Dominik Richert

  • Born May 4 1893 in St. Ulrich, Alsace.
  • Richert becomes an Alsatian agriculturist / farmer.
  • 1913 Richert is called up to serve the infantry regiment.
  • In WW1 Richert serves at the Western front.
  • 1917 he is promoted to Corporal and commands a machine gun division. He witnesses the occupation of Riga and the peace treaty of Brest-Litowsk.
  • March 21, 1917 Richert is deployed in France and participates as a machine gunner.
  • July 23/24 1917 Richert defects, putting his life at risk, to the French soldiers – his Alsatian origin proves to be advantageous. He becomes a ‘déserteur alsacien’.
  • 1918 Richert documents his experiences as a soldier, he stores his notebooks in the attic.
  • 1919 he returns home and to works as a farmer, he marries and has two sons – Ulrich & Marcel.
  • 1960s – Richert’s notebooks are discovered and are sent to the Military Archive in Freiburg.
  • 1989 Richert’s manuscript is published in German, then French & English and used as a basis for a TV documentary: he describes the war atrocities. In his eyes, the guilty ones are the military leaders of Europe. The soldier was always the victim because he belonged to the simple people.
  • During war-time Richert never actively revolted against the military leadership. Despite his desertion, Richert remained recorded in the first regiment.
  • In 1942 Alsace is once again in German hands.
  • Richert’s sons are called up for military service.
  • He encourages them to escape to Switzerland. As a result, he and his wife are sent to forced labour in Germany.
  • Richert’s sons then join the French Resistance.
  • Richert and his wife return home at the end of the Second World War. Their health suffers as a consequence of their treatment in Germany.
  • Their sons both survive the War.
  • March 27 1977, Richert dies in St. Ulrich, Alsace.

[The Kaiser’s reluctant conscript: my experiences in the War 1914-1918]

In 1914, whilst in Northern France, Richert was ordered to run across dangerous territory:

“As it would have been certain death, I refused to go, although my superior shouted at me. An NCO gave me a direct command to jump. I cold-bloodedly said to him that he should show me how to do it, but he also lacked the courage to do so.”