Thanks guys, I have no interest in the value as to me the find and the story is the point but thanks for the info.
Eicke yes I am aware he would have had a german tag if he did indeed serve with them but as this is a bracelet tag no reason I can see he would not have kept it as well.
I don't quite follow why in my first link in first post, it shows a site that has him as with German forces 39-45 if he wasn't?
06-05-2014 10:51 AM
I stop to follow this Thread...
Apologies if I offended Lebus, not my intention at all
Hello, I just registered on the forum because I'm interested in the history of Schlenck.
I'm come from Normandy (Manche) but I know Moselle a little, i'm interested by the history of "despite us" of Moselle and Alsace.About 100,000 Alsacians and 30000 mosellans were forced "enlisted" into the German army, especially in the Waffen SS to fight on the eastern front.
Regarding Jules Schlenck, Julius for German, this nameplate come from French army.
He was taken prisoner by the Germans and released or demobilized after the armistice then forced conscripted.
I think it has kept its original plate on the eastern front in addition to its Erkennungsmarke because there were more details.
In the archives of Moselle Department concerning the recruiting office of Sarrebourg, records of classes 1901 to 1927 were destroyed and partially restored in the form of "sheets registered of Control" from 1917.
"The men who were forcibly conscripted into the German army from 1942 to 1945, their cases are different. We know, at the time of this writing, that those born before 1919 (prior to classes 1939), while the classes from 1912 to 1924 were affected by the incorporation of force Moselle. If they were conscripted French demobilized by the French after June 22, 1940 and released by the Germans as Alsace-Lorraine in 1940 -1941 and they were still living in 1945, their sheet has been completed for entries for their passage in the German army (but not always) before the notes on their career possible after 1944-1945. "
The real story behind the tag...
The Jules Schlenck Story
OK following my initial ask on here to see what I could find iut, I now have the mans full story, as I originally suggested a forced German soldier or volunteer proved to be the case...
It was as already mentioned discovered it in a heavily fought over area that was littered with the detritus of war.
However it had been lost I was convinced it had to have been lost during the fighting but how and why were the questions? Speaking to some Eastern Front experts they agreed that keeping his original French dog tag bracelet would make sense for a ‘forced soldier’ as it may help him survive the initial period of capture by the Russians should that have been his fate. So that was the first direction I needed to look, was he a volunteer or a forced conscript.
One website showed a Jules Schlenck as being recorded on the Valmont War Memorial in the Moselle region of France as one of those missing with German Forces. I was convinced this was probably my man but emails to both the French and German authorities received no reply, so I seemed to be at an immediate dead end.
But that’s where the power of the internet and like minded people come to fore. First I was helped by Francois from the website [L'incorporation de force des jeunes d'Alsace et Moselle] and then I ‘met’ Richard Klein who runs the ‘“Malgré-Nous” et Incorporés de Force’ Face Book pages. Richard knows his way round the records and archives brilliantly and found copies of documents I never would have been able to trace, without his help the story of Jules would remain an unknown one. I can only pass on my sincerest thanks for all his help.
Jules was born on March 2, 1917 to his parents Pierre and Germaine Schlenck. They lived at No. 6 Rue Basse in Valmont, Moselle.
At the age of 20 in 1937 he did his compulsory military service in the French Fourth Infantry Regt, which of course is when the dog tag I found would have been issued to him. I like to think he wore it continuously from when it was issued, to when it was lost and it witnessed all of the following story.
Following his compulsory military service he then went onto study at the Seminary of Metz from where he planned to pursue an ecclesiastical career, however with the clouds of war gathering he was mobilised in 1939 back into the French military.
Following the start of the Blitzkrieg in May 1940 Jules was captured by the Germans sometime before France’s formal surrender on June 22, 1940. He appears on the 1946 produced French list for men from Moselle captured, as soldier 9396. It appears like many from the Alsace and Lorraine regions he was soon released, presumably his Franco/German background aided this quick return home. He then returned back to the Moselle region and the village of Valmont.
Having returned home he did not return to his religious studies but instead went to work at the huge coal mine at nearby Folschviller. The mine was close to the Maginot Line and had been evacuated since Sept 1939, however by November 1940 residents were returning to the area and the mine would start production again and be a significant producer of coal. Whilst here he was assigned to the electrical services department at the mine office and it was from here he graduated as an assistant electrical engineer.
With the war turning against Germany and the Eastern Front consuming manpower on an enormous scale the inevitable happened and despite appealing against it he was conscripted into the German forces on January 24, 1944. At this point it is fair to refer to him as one of the ‘Malgré-Nous’, which is a French term for ‘Against our will’ which is the title used to refer to the men of the Alsace-Moselle region who were conscripted into the German Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS during the Second World War. Jules was initially posted to the Kriegsmarine and was sent to the Island Fortress of Sylt. Much of the island was an off limit military area and housed numerous facilities of the German military.
