I heard about “Bruder Hans” a good bit in my childhood: Julius Hans (nobody called him Julius, however) was my maternal grandmother‘s favorite brother. Given that she had four of them along with three sisters, that’s saying something. And while we always knew that he fell during WWII, we never knew when exactly, let alone where or how. Memorial Day is always a good occasion for research websites to release genealogically interesting material from military records, and this year they released the records of German forces casualties for the years 1939 – 1948, among other data. And listed there I found my Great-Uncle Hans.
But back to the beginning:
Julius Hans von Hinten, the second son of Franz von Hinten and Johanna Clemens, was born in Aachen, Germany, also known as Aix-la-Chapelle, city of Charlemagne, on 7 June 1910. Here we have him (on the left) with three of his siblings, some time between 1916 and 1919, I should say.
Times were turbulent in Germany during Hans’ youth. He was born when Emperor Wilhelm II still ruled Germany, grew up during WWI and the Weimar Republic, and was 23 years old when the Nazi-era began. The family relocated to Dorsten before 1913, and when Hans had finished school, he became a dentist like his father, although we do not know if he stayed in Dorsten for his studies or went elsewhere. However, in September 1939 at the age of 29, when WWII was just beginning in Europe, he married Elisabeth Anna Ulrich (or Ullrich) in Eutin, Schleswig-Holstein, close to 300 miles (almost 500 km) north-east of Dorsten. The Ulrich’s were from that area, and Hans and Lisa settled there, too. They had two children, first a boy, then a girl, although Hans cannot have seen much of them, as was the fate of many young men during that time: Hans was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht, and thus he was more away from home than not. His son was around two years old by the time Hans passed away, and his daughter was born less than a month before his death. But maybe he was lucky and on home leave when she arrived in this world. Here is a picture of him as a young man, presumably in his late teens or early twenties:
By the time Hans was to die, he served as a private in the 376th Infantry Regiment which was to be included into the 376th Infantry Division that was formed in March 1942 and sent direction Stalingrad to fight Communism. But Hans never made it anywhere near Russia, it seems. Death found him on 16 February 1942 in some place we cannot decipher: Try your luck in the featured image, the word after the date 16.2.1942: Rytr? Rytv? Sounds more like an abbreviation to me than a place; maybe he was on his way to France or back home from there. Regardless, since his regiment was stationed in the Angoulême region in France at the time (these days known as Nouvelle-Aquitaine), we assume that he died in that area. He took a direct hit from an artillery grenade, the above death certificate states. I wonder if he has a grave at all, given the circumstances, or if he is one of the countless un-buried soldiers that the history of mankind has produced.
Strangely enough, his family didn’t know a whole lot about this until now. His mother did receive the news of his soldier’s death along with a medal, the “Golden Mother’s Cross”. Apparently, she did not appreciate it – small wonder – but threw it through the closed window into the street instead where the family then quickly retrieved it to keep her out of trouble with the authorities.
Requiescat in Pace, Great-Uncle Hans. You were loved, and you are not forgotten.
Apparently, Hans does have a grave in Eutin, so we can hope they found his body and brought him home, and it is not just a memorial marker. Also, it appears that Hans and his brother-in-law Paul, husband of Hans’ sister Anna, met somewhere during the war, and that Hans was anxious to hear if his second child had already been born. Paul (my grandfather) did not know either, it seems. This meeting must have taken place early in 1942 or possibly late in 1941.