A Higher Form of Killing


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SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries. A higher form of killing : six weeks in World War I that forever changed the nature of warfare. Responsibility Diana Preston. Publication New York : Bloomsbury Press, Online Available online. Full view. The guilty party, in all three cases, was the autocratic government of Imperial Germany.

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Germany knew that it risked both worldwide condemnation and retaliation in kind by the Allies — who themselves promptly adopted bombing and gassing. But Berlin took the reckless gamble, hoping against hope that the terror of seeing their capital engulfed in flames, their soldiers coughing their lungs up and their shipping sunk by unseen foes would bring Britain to the negotiating table. The gamble failed. Gas proved an unreliable weapon: too often winds changed, blowing the toxic clouds back on the Germans, and the Allies soon developed reasonably reliable gas masks.

Although Zeppelin raids and, later, attacks by Gotha bomber aircraft killed hundreds in London and elsewhere, they did not set the city ablaze or induce mass panic, and improved air defences meant Zeppelins were soon shot down in flames.

Worst of all, US outrage over Americans drowned by German unrestricted submarine warfare overcame isolationism and brought Washington into the war. A cold genius, seemingly divorced from the moral implications of his work, Haber developed three gases — chlorine, phosgene and mustard — each more lethal than the last.

His wife, Clara, took a different view. A fellow scientist, having failed to dissuade her husband from pursuing his pet project, she shot herself.

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A Higher Form of Killing

Haber declined to attend her funeral. As the author of a previous book on the Lusitania, Preston is an authority on her subject — showing, for example, that the liner was not carrying explosives, guns or troops, as the guilty Germans alleged as an excuse for their attack. But she also shows how the Allies ruthlessly used the propaganda weapon Germany had placed in their hands. Her work is littered with unsung heroes and ironies: not least Karl Voegler, a sailor aboard the U who protested against the attack on the defenceless liner and was court-martialled for his pains.

In , he escaped Nazi persecution by fleeing Hitler, a victim of his mustard gas. And, most ironic of all, the country that offered his family refuge was the very one he had laboured so hard to destroy: Britain.

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Please note that ebooks are subject to tax and the final price may vary depending on your country of residence. In six weeks during April and May , as World War I escalated, Germany forever altered the way war would be fought. On April 22, at Ypres, German canisters spewed poison gas at French and Canadian soldiers in their trenches; on May 7, the German submarine U, without warning, torpedoed the passenger liner Lusitania , killing 1, civilians; and on May 31, a German Zeppelin began the first aerial bombardment of London and its inhabitants.

Each of these actions violated rules of war carefully agreed at the Hague Conventions of and Though Germany's attempts to quickly win the war failed, the psychological damage caused by these attacks far outweighed the casualties.

Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature of Warfare

The era of weapons of mass destruction had dawned. While each of these momentous events has been chronicled in histories of the war, celebrated historian Diana Preston links them for the first time, revealing the dramatic stories behind each through the eyes of those who were there, whether making the decisions or experiencing their effect. In our current time of terror, when weapons of mass destruction-imagined or real-are once again vilified, the story of their birth is of great relevance. In what is often difficult but necessary reading, Preston provides haunting descriptions of the effects of poison gas.

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