Acting out your Persona
While scenarios are underway, try to maintain a "first person" impression--talk about period topics and concerns, carry out period activities, and act like it is "1917" (as much as possible). You should try and speak German as much as possible or at the least use an accent (more on this later). You don't have to do these things all the time, but when in a period situation such as: when an attack is underway, you are bringing in a prisoner, etc., do your best to play your part as a German Soldat.
Remember the Frontsoldat did not always talk about his uniform, equipment or weapon. To him, these items were part of his job, not a hobby. Would you like to think about, talk about or even be reminded of your job all day, all the time? Of course not, then just like now, soldiers wanted to try and escape from their "job," that's why they pursued other amusements.
What are your hobbies? Don't say reenacting, it didn't exist then. Perhaps you like music, politics, sports, photography, or going to the theater? It's possible you just like to read; this was quite popular in the olden days (You know, before cable TV brought you things like South Park or Jerry Springer). Possibly, you are a poet!? Maybe you traveled before the war--possibly even to America. Whatever your persona does, try and make it something that you enjoy now; something you have knowledge about (or barring that, something you feel like studying). These are just a few of the details which you should think about.
Use of the German Language and on using an Accent
When trying to maintain historic accuracy in the presence of French, British or American troops, members who speak no German are asked not to make loud conversation in English and to, in general keep usage of the English language to a minimum.
Each member (if he doesn't already have a knowledge of German) should try and familiarize himself with the German words for parts of his uniform and equipment, as well as the most common military terms (i.e. "Schützengraben," "Hande hoch," "Stellung," "Hinlegen" etc.). The Bildsprecher Deutsch books help here, along with the Commo Section and tapes--although Bildsprecher was made for WWII, it is applicable to what we do. Those of us who have a working knowledge of the German language are greatly encouraged to speak German as much as their fluency permits (Don't be "elitist" about it though, we want to help people have a better experience, not drive them away!).
If you cannot speak German or when English speech is necessary, it has been found that the use of an accent can be quite effective and greatly reduces distraction. Using an accent will also put people in a much better mind-set to then try and create a German dialog or conversation.
Although some reenactors are against this, the use of a German accent (especially if you don't know much German) can really be effective. Speaking with a German accent will add a lot to your impression, just as buying a good uniform, boots and a rifle will. Sometimes when you first try using an accent, people will think you're strange, but… if you persevere, eventually it will catch on with them too.
To be effective though, an accent can't be goofy--like some actor in an old WWII movie or Sgt. Schultz in Hogan's Heroes; "Vell, vell Col-o-nel Hogan, Vhat do you tink I am, an eediot?" Instead of this kind of crap, simply pronounce some of the letters as a German would; Especially the "W" as a "V" and the "J" as a "Y." Reinforce this with the addition of German words interspersed throughout your conversation.
Nothing irritates me more than seeing an otherwise authentic German soldier yell out "Hey German guys! First squad with me, second squad with Joe. Everyone fall-in at left-shoulder arms." WAUGH! This sounds like SHIT!!! Instead, how hard is it to say: "Achtung, Deutsche Soldaten! Erste Gruppe with me, Zweite Gruppe with Gefreiter Schmidt. With Stahlhelms... Angetreten! Mach schnell! Das Gewehr... über!" Doesn't that sound much better? Of course it does, it was in what I call "Pidgin-Deutsch," which anyone can do! Most of us could figure out what was just said there--especially with a little practice and study. Look through the Commo Section and start to try using common words and phrases in your everyday reenactor speech. Also, STOP calling it a helmet, it's a "Stahlhelm." And, you don't have a gun or a rifle-- it's a "Gewehr." Soon, you'll be using these words without thought, much like most of us already do with the word "Zeltbahn."
This isn't all there is to your persona, but it will put you on the road to it's completion! I expect to hear about your persona at the next reenactment.