This Week's Story: Private Karl Link

Our story this week comes from Herbert Karl Link of Ettlingen Town. Herbert's grandfather, also called Karl Link, fought as a private in the Great War.

Karl was born on September 30, 1879. He lived in the Schöllbronnerstrasse in Ettlingen and worked as a packer in the local paper factory Bernheimer-Maxau, where he met his future wife Amanda Speck of Ettlingen-Bruchhausen, who was born in 1881.

When Karl joined up in 1914, he was 35 years old and already had two sons, Karl born in 1909 and Georg born in 1911. There were thus three generations of "Karls" in the family.

Karl fought on the western front during the Great War. He survived, and afterwards returned to his job in the paper factory in Ettlingen. He died on April 26, 1946.

Soldiers drinking their morning tea. Karl is on the ground next to the drum of tea in this photo, which he sent to his sister Paula

The reverse side of the photo. We can see that Karl sent the card to his sister Paula Link on April 23, 1915 - "a photo of me drinking my morning tea", he writes. "That's me just raising half a head", he jokes, as his head is partially obscured

Karl is second from the right in this photo, which also has one of the company sitting in a tree.

Karl Link after the war

Amanda, Karl's wife, after the war

Story This Week: Nurse Sylvestra Kiefer

This week's story comes to us from the Stadtarchiv Ettlingen (our municipal archive) and focuses on a letter written by Sylvestra Kiefer, sister of Oskar and Tor Kiefer, who worked as a nurse in a lazaret (small military hospital) at the western front.

Sylvestra's letter of November 17, 1915 from the front at Rethel in France to her family in Ettlingen tells of the cold conditions at the front. The day before, it had begun to snow, and they have just received warm winter clothes from the Red Cross.

She also writes: "I was just told that our soldiers are waiting in ambush out at the front and when the French attack, we want to break through. A soldier at the front told me that. In the September offensive, the French and English came with one and a half million men. It's a miracle that they did not break through. In some places, they did penetrate the reserves' ranks".

Sylvestra's letter is written in old German script, but we can clearly see the location and date of writing at the top: Rethel, November 17, 1915

In addition, Sylvestra's letter contains three photos. The first of these photos was taken on September 16, 1915 and shows 1400 captured French soldiers who have been brought to Germany from the front.

Caption to this photo: September 26, 1915; 1400 captured French brought from the front to Germany

The other two photos in Sylvestra's letter show the French Airship "Alsace", which was shot down at Tagnon near Rethel, France on the night of October 2, 1915. We have found similar photos to these in the Internet (these might be useful for comparison purposes), which appear to have been taken from a slightly different angle, and a few moments later or earlier, which would indicate that they have been taken by the same photographer. The photos shown below have not previously been published and are the property of the Stadtarchiv Ettlingen.

The caption has been written onto the negative here.
On the back of the photo: "Airship Alsace, shot down 8 km from Rethel at Tagnon on October 2 at 11 pm. The occupants were captured, one man died after jumping 30 meters from the ship".

This Week: Dr. Theodor Kiefer

Our story this week centers on Dr. Theodor Kiefer, known as "Tor", who was born in 1889 in Ettlingen and who died in 1985 in Kaiserslautern. He became a well-known doctor as well as a collector of art in Kaiserslautern, where a street was named after him. You can also read more about Tor on our partner blog at World War I Letters and Diaries of the Kiefer Brothers.

In 1914, Tor was a young doctor who served at the front from the age of 25. He was stationed both on the western and the eastern fronts, where he worked initially as assistant to the medical officer. By July 1918, he had been promoted to senior physician and deputy "regiment's doctor".

Tor Kiefer in May 1916, wearing a new uniform

Tor was a prolific and gifted writer, and over the entire period of the war, he sent letters home to his family every few days. The letters often contained detailed descriptions of the wounded in the lazaret and of daily life at the front. All of Tor's letters have been preserved in the Ettlingen Stadtarchiv in perfect condition, and it has been mainly these letters that have enabled us to gain such an insight into the conditions at the front and helped us to set up this site. Several of the letters can be read in the section Letters From The Battlefields on this site.

Tor's elder brother Oskar Kiefer was a well-known sculptor in Baden. During the Great War, Oskar created the famous Bismarck statue in Baden-Baden and after the war he constructed the anti-war memorial in Ettlingen at the Town Hall arch, in commemoration of those who had fallen in battle.

In a letter to his family dated May 27, 1916, Tor also sent 4 photos taken at the eastern front. The first was of himself in his new uniform (above). The other 3 are shown below.

The captured Russian trench, and Lake Narach, Russia, in the background

The church at Blisniki, Russia

Russian prisoners of war, captured on March 20, 1916

This Week: The Papers of Sergeant Franz Alois Lemmen

This week we return to the story of Sergeant Franz Alois Lemmen, brought to us by his granddaughter Beatrix Braun of Ettlingen. Franz served as a doctor's secretary at the front, writing medical reports and doctor's notes on his typewriter, as well as the poetry he sent home to his family.

Franz looked after his various army papers very carefully, and they have been so well preserved in the family that we have been able to photograph them and reproduce them here. Shown below are the "Orders of the Day of the 7th Army".

"Armee-Tagesbefehle der 7. Armee" - "Orders of the Day of the 7th Army"

In October 1916, and in accordance with his desire for a new post, Franz was promoted from the position of a divisional doctor's secretary to the position of secretary to army doctor 1. His army "Reference" is shown below. It confirms that Sergeant Franz Lemmen was employed from June 1, 1915 to September 25, 1916 as a secretary to the divisional doctor and that he was very hard-working, skillful and reliable. He had thus earned his promotion.

The second part of the "Reference", which was added in October 1919, states that Franz was active in the ambulance corps for more than 5 years and possessed sufficient theoretical and practical knowledge in medical care to become an officially recognized male nurse.

Franz's References from 1916 and from 1919

The promotion enabled Franz to return to his old troop unit, the 52nd Infantry Division, where he served again from December 19, 1916. The letter below is from the Medical Ambulance Service Department and officially confirms Franz's promotion and his desire to return to his old unit.

The official letter from the "Krankentransportabteilung" - the "Medical Ambulance Service Department" confirming Franz's promotion to army doctor's secretary.

Franz also kept bank notes of a fairly large denomination, which have been preserved by his family. These are not bank notes printed during the inflation of the 1920s, but notes that were printed in 1908, 1910 and 1914. At this time, 100 Reichsmark was equivalent to at least one average monthly income.

Twenty Reichsmark, printed in 1914

A 100 Reichsmark note printed in 1910

A 100 Reichsmark note printed in 1908