Mule Rearing gas masks The pilots pilots in dress uniforms doughboys with mules African American Officers African American Soldiers 1 Riveters

The WWrite Blog

First I Said No

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

First I Said No

By Mary L. Doyle


DOYLEFTMEADEFort George G. Meade: The First 100 Years. By Mary L. Doyle and Sherry A Kuiper. Design by Benjamin D. Rogers

Fort George G. Meade held the first two-hour planning meeting for our WWI Centennial celebrations in August 2015. After the meeting, I headed toward the door with a long list of events, projects, and further planning to do. Camp Meade had been one of the first of 16 cantonments established at the start of the U.S. involvement of the war. The plans we made to acknowledge that history was going to keep me busy for the next couple of years and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Then Barbara Taylor, the now-retired Fort George G. Meade museum curator, grabbed me by the arm and whisper-hissed her declaration to me.

“We have to write a book.”

If you’re a writer, you grow accustomed to people saying this to you. My first reaction was absolutely, positively no. N. O. Not gonna happen. Nope. Not me. Nein!

But Barbara persisted until I finally agreed to serve as principal editor and writer of Fort George G. Meade: The First 100 Years. The ebook and hardcover contain nearly 30 essays about WWI alone which is only two years of the installation’s 100-year history. From WWI to the present, as U.S. Cyber Command, the nation’s newest combatant command puts down roots at Fort Meade, the book provides an overview of it all.

DOYLEMEADESSnowballSoldiers playing football in the snow at Ft. Meade in 1917. Image source: reddit

I’d worked at Fort Meade in Maryland for over ten years at the time of the centennial planning. I’d read bits and pieces of the history and knew some of the legends. Named after the Civil War general, home of the first Tank Corps and the place where George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower developed tank tactics. Fort Meade had a museum where one of the first battle tanks used in WWI was housed. To that point, there had been a small pamphlet published about the history of the installation but not much else.

When Barbara brought up the idea of writing a book, I laughed. Then I realized she was serious. “A hundred years of history? We should have started five years ago,” I said.

“But we’ve got to try,” Barbara insisted.

It would take a lot more than a try. The only non-fiction books I’d written were co-authored memoirs of two amazing African American women. I’d helped write their memoirs because I’d felt they had lived lives that needed to be recorded in history or face the very real prospect that those stories would disappear forever. Shoshana Johnson, the first African American woman to be held as a POW, and Brigadier General (Ret.) Julia Cleckley, the first African American women general of the line in the Army National Guard, had compelling, important accounts that reflected honest and raw experiences as the lives of black women in military uniform.

Yes, I’d co-authored two memories, but most of my writing is fiction. Even in fiction, my characters are women who wear combat boots, characters who, in genres like mystery, urban fantasy and erotic romance, work their way through life and death challenges while demonstrating bravery, intelligence, and sharp, biting humor. With stories based largely on my experiences in uniform, I use genre fiction to share the lives of my African American women characters who move through the male-dominated military space, facing the challenges presented by both their gender and their race.

After publishing seven books in fiction and non-fiction, I couldn’t imagine how I would take on a project like Fort Meade’s military history, filling it with dates, heavy details and long recitations of facts and figures. I didn’t have the expertise and we didn’t have the time.

Barbara made the argument, with breathless excitement, that we could make it a community project, get local historians and others with connections to the base to submit essays, to write about what interested them. She said she’d comb the installation and national archives, she’d do the research. She’d thought it all through. She’d planned her argument. She was determined to convince me to take on the project. All I had to do was write it.

Eventually, as much as I wanted to run away from it, Barbara was right. We really needed to write a book, and for two years, that’s what we did.

One of the first essays we received cemented my decision as to the value of the project. Joann Buckley and Douglas Fisher wrote an essay based on the research they did for their book; African American Doctors of WWI: The lives 104 Volunteers. In the essay, they tell the story of how Howard University in Washington, D.C. and MeHarry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, helped to recruit doctors to join the Army, knowing black soldiers of the 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions would not get the level of care they deserved if African American doctors weren’t there to provide it. Since a large component of the 92nd Division was at Camp Meade, eight of those doctors were stationed there.

