A German Childhood in the First World War

Memoirs 1914-1918

by Else Würgau-Rutsch

Herford, January 2014

Else Würgau-Rutsch, born on 30 December 1907 in Hohenklingen in Baden Württemberg, died on 5 October 1992 in Herford in North Rhine-Westphalia. She was the only child of Friedrich Rutsch (1879-1958) and his wife Pauline née Bonnet (1880-1965). The Swabian village in which she was born, to which she always remained deeply attached, lies within walking distance of Maulbronn town and monastery and today forms part of the town of Knittlingen in the district of Enz. In 1920 the family was moved to Murrhardt in the Rems-Murr district. Having studied the piano at the Conservatoire in Stuttgart, she opened a school of piano-playing in Murrhardt and taught there all her life - long enough to teach the children, and indeed in some cases the grandchildren, of former pupils. At the age of eighty-two she began to write down her memories of her childhood during the period 1914-18. In Herford, where she spent the last six months of her life with her son and daughter-in-law, she completed the manuscript of this book.

The book deals with the impact of the beginning of the war on the idyllic life of a large family of farmers. The main characters are the parents of the narrator: the father a village schoolteacher, from 1916 medical orderly at the Somme front, and the widowed grandmother with her six children. Three of the four daughters have families of their own; the youngest tends to the wounded and becomes a Red Cross nurse. The unmarried eldest son manages the large family farm in Enzberg and is therefore dispensed from military service. The youngest boy, only fifteen years old at the outbreak of the war, joins up voluntarily. In 1917 the eldest becomes unable to withstand the burden of his responsibilities and puts an end to his life. The farm has to be sold; the purchaser pays in war bonds, the value of which are shortly afterwards reduced to virtually nothing. The youngest son is killed in action in Belgium just before the armistice.

A hundred years after the beginning of the first world war - which was to lead to the second, no less terrible conflagration - it seems appropriate to make this book accessible to the public. I am placing it on the internet, under Creative Commons Licence (CC), that is without the restrictions normally resulting from copyright ©. You are welcome to download A German Childhood in the First World War and to pass it on to others, provided you always include the name of the author and the source of the book. Please do not alter the text and do not put it to commercial use.

Dr. Rainer Würgau