Story Of The Week: Foot Artilleryman Eduard Anton Ochs

Our story this week comes from Dietmar Günter of Ettlingen's district of Spessart, which lies in the hills above Ettlingen.

Dietmar's uncle Eduard Anton Ochs fought and died in the Great War in 1917, when he was just 19 years old.

Uncle Eduard was born in Spessart on April 12, 1898 as the first child of his parents, the master weaver Konrad Ochs and his wife Emma, born Schoch, who came from Ettlingen's district of Schluttenbach. In addition to his father's job, Eduard's parents ran a small farm. However, the working day in the factory was much longer than it is today, and his father also had to travel the whole distance from Spessart to the spinning mill down in Ettlingen and back by foot, in all weathers, a journey of several miles.

It thus went without saying that the young Eduard and his younger brothers and sisters had to work on the farm after their school lessons, even as children.

Eduard left elementary school at the age of 14, and like his father, started work in the spinning mill in the Ettlingen Alb valley. He was 16 years old when the catastrophic Great War began, and when he was 18 he was called up for a medical examination. Shortly before his 19th birthday, he received his call up papers. Almost with a dark foreboding, his father had a family photograph taken at the studio Photo-Drücke in Ettlingen. Eduard was allowed to stay at home until his birthday, after which he had to report for duty.

Eduard is standing second from the right in this photo, taken during his military training in Karlsruhe.
Upon leaving home, Eduard told his family that if he returned home safely from the war, it was his ambition to become a pastor.

After a brief period of military training in Karlsruhe, Eduard received his drafting orders, which sent him to the front at Laon in France, around 50 km north-west of Reims. It was in this town that he was to suffer his fate.

On October 27, 1917, there was a long period of cease-fire at Chemin des Dames, where Eduard was based, and the soldiers gathered in a tent for lunch. When, suddenly and unexpectedly, a single shell exploded near the tent, all the soldiers ran to their positions, but Uncle Eduard was unable to. A small splinter had hit his jugular artery. After another short period of cease-fire, the other soldiers returned to the tent. But it was too late. Their comrade Eduard had bled to death, at the young age of 19.

Eduard's grave is in the military cemetry at Chambry, near Laon.

Eduard's memorial card

A 1916 Christmas Wish From Zurich

Oskar Kiefer, our sculptor in Ettlingen, was friends with a family in Zurich, Switzerland who ran an architectural practice, designing and building houses. This is the letter, with Christmas wishes, sent by the family to Oskar Kiefer at Christmas 1916. It reflects the general feeling that by this time, people were very tired of the war and were longing only for peace.

The letter makes reference to the offer for peace negotiations made by the Central Powers on December 12, 1916, an offer that was rejected by the Entente.

The photo depicted at the end of this Christmas wish is not the photo referred to in the letter. This is an ironic postcard of the time, of a mother telling her child the "fairy-story" that once upon a time, the whole world was at peace.

The letter was written on December 18, 1916. Despite the fact that it was clearly a personal letter, it was opened by the XIVth Battalion in Freiburg "under martial law".

"Christmas is once again just around the corner and still there is no peace in sight. The Germans' recent idea for peace brought great joy, but it was a weak light of hope. How happy the whole world would in fact be if this senseless warring would stop. Now, I’m sending you the photo despite the war. I hope that you will receive it. I don’t even know whether you are at home or at the front? The photo brings you our best wishes at the turn of the year and shows that we have not forgotten you and would be delighted to have you in Zurich once again.

We are all well. We feel the effects of the war too, but in comparison with all the misery surrounding us, we should be content. Many complain here too, whilst others profit from the war, such is life. Of course, next to nothing is happening in our business. Who wants to build houses when you don’t know if they will be gunned down? Who knows, perhaps we – our business – is no longer in fashion and the whole thing is now in younger hands. One must expect such things. The children send their best regards and my husband too. He is very busy in the town council, etc. The children are dancing in charity balls, a crazy idea in my opinion, but we have somehow slipped into it. An awful lot of this type of thing is being arranged. I, of course, have enough to do with sewing, ironing, etc. all prosaic things that need to be done and require time. And so the days fly by despite the war and one becomes old before one knows it. Once again we send you our best wishes and warmest greetings."

Story This Week: The Letters of Reichsbahnsekretär Franz Alois Lemmen

This week we continue our story of Reichsbahnsekretär Franz Alois Lemmen, brought to us by his granddaughter Beatrix Braun of Ettlingen.

As we mentioned in the previous post, Franz was a prolific writer and thanks to his job as a secretary and protocolist of doctors' reports, he also worked on a typewriter at the Front. Apart from his work, he also used the typewriter to type up his poems, which he sent home to his family. Two of Franz's poems are shown below.

This is a poem that Franz wrote for his father on his birthday.
I've translated the middle verse, which is very moving:

Und weiter dröhnt der Donner der Kanonen,
Und weiter wird des Kampfes Ringen geh'n,
Bis all' die Mühen und der vielen Opfer lohnen,
Uns bringen wird den Frieden, das gesunde Wiedersehn.

And the thunder of the canons drones on,
And the fighting will ring out and on,
Until all our sacrifices and our efforts have been made worthwhile,
And we will be brought peace and our safe reunion.

Franz wrote this poem to his wife Julia (Julchen) for her birthday.

We believe that these are the studs from the epaulettes of Franz's uniform.

As we saw in the last post, Franz was awarded a number of medals. Shown here is the silver "Verdienst" (service) medal that Franz was awarded on March 12, 1915.

Together with the medal, he was also presented with this accompanying certificate from the Grand Duke of Baden (Grossherzog von Baden).

It states that Franz belonged to the 8th Infantry Division No. 169 of Baden in Germany. This was a unit of the Prussian/German army, made up almost entirely of troops from the Grand Duchy of Baden, formed in Karlsruhe in 1871.

The Grand Duchy of Baden was the state to which Ettlingen belonged, and it existed between 1806 and 1918.

On April 14, 1915, Franz was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
This is a photo of his handwritten "Bestallungsurkunde" - the certificate of appointment to the rank of Sergeant.

On July 25, 1918, Franz was awarded the "Verwundetenabzeichen in schwarz" - the "Wound Badge" or "Purple Heart".

By this time Franz was in the 52nd Infantry Division and was classed as a civil servant ("Beamtenstellvertreter").

This Week's Story: Reichsbahnsekretär Franz Alois Lemmen

Our story this week comes from Beatrix Braun of Ettlingen, whose grandfather Franz Alois Lemmen was a "Reichsbahnsekretär" (State Railway Secretary) and served in the Great War as a secretary. Franz's great advantage was that in this position, he was in possession of a typewriter, as a great deal of his work involved typing up reports and documents, particularly for the army doctors. This meant that he was able to type some of his letters home, and also to indulge his hobby of poetry writing using the typewriter.

Franz Alois Lemmen (seated) was born on February 3, 1890. He survived the Great War and died in May 1968, at the age of 78.

Franz is shown here with his wife, Julia, who died in the early 1960s, and together with his father.

Franz amassed several medals, which are shown below.

These two medals (front and back shown) belong to the category of medals "Für treue Dienste bei der Fahne IX", which were awarded to soldiers for 9 years of loyal service "under the flag" during the Great War.

The Iron Cross (left) and another medal were also awarded for loyal service during the Great War.

Franz was also awarded this silver "Verdienst" (service) medal when he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
The medal on the right is also in recognition of loyal service.