¿Por qué el ejército alemán ejecutó tan pocos soldados en la Primera Guerra Mundial en comparación con la mayoría de los otros ejércitos?
2020-01-03 00:07:16 UTC
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According to Alexander Watson's Ring of Steel and other sources during the whole of the First World War the German army only executed 48 of its soldiers, compared to over 300 in the British and 600-800 in the French, Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies.

The mostly Prussian led German army was not, as far as I know weak on discipline, so why did it find it necessary to execute a fraction of the number of its soldiers as its opponents and principal ally?

"El ejército alemán, en su mayoría liderado por prusianos, no era, hasta donde yo sé, débil en disciplina", esa podría ser una gran parte de la explicación. Un ejército mejor disciplinado tendrá menos casos del tipo de indisciplina extrema que llevaría a la ejecución.
@JohnColeman Cierto, pero la alta profesionalidad también conduce a la indulgencia en los lugares altos. Si al principio de sus carreras hubieran destituido a líderes como Moltke y Ludendorff, que eran propensos a sufrir crisis nerviosas cuando las cosas se ponían difíciles, la guerra podría haber resultado diferente.
La razón más común de ejecución es la deserción. Dado que los alemanes estaban la mayor parte del tiempo en territorio extranjero, para ellos era más difícil huir del campo de batalla. A menos que se rindan al enemigo, en cuyo caso cuentan como prisioneros.
@Santiago Sin embargo, esto fue aún más cierto en el caso de las tropas británicas.
@CMonsour Estoy seguro de que un hogar belga o francés estará más feliz de ayudar a un desertor británico que a un desertor alemán.
@Santiago A menos que su francés fuera muy bueno, un desertor británico no se mezclaría exactamente, sino que sería un desertor obvio, con muy pocas esperanzas de volver a ver a su familia antes de ser capturado. Además, a los campesinos franceses les interesaría ayudar a los desertores alemanes, ¡mientras que los franceses necesitaban a todos los británicos para seguir luchando!
Como alemán, me encantaría poder decir "Bueno, ¡porque en general eran más agradables!"
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Lars Bosteen
2020-01-03 07:11:07 UTC
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Alexander Watson says more about this in chapter 7 of The Cambridge History of the First World War, Volume II: The State:

The Germans were most sparing in applying the death penalty because their justice system was staffed by professional legal personnel and influenced more than that of other forces by civilian norms. Their courts’ concern with justice for the individual was bitterly criticised after the war by conservatives, who claimed wrongly that it had damaged discipline and morale.

In Military Executions during World War I, Gerard Oram argues that the German military code, dating from 1872, was

arguably the most liberal of all the belligerents of the First World War. Without doubt the construction of the state governed by law, or Rechtsstaat, played a large part in this. The law was more tightly constructed than the British code. Desertion, for example, was not as loosely defined as it was in the British code. Sentencing and the rights of soldiers were also written into the law rather than being left to the whim of the commander-in-chief. This caused some consternation to General Ludendorff and his staff, who clearly felt constrained by the nature of German military law

The table below is from Walker (chapter 7 - Table 7.1 Military executions, 1914–18.)

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(asterisk in table) "America’s executions were all for non-military crimes (murder and rape). Ten soldiers were executed in France and twenty-five in the United States."

On the low percentage for US executions, Walker writes:

The lenience of the US military was solely due to President Wilson1, who commuted all death sentences for military crime; only murderers and rapists were executed. Other forces embraced the death penalty as a deterrent more wholeheartedly.

1 In US courts-martial, 24 death sentences for desertion were imposed. All were commuted by Wilson. See Charles Glass, 'The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II'

None of the aforementioned sources cite any figures for desertions, perhaps because such numbers can only be guessed at to a large extent. With reference to the British and German armies:

Both...had a rather difficult time defining desertion and devising effective deterrents for it. Often commanders were reluctant to report it, because a high desertion rate reflected badly on an officer's leadership.

Source: Robert Weldon Whalen, in a review of Christoph Jahr, 'Gewohnliche Soldaten: Desertion und Deserteure im deutschen und britischen Heer 1914-1918', The American Historical Review, Vol. 106, No. 5 (Dec., 2001)

This 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War article does offer some figures, but they are too limited for us to draw any firm conclusions on comparative desertion rates among the belligerents. We may accept, though, that

For Britain, Germany and France, deserters - with all the caveats linked to judicial statistics that are difficult to interpret - appear never to have numbered more than 0.5 percent of men in uniform before 1918.

Although the number of German executions was low (despite the mass desertions - up to 180,000 - in the summer and autumn of 1918), those convicted were more likely than their British counterparts to have their sentences carried out: 48 soldiers executed out of 150 capital convictions, or 32%. The British, on the other hand, 'only' executed 11% of those convicted. Nonetheless, the relative leniency of the German military code during WWI is in stark contrast to that of WWII when, under the Nazis (who blamed deserters, among others, for Germany's WWI defeat), the

total number of death sentences handed down for desertion were about 22,750 with a probable 15,000 executions (65 percent) carried out.

