Thank you, Glen.
Glen: Your scans look OK to me, so I'll start on the first one today, and work on them in the order you posted them. Dwight
Glen: In translating this letter I have tried to keep to his words as closely as possible, but some of his sentence compositions defy literal translation that would make sense to English speakers. He is obviously a devout Catholic, his confinement is very difficult for him, and he and his fellow POWs are not optimistic about the war. There is one sentence that I do not understand. It's where he writes, " O God, grant that I do not need to change the above address during the war, because I did not like what I read today." Apparently he read something, probably the war news in the camp paper, and it has him upset. I think the "above address" refers to parents and sister.
I discovered this information about the POW camp he was in. At the end of 1917, there were 3,500 POWs at Bramley (between Reading and Basingstoke), most of whom were employed in agriculture and construction. Apparently some of the prisoners were engaged in building a munitions depot in the area, a clear violation of international law.
I'll work on the second letter tomorrow. Dwight
Do Not Write Between the Lines
Bramley 26 January 1918
Dear Parents and Sister:
(I am) Sitting right now in the reading hall where one can gather his thoughts in peace, and I will again write you some words. O God, grant that I do not need to change the above address during the war, because I did not like what I read today. Despite that I received today a beautiful package No. 25 of 30 December, a sad feeling cast a shadow on my soul. As for how the war will end, you have more hope than we do. The things in the package, ham, flour, butter, artificial honey, rolls, and plums all arrived in good shape and gladdens the heart. (I) have in the last ten days received three packages and can in this case look to the future with confidence. It is unnecessary to use Regiment and Company in the address. Yesterday we received the delayed Christmas packages from Holland, but not as last year, these having only smoking supplies and reading material. The best thing I could receive is two days with you, but since that cannot happen we must rely on writing. And I want to comfort you in these difficult days with the Catholic teaching that we must endure all to achieve our ultimate goal which is the other world where misery ends. I greet you and wish for you better things, Son and Brother, Hermann
Thank you very much Dwight for taking the time in helping me understand the contents of these letters.
I know it is a long shot but would it be possible to do any more research on Hermann? i.e. find out more about his military career.
Best wishes and thank you once again, Glen.
Glen: Researching Hermann Krämer is not a long shot, but it might prove difficult. Die Deutsche Dienststelle in Berlin holds are the individual military records for German service men with the exception of those in the Waffen SS. You would need his date of birth for starters, since they won't make any attempt without it. If you come up with that, you might be able to finesse the fact that you aren't a blood relative by posing as a serious researcher. You might want to contact your own National Archives since they probably have all the POW camp records. There is a book by Mark Graham, Prisoners of War in British Hands During WWI that would give you valuable information. It's long out of print, but you might find it in your local library or online in a used book shop. I'll have another letter for you tomorrow. Dwight
Glen: I was unable to make out some of the names of people that appear in a group photograph he received, but that doesn't make the letter any less understandable. The two letters we have read so far contain an interesting point regarding POWs in WWI. The International Red Cross was responsible for monitoring conditions in POW camps in most of the warring nations. Camps in which only Americans were held were monitored by the American Red Cross through its office in Berne. In general, American, British, and German POWs received regular Red Cross food packages, and in some cases they received clothing and toilet articles. Pilfering of the food packages sent to POWs in Germany was a serious problem. But I have not heard of a similar problem with packages sent to German POWs in British and American camps, at least not to the degree it occurred in German-run camps. According to these letters, Hermann Krämer received packages from his family that were fully intact, which tends to confirm what has been generally believed.
Another interesting inference in the letters is that Krämer's family were probably farmers who were much less affected by the Blockade in regard to food than was the majority of the German people until 1920. Krämer's family is able to send him flour, butter, and potatoes, all of which had virtually vanished in most of Germany by January 1918. Dwight
Do not write between the lines
Bramley, 16 October 1918
Liebe Mother and Sister:
I can tell you today that I finally again received mail. On the 14th I received a card from 25 August and yesterday a photograph from 20 May with the young warriors on it. It took a long time for this card to get here, probably held up somewhere. The people in the photograph seem big and strong, but appear very young. There are, however, strangers in the photo that I do not know. [unreadable name possibly Gehring Haver] makes the prettiest face. The two next to, and the one behind, [unreadable first name] Karl I do not know. I can see that you have already finished your vacation with [unreadable name] and Keller(bum). I received package No. 33 containing the Ham, sausage, 2 cans, 6 potatoes, 20 cigarettes, and apple dumplings. Everything arrived in good shape and will taste wonderfully. The weather is now mostly wet and cold, which will create a good appetite. The main thing here is that we have our warm stove every evening on which we can cook and warm everything. In closing, I send my sincerest greetings until we meet again. Hermann
Glen: This is the second letter you posted. I erred and translated letter No. 9, which is the last I posted. I'm back on track now. The important point included in this letter is that Hermann Krämer was born on 9 October, what we don't have is in what year was he born. He was captured in 1916, and the minimum draft age in Germany during WWI was 18, which might imply that he was drafted in 1915. If so, my guess would be that he was born in 1895± 2. Dwight
Do not write between the lines
Bramley 9 October 1918
Dear Mother and Sister:
I have to grab my head and ask, is it possible that I am celebrating my third birthday here in England, or is this just a dream? If so, it's a long, mean dream. We celebrated last night because Mathias had to leave today. He again sent you many greetings. We could not produce anything special so we had a plate of boiled potatoes followed by coffee with cake and a cigar. A gabfest afterward made the time go by. This evening I made prisoner's cake from cookie crumbs, oatmeal, and grated potato, which I had with a boiled potato and apple dumpling. Together with a good coffee and honey, the time passed. But how, when, and where the next birthday will play out is unknown. One can truly say that the Devil wants not just the people, but the entire world. What we learn about the war we get only from the local paper [what follows is too faded to read] O God, I hope that we can all go home. Hearty Greetings, Hermann
Thank you very much Dwight for your help! I am extremely grateful.
I will keep a look out for that book.
Once I have gained as much info on Hermann through the translations of these letters as possible, I will contact the organisations that you have already told me about.
It is fascinating reading about Hermann's life while as a POW and I am very grateful for your help.
Thank you, Glen.