The civilian victims of the 1914-1918 war

The civilian victims of the 1914-1918 war

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Title: My mom.

Author : FAIVRE Léon-Maxime (1856 - 1941)

Creation date : 1916

Date shown: 1916

Dimensions: Height 5 - Width 6.54

Technique and other indications: lithography

Storage place: Historial of the Great War of Péronne website

Contact copyright: © Historical Collection of the Great War - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

Picture reference: 165

© Historical Collection of the Great War - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The rape of French women by German soldiers seems to have been a very widespread act from the first weeks of the 1914-1918 war. Partially or totally invaded by the enemy, several departments were evacuated after the Battle of the Marne: rapes were apparently numerous there, although no statistics are available on this point.

The reports of the Commission of Inquiry set up in September 1914 with a view to ascertaining "acts committed by the enemy in violation of the law of nations" gave a large place to this question by including the statements of the victims and their victims. witnesses. In fact, the violence inflicted on women constituted one of the anchor points of French discourse on German atrocities and succeeded in convincing French opinion of the barbarism of the adversary.

Image Analysis

In this drawing reproduced in the form of postcards and large format posters, two tools for the wide dissemination of anti-German propaganda, Abel Faivre uses a very elliptical graphic process: he shows, in the foreground, in the room, a crying little girl standing in front of a closed door. A little behind, an overturned chair on which are, casually thrown, the uniform, helmet and saber of a German officer. On a wall in the background, the portrait of the father of the family, absent, and therefore powerless to intervene and prevent the tragedy. The portrait underlines the dimension of desecration of the family environment.

The caption is in two words: “My mom. "The act is therefore not represented directly. It is simply suggested, which gives all its strength to the design. The child here has only an auditory representation of the sexual abuse suffered by his mother.

Rape here is an individual act. It is not the work of a group of soldiers. Most often, rape scenes take place in the private sphere. In their testimonies, raped women have often mentioned the cries and tears of their children, which form the backdrop for accounts of enemy violence.


The experience of the first months of war is first of all that of the unprecedented violence of the fighting, which in August 1914 took an extreme form hitherto unknown. The rape of women fits into the larger context of atrocities committed by the Germans on the battlefield. But it also enshrines the reality of the country's conquest and invasion. In this sense, it symbolizes the humiliation inflicted on the nation.

Note here the ambiguity of the representation: the "rapist" could also have obtained the consent of his "victim", which tends to suggest the absence of disorder in the room and the locking of the couple behind closed doors in the room. bedroom. It could then be one of those abuses committed in favor of the constant promiscuity, in the houses, between occupied and occupants. This ambiguity perfectly reflects the anguish that men feel about violence against women in 14-18: that of a possible betrayal of the victims.

  • childhood
  • women
  • germanophobia
  • War of 14-18
  • representation of the enemy
  • rape
  • aggression


Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

Stéphane AUDOUIN-ROUZEAU, The Child of the Enemy 1914-1918, Paris, Aubier, 1995.

To cite this article

Sophie DELAPORTE, "Civilian victims of the 1914-1918 war"

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