German Military Record Vocabulary: The Most Important Words

Deciphering military records can be hard. Filled with abbreviations, town names you’ve never heard of, and complicated military terms, these records are sure to give anyone a headache. But if your ancestor was in the military, these documents are often full of fascinating insight and incredible details about your soldier’s life – thus making them well worth the work. 

Below, I’ve compiled a list for you of the most common words on German military records (in my translating experience). I hope they will make your deciphering work a little easier. Now, off to find your soldier!

Militär Military
Schlacht Battle
Kämpfe Fights, Conflict, Battle
Krieg War
Waffen Arms
Armee, Heer Army
Amt Office
Wehrmacht Armed Forces
Truppen Troops
Marine Navy
Dienstgrad Military Rank
Kommandeur Commander
Führer Leader
Soldat Soldier
Gefreite Lance-Corporal
Grenadier Rifleman, Infantryman
Musketier Musketeer
Stab Staff
Feldwebel, Wachtmeister, Stabsunteroffizier Sergeant
Kompagnie Company
Einheit Unit
Regiment Regiment
Korps Corps
Bataillon (Batl.) Battalion
Abteilung (Abt.) Division
Infanterie Infantry
Batterie Battery
Artillerie Artillery
Ersatz, Reserve Reserves
Freiwillige Volunteer
Füsilier Heavy Infantry Unit
Luftwaffe Airforce
Flugzeug, Flieger Airplane
Flak Anti-Aircraft
Lazarett Field Hospital
Feld Field
Abwehr Defense
Kanone, Geschütz Cannon
Eintritt Joining Up
Führung Conduct
Dienst Service
Versetzt Transferred
Entlassung Discharge
Orden Medals, Decoration
Bestrafung, Strafe Punishment
Verletzung Injury
Kriegsgefangene Prisoner of War
Tot Dead
gefallen Died in Battle

13 Responses

  1. In records I am currently translating (early 18th Century), I have come across the term “dragoner” used in places where occupations are found. Google translate gives me “dragoon.” Would this be a reference to mounted cavalry?

  2. Great resource, thanks! I’m working with the Bavarian muster rolls, so I appreciate this explanation of the abbreviations .

  3. Do you have common words that were used to describe “degree of service” (Dienftgrad)? I have an index card from roughly 1941 that I’m trying to decipher but I cannot read the font to properly translated.. the word appears to start with Mer

  4. Here is one to add to the list, Krankenträger (Kktr.) [stretcherbearer].
    From my grandfather’s records at the International Red Cross of Prisoners of War.
    He was held at the Prisoners of War Camp, Frongoch, Bala, North Wales.
    According to my mother, he had fond memories of his internment.

  5. Could it be related to “Verlosung”, i.e. a lottery or drawing of lots? In the military context, LoosungsSchein might represent something like a “Selective Service Registration” or Draft Card.

    I find similar documents in attachments to civil marriage records in the Netherlands, where the grooms had to show they had registered and either were not selected or fulfilled their National Militia service.

  6. I have Johanne Wagner’s (a many great grandfather) original military paper dated 1810…. so thank you for this as it will be nice to add his military info to the Family History.

  7. I like your Picture from Santa Claus is coming to Town and a little Burgermeister Meisterburger image.

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