In Germany from 1933 onwards all civil servants and public sector workers were required to prove their “racial purity” by producing certified birth and marriage certificates for themselves, their parents and their grandparents. In 1935 being of so-called Aryan descent became a prerequisite for active service in the armed forces. The rules were extended to Austria when it was annexed in 1938 and integrated into the Third Reich so, in anticipation of being mobilised, Josef Kolbe was obliged to apply for his certificates.
This scrutiny of his family history seems to have stimulated his curiosity, as he applied for death as well as the obligatory birth and marriage certificates and transferred the information onto rough hand-drawn family trees. Delving into his past has inevitably awoken in me the same desire to know who his ancestors were, where they lived and what their occupations were. In the 1930s the task of drawing up these certificates fell to the unfortunate parish priests and mistakes occurred. I have been able to correct a number of these, as the Czech archives have made the church registers available online free of charge, for which I and many others are extremely grateful. The following pages show that Josef Kolbe’s family, both on his father’s and his mother’s side, was settled in what became Austrian Silesia well before church registers began.