Monday, August 31, 2009

A German Chaplain on the Russian Front

I'm always drawn to annecdotes in military history about the work of chaplains. This short and tantalizing story is found in Panzer Commander, the memoirs of Colonel Hans Von Luck, a German officer with a distinguished service record in World War Two.

In Von Luck's account of 7 Panzer Division's retreat from Moscow in the winter of 1941, he mentions the division's chaplain, Martin Tarnow. Thus far I've been unable to find anything about him, and would be grateful for any information. MP+


"Only the will to reach safety in the prepared positions kept the men going. Anything to avoid being left behind and falling into the hands of the Russians.

Our divisional chaplain, Martin Tarnow, in his notes "Last Hours", has described the suffering and death of so many men.

"Voda, voda (water): Some wounded men lay in a kind of barn, among them a few Russians. In the face of death there were no longer any enemeies. Again and again came the penetrating cry of a Russian: 'Voda, voda". I gave him my water-bottle; he drained it in one grateful swig. When I raised his blanket, I saw the blood-saoked bandage. A stomach wound, no hope. We couldn't understand each other, but suddenly he grasped my silver cross. Perhaps he, too, had a cross at home, hanging on the wall of his parents' house? I thought of Christ on the cross, who had once cried out, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise". It was not long before his hand released my cross, he died very quickly. In dying, I believe he was consoled."

Hans Von Luck, Panzer Commander (New York: Dell, 1989), p. 82.

12 comments:

Bernard von Schulmann said...

there is a mention of him as division Chaplain in Normandy in 1944

http://www.feldgrau.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=15378&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=0

Bernard von Schulmann said...

Some more mentions of what would seem to be him

http://books.google.ca/books?id=20NmAAAAMAAJ&q=%22Martin+Tarnow%22&dq=%22Martin+Tarnow%22&client=firefox-a

He married a Eva Rosel Martha Laura who was born in 1912 in Hamburg. I do not know her last name, the interface makes it hard. Her mother was Martha Dagott

No note of his birth or death

Bernard von Schulmann said...

He is mentioned in the book "Evangelische Kirche im Zweiten Weltkrieg" (The Lutheran Church in World War 2) it is a 1991 book that are the proceedings of a conference held June 19-21, 1989, in Barmen, Wuppertal, Germany.

Bernard von Schulmann said...

His wife's last name was von Grotthuss. This is a Baltic German noble family.http://www.grotthuss.de/

I am 95% certain she survived World War 2 as she is not mentioned in a book of all of the Baltic Germans that died or where missing in World War 2.

there is mention of a Pfarrer Tarnow in this book:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=LwoXAAAAIAAJ&q=%22Pfarrer+Tarnow%22&dq=%22Pfarrer+Tarnow%22&num=100&client=firefox-a

This person seems to be the head of bible publishing company in Schwerin in Germany. the book was published in 1961 at which time this would have been in the east. But there have been many pastors in eastern Germany with the last name Tarnow - this is originally a Polish surname.

Hopefully some of what I have sent you will help you find something more about the man.

mad padre said...

Thank you, Bernard, that is totally awesome and very helpful.

MP

Bernard von Schulmann said...

Let me know if you find out anything more

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Anonymous said...

What an inspiring story! I am Martin Tarnow's grandson and I did not know any details of him serving on the front. He never talked to me about it. My mother's family had to flee from Konigsberg to Schwerin in late 1944. My grandfather was a priest at the Schlosskirche in Schwerin but he moved/fled to Western Germany in the late 50s because he was not conforming with the GDR's outlook on Christianity. He worked as a priest again in Bochum, where he stayed true to his calling even in old age when he visited sick people in hospital. He died in 1998 and lies interred at the St├Ądtische Friedhof, Bochum. My grandmother, whose name was Evi-Rose, died several years later.

all the best for your work!
Max

mad padre said...

Hello Martin:

Many thanks for your post. If you see this, please email me at madpadre@gmail.com - I'd like to speak with you.

MP+

Ben said...

http://www.oac.cdlib.org/data/13030/73/kt4f59r673/files/kt4f59r673.pdf

If you flip through the table of contents, under the 'Box 23' section, you'll find a reference to a Martin Tarnow. They have some of his work or something about him filed away. Might prove interesting to see if you can access that.

S/F

mad padre said...

Thanks, Ben, that is very helpful - I noticed that the archive has a whole box on German chaplains, which certainly got my curious. Will certainly follow up that Tarnau lead.

Cheers,

MP+

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.

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