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Desertion

(1,634 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Desertion Denotes a soldier’s unauthorized absence from his unit, without the permission of his superior officers. Related offences are “unauthorized absence” and “defection to the enemy.” In common with all other legal offenses, desertion does not necessarily reflect objective circumstances, but depends on national legal provisions and their interpretation on a particular occasion, that is to say their practical application. In particular, the distinction between desertion, unauthorized absence, defection, refusal of wa…

Christmas Truce (1914)

(555 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Christmas Truce (1914) Also known as the “Wartime Christmas,” this title recalls a time of widespread fraternization on all fronts, especially between German and British soldiers on the Western Front, the so-called “Christmas Truce.” When the fronts solidified in late fall 1914, all hopes were dashed for that victorious campaign, initially promised by governments and armed forces, which was to have brought the troops “home for Christmas.” Now the soldiers would have to manage Christmas Eve in the trenches. “Love tokens” were sen…

Fraternizing

(470 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Fraternizing Spontaneous and unauthorized ending of fighting and leaving one’s own position with a view to making direct contact with enemy soldiers. Precise details of the extent of fraternizing are, of course, not available. The available sources, however, show clearly that the center of these events is to be found in those sectors of the Western Front in which German and British soldiers faced one another. Individual acts of camaraderie at Christmas, and informal truces, were also reported from German-French sectors and from the Eastern Front. The most spectacular case of frat…

Conscientious Objection

(630 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Conscientious Objection The rejection of the legal obligation to fulfill one’s military duty in times of war. A distinction must be drawn between conscientious objection in the narrow sense and other ways of evading wartime military service. Conscientious objection, which was also an important motive for emigrating from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, was traditionally practiced by a number of religious communities, for instance by the Quakers and Mennonites. In 1914, however, no country with a conscript army had made provis…

Military Courts

(861 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Military Courts This special law jurisdiction is limited to military personnel. It provides for a host of criminal offense categories that are not included in civilian criminal law. It is noteworthy that, as in civilian jurisprudence, criminal law is handled separately from procedural law. A comprehensive modernization of the military legal system was undertaken in numerous countries in the closing years of the 19th century. During the World War, the following regulations applied in the specified warring states: in Germany, the Militärstrafgesetzbuch of 1872; in France, the Code d…