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Art and Images in Psychiatry
November 3, 2008

The Mothers(VI From Seven Woodcuts to War)

Author Affiliations

James C.HarrisMD

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(11):1249. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.65.11.1249

The work of Käthe Kollwitz is the greatest poem of this age in Germany, a poem reflecting the trials and suffering of humble and simple folk. . . . She is the voice of the silence of the sacrificed.—Romain Rolland1(p20)

Peter Kollwitz died on the night of October 22/23, 1914, three days after the beginning of fighting at the Battle of the Yser River in Flanders; he was the first member of his regiment to be killed. His parents were notified of his death by the authorities on October 30. The Germans had declared war on August 1, and in the wave of patriotic fervor that followed, Peter, age 18 years, had volunteered. When he had asked his parents' permission to join the military, his physician father, Karl, said no, but his artist mother, Käthe Kollwitz, equivocated and then, somewhat reluctantly, supported Peter's choice. Although she soon had second thoughts, it was too late! She was to agonize about her initial support for his volunteering long afterward.2

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