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German Casualties of
the First World War

Dead 2,037,000
Wounded 4,300,000
Missing or Prisoner 974,977
TOTAL 7,311,977

533,000 widows and
1,192,000 orphans.

Source: Whalen, Robert (1984). Bitter Wounds: German Victims of the Great War: 1914-1939. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

During the First World War, Hitler had witnessed the death of hundreds of his comrades. After the war, he was aware that millions of young German men had been killed or wounded.

Nevertheless, Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf (1924): “When in the long war years Death snatched so many a dear comrade and friend from our ranks, it would have seemed to me almost a sin to complain—after all, were they not dying for Germany?”

Hitler refused to abandon the idea of warfare—to perform a critique—because the death and dismemberment of his comrades had occurred in the name of his beloved country.

Why are people blasé in the face of the massive destruction wrought by the First World War? Why do historians hesitate to conceive or recognize this event as a form of collective psychopathology?

For the same reason that Hitler says that it would be a “sin to complain.” If death, dismemberment and destruction occur in the name of “nations,” nothing more needs to be said.

“Nations” remain un-analyzed, un-deconstructed—entities pervading reality, pretending to be reality itself. Nations are gods that remain hidden and obscure—because they are right in front of us.

What is it about nations that makes it a “sin” to acknowledge their destructive power?