Paul Moeyes

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Felix Schwormstädt, 2. Soldiers en route being catered for at a Leipzig station

Nederland NeutraalFelix Schwormstädt (1870-1938)

Verpflegung durchfahrender Soldaten auf einem Leipziger Vorbahnhof

Illustrierte Weltkriegschronik der Leipiger Illustrierte Zeitung 1914, nr. 2, p. 21


The idyll of the first weeks of the war. The drawing is dated 18 August 1914, the war was two weeks old and Germany was still in excellent spirits. ‘Hier werden noch Kriegs-Erklärungen angenommen’ (‘Declarations of war still accepted here’) is chalked facetiously on one of the carriages. Unlike Drawing 1, which was intended as a propagandist attack on the enemy, this propaganda message is directed at the home front: the German people are shown to be united in going to war.

The pro-German Swedish explorer Sven Hedin (1865-1952) travelled through Germany in September 1914 on his way to the Western Front. In his book Ein Volk in Waffen [A people in arms] (1915) he described the scenes he witnessed en route: A new group of Landstorm-troops climbs aboard the train that will bring them far away from home and hearth to a fate unknown. They come running down the platform, as if they are eager to leave. Their blue uniforms with the red collar and shoulder straps and the red band around the cap stand out sharply against the clothes of the civilians that surround them. [….] Their wives, children and other relatives have accompanied them to say goodbye. Everybody is in good cheer, people are chatting and laughing. Nobody cries, nobody complains, it is a day of joy to see healthy men about to go and do their duty for the wellbeing of their country.

According to the original caption of this drawing the soldiers are en route, so they are not being sent off and catered for by friends and relatives, but by their patriotic fellow countrymen and women. That underlines the drawing’s message of national solidarity: the German people are as one extended family going to war together. The feldgrau uniforms contrast with the virginal white summer dresses, but that contrast is broken by the woman on the left, who waves to the cigar smoking soldier on the right. Other women supply the soldiers with food and fresh milk. The female presence is important: the drawing illustrates that even though warfare may well be a male occupation, these men are fully supported by the women they leave behind. All young men are in uniform, the only other male figures portrayed are the older gentleman and the boy (the former too old, the latter too young for active service) who are delivering a fresh milk churn. It is an extremely civilized and pleasant scene: there is no improper kissing to be seen and it is therefore equally unthinkable that the soldiers would be making any offensive remarks to the women.

Copyright 2016 Paul Moeyes

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