Outbreak of the war
End of the war

The law of war and war crimes at the time of World War One.

In the First World War all the warring parties violated the existing law of war. In particular, the Central Powers and the Russian Empire can look back on a particularly ignominious chapter in their history here. Civilians were deported, obliged to undertake forced labour under the threat of violence, mishandled, raped, taken hostage, condemned to death in spurious military trials or arbitrarily shot. In towns and villages, plundering and arson took place. Undefended places were shelled and entire swathes of land systematically laid waste. Surrendering soldiers were executed for tactical reasons. Prisoners of war were neglected in camps, maltreated and deployed for the toughest hard labour. Many thousands died of malnutrition and disease as a result of hard and dangerous work. All the parties in the conflict employed prohibited means of war, moreover: manipulated shells tore wounds in the body that were hard to treat; thousands of soldiers suffocated from and were burned by the chemical weapons used.