If the Great War had not occurred during those fateful years of 1914-1918, four people from very different walks of life probably would have never crossed paths.
An impoverished Silesian Junker, a biergaten server from Essen, and two laborers from Pomerania were thrown together amid the fields of slaughter in northern France in March 1918. From then on their lives seemed to be intertwined, meshed to cross in Silesia amid the German Civil War, in Latvia with the Freikorps, and then in Northern Russia with the doomed counterrevolutionary army of General of the Infantry Nicholai Iudenich. Max von Kemper, the last surviving member of a once aristocratic family, was an impoverished carpenter's apprentice when the war began. Leaving behind nothing of value, he marched off with the city's regiment as a cadet officer living for the moment and not looking to survive beyond the next day. By 1918 he was a stormtrooper lieutenant leading a small detachment in the last battle of the war. Teresa Stumpf, an orphan educated in a convent, served heady beers to the Essen iron works men. As the war progressed business slumped and women took jobs normally reserved for men. The new freedom should have been their salvation but factories cruelly exploited the women with low pay and long shifts. Stumpf could either join the ranks of those women or walk the streets for money. Her salvation came in the illustrated newspaper stories which called for women to volunteer to be sisters of mercy for the wounded heroes of the front. The inducement, the seductive element, was the many stories of the nurse who found a titled or rich husband in a soldier she had brought back to health. Otto Faltz and Michael Boehm, life-long friends from that swampy land along the Baltic coast called Pomerania, saw the war as an opportunity for a military career. Boehm and Faltz were a tragic-comic twosome. Boehm was the straight man while Faltz hatched plans to use their earnings to open pubs, taverns or secluded spas overlooking Petrograd where the restored nobility might have their trysts. Perhaps it was in their destinies forged in some ancient time, whenever one of these characters reached a crisis in their life, the four of them met by chance on a dusty road, in a hospital or amid the December snows of Russia and solved the dilemma. The backdrop to these people's lives is the Great War, the German army's defeat in 1918 and the many civil wars in northern Europe from 1918-1920. For them it seemed only natural that they should go on with the fighting. After all the Germany they had fought for was no more. They had no relatives or job opportunities. Perhaps that's why they struck out to tour Northern Europe. As Gertrude Stein so aptly put it: Those who grew up in the war were a "lost generation."