The Last Letter | Teen Ink

The Last Letter

October 11, 2015
By EJH999, Louisville, Kentucky
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EJH999, Louisville, Kentucky
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Favorite Quote:
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."

Author's note:

I want readers to learn about their history from my piece because WW1 was a confusing time. However, I also want students to learn about solidarity and the importance of accepting those who are different than you. Essentially, we all eat, drink, and sleep. So, why did you tell the girl in the hallway she was fat and why did you punch the abused boy walking down the street? I want my readers to learn love is the most powerful remedy.

Hanna Schwartz
September 4, 1904
           “Today is a special day”, my teacher says.
           We are writing journals today. In our journals,  we are supposed wright about our families. Then we summarize it at the end of the month into one big letter from us to another kid called a penpal! Then teacher will send it too America. The kids from there are writing letters too! My papa and ma think it's a great idea.
          My father told me: “Hanna, everyone dies- it's a part of life-, but words live on forever.” So, here I am nearly eight starting my immortal record. I hope when I die my child will read it to my grandkids and their grandkids.

Hanna Schwartz
September 9, 1904
           Teacher said I had to write about me in my letter. Just things other people should know about you like your favorite color. So, here it is.
           My full name is Hanna Ellen Schwartz and I'm named after my grandmother. I have two sisters Cissy and Lillian. Cissy is ten and Lillian is fourteen. I am eight and in the third grade at Berlin Elementary School. My ma is a school teacher at my school and pa owns a tavern in our quaint village outside of the busy capital of Berlin. Cissy, Lillian, and I are in charge of cleaning and cooking. We are all hard workers and loyal to our country. My ma is very proud she believes strongly in her independence and the safety of her children. My favorites: red, pretzels, and cross country.
          Teacher also said I have to ask the American girl I am writing to a question.
          What is your name?  How old are you? What do you like to do after school? What is American food like? Do you have any siblings? Since, your from New York are you really rich and famous? Is there really a giant green lady statue in your city? Do you know about German culture?
          I wanted to tell you about me. I hope you tell me about you. 
         That is how teacher said to end it.

September 12, 1904
Dear Hanna,

          My name is Emma Stewart. I am seven years old and have a birthday in three days on the fifteenth. I have seven brothers. Their names are Nicholas, James, Mark, Matt, Andy, David, and Collins. I am the youngest and am teased relentlessly. I attend Manhattan Prep School to become a “lady.” However, I am far from it and my nana is mortified every time I come home with so much as a streak of dirt on my dress. Yet, everyday I run at six before school and before nana can stop me climb a tree to watch the sun rise.
         My teacher’s name is Sister Maloney. She always says she's going to get my goat. I do t see how though. I don't have a goat. After school, I have to practice my cello and socialize with the elite of New York.
         I am not famous, but my family is sort of rich. Not all New Yorkers have a lot of money though. In fact, quite a lot of people live impoverished lives. The green
Lady is the Statue of Liberty; she symbolizes freedom and happiness.
          As for German culture, I do not know much. I do hope you will tell me. I wonder what do you celebrate? Can you send me a picture of you? What is it like to live there?

Emma Stewart

Hanna Schwartz
September 22, 1904

           Oktoberfest is in full swing here in our and little village just outside of Berlin. Oktoberfest is a festival in Germany with roots in Munich to reflect our Barvarian culture. People set up beer tents, bring in carousels. Ma is brewing beer at the Tavern and Henri is coming over to dance with me and Ana after school today. All together it is just a fun time of year.
          Life in Germany is fun but quite different from the USA. Here we celebrated different things and do so in Ways that you probably don't. For example, you hear about Easter bunny and I hear about the brothers Grimm. You also h age automobiles and bicycles. In my small town, only one child, Alfred, has a bicycle.
        I will tell you about life in Germany if you tell me about life in the USA. The picture I am sending is
Hand drawn because our camera was not working.
October 1, 1904
Dear Hanna,

          I hope this letter finds you well. I have some sad news to share. My family is moving to Tennessee in 3 weeks and Sister Maloney won't give me your address to continue our correspondence! She says you have to give it to me. Please do so. You will be my only remaining friend in Tennessee.
          I was delighted to hear about Oktoberfest in your letter. That sounds like a jolly good time. As for culture here, we are a good people. It very naïve. The U.S. is practically self sustainable. We are bordered to the north by Canada  and to the south by Mexico. George Washington is the founding father and our flag is blue, red, and white.
          We learned cursive this week in class! Check out my new signature! Isn't it so sophisticated!?
Emma Stewart

