The Fiquelmont letter: a message of peace and hope
Scy-Chazelles, one of the heritage sites of the Department of Moselle, is home to the Robert Schuman House, the Museum and the Church where he is buried. This is the location for numerous educational activities staged by the Robert Schuman European Centre, headed by Robert Stock. Groups of young people come to experience relevant programmes copiously illustrated with videos. One of these tells of the message found under the roof of a house undergoing renovation – a piece of paper rolled up and sealed in a small bottle. The text, signed by 6 German soldiers, is a message of peace and fraternity. It is dated 17 July 1916, the eve of their unit’s departure for Verdun. A kind of “message in a bottle”.
This period of commemoration of the end of the 1914-1918 war is an appropriate time for us to read this message of hope preserved at Scy-Chazelles. It could also be linked to the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, inspired by Jean Monnet which, for my generation, was the historic response to the aftermath of the other World War.
Honorary President of the Robert Schuman Association
Translated from the original text in French
Recently published ‘Paul Collowald, pionnier d'une Europe à unir’, Editions Peter Lang, 2018
17 July 1916
The following members of the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Reserve Regiment of Hussars were billeted in the attic of M. Boulanger in Fiquelmont from 27 January 1915 to 16 July 1916:
Corporal Franz Corporal Wahl
Corporal Peschel Corporal Giessen
Hussar Grünewald Hussar Krahmer
During the months of June 1915 to August 1915, we went from Fiquelmont to the trenches along the stream of Rennesselle across from Hennemont. Later, we cultivated the surrounding fields and meadows. This relief from the military pressures that weighed heavily on us all made us feel very at ease here, and the memory of this terrible war will always be indelibly linked with the farm at Fiquelmont.
Day after day, from the little window we could see the thick smoke of battle; we saw the blood-red explosions of the shells on the far hills and at night, feeling that we could never truly perceive the ultimate weary extent of the horror, we would watch the trails of the tracer bullets and thin white beams of the floodlights that swept the sky like menacing ghosts. And day after day we simply hoped for peace. A peace that never arrived! When will it come?
Today, the 17 July 1916, we are leaving. For an unknown destination. Maybe the monster of militarism is in need of fresh food. We have to submit. The hour has not yet come. We have to leave this land that we have come to know as our home from home.
War is a harshly dangerous undertaking, and the suffering borne by the populations of the occupied territories is great, very great, born of a bitter hatred provoked by the leaders, by those in power.
We, the soldiers, don’t share these ideas. We abhor the war and we hope for peace. Which should be the legacy to our grandchildren as the price for this senseless fighting,
and which should fill the hearts of this world, for and against,
as a presentiment for one, as a reality for another,
as happiness and hardship.
Utopia and a possible Eden can be found in a united Europe,
friendship between peoples and expression of the fact that we are united as brothers.
Greetings to you, the unknown finder of these words.
Karl Wahl, of Leobschütz in Upper Silesia
Heinrich Peschel of Elsterwerda, State of Saxony
Willy Gissen of Crefeld
Corporal Franz of Altenroda, Bad Bibra
Hussar Krahmer of Hamburg
Hussar Grünewald of Münster in Westphalia