Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

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FOREWORD

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pp. v-xxiv

There has been a burst of interest in recent years in "war literature," understood as a genre ofwriting in which soldiers display the authority of direct experience in telling their "truth" about war and combat. In the process, they offer reflections on much else besides-on comradeship and masculinity, on the image of the enemy; on national sentiment, on the burden of survival ...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. xxv-xxvii

THE Letters contained in this volume have been selected from a larger collection published early in the present year by Professor Philipp Witkop of Freiburg-in-Baden, who had himself a choice of about 20,000 placed at his disposal by relatives and friends of the fallen, through the German ...

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WALTER LIMMER

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pp. 1-4

Leipzig (still, I'm sorry to say), August srd, 1914. HURRAH! at last I have got my orders: to report at a place here at eleven o'clock to-morrow. I have been hanging about, here, waiting, from hour to hour. This morning I met a young lady I know, and I was almost ashamed to let her see me in ...

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DENNO ZIEGLER

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pp. 5-6

... I am counting more than ever on that, for truly the war-horror seems to have reached its climax. o God ! how many have those hours been when on every side gruesome Death was reaping his terrible harvest.

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WILLI BOHNE

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pp. 7-8

... Here is a long pause, by no means so insignificant, however, as those two dashes. What I was going to say was: but the dinner break is over and we must get back to work. Work? Yes, if you could only see us at it! We are simply nothing but moles ; ...

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MARTIN DRESCHER

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pp. 9-10

THAT was a day which I shall never be able to think of without horror-the 21St of October. Our guns had not come up and we had to march against enemy artillery, infantry and machine-guns-no, not march, but advance by leaps and bounds. We never even had a chance to fire; it was a case of ...

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FRIEDRICH (FIDDS) SOHNREY

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pp. 11-12

I GO every day into the village here to see a family with six children. The father is in the war. The woman says that he is a Reserve Dragoon. ...

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ALFRED BUCHALSKI

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pp. 13-42

WITH what joy, with what enthusiasm I went into the war, which seemed to me a splendid opportunity for working off all the natural craving of youth for excitement and experience! In what bitter disappointment I now sit here, with horror in my heart! ...

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RUDOLF FISCHER

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pp. 14-15

I THINK that you imagine our life as much worse than it is. If it is cold, we have overcoats, tents and blankets; if the ground is hard, we have plenty of straw; if we are thirsty, there is coffee, and on rare occasions wine; if we are hungry, there are fried potatoes (great delicacies when nothing else is to be ...

RUDOLF MOLDENHAUER

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pp. 16-45

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FRANZ BLUMENFELD

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pp. 17-22

. . . If there is mobilization now, I must join up, and I would rather do so here, where there would be a chance of going to the Front quite soon, than in Travemtinde, Hamburg or Bahrenfeld, where we should probably be used only to defend the Kiel ...

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EMIL ALEFELD

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pp. 23-24

A LOT of men I know are off too by the next transport. We are looking forward to it. God will protect us. I have not been able to accomplish enough in the world yet, though of course it is possible that my country may disappoint me in many ways after ...

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WERNER LIEBERT

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pp. 25-54

Your letter of the 26th brought me the sad certainty that my dear brother had died a hero's death for Germany's victory. The post came early this morning. ...

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KURT SCHLENNER

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pp. 26-28

. . . It is obvious that many of one's impressions of the war must be painful, but perhaps I have written too much about that kind. It is just as obvious that, on the other hand, there is much that is glorious and wonderful. The finest thing of all is the marvellous ...

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KARL ALDAG

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pp. 29-38

ON the 14th we joined the Regiment and were divided up among the different companies. That night we marched into a village that had been taken by a Bavarian regiment. We relieved the Bavarians. It was a very far-advanced position, not fortified and very dangerous, as soon appeared. ...

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KARL JOSENHANS

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pp. 39-43

WE moved up into the newly taken position. A few dead were still lying in front of and behind the trench. I myself had two French and three Germans buried and took their letter-cases off them. There one finds the letters they have had from home. ...

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AUGUST HOPP

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pp. 44-59

EVER nearer sounded the thunder of the guns. Already we could see in the distance the Heights of Combres, and on them the dark clouds raised by bursting shells and the white puffs of shrapnel. At half-past four we arrived at St. Maurice. The whole place was full of wounded. ...