Hanna Schwartz
October 11, 1904

           Of course you can have my address! I am so sorry about the move! That must be so hard on you! Don't worry, I'll always be here for you. I'm sure you'll make new friends soon. You are right about Oktoberfest. It is my favorite time of the year other than Christmas here in Germany. Your cursive is looking quite swell. We have only started learning. Mine is dreadful. I love the culture of your country. All the freedoms and innovation!
          Did you hear about the Entente Cordial? It was formed a while back, but it allies the United Kingdom and France! Germany only has the Dual Alliance Treaty with Austria-Hungary in 1879, and another agreement with Italy. This is partly because we have only been a state since 1871 because of the Prussian War. In the Prussian War, we took valuable land from France and this caused tense relations between us. We also have tense relations with Russia because of resources. To add on to that fear,  France and Russia have also made a treaty called the Franco-Russian Military Convention from 1892, and ties with the UK through the Entente Cordial and probably an Anglo-Saxon Convention around 1907.
          Hopefully, it will all amount to nothing, but I can't help to wonder Emma. Are the good times drawing to a close? If we have war it will be the Triple Entente or Allies against the Triple Alliance or Central Powers. I do hope you will always remain my friend because I can not imagine a better one.

PS: 1934 Bohr Avenue, Berlin, Germany

April 21, 1905
Dear Hanna,
          I am terribly sorry it took me so long to reply. I have just now gotten situated to Tennessee. It is quite different from hustling and bustling New York. We live in a small town and farm in the afternoon! I never thought I would see Grandma in overalls, but yesterday was the day. I hope my father can finish his novel about farming soon, so we can go somewhere else. There is never a day, I don't feel incredibly grungy.
          The kids at school are nice enough, but I do not have many friends. My best friend, other than you of course, is probably my cat. I know--I'm even laughing at how pathetic that sounds.
          Finally Hanna, you will always be my friend and no war could ever draw us apart.
With Much Love,
Emma Stewart

•          •          •

Hanna Schwartz
June 1, 1907

          How is Vancouver? Better than Bismarck, I bet. Can you believe your eleventh birthday is in just two weeks!! I'm buying you a present as I wright this. Lillian got married just before Christmas to a man named Stewart! How funny is that?? They just moved out of the house to a quaint farming village! Cissy was beside herself in what ma calls her goo-goo eyes.
          On a more serious tone, the danger is growing on my end. The recent retreat of the Ottoman Empire from the Baltic Region has sparked new interest in the Yugoslavia region of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia. They are coming together or wanting to come together as one because of their religious and linguistic ties. Austria- Hungary considers this a threat, and there is rumor that they will soon formally annex Bosnia- Herzegovina. This will cause greater tension especially in Russia and Serbia against the Central Powers. To add on to that, the Anglo-Russian Convention is currently in session! This would bind France, the UK, and Russia all into one alliance.
           I do hope we all stay safe.

July 9, 1907
Dear Hanna,
          Thank you so much for the card and German Nutcracker! That is so cool you and your dad actually made it! Your right, Vancouver is better than Bismarck, but not by much. The only plus is my new school teaches about Einstein! Have you heard of him? He is a genius. Someday, I hope to be a scientist like him. Tell Lillian congratulations and pat Cissy on the back for me!that is ironic about Stewart!
          I told my mom about your concerns and she got really upset. She even went as far as to tell me I wasn't allowed to wright to you anymore. So, now I wright at night in secret by candle light. It makes me feel like quite the sleuth. My friend, Joe, mails the letters for me. Joe is my only friend, but boy is he a good one. Super sneaky and just wright for a secret spy penpal writer like me!
          I hope your family and mine stay safe. I am praying.
Emma Stewart
•          •          •
Hanna Schwartz
November 12, 1908

