The “Prussian Military Archive” in Potsdam and the “Central Registry Office for Warrior Losses and War Graves” in Berlin.
These archives were destroyed by bombing in 1945, making it harder to research German participation in World War I. This according to historian Jesper Zedlitz.
Mr. Zedlitz analyzed 31,000 pages of official “losses lists” from W.W.I by crowdsourcing them to hundreds of volunteers who were interested in learning about their ancestors. The 700 volunteers indexed about 90% of the pages.
The German Reich published these lists from 1914 to 1919. They contained the names of people killed, wounded, missing and captured. The names weren’t in alphabetical order, but sorted by military unit: regiments, batallions, companies, etc. Also, the Prussian, Bavarian, Württembergisch and Saxon armies, the Kaiser’s Navy and the Kaiser’s Protective Troops all kept their own counts and published separate lists. The lists were in tiny print, in the difficult obsolete “Fraktur” fonts, in three columns with about 300 entries per page.
Mr. Zedlitz said during the war many errors were made in the many steps between dictating the names in the field and publishing the losses lists in Berlin. Handwriting was involved. Typesetting keyboards were also different from today’s qwerty keyboards, and so typical typesetting errors involved switching different letters.
Observations from the accessed data:
In 1917 they stopped publishing the identifying date of birth, presumably because this would tell the enemy that the German army was sending soldiers into the field who were too old and too young. The Navy’s losses lists included very sad descriptions of unidentified dead sailors who washed up on beaches, with details to help in possible identification.
“Unknown No. 191. On 26 Aug 1917, a body washed ashore on the seacoast near Bangsaa (Thisted district, Denmark), floating in a white-striped unmarked lifesaver. The dead man wore a shirt, embroidered wool suspenders, underpants, gray wool socks, jackboots, blue jacket, and blue trousers with a buttoning trapdoor, whose buttons were stamped ‘Kaiser’s Navy.’ On the outside of the right forearm was an anchor and a figure supposed to represent the bust of a woman. On the inside of the same arm, was a complete portrait of a woman, extending from the elbow to the wrist. The middle finger of the left hand was tattooed with a signet ring. On the middle finger of the right hand was a wedding ring engraved with ‘T. Henne 07.'”
(PROYSS ish ess HAIR ess archh eef in POTS dom, tsen TRALL NOCHH vice omt fir CREE gah feah LOOSE tah oont CREEGS gray bah in beah LYNN.)