This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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The Faceless Statistics of War

10 November 2018

Tomorrow, November 11, 2018 will mark the 100th year since the end of World War I. Here in the United States it was originally designated  in 1919 as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson and ever since November 11 has become "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace." In 1954 it was changed to Veterans Day so it could honor the veterans of all wars. Since 1918 those veterans have served American in 30 foreign wars and conflicts. In truth the United States still remains a nation at war, with combat troops serving in many troubled places around the globe.

Yet the casualty statistics of the Great War of 1914-1918 were truly staggering numbers that rapidly exceeded the human cost of wars in previous decades. As the war progressed every nation at war formed special bureaucratic offices to handle the public relations  necessary to sustain the war effort through these difficult times. As victors the allied propaganda still remains part of our societal consciousness, but Germany has evolved much more dramatically through two great wars. So it was surprising to discover this small bit of German ephemera – a postcard with the Great War's statistics from the German perspective of 1917.

_ _ _

AlleRechte vorbehalten. Nachdruck nur mit Genehmigung des Verlags. Gesetzlich geschütz.
All rights reserved. Reproduction only with the permission of the publisher. Protected by law.

Deutschlands Erfolge zu Lande  am Ende des dritten Kriegsjahres
(Hinzu kommen die Erfloge sit August 1917.)

 Germany's successes on land at the end of the third year of the war
(Added to this are the accomplishments of August 1917)
Gefangene   (ausschließlich der seit August 1917 gemachten Gefangenen)
Prisoners   (excluding prisoners taken since August 1917)

Über 3 Millionen Mann
(darunter 28755 Offiziere, ungefähr die Gesamteinwohnerzahl der Schweiz.)
Over 3 million men
(including 28,755 officers, approximately the total population of Switzerland)

        Russen . .           9, 500,000  . . .   Russian
        Franzosen . .     4,400,000    . . .  French
        Engländer . .     1,600,000    . . .  English
        Italiener . . .      1,600, 000   . . .   Italian
       Belgier, Serben                                Belgian, Serbian
       und Rumänen 
   1,040,000    . . .  and Romanian

(Ungefähr so viel wie die Gesamteinwohnerzahl Belgiens, Hollands, und der Schweiz.)
(about as much as the total population of Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland.)

Tote und Verwundete (ausschließlich der seit August 1917 hinzugekommenen Verluste):
Dead and wounded (excluding the losses added since August 1917):
12,156  Geschütze ~ Guns
8, 353 Maschinengewehre ~ machine guns

Geschütze (ausschließlich der seit August 1917 in Italien und Rußland
hinzugekommenen Geschützte und Maschinengewehre):

Guns (excluding guns and machine guns added in Italy and Russia
since August 1917)

Von Deutschland besetztes feindliches Gebiet am 17 August 1917:
555,500 qkm ~
sq km
Hostile territory occupied by Germany on 17 August 1917:
Hinzu kommt noch das seit dem 1 Aug 1917 besetzte Gebiet in Italien und Rußland
In addition there is the area occupied since 1 Aug 1917 in Italy and Russia

Das Deutsche Reich mißt: 540,800 qkm.
The German Reich measures 540,800 square kilometers.
Von den Feinden zur Zeit noch besetztes Gebiet in Europa:
900 qkm im Elsaß.

By the enemies at the time still occupied territory in Europe:
900 square kilometers in in Alsace

Die Gesamtzahl der erbeuteten Geschütze ist ungefähr 12 mal so groß
als die Zahl der gesamten amerik. Geschütze bei Ausbruch des Krieges.
The total number of captured guns is about 12 times greater
than the total number of American guns at the outbreak of war..

The numbers were doubtlessly intended to impress rather than horrify. Numbers to demonstrate the power of the military to protect a besieged people and defeat a multitude of enemies. Numbers of breathtaking size to quell any misapprehension of the German war effort.

This pocket guide to the war was prepared by author O. Schulze, and published by H. M. Hauschild, of Bremen.(The company was established in 1855 and endured the turbulent 20th century to succumb to bankruptcy in 2013)

In the message space on the back of the postcard is a note in purple pencil. I can't make out the first words, but the last are clear.

von Welt Kreig
from World War
1914 - 1918

_ _ _

Today the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany or Bundesrepublik Deutschland covers just 357,021 km² (137,847 sq mi) a consequence of both the first and second World Wars. But in 1917 when this postcard was published the German Empire was much larger. The static war of Germany's Western Front in France was not how the war was fought in the east against Russia where the Germans engaged in battles of mobility across what is now Poland and Ukraine. With Germany's ally, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Eastern Front stretched roughly 1,600 miles from the Baltic to the Black Sea. By contrast the line of trenches on the Western Front covered only 440 miles from the North Sea to the Swiss border. And where the allied forces in France suffered a loss of 7,500,000 men between August 1914 and November 11, 1918, Russia and its ally Romania fighting in the East against the Germans, Austrians, and Turks sustained 9,900,000 casualties. It is disturbing that those numbers are frighteningly similar to the exaggerated statistics on this propaganda postcard.

The number that I found most incredible was 3,000,000 prisoners. Very soon after the start of the war, Germany's push through Belgium and early success on the Eastern Front produced huge numbers of captured Belgian and Russian soldiers. By the war's end in 1918 there were  2,415,000 prisoners held in camps all across Germany. This map shows the principal POW camps of WW1 scattered around Germany as small red dots.

Prisoner of War Camps
in Germany
Source: The Internet

It is very difficult to comprehend just how large that number is within the much larger statistics of the Great War. By way of example here is a group photo of a single barrack at the POW Camp in Göttingen, a university town almost in the center of Germany. Pressed together shoulder to shoulder are ± 111 men, all soldiers of Belgium, France, and Russia. Removed from the war, they were at least safe from death in battle, but nevertheless they still endured guilt at their own survival; sorrow for their fallen comrades; and anger at their impotence to have any further purpose in the war.

It's important to have human faces to remember when we encounter numbers tragic beyond measure. To look into a soldier's eyes that have seen horrible things we can not know is perhaps one way to honor the sacrifice our veterans made for us.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where photos become monuments to history.


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