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Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

Article about: Hello, Today I received 10 WW1 German POW letters. The seller originally wanted 100 euro for the lot; I made a cheeky offer of 20 euro because they are out of my collecting field, he accepte

  1. #21

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Re-scan of Letter 5.

    Thank you, Glen.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #22

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Glen: I should have translated these in dated sequence so that they would have unfolded as he wrote them. But you can put them in order when I am finished. There are some points to note in this letter. Again, Hermann Krämer is receiving packages fairly frequently and those packages contain food items that are exceptionally good. Hermann is probably eating better than most Germans in 1918. I am certain he came from a farm family. And that leads me to another observation. Bramley POWs were employed in agriculture and construction. I think that Hermann, being a farm kid, is working in the fields six days a week, which is why the time passes so quickly for him. The fact that he tells his mother and sister that the days are flying by might be said just to raise their spirits, since having a sense that time is passing quickly is not a common feeling among POWs. Generally, being a POW is a terminally boring experience. But it is possible that he isn't bored, though he is certainly tired of being penned up and wants to go home. (see his December letter)
    There is a sort of humor in the Admonishment, " Do Not Write Between the Lines" which is typed across the top of each letter. Since he is writing on lined paper, he has to write between the lines unless he actually writes directly over the line. We all know what the admonishment really means, and Hermann is complying, but it would have been fun to follow the rule to the letter and write directly over the lines. Maybe that's why my mother said I was a problem child. Dwight

    Do Not Write Between the Lines

    Bramley, 27 October 1918
    Dear Mother and Sister:
    It is Sunday again and I will write you a few words. The time truly goes by very quickly, hardly has the week started and it is already Sunday again, and shortly the next Sunday in this year arrive. On the 14th I received two packages, one, No. 35, with apples, potatoes, and thread and No. 36 from 28 September with bacon, sausage, bread rolls, butter, 1 can of marmalade, 1 can (unreadable), Coffee, cocoa, and oatmeal. Everything arrived in good shape except the package with 6 (unreadable) which were ruined. I received everything except the thread, which they (the British) withheld. There will be other opportunities to send needles and thread. The apples are special and tasty. I backed some Küchle with them, which were also very good. I wonder a bit about where the cans come from. I watch closely for mail but have received none for 14 days. Hopefully you are well and everything is going as well as possible for you. I thank you heartily for the things you sent and send you the best greetings, auf Wiedersehen. Hermann

  3. #23

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Added note: Küchle is a sort of pastry made with meal, water, and eggs. It's formed into a sort of small dish, filled with some kind of fruit, and baked. I don't know what the British and Americans might call it. Dwight

  4. #24

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Thank you again Dwight it will be very interesting to read them in chronological order after they have been translated.

    I hope that my re-scan of letter 5 is okay, if it is still not legible I will take some shots with my camera.

    I am not sure what Küchle is in English, but I have found a picture of it. Doesn't look too bad.

    Thank you, Glen.
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  5. #25

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Glen this is the translation of your letter No. 4. There are some spots that are too pale to read, made worse by the fact that Hermann Krämer seems to have written rather hurriedly in this letter. The penmanship is not as sharp as usual. This letter confirms that his family are farmers. The most important point is that the war is over, but there is no certainty as to when the POWs will be released. I don't have the dates and figures, but it seems that the German POWs in Britain were repatriated in 1919. There is a 1919 British Pathé newsreel that shows German POWs going aboard a ship in Dover for return to Germany. According to the accompanying script, the British were releasing them at the rate of 2000 per day. But I don't know at what point in 1919 that figure was achieved. Dwight

    Do Not Write Between the Lines

    Bramley 22 December 1918
    Dear Mother and Sister
    Today is the last Sunday before Christmas and the day on which we earlier decorated the Christmas tree. Last year it was very sad, and if today brings greater hope, we must reckon that we still have an uncertain future before us. Yesterday I received two letters from 20 November and saw that you are receiving my letters. I am very unhappy to learn that Mother is still suffering and that she is not able to take better care of herself. You should do as much as possible to [illegible] because I do not know when I will be able to help you. In the past days [illegible] not enough strength and energy everything [illegible]. I saw that the [illegible] has still not been found, and at this moment are apparently dead. There are always people who belong at the Front and those sorts will never change. You finished the thrashing early and hopefully you will now have some peace and quiet, even though I know that you can't stand to see anything half finished. I will close now with the hope that we will soon see each other again. The best Christmas greetings to you from your son and brother. Hermann

