By Ann Rabinowitz
Jacob Drimmer in Austro-Hungarian Military Uniform
(born Drohobycz, Ukraine, January 10, 1904)
One of the first things I attempted to do when I was researching my mother’s family was to try and determine if the stories my mother told me about my grandfather were true and not just “bubbe meises”. My grandfather, Yehuda-Leib Fink, who was born in Drohobycz, Ukraine, arrived in Manchester, England, in 1899, and had served previously, according to my mother, in the Emperor Franz Joseph’s Imperial Army.
Before our home in Manchester, England, was destroyed by the German Blitz in World War II, there was a large picture of my grandfather in his military uniform astride a horse which hung in the entryway. My mother remembered it vividly and the fact that her father always hummed while he worked the military song composed by Johann Strauss in 1848, the “Radetzky March” [http://us.yhs4.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=raditzky+march%2Cyou+tube&hspart=att&hsimp=yhs-att_001&type=att_lego_portal_home], was further confirmation that he had been a military conscript.
In fact, when World War I was declared, he was taken away to an internment camp on the Isle of Man in England because he had served in the Austro-Hungarian military and was therefore considered an enemy alien. Unfortunately, none of his British records survived the Blitz during World War II.
Just recently, I received a message from a researcher in Israel, Dr. Eli Brauner, who inquired about how to locate his grandfather, Israel Leon Schrenzel’s military records in the Austro-Hungarian Army. His grandfather below was born in 1884 in Lemberg, Galicia (now Lviv, Ukraine) and lived at Peltewna 13, Lemberg.
Israel Leon Schrenzel
As I told this researcher, looking for Jewish records of recruits in the Austro-Hungarian Army is very difficult, especially prior to World War I and that it would involve knowing where his relative was inducted and/or when he served in the Army.
When I looked for my grandfather over twenty years ago, I had a military expert do the research for me in the Austrian and Polish military records, but that person has now long ago passed away. I was told by other official military experts that the records were supposedly returned to the place of origin (Ukraine) after the war, but that was not proven to me. In addition, I did not have access to anyone, at that time, who could locate records in the Ukraine, if indeed, they were there.
One of resources that have become available since the time I first looked for records is those which were microfilmed by the Mormons. A very handy research tool to use is the following link which discusses these records which the Mormons hold: http://feefhs.org/journal/9/blodgett.pdf
Several other helpful links are as follows:
As you can see when you peruse the information in this resource http://www.polishroots.com/Resources/austrian_recruit/tabid/204/Default.aspx , you really need to know the regiment the recruit served in and the year(s). In addition, if the individual was not an officer, it is difficult to find a record of them.
Another link of interest is: http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/loc1866.htm This link gives peacetime garrisons in 1866 and, Lemberg, for instance, is listed.
The Leo Baeck Institute appears to have a collection regarding a staff physician, Bernhard Bardach, from Lemberg who served in the Army which may be helpful: http://findingaids.cjh.org/?pID=481632
Some further links for locating military resources are the following:
One of the visual resources regarding the Jewish soldiers who served in the Austro-Hungarian forces is the following Centropa video and series of photographs:
As you go through these illustrations, you will get a vivid idea of the differences in the uniforms, persons and situations that the Jews were confronted with in the Empire’s armed forces.
The map below shows the Empire at the start of World War I.
Further, there are collections of holiday cards which were sent by the Jewish soldiers to their relatives during their service in World War I whilst in the Army which is discussed and portrayed in the following article: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4137314,00.html
There is even an article: http://www.gilzohar.ca/articles/israel/i2010-21.html which recounts the participation of troops from the Austro-Hungarian Army who served in Palestine during World War I, some of whom were Jews.
In addition, there were also Jews who fought on the side of the Turkish sultan during the war.
Austro-Hungarian Troops in Palestine During World War I
There were many Jewish soldiers who served during World War I and there were those who also perished. One of those was Zalman Berger who was killed during the definitive Battle of Lemberg in 1915. His grave is seen below as found in the YIVO archives:
Grave of Soldier Zalman Berger
(Died 1915, Lemberg, Galicia)
Another Jewish soldier who was killed was Israel Leon Schrenzel, the grandfather of Dr. Eli Brauner, who had contacted me. It is now going to be his chore to wade through all of the resources available to try and find a listing of his grandfather’s military records and his death.
After going through all of the available online materials as noted above, researchers should probably post an inquiry on JewishGen, Gesher Galicia or other similar digests which are in the area of what constituted the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so that individuals, who have done the most recent research, can assist you.