The corners of this handcrafted map are covered in mud. And there is a hole – apparently from a bullet. This bullet probably ended the life of one of World War One’s most outstanding German writers, Walter Flex. Flex was a war volunteer and author of the widely read war novel Wanderer Zwischen Beiden Welten (The Wanderer Between Two Worlds, 1916), written after his best friend had been killed in the field.
Trees, swampland, lakes, villages and cottages are all marked on this map of the Baltic island Saaremaa, offshore from Estonia and at the time under Russia. Flex and his division had landed in October 1917 and after three days of struggling, the Russians surrendered their arms. All but one soldier surrendered their arms: the remaining man refused and shot Flex down. The bullet tore his right forefinger off, entered his body and became lodged near his stomach. He wrote a last line: ‘Dear parents! I dictate this postcard as I’m slightly wounded at the forefinger of my right hand. Besides this, I am well off. There’s no room for worry whatsoever. Love, Walter.’ He died the next day, aged just 30, due to his internal injuries.
This map was found in Flex’s bag and it is now part of his literary remains that are kept in the manuscript department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.
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