The Start Of The Decisive Battle At The Western Front

Ettlingen's newspaper, the "Badischer Landsmann" reports on March 22, 1918, on the bombardment of Dunkirk by German torpedo boats.

The Start Of The Decisive Battle At The Western Front

Official Preliminary Report

WTB Berlin, March 21, evening (official). Artillery fighting has intensified in Belgian and French Flanders, north of Reims, in Champagne, at Verdun and in Lorraine.
Between Cambrai and La Fere, we have penetrated sections of the English ranks.

Successful Bombardment of Dunkirk by German Torpedo Boats
WTB Berlin, March 21 (official). Three groups of torpedo boat forces in Flanders captured the fortress of Dunkirk and other military installations definitively at Bray-Dunes and de Panne under fire on the morning of March 21. The strikes were successful at all points. In the large encampments at de Panne,  which was held by 800 shooters, two major fires broke out. The coastal battery responded with lively but ineffectual fire.

The return journey saw a shootout with several enemy bombers, who, however, retreated after receiving multiple hits. The forces deployed in the advance arrived without injuries or losses.

Two of our small outpost boats did not return last night from a journey to the west of Ostend and must be declared missing.

The "War Fury"
Lloyd George: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is in
England the worst of all?"

Story This Week: Musketier Ernst Schmidt

This week our story comes from Heinz Stephan of Ettlingen Town, whose uncle Ernst Schmidt served as a Musketier in the Great War.

Musketier Ernst Schmidt

Ernst Schmidt was born on June 24, 1884 in Karlsruhe. His parents and sister Maria lived in Ettlingen and his brother Karl, who was exempted from military service due to his work, lived in North Germany.

Ernst served in the Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 30, 1st Batallion, 1st company. This regiment was subordinate to the 15th and 16th Reserve Divisions and the 25th Landwehr Division of the German Army and was deployed only at the Western Front. The regiment took part in the Battles of the Somme and the Aisne.

Heinz has two letters from his uncle. The first was written on February 10, 1917, to his mother and sister. He writes that he is in the foremost trench, 50-60 meters from the French. He mans the listening and observation post, standing for two hours, then has four hours off, day and night.

Ernst's dugout is 7 meters underground, and he shares it with rats, mice and lice. It is the lice with which he has the most problems. Since he has been living in the dugout, he has not once been able to wash or change his clothes. In fact, he has never removed his clothes and feels extremely uncomfortable as a result.

The second letter was written on March 5, 1917. Ernst describes how he is no longer in the trench but now living in a village a few kilometers behind the Front.

Ernst's unit is expecting an attack by the French during the night. He is not scared, he writes, because God is with him.

He says, "I am here to protect the hearth of the mothers, the wives and the families. God is with me and will help me to fight, under his protection nothing can happen to me. It would be terrible if the French got through. What would become of the existence we have painstakingly built for ourselves?"

This letter of March 5, 1917 is the last letter received by Ernst. He fell in March 1917, very probably on the night of the French attack.

Story of the Week: Unteroffizier Johann Metzger

This week's story is brought to us by Andrea Metzger-Adolf of Ettlingen Town, whose great-grandfather Johann Metzger served as an Unteroffizier in the Great War.

Johann was born on November 19, 1870 and worked initially as a gardener for Grand Duke Friedrich of Karlsruhe. Shortly before the outbreak of war, he and his wife Elise became the landlords of the "Jagdhaus" inn near the Wilhelmshöhe hotel in Ettlingen.

This photo shows Johann (on the left) and his son Franz in a picture filled with symbolism.

Franz and Johann shake hands, a common gesture between soldiers often found in photos and pictures of the time and symbolizing peace, friendship and cordiality.

In 1914, Germany felt encircled and threatened by France and Russia, who together with England formed the Entente Powers. The war was seen by Germans to a large extent as a defensive war, the highest goal being to protect the Homeland (the "Heimat") from invasion by the enemy.

Women and children symbolized the Homeland. Here we see Johann's wife Elise (Franz's mother) in the background between the two soldiers, holding out her arm to present an object to her son - possibly a lucky charm.