ALBIN MULLER

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pp. 60-89

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LOTHAR DIETZ

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pp. 60-64

You at home can't have the faintest idea of what it means to us when in the newspaper it simply and blandly says: 'In Flanders to-day again only artillery activity'. Far better go over the top in the most foolhardy attack, cost what it may, than stick it out all day long under shell-fire, wondering ...

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WILHELM WOLTER

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pp. 65-94

OUTSIDE, the rifle-fire has been rattling all night; from what we have observed, they seem to be getting ready for another attack. I have been long since prepared for anything that may happen. People are always saying that it is easier for the young men ...

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ERNST HIEBER

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pp. 66-95

I HAVE now been back at the Front for three months -a quarter of a year-every day watching the fire of rifles and guns and seeing many men killed, and this soon makes one feel rather lonely. It sometimes seems to me as if the dead were reproaching me : ...

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PAUL ROHWEDER

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pp. 67-68

UNDER a golden poplar lies a dead comrade. In the peasants' farmyards lie dead cattle. The windows are broken by shell-fire. Not a bird is to be seen. All nature holds its breath with fear. ...

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WALTER ROY

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pp. 69-71

. . . Oh how suddenly everything has changed! First the free, sunshiny, enchanting summer, golden happiness, a life of liberty, enthusiasm for Nature, poetry, music, brightness and joy, all the effervescence of youth: oh, what a lovely summer it was ! And now cold, cruel, bitter earnest, stormy winter, ...

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ALFONS ANKENBRAND

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pp. 72-74

, So fare you well, for we must now be parting,' so run the first lines of a soldier-song which we often sang through the streets of the capital. These words are truer than ever now, and these lines are to bid farewell to you, to all my nearest and dearest, to all who wish me well or ill, and to all that I value and ...

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JOHANNES IWER

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pp. 75-76

You can form absolutely no idea of our incredible privations. But all the same my health is, thank God, quite satisfactory. When at night I have to crouch, in the bitter cold, with rain streaming unceasingly down on us poor ' Field-Greys', keeping ...

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ROBERT OTTO MARCUS

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pp. 77-80

THIS war must come to an end soon. I have come to this conclusion during the last two days, for before that I had no idea, from personal experience, of what war was really like. Judging from my impressions of the last two days, the people of Znor must take a back seat. ...

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WALTER HORWITZ

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pp. 81-82

I had already heard it, just before Christmas, from Gotthilf: when we were in billets at Westroosebeke. He came in, looking very much upset, and whispered to me that he had had bad news from home, and tIlen out it came: 'Hans is killed.' We went outside and I tried in vain to find words to comfort ...

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FRITZ PHILIPPS

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pp. 83-85

FAREWELL Letter, only to be opened if I am killed. I am going with all my heart, freely and willingly, into the war, never doubting but that Germany will bring it to a favourable and victorious end. I wish that there may be no laying down of arms until we have won a real world-victory. ...

LUDWIG FRANZ MEYER

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pp. 86-87

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LUDWIG FINKE

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pp. 88-99

FAREWELL Letter, only to be opened if I am killed. I am going with all my heart, freely and willingly, into the war, never doubting but that Germany will bring it to a favourable and victorious end. I wish that there may be no laying down of arms until we have won a real world-victory. ...

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ERNST GÜNTER SCHALLERT

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pp. 100-103

Yesterday I wrote to you that Helmut was a little better. To-day you have only two sons left! I went to Douai again to-day, to No. I Field Hospital. My first glance was towards his bed: it was empty and freshly made. This gave me a terrible shock. ...

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HERBERT WEISSER

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pp. 104-113

CAN you believe that now I sometimes cannot get away from the thought that I shall be killed? Then come quite close to me! I lay my hand upon your curly head and speak to you. Then I feel as if a God-given strength went out from me and as if all ...

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ARTHUR, COUNT VON DER GROEBEN

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pp. 114-118

I AM living here in what the owner calls a ' Chateau'. I t is a not-bad rococo building of 1765. A well-Iaid-out park, with what, for France, are fine trees, lies before me when I look out of the window. In the park are some quite interesting things. ...

