The War Book of the German General Staff: Being "the Usages of War on Land" Issued by the Great General Staff of the German Army

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- Imperial Germany's handbook of warfare in World War I
- Allowed and prohibited conduct during war
- Includes treatment of enemy prisoners of war, non-combatants, hostages, "war rebels," spies, terrorists; private property, booty, plundering, war levies; administration of enemy territory and treatment of inhabitants

Fascinating book on the "Usages of War on Land" issued by the Great General Staff of the Imperial German Army for the conduct of its armies in World War I, translated by the British in 1915 as part of their propaganda program. Contains pointed critical marginal comments by J. H. Morgan, Professor of Constitutional Law at University College, London.


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Page 72 - By steeping himself in military history an officer will be able to guard himself against excessive humanitarian notions, it will teach him that certain severities are indispensable to war, nay more, that the only true humanity very often lies in a ruthless application of them
Page 186 - Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.
Page 114 - ... international law is in no way opposed to the exploitation of the crimes of third parties (assassination, incendiarism, robbery and the like) to the prejudice of the enemy.
Page 72 - ... Since the tendency of thought of the last century was dominated essentially by humanitarian considerations, which not infrequently degenerated into sentimentality and flabby emotion, there have not been wanting attempts to influence the development of the usages of war in a way which was in fundamental contradiction with the nature of war and its object. Attempts of this kind will also not be wanting in the future, the more so as these agitations have found a kind of moral recognition in some...
Page 114 - The ugly and inherently immoral aspect of such methods cannot affect the recognition of their lawfulness. The necessary aim of war gives the belligerent the right and imposes upon him, according to circumstances, the duty not to let slip the important, it may be the decisive, advantages to be gained by such means.27 25 [This represents the German War Book in its most disagreeable light, and is casuistry of the worst kind.
Page 3 - The inhabitants of a territory which has not been occupied, who, on the approach of the enemy, spontaneously take up arms to resist the Invading troops without having had time to organize themselves in accordance with Article I, shall be regarded as belligerents if they carry arms openly and if they respect the laws and customs of war.
Page 85 - Eoemy. hostile combatants is inherent in the war power and its organs, that all means which modern inventions afford, including the fullest, most dangerous, and most massive means of destruction, may be utilized ; these last, just because they attain the object of war...
Page 62 - ... that Morality and History (which for him are much the same thing) proclaim they are German without knowing it. We Germans, who know Germany and France, know better what is good for Alsace than the unhappy people themselves, who through their French associations have lived in ignorance of the new Germany. We will give them back their own identity against their will.
Page 68 - Its leading axiom is there stated by boldly claiming that a war conducted with energy cannot be directed merely against the combatants of the enemy State and the positions they occupy, but it will and must in like manner seek to destroy the total intellectual and material resources of the latter. Humanitarian claims, such as the protection of men and their goods, can only be taken into consideration in so far as the nature and object of the war permit.
Page 84 - What is permissible includes every means of war without which the object of the war cannot be obtained ; what is reprehensible on the other hand includes every act of violence and destruction which is not demanded by the object of war. It follows from these universally valid principles that wide limits are set to the subjective freedom and arbitrary judgment of the Commanding Officer ; the precepts of civilization, freedom and honour, the traditions prevalent in the army, and the general usages of...

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