The African American doctors reported to Camp Meade after going through the hastily established officer’s course developed for physicians at the segregated officer training camp at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. The eight doctors, Arthur L. Curtis, Thomas E. Jones, Oscar DeVaughn, Raymond W. Jackson, John H. Williams, James Wittico, William A. Harris and William J. Howard and the 110 other doctors stationed elsewhere, had left safe and prosperous medical practices to serve. The stories of these brave men may have disappeared if not for the work of Buckley and Fisher.


I’d known that directly after the US declared their intention to enter the war, many black men who tried to join were turned away. Eventually, black men were allowed to sign up but were restricted to labor and animal handling jobs. The 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions weren’t formed until African Americans lobbied for the opportunity to fight and die for their country.

African American Doctors of World War I

Date:  Sep 7, 2017 Historians W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley discuss their book, "African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers."

After working at Fort Meade for a decade, I’d never heard the story about the black doctors, or the 92nd Infantry Division soldiers who trained on Camp Meade. I’d heard about the thousands of men who trained in the first tanks to be deployed in battle. I’d heard about the revolutionary medical care in prosthetics, the nurses who trained to operate in trenches, and I’d heard about the “Hello Girls,” reportedly the first women to officially serve in uniform who performed trunk operator duties both in the US and in France.

It’s clear to me, that we don’t know much about African American contributions because no one was recording it. In all the research we did, I never saw anything about the role black women played in the war at Camp Meade. I know that at some point, black nurses were trained and allowed to serve, but the program began too late for any of them to get to Camp Meade. I find it hard to believe that there weren’t black women who stepped up, who rolled up their sleeves and played notable roles. I can only guess that since their stories weren’t recorded, those roles will forever go unnoticed and unrecorded.

DOYLENAVYThe black women who served as Yeomen (F) during World War I. From Kelly Miller, History of the World War for Human Rights (after p. 512). Front row: second from left, “Josie” Washington; fourth from left Armelda H. Greene. Back row: third from left, Catherine E. Finch; fifth from left, Sarah Davis. Image source:

The 350-page book is available for free at the Fort Meade website, Hardcover versions are available on Amazon.

I think it’s funny now that I said no before I said yes. There were times during the project when I wished we were writing 100 years of mead and had plenty to sample. There were other times when I wished I’d stuck with my first response. I’m still no historian but now I have raging respect for the people who put on the white gloves and sit in dusty rooms digging through papers and books and connecting all the dots and telling us the stories. I’m sad that I didn’t find stories about black women who made their contributions. Despite not finding their stories, I know they are there. All I can do now is to encourage women, especially African American women, to tell their stories. If they don’t, 100 years from now another writer will be left guessing.

DOYLEcombine imagesTop left to right: Doyle's co-authored memoir with Shoshana Johnson, the first three books in Doyle's series featuring the character Master Sergeant Lauren Harper. Image source: Mary L. Doyle

Author's bio

DOYLEbiopicMary L. Doyle aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. A few decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, but her combat boots also took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out. Unafraid of genre-jumping, Mary has co-authored two memoirs, a three-book mystery series, a four-novella erotic romance series, and has just published the first book in a planned urban fantasy series. Mary’s mystery series features Master Sergeant Lauren Harper, an Army public affairs specialist who travels the world on Army business only to find herself embroiled in one dangerous situation after another. 

Mary is the co-author of the book, I’m Still Standing: From Captive Soldier to free citizen—my journey home (2010, Touchstone) which chronicles the story of Spec. (Ret.) Shoshana Johnson, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured during an ambush and held prisoner in the early days of the Iraq War. The book was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award in the literary category for best Autobiography/biography, a year in which the category included books about Nelson Mandela, Jay Z, and Ray Charles.

Since the publication of I’m Still Standing, Mary has been approached by people from across the country with important stories to tell. Some want to write their story themselves but feel intimidated by the prospect. Others want help in the form of a ghostwriter but don’t know where to look. According to Doyle, what is important is that the stories are told.“We live tomorrow’s history today,” said Doyle. “The digital age combined with the ability to self publish could mean that we have the ability to ensure important parts of our history are told in ways never known before. The challenge is to empower people to tell their stories and to share them with the world.”