The word "Wiedersehen" as a caption to the photo is ambiguous and has several meanings. On the one hand it is a farewell at a parting, while on the other hand it means "until we meet again".

Johann at the start of the war as a Musketier

The photo on the right shows Johann at the start of the war as a Musketier.
He survived the war and returned home.

Johann died on September 20, 1940.

This Week's Story: Unteroffizier Franz Metzger

Our story this week comes from Andrea Metzger-Adolf of Ettlingen Town, whose grandfather Franz Metzger served as an Unteroffizier in the Great War.

Franz was born in 1898 and signed up voluntarily at the outbreak of war on August 6, 1914, when he was just 16 years old.

Franz Metzger in 1914

Franz lived with his parents, Johann and Elise, who were the landlords of the "Jagdhaus" inn in Ettlingen.

He joined up together with his father, Johann, who was 44 at the outbreak of war.

Franz was first sent to the military training ground at Döberitz near Berlin. From here, he sent his parents the photo on the left, the first of him in his new uniform. During training, he was assigned to the Reserve Infantry Regiment 111, as we can see from the inscription on his helmet.

On the back, he writes: "I'm sending you my photo, but it didn't turn out very well. Did you send my parcel yet? Please send it straight away if not".

Franz on leave

After completing his training, Franz was assigned to the Infanterie-Regiment 27, 2nd Maschinengewehrkompanie (machine gun company), which was subordinate to the 211th Infantry Division and the 7th Division. In the first two years of the war, Franz served at the Western Front in Flanders and Artois, and later at the Somme, the Aisne, Champagne and at the Ailette.

He earned three medals: the Iron Cross II, the Silver "Verdienst-Medaille" (for service) and the Frontkämpfer-Ehrenkreuz (Combatants' Honor Cross).

Franz was lucky enough to return home without injuries at the end of the war. He was discharged on January 10, 1919.

After the war, Franz learned the trade of stoker and worked for the Papierfabrik Vogel and Bernheimer in Ettlingen, a paper factory.

He died on August 12, 1979 in Ettlingen.

Franz is shown in the photo on the left together with his father and his sister Marie.

Story This Week: Kanonier Adolf Schott

Our story this week comes from the Stadtarchiv Ettlingen, which holds the 1916 Militärpass (Military Pass Book) of Kanonier Adolf Schott, grandfather of Claus Schott of Ettlingen Town.

Adolf's Military Pass Book, 1916

Adolf Schott was born in Ettlingen on December 7, 1874. He married Hermine, with whom he had 6 children. He worked as a stoker.

When war broke out, Adolf was 40 years old. Probably on account of his age and the fact that he had a large family to support, he did not join up immediately. However, on October 21, 1916, he entered service as a "Landsturm Rekrut".

The Landsturm units usually consisted of men over the age of 40. In most cases, they were deployed close to the Homeland, although during the First World War, some of them were sent to the Eastern Front, and a few to the Western Front. They were often used as munition convoys, as well as for building roads, but were not part of a firing battery. Some of the Landsturm formed reinforcement batallions, building trenches, for example. They were usually kitted with older weapons.

Adolf Schott's Personal Data

Adolf was assigned to the 1. Garde-Feldartillerie-Regiment (Field Artillery), Ersatzabteilung (Reserve Division). His Military Pass Book records that unfortunately, after just 3 days, he was admitted to the garrison lazaret suffering from "general asthenia" - in other words, a physical collapse. The physical work in the Landsturm units was tough, although less immediately dangerous than at the Front.

Adolf must have had a major collapse - he remained in the military lazaret until December 4, 1916, a total of around 6 weeks. It could be speculated that he had suffered a heart attack or similar.

He was released from the lazaret and, as far as the records show, returned to his unit. The 1. Garde-Feldartillerie-Regiment was subordinate to the 1. Garde Division, which during this time was stationed at the Somme in trench warfare. We can thus assume that Adolf experienced something of the battles taking place there, during the last phases of the Somme.

Adolf Schott is discharged

On January 17, 1917, Adolf was examined and found to be "g. v. Heimat". This is a German military term short for "garnisonsverwendungsfähig Heimat", which means that a soldier is no longer fit for service in the field and may only be deployed, for example, in a garrison in the Homeland.

