includes a Flak Tower - I am pretty certain that there still exists at least one Flak Tower in Berlin

  10. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    Probably one of the best publications of the use of women by the Third Reich in the Second World War is Frauen,authored by Alison Owings who sought out those who had served, interviewed them and cataloged their recollections as Frauen.German Women Recall the Third Reich....Rutgers University Press 1993 and later Penguin Books 1995

    Some were victims of the regime. Others were cogs in the organisation.....some recall losing the "faith",some not after interviews conducted 25 years or so ago.Some had experience of being in the Bund Deutscher Madel....the girl equivalent of the Hitler Jugend.....the ideology indoctrination of the BDM was akin to the HJ

    I would say your Grandmother would have been conscripted into the Luftwaffe as a Flakwaffenhelferin,ie an assistant on a 88mm flak battery or its associated searchlight unit.These types of auxiliary jobs were filled by young people of both sexes (BDM and HJ ..both mandatory membership) Manpower such as Russian POWs were pressed into service at a time when the Third Reich was desperately short of manpower.This was against a background where Hitler's was intractable on the subject of conscripting women for any military role.His philosophy was,as far as women were concerned, was Kinder,Kirche und Kuche

    Alison Owings's work is a compelling a very good insight to the experiences of German women over a range of roles.
  11. charlh

    charlh Member

    Than you all for your responses. I had never thought to look at immigration paperwork, because I know where she came from and when, what a great idea, thank you DaveB, I will look into that.
    She actually moved to Liverpool England and married my grandfather, (Alexander Buchan, British Army Signalman who had been a POW in Lambsdorf) before heading south to New Zealand. ( I've jumped the ditch to Aus), so I guess I might try looking in the British immigration details too. I know thew were denied entry to Canada because after his escape from Lambsdorf, my Grandfather ran into the Russian army and joined them for a couple of weeks, and Canada said this is the reason he and his family couldn't settle there. (just had another idea on where to look for her war history ;-)

    My grandmother is Helena Ingaborg Urbansky, but she mostly was know as Ingeborg, not Helena. She was born in Nessie in Silesia on 11th May 1926. (90 next month!!!) Unfortunately, she is in very poor heath struggles to communicate otherwise I could ask her :-(
    I remember her saying in years past that she was part of a group of girls who had to be in the land army. I have a photo that I think may either be her with her" land army" friends or perhaps Luftwaffehelferinin group, they were not dressed in uniform though. I think the "land army" as she called it may have been the BDM as I know her brothers were forced into HJ.

    She also told me of working in towers and how, when an Allied plane was approaching they would run down the towers praying to God that if they were bombed that they be killed rather than badly injured.
    She also said one of her jobs was to watch a screen that was either and ellipse shape or had an ellipse shape on the display and watching it for aircraft.

    Harry, I really appreciate the book referral, it sounds like another one to put on my Kindle to try and read on the plane over to Germany. It is also so kind of you to cover so well, that not all Germans were pro Hitler and they were in fact forced into service. Sadly, Ingeborg's mother Kazimera was made a political prisoner for speaking badly about Hitler and was sent along with her Sister to Ravensbruck (the sister died in a gangrene experiment). So whilst my great grandmother was forced into a situation that was, in her own words "Unfit for humankind", her husband and children were forced to be part of the system that they didn't want to be.

    Regardless, she raised a wonderfully resilient and loving daughter who I am lucky enough to call my Oma.
  12. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    I have never visited the German records office in Berlin, but I do know that they deal with many overseas requests and will be able to communicate in English if you require.

  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    What year did they emigrate ??

  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    Some information on the BDM organisation wartime activities as follows

    Regarding your grandmother's family experience during the war,it must have been typical of the backlash from a totalitarian regime to any criticism however petty it may have been towards those in power and the NS ideology. From what I understand the majority of the denunciations to the Gestapo were initiated by fellow citizens.Off the cuff,I have seen a figure of 70% denunciations to the Gestapo attributed to this source.

    Interesting comment made within 5 weeks of the fall of the regime in 1945.....the administrative machine rolled on as illustrated by the assessment of a Flakwaffenhelferin at Leipzig on 2 April 1945.It looks as if assessments were made every 12 months...her previous assessment was made at Rendsburg on 9 March 1944.

