What do United States President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel all have in common? The obvious answer is that each of them is the leader of their country. There is another answer that you may be unaware of. All of them had family members who were in World War I.
Genealogists may discover that one, or more, of their ancestors fought in World War I. Over 65 million men were mobilized to fight in World War I.
President Barack Obama had a paternal grandfather named Hussein Onyango Obama. Information about him comes from a book titled The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family. He enlisted in the King’s African Rifle Carrier Corps. He fought against the Germans in East Africa.
The casualties were described as “astonishingly high”. The book says: “Of 165,000 African porters, more than 50,000 died, a death rate higher than the average on Europe’s bloody Western Front.” Hussein Onyango Obama returned, declined to live in his father’s compound, and choose to settle in an army-issue tent. People thought that he was crazy. By the 1920’s he was working as a cook.
President Vladimir Putin had a paternal grandfather by the name of Spiridon Putin. He was working as a chef before the war started. According to the online National Encyclopedia of Service of Russia, he was “called to the front”. It is unclear exactly what he did during WWI. One might speculate that he may have been in charge of a mess hall, considering his experience as a cook.
President Vladimir Putin also had a maternal grandfather named Ivan Shelomov. Ivan was born in 1904. He was too young to serve in WWI.
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel had a paternal grandfather by the name of Ludwig Kazmierczak. Merkel was born Angela Kasner, the Germanized name of her grandfather. It has been said that her grandfather adopted that surname in 1930.
A German TV news station found documents in Poznan, western Poland, that said that Ludwig Kazmierczak was drafted in 1915 into the Prussian army. He would have been 19 years old at the time.
There is also a photo from WWI that was taken in 1919 or 1920. In it, Merkel’s grandfather is wearing the uniform of the Haller Army. It was a Polish force used by the French army against Germany. However, this is not “hard proof” that he actually fought against the Germans during WWI.
Image by Gabriel on Flickr.
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