  6. #26

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Glen: There are a couple of interesting points in this letter that give us a better picture of Hermann Krämer. He is a Bavarian Catholic from a farming family and his father is apparently very ill. In his 26 January letter he wrote, "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." That tells me that he has received a letter telling him that his father is ill and the reference to "grant that I do not need to change the above address" refers to the salutation, "Dear Parents and Sister." In later letters the salutation becomes "Dear Mother and Sister," which is a sure sign that his father has died.
    Mariä Lichtmess: In Catholic tradition February 2 is Candlemas Day, the feast day commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem. It is named after the candle light procession which precedes the mass. Here in the United States it's called Groundhog Day.

    Farmer Rule 1. If Candlemas is mild and pure, Winter will be long for sure.

    Farmer Rule 2. If Candlemas brings wind and snow, Then spring very soon will show. But if it's clear and bright, Then spring won't come quite so right. Dwight

    Do Not Write Between the Lines

    Bramley 3 February 1918
    Dear Parents and Sister:
    Already the time has come which we call Mariä Lichtmess and it is the time that the peace is coming closer and we will at last be able to go home. [At this point he drops into a metaphor that doesn't translate literally, but it's referenced to what we call Groundhog day and what the Germans call Mariä Lichtmess. If the Groundhog--Igel in German--sees his shadow winter will continue, if he doesn't see his shadow, spring will come soon. In the case of his family he tells them that whatever the prediction is, they will either have their hands full or they will enjoy some rest. I think he is referring to the work of getting ready to plant if the spring comes early.] On 1 February I finally received two packages from 23 and 29 November (1917) in which I see that you have hired a worker and I can fully understand why. [He now deals with what is clearly a family issue when he writes] "There is certainly someone there who can escort F. and goes on to tell them to not spare eating and drinking that will make whatever comes more bearable. You seem to have finished the threshing early given that its wheat. Thank you for the greetings from [unreadable] and give her my greetings in return. Yesterday I received a card form the Red Cross but I probably won't do anything. The Sunday brings instead of work, hours when one can in his mind believe that he is home, but too much of that sort of thinking is not good because it stresses the nerves and causes me unhappiness. Wish Father good improvement and I send Greetings and auf Wiedersehen. Hermann.

  7. #27

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Glen: This is your letter No. 5. The point of interest in this letter is that his father has apparently died, evidenced by the salutation Dear Mother and Sister. It also refers to another person being sick, G. Mutter, and since we know his mother also becomes ill, I am sure this is a result of the world-wide Influenza. pandemic, 1917-18. This brings up another historical point in that the Influenza pandemic, coming on top of the wartime demand for male conscripts has reduced the family's ability to tend the farm adequately. Another point is that photographers regularly visited Allied POW camps, taking photos of the POWs in groups and singly which they sold to the prisoners in postcard format for a small fee. The practice was also common in German POW camps. To clarify the last part of the letter, I think that he has read in a letter to him that a mutual acquaintance is home either on leave or injured and has complained about either the Army or the war, or both. And Hermann's response is that after a half year the mutual friend would not like it any better where Hermann was. And that most people see the war as the doings of man rather than an act of God. Dwight

    Do Not Write Between Lines
    Bramley 15 September 1918
    Dear Mother and Sister

    Once again I am sitting at the table early on Sunday to write you a few words. Yesterday I received a card from 28 July and a letter from 3 August and a card from [name]. I saw that you have also received my letters and you did not recognize me in the photograph because I have changed so much, but I am in fact there. If you know Mathias, I am recognizable and I am sitting on his left. Tell me how things are with G.(ross) mutter, is she really also sick? I hope God will not let it happen. She should relax for so long as there is still time so that I will not find my father's house completely empty. Sorry to see that the work has become such a problem that you will soon have no choice but to let things lie. [The next part of the letter is so pale that it's hard to make an understandable translation.] I am glad that [name] is home and I send him many greetings. That [someone] does not like[something], I have to believe that he would not like it any better here either after a half year. In order to like it, there would have to be no war, and the majority see in it (the war) only the work of the hands of men. (I hope things get)better for you and I send you many greetings. Son and Brother, Hermann