Mary served almost two decades in the Army Reserve and spent much of her civilian career telling the Army story as an Army broadcaster through stories, documentaries, public service announcements and training videos. Stationed in Germany, Korea, and the U.S., her work has taken her to the far corners of the world from Central America to the Middle East and all across Western and Eastern Europe.

Mary has a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast communications from Metropolitan State University and a Master of Arts from the University of Oklahoma in International Relations.

Mary loves to hear from readers. Check her out on, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at

A New Look at Anne Frank, Her Father, and WWI Through Literature and History: David Gillham and Peter de Bourgraaf

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

A New Look at Anne Frank, Her Father, and WWI Through Literature and History

By David Gillham and Peter de Bourgraaf

 GillhamAnneOtto Frank 1889 1980

The Diary of Anne Frank has always been known as a story of the Holocaust and of WWII. But it is also, in part, a story about WWI. This week at WWrite, New York Times bestselling writer of City of Women, David Gillham, discusses a little-known yet important event his newly released book, Annelies, a novel that imagines a scenario in which Anne Frank survives the Holocaust: the Nazi officer, a veteran of WWI, who arrested the Frank family decided to be dignified with them because he discovered that Otto Frank, Anne's father, had also served in WWI. As a historical complement to Gillham, Dutch historian Peter de Bourgraaf, who worked for the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam, talks about his research on the shortcomings of the Versailles Treaty, shortcomings be believes were the cause of WWII. Read this dual literary-historical new perspective of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, one of the world's most important accounts of the Holocaust.



Otto Frank and the Sergeant

David R. Gillham

GillhamFrankOttoOn Monday, June 14, 1971 Dr. Otto Frank holds the Golden Pan award, given for the sale of one million copies of the famous paperback 'The Diary of Anne Frank' in London, Great Britain. (AP/Dave Caulkin), timesofisrael

During the First World War, Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, served in the Kaiser’s army as did over 100,000 German Jews. His maternal family had roots in his native Frankfurt that stretched by centuries. Otto himself studied at the University of Heidelberg, and eventually, he went to work in the family-owned bank. He was assimilated and thought of himself as German as much as Jewish. During the war, he enlisted and was assigned to the Imperial Field Artillery as a “Kanonier. In 1916 he survived the carnage of the Somme unscathed, and likely witnessed the introduction of armored warfare onto the battlefield when Mark I tanks of the British Machinegun Corp Heavy Branch lumbered into history at the Battle of Flers–Courcelette. During that same year he was promoted to the rank of Feldwebel, sergeant-major, and in the next year was awarded a field commission as a junior lieutenant, a Leutnant, for his courage during a dangerous reconnaissance of enemy artillery. He ended the war as an officer, Lieutenant of Reserves Otto Heinrich Frank, recipient of the Iron Cross, 2nd Class.


Twenty-seven years later, he would be hunted as a “criminal” Jew by the German occupiers of the Netherlands, hiding out with his family and friends in the rear annex of his office building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht. And, his rank as a young officer in the Great War would have a small but ironic impact on the final day of their time in hiding – the day of their betrayal and arrest.

On the 4th of August 1944, Karl Josef Silberbauer of the SS security service, the Sicherheitsdienst or “SD” -- also known as the “Grüne Polizei” because of the color of their uniforms -- was dispatched to a building in Amsterdam’s Canal Ring where he arrested the eight Jews found in hiding there. How did this come about? It’s been recently proposed that the purpose of the raid was actually to investigate suspected black market activities and that the SD men had simply stumbled onto the Frank family and their friends. But the more generally accepted version of events is as follows:  Silberbauer received orders from his superior, an SD officer named Julius Dettmann, based on a telephone tip that there were Jews at Prinsengracht 263. Who called in this tip? If indeed a call was placed? There are many theories  but none of them proven. An SD chief, Willy Langes, maintained after the war that procedure would have dictated the steps taken after any such tip. That any such telephone tip would have by necessity come from a known and reliable informer in order for action to have been ordered on that same day. Julius Dettmann committed suicide after the liberation, so if he did receive a call, and if he did, in fact, recognize the caller as a reliable informant, he then took this information with him to his grave. Karl Silberbauer had not bothered to ask about details. It was sufficient that he had been given an order, so he followed it without further question.

