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Reinhard Nachtigal - Ruses and Perfidy – Submarine Warfare and the Sinking of Hospital Ships During World War I

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Rezension

„[...] Der eigentlich genauso profanen wie berechtigten Forderung des Autors, die Ereignisse des Seekrieges im Ersten Weltkrieg losgelöst von propagandistisch und politisch beeinflussten Narrativen der damaligen Siegermächte zu betrachten, ist [...] uneingeschränkt zuzustimmen. Viele Veröffentlichungen in der Vergangenheit wurden diesem Anspruch leider nicht gerecht. Weitere Forschung zur missbräuchlichen Verwendung von Hospitalschiffen auf alliierter Seite ist daher dringend erwünscht. Hierfür liefert das Werk brauchbare Ansätze und Hintergründe, auch wenn manche Leserinnen und Leser vielleicht nicht in allen Teilen seiner Argumentation folgen möchten.“

– Axel Niestlé in: Militärgeschichtliche Zeitschrift, MGZ 81/1 (2022)

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In March 1916, a submarine under Turkish colors torpedoed without warning a Russian hospital ship in the Black Sea. It sank within a few minutes with a loss of over 100 lives. Whereas public mood in Russia ran high, the submarine commander argued that the ship was neither marked with prescribed signs of a hospital ship, nor that it conducted itself as such a one. For Russia the incident offered the pretext to withdraw from humanitarian projects involving POWs that had been planned since 1915 between Russia and the Central Powers.

The hospital ship Portugal fell victim to naval warfare which became ever more atrocious. This development had been set off by the British Royal Navy since 1914. Looking at other cases of attacks on hospital ships during WW I, it became obvious that the early application of economic warfare and ruses by the Royal Navy had set the stage by an incident which took place in October 1914, relating to the German hospital ship Ophelia. At the centenary of WW I the case went unnoticed in historiography. The development towards total war involved issues which until now remain highly contentious in the discussion on WW I. First: Being the foremost naval power, Britain dictated very narrow rules for merchant seafaring as well as for hospital ships of the enemy. Second: No later than in 1915, Britain „waived the rules“ for seafaring that had been laid down in the decades preceding WW I.

Hospital ships of the Central Powers were attacked by Entente ships and airplanes in 1915, 1916 and 1918. In 1916, the German naval command discovered that British hospital ships were in fact not used as such. British hospital ships were „dual purpose ships“. Most usually they were converted passenger liners. In Britain, before the war, these huge steamers had been built as dual purpose ships in case of war. They were designed to transport troops, matériel and/or freight, but also to serve as hospital ships. Because of sick berths…

Schlagworte

Völkerrecht im Krieg, Londoner Seekriegsrechtsdeklaration, Winston Churchill, Seekrieg, U-Bootkrieg, Lazarettschiffe, Kriegsverbrechen, Kriegsverbrechensprozesse von Leipzig, Portugal, Ophelia, Submarine Warfare, Hospital Ships

  • Autor*in
    Reinhard Nachtigal
  • Seiten
    266
  • Jahr
    Hamburg 2021
  • ISBN
    978-3-339-12456-2
  • Fachdisziplin
    Rechtsmethodik, Rechtsphilosophie & Rechtsgeschichte
  • Schriftenreihe
    Rechtsgeschichtliche Studien
  • ISSN
    1617-9919
  • Band
    90
  • Fachbereich
    Jura

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