Thursday, 3 September 2020

August Stramm (1874 –1915) - German war poet and playwright considered to have been among the first of the expressionists

With thanks to Discover War Poets @war_poets on Twitter for reminding me that I had not researched August Stramm

August Stramm, WW1
Born in Münster, Westphalia, Germany on 29th July 1874, August went to work for the German Post Office when he left school. He worked in the postal service of ships that sailed the Bremen to New York route, which enabled him to visit America.  In 1902, August married the German novelist Else Kraft and the couple had two children.  August, who had served his military service in the Imperial German Army, was a reservist with the rank of Captain.  He was therefore among the first to be called out for military service in 1914 and saw action in the Vosges, in Alsace and on the Western Front. 

In January 1915, August was made company commander to the newly formed Infantry Regiment 272, which was stationed at Oise, near the Somme River in northern France.  He was awarded the Iron Cross (Second Class) for courage under fire. On 1st September 1915, August  led an attack against the Imperial Russian Army in the Rokitno Marshes. The attack degenerated into brutal hand-to-hand combat and Stramm, who had been in action 70 times in all, was shot in the head by a Russian soldier. August Stramm' was buried with full military honors at Gorodets, in the Kobryn District of modern Belarus, on October 2, 1915.

"Kriegsgrab" (Translation: War Grave) by August Stramm

Stäbe flehen kreuze Arme
Schrift zagt blasses Unbekannt
Blumen frechen
Staube schüchtern.


“War Grave”

Sticks form a cross
Faint inscription reads ‘unknown’
Impudent flowers
Dust settling.

The Rokitno Marshes separated the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army from the XII corps; the few roads that traversed the region were narrow and largely unimproved. That left a wide gap and the Third Army Corps of the Imperial Russian Army poured in before the Austro-Hungarian Second Army's transfer from Serbia was complete. The Russians soon captured the valuable railhead at Lemberg (now Lviv), which at that time was in the far east of Austria-Hungary (now part of the western Ukraine), as a result. Throughout the rest of the war, the wetlands remained one of the principal geographic obstacles of the Eastern Front.

Painting of the Rokitno Marshes by Russian artist Ivan Shishkin

Works by August Stramm:

Die Bauern (Drama 1902/05)
Auswanderer! (Essay 1903)
Das Welteinheitsporto. Historische, kritische und finanzpolitische Untersuchungen über die Briefpostgebührensätze des Weltpostvereins und ihre Grundlagen. Halle, Kaemmerer 1910 (Dissertation online – Internet Archive)
Das Opfer (Drama 1909, verschollen)
Der Gatte (Drama 1909/11)
Die Unfruchtbaren (Drama um 1910) (online – Internet Archive)
Rudimentär (Drama um 1910)
Sancta Susanna (Drama um 1912, Grundlage für Paul Hindemiths Operneinakter Sancta Susanna)
Die Haidebraut (Drama 1914)
Der Letzte (Prosa 1914)
Warten (Prosa 1914)
Traumwiese (Gedicht um 1914, verschollen)
Erwachen (Drama 1914) (online – Internet Archive)
Die Menschheit (Gedicht 1914/17)
Kräfte (Drama 1914) (online – Internet Archive)
Krieg (unvollendetes Drama 1914, verschollen)
Blüte (Gedicht 1914)
Du (Liebesgedichte 1915)
Vorfrühling (1915)
Untreu (1915)
Weltwehe (Gedicht 1915)
Geschehen (Drama postum 1915) (online – Internet Archive)
Tropfblut (Gedichte postum 1919)
Frostfeuer (Gedicht 1914)
Sturmangriff (Gedicht 1915)
Vorübergehen (Gedicht 1915)

Sources: Discover War Poets
Portrait of August Stramm and painting of the Marshes by Russian artist Ivan Shishkin