A personal view of the First World War – Hanns Krach

From the collections of the Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte (akg-images) – Part II

Of the thousands of amateur photographers at the time of the First World War, we now know only relatively few by name. One of the names we do know is that of Dr Hanns Krach (1892-1959), a lawyer and publisher from Mainz whose photo album was acquired by akg-images in 2012 from his grandson Dr Tillmann Krach. The album itself, along with others on loan from the akg-images archive, are on show from 6 November 2014 at an exhibition entitled “Photography in World War I”, at the Museum für Fotografie in Berlin.

First page of Dr Hanns Krach's photo album, ©akg-images
First page of Dr Hanns Krach’s photo album, ©akg-images

We’re pleased to be able to present the complete album of Dr Krach’s photographs which has been digitised, allowing the viewer to accompany the young recruit on his journey through the First World War, from August 1914 until December 1918. You can view the images as a lightbox on the akg-images website or you can flip through the pages in this online album.

Hans Krach’s personal war experiences are illustrated in the album, but these pictures reveal much more than just the fate of one man. These personal photographs capture not only Krach’s memories of the war, but also historical events of that war which was like no other. As a photographer, Krach shows the thousandfold suffering and the horrors of war. These are not official war photographs, so we are granted an insight into that “seminal catastrophe” of the beginning of the 20th century. Krach names the battlefields with their dead and wounded, ensuring those places will never be forgotten. Unequivocal truths emerge from the photographs, not the propagandised image of a hero’s death. In addition to the amateur photographs, the album contains a collection postcards, a practice common in photo albums of the time. These range from mobilisation in Berchtesgaden in August 1914, to the end of the war in December 1918 and the returning soldiers undergoing reorientation in Blankenburg in the Harz. For a long period after the end of the war Krach revisited his war experiences: in 1926 he travelled “to the Front” in Belgium for the first time in 10 years, documenting this journey in numerous photographs.

Double page from Dr Hanns Krach's photo album, ©akg-images
Double page from Dr Hanns Krach’s photo album, ©akg-images

The album shows, inter alia:
– Amateur photographs from 1914/1915:
– As a young recruit on the Western Front
– “Shot on patrol” (Corpses of soldiers in a forest)
– “Where I was wounded on 27 July 1915”
– Trenches with soldiers killed in the southern Vosges in Alsace;
– “Mass grave of the 92nd at the Schratzmännele” (Mass grave of 24 soldiers of the 92nd Reserve Infantry Regiment of the 19th Reserve Division of the Prussian army at Schratzmännele, Hohenros in Alsace)
– German patrol with French prisoners
– Visit by King Ludwig III of Bavaria
– 1916: German soldiers playing cards
– Battlefields in Alsace
– “At the port of Braila” (Romania)
– War damage in Belgium, 1917
– Visit by Hindenburg in Ostend
– “Mood at home” (on leave)
– September 1918: “In position before Ypres …” (German soldier in front of a destroyed British tanker in Belgium)
– “Ostend, 19 and 20 September 1918, English motor boat (wreck of a British coast motor boat HMS CMB 33 A, after the failed attempt blockade of April on the beach of Ostend)
– “Republic of Blankenburg” (Returning from war in Blankenburg in the Harz).

About Hanns Krach: born 15 November 1892 in Blankenburg, Krach passed his Abitur examinations at the Gymnasium (grammar school) in Blankenburg in the Harz in autumn 1912. His law studies in Munich, interrupted by the war from 1914 to 1919, were completed in January 1921 with a dissertation entitled “the Treaty of Versailles and its legal effects on the German wine trade”. He gained his first professional experience as a lawyer at the Munich District Court. In the 1920s he married Cläre Goldschmidt (1900-1979) and ran “J.D. Reuter’s Druckerei”, the printing office in Mainz owned by his father-in-law Fritz Goldschmidt. The company specialised in works on wine, including legal issues surrounding wine cellars, a topic Krach had previously examined in his 1921 dissertation. He was not involved in the the Second World War. As he was not tarnished by any association with the Nazis, on 1 April 1945 Krach was awarded the first licence from the Americans to establish a printing and publishing house in Mainz under the name “Verlag Dr. Hanns Krach”, specialising at first in professional legal publications. Hanns Krach died on 22 February 1959 at the age of 67.

Many thanks to Dr Tillmann Krach for providins us with personal photos of his grandfather to use on this blog.
© Text Regina Müller akg-images, October 2014