Topic: GW - Atrocities
Great War Attrocities
Introduction to the framework of atrocities
Western Mail, 25 September 1914, p. 24.
[Click on picture for larger version.]
The single thread that appears in all the press, cartoons, photographs, movies and the like of the Great War is the portrayal of the Germans as the bloodthirsty Hun.
The link to the following cartoon was the standard portrayal of the German soldier undertaking his dastardly handy work:
This theme is repeated ad nauseum throughout all the Australian press of the time right from the get go.
The aim is quite simple - to put into sharp relief the behaviour of the Germans when compared to that of the Australians. It is the simple but effective binary:
"Germans = evil;"
"Australians = good".
But how realistic is this picture?
Even when viewed through the vision of the times, cracks were already appearing in the story. It is important that these elements are explored since it is all too easy to gloss over the evil in pursuit of the excellence. But to ignore the evil that was perpetrated is to reduce oneself to the "evil" part of the equation for it makes the Australian story no better than the German Story as portrayed in the press at the time.
By dehumanising the Germans, it made it acceptable to perpetrate outrages against Australian citizens of German origin.
This may be an uncomfortable subject, but it is through discomfort that we understand who we are and where we have come from rather than who we would like to have been and build a fiction around that wish. So this is a reality check for all historians. There will be an exploration of allegations of attrocities committed by Australian soldiers, of which there are many. Some will have substance and others will be nothing more than myth and fantasy. But each known allegation shall be examined over time.
Citation: Great War Attrocities, Introduction to the framework of atrocities