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Young officer ready for war?

Memories of the Great War
by Tony Kendall

World War I is the forgotten war. It was called the Great War until overshadowed by the dramatic and tragic events of World War II. Although forgotten and few of its participants still live, it was no less important in its impact on the 20th century and beyond. It was the genesis of World War II as well as the current conflict in former Yugoslavia. Remember that World War I was touched off by the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Serb nationalist.

This photo essay however, isn't about the battles fought, the key leaders or even about the impact of the war on us today. This "memories" essay is simply about average people caught up in a war bigger than anticipated, in a war whose consequences would echo to 1939 and beyond to today. This "memory" is not found in libraries or history books but found in musty attics, scrapbooks and flea markets. It is about the people on the losing side, the Germans who fought in WWI. It is the story reminiscent of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front.

I invite you to click each picture in this essay to get a large picture and decide for yourself if you agree with my interpretation. Playing photo sleuth is part of the fun and you might have more insight to these pictures than me. 

 

Classic painting of young Bavarian woman, circa 1870.

Much of German society in 19th century was agrarian and modern warfare was not known especially in such regions as Bavaria an independent country up until the 20th century. Here this young Bavarian woman reflects the aspirations of the young everywhere, cheerful and optimistic. She and many like her would have children that would have to meet the challenges of the new millennium. 

Click here for large picture. Young German woman, circa 1900.

The young woman above may have experienced the War either through her brothers or sons going off to war. This serious yet attractive young woman seems quietly optimistic about her life but one wonders how she finished her life.

Click here for large picture. French dancing teacher and German student a few months before the start of the war.

The picture above offers a poignant example that war can effect non-combatants as well. The picture is of two women. The older woman on the right places a gentle, motherly kiss on the younger woman on the left. The older woman is a French dance teacher, the student German. The picture is taken just months before the two countries would be enemies. One wonders what happened to these two. You can read more about this amazing picture of these two women.

Click here for large picture. "Dear friends," 1868.

Of course, the men play a role in war. The picture above shows three happy young men who are most likely destined to fight in the Franco-Prussian war and perhaps later to see their grand children have to fight in World War I. We only see the happiness and the friendship in this picture and do not know their destinies.

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Beer and friends before the War.

As we see, beer and Germans often go together. It is part of the culture, cliché or not. We see yet another picture of friends getting together in a group picture in the local "gausthaus." Perhaps this is a "stamtisch" meeting, this German tradition where longtime patrons are granted a special table with their names in honor of their loyalty for a certain "gausthaus." The clock has moved forward and it is the eve of the War. Would those that stood for this picture believe it will be a great adventure?

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A peaceful life in Germany

From the picture above, it is obvious that we have a man and wife enjoying life as it usually is, routine. The man contentedly smokes his long pipe with this loyal dog beside him. Above him sitting on the window ledge must be his wife looking out at the photographer while knitting. These elements seem to bring in all of the things that these two people love, their pet, their little habits, and above all, each other. We might conclude that there is one more element of their love, and that of the photographer, a son or daughter?

 

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