Gillham011 silberbauer.jpg 2160x895 q85 crop subject location 1176294 subsampling 2 upscaleKarl Josef Silberbauer, around 1943. Source: Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, SI AS 1931.

Silberbauer himself was Viennese by birth. He had been a soldier too in the last war, and then a police officer. In 1938 Austria was formally annexed into the German Reich during the Anschluss, after which Silberbauer joined the Gestapo in Vienna. In 1943 he transferred to the occupied Netherlands as a member of the SD – the SS Security Service or Sicherheitsdienst. There he was assigned to Sektion IV B4 – the so-called “Jewish Desk.” His rank in the SS was equivalent to that of a sergeant. When he arrived at the Prinsengracht 263 that morning in August, he was the only member of his squad in uniform, accompanied by a cohort of Dutch plainclothes men, collaborators employed by the security police for just this sort of work. 

He was an unremarkable man. Years later Ernst Schnabel interviewed Miep Gies, Otto’s office secretary and one of the primary Dutch helpers providing care for the Franks and their friends while in hiding.  She characterized Silberbuaer as a man who, “looked as though he might come around tomorrow and read your gas meter or punch your streetcar ticket.” And certainly, the raid on Prinsengracht 263 was routine for Silberbauer.  He had arrested many Jews in hiding by now.  The inhabitants of what was to come to be known as Het Achterhuis – “the House Behind” – were given five minutes to pack up their belongings.  Standard procedure. 

GillhamMGiesPortrait of Miep Gies in the mid 1930s. Image credit:

But then something happened. In a post-war interview, Silberbauer claims that Otto Frank introduced himself as a veteran of the First War.  According to Otto, however, it was his old footlocker that caught the SD man’s attention.  The gray ironbound chest was from Otto’s time in the service bore his name and rank.  Lieutenant of Reserves Otto Frank.  According to Otto’s postwar conversation with the author Ernst Schnabel, when Silberbauer spotted the object, his entire demeanor altered.  He “stared down at the chest that stood between bed and window, and exclaimed  ‘Where did you get this chest?’  ‘It was my own,’” Otto had replied, and then added, “‘I was an officer in the First War.’” Silberbauer was astonished. “The man became increasingly confused,”  Otto told Schnabel. Somewhere inside him, this sergeant must have snapped to attention in the presence of a superior officer. He didn’t understand why Otto had not simply registered himself with the Nazi-run Jewish office as a veteran and former officer. The SD man insisted vehemently that Otto and his family would have treated “decently.”   That they would have been sent to Theresienstadt in Bohemia -- one of the so-called “paradise camps.”  (The Nazis had even produced a ludicrously staged film of busy, well-fed camp inmates populating the Theresienstadt camp for use as propaganda, all in an attempt camouflage the truth about what was death machine in operation in such places as Sobibor and Auschwitz-Birkenau.)  Otto’s response to Silberbauer was silence  “‘I said nothing,’” he told Schnabel.  “’Apparently [Silberbauer] thought Theresienstadt a rest camp, so I said nothing.  I merely looked at him.  But he suddenly evaded my eyes, and all at once the perception came to me:  Now he is standing at attention; if he dared, he might very well raise his hand to his cap in salute.”

The discovery of Otto’s former rank left the SD sergeant flummoxed.  So, he allowed them extra time to pack.  “Take your time!” he called out several times.  “He shouted these same words to us and to his agents,”  Otto recalled.  This was Silberbauer’s single concession. Meanwhile, the man had already made himself busy stealing what meager valuables were to be had.  To carry his booty Silberbauer had confiscated Otto’s briefcase, in the process simply dumping its contents onto the floor.  The contents included Anne Frank’s diary, her notebooks, and her collection of loose-leaf pages, all left behind in the wake of the arrest.  It was Miep Gies who collected the books and page and kept them safe in a desk drawer waiting for the day of Anne’s return.  The day which never came. 

