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War Interpretations

(2,359 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
War Interpretations During the first days of the World War people already began to suspect that this was not an ordinary conflict that might be seen as a continuation of 19th-century European wars. This perception of the war called for an interpretation, which the writers, intellectuals, philosophers, and scholars of all warring nations were only too willing to provide. The prominent public persons (though seldom women) of all major powers and of their former colonies …

Langemarck Legend

(647 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
Langemarck Legend One of the peculiarities of the First World War was the mythologizing of towns and locations where strategically decisive or particularly costly battles had been fought. The resulting legends combined facts, interpretations, and fantasies to form collective memories that transcended military events and the topographical limits of the battlefields concerned. Of the three legendary battles that occupied a prominent place in Germany’s consciousness for decades – Langemarck, Tannenbe…

War Literature

(9,170 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
War Literature The First World War is one of those historic events that with the passage of time does not pass into memory and fade but rather changes and acquires new meanings. The war acquired its meanings not only on the battlefields, but also, and especially, in literature, art, films, philosophical reflections, and public rites. Collective memory transformed the war not only into a fundamental crisis of civilization, but also into the founding myth of an epoch. In this conflict, literature, art, and the new media were fundamentally seized upon and changed in a compl…


(638 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
Photography While photographic cameras had already been used in the Crimean War, and not long afterwards in the American Civil War, and albums of war photographs had been made commercially available, war was first comprehensively portrayed in photographs from 1914 onwards. Military photography also came into its own with the general use of photographic reconnaissance. Indeed, photography fundamentally altered the image of war. In all the belligerent states large and sometimes widely dispersed hoa…

Heroic Sacrifice, Myth of

(791 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
Heroic Sacrifice, Myth of The word Opfer (‘victim’) has two different connotations in the German language. One can make an Opfer, a ‘sacrificial offering,’ by sacrificing a victim to the gods, and in extreme cases a human being can offer himself in sacrifice. In its other connotation, a person can become the passive victim or ‘target’ of fate, whether from decisions made by others or from unknown circumstances. In both connotations the word has been extensively used in the literature and public debates on the World War. This suggests that the word…

Nietzsche, Friedrich

(488 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
Nietzsche, Friedrich (October 15, 1844, Röcken – August 25, 1900, Weimar), German classicist and philosopher. It is rumored that German soldiers were sent into the field with Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra in their knapsacks. Nietzsche served as the representative for the new German philosophy, the founder of a philosophy of life in which the young war enthusiast was seeking to corroborate his image of war according to ideas and formulae. Most vindications of the war were related, albeit not always explicitly, to Nietzs…


(1,067 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
Iconography The contents of the pictorial representation of wars only underwent minimal changes over the centuries. Individual wars could only be distinguished by way of figurative details: uniforms, weapons, and the characteristic features of well-known military leaders or landscapes made it possible to date the depicted event. The representation of the war itself, however, remained identical over a long period of time. Stated simply, two pictorial traditions can be distinguished: the painting o…

War Poetry

(1,081 words)

Author(s): Hüppauf, Bernd
War Poetry Prophecies of a coming war had been a theme in German poetry since the beginning of the century. Expressionist poets conjured up the war in apocalyptic images that alternated between the fear of its violence and a yearning for its purifying and regenerative power. Feelings of restlessness and dissatisfaction over a long and “foul” peace gave rise to fantasies of war in the sense of a longed-for renewal, often expressed through theological formulations such as J…