Source: David H. Kitterman, 'Review: The Justice of the Wehrmacht Legal System: Servant or Opponent of NationalSocialism?'. In 'Central European History, Vol. 24, No. 4' (1991), citing Manfred Messerschmidt and Fritz Wullne, 'Die Wehrmachtjustiz im Dienste des Nationalsozialismus: Zer- storung einer Legen' (1987)

The WWII British army, on the other hand, did not execute any soldiers for desertion.

Also worth noting is the WWI Italian execution rate, much higher than that of any of the other belligerents. This was due to the "harsh" military code and its strict implementation by the Chief of Staff of the Italian Army, Luigi Cadorna.

The Italian military code was passed in 1869 and was based on its Sardinian predecessor (1840). It was particularly harsh, particularly with its very broad definition of desertion. During the First World War, Cadorna, the Italian Commander-in-Chief, made ample use of this in imposing a brutal disciplinary regime on his troops. Military crimes, which included desertion and insubordination, were punishable by being shot in front, but so-called ‘dishonourable’ crimes such as treason or murder were punishable by being shot in the back. Sentences were normally carried out within twenty-four hours, but sentences passed by extraordinary drum-head courts – including death sentences – were carried out summarily and ‘ad modum belli’. This allowed Cadorna to apply strict discipline from the moment of Italy’s entry to the war. In July 1915 he warned that ‘every soldier . . . must be convinced that his superior has the sacred duty to shoot all cowards and recalcitrants immediately’.

Source: Oram

The Wikipedia article on Cardona notes that:

David Stevenson, Professor of International History at the London School of Economics, describes him as earning "opprobrium as one of the most callous and incompetent of First World War commanders."

2020-01-03 21:33:27 UTC
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A fact pertinent to this question is that many of the Brits shot at dawn are remembered at the National Memorial Arboretum where their ages are shown, if they were adults.

Many were in actual fact children who had signed up illegally, but were shot anyway when they realised their error and tried to escape the nightmare, and these are shown in the memorial as Age Unknown

It seems likely these might have been spared and UK numbers lower, had the process been as judicious as the German one. It's all a drop in the ocean of course, against the backdrop of 20 million men sent to pointless deaths in a squabble between three cousins about who would walk away with the rights to milk the most peasants for the wealth they generate.

According to The Guardian, as recently as 1999 The Ministry of Defence still defended the legality of the executions of children aged 14 and above in a letter to Shot At Dawn campaigner John Hipkin, writing "Anyone over the age of 14 was deemed legally responsible for his actions and Army regulations provided no immunity from Military Law for an under-age soldier."

¿Tiene alguna evidencia de que los soldados menores de edad formaron un porcentaje significativamente mayor de los soldados del Reino Unido ejecutados durante la guerra que el porcentaje de soldados menores de edad ejecutados por los ejércitos alemán o francés?
@sempaiscuba Con respecto a los alemanes, sí. He estado en la NMA y diría que si el 100% de las 48 ejecuciones alemanas fueran niños, habrían ejecutado aproximadamente el mismo número de niños que el número de ejecuciones en el Reino Unido que se muestra como "Edad desconocida".
También he visitado el National Memorial Arboretum y he investigado los registros originales en los Archivos Nacionales de Kew. Sin embargo, no estoy preguntando sobre números totales, sino sobre porcentajes. Si está argumentando que la ejecución de soldados menores de edad es un factor que explica (al menos en parte) la diferencia en el número de soldados ejecutados por los distintos ejércitos, entonces presumiblemente puede demostrar que la _proporción_ de soldados menores de edad ejecutado fue significativamente menor en el ejército alemán, en relación con las fuerzas del Reino Unido o Francia?
@sempaiscuba Creo que no entendiste el sentido de mi comentario. no es necesaria tal suposición con respecto a las proporciones, ya que la ejecución de menores en el Reino Unido por sí sola probablemente excede la ejecución de prisioneros en Alemania en total y, por lo tanto, la conclusión que se trató a los menores en el Reino Unido peor que sus contrapartes alemanas es única como una conclusión sin referencia ni al absoluto ni al trato relativo de sus contrapartes adultas.
De lo contrario. A pesar del hecho de que probablemente solo hubo entre 20 y 30 soldados menores de edad ejecutados después de una corte marcial (la pérdida de registros de servicio como resultado de un bombardeo durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial hace que sea difícil dar un número exacto), si una _proporción_ similar de menores Los soldados de la edad fueron ejecutados por ejércitos alemanes / franceses, lo que simplemente demostraría que la ley militar contemporánea no tenía en cuenta la edad de los delincuentes en cualquiera de los ejércitos comprometidos en el frente occidental. Sin ese análisis, es difícil ver que esto realmente aborde la pregunta formulada.
Estoy rechazando la marca de "no es una respuesta" en esta publicación, sobre la base de que atacar la aparente inconsistencia que crea la pregunta es una forma legítima de responder una pregunta. Sin embargo, podría ser una decisión más fácil si la publicación se editara para dejar explícito que así es como esta respuesta resuelve la pregunta.

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