German Letters preceding World War I
[transcribed by Pat Combs O'Dell from Clarinda Herald newspaper]
Letter to Henry Grebert Tells of the War, of the Wounded in Battle, and the Economies Necessary
A glimpse of the terrible experiences now being felt by the German people is contained in a letter just received by Henry Grebert who lives on Wall Street north of Clarinda. The letter is in two parts, the first written by his nephew, Rudolph Hemminghofen, and the second part is written by his sister, Mrs Elizabeth Hemmighofen, who lives on a farm at Eschbach, Germany, and is as follows:
Eschbach, Germany, Sept 13th, '14
Dear Uncle & Aunt:-

Your letter at hand, having been on the road from July 28th until Sept 9th. Perhaps the war has something to do with this, which sure is a terrible time, and many loses for our Vaterland. But our good soldiers battle true for our Vaterland and have won many battles. When they have won a battle, all the bells in town are ringing. When a batttle has been fought, all the people thank God that the enemy has not come into our land as yet. Dear Uncle and Aunt, also from Eschbach there are 18 who had to go to the war, and their women folks must now do all the heavy work, and one has to help them, but none of them thank God, have been wounded so far.

Dear Uncle and Aunt, Christian from Winterwerb has been wounded and is now in Wetzbar. He was wounded in the leg and arm, but his wounds are nearly healed again. Our teacher visited him this week, as he was going home for a visit he stoped [sic] off there, and wrote back that he is getting along very nicely.

Dear Uncle and Aunt, my daughter in Wiesdorf has written, that they have a Hospital there, in which are 250 badly wounded men, among whom is one young man 25 years old who has lost 2 legs, 1 arm, and 1 eye; is [sic] they operated on him the Matter come very thick out of the wounds, isn't it awfull to hear such sufferings? It would be a great deal better if God would take such a person. One hears such stories all the time.

Dear Uncle and Aunt, Henry Muellers Son was in this spring examination excused (that means, he was not fit for military duty at that time, so they put him back for a year) but now there was another examination and he was mustered into the Infantry, which is hard on him. Dear Uncle and Aunt, my Henry had also a misfortune, he fell and broke a bone, but is getting along very nicely, he is walking around on crutches.

I will now close with regards to Oscar, Fred and the children as well as yourself from

Rudolph Hemmighofen.
Dear Uncle and Aunt-

I will also write a few lines to tell you that August from Gemrich was also wounded, he was shot in the arm, and is now in Lahnstein. Isn't it terrible to hear that so many men are living their lives or must spend the rest of their days as cripples. In Ems is one man who lost both eyes. Our Kaiser visited him lately and gave him a bunch of flowers; the Kaiser asked him if he knew where he was, he said yes and asked the Kaiser to put him out of misery, as he was not worth anything any longer in this world. Dear Uncle and Aunt, eatables are very high now, as the war has brought on high prices, and one must be very economical so we can pull through with the children, but God will not forget a widow and orphans who are true to him, and he won't forget me, although he is trying us very hard. On the 19th of Sept will it be 7 years that I am alone with my children, but have never spent a year like this one. Dear Uncle and Aunt, Father is very poor this year, he is getting weaker every day, poor Rudolf must work very hard as he is doing all the work on the farm, as poor father can not do much any more, he has to work and help along very young, father has taught him very nicely, but he is willing and industrious, but he is only a child.

Hoping that you are all well and hearty, and with best regards.

Elizabeth Hemmighofen

Clarinda Herald, Clarinda, Iowa, Nov 12, 1914
Henry Grebert's Niece Writes of Her Husband Wounded and in the Hospital, and two Cousins Gone to War. The German View.
That much of the news in the daily papers as to the European war is unreliable, being dispatched from London and Petrograd and therefore does not give the German view, is shown by letters which some of our German citizens in this country are receiving these days from their relatives back in the Fatherland. The following letter just received from Henry Gerbert from a niece at Winterwerb, Germany, tells of the stirring scenes at the opening of the war, and show how the Germans in their own country feel about it. When a woman whose husband answered the call to colors and has been wounded can write like this, it surely looks as though the war were likely to last sometime longer.
Winterwerb, Germany, Oct 18th, 1914
Dear Uncle and Aunt:-

Your letter was received a few days ago. We would have answered it sooner, but thought it would not reach you. Yes, dear Uncle, we are having bad times, but we can not thank our God enough that this war is not on our soil. But it has made many changes in our country. The churches are by no means empty Sunday mornings, and on Wednesday they have prayer meetings.

