German metal requisitions in occupied Lille, 1914-1918

Restrictions during the Great War
By Chad B. Denton

From 1914 to 1918, the German army requisitioned metal, both in Germany and in occupied Europe. These requisitions forced the occupied populations to contribute to their enemy’s war effort and were a direct violation of the Hague Convention. Faced with German demands for metal objects to be turned into shells and bullets, the inhabitants of occupied territories had to choose between obeying or defying the occupier. Based on testimonies published after the war and archival documents, this case study reconstructs an account of the experience of metal requisitions in Lille. After an initial phase of haphazard looting, the German administration requisitioned industrial sites, followed by demands for compulsory declarations and methodical searches that forced individuals to participate or abstain. The Hague Convention and the Catholic Church provided guidelines for behaviour, but they could not prevent the seizures, which were seen as proof both of Germany’s barbarity and its weakness.

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