A Letter To The Kaiser

In May 1918, during World War I, my great-great-grandmother applied with a plea to the German Kaiser. She kept a copy of her letter, together with other important documents. It tells us a sad story of hard times.

Elberfeld, May 14, 1918.

Most Serene, Most Powerful
Emperor and King
Most Merciful Emperor and Lord.

The signing asks his Majesty for economic protection and help. My husband died during the war, and also 2 of my sons died for emperor and empire on the battlefield, my only son who is still alive, was also drafted into the military.

Myself, 62 years old and weak, have 35 morgens of land and no workers; last summer the military administration ordered one man to me, which was a very gloomy experience, and as I was not able to maintain everything, I had the misfortune of having to slaughter my horse.

A German text on yellowed paper, written in Kurrent script.
first page of the letter’s copy, written in Kurrent script

Several times I went to the local authorities with my plea to take care that my onliest[sic] son would be exempted from military service, which did not happen up until now.

I hope that, through our farmwork, we also serve our fatherland just like every man in the trench. I am sorry that the local authorities don’t help me – a single widow – and that in my distress, facing the economic ruin, I must apply to
His Majesty,
to preserve our piece of land for my son for [the time] after the war.

A German text in Kurrent script, on yellowed paper.
second page of the letter’s copy

How heavily and deeply my heart is shattered by the death of my dear husband and my beloved sons, who gave their blooming life, without fear and shiver, for emperor and empire, for home and hearth, this every father and mother will surely see, und I ask for the temporary exemption of my son
Ferdinand Jöckel 1. Sailor Div. 2. Branch Comp
Hansa Schule in Kiel.

The merciful Lord may have grace and mercy, to protect me from ruin. Again, I heartily regret that I need to turn with this plea to my Lord and Emperor and subserviently ask for forgiveness.

God, preserve our emperor
God, give us victory
[God helps along victoriously for sure]
God, we ask thee to help us!

Mrs. widow Jöckel
in Buchholz near Westhofen
in Westfalen.

As far as I know, she never received an answer to her letter. Half a year later, the war was finally over, and the last remaining son – my great-grandfather – had survived. Despite the hard times, the family’s farm could be maintained.