          I am unable to believe I have known you for only four years! How far we have come from two scrawny little eight year olds doing a project for class! I never thought some prim lady from America would be my best friend. But from your first letter, I could tell you weren't prim at all. In fact, you were just like me. I hope one day, we meet each other face to face.
          Austria just formally annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina. Of course, they had occupied the state since the retreat of the Ottoman years back. But this new arrangement is really make some heads roll especially in Serbia. Serbia is the face of the Yugoslav unification and they are not lying down to Austria. I myself am not sure the correct path. My German side tells me to root for Austria-Hungary, but if the same token, I admired the freedom you experience in America. I want that freedom for all people. Alas, I am not sure how this will end.
•          •          •

June 28, 1914
Dear Hanna,
          Can you hardly believe we are both adults going of to college and marriage and the world? We made it out alive despite all your worrying as a child. I start college soon at Notre Dame. I do wish you would come to the U.S. I understand that you and Brandon are in love and that he is in the army, but we have never seen each other face to face!with you training to be a nurse for the Germans who knows what might happen!? Please come. Charles wants to meet you!
Emma S. James

Hanna S. Rein
June 29, 1914
          Emma, I can not leave my country alone at this moment. Did you not hear? Gavrilo Princip murdered Archduke Franz Ferdinand! The world is in a political and social turmoil! On June 28, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie visit Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina which is currently annexed. There was a ploy to kill them by a group called the Young Bosnians which have connections to the Serbian Terrorist Group the Black Hand. So, it also have ties to the kingdom of Serbia. It is awful. The original plan was botched and one man tried to kill himself by swallowing a cyanid capsule and jumping in a river. Even this did not work. The capsule had gone bad and the river was only ten inches deep.
.         It was so bad, that one man Gavrilo Princip had completely given up. He was sitting in a café and eating a sandwich when the impossible happened. Archduke Ferdinand's drivers had made a miscalculation and drove through a bad part of town literally to the doorstep of Gavrilo Princip. He saw the Archduke and started to walk towards him. The driver panicking and realizing his mistake tries to turn around, but this only makes the car stall. So, Gavrilo Princip just walks straight up and shoots both of them.
.         I don't know if you don't know or you don't realize the gravity of this situation! Franz Ferdinand was the heir to Austria-Hungary behind Franz Joeseph. This could mean war between us and the Yugoslavs! Gavrilo Princip was only one of many Yugoslav nationalists who want the unification of Yugoslavia in any form of state as long as it is free from Austria! They will stop at nothing to defeat us. I can not leave now.
.         Not to mention the current war threat already at place. They issue an ultimatum to bring the people who killed or even was associated with the killing to be brought immediately to justice. I understand Serbia does not want a war with Austria-Hungary, and they try to satisfy their needs. Yet, I predict their best will not be enough.
.        This could trigger a giant war! Look at the Alliance System! Countries are already militarize get and expanding. This could mean a bloodbath. I am sorry, but I am German before I am a child.

July 15, 1914
Dear Hanna,
          I understand you are German, but I thought we were friends before all else? Maybe I have just been deluding myself into believing you are my friend. You used to be able to see both sides Hanna. Why can't you do it now?
           You are my best friend Hanna and a part of me will always love you as such. I understand if you can not come to the U.S.,but I hope you will continue to write. Take this camera as a final gift from me. Take pictures and tell me about you. I may never write back to you again.
Stay Alive,
Emma S. James

Hanna S. Rein
August 5, 1914
          Emma, in some ways, you are my oldest and only friend and I promise when the war is over I will visit you and Charles. But now my country needs me. I used to be able to see both sides Emma, but that was before they started to target my love ones. Call me blind, but I can see only them and you. I will live.
          Here the war has begun. I know you do not care, but I need to make my immortal record. Austria-Hungary just declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. They thought it would be an easy, quick war, but they underestimated the cultural and linguistic ties of Serbia to Russia and the tension between Russia and themselves.
          The Russians are now beginning to mobilize or prepare for war against Austria-Hungary. Here the Alliance System falls into place. So, my country has joined in war and declared war on Russia and France because of the Franco-Russian Convention. This just recently happened on August 1 and August 3.
          Now, we are about to go through Belgium to invade France. I hope this is not the case because of the Treaty of London in 1839. The UK will declare war on us if we do this.

Hanna Schwartz
August 7 , 1914
.          I do not know why I am still writing to you. You never write back. But still I hope you will every time.
          Germany did not want to get in a war with the British. They had a huge empire and will be hard to defeat. Yet, they did it anyway. On August 4, my people invade Belgium and violate the Treaty of London which says Britain will protect the neutrality of Belgium. Britain declares war on Germany.

