Captive Civilians

TitleCaptive Civilians
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBecker, Annette
EditorWinter, Jay
Book TitleThe Cambridge History of the First World War
Number of Volumes3
PublisherCambridge University Press

This chapter discusses the wartime phenomenon of concentration camps for civilians. The Great War was a laboratory for the twentieth century: an experimental site to probe the practice of violence and to optimize its effects on men and materials. Concentration camps for civilians were part of the regular arsenal of the world war. The concentration camps of the Great War, generalizing and multiplying those of the two colonial episodes of Cuba and South Africa, were innovative: henceforward civilians were also ordinary victims of war en route towards totalization. With the internal rearrangements of empires in the course of the war, certain population movements took the tragic form of forced homogenization, which amounted to major social or ethnic reconstruction. This applied to populations considered suspect in Russia, and to the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. The inhabitants of regions that were invaded and then occupied by enemy armies formed a category of civilian prisoners who suffered different forms of alienation and internment.

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