[Various places in Germany, mostly Darmstadt, as well as England, Holland, the Atlantic Ocean, New York, and Allentown: 1914. 144pp., with ten original photographs and printed document mounted at rear. Quarto commercial journal. Black cloth boards, edges dyed red. Spine perished, boards attached with amateur tape repairs. Text block solid. Minor offsetting from photographs; a bit of soiling to first leaf; light, even tanning. Accomplished for the most part in highly legible hand; approximately 17,500 words in total. Good plus. Item #1820
A remarkable manuscript travel journal that documents the European trip of a 22-year-old Pennsylvania woman, its interruption by the outbreak of World War I, her subsequent stranding in Germany, and her trials in securing passage back to the United States. Anna F. Weil (b. about 1892), the daughter of an Allentown grocer, John Weil, departed New York on June 29, 1914 aboard the S.S. Rotterdam, a 3,400 passenger luxury cruise liner operated by the Holland America Line. She arrived in Rotterdam, Germany on July 9th and proceeded to connect with family and sightsee in Germany and the Netherlands with plans to proceed to Switzerland and Germany which were cut short by the declaration of war between Germany and England:
“Wed. July 29. To-day war was declared, I have many postal cards written to send to American but was told not to send them as they would not reach their destination, so all communication with outside countries is cut off. The harbor is closed and no ships can leave or enter German ports. The English cut the German cable a few days ago before war was declared so now we can’t even send a telegram from Germany.” (p.68)
At first, the war is present in daily life, but still seems some distance from it:
“On Sunday Aug. 23. I saw the first wounded French soldiers, saw a wagon full, but there were well treated by the Germans, and the people expressed pity for them as they were a sad looking party. We were at Frankenstein’s Castle, a ruin on the mountain which can be seen way in the distance from Darmstadt. It was a very nice ramble through the woods and part of the castle is used as a restaurant, where we had some thing to eat and drink before resuming our ramble in and about the castle. When at the top of the town it was nice to look over the tops of the trees, over the fields and see the villages and the city away off in the distance."
The reality of the situation, however, quickly becomes more evident and more pressing:
“Aug. 28. Friday. Received a letter from Angeline dated July the 23d. also one from Frank dated August the 4th. Saw hundreds and hundreds of horses which are taken and sent to battle with the men. Saw many companies leaving it was a beautiful sight to see them march as one man. As they passed through the streets the women came and greeted them and gave them flowers. Horses, wagons, men, every thing was covered with the acorn leaves, the German emblem of victory, and as the women gave the flowers they were placed among the acorn leaves, and so they left their homes, families, and country, with flowers and song, and their flags waving high above them. It was a beautiful and inspiring sight to see them go, but to think of their return made one’s heart grow sad. One company that I saw Company 115 had but 30 men left after the battle, the rest were dead or wounded."
Throughout the account, her German heritage shapes a favorable view of the Germans in the war:
"In Belgium the Germans were very much ill treated, they had to flee the country in 1 hours notice, and leave every thing back, Elizabeth Buehler and her brother, as well as other Germans who were living in Belgium in the city of Antwerp had to flee for their lives and all their belongings were taken from them, they arrived in Darmstadt with nothing, but what they had on their bodies. When the war first broke out the Russians who were in Germany threw bombs and tried various ways of doing mischief. So all were given a chance to leave, and got to their own country. Those who refused and did any mischief were taken into custody and placed under guard until the war is over. Those who did any wrong were sentenced to death were shot. This was at least more human that the way some of the Belgians and Russians treated and mutilated the Germans, when they had done no wrong and deserved no punishment. War is war and there are rules which we cannot change, and are considered honest in warfare, but I don’t think it right to torture or mutilate a wounded soldier whether friend or foe."
She remained with family at an estate on Dieburger Strasse in Darmstadt, Germany until she was able to secure an emergency passport from the American Consul in Frankfurt on September 15th. The return passage was fraught as Holland America misplaced her reservation, the ship was delayed, and she was forced to find temporary lodgings in Rotterdam, when she arrived on October 1st:
“When we got there the proprietor said all was taken, this made the porter cross and he said he would find some kind of place for us but we were not going to take any kind of a make shift, so we turned and hurried back to the station, the porter took hold of my arm and tried to detain us but I broke loose and Mrs. Kramer and I ran as fast as could, when we reached the station we were just in time to catch the other four who were driving away in carriages. The eldest one saw us running and stopped the team and waited for us. We got in and such a time till we found lodgings. Every thing was taken, which was due to so many Americans and fleeing Belgians. We succeeded in finding a place at 2.30 am where all six of us stayed. Then there was trouble with the driver, and one of the Americans went out and called a police-man and settled the trouble and we retired at 3am."
She eventually landed back in The States after a return trip that saw rough seas and an intense scrutiny of passengers upon landing in New York:
"At Staten Island the doctor came to our ship with a yacht, flying the yellow flag. Here we stopped for some time, the mail ship came and all mail bags were given over to this ship. Then another yacht, crowded with American custom officers arrived on the scene and boarded our ship. Then we all had a hurried lunch as there was no time for supper. All had to go on deck until the dining room was in readiness for the officers. It was dark by this time and the ship under way again. When all was ready we had to stand in line with our yellow tickets. Only a few at a time were allowed to enter the dining-room. When once inside we had to look about for the table bearing the number of our ticket. Here we were interviewed by the officer at that table. Some people had a great deal of trouble and were sent from one table to another. Others were refused admission into the United Sates, and some had to go to Ellis Island."
The rear pages of the journal are illustrated by 10 mounted, original photographs of her initial journey, family, some sightseeing, and her return passage; also tipped in are her emergency passport and a typed letter from the American consul. Overall, the journal is a detailed and eventful original woman’s travel manuscript as well as a rich primary record of an American civilian caught in Europe during the outbreak of the Great War. A partial transcription with additional excerpts is available upon request.