Hanna Schwartz
November 21, 1914
         I know you still hate me, but I believe in the heart you still read these letters. Brandon and I are postponing our marriage until after the war. This is in case one of us dies. Today, he had to leave to go train and prepare for battle. I, as well, am preparing to become a nurse. 
           You may have heard that in early November, the British used their dominant Naval Forces to declare the North Sea a war zone. This told ships to come their at their own risk. Of course, the ships are not allowed to be carrying contraband, but food was illegal! The English were literally cutting of my country and Austria-Hungary’s veins.
.         Food is now being rationed at only 1,000 calories a day. Many children and people are not receiving the nutrition they need. This led to malnutrition and eventually starvation eventually causing 400,000 civilian deaths.

Hanna Schwartz
December 13, 1914
          Germany did not have even half of the naval power of the British. Most of our navy is located around the North Sea Coast. However, to get back at the British the Germans wanted to disrupt their trade. Realizing that they are islands, therefore dependent on outside goods for trade, Germany declared the body of water all around the British Isles a war zone.  The British and especially my people enforced this by making very primitive submarines which could go underwater and shot torpedoes into ships.

Hanna Schwartz
May 12, 1915
         In early May of 1945, the passenger ship entitled the RMS Lusitania or Royal Mail Service was shot down by a German U-Boat when  sailing from New York to Liverpool , England.  128 Americans died infuriating the public and causing Woodrow Willson to harshly reprimand Germany. Only about 750 of 2000 people survived.
.         Now the war had only been going on for less than a year and already the subs had claimed multiple llives. There are warnings posted in docks that the North Sea and British Isles are war zones. Why would your people travel there?

Hanna S. Rein
September 9, 1915
          I hope you are happy. My country has complied to your country's wishes. We are backing off on submarine warfare on passenger ships. Yet, we have proof the Lusitania was carrying more than light munitions. They were probably carrying heavy ammunition because of the second explosion. How you do not see this I do not understand. You call me blind, yet you are blind as well.
         Germany does not want war with the U.S. You all rumor about it and threaten us with it. In some ways, you bribe us. U.S. extremist writers are saying the sinking is a trigger for the U.S. to join the war. However, it was not. You are still neutral and Germany complied to your request happily.
        Meanwhile, German citizens are starving and ink is being rationed. I can not promise I will continue to write.

Hanna S. Rein
December 19, 1916
         Congratulations on Woodrow Wilson's re election to office. He is a good president. Yet, he ran on the basis that he kept you out of war. Do you really think that will last? My mother and father recently died due to famine. I am being called to duty. Some say the war is dying down. I say it is just beginning. Emma look around you. You have always been the carefree one. Don't lose yourself in this fight as I have.

Hanna S. Rein
January 21, 1917
The Zimmermann Telegram and war with the U.S. are looming. Have you read it? I suppose not. So, I will add it to this letter:

          This telegram, written by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann, is a coded message sent to Mexico, proposing a military alliance against the United States. The obvious threats to the United States contained in the telegram inflamed American public opinion against Germany and will help convince Congress to declare war against Germany in 1917.
The Mexicans did not take this seriously. The real goal was to infuriate the Americans. They knew Mexico could never reclaim the lost area of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This isn't good, Emma. War has just begun.

Hanna S. Rein
April 6, 1917
         The U.S. Congress met on April 2, 1917. On April 4, 1917, they have declared war. An over view of causes is: the sinking of the Lusitania, Germany disobeying the Sussex Pledge/unrestricted submarine warfare, the Zimmermann Telegram, and patriotism to "fight the war to end all wars". The United States left behind its neutrality and join the Allies in World War I against Germany and the Central Powers.
         At the beginning of World War I, the U.S. government protested the actions of both Allied and Central powers. Looking to become a peacemaker, the U.S. claimed neutrality. But the U.S. did eventually join the war due to several events.
         On May 7, 1915, a German U¬boat sank the British Lusitania, killing 1200, including 128 Americans. America became angry, calling Germany's act "barbarism." U¬boats continued attacking Allied merchant ships, so the U.S. helped pass the Sussex Pledge, stating that German U¬boats would have to warn before attacking. Germany soon broke the pledge and the U.S. became even angrier because it cut off their trade with Western Europe, for fear that the German U¬boats would sink American merchant ships as well.
          Another reason why the U.S. entered the war was because of an intercepted German telegram, made by Arthur Zimmermann that was on its way to Mexico. The British intercepted his telegram. When translated, this telegram told Mexico to declare war on the U.S., and if so, Germany would reward Mexico with American land. Although this was not much of a concern for neither Mexico nor the U.S., it still made Americans even more aggravated.
A final reason why the U.S. entered World War I was because supposedly, it was "the war to end all wars." This encouraged Americans to join the army, and it also increased American patriotism towards the war. Looking at the war as being the last one ever also supported the idea of world peace and democracy.
          In conclusion, because of the sinking of the Lusitania, Germany disobeying the Sussex Pledge, as well as the Zimmermann Telegram and patriotism, the U.S. was forced to leave neutrality and join the Allies in World War I against Germany and the Central Powers.