GillhamAFhouseThe house at Prinsengracht 263, where Anne Frank and her family were hidden. Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Image credit: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz

After the war, Karl Silberbauer served fourteen months in prison, not for arresting Jews and sending them to their deaths, but for having assaulted some Austrian Communist Party members.  Afterward, he returned to the Viennese police force and was recruited by West German intelligence as an informant.   It wasn’t until 1963 that the camp survivor and Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal,  tracked him down and exposed Inspektor Silberbauer as the man who had arrested Anne Frank and her family.  He was suspended without pay pending a judicial investigation and a disciplinary hearing. But, ironically, Otto Frank played a part in determining Silberbauer’s fate. Anne Frank’s diary had already become an international phenomenon by this point. According to Wiesenthal’s biographer, Joseph Wechsberg, Otto’s maintained that Silberbauer may have been condescending, but otherwise had, "only done his duty and behaved correctly.” Instead, Otto placed blame on the unknown person who had betrayed them to the SD. Owing much to Otto’s statements on the matter, Silberbauer was exonerated. The judicial investigation dissolved and the internal disciplinary hearing concluded with his suspension lifted. He returned to the police force, assigned to a desk job indexing criminal records. After his retirement, he was provided with a government pension. Benefits which, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, were accruing in part “from his work for the Gestapo and SD.” He died in1972, age 61.

But before his death, he accepted an interview from a journalist, Jules Huff, who was reporting for a Dutch newspaper in The Hague. According to Carol Ann Lee’s biography of Anne Frank, during the course of the interview, the former SD sergeant was quoted as saying; “I bought the little book last week, to see if I am in it. But I am not.” He also insisted that not only was the entire investigation of his past designed to “butter up the Jews,” but that Otto had himself had brought fate down upon his family by going into hiding in the first place. Maintaining till the end that it was the victim’s fault, not the fault of the perpetrators. And of course, he pleaded ignorance. “We never knew what was happening to the Jews. I’ve no idea how Anne Frank came to write in her diary that Jews were being gassed.” (The BBC was advertising this fact as early as June of 1942. Anne writes of it her diary in October of that same year.) Of Otto, he said, “If Frank hadn’t gone into hiding, nothing would have happened to him. For me, the whole thing was dealt with in an hour. The eight were put on a transport and I never bothered about them again.”

GillhamWWIottoOtto Frank in WWI. Image credit:

Miep Gies, the helper who rescued the diary from the floor, died in 2010 in North Holland at the age of 100. 

Otto Heinrich Frank died in Switzerland in 1980 at the age of 91.

Otto’s two daughters, Anne and Margot, had died of typhus thirty-five years earlier, between February and March of 1945 in a concentration camp called Bergen-Belsen.

Anne Frank’s diary, however, lives on. 

GillhamFamilieFrank1941The Frank family in front of their house on Merwedeplein in Amsterdam in May 1941. This is one of their last family photos. Photo © ANNE FRANK-Fonds, Basel Anne Frank House, Amsterdam



by Peter de Bourgraaf

I live what you might call a trans-European life. I am a Dutchman who works and researches mostly in the German language as a freelance historian but also self publishes in English. My work with the Anne Frank Foundation inspired me to pursue further Central European history, which I had already done for twenty years, especially the neglected parts about the end of WWI and the ways in which WWII and the Holocaust were a result. The powerful words of Anne Frank’s famous diary motivated me to study the other world war that her father, Otto Frank, fought.

The conclusions from my research include a call for an international scholarly task force to deal with what I ascertain to be an untold, century-old story. I don't believe that WWI ended in 1918. In fact, it has, in my opinion, no clear end at all – it began in 1914 and ended in 1945 and amounts to what I would call a second 30-year war (a term coined by Winston Churchill among others referring to the 1618-1648 Thirty Year's War during which German towns and landscapes were devastated and populations decimated). I have tried to visualize the story of the early winter days in Paris, 1919, when the lives of the just-demobilized WWI comrades-in-arms like Otto Frank and Adolf Hitler grew apart. Austrian and German soldiers like Hitler and Frank stood shoulder-to-shoulder in horrendous warfare that took three years longer than the U.S. entry into the war against them in 1917.


