Soldier Writes Home from German Camp

November 17, 1918: German American Soldier writes home to parents detailing his living quarters in a captured German camp after the armistice.

November 17th of 1918 was a very interesting time in New Orleans. World War 1 had just barely come to a close and families with loved ones still in military service around the globe waited to hear news and anticipated the soldiers’ return.

Frank Schull was an American soldier who enlisted shortly after the outbreak of hostilities with Mexico in 1913 and served for three years in the army before America’s entry into the war. He and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Emile Schull, lived in New Orleans in a house no longer standing today at 687 Baronne Street, but their ancestry can be traced back to Germany.

Medium sized JPEG (4)
A contemporary image of Baronne Street during the time that the Schull family lived there. Charles L. Franck, 615-621 Baronne Street, 1920s, Photoprint, 1920s, Charles L. Franck and Franck-Bertacci Photograph Collections, Historic New Orleans Collection.

In a letter Frank wrote home he tells his family all about his current living quarters which had not long before been a part of a German camp. After what sounds to be some struggle, he and his fellow soldiers managed to secure for their own an area of land and dugouts that had housed and inhabited the enemy for four years. Although all the dugouts had been built well, Frank utilized found lumber that had been left behind by those who had previously fled the area, and with the help of a friend built what he called “the best house for two in the country.”

The house stood at eight feet high, eight feet wide, and ten feet long. They made the walls and roof out of tar paper and put inside a bunk bed, a stove, and a small canvas chair. Although not glamorous by most people’s standards, it had lots of light and air; it served Frank well and kept him comfortable.

Frank Schull closed his letter with  what he wanted for the upcoming Christmas season- a fountain pen, a watch, and some candy. He says he would have asked for socks but he recently had found fourteen pairs of wool socks in the storeroom of a captured German quartermaster.

 

screen of old
“Americans At Home on German Grounds,” Times-Picayune, November 17, 1918

This relatively light-hearted letter was initially published in a time full of Anti-German sentiment. The American people rejected most aspects of German culture for fear of being thought of as traitorous or sympathetic to the enemy. Many things with German names were even changed- dachshunds were now called liberty pups and (an example from New Orleans specifically) Berlin street was renamed to General Pershing. For an American soldier of German ancestry to write one of the first post-armistice first-hand reports to be published would have been quite significant to the people of 1918.

 

 

 

Works cited:

Strom, Adam. “The Anti-German Sentiment of World War I.” Re-Imagining Migration. Adam Strom. Https://reimaginingmigration.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/reimagining-migration-ucla-logo-2.png, 19 July 2018. Web. 13 Nov. 2018.