Hanna Rein
May 17, 1918
           The Germans have known for quite a while we will have to fight the French. We humiliated them in the Franco-Prussian War. We took valuable territory including the Alsace-Lorraine which is rich in minerals. We also realized because of the alliance system we would also have to fight the Russians. Our war has to fronts today. The Western Don't where we fought France and the Eastern part where we fight Russia.
          In the years leading up to at my people prepared. We made the Schileffen after Alfred Von Schileffen the chief of the German Empire's staff from 1891 to 1905. It was based on a two front war. It said Russia, which had an almost inexhaustible army . Therefore, it would take them a long time to mobilize or 6 weeks. During, this time a third of the Germans would go to try and keep the Russians at bay while the other 2/3 would go on a wheel pattern through Belgium to take France out of commission before Russia even mobilizes.
         We were right, France wanted to go on the offensive and did a plan called plan 17 where they would reconquer parts of Germany. The Germans knew if they could roll through Belgium and kick the French in the bottom the could knock them out of commission. Frankly, they almost succeeded until the Marne River. 
As the Germans advanced, their armies became strung out and a large gap grew between the First and Second German armies. The Allies took advantage of this gap and charged between the two armies splitting the German forces. Then they attacked from all sides confusing the Germans.
After a few days of fighting, the Germans were forced to retreat. They retreated back to Aisne River in northern France. Here they built long lines of trenches and managed to hold off the Allied army. They would hold this position for the next four years.
The armies on both sides of the First Battle of the Marne suffered heavy casualties. The Allies had around 263,000 soldiers wounded including 81,000 that died. Around 220,000 Germans were injured or killed.
The battle was considered a major victory, however, for the Allies. By holding off the German army, they had forced Germany to fight the war on two fronts. As the Russians began to attack from the east, German forces had to be diverted to the east while still trying to hold off the French and the British in the west.
I am still here today. Caring for the wounded and under gunfire. I will go home one year if the war is not over by then. By that point, I will never be the same. I have already see horrors I could never imagined, inhaled mustard gas, been bombed, and shot in the arm twice. Emma, where are you? I miss hearing from you! Please write.

Hanna S. Rein
January 19, 1919
Today is my last day in the trenches. As, I look back to 1914, I realize I forget my ideals. I forgot my best friend, my husband, and my family. I could only see America as an enemy not as the freedom loving nation I forgot. I forgot my freedom. I forgot I had a choice. A forgot who I was. War brings out the worst in people they say. In me, it brought out a monster. Now, I will remember my promise to you and come soon. Please forgive me Emma.
I got to go. A man is here. I will finish this latter.

An allied soldier who had been a spy walks into the nurse's station. There he finds men on their death beds and a young woman writing in a journal on the bed. He points a gun shoots and runs.
A German nurse fells the gun shot in her chest and her life slip away, and she picks up her diary and scrawls one last word to her best friend she would never see. Then turned her head to the sky and accepts God and heaven.

Across the world in New York City, a grown woman receives the last letter from her best friend and bursts into tears. She looks up to the sky. She picks up a stack of letters she never sent and holds them to her chest while looking to the stars.

           The nurse looks down at the woman she loved as a sister in New York. She looks at the Green Lady and thinks of the freedom she should've remembered. She looks at the hate of people in war. She looks at her husband weeping and wishes she could comfort him. She looks at the small school in Berlin where she meet her best friend through words alone. She remembers and she loves.

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