Three Soldiers – Three Brothers? – Fallen for France: Hermann, Jules, and Max Boers

The sources of historical and genealogical information about twentieth century military servicemen – official documents; private correspondence; photographs; news items; ephemera, and more – are vast.  And even among the historical records of any particular nation, one finds tremendous variation – over time, in different theatres of military operations; among and between different branches of the armed forces – in the way that information is recorded, categorized, and (hopefully!) preserved.       

Regardless of the era or conflict; regardless of the country in question; such military archival information can reveal patterns, relationships, and interactions encompassing both military service and civilian life.  The fragments of history can coalesce; suggesting; revealing; unfolding a larger, often unexpected story. 

As, seems to be the case presented below…

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In an effort to identify Jewish military casualties in the French armed forces during the First Wodl War, I’ve relied upon two books – Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française (1914-1918) and, Le Livre d’or du Judaïsme Algérien (1914-1918) as the primary, central (and perhaps exclusive?) published works listing names of fallen French Jewish soldiers. 

Specific bibliographic information about these works is given below:

1) Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française (1914-1918) (Israelites [Jews] in the French Army), Angers, 1921 – Avant-Propos de la Deuxième Épreuve [Forward to the Second Edition], Albert Manuel, Paris, Juillet, 1921 – (Réédité par le Cercle de Généalogie juive [Reissued by the Circle for Jewish Genealogy], Paris, 2000)

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2) Le Livre d’or du Judaïsme Algérien (1914-1918) (The Gold Book of Algerian Jewry (1914-1918), 1919 – Pubication du Comiée Algérien d’Études Sociales 1er fascicule septembre 1919 ((Réédité par le Cercle de Généalogie juive [Reissued by the Circle for Jewish Genealogy], Paris, 2000) – Avec la collaboration de Georges Teboul et de Jean-Pierre Bernard.

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Then, it was a process of on-line searching: The French Government’s SGA (Secrétariat Général pour l’Administration “General Secretariat for Administration”) databases covering World War One deaths and military casualties were thoroughly searched to identify and download records for the names listed in these two books.  The specific databases used in this endeavor have been “Died for France in the First World War” (for “PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS (‘PART TO BE COMPLETED BY THE CORPS’)” forms), “War Graves”, and to a much lesser extent, “Military Aviation Personnel.” 

Links for the three databases are given below:  

Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale (“Died for France in the First World War”)

Sépultures de Guerre (“War Graves”)

Personnels de l’aéronautique militaire (“Military Aviation Personnnel”)

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Though the above books have been absolutely essential in this endeavor, like other historical reference works (particularly those published very shortly after a historical event) they do manifest a variety of not unexpected problems. 

These include the absence of names, the presentation of information about the same person under multiple name variants, names for which other information is in error or fragmentary, and finally, names for which no equivalent (even a rough phonetic equivalent) can be identified at any of the SGA databases. 

The image below – a example of the notes I made in my copy of Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française (1914-1918) while researching the Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale database – shows the challenges involved.  The circled dots indicate names definitively identified using the Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale database.  Left-pointing arrows indicate names for which no record could be found.  (Well, the last time I searched…)  Finally, names connected by arrows indicate variants of the same name.  For example, “Mimoun Borianiche” and “Mimoun Bouaniche” are one and the same soldier.

This isn’t meant to detract from the efforts of the creators of these compilations.  Given the challenges they likely faced – incorrect, missing, or fragmentary original records, the simple unavailability of records, and, efforts constrained by limited staff, time, and other resources – they generated laudabl, historically invaluable, and above all necessary works.

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The records – the “hits” – generated by the SGA website comprise low-resolution (96 dpi) scans (from microfilm?) of “PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS (‘PART TO BE COMPLETED BY THE CORPS’)” forms.  The information fields on these forms comprise a soldier’s surname, given (first) and middle names, military grade, military unit, matriculation number in class, number, date and place of recruitment, date of death, place of death, cause of death, date of birth, and place of birth (Department in France, or name of another country.)

A very helpful discussion about the forms, by Thierry Sabot (with various talk-backs – one as recently as June of 2017) can be found at the History-Genealogy Magazine website.)

On arriving at page 18 of Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, I noted something intriguing; curious, and above all – portentously sad:  Four soldiers with the surname “Boers”, three of whom were born in Amsterdam during a three-year time frame.  The page is shown below:

The three from Amsterdam men were Hermann Boers, Jules Boers, and Max Boers.  (The fourth “Boers” was Michel, from Paris.)

Upon reviewing their PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS forms for the three men, a relationship suggested itself. 

1) Their matriculation numbers are immediately sequential: 26749 for Jules, 26750 for Max, and 26751 for Herman. 

2) All served in the 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger. 

3) Jules and Max were killed on the same day, and at the same place: May 9, 1915, at Neuville-Saint-Vaast.  Both were missing (“disparu”), and will probably always be missing. 

Hermann was killed on September 28, 1915, at Souain, and was known to have been killed by the enemy (“Tué a l’ennemi”). 

4) Max, born on March 10, 1885, was the oldest.  Hermann was born thirteen months later, on June 11, 1886.  Jules, the youngest, was born eleven months after Hermann, on July 13, 1887.

All of which leads to a question:  Were they brothers?

I do not know. 

Unfortunately, PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS forms neither list the names of a serviceman’s next of kin, nor give his residential address.  Such information would be the key that answer the question.  But, the signs seem to point in that direction.

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One hundred and two years – over a century – have transpired since their deaths.  “Our” world is not the same as theirs – how could it be? – but I would like to think that one thing has remained unchanged in human nature: The need to remember. 

At least – in the world of 2017 – I hope so.

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Specific information about the men, and images of their PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS forms, is presented below.

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– .ת. נ. צ. ב. ה

Jules

Boers, Jules, Soldat de 2ème classe, Légion étrangère, 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger
No. 26749 au Corps E.V. 1914
Matricule S.M. 3245 au Recrutement Seine Central
Born July 13, 1887, Amsterdam, Hollande
Missing [Disparu]
May 9, 1915; Pas-de-Calais, Neuville-Saint-Vaast
Not listed in Sépultures de guerre database

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Max

Boers, Max, Soldat de 2ème classe, Légion étrangère, 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger
No. 26750 au Corps E.V. 191_
Matricule S.M. 2709 au Recrutement Seine B.C.
Born March 10, 1885, Amsterdam, Hollande
Missing [Disparu]
May 9, 1915; Pas-de-Calais, Neuville-Saint-Vaast
Not listed in Sépultures de guerre database

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Hermann

Boers, Hermann, Soldat de 2ème classe, Légion étrangère, 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger
No. 26751 au Corps Cl. 1919
Matricule: 3530 au Recrutement Lyon Central
Born June 11, 1886, Amsterdam, Hollande
Killed by the enemy [Tué a l’ennemi]
September 28, 1915; Marne, Souain
Not listed in Sépultures de guerre database

 

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