These two soldiers’ mortally divergent post-WWI paths go back to the largely forgotten events of the Versailles conference’s opening. Two British delegations dictated many demands to both friend and foe, which is not usually what schoolbooks and history lessons across the world have taught us. These keep telling us how the world glorified the U.S. President Wilson, about his appealing issue of a League of Nations, or about the central importance of French Prime Minister, Clemenceau's impositions. For instance, Clemenceau made additional claims on German territory, which would have become like another "Alsace-Lorraine," the highly-disputed region in today’s northern France that has been tossed back and forth between Germany and France for centuries. This French claim for more German territory was blocked by the British because, as my research shows, they were interested in acquiring more conquered territory on foreign continents. 

Bourgraaf1paristableConference table in Paris, Winter 1919: Allied & Associated Powers,  In an unprecedented move, the British Delegation adds seat occupied by the newly created British Empire Delegation (leader: J.C. Smuts). From: “Hundert Jahre Urkatastrophe. Der Kolonialvertrag 1919”, p. 75. Image credit: Peter de Bourgraaf

Yet, historically, the British did away with President Wilson's major input about the League of Nations in the Versailles conference as early as January-February 1919. Now, a century after the events of Versailles, it isn't a widely accepted view that the U.S. House of Representatives saw this act as a crucial argument to cancel the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles in November 1919, a year after the end of hostilities on the western front? Ultimately, two months before the Treaty’s validation in January 1920, I would argue that the British got from the US what they had been aiming at: the expansion of their Empire, unchecked rule in the sense of a worldwide leadership without other powers except for their French Entente-partner. Wilson, the League of Nation’s founding father and his ideas were secretly liquidated. Though some of Wilson’s League of Nations were formally put into place, its negotiated Armistice-foundations crumbled months before the Treaty's official signing. This is why I think that it wasn’t just the rise of Nazism that frustrated the advancement of an international peace organization post-WWI. 

And most illustrative of the Armistice’s crumbling and the failure of the peace is what happened in a ten-minute window when the “Secret Annex” (the Frank family's hiding place) in Amsterdam was raided on August 4, 1944. After two years, the Sicherheitspolizei had discovered the hiding place of the now-famous family of Anne Frank and four others. The deportation operation was led by Mr. Silberbauer. In this agonizing moment, this native from Austria spotted Mr. Frank’s army crate from WWI in the hiding place.

Not much has been written about these minutes during which Silberbauer instantly granted a former comrade-in-arms in hiding a neat departure. Frank and this Nazi stood together in the horrendous trench warfare some twenty-five years prior. If you visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and then complement it with 360amsterdamtours (that’s my place of work), you might see, among the information you will get, that my lifelong research on the WWI Centennial shows that British imperialist Paris/Versailles dictates were what stood in the way of a normal and peaceful life for Jews and other people persecuted during WWII.

SDEBOURGn VERSAILLES TREATY 628x314Versailles Treaty Contribute to Rise of Hitler. Image credit:

In no way am I arguing that the Germans were justified in creating WWII or implementing genocide. These horrors can never be mitigated. However, the Treaty of Versailles may have made for another war, which it did in my opinion; but what it evoked beyond doubt on a partially subconscious level, is an unprecedented feeling of injustice, a surge of radicalism, and a desire for the Treaty’s revision over the longer period concerned.

It finally came in a way that goes along with George Orwell’s paradigm: “an end with horror is better than a horror without end.” All of this on the part of the sole people incriminated, stigmatized and truly punished for WWI. In all aspects, Germany was made responsible for the collective east-west crisis of civilization that was, exactly five years after the murderous war's initializing casualty on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo, sustained by the Treaty beyond its powers.

