Copyright © 2001. 2013
® Canada Copyright Registration  No. 490341
to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.


Gustav Altwasser

The son of Johann August Altwasser and Anna Hiller

Information about Johann August Altwasser and Anna Hiller

Gustav Altwasser and Pauline Langner
Photos courtesy of W. Köllner

before 1920


Descendants of Gustav Altwasser and Pauline Langner

The research of Karl Lenz shows that Gustav was the son of Johann August Altwasser and Anna Hiller born on February 26, 1882 in Antonowka. EWZ file 127607 for Eduard Altwasser confirms this data because it indicates Gustav Altwasser as his father, Pauline Langner as his mother and his paternal grandfather as Johann Altwasser.

Gustav Altwasser died in 1920 at Wielke Pole, a victim of war-time hostilities between Poland and Russia.

Pauline Langner was born on July 26, 1889 in Wielkie Pole, the daughter of Gottlieb Langner and Pauline Doberstein. She died peacefully on May 26, 1970 in Mehlby-Neuheim, Schleswig Holstein, Germany and is buried in the Kappeln Cemetery.
Kostopol District of Volhynia

Map by ©Jerry Frank 2000

How Pauline Met Gustav - Kostopol 1905

Pauline's daughter Alma Martin wrote "Die Lebensgeschichte der Alma Martin."
Jack Milner translated and extracted the following selected text.

Both Johann August Altwasser, our miller from Antonowka, and Gottlieb Langner, another miller from Wielke Pole, conducted agricultural and other business with district residents from far and wide at the Kostopol farmers market.

My mother, Pauline Langner, sometimes came to the Kostopol farmer's market with her father to help with the sale of his grain and pigs. Local farmers met here and she was introduced to a nice, good-looking young man by her father. "This is Gustav Altwasser, who will one day become your husband. I have already discussed this with his father."

My mother was certainly a beautiful girl, black hair, very beautiful blue eyes, medium height (158 cm) and slim (she was a pretty woman till old age). Gustav was much taller than her, also with dark hair and blue eyes. She did not notice the colour of his eyes until much later. She told me that it was very embarrassing for her when her father offered her hand to the young man. She also did not know what she should say. His father invited them both to a Wurstbrot and Schnaps afterwards. I asked her whether she had liked Gustav. She told me that she liked him and was pleased. Her father then invited the young man to visit them on Sunday.

Gustav then came to visit my mother every Sunday after church service. Of course the parents were always present. Sometimes they met other young people on the village square where music was played and they danced. My mother said he played the fiddle beautifully. Happily, Pauline and the dark haired young man with blue eyes also approved of each other. After a couple of weeks, the banns were posted to announce their intention to marry and the wedding took place during the summer of 1905.

Mother was the first Langner daughter to be married and she got a large dowry. Her father gave them land, 7 cows and a horse as well as everything that they needed. Naturally her husband also received a substantial number of gifts. The wedding was a true village fest. All their friends and relatives were invited, as well as all the neighbours from both villages. The celebration lasted for three days, normal for a wedding celebrated by a well to do couple. Her father said he had to splurge for this occasion. There was a lot of good food, cooking , baking and of course no shortage of schnapps. In any case, my mother said it was the nicest wedding which she had ever experienced in her life.

The newlywed couple lived with her parents until their house was completed, with many helping hands from the village people. Both were industrious and built another windmill because Gustav was also a Miller. Self sufficiency came by selling surplus grain and cattle at the market and buying only material items they could not produce themselves.

The young couple were happy and content. She had eight children with her Gustav, but only four survived to adulthood. The others, including a set of twins, died as small babies.

World War I and Deportation

Many German colonists of military age served in the Russian Army on the  Turkish Front during WW I.

In 1914 Gustav had been conscripted into the Russian Army and Pauline was left alone with three children. Only her mother was there to help while she visited Gustav for several happy weeks in the Crimea, returning home expecting the birth of another child. Tragically, while she was away, their oldest daughter had died from smallpox.

We know that Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914 and the Russians became more openly hostile to the German colonists within Russia. The first government confiscations of German owned land in Volhynia started on February 2, 1915. Of 200,000 Volhynian Germans, 100,000 lost their land.