  8. #28

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Glen: This is the 7th letter you posted. The tone of this letter is rather short-tempered, which makes me think that he's suffering from the stress of being away from home for another important holiday, Easter, the latest war developments, and the apparent release of men who were captured with him as evidenced by his comment that the NCOs who were captured with him have been sent to Holland, which sounds like they have been repatriated. I assume that he meant some of the NCOs were released, probably for health reasons. That sort of thing happened during WWI, where severely injured soldiers were repatriated through a neutral country. Dwight

    Do Not Write Between the Lines
    Bramley 30 March 1918
    Dear Mother and Sister
    On the eve of Easter I will again write a few words to you and hope that you receive this in good health. Yesterday I received the letter of 27 January and read that you are unsure that the No. 18 package arrived here. I have received everything except No. 26 and in the new year, everything up to No. 6, as I have told you every time I write. If you do not receive my letters, you will not know. The delays in the post are possibly due to problems with the railroad caused by the present war developments.
    [Large section is totally missing, but what remains ends with] some will shed his blood on French soil, but without battle there can be no peace. Today the NCOs who were captured with me went to Holland. Hopefully, that time will come for me soon. What you send me all ends up in my stomach, if that were not so, I would not write. Easter is here and it would be very useful if the world would rise up against this murderous Death. I will close with many greetings and hope for a quick auf Wiedersehen. Son and Brother, Hermann

  9. #29

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Glen: There are some interesting points and observations with this letter. This is one of the earliest letters you have and he has been a POW for somewhere around a year. It appears that he and others were granted parole to attend a Martinimarkt outside the camp, where they found few single girls. I don't know what a Martinimarkt is in English, but with the help of my German wife I learned that it is an ancient church holiday that occurs on around 11 November on which tithing and debts were paid, and new contracts were opened. It morphed into a farmers' holiday on which they bought the needs for the coming winter and sold the last of their crops at open markets. In more modern times it has become a regional holiday that features flea markets and arts and crafts fairs. Apparently there is a similar tradition and practice in Britain.
    Granting parole to POWs in WWI was a common practice for officers in all countries, but rarely for enlisted men. Apparently the British extended the policy to enlisted prisoners.

    Do Not Write Between the Lines
    Bramley 14 November 1917
    Dear Parents and Sister
    Martinimarkt is over and there was not much there, and I suspect the cattle market also had little to offer. There were also not many single girls there. Some of the comrades are wondering where Hans Jakobs lived and if he is buried next to the chapel. On the 12th of this month I received package No. 17 from 15 October containing Ham. sausage, potatoes, bread, honey, butter, noodles, Bouillon cubes, coffee and shoe oil. Everything arrived in good shape and is useable. The potatoes are small and if they are all look like this the situation is not rosy. (referring to the 1917 failure of the German potato crop) Because the mail is so slow, I will now wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and a joyful, healthy reunion. With thanks for what I have received, many greetings, son and Brother, Hermann.

  10. #30

    Default Re: Selection of 10 WW1 German POW letters.

    Glen: This is the last letter you posted and the earliest one you have. There aren't any really significant points made, other than that he is sick of the death wrought by the war. Dwight

    Do Not Write Between the Lines
    Bramley 3 November 1917
    Dear Parents and Sister

    All Souls day is past and there is still a rich harvest of death. We hope that out of the tumult of war an uplifting will occur that can be celebrated. We got little out of the holy celebration, but we held a candle-light service. On the same day I received package No. 16 from 16 October containing Ham, sausage, cake, potatoes, apple dumplings, and socks. Clothing, especially socks, I have ample so do not send any unless I write. The apples arrived fresh and tasty and are better than the local variety. Yesterday I received two cards and read that Father has not changed. I am sad, but we have to accept with what God sends. Yesterday I received a letter from nephew Wilhelm saying that August has gone into the lumber trade. Good news regarding the progress in the south. Thank you for all that you have sent, and the best to you. Wishing for a healthy reunion, Son and Brother, Hermann.

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