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Schwatlo family letters

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSS 9588

Scope and Contents

Contains family correspondence in two subsets: 111 letters and postcards written between Joachim Schwatlo-Gesterding and his wife Doris, or from Joachim to a "Peterchen" ("little Peter," possibly Doris's son from her previous marriage) or the odd family member or friend, mostly while he was a prisoner of war in Russia (in Moscow and nearby Lager'), between January 1944 and September 1955; and 58 letters and postcards written to Siegfried Carl Schwatlo (and/or occasionally Pearl before they were married), mostly by his mother, Gertrude Retter Schwatlo (with a few from his first wife, who went by Johanna or "Hanni"; a few from his second wife, Pearl; and a few from his father, architect Carl Otto Schwatlo), and mostly while he was a prisoner of war in Cheshire, England, and near Abergavenny, Wales, between December 1944 and November 1950.

Included with the letters are occasional newspaper clippings, photographs, enclosures (such as a pressed Edelweiss flower, locks of hair, a four-leaf clover, etc.), a German passport, foot tracings, pamphlets, etc. Materials dated 1939 to 1955.


  • 1939-1955


Language of Materials

Materials are primarily in German, including letters written on postcards printed in Russian and French, with minimal English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to use material from this collection must be obtained from the Reference Services at

Biographical / Historical

Joachim Hans Dietrich Schwatlo-Gesterding was born on March 2, 1903, in Stralsund, Germany, to Siegfried Schwatlo and Lucie Gesterding.

In 1917, at the age of 14, he entered a cadet school; he joined the German army in 1919, and in 1922 became a lieutenant ("Leutnant") in the Reichswehr ("empire defense"; German armed forces from 1919 to 1935). In 1927, he began training to become a general staff officer, and in 1934 became Hauptmann (captain). Four years later, he was transferred to the general command in Hanover as a major.

Joachim married Doris Walther on April 17, 1937 in Berlin, Germany. The couple had no children. During World War II, he fought in Poland and France, as well as in Russia later as a lieutenant colonel ("oberstleutnant," 1941). Only a year later, in 1942, he was promoted to Oberst (colonel) and returned to the Eastern Front, deployed in Galicia and Silesia (now Spain and Poland) until 1945. He was then promoted to major general ("Generalmajor"). Just before the war ended, on May 10, 1945, he was taken prisoner by the Soviets and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor by a Russian tribunal, and held in Moscow and nearby Lager'; he was released after only 10 years, in about September 1955.

In 1956, Joachim was hired by the Bundeswehr ("federal defense," German armed forces since 1955) as a Brigadegeneral (brigadier general). He was appointed deputy inspector of the army in November 1958, promoted to major general in 1959, and then in 1960 as commander of the military area of Hanover. In October 1961, he became commander of the territorial defense in Bad Godesberg, and the following February, he was promoted to lieutenant general (Generalleutnant, the second highest rank in the German army). A year later, in February 1963, he retired after reaching the age limit.

Schwatlo-Gesterding was awarded the German Gold Cross (generally given for repeated acts of bravery or exceptional leadership) and the Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany with a star for his achievements in the Bundeswehr. He died on January 27, 1975, in Bonn, Germany, at the age of 71, and was buried in the Poppelsdorfer Friedhof (cemetery) in Bonn.

Biographical / Historical

Gertrude Friederike Auguste Retter was born on July 27, 1877, in Berlin, Prussia (now Germany), the only child of Karl Emil Richard Retter and Elise Sophie Emile Wolff.

She married architect Karl Otto Schwatlo on October 5, 1897, in Berlin, Germany. They had three sons: Siegried Carl (1899-1988), Wolfgang Hans (1901-1902), and Gerhardt Friedrich Hans (1905-1963). She died on January 19, 1956, in Eisleben, Germany.

Biographical / Historical

Doris Berta Walther was born November 10, 1892 in Berlin, Germany, to parents Julius Walther and Margarethe Menzel. She married a Mr. Neusser and seems to have had at least one son with him; they later divorced. She married Joachim Schwatlo-Gesterding on April 17, 1937, in Berlin, Germany. The couple had no children.

Biographical / Historical

The Schwatlo family were residents of Germany int he 20th century. Siegfried Carl Schwatlo was born on November 17, 1899, in Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany, to Carl Otto Schwatlo and Gertrude Friederike Auguste Retter. Joachim Hans Dietrich Schwatlo-Gesterding was born on March 2, 1903, in Stralsund, Germany, to Siegfried Schwatlo and Lucie Gesterding. Joachim married Doris Walther on April 17, 1937 in Berlin, Germany. The couple had no children. Siegfried and Joachim shared the same grandparents, Carl Schwatlo and Mathilde Wilhelmine Walther.


1 box (0.05 linear ft.)


Letters are grouped according to the two main authors/recipients, then arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

The letters were in the possession of retired Colonel Dieter Schwatlo in Germany until he sent them to his sister, Gerda Schwatlo Edmunds, to donate to BYU; Gerda donated the letters in August 2022. Siegfried Carl Schwatlo was one of their father Gerhardt's two brothers; Joachim Schwalto-Gesterding was one of their father's cousins.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Gerda Edmunds; August 2022.


Utah and the American West (20th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collecting policy, Section II.B.5.VI).

Processing Information

Processed; Amanda Crandall; February 2023.

Register of Schwatlo family letters
In Progress
Amanda Crandall
2023 February
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States