Subsequently, Adolf was discharged on March 25, 1917 to work in the company "Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken" (German Weapon and Munition Factories) in Karlsruhe, Ettlingen's nearest city. He was thus put to work for the war effort. The report in his Military Pass Book explicitly states that he had not suffered any disability as a result of military service, although this might be debatable.

Apparently Adolf was still eligible for military service in the Homeland, as he was not officially released until December 9, 1918, and returned his uniform and boots in March 1919.

After the war, Adolf worked as a stoker in the Huttenkreuz Brewery in Ettlingen. He died on April 5, 1940, in Ettlingen Hospital.

This Week: Battle of the Somme - The Wrong Strategic Calculations in the Western Offensive, July 16, 1916

Ettlingen's newspaper, the "Badischer Landsmann" reports on July 16, 1916, on the Battle at the Somme and the problems of the English-French Offensive.
This article is shared with our partner blog: The Somme Reports.

The Wrong Strategic Calculations in the Western Offensive

Copenhagen, July 5

Some of the newspapers here are stating openly that the English are the victims of completely wrong strategic calculations in the Battle at the Somme. The military critic of the newspaper "Exstrabladet", for example, is emphasizing that the Germans had two years' time to fortify their lines and to construct their defense positions at least 15 kilometers deep. The German system which has now come to light is posing an extremely sobering surprise for the English, whose long calculated plan of attack was based on former types of combat and was reckoning on a relatively easy game. These misguided calculations are now obvious from the stagnation of the loudly praised offensive.

In conjunction with the latest news on the deadlock in the English offensive, our Express Correspondence's war reporter related the contents of an interview held with Dr. Egan, the American ambassador in Copenhagen. Dr. Egan's remarks, which the reporter relates to the English and French offensive, were to the effect that it appeared that total decisions regarding the war do not lie in the hands of the military. Only once the belligerents realize that a definitive decision cannot be forced through mass violence would diplomatic negotiations finally become more amenable.

According to a telegram in the newspaper "Politiken", the view is held among decisive circles in London that the Battle at the Somme will proceed in a similar manner to the Battles of Verdun and will be protracted. After several days of heavy storming attacks, pauses must be introduced, in order to pull troops together and to prepare new attacks. At the moment, the terrain won by the English-French troops during the first days of the offensive is being fortified.

A bicycle company breaks up to storm attack
during the battles of the English-French offensive
(Illustrierte Geschichte des Weltkrieges 1914/16)

This Week: The Battle of Verdun

Ettlingen's newspaper, the "Badischer Landsmann" reports on February 26, 1916, on the storming of the Panzerfeste (Fort) Douaumont. "It is in our hands", the article says. "Over 10,000 French taken prisoner".

The Battle of Verdun, a German offensive known as "Unternehmen Gericht", commenced on February 21, 1916 and was one of the largest battles of the First World War at the Western Front. The battle continued until December 18, 1916 and was fought on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France.

German Military Map of Verdun, 1916

The original idea for the attack at Verdun came from Crown Prince Wilhelm, the Supreme Commander of the 5th Army and Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf, the Chief of General Staff of the 5th Army. The 5th Army attacked the Région Fortifiée de Verdun (RFV) and the Second Army garrisons, as they intended to capture the Côtes de Meuse from which Verdun could be bombarded with artillery. Verdun was originally the strongest fort in France, and Germany's intention in attacking it was to once again strengthen its position on the Western Front. Germany assumed that the French would attempt to hold the eastern bank of the Meuse, and thus suffer catastrophic losses from German artillery fire.

The Germans made important gains at the start of the battle but the French were able to recapture much of the lost territory towards the end of the year, despite the English offensive at the Somme in July.

Report from Ettlingen's newspaper the "Badischer Landsmann", March 1, 1916.
The Battles at the Western Front. Attack at Verdun.

The town of Verdun under German fire.
Bern, March 1. (Not official). The "Petit Parisien" reports that numerous villages in the vicinity of Verdun have been cleared; the inhabitants are leaving the town of Verdun in droves and arrive in Paris in fearful expectation of news. The town has suffered heavily. In their basements, the inhabitants had the impression that they were living in a continuous rain of iron and fire hailing down on Verdun and its vicinity. The people had to be forced to leave the town on several occasions. Currently, the town has been completely cleared, apart from a dozen or so inhabitants and a few officials.