1915 saw disaster strike the Russian army, which from June to September was forced to retreat up to three hundred miles back into Russia, abandoning Russian occupied Poland. Ethnic Germans living in these border areas were Russian Citizens, but for years had been subjected to political, bureaucratic and military thinking against them. In June 1915 all the German families were ordered out of the area and deported to Siberia, presumably because they were considered as enemy aliens in a war zone and perceived to be a threat to the future security of Russia. They were not allowed to return to their homes until after the Czarist government collapsed in 1917.

Pauline, with three small children and expecting another, was deported to Siberia with the other German families in railway cattle cars. A new baby was born during this four week journey and died within weeks.

Expropriation lists 1916

Nr. Name Vorname Vatersname Desjatinen
74. Altwasser Gustav Jakob 16
Landenteignungsliste Wielkopole
Shitomirer Zeitung, 1916

In the June 2, 1916 edition in the Shitomir newspaper "Wolinskija Gubernskija Wdomosti" were dozens of lists that had been published in the paper over the previous six months or so, with results varying between the June 2, list and the earlier ones. In some cases, patrynomic names appear in one list, but not the other and some people appear on one list, but not the other. The reason is not clear, but it appears the lists were retyped for the June 2 issue, and not necessarily from the earlier paper. The June 2, 1916 list is a resource, but hardly the ultimate guide to the names of those whose property was expropriated.

The list for Wielkopole (Welyke Pole) contained the name of Gustav Altwasser who lost 16 Desjatinen to expropriation. One desjatin equals about 1.09 hectares or 2.47 acres. Note that the Fathers name (Vatersname) appears as Jakob and not the expected Johann or August.

Return Home - 1918

Amid the devastation and turmoil of what had been home, Pauline returned to Wielkopole and Gustav came back from the war shortly thereafter. Their buildings were run down but intact, the fields overgrown with weeds rampant.

When the Czarist government collapsed in 1917, the Bolsheviks became the strongest political force in Russia, but felt they could not gain control of the whole country at the same time that Russia was battling with Germany. Germany was ceded large tracts of Russian land, including the Ukraine, under the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed on March 3, 1918. Occupation by German troops was short lived however, and in November 1918, the armistice Treaty of Versailles forced German troop withdrawal.

Polish-Soviet War

The frontiers between Poland and Soviet Russia had not been clearly defined after WW I and the Poles held control of most of the disputed territories in 1919. The war had been precipitated largely by the demand of Poland that its eastern border of 1772 be restored. Following a Polish attempt to take advantage of Russia's weakness with a major incursion into Ukraine in early 1920, border skirmishes then escalated into open hostilities between Poland and Soviet Russia. The Bolsheviks mounted an April counter-offensive which was very successful. By mid-August, the Polish forces had retreated westward to the Polish capital of Warsaw. The Polish forces then achieved an unexpected and decisive victory during the Battle of Warsaw and began their advance eastward.

Death - 1920

Possession of a weapon was prohibited.

In September 1920, on a Sunday afternoon, Gustav Altwasser was shot to death in front of his wife and his children by four Bolshevik soldiers. They had searched his home and found the rifle from his war service with the Imperial Russian Army.   Baby Gustav was born on December 14, 1920.

In 1940, sons Eduard and August stated during separate EWZ interviews that their father Gustav had been shot.

  • Eduard Altwasser:  "Der Vater Gustav Altwasser Wurde den Polen 1917 als deutschfreundlich bzw als deutscher Spion festgenommen und erschossen."

  • August Altwasser:  "1920 wurde er von den Polen wegen Besitz einer Waffe erschossen in seinem eigenen Haus."
  • The Polish - Soviet War ended with ceasefire in October 1920 and a formal peace treaty, the Peace Treaty of Riga, was signed on March 18, 1921. The treaty terms, which fixed the Russo-Polish border, did not satisfy the claims of the victorious Poles, but they awarded to Poland large parts of Belorussia and of Ukraine. The Treaty lasted until 1939. Between the wars Western Volhynia came under Poland, Eastern Volhynia came under the Soviet Union.


