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The names data in this project was provided in 2019 by the Central Military Archives–Vojenský ústřední archiv (CMA–VUA) in Prague. For details on the sources from which CMA-VUA assembled its database of more than 164,000 names, please see The Czech Republic & the First World War, in the section titled “Sources of the Database of WWI Soldiers Killed or Missing in Action.” For more information, contact podatelna-vua@army.cz

Sources for the Database of WWI Soldiers Killed or Missing in Action

Central Military Archives, Prague

Primary registration of soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian Army took place at the level of their basic units — normally regiments — by their replacement components. It was done by the Land Register (Grundbuch), which kept entries of soldiers and their service careers in Land Register folios (Grundbuchsblatt). This system was adopted by the new Czechoslovak Republic’s army, and so after 1918 soldier registration continued through the regiments.

Another pre-war register was that of births and deaths. Registries of units and chaplaincy administrations of garrisons, territorial commands and hospitals recorded major milestones in a soldier’s life on active duty — marriages, births of descendants, deaths. While in service, these registers for military personnel substituted for civilian registries.

At the outset of the First World War before the Austro-Hungarian Army began to take enormous casualties, a system of recording combat losses had been put into practice — losses that included killed in action (KIA), captivity, injury, disease and missing in action. Small combat units assembled these records, then passed the information up the chain of command to a central registry at the Reich Ministry of War. The main registry developed the Casualty Lists (Verlustliste) and also communicated with international organizations such as the Red Cross. But because these central registries remained incomplete during the war, the information on the fate of many soldiers is missing.

The end of the war presented an opportunity for a comprehensive perspective on the scope of the conflict and the disintegration of social orders and organisations. In Central Europe, this included the collapse of the state authorities in Austria and Hungary. Although the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was not as dramatic as other empires, the army of the new Czechoslovak Republic still faced a situation that required a settlement with the legacy of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. In assembling the Czechoslovak records from the Austro-Hungarian records, we had to work with incomplete registers as a result of combat actions, loss of records or arbitrariness of conduct of specific soldiers. Our challenges were dealing with the size of the losses and our need to reflect and register them.

For the internal needs of the Czechoslovak Ministry of National Defence, a card index of KIA soldiers in the First World War began to be developed, which now is included in the CMA-VUA archives as the “green” card index. This index forms the basis of the database of soldiers killed, developed by CMA-VUA.

The “green” card index was based on the activities of individual military units, and therefore used the available sources from those units. However, it was practically impossible to reconstruct all those sources, but available death registers played an important role. Many index cards include references to the register records, although for cross-checking purposes it is not always possible to look up the entry in the records of the given unit. Besides registries, entries in primary registries of losses of the Austro-Hungarian Army also served as an important source of card index data.

One category in the index is soldiers regarded as missing even after the end of the war — men who had never been proved to be dead, in captivity, or alive. After the war, such missing soldiers were officially declared dead “in absentia” in order to legally settle the personal, family or property affairs of the survivors. This declaration of death was performed by civilian courts and relevant military units, whereupon the “dead” soldier’s name was entered into their primary register, registry records and the card index of those killed. However, the information value of such a declaration is not usually high and so the card index entry is restricted to identifying the battlefield from which the soldier went missing and the year in which he was declared dead in absentia.

These are the basic resources informing the “green” card index. The index also includes additional but relatively scarce sources such as reports by the Red Cross and the like. It is interesting that this card index bears little relation to the entries in the Casualty Lists (Verlustliste), nor was it resourced from them, nor does it include references to them, and yet individuals appear in both documents. It also contains no apparent relation to the units’ primary registries. But it can be assumed that because those who developed the card index may have kept the units’ primary registries available, an internal connection is likely.

To complete the picture, by the end of the 1930s a second card index of KIA persons, the “white” card index, was developed upon the requirement of the Ministry of National Defence of the Czechoslovak Republic. The “white” card index essentially only utilized the registry records as its source. Given that fact, it is poorer in quantity, yet contains more complete records in terms of quality of information. For the most part, the information in the “green” and “white” card indexes overlaps and therefore the “white” card index was not included in the database of KIA persons.

Central Military Archives–Military Historical Archive, Prague