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By Hanns Heinz Ewers

(In one of the earlier numbers of THE FATHERLAND we printed “We and the World,” a poem written by Dr. Ewers.   This poem came to the attention of the Kaiser who had thousands of reprints made and distributed among the soldiers fighting at the front.   The following poem, “My Mother’s House,” is remarkable for its simplicity and for a certain intensity and passion.   It has already been translated and published, but this version is the author’s own translation and retains the full flavor and virility of the German.)

MY mother is an old lady

Seventy-five at least, and perhaps still more—

(She seldom admits it—)

My mother is a woman of Germany,

And but one of the many untold millions.

My mother’s house stands on the Rhine

A joyous, care-free dwelling,

The retreat of many artists—

A house that rang with laughter

For a good half-hundred years.

And now this mother has made it

A house for the sick—

Eighteen beds there are, and in each

A wounded soldier.

My old mother writes:

“In the library, amidst treasures

Brought from your travels

In all corners of the world,

Between huge Chinese bronzes

And the great idols from the South Seas

Amidst your Buddhas and Shiwas and Krishnas

There lies a warm-blooded boy—

Eighteen years old—hardly out of school—

But he is blind to all your fascinating treasures—

In Louvain, near Liége,

A Belgian woman pierced out his eyes.

“In the Hindoo-chamber

Lies a sergeant.

He laughed today and played

With your little toy elephants.

He maintains:

‘Soon I will return to the field.’

His bandages are very light.

The other day they had to amputate both legs.

And he doesn’t know it.

“In the room, where the Dutch masters hang,

The beloved Teniers and Ostade,

And my Koekoehs and Verboekhovens,

There lies a Captain of the Dragoons,

With his splintered arm.

He does not understand the pictures

And does not like them.

Yesterday I bought a portrait of the Kaiser

And hung it over his bed,

You cannot imagine how happy it made him!

“But near-at-hand, in the gallery of your ancestors,

Where hung your forefathers and grandsires and grandames

Is an officer of the Guards.

He is very pale,

Whiter than his own white linen.

He sleeps most of the time.

He lost great quantities of blood.

When he is awake,

He looks at the pictures and says:

‘That one must have been at Sedan in 1870,

And this one, a hundred years ago at Waterloo,

While the old one there, with the powdered wig,

Was surely at Leuthen!’

“In the balcony-room (the one on the left)

Lies a lieutenant.

He had his cot moved directly to the window.

He never speaks.

He dreams and gazes meditatively out upon our gardens,

Or over into the Convent gardens

Where pace the patient monks.

His betrothed was visiting in Paris

When the war broke loose,

Then she vanished.

He heard nothing from her —


Perhaps she’s dead,’ he thinks.

‘Perhaps—perhaps worse—’

And then the poor fellow sighs and groans,

‘Perhaps—’ and kisses her photograph.

She was beautiful

Very beautiful, his unfortunate girl.

Downstairs there is a Lancers’ Captain,

He swears perpetually.

But then an abdomen-wound must hurt badly.

When he can curse the Russians and the Japs

And the treacherous English,

His pain seems to be forgotten.

If I ask him how he feels,

He always replies:

‘The God-damn rats bit a cavern in my loins!’

“And then (in the little guest-room)

There is a Lieutenant of the 82nds,

With a wound in his head,

Horrible, but not too dangerous.

He pleaded today:

‘Doctor, I am worth fifty thousand marks,

If you put me right, in three weeks,

So I can return to the front,

I will give you every bit of it!’

This is the way they all think.

In your bed-room sleeps a hussar.

Nineteen appalling wounds!

Nineteen frightful shrapnel wounds!

A fortnight ago, when they brought him here,

He was unconscious—

He cries and screams,

But he has never awakened in these two long weeks.

The hot moist hands ever cramp themselves

About his well-earned Iron Cross.

Our doctor hopes to save him—

That is,

If we can only manage to nourish him.

In the dining-room there are three,

A Pioneer and two Infantrists—

Such dear, blond youngsters.

The two can be brought through all right,

But the Pioneer—

The Pioneer will probably be lost,

Because Dum-Dum bullets.

Drive such hopeless wounds.”