    After the unfortunate death of her husband Gustav, Pauline married Michael Martin in Tuczyn on November 15, 1921. They lived in Wielkopole where another son and three daughters were born.
    On March 19, 1943, three months before his 20th birthday, their son Erwin Martin was killed in action on the Russian Front at Kransyi Bor, Oblast Leningrad / St. Petersburg. He is buried in Russia in the German war cemetery at Sologubovka, the final resting place of over 30,000 German war dead from World War II.

    Only prominent physical features and buildings are shown on this map.
    Windmills designated as Altwasser and Langner are two of several in the village operated by local millers.
    Image produced from Wolhynischen Hefte, issue Nr.8.

    Two Inhabitants of Wielkie - Pole


    This einwohnerliste was created by the "Forschungsstelle des Russlanddeutschtums", Berlin, in 1947,
    to record as closely as possible, the EWZ files of 1940

    August Altwasser, married to Jakobine Herrendier, with one child, a miller owning 1 ha of land.
    Gustav Altwasser, with no wife or children, a miller, owning 1 hor [sic] of land.
    [These are the sons of Gustav Altwasser (deceased) and Pauline Langner]


    In 1939 secret protocols in the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact defined the territorial spheres of influence Germany and Russia would have after a successful invasion of Poland. Poland would be partitioned into three major areas. The Warthland area, bordering Germany would be annexed outright to the German Reich, and all non-German inhabitants expelled to the east. More than 77,000 square miles of eastern Polish lands, with a population of over thirteen million would become Russian territory. The central area would become a German protectorate, named the General Gouvernement, governed by a German civil authority. It called for the resettlement of ethnic Germans from the part of Poland that came under Soviet control.

    As these ethnic Germans arrived in Germany, they were first registered and photographed, with all individuals over the age of 15 registered individually. Everyone was subject to a health and racial examination before qualifying for naturalization, resettlement and [military service in the German Army]. Many were resettled in the Wartheland area.

    Memorial Stone
    Erected by the descendants of Gustav Altwasser
    and the residents of Wielko Pole,
    in Wielko Pole.
    In Remembrance of

    the German Colonists who

    lived and died in Wielko Pole

    from 1870 to 1939.



    (Wielko Pole Cemetery)

  • Edward Altwasser:   [Translation by Jack Milner]   "During the transition from Russian to Polish rule 1917/18, whole families had to hide to escape being killed. Only when the Polish government actually occupied the territory could they return to their property. During the period of occupation (1939), the entire farming community was again bookmarked in lists and progressively transported and considered (for naturalization) to become German, but they could no longer remain (where they lived) in Poland."   [End translation]

  • The Ribbentrop-Molotov non-agression pact ended on June 22, 1941 when Germany invaded Russia. However, during the period 1939 - 1945 more than 2.9 million individuals were processed by the German Einwanderungszentralstelle (EWZ) - (Immigration Central Office) to facilitate the resettlement of ethnic Germans from other parts of Europe


    Generation No. 1

    1. GUSTAV2 ALTWASSER (AUGUST1) was born February 16, 1882 in Antonowka, Shitomir Parish, Wolhynia, Russia, and died 1920 in Wielke Pole, Wolhynia, Poland. He married PAULINE LANGNER during the summer of 1905. Until his death, Gustav lived in the same region as Karl, Adolf and Florentine Altwasser who did identify their parents as August Altwasser and Anna Hiller. EWZ Fragebogen Nr. 127607 for Eduard Altwasser names Eduard's father as Gustav Altwasser, mother Pauline geb. Langner and grandfather as Johann Altwasser, miller. This EWZ file indicates Gustav is the son of Johann August Altwasser and Anna Hiller.

    PAULINE LANGNER married MICHAEL MARTIN on November 15, 1921, in Tuczyn. They lived in Wielkie Pole where four more children were born. Ref: EWZ Files 37287/Z  V.127925 for Martin, Michael;  37383  V.127926 for Martin, Pauline geb. Langner;  and der Einbürgerung Der Michael Martin, Jägerndorf, den 8 May 1940.