As our beloved Kaiser called his men to prepare for war, as one man they all came forward. All party trouble was laid aside; no one feared to go, as they learned that the Fatherland was in danger. With the song--"Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A mighty Fortress is our God) -- bloody war. A few days of great fear passed, and we received our first good news of a great victory. God has let us win one battle after another, although the people in other countries as well as yours are publishing lie after lie, although they are not coming down to the point that we are in the front. Belgium is already in our power. In France we are standing in front of Paris, and in Russia we are on front of Warsaw. This war was pushed upon us. Our Kaiser did what he could to hinder it; but he did not succeed in keeping it from us. The enemy had already long planned with falsehood and schemes to get this war upon us. By poisoning wells and blowing up bridges to keep us from having power; but they didn't succeed. We have many men left to fight. Nearly two million soldiers are left to go to the war yet.

We are all well except my husband Christian. He went the fourth day after war was declared. He was wounded at Sedan, and has been in the hospital six weeks already. My cousins August and Karl, were sent away a few days after my husband.

Our crops were very large. Cribs, cellars and everything is filled to the top. We are in no fear of starving for a long time.

My God hear our prayer and help us, so that we may win the war and have peace again.

I will close, hoping you are all well.

Your Niece,

Lena Kappus

Clarinda Herald, Clarinda, Iowa, Nov 19, 1914
War Scenes as Viewed by the Women At Home, Whose Husband and Sons are in the Trenches
The following letter was just received by Henry Grebert from his sister, Anna Elizabeth Henser, Gemerich, Germany--The land of war:
Gemerich, Germany, Oct 19, 1914
Beloved Brother and Family:-
I expect you think I have forgotten you; would have written you long ago, but thought you would not receive it, (because of the war).

I was in Winterwerb yesterday, they had heard from you. There are so many things to worry me that I can hardly write.

Dear brother, what all have I suffered since we bid each other "Adieu" 2 years ago, (when you were back here to visit us). Such a hard, long illness as my dear, good husband had, have I never put through with before, nevertheless the Good Lord took him to his last rest in this terrible time of war; when I also bid "Adieu," probably for the last time to my two gallent sons, who went to war, then one must say "Show me the way dear Lord, I will put my trust in Him, He will guide me and make everything well with me and mine." It seems I must suffer everything, but it also means for me to be strong in the Lord, and do my best. August (her son), has been in the hospital at Lahnstein four weeks now, he has been wounded in having his left arm shot through--thus broken. About his recovery, we must be patient and hope for the best. Many of them are only shot through their fingers, blood poison sets in, death follows. There alone God can help.

Carl (her other son) is in France, very likely in one of the trenches, where they are fighting now. It is a shame how the poor people must suffer God will surely judge those whose fault it is. How many a brave one must give their lives and is buried in an unknown grave, in the land of the enemy and how many cripples and invalids will be left as the consequences, dear brother, its terrible. Yet better this way then if we had let the enemy come into our land, they would not have left one stone on another. Dear brother, you don't know what it means for we three women to do all the work at home, that otherwise was done by men but some one must do it. Then one can certainly say "I do not like such times."
Christian from Winterwerb is also wounded, he lies in the hospital at Wetzbar, getting better, will soon return home. My dear husband is now 20 weeks since, gone from this war-stricken world of woe to his heavenly rest where we will meet again, so God will. So live well in your land of peace. Best Love and regards. From your dear sister and family, to you and yours.
Anna Elizabeth Henser
Clarinda Herald, Clarinda, Iowa, Nov 26, 1914
Interesting Letter to Henry Grebert From His Brother, Who is Mayor of Winterwerb, Germany
Winterwerb, Germany,
Dec 30, 1914
Dear Brother and all the rest:--

Your letter of the 23rd of Nov written to Lena (the writer's daughter) was received today and we were all so glad to hear from you again. We almost believed that no letters would go through any more, but thank God, our enemies have not shut us in entirely. Dear brother, we are glad that you put our letters to such good use, to show the American people just how things stand here. I heartily believe that you hear everything but good things, from our enemies, about our dear German Fatherland, but dear brother, God knows who is carrying on a righteous war, we or our enemies, and he has already shown it in many ways on whose side he stands.

