An am­pu­tated arm a sym­bol of WWI hor­rors

The Star Malaysia - - World -

HAM­BURG: As a child, Joachim Mohr re­calls be­ing “fas­ci­nated and ter­ri­fied” by his beloved grand­fa­ther’s miss­ing left arm, the re­sult of a grenade that ex­ploded near Ver­dun dur­ing World War One.

“My grand­fa­ther was a big man, not too talk­a­tive, but he was warm and cer­tainly did not lack hu­mour,” Joachim says.

He holds up a photo of Max­i­m­il­ian look­ing both se­ri­ous and wor­ried in his uni­form be­fore he was sent to the war.

Barely 20 years old, from a poor vil­lage in south­ern Ger­many’s coun­try­side, he was sent to France to fight in 1916.

He was wounded close to the end of the war and was am­pu­tated from the el­bow.

“When we were lit­tle, I was five or six years old, I re­mem­ber that he amused us by mov­ing it like a pup­pet,” re­called Joachim, 56, a writer and jour­nal­ist.

“We found it funny of course, but we also knew that his arm was de­stroyed be­cause of the war, even if we couldn’t quite imag­ine what that was like.”

It was only af­ter his grand­fa­ther’s death in 1978 that Joachim, then al­most 16 years old, learnt that the el­der man had writ­ten down the hor­rors he had ex­pe­ri­enced at the war’s front.

“From these note­books you see that the war was a hor­ri­ble thing,” Joachim says.

It was a mes­sage Max­i­m­il­ian re­peated to his chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

He spoke of his fear of gas at­tacks, “be­cause he saw his com­rades choke next to him even though they were wear­ing masks”.

Af­ter the war Max­i­m­il­ian, hand­i­capped and un­e­d­u­cated, worked as a concierge for low pay on which he raised five chil­dren.

He was not drafted for World War II, which he “re­jected from the out­set, as he did the Nazis and Hitler”, Joachim says.

The paci­fist streak re­mains in the fam­ily, he adds.

He tries to im­part it to his 11-yearold daugh­ter when she asks about her great-grand­fa­ther, whom she has seen in pho­tos.

He “im­pressed me a lot,” said Joachim.

Even though life was tough for Max­i­m­il­ian, “he never al­lowed it to dis­cour­age him”.


War and peace: Mohr hold­ing up a photo of his grand­fa­ther in a Ger­man army in­fantry uni­form dur­ing an in­ter­view in Ham­burg.

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