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During the Great War, the Bulletin International des Sociétés de la Croix Rouge covered the immense work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (National Societies). This article focuses on one particular angle of that work: the tensions and even contradictions between the ICRC's duty of neutrality and impartiality, on the one hand, and the national and sometimes nationalistic commitments of National Societies, which were naturally opposed to each other in wartime, on the other. While some of the Bulletin’s articles revealed real advances in thought on war and the protection of victims, others reflected the inertia caused by this fundamental contradiction.
Nowadays, there exists an international movement towards the extensive recognition as cultural heritage, or “heritagization”, of areas where wars, genocides and massacres have taken place. The phenomenon of “seeing” mass death, called “dark tourism” or the “tourism of desolation”, has become both an aim and a destination for visitors. The article examines this heritagization, with an emphasis on the memorials of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi of Rwanda.
The Great War was globalized and totalized1 by the inclusion of colonial and newly independent people from all over the world and of civilians, old people, women and children. The European war became a laboratory for all the suffering of the century, from the extermination of the Armenians to the refugee crisis, the internments, and the unending modernization of warfare.
A new technique for micropatterning Fe-based bulk metallic glass surfaces is reported. The transpassive dissolution process is utilized for a defined localized material removal when using a pulsed electrochemical micromachining process. By applying submicrosecond pulses between a work piece and a tool electrode, microholes of high aspect ratio and depth of up to 100 μm can be machined into the bulk glassy Fe65.5Cr4Mo4Ga4P12C5B5.5 alloy. Two potential electrolytes are identified for the machining process. For these electrolytes, different reaction mechanisms are discussed. The possibility of machining more complex structures is demonstrated for the most promising electrolyte, a methanolic H2SO4solution. The impact of the process parameters, pulse length and pulse voltage, on the machining gap and the surface quality of the machined structures is evaluated.
Advances in the law of Geneva and the law of The Hague did not remain a dead letter during the World War I, but this was essentially with regard to the wounded and prisoners of war. Those categories of persons were better protected than civilians by treaty-based humanitarian law, which was still in its infancy. Although the ideal of humanity was realized on a large scale thanks to the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and myriad other charitable, denominational, or non-denominational organizations, none of the belligerents hesitated to infringe and violate the law whenever they could. The various occupied populations, on the Western and Eastern fronts and in the Balkans, served as their guinea pigs and were their perfect victims.
The victory of the Marne and the “race to the sea” left France triumphant, but gravely weakened. In stark contrast to 1870, the armies of the Republic had thrown back the invader in the greatest feat of French arms since Napoleon. But all or in part, the departments of the Nord, the Pas-de-Calais, the Somme, the Aisne, the Ardennes, the Marne, the Meuse, and the Meurthe et Moselle, had fallen into enemy hands, and with them hundreds of thousands of French citizens. France had lost some of its most productive agricultural lands and its second most industrialized region. The occupied territories set the stage for the “totalization” of the war. For those living under German rule, deportations, forced labor, and martial law quickly blurred the line between soldiers and civilians. Northeastern France and Belgium became virtual German colonies, governed by repressive regimes directed toward economic extraction rather than production. In the rest of France, expelling the invaders and making the nation whole came to justify unprecedented and open-ended national mobilization. As the war totalized, the French confronted the shift from “the imaginary war,” dreamed of and feared before August 1914, to the real war, here and now. They had to face up to an extended confrontation and to the immense war effort that it engendered.
On November 6, 1915, Sarah Bernhardt performed a dramatic poem by Eugène Morand, Les Cathédrales, at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. Even the “Divine Sarah,” then seventy-one years old and still the greatest actress of the French stage after a career spanning more than fifty years, had seldom taken to the stage under more remarkable circumstances. It was her first performance in Paris after her return from the Bordeaux region, where she had fled as the Germans approached Paris in August 1914. Bernhardt herself was no stranger to war. She had opened a hospital for the wounded at the Odéon theatre in Paris during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–1. According to legend, she left Paris in 1914 only after her friend and future wartime premier Georges Clemenceau told her she was on a list of hostages to be taken by the Germans if they captured the city. Moreover, the aging star was herself recuperating from major surgery – the amputation of her leg, which had finally become gangrenous after years of mistreatment of an old injury.
In itself, Les Cathédrales is a work remote in form and content from today's aesthetic sensibilities. It recounted the dream of a young and courageous French soldier who has grabbed a few moments of sleep near the front, in the department of the Nord, invaded by the Germans.
As France celebrated its triumph and continued to mourn its sacrifice in the victory parade of 1919 and the burial of the Unknown Soldier in 1920, it appeared as though the nation and the Third Republic had not only survived its supreme test, but had emerged from it stronger than ever. Alsace and Lorraine had again become wholly French. Through much of the interwar period, France had the most feared army in Europe. At least in terms of shaded areas on a map, the French Empire attained its zenith between the wars, through territories acquired with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the distribution of the German colonies in Africa and the Pacific. The German enemy lay disarmed and paying reparations to the victors.
Yet the limits of the bitter peace made at Versailles became clear within a few years. With the United States pointedly abstaining from postwar security arrangements in Europe, with Britain again holding affairs on the continent at arm's length, with the Soviet Union banned from the family of nations, and with Eastern Europe weak, embittered, and troubled, victorious France faced the future created at Versailles remarkably alone. The peace came to rest on a bluff – that Germany would accept defeat, disarmament, and reparations indefinitely, without an effective enforcement mechanism on the part of the Allies. The Versailles treaty had sought to delegitimize the enemy, as the party solely responsible for the war.
The last year of the Great War proved the most paradoxical, and remains even today the year least understood by historians. Germany finalized its victory over Russia in March 1918, by concluding a harsh peace with the Bolshevik successors to the tsar's regime with the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. That same month, the Germans began a drive for total victory along the Western Front that again brought them within a two-day march of Paris. Yet at no time in the war would success prove so deceptive, or so perilous. By November, the Germans had to request an armistice, and it seemed as though the Allies had won. But to the end, the Great War remained a war of attrition. To the end, attrition weakened both sides. The Allies, and particularly France, had good reasons to stop the war when they did. No one could be sure just how long support for the war would hold up anywhere, and leaders through Europe feared that the communist revolution preached by the new regime in Russia might overwhelm them all. As hard as the French tried to make it look like one, the Armistice signed in November 1918 was not quite a German surrender. The German army returned home in good order, greeted by an explanation of what had happened that would come to haunt all of Europe – that the German army had not been defeated, but had been “stabbed in the back” on the home front, by socialists and by Jews.