Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany

TitleAbsolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHull, Isabel V.
Number of Pages384
PublisherCornell University Press
CityIthaca, NY

In a book that is at once a major contribution to modern European history and a cautionary tale for today, Isabel Hull argues that the routines and practices of the Imperial German Army, unchecked by effective civilian institutions, increasingly sought the absolute destruction of its enemies as the only guarantee of the nation's security. It begins with an  account of the German Army's slide from administrative murder to genocide in German Southwest Africa (1904–7). It moves then back to 1870 and the war that inaugurated the Imperial era in German history, and analyzes the genesis and nature of this specifically German military culture and its operations in colonial warfare. In the First World War the routines perfected in the colonies were visited upon European populations. The book focuses on one set of cases (Belgium and northern France) in which the transition to total destruction was checked (if barely) and on another (Armenia) in which "military necessity" caused Germany to accept its ally's genocidal policies even after these became militarily counterproductive. Then it turns to the Endkampf (1918), the German General Staff's plan to achieve victory in the Great War even if the homeland were destroyed. It concludes by speculating on the role of this distinctive military culture in National Socialism's military and racial policies.

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