(Quotes from those who witnessed the horrors at the Battle of Verdun)
“Until then, I had seen the dead without really seeing them, like figures in a waxworks. But now the words closed upon my brain like a vice… A dead man. They choked my throat and chilled my heart… All these corpses had been men who breathed as I breathed, had a father, a mother, a woman whom they loved, a piece of land which was theirs, faces which expressed joy and suffering, which had known the light of day and the colour of the sky. It was a moment of realization. After that, I could never pass a dead man without stopping to gaze on his face, stripped by death of that earthly patina which masks the living soul… And I would ask, who were you? Where was your home? Who was mourning for you?” -Ernst Toller
“Anyone who has not seen these fields of carnage will never be able to imagine it. When one arrives here the shells are raining down everywhere with each step one takes but in spite of this it is necessary for everyone to go forward. One has to go out of one’s way not to pass over a corpse lying at the bottom of the communication trench. Farther on, there are many wounded to tend, others who are carried back on stretchers to the rear. Some are screaming, others are pleading. One sees some who don’t have legs, others without any heads, who have been left for several weeks on the ground…” -French soldier of the 65th Infantry Regiment
“…On the 17th, at ten o’clock in the morning, the Boches started to bombard us with large caliber shells for ten hours. It was enough to drive you mad. We were buried alive my entire squad; but miraculously, all seven of us emerged without a scratch but of the five unluckily ones who came and took refuge with us in our dug-out, two were killed and three were wounded.” -French soldier of 311th Infantry Regiment
“… An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…”
-German soldier, from a letter to his parents.
“…We all carried the smell of dead bodies with us. The bread we ate, the stagnant water we drank… Everything we touched smelled of decomposition due to the fact that the earth surrounding us was packed with dead bodies….”
“The men who have lived in these trenches just as long as our infantry men, without going insane under these infernal attacks, must have lost their sense for a large number of things. Our poor men have seen too many atrocities, have witnessed too many incredible matters. I cannot believe that we will be able to cope with this. Our poor little mind simply cannot comprehend all of this….”-German trooper describing trench conditions “…my battalion comes straight from the land behind the front-lines, the men are exhausted and did not sleep. The battalion consists of 800 men – the battalion that we are here to replace lost 800 men…” -French trooper before entering the front-lines of Verdun