By J. Crouthamel
This eye-opening learn offers a nuanced, provocative account of the way German infantrymen within the nice conflict skilled and enacted masculinity. Drawing on an array of proper narratives and media, it explores the ways in which either heterosexual and gay infantrymen expressed emotion, understood romantic beliefs, and approached intimacy and sexuality.
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Additional info for An Intimate History of the Front: Masculinity, Sexuality, and German Soldiers in the First World War
53 Such images clearly inspired real soldiers in the squalor of the trenches. A soldier from the 83rd Infantry Division sent one of these postcards to his wife from the front in late July 1916, only a few horrifying weeks after the outbreak of the Battle of the Somme, which inflicted half a million German casualties. 54 This image of a ghostlike woman in the idealized Heimat permeated front newspapers. The cover of a supplement to the Liller Kriegszeitung offered a drawing of a soldier steadfastly standing guard, while behind him is an equally determined mother nursing her son, both of whom are framed by a halo.
Her sense of honor and national loyalty was thus defined entirely through him. Civilians held up the image of the chaste, loyal, idealized woman at home as fodder for male fantasies. In addition to bolstering the front soldier’s will to “hold through” with their self-control and willing to sacrifice personal needs, military and civil authorities tried to reassure men that dreaming of women at home provided sufficient sexual satisfaction. In one Liller Kriegszeitung poem, a pharmacist named Dr. Ehrlich wrote from the point of view of a lonely ordinary soldier who dreams of his girlfriend while bullets fly overhead: “Girl, I often think of you out there day and night / [.
They were known for their lewd songs and licentious humor, especially when they were in groups, where men expected each other to engage in ribald behavior. ”25 Besides straining relations with civilians, who often criticized soldiers for being too aggressive and out of 20 O An Intimate History of the Front control, soldiers’ sexual behavior also became a medical problem. By the 1880s, 35 out of 1,000 soldiers in the German army were being treated by army doctors for venereal diseases. Garrison commanders tried to control their soldiers’ sexual adventures by prohibiting them from frequenting inns where they could find prostitutes.
An Intimate History of the Front: Masculinity, Sexuality, and German Soldiers in the First World War by J. Crouthamel