My mother writes about them all—

The Uhlans in the breakfast-room,

The two scouts in the smoking-room,

The general, reposing in the reception-hall—

She writes of them all,

My dear old mother,

But of herself she mentions not a single word.

My mother’s house stands on the Rhine—

A house with eighteen beds for the sick.

And is but one such house

Of the many thousand in Germany.

My mother is an old lady,

Seventy-five at least—perhaps still more.

My mother is a woman of Germany—

And but one of the many untold millions!

Ewers, Hanns Heinz. “My Mother’s House.” The Fatherland 1, no. 19 (December 16, 1914): 4.

Ewers, Hanns Heinz. “My Mother’s House.” The Fatherland 1, no. 19 (December 16, 1914): 4.


My Mother’s House

A version of this poem in German, “Meiner Mutter Haus” appeared in Deutsche Kriesgslieder (New York: The Fatherland, 16–19).



Wilhelm II (1859–1941), German Emperor (Kaiser) 1888–1918.



In 1914, the Western Front ran between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains in the borderland Alsace–Lorraine, three former French departments annexed by the German Empire in 1871. In August 1914, parts of Lorraine were destroyed in the battles of Sarrebourg and Morhange.

Vlossak, Elizabeth. “Alsace-Lorraine” 1914–1918–online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Edited by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson. Issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, last updated October 21, 2016. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/alsace-lorraine.


Chinese bronzes

This stanza alludes to German colonies in China and in the Pacific. Three central figures in Hinduism are mentioned: Guatama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism (c. 563–c. 460 BC); Shiva, a major deity; and Krishna, the god of joyfulness and fertility in Hindu mythology.


Louvain, near Liége

On August 2, Germany gave Belgium an ultimatum: allow German troops marching to France right of passage. Belgium refused, and the next day Germany invaded with overwhelming force. King Albert I declared the country at war on August 3. The battle over the 12 forts surrounding the city of Liège, Belgian troops held off German troops for eleven days. The Germans executed more than 5,500 civilians in Belgium from August to September 1914, including women and children. There were “instances of wanton cruelty and widespread incendiarism,” such as the burning of the Louvain University Library.

Kramer, Alan. “Atrocities.” 1914–1918–online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Edited by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson. Issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, last updated January 27, 2017. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/atrocities.

De Schaepdrijver, Sophie. “Belgium.” 1914–1918–online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Edited by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson. Issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, last updated July 18, 2018. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/belgium.


Dutch masters

>Flemish painter David Teniers the Younger (1610–90), Dutch artists Adriaen van Ostade (1610–84) and Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803–62), and Belgian painter Eugéne Joseph Verboeckhoeven (1798–81).



Dragoons were members of a calvary unit.



Wilhelm II (1859–1941), German Emperor (Kaiser) 1888–1918.



Captain of the royal mounted guard in the Austro–Hungarian Empire until 1918.



During the Franco–Prussian War (1870–71), Prussia defeated Napoleon III of France in the Battle of Sédan (September 1, 1870), on the River Meuse near the Belgian frontier.

“Sedan, Battle of.” In A Dictionary of World History. Edited by Anne Kerr and Edmund Wright. Oxford University Press, 2015. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199685691.001.0001/acref-9780199685691-e-3291.



The Battle of Waterloo, on June 18, 1815, marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars. British, Dutch, and Belgian troops, joined by the Prussians, defeated the French army. Bicheno, Hugh. “Waterloo, battle of.” In The Oxford Companion to Military History. Oxford University Press, 2001. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198606963.001.0001/acref-9780198606963-e-1367.


the old one

Frederick the Great (Frederick II, 1712–86) ruled the Kingdom of Prussia 1740–86. He was known as “the old Fritz.”



Frederick II defeated the Austrian army at the Battle of Leuthen (December 5, 1757).



Cavalry soldier armed with a lance.


Russians and the Japs

Russia and Great Britain were members of the Triple Entente. Japan declared war on Germany on August 23, 1914.



Germany’s 82nd Reserve Division, established at the start of the war, initially fought on the western front.


Iron Cross

The highest German military decoration for bravery, established in 1813.


Dum-Dum bullets

A dumdum is a soft-nosed bullet that expands on impact and causes lacerations.

“dumdum.” The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military. Oxford University Press, 2002.



and uhlans were cavalrymen armed with lances.