Not before this intricate story will be translated and told over and over, we may be able to truly question mainstream history, which says that the Paris conference was about peace negotiations and a promising League of Nations was born. It also says that a vengeful France stood in the way of milder treatment proposed by the British and Wilson. It is not just the devastating warfare itself and the 1914-1918 catastrophe that developed into the mortally diverging paths of life of survivors such as Frank versus Hitler and Silberbauer. Instead, I argue that it had to do with what I call the 1914-1919 "Urkatastrophe" and the after effects of this great seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century, as George Kennan's term from the 1970s has been adopted by many European languages in its German translation.

Screenshot 2019 02 12 at 09.07.58De Bourgraaf's book cover, Urkatastophe. Image credit: Peter de Bourgraaf

Even though the November 11, Armistice Centennial was commemorated by the formerly Allied and Associated countries and the European Union House of European History, I would suggest that the commemorating has only just begun. What about having a real discussion about the great impact of the Treaty of Versailles and how it led to WWII, how the dictate provoked a dictatorship?

For example, can we talk about the fact that, on the very first day of the WWI peace conference’s opening in Paris, the British side took the other delegations by surprise by showing up with two delegations and virtually treated the US President as a junior? The conference's most charismatic participant threatened to leave the conference and Europe altogether. As David Lloyd George for England and "Slim Jannie" Smuts for the Empire were able to keep Wilson around by bringing in his proposal for an organization of nations, the last and most constructive point of his Fourteen-Points peace program. By antedating this issue one year before 1920, which was the originally proposed start date, it would no longer be possible to distinguish between a probably punitive treaty and this revolutionary concept of internationality, intended to end all wars.

The international task force that I am trying to organize will be trusted with the process of better understanding the Paris/Weimar/Versailles post-WWI outcomes. Following many decades of silence left intact by the national narratives to date and, on the part of Germany, a WWI silent taboo that overshadows the advanced process of coming to terms with the Second-World-War past, it's about time to transform and extend this process.

Does this appeal to writers like you, particularly to caretakers of peace, democracy, and sustainability?

The Centennial is running for many more months to come. The end of WWI-taboo in Germany is as great a void as the end of WWI’s story in United States history. For example, why is there, until now, the absence of a Great War monument in Washington DC, which would serve as a nationwide extension of the Kansas one? To every other conflict, national monuments were erected in the American capital. Why did it take so long to get this one built? I think it should be built as soon as possible because then it will be harder to ignore the central presence of WWI in subsequent world history. Can we finally talk about the fact that it was Germany and the USA with its idea of the League of Nations in 1918 who found a way for peace negotiations? Both the American giant and the newborn Weimar Republic were outcast from the non-negotiated Treaty. Whereas the former had no choice, the latter opted out after careful considerations. My fifteen-year-old connections to the Anne Frank House have persuaded me that the interwar period needs to be more closely reviewed to better understand the horrible event of genocide and how to prevent it.

Bourgraaf22019logoProvisional logo for the intended task force, a synthesis that represents elements of the three major languages and the flags of the formerly warring and neutral powers concerned. Image credit: Peter de Bourgraaf


Authors' bio

GILLHAMauthordavidrgillham 217x300David R. Gillham is the New York Times bestselling author of City of Women. He studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California before transitioning into fiction. After moving to New York City, Gillham spent more than a decade in the book business, and he now lives with his family in Western Massachusetts. In writing his new novel, Annelies, he has spent six years researching Anne Frank and her world, immersing himself in the available material and traveling to important landmarks of her life. (Bio photo credit: Michael Zide)











Peter de Bourgraaf (1969, the Netherlands) works as a freelance historian and a German-language teacher in Amsterdam and Berlin. Both his debut monograph in English and the present German-language debut “Hundert Jahre Urkatastrophe. Der Kolonialvertrag 1919” (Göttingen 2018) were published with foreign editors. He worked for the Amsterdam Anne Frank Foundation and stood as a candidate for the 2009 EP elections. In Utrecht and Vienna, the Dutchman set up an independent internet magazine about post-Soviet east-west relations by means of private funding. His registered expat-life stretched across four European countries. Linkedin shows the dates for his expanding series of lectures about “Paris/Versailles’s second century.” If you are interested in being part of his taskforce, send him an email at



Five WWI Army African American Bands That Changed Music Forever

User Rating: 4 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Inactive

Five WWI Army African American Bands That Changed Music Forever

James Lamb

2Jazzpic1WWI Military Band. Image courtesy of James Lamb 

As a life-long military musician, I’ve always enjoyed most the concerts where we performed that quintessentially American style of music – big band Jazz. I’ve had the personal pleasure of performing for literally millions of people across the globe. It’s this one style of music that, no matter who you are or where you’re from, you can’t help but tap your toes, clap your hands, and move to the music. It’s happy, spontaneous and full of energy. It’s just so American. So where did this music come from? And when did our military bands become ambassadors of American goodwill performing this music?  

