In a few weeks, we will mark a century of butchery as bad as man has ever known, made more sinister by great leaps in technological knowledge. The “Art” of War — figuring out new ways to kill Human Beings — has developed to a pitch that human effort in battle is miniscule compared to the effort of machines and automated weaponry.
But this century of butchery, we should not forget, began in 1914 with the start of World War I, and few youths of today may be intimately connected with the horrendous reality that existed in Europe, just 36,525 days back from January 1, 2014.
To grasp that terrible reality, there are few texts better than “A German Deserter’s War Experience” by Anonymous, the record of a German soldier who was in near-constant battle for several years, and who fought at the Marne and Verdun. If you want to know the true reality of war, the immense senseless suffering, then it behooves you to read this work.
In it you can see the utter callousness of the generals and the general staff, and the officers, towards the common soldier. Anonymous was a sapper, an engineering soldier who put up wire, laid mines, floated pontoons across rivers, etc., but he also fought with the Infantry. He describes what hand-to-hand combat does to people, the ferocious bayonet fights, and the callous indifference to corpses quickly acquired. He describes laying a field of explosives, then inducing the French Infantry to attack across it, and then detonating it, so that 200-300 Frenchmen were blown in an instant into body parts which rained down, and hung in the trees. He describes the German officer who blew up a bridge crammed with both French Cavalry and German foot soldiers desperately trying to retreat across the bridge. He notes how not one officer in his regiment was a casualty, while few draftees remained alive in his original batallion. He points out that the soldiers had to sleep on the damp ground, with only a thin cloak, while the officers had sleeping bags and woolen blankets. He notes the almost universal disillustionment and regret at having volunteered by both youths and old men, who had been brainwashed into sacrificing their lives for the “Fatherland”.
Contrarywise, he notes, after having been moved from a very violent to a very quiet part of the front, the lack of confrontation between both sides and the wish to keep it on those terms by both French and German soldiers. They even fraternised at night, exchanging gifts, and shaking hands when they parted. In one instance, the only nearby well was located in the middle of a no-man’s land, but both the French and the Germans went out and used it, and waited patiently while those ahead filled their canisters, saluting when they parted.
Anonymous finally has enough of the war, and plans an escape which will have the reader on the edge of his seat. We’ll leave that bit untold.
Perhaps the only flaw in the book is the last paragraph of the work, which throws out a specifically political (and in our view incorrect) viewpoint. But having gone through what this fellow went through, you might think the same way.
“A German Deserter’s War Experience”, which can be read at archive.org, reminds us of the utter callousness and horror of war, and war waged merely to satisfy the aristocracies, military elites, and munitions-makers of Europe. It portraits a reality that must never be forgotten.
Hoooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf