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The death of a Polish Wehrmacht soldier in Russia: Bernhard Switon (1923-1942)

Bernhard Switon in military uniform, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia
Bernhard Switon in military uniform, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia

In 2019, Porta Polonica received an enquiry from a member of the Switon family from Poland who was looking into their family tree. She had an historical photograph of Bernhard Switon from 1942 – a young man of Polish heritage from Recklinghausen in Wehrmacht uniform, just a few months before his death. Bernhard’s mother had sent the photo to his relatives in Poland at the time. 77 years after his death, the relative was now trying to find out more about Bernhard and his family because at some stage contact had been lost with the Switons across the borders. So our research started from this one photo.

For countless families in various countries, the experiences of the Second World War have become a traumatic legacy. But just what exactly do we know about the individual fates of the so-called “Ruhr Poles” in the Second World War? How did Poles end up in military service in the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern front? And how is this part of history anchored in the collective memory of the countries involved?

Mediathek Sorted

Mediathek
  • Bernhard Switon in military uniform, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia

    Bernhard Switon in military uniform, copy 2019

    Bernhard Switon in military uniform, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia
  • Older sister Antonja, mother Jozefa and the husband of Bernhard Switon’s sister, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia

    Older sister Antonja, mother Jozefa and the husband of Bernhard Switon’s sister, copy 2019

    Older sister Antonja, mother Jozefa and the husband of Bernhard Switon’s sister, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia
  • Bernhard Switon’s brother (?) – Adalbert/Wojciech, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia

    Bernhard Switon’s brother (?) – Adalbert/Wojciech, copy 2019

    Bernhard Switon’s brother (?) – Adalbert/Wojciech, copy 2019, original owned by Dorota Ciernia
  • Entry from the civil death register for Bernhard Switon, 23.11.1943, black and white copy (29.10.2020)

    Entry from the civil death register for Bernhard Switon, 23.11.1943, black and white copy (29.10.2020)
  • Index card from the residents' registration office on Bernhard Switon, 23.11.1943, black and white copy (29.10.2020)

    Index card from the residents' registration office on Bernhard Switon, 23.11.1943, black and white copy (29.10.2020)
  • Burial notification document for Bernhard Switon, copy 2000, Original in: German Federal Archives; Berlin, Ger-many; Register of casualty and burial notifications of fallen German soldiers 1939-1945 (-1948), Federal Archives file B 563-2; obtained from: Ancestry.com. Germany, Military Killed in Action, 1939-1948 [database online]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2020.

    Burial notification document for Bernhard Switon, copy 2000

    Burial notification document for Bernhard Switon, copy 2000, Original in: German Federal Archives; Berlin, Ger-many; Register of casualty and burial notifications of fallen German soldiers 1939-1945 (...
  • Letter information from the German War Graves Commission (Deutscher Volksbund Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V.) regarding Bernhard Switon, 16.05.2019

    Letter information from the German War Graves Commission (Deutscher Volksbund Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V.) regarding Bernhard Switon, 16.05.2019
  • Jozefa Olek’s birth certificate, 10/3/1888; black and white copy, obtained from Dorota Ciernia on 19/11/2020; Original owned by Kalisz National Archives

    Jozefa Olek’s birth certificate, 10/3/1888; black and white copy

    Jozefa Olek’s birth certificate, 10/3/1888; black and white copy, obtained from Dorota Ciernia on 19/11/2020; Original owned by Kalisz National Archives
  • Anton Switon’s birth certificate, 23/5/1891; black and white copy, obtained from Dorota Ciernia on 17/11/2020; Original owned by Kalisz National Archives

    Anton Switon’s birth certificate, 23/5/1891; black and white copy

    Anton Switon’s birth certificate, 23/5/1891; black and white copy, obtained from Dorota Ciernia on 17/11/2020; Original owned by Kalisz National Archives
  • Marriage certificate of Anton Switon and Jozefa Olek, 04.12.1915, with notes on the dates of death of the spouses.

    Marriage certificate of Anton Switon and Jozefa Olek, 04.12.1915, with notes on the dates of death of the spouses.
  • Death certificate of Jozefa Switon, 09.06.1969, black and white copy (12.11.2020)

    Death certificate of Jozefa Switon, 09.06.1969, black and white copy (12.11.2020)
  • Registration file of Anton Switon, 2 pages, black and white copy (12.11.2020)

    Registration file of Anton Switon, 2 pages, black and white copy (12.11.2020)
  • Registration file of Anton Switon Jr. (son of Jozefa), black and white copy (12.11.2020)

    Registration file of Anton Switon Jr. (son of Jozefa), black and white copy (12.11.2020)
  • Johann Switon und Anastasia Plotek’s marriage certificate, 04/6/1884; black and white copy, obtained from Dorota Ciernia on 17/11/2020; Original owned by Kalisz National Archives

    Johann Switon und Anastasia Plotek’s marriage certificate, 04/6/1884; black and white copy

    Johann Switon und Anastasia Plotek’s marriage certificate, 04/6/1884; black and white copy, obtained from Dorota Ciernia on 17/11/2020; Original owned by Kalisz National Archives
  • Family tree of the Olek family, created with MyHeritage.com

    Family tree of the Olek family, created with MyHeritage.com, copy received from Dorota Ciernia on 17.11.2020; original in the possession of the Ciernia/Olek family.
  • Antonja (bottom right), Jozefa Switon’s daughter, copy 2020, original owned by Dorota Ciernia

    Antonja (bottom right), Jozefa Switon’s daughter, copy 2020

    Antonja (bottom right), Jozefa Switon’s daughter, copy 2020, original owned by Dorota Ciernia
  • Family tree of Bernhard Switon

    Family tree of Bernhard Switon according to information from Dorota Ciernia and archive documents, compiled by Kathrin Lind, 24.11.2020
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2007
  • German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014

    German military cemetery in Nowgorod, 2014