We have not suffered much in our own Fatherland through this war, but we cannot thank God enough that he has helped our quick wited and willing soldiers to keep the horrors of war in the interior of our enemies' lands; nearly all of Belgium and one-sixth of France, some of the best land in France is in our possession, Russia too has had terrible losses and has fallen back considerable. Germany will win this war if there is still a righteous God for our enemies have been plotting for years to destroy us, of which there are already many troops, but God will and has already punished these false betrayers. Here in Germany everyone is filled with hope and faith, we all hold together, willingly sacrificing all if must be for our Fatherland. In Common, we do not feel the effect of war, so much, Some articles have soared some in price. The price on grains, potatoes, etc., is set by the government, so the poor people can easier get through; no speculating allowed, for example the government price on potatoes 3 marks (1 mark 23 9-10 cents) per centner (about 1 bu.). Wheat 22 marks per 160 bls (1 lb German weight 1 1-10 Am lb.) Corn 150 lbs. cost 17 marks. Meat is 80 pf. (1 mark 100 pf.) per lb. Dear brother, so you can see that we still have plenty to go on, else things would be much higher, some of these things have been higher at times, even in peace, so you see as far as provisions are concerned we can holdout against our enemies; and as far as military force goes, our military and training camps are all full of men, who will march but to the fields about Jan 15 and fresh forces put into the training camps for their final training. They say, there are about two million men going out to the fields now, Jan 15. The young men of this years enrollment and 20 yrs. of age muster next week; our enemies have had this class of men in the fields long ago. If you would get the straight news from there you'd be surprised to know how our enemies are situated on water and on land, even the coasts of England have been bombarded by German ships and 60 million damage done with 685 dead and wounded. We have enemies all around us but God will help, for where there is such willingness and faith and trust, it must shine through we fear God and none other in the world. Dear brother, even this we must listen to that America had declared war on us, whether this is a true statement, I do not know, only must wait and see, this would be a sad calamity and we only hope it is a false report, for then we brothers, would have to view each others as enemies. Dear brother--Christian (the writers son-in-law a wounded soldier who's letter was published in the Herald some time ago, and whose wounds became worse and he was not able to back to the front as he anticipated) was home for Christmas and will come again tomorrow to spend New Years with us. His arm is no better and I believe it will break out again in blood poison. If only those bomb splinters were luckily out, they believe it would soon hear; you would not know him if you'd see him now, he has grown so fat, nearly all the wounded ones, recovering in the hospitals look well, it goes to prove that they are well cared for, and all of our prisoners cannot complain of the way they are treated by us. Henry Muller's son (their only child) was also mustered out, and will soon have to go out into the fields, it is hard for his parents but cannot be changed. Our teacher was also called but came back. Karl, of Gemrich (a nephew of the writer) is still in the field in one of the trenches. August's (Karls brother) arm is much better, almost well. Dear brother, this war is working into the hearts of the people, many hearts that have been enbittered toward one another, have been drawn together, some that had almost forgotten how to pray, seek their Lord now. In common people are doing their duty to God and their fellowmen. The dear God did not punish us with this awful war for nothing. Many a hardened heart and deaf ear has sought him now. Dear brother, I hope you received my last letter also Christmas. I answered your three letters, the other two we did not get. I cannot personally answer all my letters now, I have so much writing to do, as I have an office so I have duties to the Kaiser and Kingdom which I expect to do to the best of my ability. The people elected me for City Mayor and now in time of war it means a great deal of diligent work but I will work earnestly for the interest of our Fatherland.

Dear brother you asked me how we stood financially here among us, no one is suffering, wherever the father of a family is in the field, his wife gets 12 marks a month and each child in the family gets 6 marks a month, so you see the family of a soldier here is looked after. Lena gets 18 marks, a month (for self and child). We are all well here except Christian and pray God that he may again regain his former strength. No other news of importance so will close, with many thanks for the Christmas gift, and hoping this find you all well again. Best regards and love to all concerned, especially yourself and family.