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FRITZ MEESE

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pp. 119-122

. . . For the last week in a trench which is a mere ruin through which water flows in wet weather-stiff with clay and filth, and thereby supposed to protect us from the awful shell-fire. A feeble human defence against powerful forces. I am still alive and unwounded though my pack and my ...

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FRITZ FRANKE

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pp. 123-125

YESTERDAY we didn't feel sure that a single one of us would come through alive. You can't possibly picture to yourselves what such a battle-field looks like. It is impossible to describe it, and even now, when it is a day behind us, I myself can hardly believe that such bestial barbarity and unspeakable ...

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GEORG STILLER

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pp. 126-127

TO-DAY I am sitting in the worst position on the Hill of Combres. It is Sunday; elsewhere there is rest and peace; here the murdering goes on-everlasting shells, shrapnel and rifle-fire. Nature wears its most beautiful spring dress, the sun laughs from the blue ...

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ADOLF WITTE

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pp. 128-134

AT midnight the fun begins. 'All out! Leave packs! Fall in !' We scramble out. 'Across the road at the double!' That tells us that we have got to take the trench on the right of the shellwrecked road, which the French had occupied ...

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WALTER LANGE

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pp. 135-136

MANY thanks for the beautiful page out of your art-calendar. It reminds me of a dream I had last night. I was at home, and everything was just as it used to be, we were all so merry, and even my art-calendar exhibited the same leaf as on the ...

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ULRICH TIMM

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pp. 137-140

OF our battalion 125 men-that is, an eighth part -have already been killed, and the same thing may happen to any of us. Oh, my Parents, whom I love more than everything, last night, when I couldn't sleep because of the violent fighting going ...

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HANS MARTENS

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pp. 141-146

IT won't be long now before I am at the Front again, thank God! I'd rather be in the filthiest trench than here-one doesn't notice all the suffering so much out there. My one and only wish is that I may at last really do something in a battle! For when you simply stand in a trench ...

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ARTHUR MEESS

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pp. 147-148

YOUR silence of the last few days and the absence of news from Walter made me anxious. To-day I heard that the 23rd Infantry had been practically wiped out. I was just sitting down to prepare you for the worst, when I got the Express Letter in your writing, dear Else, and I knew at once ...

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KURT PETERSON

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pp. 149-153

IT is Sunday. We are blessed with glorious sunshine. How glad I am to greet it once more after all the horrors! I thought never to see it again! Terrible were the days which now lie behind us. Dixmuide brought us a baptism of fire such as scarcely any troops on active service can have ...

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PETER FRENZEL

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pp. 154-183

WHEN we were on our way from Kielce to the Front, it seemed to me that the world ended at the railhead- far away lay the war, but the space between was empty. The same pictures kept recurring. Simple wooden crosses beside the road and shellshattered, still smouldering dwellings. ...

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EDUARD BRUHN

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pp. 155-184

I am lying on the battle-field badly wounded. Whether I recover is in God's hands. If I die, do not weep. I am going blissfully home. A hearty greeting to you all once more. May God soon send you peace and grant me a blessed home-coming. ...

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GOTTHOLD VON ROHDEN

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pp. 156-163

• . . On Christmas Eve we were more than usually on the alert, as it seemed likely that the French would attack. The half-moon was shining in full glory-most unsuitable weather for going on patrol! Six War-Volunteers put themselves under my guidance and soon after it got dark we crawled out, the enemy being barely 400 yards away. ...

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ALFRED E. VAETH

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pp. 164-174

WHAT you want most to know is whether I am still just the same as ever? I don't think, my Friend, that I have changed in the least. I have experienced one great joy: that of seeing my conceptions of life and the world put to the test and finding that they have not failed me. ...

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WALTER BORM

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pp. 175-204

• . . One thing more, dear Parents, and especially you, Mum: I asked you to spare me 'snowball' prayers, amulets, and so on. Don't be angry with me, please don't, because I quite understand your point of view. But I have received from God, in ...

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HERBERT ]AHN

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pp. 176-178

YESTERDAY evening I was sitting in the ivy-arbour outside our dug-out. The moon shone brightly into my mug. Beside me was a full bottle of wine. From a distance came the muffled sound of a mouth-organ. ...

