Posted 13 April 2008 - 02:09 PM
My grandfather was a fascinating character who I really was ignorant about before I found his WW I letters and then did a lot of research.
He was born a Prussian peasant. The family traditionally served in Ulan=Regiment (1. brandenburgische) Nr. 3 as enlisted cavalrymen, but he opted to enter the artillery, and when he became a NCO and had invented some technology he was trained to be an explosives expert (Feuerwerker), was posted to a Guards regiment, and then on to be a Feuerwerk=Offizier, or a technical explosives officer. Thus he was able to rise from the peasant class to be a professional Prussian officer, quite a difficult feat. However, he had two families, one sort of a business marriage, with a woman he did not even live near, and also an unofficial relationship with a Danish woman, with whom he had two children, one being my father, sort of a love family. When my official grandmother found out about the second family she poisoned him with Deadly Nightshade (which my wife grows in our food garden). He was disabled and had to give up his active duty status, but later recovered and was able to join the Reserves. Instead of prosecuting his wife criminally he sued her in a civil action (she was wealthy), and suddenly became a gentleman farmer. A bit later he became the manager of the Berlin stockyards.
Did really interesting stuff during the war as a staff officer, and got the EK II and EK I within the first 2-3 months, but that is not the topic. His letters from Belgium are very dramatic and sensitive; he was much more sensitive at that time than my father was at that time, Pop was simply a very dangerous thug at that time; storm trooper, flamethrower operator, Freikorps fighting, shooting Communists, and then Schwartze Reichswehr and work as a bodyguard.
After the war g-f had some role at the Berlin stock exchange. After the war he had a series of lawsuits with the patriarch of a very wealthy and powerful family, who had tried to bribe him with an astonishing sum during the war to pass a lot of defective and dangerous artillery ammunition from one of their ammunition factories. He won in court and then challenged the patriarch to a duel with automatic pistols; the other man refused (g-f was a crack shot; he loved the broomstick Mauser C 96, as an artillery officer), and the other man was thrown out of the Reserve Officer's Association. (I had not realized until lately that there was active serious dueling in Prussia; there was, and very bloody-minded; no leaping about with sabres dramatically slashing away, but multiple shot duels with automatic pistols till someone dropped.) He died in the 1930's.