    • i. IDA ALTWASSER, b. April 20, 1910, Welki Polo, Berezne, Kostopol ; m. LUDWIG SONNENBERG on November 22, 1931 in Tuczyn;. died March 6, 1988 in Torgau DDR.

      LUDWIG SONNENBERG b.July 30, 1905 in Welki Polo, Berezne, Kostopol; (EWZ File#37289); died May 13, 1991 in Reinhardtsdorf - Schöna DDR.

      Ida Altwasser 1949

      Ludwig Sonnenberg
      Photos courtesy of W. Köllner


    • ii. EDUARD ALTWASSER, born March 23, 1913 in Wielkopole; married ADELE BOHL on February 15, 1935 in Kostopol or Welkepole; (EWZ File # 37225);  died April 5, 1975 in Erfurt, Germany.

      ADELE BOHL, born November 8, 1915 in Klein Kupla; died January 3, 2007 in Erfurt, Germany.

      Eduard Altwasser

      A young Adele Bohl

      Adele Bohl
      Photos courtesy of W. Köllner


    • iii. AUGUST ALTWASSER AUGUST3 ALTWASSER (GUSTAV2, AUGUST1) was born March 14, 1918 in Jablon (Sic) EWZ File # 37319/Z. He married JAKOBINE HERRENDIER August 12, 1939 in Wielke Pole, daughter of GEORG HERRENDIER ( or HERNTIER or HERNDIER ) and Albertine Augustine HAAK, born Sept. 27. 1871 in Grabow/Lublin/Poland.

      Jakobine Herrendier and August Altwasser
      Photo courtesy of W. Köllner

      The name of August Altwasser, married to Jakobine Herrendier, appeared on the Einwohnerliste [inhabitants list] von Wielkie - Pole, Wolhynien, Kreis Kostopol, Gemeinde Wielkie - Pole, circa 1939/40. His occupation was a Miller, and he owned 1 hectare of land.


      In 1941 August was conscripted and sent to the Russian front.

      WW II   1941-1945

    • Area of operations in September 1941:   Narva - Leningrad.

    • August Altwasser was severely wounded on September 23, 1941 and hospitalized with an infantry bullet-gunshot wound in the left thigh.
    • He has been missing in action on the Russian front since December 1, 1944.
    • German Military Grave Registration Service

      (Gräbernachweis des Volksbundes Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.)

      Nachname: Altwasser
      Vorname: August
      Geburtsdatum: 14.03.1915 (Sic)
      Todes-/Vermisstendatum: 01.12.1944
      Todes-/Vermisstenort: Kattowitz / Auschwitz / Königshütte / Myslowitz / Sosnowiec / Warthenau

      German Red Cross Report

      With the information available to us, August Altwasser has been missing in action since 01.12.1944 while serving with the German 9th Army. German Red Cross missing-picture list, volume XC, page 154.

      In the expert opinion of the German Red Cross search service, Munich, 30.09.1982, there is a high probability that in January 1945, in fighting west of KUTNO (Poland), he became a Soviet prisoner of war and died in captivity.

      Information received from the Soviet Red Cross in Moscow indicates there is at present no knowledge over his whereabouts and a grave could not be found.


      Jakobine Herrendier   The file# for Jakobine on the Einwandererkartei card index is 121703. The index card dated April 9, 1940, indicated her last place of residence to be Bialo Podlaska, the place her baby was born. Her birth date is shown as December 31, 1917


      HANS JOACHIM (ADOLF) ALTWASSER, b. January 25, 1940, Bialo Podlaska

      It appears that baby Adolf was born at Bialo Podlaska en route from Wielkie-Pole to Zgierz, the date of Transport 119 b, the transport that carried his parents.  His mother's index card is dated later in the year as moving from  Bialo Podlaska to Zgierz.


      ii   ELFRIEDE ALTWASSER, b. May 1, 1942, Karpin, Lodz, Poland. m. WOLFGANG KÖLLNER.

      Birthplace of Elfriede Altwasser.
      Photo 2004 courtesy of W. Köllner
      Translations of E-mail from Wolfgang Köllner
      February 4, 2006.