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OSKAR MEYER

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pp. 179-183

When we got to our destination, we sat for a whole hour on the railway-line in the rain. Meanwhile a search was being made for billets. The whole battalion was first crowded into a tent, which had been used as a stable, but as the rain continued we soon left it and found ...

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EDUARD SCHMIEDER

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pp. 184-185

I HAVE been smoking cigars while we lay as Artillery Cover under enemy shrapnel-fire. And in those very moments I have once again vividly realized the beauty of the world and all the happiness which has been mine in life. ...

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WALTER AMBROSELLI

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pp. 186-191

ONLY to-day can I manage to keep my promise of telling you something about the battle of Soissons, which lasted from January 12th to the 14th. I can and will only give you a few details now. When the war is over and I am happily with you once more, I will willingly relate all my experiences, but ...

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CHRISTIAN BRAUTLECHT

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pp. 192-194

. . . To-day, as I begin my letter, it doesn't look at all Christmasy with us. Every one in the trench is in very low spirits because there has been no post, and the clouds in the sky have mingled their moisture with the clay of our trench so that we are filthy from ...

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HEINZ POHLMANN

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pp. 195-196

I can understand that, but one thing I beg you : do not lament, do not grieve for me, but be calm and resigned; show that you are Germans who can bear suffering; German parents who give what they value most for that which is of most value-our glorious Fatherland. For in spite of all the tragic ...

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JOHANNES HAAS

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pp. 197-207

IT is Sunday morning. Behind our farm the valley rises gently in rich meadow-land towards the hills. The high plateaus fall away on either side. Thus we have a triangular, flat, sloping depression, and here our Field Service was held. The Chaplain's desk was fixed up under a solitary tree and decorated ...

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RICHARD SCHMIEDER

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pp. 208-209

Anybody who, like myself has been through the awful days near Penthy since the 6th of February, will agree with me that a more appalling struggle could not be imagined. It has been a case of soldier against soldier, equally matched and both mad with hate and rage, fighting for days on end over a single ...

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MARTIN MOLLER

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pp. 210-220

... Yesterday-Christmas Eve-gave us a deep insight into the misery brought about by war, though we only viewed it from a distance. On the 23rd we had Brigade Exercise near St. Erme, from 7-9.30. Then followed an inspection of the Army Reserve Corps there, by the General in Command, ...

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EDUARD OFFENBACHER

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pp. 221-230

... WE had enjoyed two delightful weeks' rest in an idyllic little village of the Pas-de-Calais, where the cherry-trees were in bloom and the purple lilac peeped over the cottage walls. The dear little French children said good-bye to us with many tears and much waving of handkerchiefs, for they ...

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OTTO ERNST FRANKE

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pp. 231-233

FOR the moment I am still at the depot. They are pretty strict with us here. In consequence of several things that had happened, our lot were supposed to do extra drill every day for a week, from 7.30 to 9.30. Mercifully after two days we were let off. My telling you this is not meant for a complaint as far as I ...

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MAX BASSLER

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pp. 234-236

. . . The Lieutenant came and told me to see that our dead had proper funerals. They had already been temporarily buried by other hands, but we knew the places. ...

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MAX GÖRLER

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pp. 237-238

I write to ask your permission to enlist as a War Volunteer on ]une 17th. Since I met Scheidig again in the holidays I have realized that I must be a soldier. We always vied with one another at school, but now what a poor figure I have cut, compared with him! ...

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OTTO HEINEBACH

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pp. 239-243

I write only to you to-day, because I have something terrible to tell you. Less than three hours ago, our dear, good H., my best comrade, was killed by a shell, which gave him a horrible wound in the body. ...

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HANS STEGEMANN

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pp. 244-258

. . . Our men, like heroes, did not yield a foot ! Sergeant Struck, a good comrade, fell close to me, shot through the lungs, and died immediately. We buried him with Lieut. Lorenz in the churchyard at Caffenciers. I wrapped the bodies in pinebranches, as no coffin was to be had. ...

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ADOLF BECK

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pp. 259-264

WE are lying in the valley where we spent the first days. of the advance. It is very pleasant here again. But how many of those who were with us before are gone! ...

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OSKAR GREULICH

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pp. 265-267

I HOPE you are having the same wonderful Easter weather at home as we are. All the time we have been here-and it is nearly six months now-we have not had such glorious days as these two Easter ones. Within two or three weeks the sun has simply worked miracles. ...

