The Soldier’s Boots – War Memoir

A woodcut by Rudolf Koch
Woodcut: Rudolf Koch, Soldatenstiefel
Rudolf Koch, Die Soldatenstiefel, woodcut, 1919
German National Library, First World War Collection, signature: SC 202-13

The Sol­dier’s Boots – War Mem­oir

A woodcut by Rudolf Koch

Those are my boots. I wore them at the age of 40 as a grenadier in the sand of the Mark, on the roads of Serbia, across the stormy heights of Mort Homme near Verdun, in the field hospital and at home. Then later in Champagne and near Reims on heavy days of battle before Brimont. There they were killed by a French shell on 2 May 1917.

Text of the woodcut The Soldier’s Boots by Rudolf Koch, 1919

Rudolf Koch (1876 –1934) was conscripted into the military in 1915 as an established writer and artist. As a grenadier he served in Serbia, France and Russia. With the woodcut Die Soldatenstiefel he addressed his war experience artistically. The boots symbolise all that he experienced. 

The pamphlet was published in 1920 as number 13 of the Rudolfinischen Drucke. The series was published between 1911 and 1924 by Rudolf Koch and Rudolf Gerstung in Offenbach am Main. The 20 titles include many books, broadsheets and portfolios of very high quality. 

A detailed description of his experiences was published in 1934 by Insel Verlag: Die Kriegserlebnisse des Grenadiers Rudolf Koch. There, however, he mentions 3 May 1917 (on the woodcut 2 May) as the day on which French fire on the trench led to the loss of his boots, which had borne him since the days of his military training.