A German Deserter's War Experience: Fighting for the Kaiser in the First World War
In 1913 Julius Koettgen, a pacifist and a socialist, was drafted into the ranks of sapper battalion No. 30. He dutifully fought in the ranks of the Kaiser’s armies during 1914 and 1915 and saw action in France and Belgium where he describes the terrible events which were to become known as ‘the rape of Belgium’ and also details the extent of the fighting including being forced to form part of a firing squad, crossing the Meuse under heavy fire, using corpses as road building materials annihilating a cavalry charge hand to hand bayonet fighting, and the awful events of the disastrous German retreat from the Marne.
With the onset of trench warfare Koettgen also experienced the horrors of trench warfare and the famous Christmas truce of 1914. In 1915 he decided that enough was enough and escaped military life by deserting the colors and slipping through the lines to neutral Holland. His was memoirs were published by a gleeful allied press under the title ‘A German Deserter’s War Experience’.
This English translation edited and introduced Emmy AwardTM winning historian Bob Carruthers provides a rare primary source insight into the German side during the crucial opening battles of the war and is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the Great War from the German perspective.