On February 25, Fort Douaumont was conquered by German troops, which caused the French to decide that the fort of Verdun must be held at all costs. General Pétain was entrusted with the defense of the town of Verdun. He introduced the "Noria", a system of rotation ensuring that French soldiers were relieved after short periods of time.

The battle consisted of four phases: the first ended on March 4, as French artillery stopped German advancement from the heights west of the Maas. In the second phase, Erich von Falkenhayn, the German Chief of General Staff, ordered attacks on the heights. The height "Dead Man's Hill" was taken several times, but never held for long. In the third phase, the focus was on taking Verdun itself. The storming of Fort Vaux commenced on June 2, and an attack on the Vaux-Fleury line with 78,000 men started on June 21. German troops were able to advance in a fourth phase, with heavy battles at Fort Thiaumont (south of Douaumont). The German attack ultimately stalled at Fort de Souville (5 km northeast of Verdun), and in view of the Allied attack at the Somme on July 1, Falkenhayn halted the offensive on July 11.

Destroyed French village at the Western Front

The "Badischer Landsmann" of February 28, 1916 published the following report from February 27:

To the west of the fort, our troops have now taken Champneuville, the Côte de Talon and are advancing towards the southern border of the forest to the northeast of Bras.

To the east of the fort, they are storming the extensive fortifications of Hardaumont.

In the Woevre plain, the German front is advancing in battle quickly towards the foot of the Côtes de Lorraine.

According to current reports, the number of non-injured prisoners is now almost 15,000.

Story This Week: Three Days in June 1916

This week our story is taken from the original newspapers and field letters of 1916 held in Ettlingen's Town Archives (Stadtarchiv Ettlingen) and observes the fates of three different men during one week in June 1916. Coincidentally, all three were either stationed in or on their way to Russia.

Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener
On Wednesday 7 June, 1916, Ettlingen's local newspaper the Badischer Landsmann reports on the death of the English Minister of War Lord Kitchener, following an announcement by the Admiralty in London.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, had become Secretary of State for War at the outbreak of war in 1914. Kitchener had already won recognition for his roles in Egypt, Sudan, Khartoum, the Anglo-Boer War and India. One of the few to realize that the war would be a long one, he played a key part in organizing an enormous volunteer army as well as expanding the production of war materials. Kitchener drowned on June 5, 1916 when the HMS Hampshire was sunk west of the Orkney Islands, Scotland. He had been on his way to Russia to attend negotiations. It was reported that the HMS Hampshire struck a German mine, although various conspiracy theories concerning his death have since been put forward.

The English Minister Of War Lord Kitchener Sinks With His Staff

"WBT, London, June 6. According to official information from the Admiralty:
The Commander-in-Chief of the Great Navy announces:

To his deepest regret, he must report that the warship "Hampshire", which was on its way to Russia with Lord Kitchener and his staff on board, was sunk last night west of the Orkney Islands by a mine or possibly a torpedo. The night was extremely stormy and although all possible measures were undertaken to provide rapid assistance, it is feared that there is little hope that anybody will have survived.

(Note: Hampshire is an 11,000-ton armored cruiser launched in 1903. It had a speed of 23.2 knots. It held 39 guns and normally had a crew of 660 men on board)."

Dr. Theodor Kiefer
Four days later on June 10, 1916, young German field doctor Dr. Theodor ("Tor") Kiefer, stationed at the Eastern Front in Russia, writes to his family in Ettlingen. For the last few weeks, Tor has been acting batallion's doctor while his superior is on leave. Apart from his medical duties, Tor spends every spare moment, "with pathological zeal", as he reports, organizing the conversion of dugouts into infirmaries. It is clear from Tor's letters during this time that he is under tremendous stress, and that he values the reading and writing of post to and from his family as a mental relief.

