Jacob Raphael, Deutsche Feldpost 370
WWI German Front
English Translation of Original Letter
To: Kanonier (Wilhelm) Wertheimer
1. rhein. Feld-Artl. Regt. 8, 1. Abteilung, 1. Batterie
From: Ldst. (Jacob) Raphael
Arm. Batl. 154, 1. Comp. 6. Korporalschaft, Deutsche Feldpost 370
4 July 1917
My dear Wertheimer,
It will be unnecessary for me to stress that I was glad to receive your letter, in particular in view of your interesting news. Many thanks also for the enclosed addresses. For obvious reasons some of them were either unknown to me, or no longer up-to-date.
I am not sure that I can reciprocate with similarly noteworthy news. A bad pen, and even worse ink, will be unlikely to make these lines any more agreeable to you. But: c'est la guerre! That, of course, is the hackneyed consolation in these wretched times.
You asked how I am. I was quite surprised to learn, dear friend that we are stationed this close together. Goldschmidt's uncle is also here. I met him on the first day of Shavu'oth, at the service in a nearby larger village. I am sure you can imagine how pleased we were to meet.
My service has become a bit easier of late, after I have been detailed to guard duties. But this is small comfort, considering that I have been at the front for seven months now, with no prospect of even a short leave. It is almost a year that I am away from home. After having spent both Pessah and Shavu'oth in such undignified manner, one becomes even more homesick. The yearning becomes intolerable and one is tormented by sorrowful recollections during these pleasant summer days with sunshine and magnificent flower blossoms. The season of the roses has passed. Now the blossom clusters of the dark and whispering linden trees are opening with their intoxicating scent. And at night time, when a mild breeze silently and secretly carries this blissful fragrance - which has nothing in common with the scents of the Arabs and the Indians which arouse the senses - and when then a belated nightingale sends her mournful sounds, in a low and sad tone, into the silent night from some nearby elderberry bush - then a strange feeling fills the heart and one recalls bygone times which only now appear so very attractive to the embittered soul. Until suddenly the beautiful dream is shattered by flickering green light flares, and one is returned to the cruel reality. The thunder of the batteries resumes. Then there is the hiss of the approaching enemy shells and their wretched sound drowns that of the nightingale. This puts an end to all the sentimental feelings that arise in the heart at times of silence. One is returned to reality, and the soul becomes filled with fury and rage.
How long will this state of affairs continue, now that it is evident to the entire world, that war is no longer an option to decide on power and supremacy. The well-known correspondent of the Berliner Tageblatt Wolfgang Heine, has called upon all democratic parties to form a "Popular Front for Peace and Understanding"… It sounds beautiful, - but…
Take care of yourself, and do write again!
Your friend Raphael
Translated from the German by Zeev Raphael, copyright, September 2001, used with permission.