The Erkennungsmarke: the humanitarian duty to identify fallen German soldiers 1866-1918

Sarah Ashbridge, David O'Mara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Germany was the first Western nation to formally implement an object designed to assist with the identification of wounded and dead soldiers, introducing theRekognitionmarke in 1869 following the trial of an identity disc system in 1866. A new design, the Erkennungsmarke, was introduced in 1878, shaping the systems utilized in later wars. The German experience of wearing identifying objects would later influence the identification systems of other European armies, including France and Britain; ultimately resulting in the addition of new articles within the 1906 Geneva Convention to reflect changing attitudes and expectations towards those who died fighting for their country. The Erkennungsmarke presented the possibility of identification, even where immediate burial was not possible, thus facilitating the development of German military burial cultures. This paper explores the development and use of Erkennungsmarken between 1866–1918, information which can assist with the identification of German soldiers recovered during archaeological works.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-223
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Conflict Archaeology
Issue number3
Early online date15 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2021


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