"We are currently in a new position, no longer as pleasant as the last one, but reminiscent of the Western Front. I am presently dealing with the problem of a trench stretcher for transporting wounded in the narrow, high trenches. If the Russians attack us here they'll bash their heads in. Our people have been feverishly expanding here for weeks and apart from the fact that a position is never finished, everyone is still continuing at the same pace. I have absolutely no chance of leave at the moment. And I have no hope of it for at least two months. I do not dwell long in my thoughts on Ettlingen, but I would still be grateful for letters full of your news. The mind is easily distracted and wanders through the peaceful realms of a past long since past, and although it is dangerous to think too much, such memories are scarcely tantalizing.

It is terribly difficult to write here, the telephone rings constantly, batmen and dispatchers arrive. One can barely write one word without being distracted by something. Everything in a small room under the earth, made of raw firtree trunks, containing 3 pallets [makeshift beds] and the table."

Leutnant Felix Kiefer
On June 11, 1916 Tor's younger brother Leutnant Felix Kiefer is about to return to the Front for the third time. Felix was wounded on several occasions and after various long stays in the lazaret was always sent back to the Front, until he was finally released from military service in the spring of 1918. Felix married his sweetheart Erne during the war and they corresponded on an almost daily basis. In this postcard sent from the lazaret shortly after his release, he tells her that he has spent a boring evening in Aschaffenburg but is to commence travel to the (Eastern) Front in Russia the next day.

Felix's Postcard to Erne, June 11, 1916
The front of the postcard. The caption
reads "Young Germany"

This Week: The Soldiers of Spessart Part 3 - A Hero's Death

Our story this week once again comes from Ettlingen-Spessart in the hills above Ettlingen, and presents some of the soldiers from Spessart who fell during the Great War. It was important to romanticize and honor what was termed "a hero's death" in order to boost the population's morale and keep them confident of victory. The soldier must not have died in vain, but in the act of directly protecting the homeland and his loved ones.

"The Sun Sank In The West"
A series of painted postcards was used as a means of propaganda to transform these key concepts into romantic scenes deliberately targeted to touch the hearts of women, while combining love, death and the honor of war.

"The Sun Sank In The West.
And when you return to the homeland years from now, bring this dear treasure to my sweetheart".

The dying soldier asks his comrade to take his Iron Cross medal (the dear treasure) to his sweetheart. The clear message of the postcard is that he is proud to have died for his country, as he expects his sweetheart to be.

The postcard was one of a set of six cards, each containing lines attributed to the anonymous folk song "Die Sonne Sank im Westen" (The Sun Sank In The West), although the lines have been altered slightly from the original song. In the postcard shown above, the dying soldier states that his comrade will return home "years from now". This was not the general belief in the early months of the war in 1914, when it was expected that everything would be over by Christmas. The postcards were issued in 1915, when it had become clear that the war might continue for several years.

The memorial card of Eduard Waldmann, born on February 3, 1888, in Ettlingen-Spessart. The card states that Eduard fell "on the field of honor" and "died a hero's death on August 20, 1914 in the battles at Brudersdorf, buried in Niederweiler in Lorraine".

He was thus one of the first soldiers to fall from Ettlingen.

A quote from the book of Maccabees is printed at the top of the card: "It is better to die in war than to surrender the homeland to adversity".

Landsturmmann Adalbert Weber was born on May 2, 1889 in Ettlingen-Spessart and served in the Infanterie Regiment 114.

His card states that he "died a hero's death on April 3, 1918 in Cair, Northern France".

The memorial card of Pionier Josef Anton Kraft, of the Minenwerfer-Bataillon 7 (Trench Mortar Battalion). Josef was born on August 24, 1895 in Ettlingen-Spessart and died on January 28, 1918 in Brussels.

His card states that he "fell on the field of honor".

The memorial card of Konrad Ochs, who was born on December 12, 1897 in Ettlingen-Spessart and who fell on September 29, 1918 in La Ex Aux Bois. He is buried in the cemetry St. Morell in France.

His family has written:
"O God, you have called your loyal servant Konrad from the field of battle to you, and we would have been so happy to have seen him again among those who returned victoriously from the field [Konrad fell shortly before the end of the war]. However, it was not your wish and in your wisdom you know why it had to be so. We trust in your benevolence, even if we do not understand it. Let the efforts that he made during the war and the sacrifice of life that he made in the defense of his homeland graciously make reparation for all his sins and allow you to confer on him in return for this, in your great mercy, the crown of victory of eternal life".