      Shown on the Einwohneliste of Wielki Pole is the family of August and Jakobine Altwasser, with one child. The child can only be the son Adolf, born January 25, 1940 in Wielki Pole.

      Mother was resettled after April 1940. Father was in the war. She then went to Karpin/Lodz, where she (translated as bought) [sic] a small farm. Daughter Elfriede was born here. Father went missing during the war and through a search by the German Red Cross we found that August was sent to a Russian Prisoner of War camp. They guessed/advised that he was probably sent to Siberia and had no other information.

      It was in the middle of 1945 after the liberation of Poland that mother fled to Germany with two children and no identification papers.

      We still have a photo of mother and father shortly after the marriage. Mother is now deceased and buried in Braunschweig. If you should be interested in the photo, we will gladly put a copy at your disposal

      Mit freundlichen Grüßen

      W Köllner

      January 24, 2010.

      Two Inhabitants of Wielkie - Pole 1940: The name: Gustav ALTWASSER on this list is the son of Gustav ALTWASSER and Pauline. In this time he was unmarried. I have a photo of Gustav with his girlfriend from 1940/41.

      Remark: The Inhabitants list was created in 1947 in Germany from the "Forschungsstelle des Russlanddeutschtums" in Berlin, only from the remembering of EWZ-lists.

      Mother was resettled after April 1940. They then went to Karpin/Lodz, where they got (not buy) a small farm. (All farmers from Volhynia got a farm or a house from which the Polish owners were deported to the east side of Poland).

      In the first year - 1940 to 1941 - August Altwasser was an "Ortsbauernführer" in Karpin, so he did not have to become a soldier. Mother (Jakobine) did not want him to keep this job because the "Ortsbauernführer" had to list Polish workers for deportation to Germany.

      That is the reason why father August became a soldier in the middle of 1941 and sent to the Russian front.

      With best regards and stay healthy,

      Friedel and Wolfgang


    • iv. GUSTAV ALTWASSER, b. December 14, 1920, Wielki/Pole/Wole; killed in action on January 28, 1942 on the Russian Front during the Demjansk offensive against the German Army. His grave is located in the German Military Cemetery at Podberesje / Korpowo a.d.Rollbahn - Rußland (WW II).

      Gustav Altwasser and Friend - 1940/41.
      Photo courtesy of W. Köllner
      German Military Grave Registration Service

      (Gräbernachweis des Volksbundes Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.)

      Nachname: Altwasser
      Vorname: Gustav
      Dienstgrad: Oberschütze
      Geburtsdatum: 14.02.1920 (Sic)
      Geburtsort: Wielkie-Pole
      Todes-/Vermisstendatum: 28.01.1942
      Todes-/Vermisstenort: Podberjosa

      German Military Cemetery
      Podberesje / Korpowo a.d.Rollbahn - Rußland

      Image created from Lageskizze Podberesje courtesy of W. Köllner.
      by Uwe Lemke; Umbettungsdienst [Reburial Service] St. Petersburg; 1998.


      The encirclement of the Demjansk Pocket during the German-Soviet War. (January - April 1942)

      Oberschütze Gustav Altwasser was killed on January 28, 1942 in action near Korpowo, about 35 kilometers from Demjansk on the Staraja Russa - Demjansk roadway.

      The first phase of the Demjansk offensive against the 16th German Army began January 7, 1942 and continued until May 20, 1942. This incorporated the previous planning which formed the southern pincer of the attack and began the second phase of the northern pincer which encircled the II Armee Korps and parts of the X Armee Korps.

      The intention was to sever the link between the German held Demjansk positions and the Staraya Russa railway which formed the German lines of communication.   However, owing to the very difficult wooded and swampy terrain and heavy snow cover, the initial advance of the Red Army was very modest against stubborn opposition.

      Trapped in the pocket were the 12th, 30th, 32nd, 123rd and 290th infantry divisions, the SS-Division Totenkopf and other auxiliary units, for a total of about 90,000 German troops and around 10,000 auxiliaries. Out of the approximately 100,000 men, over 10,000 were wounded and 3,335 never returned.

      Wikipedia - Demyansk Pocket




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      ® Canada Copyright Registration  No. 490341
      to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.
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