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HEINRICH MOLLER

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pp. 268-297

Now you have got through your Sekunda,1 and I hope that you will continue to be equally successful in your studies so that you may be a source of satisfaction to your parents and may develop into a capable, well-educated citizen. ...

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KURT ROHRBACH

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pp. 269-274

IN this war, which obliges one to concentrate one's attention and exert one's strength to the utmost, I feel that I have lost many of the treasures amassed during a period of gradual, auspicious development, in time of peace. The knowledge which I acquired at school and at the University, the interests aroused in me by a civilian occupation, are lost to sight and ...

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ANTON STEIGER

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pp. 275-277

THE last day before Verdun, and the most awful! On July 11th our Company marched to Fosse Wood, and, on the 12th, on to the Ablain Valley. There the 2nd Platoon and one Section of the 3rd remained. The 1st and 3rd Sections of the 3rd Platoon-seventeen men, two Corporals, and a ...

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HUGO MULLER

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pp. 278-281

I AM enclosing a French field-postcard, which I want you to put with my war-souvenirs. It came out of the letter-case of a dead French soldier. It has been extremely interesting to study the contents of the letter-cases of French killed and prisoners. ...

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ADOLF STORMER

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pp. 282-285

YESTERDAY I volunteered for the patrol that was to blow up the bridge which the Russians had thrown across the S. I knew the terrain from various wanderings. When there are so many of you, you can't swim over, because that would make too much noise, so we had to manage with a raft. ...

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FRIEDRICH OEHME

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pp. 286-292

YOUR letter to-day has made me very sad. Many of my friends have already given their lives for the Fatherland, but I cared for none of them as I did for Otto J. You know what we were to one another. And now comes this terrible blow! . . .

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HELMUT STRASSMANN

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pp. 293-297

SINCE June 1st small attacks have been made with the object of getting a good place for us to break through. With this idea our battalion, on June 15th, took the Cerwona Gora, a small hill near Jednorozek, during a night-attack, and the same thing has been ...

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JOHANNES NOGIELSKY

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pp. 298-327

When you read these lines I shall be no longer among the living: 'Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.' Do not weep for me, for I am in the realms of light, so why mourn? The war came and I also went like so ...

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HERO HELLWICH

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pp. 299-300

If anything should happen to me, I hope that it will find me to some extent prepared. There is only one thing that worries me, and that is that I should leave this world as a mere 'silly boy'. Don't protest; it can't be otherwise. ...

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WILLY HOLSCHER

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pp. 301-303

... One thing more : Would you be so kind as to send me some flower-seeds? There is nothing very nice to look at round about my billet, and, as I don't know how long I may be stuck here, I want to grow some flowers. Please send me sweet-peas, convolvulus, sunflower, flax, mignonette, etc. I ...

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HANS SPATZL

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pp. 304-305

IN my yesterday's letter I described a scene of peace. To-day I have in my mind another unforgettable picture-that of the grave of one of our heroes. I often pass it, but never without uncovering my head and saying a Hail-Mary for the dead man. ...

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WALTER SCHMIDT

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pp. 306-316

I RECEIVED your nice letter of July 1st the day before yesterday. It flowed over me like a golden stream of beauty and the joy of youth, and innumerable vivid memories, which the rigour of war had swamped, sprang up again impetuously to the surface of my mind. It is good for you that you can ...

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HANS OLUF ESSER

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pp. 317-319

... At 8 I drove my machine out and waited to start till there was something happening. At 8.25 two dots suddenly appeared in the sky, and somebody called out : ' There come two !' Off I started and just at the last moment someone shouted that eight enemy planes were approaching. Sure enough, ...

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FRIEDRICH GEORG STEINBRECHER

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pp. 320-325

WENT through the captured position. A swampy stretch of forest, consisting of shell-smashed trees and battered trenches, surrounds the hill. The whole place looks as if it had been ploughed up. Blown in dug-outs. Huge shell-craters. Fragments of wood and clothing; corpses; rifles; knapsacks. ...

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RUDOLF KRUGER

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pp. 326-327

YESTERDAY, that is to say on April 22nd, I received my baptism of fire from enemy Artillery. We had to occupy a Reserve Position again, but this time we had to go up over open ground. It was not long before the enemy guns spotted us and scattered ...