The Infanterie Ersatz Bataillon 110, in which some soldiers from Ettlingen-Spessart served. Alfred Schottmüller is shown standing in the back row, 3rd from the left.
The photo shows the battalion in Heidelberg. They were assigned to the 28th Division of the 7th German Army.

All photos and postcard property and copyright of Brigitte Weber of Ettlingen-Spessart

This Week's Story: Food Rationing in Ettlingen 1915-1916

In 1914, food was already becoming scarce in Germany due to several factors. The increased needs of the armies at the Front, the lack of imports resulting from the disruption in trade, as well as the serious consequences of the War on agricultural structures, including the recruiting of the workforce into the army, all led to problems in food supply, particularly in urban areas, and to stockpiling of food.

The German government hoped to be able to regulate this food supply by defining maximum prices for bread and grain and by rationing eggs. Over the course of the War, a comprehensive system of foodstuff control was set up, which was expanded over the course of the next four years.

The photo on the left shows an Ettlingen ID card allowing the purchase of foodstuffs. The card must be produced and stamped before goods are bought. It is non-transferrable.

The first bread coupons were issued in several towns in February 1915. In November 1915, milk was rationed and in early 1916 potatoes. During 1916, statutory guidelines for meat and sausage coupons were introduced for the whole of Germany.

The photo on the right shows a booklet of 30 coupons for bread or flour for April 1915. It is issued by the Office of the Mayor of Ettlingen.

At the bottom right of the booklet. it states that it is a crime to sell the coupons.

These coupons are issued by the Community Association of Ettlingen and are for eggs and butter in 1916.

125 grams of butter can be obtained every two weeks.  Eggs can be obtained at the rate of one per week.

The other side of the ID card. Butter, eggs and lard have been stamped.

In the "Swede winter" of 1916/1917, the minimum amount of basic foodstuffs for the population could not be covered and famine became rife.

These coupons are issued by the Grand Duchy of Baden (the state in which Ettlingen was situated) and can be used to obtain meat from July through September 1916.

The government's food rationing measures attempted to ensure that the population had a minimum amount of basic foodstuffs, in order to keep them confident of victory and willing to fight. Unfortunately, the food itself was often not available and the coupons were worth nothing. Despite all the deficiencies, however, the state's rationing measures during the War and the immediate post-war years enabled millions of people to survive.

(Source of general information: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
(Source of specific information: Stadtarchiv Ettlingen)

Story of the Week: Gefreiter Ambros Weber

This week our story is once again brought to us by Notburga Felber of Ettlingen-Spessart, in the hills above Ettlingen. Notburga's grandfather on her father's side, Ambros Weber, was a small farmer. He was born in Spessart on October 7, 1882.

Ambros and Martha
on their wedding day

In the early 20th century, small farming in South Germany was not a very lucrative occupation and so Ambros also worked in a factory in Ettlingen Town.

He married his sweetheart Martha. At the outbreak of the Great War, he was thus 32 and already married.

It was typical for girls to marry in black at this time.

Ambros joined up with the 1st Landsturm Infantry Batallion No. 56, 2nd Company in Rastatt, near Ettlingen.

The photo on the left shows him in full uniform, with the photographer's romantic caption "Zur Erinnerung" - "A memento".

Ambros' unit was posted to France, on the Western Front. The bataillon was ultimately subordinate to the 28th Division of the Kingdom of Prussia and Ambros would thus have fought all along the Western Front, including battles at the Vosges, Arras, the Somme, Flanders, Champagne, Verdun, Reims and Chemin-des-Dames. 

Ambros in the more typical photographer's pose of new recruits after joining up.

We also have a postcard that Ambros sent to Martha on May 10, 1915, apparently from Dieuze, which is in French Lorraine. The photo on the front of the card shows Ambros together with one of his comrades, and Ambros is standing on the left in this picture.

Ambros (left) in Lorraine, 1915

In the postcard, Ambros thanks Martha for her postcard from Mosbronn and tells her that he is sending her a photo from the Front as a souvenir of the war.