Your brother, Karl
Note the 12 marks per month to support a wife and 6 marks for each child that would be about $2.87 for the wife's share in U.S. money. Does not sound like much but a family in Germany can live cheaper than they can here.
Interesting Facts About the Terrible Struggle now Raging in Europe Another German Expresses Confidence in Der Vaderland
Note: A letter from Germany has been received lately by Mrs A.J. Dinkel, whose husband works at the Clarinda Lawnmower Factory. The writer of the letter was educated in America, having graduated from the dental department of Northwestern University, his proper name being Frantein Dr Hirsekorn.
My Dear Dinkel:--

It has been about four weeks since the mobilization of our troops at the front began. Since then I received no word from America until the 30th of August when I received a letter from my brother in Buffalo, N.Y. After that, letters came from friends or relatives every day.

Yes, it is a fearful earnest time that has broken in upon us but courage and hope fills every German from the Kaiser to the lowest workman. With indescribable spirit our men went out to shield the Vaterland and with much pleasure multitudes of our Neubrandenburgs left for the front and now they are out here before the treacherous enemy like one man filled with the spirit that their Kaiser and his people have been cheated and behaved in a shamful manner and righful do we stand here before the whole world nor can the history of 1914 be written otherwise.

How many battles have been ours through God's help, and He will not forsake us now; but during these last days there has been such a fearful wringing at the heart.

When this letter comes into your hands a decision will have been reached. Yes, how much dear blood will have been spilled and how many dear ones whose hands we have pressed for the last time. It especially has cost the lives of many of our Mecklenburgers. I stilled many a pain and saved many a tooth for those poor fellows before they started out, but now I have the news that many of them are resting in foreign soil. All of this gives me a great shock, but our trust in God shall not come to shame. We are filled with pride to learn of how much our Neubrandenburgers have done at the front.

Our railroads are being tested to their fullest capacity; trains without end come through here, sometimes 1000, 800, 600 wounded come through here; last night 1600 wounded soldiers were brought to us and they are all taken care of. Many are here only for a short time. They have created a field kitchen at the railroad station and ladies and gentlement have taken it in hand to serve and wait upon the wounded soldiers. There is a long row of ladies and gentlemen waiting their turn, they change off every four hours. Sister Anna helps these too.


Immense horse transports come through every day and every night. These all have to be fed and watered and no gentleman feels ashamed to carry water down the walk along the train for the horses. Everybody takes hold and helps. Eatables, coffee, soups, etc., are given from private homes and are sent to the station all ready for use. Everything works to perfection. I am very much pleased with the practical way in which we handle our warriors. Many of the ladies are at the station working for the red cross, many are at their homes knitting socks for the soldiers in the enemy's country. There is no family, high or low no school, no society or club where everybody does not work for our courageous men at the front. Sewing and knitting are now the handiwork of the ladies. Large boxes of wool goods, especially stockings are sent from every city to the troops and constantly more are wanted as at this time of year it is getting raw and cold in the fields.

All the little girls knit very ambitiously on wristles. Ivengard, my little niece, is knitting her second pair. The amount gathered in our city was way beyond our expectation. Half of what is gathered goes to the front, the rest is given to the destitute families of the men who had to go to war.

I cannot think of a vacation trip this year as you know everybody's place is at home during these trying times. I now count among my patients some of the refuges from east Prussia--from Insterbury and Stallupohnen, who fled before the invading Russians. Thousands of them are distributed among us in both Mecklenburgs and you should hear their story, pitiful, heart-rending tales. They have left their homes and all they had and I suppose they will find none of their belongings when they return. We have 250 distributed among the private residents where they are cared for with kindness.

Our Kaiser, his sons, and every soverign Prince of all of our German States are at the front. Our Arch Duke, with his troops, are all at the front where is the hardest fighting.

We have very devout religious services every evening at the churches. Please ask with us Divine blessing.

I could tell you very much more but this is enough for today.

Your friend,
Mary Hirsekorn