His last visit home was in June 1944 presumably for some form of leave. He did around this time bravely refuse to be transferred to undertake special research that would have utilised his skills as an electrical engineer for the German war machine. His refusal led to an immediate ‘reprisal’ punishment and in his case this was to be sent to the Russian Front to join a Tank Hunter-Killer team.
He duly left immediately never to see his family or homeland again and headed east towards Latvia. Here according to his first Feldpost Number of 58071B he joined the 1st Kompanie of the 263rd Field Replacement Unit.
The 263 Infantry Division was in II Corps, part of the German 18th Army, which in turn was part of Army Group North that would later make up Army Group Kurland. Its Field Replacement Units would both supply soldiers to the front, train and teach new tactics and be used to plug gaps in the line during alarms.
The second FP number on his correspondence appeared on his final letter home to his brother on 2 October 1944. The number 36291B places him with the 2nd. Kompanie of Grenadier-Regiment 639, still within 263 Infantry Division, and still within the cut off and completely surrounded Army Group Kurland.
It is his brothers testimony that tells us he was being used as a nominated tank destroyer. Within the Kurland pocket such a job, in a front line unit such as his, was a job that offered a very short average life span.
Despite his dog tag having been found near Dzelda where some of the Oct/Nov 1944 battles of the Second Battle of Kurland were fought and added to this the fact that his last letter home was sent on October 2, 1944 it would be perhaps fair to think his story ends here. Indeed the initial post war report agreed and gave his likely date of death as being ‘on or around November 1, 1944’. This date was used as it was a month after his last letter home was sent. However there is another twist…
A soldier from the same unit, Johan Junker from Regensburg was interviewed regarding those still missing from the war on March 18, 1952. He stated that he recognised a picture of Jules Schlenck shown to him as being a comrade from his unit and that he had last seen him on the 15 March 1945 in ‘Ruchy bei Kalven’.
Whilst this exact name cannot be found it is possibly Ruski ‘House’ near Kalvene, which is around, 20kms from where the tag was found and some 45kms from Frauenberg where Jules was finally reported ‘missing believed killed’. On the basis of this testimony and it being believed to be accurate his date of death was amended in his records to having taken place ‘on or around April 1, 1945’.
Interestingly the date of March 15 mentioned by his comrade is little more than a day or so before the Soviets launched their attack known as the Sixth Battle of Kurland that would be the final major assault to try and overrun the pocket. If we add the fact that outbound post was erratic from the pocket and perhaps his letters home had been lost aboard a sunk ship or otherwise destroyed, or that he was perhaps wounded and unable to communicate then just maybe he did indeed survive the fight in the woods where his tag was found. It is of course also possible that his comrade was mistaken in remembering seeing him and he was indeed killed in the woods near Dzelda in November 1944. I suspect we will never know the full story.
What we do know though is that Jules was one of the 130,000 ‘Malgré-Nous’, of whom some 32,000 were killed in action and a further 10,500 are still missing, presumed killed in action. Between 5,000 and 10,000 prisoners-of-war died in Russian captivity, most of them at the Soviet camp at Tambov where many of the Alsace and Lorraine men were held. Whilst the camp was hard, conditions in the Siberian mines where some went was far, far worse.
On April 17, 1950 Jules’ death was classified as being ‘He Died for France’ and he is thus commemorated on the Valmont War Memorial.
Sadly his brother Leon, a carpenter, died on the 8 February 1996 and his sister Elisabeth died in Strasbourg on June 13, 2000. Neither are recorded as having been married and there is no record of any children, so it has been impossible to return the tag to the family or add a little to what they knew of his whereabouts.
The final part of the project or ‘la cerise sur le gateau’ would be finding a photograph of Jules, will it be possible, who knows but friends of Richard are trying and I would like to hope so, as I think his story deserves an image to personalise it.
Thus through a strange quirk of fate and a million to one metal detecting signal in a forest littered with the detritus of war, a pre-war French dog tag, belonging to a uniformed German infantryman from Moselle, was found in Latvia, by an Englishman.
C’est la Vie.
A tiny item for sure, but one that tells a big story of the personal tragedy of a man whose only mistake was to have been born in an area that saw him have to fight for both sides having been caught between two battling giants in extraordinary times.
Photos: Valmont War Memorial with Jules’ name visible to the left with other Malgre Nous, courtesy of the ‘mounemnts aux morts’ website.
Jules’ family home in Valmont, the white house recently refurbished and courtesy of streetview
Thank you for telling this man's story
Very interesting --- thank you!
Thanks for the comments chaps, a shame perhaps more people have not stopped by, relics are but part of the story.
Anyway... to complete the story a photo of him has been found in a German Red Cross document showing the missing... note the German use of Julius rather than Jules...
The story is complete now.