Gefreiter Joseph Zerhusen


Signature from Herr A Kutschelis

Zerhusen was one of 2 interpreters assigned to Irish Brigade. They appear to have been responsible for discipline and liason with German Army or Camp Commandant. Zerhusan and Hahn both wrote to St John Gaffney after Casements departure, usually to get the monthly money to pay the men, but also about discipline problems.

Zerhusen was a Lance Corporal and Hahn a Corporal. However Zerhusen was keen to claim to be the top man of the two, though I doubt it.

1880 Feb 18 Born in Bremen as Franz Hermann Joseph Zerhusen

1896 Finished secondary school, his father was a timber broker in Hamburg.

1899 His father sent him to Liverpool to learn English and to learn about the hardwood trade in Africa and South America. He was a timber trader at Farnworth & Jardine, 2 Dalestreet. He got the job via an introduction from his father.

1900 Jul 8. Enlists in Army

1904 Aug 10 Married n Hamburg to Ellen Hand daughter of John Hand of Liverpool.

1915 Apr/May conscripted into 5th Garrison Div at Spandau. 5 weeks later he was sent to Zossen with a squad of 8 men. This was when he discovered the existence of Irish Brigade. He first met Mahoney, who introduced him to Bailey

1915 May 30. He writes to Casement from Zossen, say he wants to join Irish Brigade. He is with Garde Grenadier Regiment No5, 6th Ersatz Compagnie. He tells Casement that while he was working in Liverpool he married an Irish woman. She was the daughter of the Fenian poet Peter Hand (I cannot find such a poet). He adds that he is a Hamburg merchant from a good family. O'Toole and Bailey endorse his request.

1915 Jul 5. Zerhusen writes again to Casement asking to be assigned to Irish Brigade. Keogh later claims that Zerhusen escaped going to the Russian front by joining the Irish Brigade.

1915 Jul 15. Casement write to Wedel asking him to get Capt Nadolny to agree the transfer

1915 Aug 5. Casements letters show Zerhusen joined the Brigade at this date. When he gets to the Irish Brigade they are at Wunsdorf, about 6 miles from Zossen. He learns of drunkeness and bad discipline among the men. The men were still in POW clothes and lounged in the barracks all day as they had nothing to do.

The Brigade later moves to Zossen Training Camp.

1915 Sep 2. letter from Casement at the U.S. Consulate General, Munich, to Boehm. He asks for news of the corps at Zossen with "Grenadier Zerhusen in charge"

1915 Oct 26 sees Casement, Monteith and von Baerle in Zossen

1915 Nov 1. Monteith meets Sergt. O'Toole and Bailey at Potsdamer Banhof at 9.30 together with Gafreter Zehusen,"one of the interpreters attached to the Brigade. Find he is the husband of an Irish lady. His home is in Hamburg, and unfortunately his business is ruined by the war, consequently his love of England is intense and fervent. "

1915 Nov 2. Zerhusen, Monteith and O'Toole and Bailey go to Limburg to begin recruiting again

1915 Nov 6. Goes to Frankfurt for the evening with Monteithfor Monteith to meet commanding General.

1915 Nov 8. Mrs Zerhusen sends the Irish Brigade an Irish flag.

1915 Nov 23. He leaves Limburg with Keogh, Beverly and Monteith for Berlin. Zerhussen and Monteith go to War Office and see Major von Baerle, who has charge of their affairs. He is unable to give permission for Monteith to go to Zossen or to wear uniform, and requests Monteith to stay in Berlin for a few days until the necessary authority is given by the General Officer Commanding. Zerhussen must stop with Monteith in order to interpret Monteith's interviews with officials.

1915 Nov 27. Monteith got permission top to go to Zossen in uniform. He left Berlin 10.30 arrive Zossen 2.30 about two feet of snow on the ground. Every hotel closed, town in darkness, although we had engaged rooms by wire, in hotel, no one there to let us in. Finally the town watchman arrives who has instructions to let us into hotel by the back door. Rooms seem to be ready, "Blessed are they who expect nothing for verily they shall not be disappointed." Zerhussen attempts to swear, his very first effort, for he is in truth a godly man. He was an awful failure at the job, so I gave him a lesson, names he will remember.

1915 Dec 22.. Zerhusen reports drunkeness and fighting led to withdrawl of rifles

1915 Dec 25. Xmas Day and Monteith writes. Got the men on the road home at 12.15 a.m. The N.C.Os. stayed another hour with me and interpreter Zerhussen, during which time we had a speech from Sergt. O'Toole in Irish, and a fierce discussion as to whether Maryboro, Wexford, or Limerick was the nearest approach to Heaven by the remainder. Various toasts were drunk, and we went home to find to our astonishment everyone in bed and asleep.

1916 Jul. He moves to Danzig with the Irish Brigade

Zerhusen writes that he needed Dowling, Kavanagh and Burke in camp. The reason for this appears to have been the "parcel scam" that was being operated by these men. Zerhusen had nothing to do with the Red Cross parcels at Zossen, but at Danzig he was very involved in opening them - for "censorship". The Brigade men involved in the scam, and it seems a limited number, scanned the German papers for British Ships that had sunk, and any news of crewmen who drowned. They then wrote to various organisatons in UK under that name, and asked for a parcel. It was apparently possible to get dozens of parcels sent on a regular basis by this means.

