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".

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