UH Moment

UH Moment: ‘Postcards’

History is made of dates, facts and figures, but mostly of stories. A collection, curated by a University of Houston history professor, tells the story of World War I through post cards.

Dec 23, 1915

Dear Irma,

The mail has been delivered.  Good cigars! A letter!  But in the newspapers there is nothing about peace! 

A thousand greetings,

Your Otto


The note from German soldier and artist Otto Shubert to his intended comes from the trenches of World War I and is part of “Postcards from the Trenches,” a collection of war-time postcards curated by UH Honors College history professor Irene Guenther.

“We know now that Otto was in the Ardennes, in the Argonne, both of which saw severe fighting,” Guenther said. “He was wounded in the battle of Verdun, which was one of the famous battles of the war. More than 700,000 people died in that battle alone.  And then to see something so intimate: ‘Dear Irma, I hope you like my cards…’”


Jan 17, 1916

Got your mail this morning.  Made me very happy.  Now I will eat high on the hog!  While doing so I keep thinking, if only we can do this at home.


Guenther found 80 postcards from Otto amidst her father’s large book collection. Otto, like other artist-soldiers, painted the War on 4 x 6 postcards.

“They used pen and ink, charcoal, pencil. I think whatever they could get their hands on,” she said. “And because they were artists, they capture that moment in ways that …I just don’t think they had words to describe what they were experiencing.”


Dec 15, 1915

Dear Irma,

Many thousands of greetings from your Otto. Please write me often. Have not had a letter from you for a long time. I also sent a card to your brother. I am quite tired of life.


Guenther says several of Otto’s art works were later confiscated by the Nazis in World War II.  His studio was lost during the bombing of Dresden, which also took his dear Irma. His works as well as postcards from American soldiers and from governments are part of her exhibit.

“They’re that much more remarkable that they survived two World Wars, not just one,” Guenther said. “I think that after looking at these postcards people will feel differently about war.”


May 12, 1916

Dear Irma,

Today I sent a card and a letter. I hope you are well and happy when you get them. 

May we see one another again soon. 

Many heartfelt greetings to you and yours.

Your Otto.



Postcards from the Trenches” is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.