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Germany and War Crimes in 1914

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  • Germany and War Crimes in 1914

    How many, if any, German officers were prosecuted for war crimes committed against civilians during the invasion of Belgium and France in 1914?

    Was there any investigation at all? I remember something about the Leipzig Trial or something like that...

    Thanks in advance.
    My avatar: Center of the Cross of the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) of the First French Empire (Napoleonic Era), 3rd type (awarded between 1806-1808). My Légion d'honneur. :-)

  • #2
    There was a British investigation during WWI (can't remember the name) which accepted all sorts of rubbish as correct and grossly inflated German atrocities - impaled babies, crucified soldiers and so on. So far as I recall, there weren't any trials as such, and the Germans tried to shift as much of blame onto franc tirreurs and other such illegal combatants as they could. Similar atrocities happened on the Serbian front by k.u.k units. The Germans and the Austrians tried to claim similar indignities were committed by the Serbs and Russians, but independent analysis seems to disprove it.

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    • #3
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leipzig_War_Crimes_Trial

      Zouave,
      Nice to meet you here. Your memory serves you well.
      I hope the above link is of help.
      BoRG

      You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

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      • #4
        Did not the laws of war of the time allow the Germans to do what they did.
        Granted some of there rationale was not well thought of ie going after the wrong people. and responding a overly quickly.

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        • #5
          The German conduct in Belgium and northern France during War I was a preview of their conduct on a much larger and deadlier scale in War II.

          Interestingly, in 1815 the Belgians commented that Prussian conduct there was worse than the Cossacks, which is a telling remark.

          In 1814, especially after their repeated defeats in February, the Prussians turned brutal against the French civilian population, which was 'encouraged' by their commander, Blucher. This was after the allied proclamation that they came to wage war only against Napoleon and not the French people. This was a false declaration and the French guerilla warfare in eastern France was having the same effect on allied convoys and couriers that the Spanish effort had in Spain.

          Finally, the Bavarians were also known for brutal looting in the same period.

          So, the Germans in War I did nothing to curb abuses and crimes against Belgian and French civilians and had a lively 'tradition' of it in previous wars.

          Sincerley,
          M
          We are not now that strength which in old days
          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

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          • #6
            I think a far more apt preview of their conduct during the Second World War were the atrocities and genocide of the Herero and Nama in then German South West Africa. A policy of annihilation, massacres, widespread executions, concentration camps and Shark Island extermination camp, medical experiments, racial theories and 'scientists' and the idea of Germaness tied into colonial expansion. Some of the same people involved later are also to be found in the genocide of the Herero and Nama.

            I think those arguing that there are direct links between what happened during those years and what was to come are right.
            Last edited by Sergio; 23 Sep 12, 14:21.
            "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it"
            G.B Shaw

            "They promised us homes fit for heroes, they give us heroes fit for homes."
            Grandad, Only Fools and Horses

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            • #7
              German treatment of non-German populations is linked to racial theories that were "codified" in the 19th C by a number of German philosophers. "Drang Nacht Osten" was primarily directed against the Slavs but German treatment of other ethnic groups was strongly influenced by the belief that non-Germans were inferior,... and expendable. It wasn't the same as the later Nazi philosophies but all the Nazis did was borrow existing ideas and expand on them to include massed genocide.
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Sergio View Post
                I think a far more apt preview of their conduct during the Second World War were the atrocities and genocide of the Herero and Nama in then German South West Africa. A policy of annihilation, massacres, widespread executions, concentration camps and Shark Island extermination camp, medical experiments, racial theories and 'scientists' and the idea of Germaness tied into colonial expansion. Some of the same people involved are to be found in the genocide of the Herero and Nama.
                .
                I have read recently, possibly in the memoires of Major Pretorious, that the Namaqua and Herero genocides were not the first, but I couldn't find that just now, if anyone can (from a different source - Pretorious wasn't a fan of Germany/Germans)I'd appreciate being informed. I may be misremembering a Portuguese event as a German one though.
                ------
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Selous View Post
                  I have read recently, possibly in the memoires of Major Pretorious, that the Namaqua and Herero genocides were not the first, but I couldn't find that just now, if anyone can (from a different source - Pretorious wasn't a fan of Germany/Germans)I'd appreciate being informed. I may be misremembering a Portuguese event as a German one though.
                  I think there was one in German East Africa (Tanganyika) but I can't remember the details.

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                  • #10
                    Now we know why Germans were such monsters in WW2, They were trying to top themselves from WW1.




                    Originally posted by craven View Post
                    Did not the laws of war of the time allow the Germans to do what they did.
                    Granted some of there rationale was not well thought of ie going after the wrong people. and responding a overly quickly.