Then when men went out to work it was "impossible" says Zerhusen to send parcels on to the places that they were working, as parcels got pilfered. So he got men out at work to assign their "rights" to parcels to him, for which he paid them a sum per month, irrespective of the number of parcels that might or might not, arrive. He then sold or bartered the contents of the parcels, and split the proceeds with Dowling and Kavanagh.

Mahony's statement says that Zerhusen and Dowling (who was at that time in charge of the brigade) operated a scam wih parcels to get charities in Britain to send them food parcels. McDonagh's statement also says that Zerhusen stole their parcels and made a fortune

McDonagh wrote " Parcels were sent to us, but never reached us. They were stolen by Dolmetacher Zerhusen, who was thought to have made a fortune by his dishonesty"

1918 Mar 17. Some of the NCOs were invited to the St Patrick's Day dinner in Berlin of the German-Irish Society at the Hotel Adlon. In the event only Dowling attended. Gaffney was one of the organisers. Dowling went with Zerhusen and they stayed 2 days at the Hotel Adlon before returning to Danzig. Dowling received his briefing for Ireland during this stay.

Both Dowling and Zerhusen returned to Berlin for Dowling to get a further briefing a few days later, but have been told to use a much cheaper hotel. They stayed there for 3 days, and were arrested as spies, but released

1918 Apr. Zerhusen and Dowling travel together from Danzig to Hamburg where Dowling was to catch the U-Boat for Ireland. They had to wait for over seven days in Hamburg, and stayed in Zerhusen's house during this time

1918 May 1. Zerhusen tells Gaffney that he heard from Kavanagh that Keogh was behaving badly, had been drunk, misbehaved in Dresden, and that Keogh had misappropriated the St Patricks Day funds from the previous year that Gaffney had sent the Brigade In addition there were 7 men from the Brigade in Neuhammer a/Queis in Silesia for punishment (note this is modern Świętoszów and is some 200 miles south west of Danzig)

1918 May 20. Zerhusen writes to Gaffney about problems

1918 May. Zerhusen was transferred back to his regiment, and seemed to narrowly avoid being sent to the front. A doctor passed him as not fit for front line duty. His court-martial for censorship abuse never happened in the end, and he was sent to "soft" duties with 5th Grenadier Guards, his original regiment.

1918 Nov. Zerhusen has an odd tale of going to Danzig during his holidays in November to see the Irish Brigade. I suspect his visit was tied up with the "parcels racket". He was certainly there when the war ended, and tells the story of sitting in a cafe and seeing a "red" procession with Keogh and some of the NCOs marching behind the red flag. He served as one of the Irish Brigade representitives on the Soldiers and Workers Council

McDonagh's statement says he got his false passport and travel instruction fron Zerhusen. Zerhusen writes that he went to Munich with Kavanagh at this time to talk to Bavarian Government, to ensure that they were prepared to have the Irishmen in Bavaria. They had an interview with Senator von Ruhr. When the Bavarian government agreed to accept the Irish in Bavaria, they returned to Danzig to fix the passes. Kavanagh, memoirs say the same. Men who wished to do so went to Munich, others went to Berlin and a few stayed in or around Danzig

At this point they had to release 2 men from the local jail - one was Granaghan

1918 Nov 15 circa. Kavanagh writes that he and Zerhusen went to Berlin, then on to to Munich where they met Keogh, Granaghan and Delamore. Kavanagh says after their meeting

Zerhausen got discharged from the army, and went back to Hamburg. However he was told it was not safe to live in Hamburg, so he went to Potsdam (just outside Berlin and near Zossen) and started a stamp selling business with a collection he had started before the war. He appears to have had this business a few years and finally returned to Hamburg in early 1922, where he met up with Kavanagh.

In O'Toole's debrief in Jun 1921 he says that Zerhusen "has mysterously left Hamburg and is supposed to be in Berlin. He is a man who would take any risk for money. He does not drink, but runs after women. ...It is not clear why he should leave his old established business to start a new one elsewhere.

Monteith was another man whom Zerhusen did not like. Zerhusen says Monteith did not contact him after the war, and adds that Monteith did not contact any of the Irish Brigade survivors after the war, which is, I think, true.

I had an email in 2018 from an Andreas Kutschelis who told me " A friend of mine has been a friend of Joseph Zerhusen also, who talked about his numerous Irish connections till his dying day, as I've been told. In his last years he stayed at Hamburg, where he carried on a paper wholesale with best business relations to Hamburg's world famous red light quarter St. Pauli. There he had sold toilet paper and paper towels in bulk on all the cathouses for instance. He was very well known all over the town in his day! Besides he was a great philatelist, particularly and certainly Irish stamps and those with Christian motives. Therefore he was a member of the famous, worldwide represented 'St. Gabriel Briefmarken Sammlergilde' [St. Gabriel Collecting Stamp Gild] in Hamburg."

1969 Zerhussen gives an interview on RTE

Herr Kutschelis also sent me the anoouncement of Zehussen's death

1975 Sep 19 Zerhussen died in Hamburg aged 95



Irish Brigade