    The assessment reveals the following:

    Special Training.....8.8 cm Flak 37

    Mental and physical predispositions.....mentally good,capable,physically strong,athletically proportioned.

    You might be able to access any such assessments made on your grandmother if the records still exist.
  15. charlh

    charlh Member

    Thanks for all your responses.

    TD - She moved to Liverpool in 1947, I think there may be a record of this on Ancestry, but I have only seen it as an arrivals log. She married and became a Buchan, then she traveled with her three children to meat up Alex (who hand gone ahead to setup accommodation and work) in NZ in 1957.

    Harry, thats a great site, with just a quick look, I know that I have seen photos of my Grandmother in that uniform. Now itching to study the site and compare the pics.

  16. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    I believe the image attached is that of the passenger list for your Grandmother and her children emigrating to NZ in 1957

    The basic info is:
    Departure Date: 12 Sep 1957
    Port of Departure: Southampton, England
    Destination Port: Wellington, New Zealand
    Ship Name: Southern Cross
    Search Ship Database: Search for the Southern Cross in the 'Passenger Ships and Images' database
    Shipping line: Shaw Savill Line
    Master: D Mitchison


    Looking for Alexander Buchans sailing

    Name: A Buchan
    Gender: Male
    Departure Date: 21 Nov 1956
    Port of Departure: Liverpool, England
    Destination Port: New Zealand
    Ship Name: Mataroa
    Search Ship Database: Search for the Mataroa in the 'Passenger Ships and Images' database
    Shipping line: Shaw Savill and Albion Company Limited
    Master: G Sames

  17. steelers708

    steelers708 Junior Member


    It's possible that your Grandmothers 'land army' service was actually carried out during her time in the Reichsarbeitsdienst der weibliche Jugend, the Reich Labour Service Womens section which became compulsory for women in 1939 and in which everyone between the ages of 18 & 25 had to do 6 months service.

    The scale of allied air attacks in 1943 resulted in the call up of unmarried women between the ages of 17-45 for active duty within the defenses of the Reich, the term used for these conscripts was Flakwaffen Helferrinenkorps(Corps of Flak Weapon Female auxiliaries). The Corps was officially constituted on the 16th October 1943 although work on its establishment had been going on since the summer. The first to be affected were the 17 and 18 year old members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst der weibliche Jugend who were informed that the current draft would perform their compulsory service under Luftwaffe command. They were joined by RADwJ volunteers and finally by women drafted under the Notdienstverpflichtung(Emergency Duty) decree which applied to any unmarried mothers under the age of 45 who were not already employed in some form of war related work. Under the Decree women could be directed into any branch of the armed forces, where direction into the Luftwaffe was involved this did not necessarily mean only the Flak Korps.
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  18. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Charlotte - I'm glad you've managed to get so much info about your Oma.
    I've ordered the book that Harry Ree mentioned - it will add to my research on what it was like to be an ordinary German at the beginning and during the War. When I was a child in the UK.
    As your family history shows, many of them suffered as much as other victims of the madness.
  19. charlh

    charlh Member

    Thanks TD, yes, that is them, and now I have an address to visit in Liverpool next month (to see where they lived prior to heading to NZ) when I visit there. Thank you!
    Thanks for the info on the Reichsarbeitsdienst steelers708. It sounds all very likely. I wonder if this might also be on any records at the WASt website, hopefully I will find that out soon, either by reply to my email or when I hope to visit.
    Tricia, I would love to hear about your research, I can't imagine what it really was like living on the brink of war, realistically not long after another one just ended. Actually, living down under, a lot of our war history is overseas, so whilst we know stories of family members and can see the effects on them, the daily impact on our life couldn't be felt in the same as it would be over there.
  20. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Charlotte - it's not really "research", just reading as much as I can find on the subject, to try to broaden my view about Germany and the Germans. I admit to being very prejudiced against them before i joined this forum, due to my Dad being away during the war, and we heard all the terrible news My younger sister is the opposite - she studied at a German university - there were many family quarrels about it, and my own children were shocked at my attitude. Hopefully changed a lot now.
    I read fiction and non-fiction (in english.) Thomas Mann's novels are good, if rather heavy. Several other titles.
    I've started to read Frauen, can only take one chapter at a time and it's so full of information, hints etc, and also very tragic.

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