Heroes and Would-be Heroes: Veterans’ and Reservists’ Associations in Imperial Germany

TitleHeroes and Would-be Heroes: Veterans’ and Reservists’ Associations in Imperial Germany
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsRohrkrämer, Thomas
EditorBoemeke, Manfred E., Roger Chickering, and Stig Förster
Book TitleAnticipating Total War: the German and American Experiences, 1871-1914
PublisherCambridge University Press

The term total war came into existence in connection with World War I as a slogan used by leading participants such as Georges Clemenceau and Erich Ludendorff to propagate or justify an unlimited war effort. It subsequently gained wider usage in politics and in more theoretical discourses because it seemed to grasp the peculiarities of twentieth-century warfare in contrast to previous wars: that is, an increasing size of armies, a broadening scope tending toward a global scale, and the systematic mobilization of the “home front” for the war effort (mass production of weapons, scientific development of war technology, mobilization of all members of society), which simultaneously meant that combatants and noncombatants alike gained military significance and were thus targeted by blockades or wide-ranging weapons of mass destruction. Because the population did not consist of powerless chess pieces, this “total” mobilization also demanded an ideological mobilization to justify the immense effort. A rigid friend-enemy thinking that demonized the enemy (leaders and common people alike) and raised apocalyptic as well as euphoric expectations seemed necessary to justify the high price of war and the inhumane measures taken.[Publisher]

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