Berghahn suggests a much higher figure — 2. Public Broadcasting Service, lists 1,, German war dead, 4,, wounded, 1,, prisoners , for a total of 7,, casualties, an amazing German army units lost, on average, about 3 percent of their strength each month, or over a third of their strength each year.
Typically, each month, about 2. Boris Urlanis calculates the yearly number of German war dead, by year, as follows:. Table 2: Cumulative Total German war dead . This total does not include some 34, sailors or some 1, German soldiers killed fighting in the colonies. When these 36, additional deaths are added to 1,,, one reaches a total of 1,, Where did these various estimates originate? These figures, moreover, only count the military dead. After the war, the German government argued that approximately , German civilians died during the war because of the Allied blockade ; another , died of the war-related Spanish Influenza.
During World War I, German army doctors treated more than 19 million cases. The cases consisted of the following:. About , German soldiers died each year of the war. German losses were worst in , the first year of the war, and September was the bloodiest month of the whole war, when German units suffered losses of about Jewish Germans died at the same rate as non-Jewish Germans this would become a heated issue in the s — about 12, Jewish Germans died in the war. Death by bayonet was very rare; poison gas , that terrifying new weapon , killed about 3, German soldiers.
Artillery was by far the greatest killer in the war; about Verdun was the second bloodiest battle, when the German army lost, killed and wounded some , troops. The dead, in total numbers, were overwhelmingly enlisted men; after the war General Constantin von Altrock — estimated that some 97 percent of those killed in action were common soldiers. If one considers percentages, though, a different picture emerges.
The worst death rate was among regular officers, the pre-war professional officer corps; about 25 percent of them were killed during the war. The Great War produced a distinctive phenomenology of death. Death is not always simply death. Soldiers were killed by machine gun fire and especially by artillery; death was anonymous, random, unpredictable, and brutal. Machine guns and artillery do absolutely ghastly things to human bodies.
What did German wartime losses mean? They meant, to begin with, a demographic catastrophe for German society. In Germany, as throughout Europe, when men left the factories to go off to war, women replaced them. The shift in workforce was striking.
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Still, the sudden presence of large numbers of women in the workplace was remarkable. For German women in the doomed cohorts born between and , war losses meant transformed lives. For many young German women in the s, marriage and family were not possibilities; there were no young men available. This, to be sure, produced a kind of autonomy for the women affected, but, for those who had hoped for marriage and family, wartime deaths meant a lifetime alone. Written by a film historian, this chapter repeatedly recalls that a French government minister, Jean Zay, had planned a film festival at Cannes.
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Readers are not told that Zay was among the Jews murdered by a militia composed of French Nazi collaborators. Instead, we are given some comparatively frivolous mini-essays about Coco Chanel and the opening of the Negresco Palace Hotel in Nice in , lauding France as fashion center and tourist mecca. Fair enough, but why no chapters about wine and food, two equally fabled French commodities? The Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, with over 16, death sentences carried out by the government, is relativized. To such criticisms, Boucheron has insisted that his book is just an alternative reading of history, created for pleasure, and not intended to be exhaustive.
The supposedly diverse, internationalist book was written mostly by male authors, mainly affiliated with Paris institutions. In any case, this is not exactly a woke volume; essential dates in French feminist history are forgotten, like , when Minister of Health Simone Veil championed legalized abortion in France.
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If historians are to be encouraged to write creatively, all the more important for their subjects to be chosen carefully. French literature, music and art are also mostly missing. Other leading historians were more critical. Readers will enjoy this sometimes quasi-flippant Parisian intellectual pirouette through history, picking and choosing principal subject matter with panache. Fighting under George Washington in the Continental Army represented a second chance. But Congress and Washington hesitated; surely the rank was meant to be honorary. They had grown wary of the French officers who had been sailing across the Atlantic to join the American army.
Although many were fine soldiers, some were mercenaries or troublemakers who had been driven from the French army. Others expressed open disdain for the American military.
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America would soon learn that Lafayette was an exception. What he lacked in experience he made up in funds and influence. It helped that Lafayette was immensely likeable: His straightforward demeanor and self-deprecating sense of humor sometimes rendered him out-of-place in the perfumed halls of Versailles, but they endeared him to Americans.
If he was willing to forego a salary, he would be welcomed in the army. Lafayette was introduced to the American people as the French aristocrat who had shed blood on behalf of their freedom. In March of Lafayette put his enthusiasm for the American cause and his personable disposition to use in recruiting a group of Oneida men to fight under his command.
And on June 28 his quick thinking was instrumental in salvaging a narrow victory at the Battle of Monmouth after General Charles Lee gave a disastrous order to retreat. Even more significant were the contributions Lafayette made away from the field of action. Taking every opportunity to write letters to France praising the Americans, and assuring Americans at every turn that France was on their side, Lafayette became the unofficial spokesperson for the French-American alliance.
Equestrian statue of Lafayette. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. When France pledged open support for the Americans by signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Lafayette rightly took some of the credit.