                    Investigations showed that just about every so called franc tirreurs incidents were really Belgian and French soldiers fighting rear-guard actions and after getting lit up the Huns would start screaming franc tirreurs and kill any civilian they got their hands on.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for all the answers. Thanks for that link, Jeroen.

                      Just a reminder...

                      On 6 May 2001, in Dinant, Walter Kolbow, a high secretary at the German Ministry of Defence, placed a wreath and bowed before a monument to the victims bearing the inscription: To the 674 Dinantais martyrs, innocent victims of German barbarism.

                      Throughout the beginning of the war the German army engaged in numerous atrocities against the civilian population of Belgium, and destruction of civilian property; 6,000 Belgians were killed, 25,000 homes and other buildings in 837 communities destroyed. 1,500,000 Belgians (20% of the entire population) fled from the invading German army. (Lipkes J. (2007) Rehearsals: the German army in Belgium, August 1914, Leuven University Press, p.13)
                      My avatar: Center of the Cross of the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) of the First French Empire (Napoleonic Era), 3rd type (awarded between 1806-1808). My Légion d'honneur. :-)

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by craven View Post
                        Did not the laws of war of the time allow the Germans to do what they did.
                        No.

                        Franc tireurs would not be entitled to POW status under Hague IV 1907. That is generally right. However, the Germans usually did not apprehend franc tireurs. What they did was to carry out reprisals.

                        Reprisals, although admitted under customary international law at the time, should have also complied with treaty laws Germany was a signatory of, including the above mentioned Convention:
                        Art. 50. No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.
                        Michele

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                        • #13
                          German East Africa was a different scene to the Herreros in German South West Africa. The cruel irony was that Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was a participant on these massacres, and yet inspired Tangayika, now Tanzania, to resist the British throughout WWI. This was an extraordinary military campaign. Complete with the Battle of the Bees, when the British tried to invade Tanga. The askaris spanked their bottoms and sent them home.

                          The Germans and the askaris only surrended when the armistice was declared. Tangayika offered Lettow-Vorbeck the presidency but he declined. He did return when in his 80s after WWII and was greeted as a national hero in Tanzania.
                          When looking for the reason why things go wrong, never rule out stupidity, Murphy's Law Nº 8
                          Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. George Santayana
                          "Ach du schwein" a German parrot captured at Bukoba GEA the only prisoner taken

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nickuru View Post
                            German East Africa was a different scene to the Herreros in German South West Africa. The cruel irony was that Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was a participant on these massacres, and yet inspired Tangayika, now Tanzania, to resist the British throughout WWI. This was an extraordinary military campaign. Complete with the Battle of the Bees, when the British tried to invade Tanga. The askaris spanked their bottoms and sent them home.

                            The Germans and the askaris only surrended when the armistice was declared. Tangayika offered Lettow-Vorbeck the presidency but he declined. He did return when in his 80s after WWII and was greeted as a national hero in Tanzania.
                            Do you have a reference for that? L-B is one ofny favorite studys from WWI.
                            "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                            Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                            you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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                            • #15
                              The Germans burned the priceless book collection held in the Belgian library of Louvain in 1914-I don't know if anyone was punished for that post-war?
                              The execution of British Nurse Edith Cavell at dawn on October 12 1915 in Brussels for helping allied POWS escape was -I believe-quite legal and not a war crime. Although it caused outrage in Britain and the USA .
                              Again, the Edinburgh Evening News'' newspaper for November 24 1924 has an interesting item about a high ranking German officer who was found guilty by Reichswehr court-martial in November 1924 -six years after the November Armistice of 1918-of stealing furniture and transporting it back to Germany from the French family with whom the German officer had ben billetted in Lille, France during the First World War.
                              He was found guity and fined, and made to repay the value of the furniture via a compensation order in favour of the French family in Lille.
                              More seriously was the 1921 court martial in Leipzig, Germany of U-86 Submarine Kaptian Patzig and several of his officers for sinking , in June 1918 , the hospital ship ''LLANDOVERY CASTLE'' then Patzig and his crew massacred the lifeboats -but alas for him one escaped. Knowing he hadn't a moral or legal leg to stand on Patzig did a runner and was never aprrehended. But two of his co-murdering officers, Dithmar and Boldt, stood trial in Leipzig before the German Supreme Courtin 1921.
                              Although both officers were sentenced to four years in jail and dismissed the service neither served more than a few months.
                              I wonder if this leniency is what made the Nuremburg Trial sponsors in 1946 ignore letting German courts try Nazi war criminals post 1945?.
                              THe German Supreme Court however,also ruled in 1921 ,that no member of the German armed forces could ever legitimately plead a defence of ''I/WE were only obeying orders'' if they carried out criminal acts in the execution of their duties as Dithmar and Humboldt both had tried that old Nuremburg chesnut, so beloved of later Nuremburg war criminals''I/WE were only obeying orders''

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