• after the First World War – marriage (and despair)

    Herbert Sulzbach fought for Germany for the duration of the First World War and was demobbed on 8 December 1918. Five days later he was invited to the 20th birthday party of Margot Rocholl.

    Margot had been part of Herbert's pre-war social scene, as was her brother, Herbert, who had been a contemporary of Sulzbach at the Goethe Gymnasium. Herbert Rocholl had been killed in Romania two years earlier – shot in the head whilst on patrol. A young officer, like Sulzbach, he had led from the front and been one of the many casualties amongst that class.

    After the war, survivors like Herbert Sulzbach threw themselves back into civilian life with no time to mourn the deaths of their friends. Three months after Margot's birthday, on 15 March 1919, they became engaged.

    'My joyful happiness with Margot is indescribable. I am the first of my schoolmates to get engaged.'

    They were married two months later, on Tuesday 27 May 1919.

    There was an ephemeral quality to the new Weimar Republic in which they lived. The mass death - the sudden and violent deaths - of two million German soldiers altered ideas about love and life, meaning and the future. Yet the complex and painful process of grieving was impossible in the fractured political scene. Together with military defeat, post-war revolution, and civil war this led to despair for many.

    There was no compensation for combat fatigue or what would later be called post traumatic stress disorder. Ten days after the Sulzbachs returned from their honeymoon Herbert was admitted for six weeks to a sanatorium at St Blaise.

    'I am very jittery and not at all well.'

    Their marriage did not last. Two years later, in absolute despair, he wrote

    'The pre-war period was as carefree as possible. Then after the war came revolutionary events. My life and my youth have been one rush. The war has come to a humiliating end, as has my marriage.'

    In April 1922 Herbert and Margot spent a 'harmonious' Easter with family and friends. Then, in September 1922, they were divorced.

    (photo: Herbert Sulzbach, April 1919, on the balcony of Margot Rocholl's home)

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