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