8. Jahrgang 2008/Heft 2


Herausgegeben von Maria Fritsche und Christa Hämmerle

Wiener Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Neuzeit 2/08
200 Seiten
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  • Alexander Grab
    Conscription and Desertion in Napoleonic Europe
  • Christa Hämmerle
    Desertion vor Gericht: Zur Quellenproblematik von Militärgerichtsakten am Beispiel der k. (u.) k. Armee 1868 - 1914/18
  • Ela Hornung
    „Wehrkraftzersetzung" und Denunziation: Handlungsspielräume und Zwänge im Kontext der Wehrmacht
  • Thomas Geldmacher
    Von der Verweigerung des Gleichschritts. Deutsche und österreichische Wehrmachtsdeserteure nach 1945
  • Maria Fritsche
    Zwischen Irakkrieg und Amerikanischem Bürgerkrieg. Das Bild des Deserteurs im Spielfilm „Cold Mountain" (R: Anthony Minghella, USA 2003)



  • Oswald Überegger
    Politik, Nation und Desertion. Zur Relevanz politisch-nationaler und ideologischer Verweigerungsmotive für die Desertion österreichisch-ungarischer Soldaten im Ersten Weltkrieg
  • Kim Wünschmann
    Gedenken und Informieren. Zur Genese, Konzeption und Rezeption der Wanderausstellung
    „'Was damals Recht war ...' - Soldaten und Zivilisten vor Gerichten der Wehrmacht" (2007/2008)


Neu gelesen

  • Magnus Koch
    Manfred Messerschmidt/Fritz Wüllner, Die Wehrmachtsjustiz im Dienste des Nationalsozialismus. Zerstörung einer Legende. Baden-Baden 1987



  • Christian Koller
    Carmen Bernand/Alessandro Stella (Hg.), D'esclaves à soldats. Miliciens et soldats d'origine servile, XIIIe-XXIe siècles
  • Leighton James
    Mark A. Weitz, More Damning than Slaughter: Desertion in the Confederate Army
  • Thomas Winkelbauer
    Hermann J. W. Kuprian/Oswald Überegger (Hg.), Der Erste Weltkrieg im Alpenraum. Erfahrung, Deutung, Erinnerung / La Grande Guerra nell' arco alpino. Esperienze e memoria
  • Albrecht Kirschner
    Kristina Bruemmer-Pauly, Desertion im Recht des Nationalsozialismus
  • Ela Hornung
    Wolfram Wette (Hg.), Das letzte Tabu. NS-Militärjustiz und „Kriegsverrat"
  • Christoph Jahr
    Hannes Metzler, Ehrlos für immer? Die Rehabilitierung der Wehrmachtsdeserteure in Deutschland und Österreich



  • mit Richard Wadani (Wehrmachtsdeserteur, Gründer des österreichischen Personenkomitees "Gerechtigkeit für die Opfer der NS-Militärjustiz")
    geführt von Maria Fritsche und Christa Hämmerle


Alexander Grab: Conscription and Desertion in Napoleonic Europe
This essay explores the intense conflict between state and society over conscription
and its consequences in Napoleonic Europe. Annual conscription constituted one of the
most significant policies during the Napoleonic period. It was responsible for the yearly
draft of tens of thousands of young men in the Napoleonic Empire and their incorporation
into the Grande Armée, which enabled Napoleon to expand his empire. It was, however,
the most controversial policy as it demanded major sacrifices from those young men
and, hence, met with intense and widespread popular opposition. Every year thousands
of conscripts evaded the draft and deserted. In an effort to enforce conscription, the
state responded by centralizing the recruitment machinery, strengthening the police,
and stiffening penalties to violators of the conscription law. In sum, under Napoleon
conscription became a major battleground between citizens and civil society on the one
hand and the state on the other.

Christa Hämmerle: Desertion on Trial. Methodological Problems of Using Military
Court Records as Historical Source (the example of the Austro-Hungarian
Army 1868–1914/18)

Based on examples of records from the garrison court Krems in former Austria this
article deals with desertion in the Austro-Hungarian Joint Army from 1868 to the First
World War. By doing so, it opens up a previously unexplored field of research, as the
few existing studies on desertion in the Habsburg army have solely focused on periods
of war so far. One aim of the paper is to demonstrate that these peacetime military court
records – even though unsorted and often incomplete – contain important information
on the strategic nature of such documents. The article will critically discuss how these
sources can be approached methodologically.
Military court records provide fascinating stories for historians. They give insights
into the complex relation between military and society on the one hand, and the army’s
handling of desertion on the other hand. Whether a soldier was sentenced for the crime
of desertion or the less punishable act of being absent without leave could have quite
different consequences for the soldiers concerned and very much depended on the
soldier’s awareness and usage of strategic arguments as well as on his individual past.
Nationality, military rank and previous behaviour within the army, e. g. the acceptance of
military discipline and the duty of universal conscription, all played a role in the court’s
judgements. The article underlines the necessity to link the interpretation of military
court records with the knowledge on substantive and adjective military law, in order to
assess the frame for negotiation and differing logics, strategies, intentions, restraints
and tactics before court.

