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Jean-Marc Berlière, Jonas Campion, Luigi Lacchè, Xavier Rousseaux (Eds.), Justices militaires et guerres mondiales (Europe 1914-1950) – Military Justices and World Wars (Europe 1914-1950)

Presses universitaires de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, coll. « Histoire – Justice – Société », 2013, 423 p., ISBN: 978-2875582355
Dimitri Roden
p. 151-153
Référence(s) :

Jean-Marc Berlière, Jonas Campion, Luigi Lacchè, Xavier Rousseaux (Eds.), Justices militaires et guerres mondiales (Europe 1914-1950) – Military Justices and World Wars (Europe 1914-1950) Presses universitaires de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, coll. « Histoire – Justice – Société », 2013, 423 p., ISBN: 978-2875582355

Texte intégral

1The history of military justice in Western Europe has long been neglected by both historians and lawyers. It is only with the end of the Cold War, the abolishment of the death penalty and the suppression of the military tribunals that European researchers have discovered the scientific potential and societal importance of studies on the matter. In post-war Belgium for instance, the history of military justice was almost exclusively written by former magistrates or civilians condemned for acts of collaboration with the enemy. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, historians and lawyers began to discover the subject. This renewed interest resulted in two interuniversity projects and several groundbreaking publications on the history of military justice in wartime Belgium. The book Justice militaires et guerres mondiales (Europe 1914-1950), published in 2013, is one of the first to tackle the topic from an international angle.

2The study comprises twenty contributions on military justice in wartime Europe (1914-1950), written by acclaimed international specialists in the field. It is the result of seminars held between 2004 and 2008 at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris. The volume focusses on the early 20th century in Western Europe and takes an interesting transnational and comparative approach. The authors tackle a wide variety of topics, ranging from local case studies (such as the Paris prison during the German Blitzkrieg of 1940) to overview studies (including the history of US military justice in the European Theatre of Operations during World War II).

3In general, the articles can be divided into three major categories. The first contains contributions on the way the military justices have dealt with crimes committed by their own military. Authors like Gerry Rubin, Emmanuel Saint-Fuscien and Christoph Jahr focus on the punishment and subsequent execution of allied and German soldiers during the Great War, a topic which still generates public debate. While most of the contributions tackle the period 1914-1918, J. Lilly Roberts compares the punishment of American soldiers during World War II for crimes committed against innocent civilians or their own.

4A second group of contributions looks at the military justice from the point of view of the occupier. Gaël Eismann deals with the sentencing of resistance fighters in occupied France (1940-1944), whereas Laurent Thiéry focusses on the specific character of the German repression in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, a zone which has been detached from the rest of France and placed under the control of the German military administration in Brussels. Of particular interest is Nicolas Mignon’s article on Belgian military justice and the short-lived occupation of the German Ruhr (1923-1925). This foregrounds a new and less obvious interpretation of the notion “occupier” by studying the way the Belgian military courts have judged over civilians of their former foe.

5Finally, the book offers an interesting insight into the ways in which military justices contributed to the restoration of order and peace in post-war Europe. Judging civilians suspected of acts of collaboration became the main occupation of military justices in the immediate aftermath of the war, as demonstrated in Guillaume Baclin’s article on the military courts in the Belgian province of Hainaut after WWI. The aftermath of WWII also gave birth to the concept of war crimes as we know it today. Pieter Lagrou for instance looks at the prosecution of German war criminals by the Belgian military tribunals, whereas Filippo Focardi concludes that there was not something like a Nuremberg trial for war crimes committed by members of the Italian armed forces.

6The broad array on topics presented in the book has only one — although rather small — downside. The subtitle “Europe 1914-1950” is a bit misleading, as it suggests that the study also covers the military justices in Northern or Central Europa. In reality, the book only looks at Western Europe minus the Netherlands and plus Italy. Moreover, the vast array of topics dealing with different countries and periods offers an interesting overview, but also begs an in depth comparison over borders and time which surely merits a study on its own.

7To conclude, the book Military Justices and World Wars offers a fresh and interesting view on a subject which has been too long considered as “for specialists only”. Nothing is less true: the selection of articles, written in a scientific but accessible language by real experts on the matter, will undoubtedly appeal to a wider audience. Since its publication in 2013, the book has not only become an essential tool for everyone with an interest in the matter, but has also inspired a new generation of researchers to discover the fascinating world of military justice in wartime Europe.

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Dimitri Roden, « Jean-Marc Berlière, Jonas Campion, Luigi Lacchè, Xavier Rousseaux (Eds.), Justices militaires et guerres mondiales (Europe 1914-1950) – Military Justices and World Wars (Europe 1914-1950) »Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, vol. 25, n°2 | -1, 151-153.

Référence électronique

Dimitri Roden, « Jean-Marc Berlière, Jonas Campion, Luigi Lacchè, Xavier Rousseaux (Eds.), Justices militaires et guerres mondiales (Europe 1914-1950) – Military Justices and World Wars (Europe 1914-1950) »Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies [En ligne], vol. 25, n°2 | 2021, mis en ligne le 21 mars 2022, consulté le 16 mai 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/chs/3158 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/chs.3158

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Auteur

Dimitri Roden

Chair of Law – Royal Military Academy of Brussels
dimitri_roden[at]hotmail.com

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Droits d’auteur

© Droz

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