Kriegserinnerungen: War Memories of Siegfried J. Thannhauser

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     A German word translating to “War Memories”, Kriegserinnerungen is the title of Thannhauser’s photographic account of his service in the First World War after 1915. Following his time in Alsace, shown in Drei Ähren: 1915, Kriegserinnerungen is a departure from the previous album in terms of content and construction; creating a personal narrative of medicine in wartime through the use of field photography. Seen only by friends and family of Siegfried Thannhauser, each photograph featured within this selection is now, for the first time, widely available to the general public; encouraging the accessibility and interpretation of these visual representations of life of German servicemen during the First World War

When describing the contents of Kriegserinnerungen, it is important to distinguish the context of the pieces and how their representation within the original album. Following Thannhauser’s time in Alsace, he continued his service to the German army among valued medical personnel. While Thannhauser’s previous album, Drei Ähren: 1915, focuses on a single location, this collection of images spans a number of unknown locations in Western Europe – spanning from rural foxholes to scenes of urban environments devastated by war. Compiled between the chronological end of Thannhauser’s album retelling his time Alsace in 1915 and his departure from service in 1918, the majority of photographs in Kriegserinnerungen were presumably compiled between the 1916 and the end of the war in 1918. In comparison to the photography in Drei Ähren: 1915, it is evident that Thannhauser made use of another camera in his subsequent album – creating white bordered photographs, smaller in size than those in the previous album. Containing approximately thirty unique photographs, organized three to a page without the captions present in Drei Ähren: 1915. While Kriegserinnerungen shows a distinct shift in presentation from Thannhauser’s previous album, the content indicates a similar contrast.

Continuing Thannhauser’s photographic narrative of the First World War through the lens of medicine and conflict, Kreigserinnerungen presents contemporary audiences with clear visual illustrations of the physical effects of war on landscapes and the human body. As military engagement reached from the trenches into civilian zones, many European towns between Germany and France were redrawn by artillery fire. The wide range of structural damage caused by urban combat during the First World War is clear within the photographs of Kreigserinnerungen. Thannhauser’s experience as a physician shaped his perspective as a nonprofessional field photographer during the First World War – often focusing on medical personnel and recovering patients as subjects. Presenting a striking collection of wartime photographs to the viewer which emphasize the innate destructive impact of war, Kreigserinnerungen displays closer attention to effect of conflict on both landscape and the human body.

To contemporary learners, the widened availability of Siegfried Thannhauser’s field photography encourages interpretation of this visual narrative of the First World War. Available for the first time since since its creation, Siegfried Thannhauser’s Kreigserinnerungen provides perspective into the world of medicine and visuals of physical destruction brought about by the First World War. 

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