Ela Hornung: Subversion and Denunciation. Constraints and Room to Manoeuvre
in the German Wehrmacht

Under the Nazi regime, a considerable number of soldiers had been prosecuted for
subversion or undermining military efficiency (‘Wehrkraftzersetzung’). As these crimes
were usually not committed in public, authorities depended on information given by
casual witnesses or confidants to prosecute these offences. Based on the investigation
of archived case files of a German court-martial and a number of oral history interviews,
the author explores the complexity of motives for both subversion and denunciation – two actions that were directly opposed to each other. In both cases, political motives were only of secondary importance. Based on a critical analysis of the terms ‘subversion’ and ‘denunciation’, the article discusses cases of subversion brought to the attention of German courts-martial through denunciation. Reconstructing the cases of two veterans who had displayed different kinds of subversive behaviour, the article illustrates the scope the soldiers had in the tightly regulated military system of the Wehrmacht. While one gained room to manoeuvre by means of artificially induced illnesses, overstaying leave and minor subversive actions, the other used his skills gained in the political resistance and his status as officer to gain leeway and help fellow soldiers. Both deserted towards the end of the war.

Thomas Geldmacher: Von der Verweigerung des Gleichschritts. Deutsche und
österreichische Wehrmachtsdeserteure nach 1945

The article discusses the struggle for rehabilitation of victims of Nazi military justice in
Germany and Austria, specifically of deserters, who have been defamed as “traitors”,
“cowards”, or even “comrade killers” in Austria and Germany.
For many decades, deserters of the Wehrmacht have been neglected by German and
Austrian social welfare policy. While veterans of the Wehrmacht are eligible for various
kinds of social benefits, particularly in Austria, deserters have largely been excluded,
even though many of them had actively fought against the Nazis. In Germany, things
began to change in the early 1980s when local pacifist initiatives made the discrimination
of deserters a topic of public debate. But it took almost 20 years of tedious and tiring
lobbying until the German Social Democrat/Green coalition finally passed a rehabilitation
act in 2002 that annulled convictions of deserters and other disobedient soldiers
by Wehrmacht military courts.
As has often been the case in dealing with its Nazi past, Austria lagged a few years
behind in rehabilitating victims of military justice. Unlike Germany, Austria addressed the
issue via a top-down policy, commissioning a research project in 1999 whose findings
played a crucial factor in the passing of the “Anerkennungsgesetz” (law of recognition)
in 2005. It was this law that granted the few surviving deserters and other victims of
military justice, among other more minor improvements, access to the Nazi victims’
welfare system.

Maria Fritsche: Zwischen Irakkrieg und Amerikanischem Bürgerkrieg. Das Bild
des Deserteurs im Spielfilm „Cold Mountain“ (R: Anthony Minghella, USA

The article looks at the representation of the figure of the deserter in the American Civil
War drama Cold Mountain (US 2003) by contextualising the film’s production and reception within the debates surrounding the Iraq war. The essay not only demonstrates the usefulness of film as source for historiographical research, but also illustrates the need to situate any film analysis within its broader socio-historical context.
For many decades, deserters have been defamed as ‘traitors’ and ‘cowards’. The disregard for deserters goes back to the introduction of standing armies and general conscription in the early 19th century but reached its height under the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Based on a detailed analysis of the Hollywood historical film Cold Mountain the article argues that the positive portrayal of the deserter in this film is closely linked to the growing criticism of the Iraq war in the USA. Since the beginning of the Iraq war the number of desertions from the US and British army has been growing steadily and public opinion has steadily shifted in favour of the deserters. The fact that Cold Mountain challenges the powerful negative stereotype of the deserter as ‘traitor’ and replaces it with a positive ‘new’ masculinity can be interpreted as indication of a more general revaluation of the deserter in a time of national crisis.

Oswald Überegger: Politics, Nation, and Desertion. The Relevance of Political,
National and Ideological Motivations of Deserters from the Austro-Hungarian
Army during World War I

This article explores the phenomena of desertions from the Austrian-Hungarian Army
during World War I, discussing specifically the motivations of deserters of non-German
In public memory, desertions of non-German soldiers from the Habsburg army have
often been remembered as acts of political or national resistance. This retrospective
‘politicization’ of the causes for military refusal however does not fully embrace the
complex of motivations that drove so many soldiers to abscond. Based on an analysis
of desertions of soldiers with Italian origin, the author demonstrates that political motivations played a fairly negligible role in the decision to desert. In the majority of cases it was the traumatic experience of war, the miserable daily life as a soldier or other, more personal reasons rather than ideological motives or political convictions that prompted these soldiers to run away.

Kim Wünschmann: To Commemorate and Inform. Origin, Conceptualisation and
Reception of the Travelling Exhibition ‘What was Deemed Fully Legal at the
Time …’ – Soldiers and Civilians Tried before Nazi Military Courts (2007/2008)

The article explicates the origin, conceptualisation and reception of the travelling exhibition
‘What was Deemed Fully Legal at the Time …’ – Soldiers and Civilians tried before
Nazi Military Courts which opened in Berlin in June 2007. The exhibition is the first one
to focus on the plight of victims of Nazi military justice whose brutal persecution during
the Third Reich was followed by decades of discrimination in post-war Germany and
Austria. It took almost 60 years until the victims were granted pardon in 2002, after a
year long struggle for legal rehabilitation. The article analyses the intentions and aims of
the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin) to produce a show
about the deeds of the military judges and their countless victims. A virtual tour through
the exhibition demonstrates its underlying conception as well as the didactic goals and
explains how both are manifested in narrative structure and architectural design. By providing
both information and a room for commemoration, the show positions itself between
historiography, political education, restitution practise and memorial culture.