He asks her not to worry about him so much and says that he knows she has a lot of work at home but he asks her to only do what she can because when he comes home, he wants to see her well and healthy.

Ambros survived the war and returned home, where he took up work again in the factory. He and Martha had several children, including Notburga's father, and he died on May 9, 1959.

Ambros' card to Martha from Dieuze in Lorraine in May 1915.

This Week: Gefreiter Otto Weber

Our story this week is brought to us by Notburga Felber of Ettlingen-Spessart. Notburga's grandfather  on her mother's side, Otto Weber, served as a Private in the Great War.

Otto Weber in 1914

Otto was born on March 31, 1892 and had a twin brother, Franz.
Both Franz and Otto joined the 1st Badisches Leibgrenadier-Regiment 109 at the outbreak of war in 1914. The 109 was the highest-ranking and grandest regiment in Baden, the state in which Ettlingen was located, and was the local regiment of Karlsruhe, Ettlingen's nearest city. The head of the regiment was Grand Duke Friedrich II of Baden.

Otto and his twin brother
Franz in the field

Otto was stationed at the Western Front in France. His first battles were at Metz in August 1914, and he later fought all along the Western Front, including Arras, Flanders, Champagne, the Somme, Reims and Chemin-des-Dames.

It was probably during the latter part of 1917 or early 1918 that Otto suffered gas poisoning. The use of poisonous gas by both sides was widespread during the Great War, particularly on the Western Front.

Upon returning home from the War, Otto married his sweetheart Anna, with whom he had three daughters, including Notburga's mother. However, even though he continued to work, he suffered from the ill effects of the gas poisoning for the rest of his life.

A postcard from the Front from Otto to his neighbor Luise, dated September 22, 1917. He writes, "At last I've found time to send you a photo. I trust you're well, as I am. I hope that we will see each other again soon".

Otto in the field

Otto died aged 47 on May 9, 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, from the effects of the gas poisoning.

Story This Week: A Treasure Trove Of Letters

Our story this week takes place in the present time. Francine Kiefer of Washington D.C., granddaughter of Felix Kiefer, has travelled over from the USA to Ettlingen to present our municipal archive with an entire trunk of letters from the years 1911 through 1919 for safekeeping and research purposes.

The trunk contains over 2,000 letters, written mainly between Felix and his wife Erne during the Great War years of 1914 through 1918. It also includes letters from Felix to the rest of his family in Ettlingen as well as several letters exchanged between other members of the family, his war diaries, First World War maps, a family "Chronicle" written by Felix's father Alexander Kiefer (Ettlingen's master builder) and Felix's WW1 medals.

Felix's story, together with the story of his brother Tor, will be told in our partner blog The Kiefer Brothers.

Excerpt from one of Felix's letters to his wife Erne.
The collection of letters between Felix and Erne tells the love story of the couple separated by the war, Felix serving as an officer first at the Western and then at the Eastern Front, Erne serving as a nurse in a lazaret on the Western Front.

Felix kept various diaries during the war, all of which have likewise been perfectly preserved in the trunk. Although most of these are handwritten, we are very fortunate that one has been typewritten and therefore presents no problems as far as reading is concerned.

An excerpt from Felix's meticulously kept handwritten diary of 1916.
We hope that these diaries and letters will provide us with more insights into life at the front. Felix's brother, Tor, also spent much of the war stationed at the Eastern Front and the two apparently met up on several occasions. Tor's letters, which have been held in our municipal archives for several decades, have so far proved extremely interesting and informative, both with regard to historical and social aspects.

The letters, diaries, maps and medals were presented by Francine Kiefer and her husband to the Stadtarchiv Ettlingen.

Francine Kiefer, a political journalist based in Washington D.C., who writes for the Christian Science Monitor, hopes that the collection will attract the interest of historians and academics worldwide.

Kathy Quinlan-Flatter, the creator of this blog, who first contacted Francine Kiefer in March 2014 to discuss the collection of Kiefer letters held in the Stadtarchiv Ettlingen.

As a result of their correspondence and the current global interest in the Great War, Francine Kiefer decided to present the Stadtarchiv Ettlingen with her treasure trove of letters.