‘“For Kaiser and Reich”: the Identity and Fate of the German Volunteers, 1914-1918’

Watson, Alexander. 2005. ‘“For Kaiser and Reich”: the Identity and Fate of the German Volunteers, 1914-1918’. War in History, 12(1), pp. 44-74. ISSN 0968-3445 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Historiography on the volunteers has maintained that most were young, aggressive, ‘war enthused’ men from the Wilhelmine educated elite, who quickly became disillusioned or broke down when faced with war’s ghastly realities. By analysing a sample of 2584 volunteers from 36 units, examining unpublished letters and diaries, and studying the volunteers’ battle performance, this article questions these beliefs. It argues that in fact volunteers came from a wide urban background, that most were motivated to enlist by defensive patriotism, not aggressive ‘war enthusiasm’, and that military ill-preparedness, not unrealistic combat expectations, accounts for the volunteers’ high psychiatric casualty rates.

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January 2005Published

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27 Jun 2013 07:34

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27 Jun 2017 10:38

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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