Academic journal article Military Review

Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War

Academic journal article Military Review

Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War

Article excerpt

DYNAMIC OF DESTRUCTION: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War, Alan Kramer, Oxford University Press, UK, 2007, 434 pages, $33.95.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Europeans saw themselves as the leaders of a great march of progress that had made their continent the center of civilization. Their empires covered most of the globe and their cultural hegemony was perhaps even more dominant than their political and military power. Yet, two decades later, much of Europe's confidence and optimism had been replaced by cynicism and despair. The shift, writes historian Alan Kramer, was a product of the Great War, which saw the mobilization of radical nationalism that supported a European military outlook that demanded the methods of total war to achieve absolute victory.

From these phenomena emerged something unprecedented, a continent-wide "culture of destruction." It was culture previewed in the imperial abuses of Germany and Italy in Africa and the ethnic cleansing in the Balkan Wars. During the First World War it expanded to include the German atrocities in Belgium in 1914, the industrialized slaughter at Verdun and the Somme, and the mistreatment of prisoners by all combatants on the Eastern Front. However, it went beyond barbarities inflicted on external opponents. Kramer finds that the culture of destruction also inspired terrible persecution of those perceived as internal enemies. Thus, the culture of destruction encouraged the Armenian genocide, the "take-no-prisoners" policy of the Freikorps in post-war Germany, and the massacres of the Russian Civil War. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.