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Justices militaires et guerres mondiales

Jean-Marc Berlière
Jonas Campion
Luigi Lacchè
et al.

War, Discipline, and Politics

Desertion and Military Justice in the German and British Armies 1914-1918

Christoph Jahr

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Extrait du texte

At the end of May 1918, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, commander-in-chief of an army group, intimated in his diary the suspicion that many soldiers committed crimes solely to avoid the front. He looked with envy at the other side: ‘The English are much stricter in such cases than we are and generally punish absence without leave by death’.1 It is certainly true that in proportion to its size, ten times as many death sentences were carried out in the British army between 1914 and 1918 as in the German army. This reality does not correspond with the picture of rigid German militarism, nor with that of British liberalism. The picture becomes even more complex if the Second World War is taken into account. During this conflict, at least 15,000 to 20,000 German soldiers were executed for military offences, compared to only four British servicemen. In the light of these diverging developments, the significance of desertion in the First World War as a military and political problem sho...


Private lecturer at the Humboldt University Berlin. He has studied History, Political Studies, and German in Freiburg and Berlin. His major publications include: Antisemitismus vor Gericht. Debatten über die juristische Ahndung judenfeindlicher Agitation in Deutschland (1879-1960), Frankfurt a. M., 2011; Gewöhnliche Soldaten. Desertion und Deserteure im deutschen und britischen Heer 1914-1918, Göttingen, 1998; Lager vor Auschwitz. Gewalt und Integration im 20. Jahrhunderts, Berlin 2013 (co-edited with Jens Thiel); “Keine Feriengäste. ‘Feindstaatenausländer’ im südlichen Bayern während des Ersten Weltkrieges”, in Hermann J. W. Kuprian/Oswald Überegger (Hg.), Der Erste Weltkrieg im Alpenraum. Erfahrung, Deutung, Erinnerung/La Grande Guerra nell’arco alpino. Esperienze e memoria, Innsbruck, 2006, p. 231-245; “Ahlwardt on Trial: Reactions to the Antisemitic Agitation of the 1890s in Germany”, in Leo Baeck-Institute Year Book 48, 2003, p. 67-85; “Désertion et déserteurs dans la Grande Guerre. Phénomènes et groupe marginaux?”, in 14-18 Aujourd’hui, 4, 2001, p. 111-123

© Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2013

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