German Atrocities, 1914

A History of Denial

John Horne and Alan Kramer

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Is it true that the German army, invading Belgium and France in August 1914, perpetrated brutal atrocities? Or are accounts of the deaths of thousands of unarmed civilians mere fabrications constructed by fanatically anti-German Allied propagandists? Based on research in the archives of Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, this pathbreaking book uncovers the truth of the events of autumn 1914 and explains how the politics of propaganda and memory have shaped radically different versions of that truth.

John Horne and Alan Kramer mine military reports, official and private records, witness evidence, and war diaries to document the crimes that scholars have long denied: a campaign of brutality that led to the deaths of some 6500 Belgian and French civilians. Contemporary German accounts insisted that the civilians were guerrillas, executed for illegal resistance. In reality this claim originated in a vast collective delusion on the part of German soldiers. The authors establish how this myth originated and operated, and how opposed Allied and German views of events were used in the propaganda war. They trace the memory and forgetting of the atrocities on both sides up to and beyond World War II. Meticulously researched and convincingly argued, this book reopens a painful chapter in European history while contributing to broader debates about myth, propaganda, memory, war crimes, and the nature of the First World War.

John Horne is associate professor in the Department of Modern History and fellow of Trinity College Dublin. Alan Kramer is senior lecturer in the Department of Modern History and fellow of Trinity College Dublin.

"Superb. . . . The first thorough, definitive scholarly work on what actually happened in Belgium in 1914."—Jeffrey Verhey, American Historical Review

"An excellent account. . . . The study can be thoroughly recommended as an important and salutary contribution to scholarship on the First World War and on war crimes."—Jeremy Black, BBC History Magazine

“[A] splendid work.”—Kevin Myers, Irish Times

“It is unlikely that others will again undertake the same titanic research that John Horne and Alan Kramer have performed in German, French, British, and Belgian archives, or that they would come up with different results. Horne and Kramer argue their points impeccably and, I think, irrefutably.”—Istvan Deak, New Republic

“[A] seminal book. . . . Using a remarkable range of printed and unpublished sources, many of the latter only recently available, the authors show that the German army killed over 6,500 French and Belgian civilians between August and November 1914. . . . The facts . . . brought to light here, stripped of their penumbras, offer fresh perspectives on the German army, the First World War and, by extension, the nature of war itself: the province of horror, confusion and lies.”—Publishers Weekly

“A monumental volume of historical research.”—The Contemporary Review

“An immensely important book for anyone interested in the causes of the world wars or the shape of the twentieth century.”—The NYMAS Newsletter (The New York Military Affairs Symposium)

“A superb and scholarly book.”—Times Literary Supplement

"John Horne and Alan Kramer provide a long-overdue reappraisal of World War One German atrocities. . . . Their research, solidly based in archival sources, is compelling."—Virginia Quarterly Review

Winner of the Fraenkel Prize for Contemporary History given by the Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library, London

Winner of the 2002 Western Front Association’s Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. Book Award for the best work in English on The Great War
ISBN: 9780300089752
Publication Date: October 11, 2001
624 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
41 b/w illus.