Tuesday 8 June 2010

" Das Deutsche Volk muss ein Volk von Fliegern werden" - German case endings for readers (quick grammar)

Are you like me and really cringe when people write grammatically incorrect words like  "staffels" or "gruppes"? Do you groan inwardly when you read English writers writing about Luftwaffe subjects and still treating us to abominations such as 'Geschwaderen' or 'Geschwaders' or other similar 'non-grammatical' forms! Patrick G. Eriksson does it all the way through his 'Alarmstart!' series. Osprey author Doug Dildy is another who appears to believe that the plural form of Jagdgeschwader is 'Jagdgeschwaderen'

The plural form of Geschwader is ..Geschwader - there is no 's' or 'en' or anything else in the plural form, in fact the letter 's' is only very occasionally a plural in German. Most usual plural forms being 'e' or 'en' or just 'n' among others.  To repeat, as just seen, some German nouns have NO plural form. 'Flieger' or 'Jagdflieger' in similar fashion also have no nominative PLURAL form - some case endings do get modified usually according to which PREPOSITION precedes the noun. For more on that see the table below. All nouns are written with a capital letter in German, eg the German for 'ace' is 'Experte' which becomes 'Experten' in the plural. The letter 'n' is the plural form here..

Now go and look at the text in your average Osprey title - even though John Weal (for example) speaks German I reckon his correctors and editors don't. They may however - and this is something that was put to me just recently - be attempting to avoid utilising too many German words in their text - by 'anglicising' them! I don't buy that - a work on German history will inevitably have to feature some German language terms. Besides, surely the reader would like to know that the writer is 'familiar' with the German language. At the very least the writer who can demonstrate this has done more than simply regurgitate secondary sources and will more than probably be able to exploit primary sources, first-person accounts and so on...

A fighter (or Jagd) Geschwader was comprised usually of 3 Gruppen written I./ II./ or III./JG51. Each individual Gruppe was comprised of 3 Staffeln, written 1./ 2./ or 3./ Staffel in ascending numerical order. So 7./JG 51 is the 7th Staffel of that Geschwader and was in III. Gruppe ..
Staffel numbers were colour coded of course for ID purposes ....a fourth Staffel per Gruppe was added from mid-late 1944 along with a fourth Gruppe to each Geschwader. The number '13' (or '1') would usually be the a/c flown by the Staffelkapitän while the Gruppenkommandeur tended to use the double chevron as an ID marking. The CO of a Geschwader was a Kommodore. The Gruppe can be identified by the symbol (or lack of it ) aft of the fuselage cross..

Another example;
Abschuss is one kill - " his 150th Abschuss "
Abschüsse is several kills - " he achieved 150 Abschüsse "

Abschuss is on occasion used interchangeably with Luftsieg (or aerial victory; pl. is Luftsiegebut this is not correct.  The word 'Luftsieg' is a 'propaganda' term rather than an official Luftwaffe term. When a fighter pilot had shot down an e/a he would report this using the word 'Abschuss' in order to make sure that his success had been witnessed by other pilots of his unit so that he had the necessary witness to file his claim. The form he had to submit was titled Abschussmeldung, not Luftsiegmeldung. The term Abschuss accurately describes the fact, whereas the term Luftsieg gives it almost a 'touch of glamour'. Note the term Luftsieg does not appear ( or only to a limited extent) in Jochen Prien's JfV series.

Genitive or dative case plural forms ('n' or 'en') do occasionally throw up some 'curiosities' in German. For example;

  Mit 352 bestätigten Abschüssen ist er der erfolgreichste Jagdflieger - "Mit " (with) is one preposition that always takes the dative case in German and the dative plural ending is '..n'  so in this sentence " with 352 confirmed victories.."  you would write Abschüssen in German but since cases do not exist in English I personally see no reason to write these German words 'incorrectly' in English (if you see what I mean..)

another example follows below;

" Das Deutsche Volk muss ein Volk von Fliegern werden" - Note Flieger has no plural in German - it means 'airman' or 'airmen' 'flyer' or 'flyers'. Here though it follows a preposition 'von' which always takes the 'dative' case - dative case plurals end in 'n', hence 'von Fliegern' ( ..lit ..'of flyers'..).

Note below; the 'nominative' and 'accusative' plural of 'der/den Flieger' is 'die Flieger' - only the 'dative' and gentive case endings are modified (Gentive ..des Fliegers, 'of the airman' - singular. Not modified in the plural form)

A few operational or flying terms;

Einsatz is an operational mission - the plural form here is Einsätze, in other words the ä+e

Feindflug (lit. enemy flight) denoted a flight over enemy-held territory or a flight in which the enemy was encountered and combat joined if over German-held territory. Also known as a Frontflug. 

The Frontflugspange was the (operational) 'missions clasp'  awarded to frontline pilots with a certain number of sorties under their belts. Contact with the enemy was termed Feindberührung  - the title of Jules Meimberg's autobiography as it happens.