Ferntrauung - the German proxy wedding
During the Second World War special rules were signed off by Hitler regarding the marriage law in the German Reich. The possibility of a marriage by proxy was based on the Civil Status Act which came into being in late 1939 enabling the long-distance marriage of service personnel to their wives to be at home. In 1941 this was extended to the marriage to the dead or missing if the couple were already engaged. In 1943 it also became possible to obtain a divorce in the event of the soldiers death.
Provided the bride and groom could both prove Aryan decent, a marriage certificate could be obtained from Wehrmacht high command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht), which would then be sanctioned by the battalion commander of the soldier wishing to be married. The soldier would then take part in a ceremony performed by his Officer in the field in front of the rest of the members of his unit, usually with a photograph of his wife to be sat on the table. Once the ceremony was complete, the paperwork was then sent back to the bride for her part of the ceremony which would take place at their home town registry office.
The ceremony often known as a steel helmet wedding was confirmed by 2 witnesses at the registry office with the vacant place of the groom being marked by either a full sized or miniature steel helmet finished in the colour and insignia relevant to the grooms branch of service. The bride would then be presented with the helmet in lieu of her absent spouse.
Should the worst happen, the wives would then be entitled to a widows pension and their children would not be considered illegitimate which carried a great stigma at the time. The ceremony also mean't that the spouse would become a part of the soldiers last Will and she would have a rightful claim on any form of inheritance.
The following photographs show members of the group copying scenes taken from original photo's found during the course of my research into this subject.
With the honour guard in place, the units commanding officer salutes the groom before getting the service underway.
The unit commander and his senior NCO's begin the service as the groom take his seat in front of the photo of his wife to be.
The commanding officer performs the cermony under the watchful eye of the Kompanie Speiss.
With a handshake from the grooms commanding officer, another proxy wedding is complete.
The groom and his comrades pose for a photo - note the picture of the grooms new wife.
In celebration, the soldier is hoisted onto the shoulders of his comrades.
Article submitted by Neil Barlow.