The often-told story is that Jazz migrated up from New Orleans when the US entered WWI and after the Navy shut down the fabled Storyville district. This happened in November of 1917 forcing the icons we know so well from the Crescent City to emigrate north to Chicago, then to New York where fans immediately embraced this new music. But Jazz was already emerging across the US. Ragtime had been the rage for 30 years. By 1914 the syncopated rhythms of Ragtime were combined with the Blues and played with the energy to keep up with the new dances. This was happening in New York, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Some called this “Hot Ragtime”, others “Jazz”. In fact, the use of the word “Jazz” to describe this new music began in 1915 in San Francisco and Chicago, not New Orleans.

Read more: Five WWI Army African American Bands That Changed Music Forever

The Enemy, Allied Memorials, Native Americans, Colonial Soldiers, New WWI Art, Poetry, and Fiction, and Scholarship and Teaching: Part 5 of Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019.

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

The Enemy, Allied Memorials, Native Americans, Colonial Soldiers, New WWI Art, Music, Poetry, and Fiction, and Scholarship and Teaching: Part 5 of Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019.


Belgian artinstallations"ComingWorldRememberMe" Ypres art installation by Koen Vanmechelen. 600,000 miniature clay sculptures represent a figure mourning WWI bearing the name of a dead soldier. Image credit: DW


The last installment of the WWrite 2-Year Review! Since January 2017, WWrite has published a diversity of voices and stories from past and present. This week, part 5 takes a look at the following categories: The Enemy; Allied Memorials; Native Americans; Colonial Soldiers; New WWI Art, Music, Poetry, and Fiction; Scholarship and Teaching. Read the fascinating ways international writers, scholars, and artists have commemorated the centennial at WWrite this week!

Read more: The Enemy, Allied Memorials, Native Americans, Colonial Soldiers, New WWI Art, Poetry, and...

Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019. Part 3: WWrite at Yale's Centennial Armistice Commemoration

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019.
Part 3: WWrite at Yale's Centennial Armistice Commemoration

With Benjamin Busch, Peter Molin, Adrian Bonenberger, and Brianne Bilsky


YALESTAGEFrom left to right: Brianne Bilsky, Benjamin Busch, Jennifer Orth-Veillon, Peter Molin. Photo credit: Ira Zolomko


After almost two years of WWrite’s life, the blog had the opportunity to go from writing on the screen to live discussion at Yale University. Why Yale?

Read more: Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019. Part 3: WWrite at Yale's...

Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019. Part 4: Women Writing WWI

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019.


Part 4: Women Writing WWI


Women in WWIWomen in WWI. Image credit: World War One Centennial Commission

Over 22,000 American women served as nurses during WWI. The Navy and Marines accepted 13,000 women into active duty. Thousands have written about their experience, which has inspired contemporary women scholars and writers to explore the war through research and art. This is the 4th installment of the series, “WWrite Blog: Two Years in Review of WWI and Writing,” that will document and synthesize the 100+ blog contributions from January 2017. This week features posts about women's incredible involvement in WWI as fighters and writers. 

The first section, "Women in WWI: Nurses, Fighters, Writers," lists posts about women who served in WWI or lived during the WWI period. The second section, "Women's Art, Scholarship, and Writing about WWI," lists posts by women who have devoted their scholarship, writing, or art to WWI.

Read more: Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019. Part 4: Women Writing WWI


Subscribe to WWrite & More
To sign up for updates to the WWrite blog and WWI topics, or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your email address below.

"Pershing" Donors

Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo

Starr Foundation Logo