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KARL SCHENKEL

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pp. 328-329

You know that the situation here was anything but rosy when we arrived. The English had broken through to a distance of5 miles in one push. There was a thin line of infantry in front of us, and the English were just where our heavy guns used to ...

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WILLI BOHLE

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pp. 330-331

... We went into the Line on April loth. The whole night of the loth-11th we were digging ourselves in, in order to get cover from the fire. Then came the morning of April 11th. Never shall I forget the I I th of April! The English had been firing on the front line all night and in the morning they ...

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FRANZ VON DRATHEN

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pp. 332-340

. .. We have again had a little march-like walk to Fort Benjamin. The sun shone on the dusty country road, from the edge of which the Narew's waters had long since subsided. The six graves have been left thickly covered with mud, and broken trees and crooked bushes testify to the strength of ...

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KURT BERGTER

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pp. 341-370

You must know that we are waging three different wars here: one against the lousy Russian; one against the Russian louse (which is now attacking me with greater violence) ; and-one for the' thick ' in the camp-kettle! Living in the open of course one gets a tremendous appetite, and when there is ...

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EUGEN ROCKER

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pp. 342-345

I HAVE now watched the development of trench-warfare for a whole year. The progress made is gigantic. The art of trench-making was in its infancy a year ago, although I used to write you enthusiastic letters about the wonderful achievements of our troops in the front line and communication-trenches. ...

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MARTIN HIEBER

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pp. 346-348

. . . I have always disliked hearing people talk of the aviator as the ' Conqueror of the Air'; of his pride in having fulfilled the dream, the longing of humanity; of the sublime sensation of being able to accomplish so much more than the feeble little ...

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ERWIN SELLO

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pp. 349-350

ON the morning of February 21St we marched to Stoj and there entrained in goods-vans. It was lousy cold in the vans, so most of us lay full length, rolled up like mummies in our coats and blankets. The route was via Wladmir-Wolynsk, Kowel, Grodno, ...

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LUDWIG ELSNER

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pp. 351-357

. . . In the afternoon of the day before yesterday, at the Platoon-Commanders' Conference, Lieut. Brox, the Company-Commander, said: 'Gentlemen, please see that to-day all work ceases between 2.30 and 4 o'clock. Pioneers and Miners must be ...

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HANS FINK

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pp. 358-387

ON account of our continual losses the Company Commander has the difficult, unceasing task of fitting reinforcements into the Company. There are no old, experienced men left-nothing but Deputy Reservists and recruits. The officer has himself to ...

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GERHARD GÜRTLER

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pp. 359-364

WE spent the whole of the 30th ofJuly moving up to the wagon-lines, and that night, at 2.30 a.m., we went straight on to the gun-line-in pouring rain and under continuous shell-fire; along stony roads, over fallen trees, shell-holes, dead horses; through ...

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HELMUT ZSCHUPPE

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pp. 365-368

IT doesn't do one any good to spend one's time between going on guard every fifth and sixth hour and sleeping in a mud-hole or a half-finished dug-out at the far end of which the air is so bad that a candle won't burn. And after an attack in a trench with ...

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JOHANNES PHILIPPSEN

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pp. 369-370

THE time of waiting is over. I received my marching orders to-day and am off to-morrow. How different this departure is from the last! and how different, again, from the first in December, 1914! Things have become more and more serious, and, in spite ...

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EDMUND KNOELLINGER

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pp. 371-400

. . . My Mother made an application to the War Office, stating the case about my brothers, who were both killed in France, and asking that I might be transferred to the Base, so that at least one son should be spared to her. She did this without my knowledge or consent. ...

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KARL GORZEL

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pp. 372-374

... As we were passing through Cambrai we saw Hindenburg and greeted him with exultant cheers. The sight of him ran through our limbs like fire and filled us with boundless courage. We were going to feel the need of him too ! ...

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HERMANN LABUDE

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pp. 375-376

AT the moment we are having an armistice, from December 7th to the 17th, here. In my Division it started on the 2nd. The first rumours began to circulate on December 1st. On the 2nd I was occupying an observation post which is exceptionally near the railway, in order to make a sketch from ...