International Joint Statement
To honor the thousands of soldiers executed by a firing squad “to set an example” during World War I.
During the Great War of 1914-1918, that made millions of deaths on the battlefields and in the trenches, thousands of soldiers were executed by their own army. This barbaric crime was only perpetrated because they were terrorized by the murderous violence of fighting and weapons. Masses, blessings, prayers and confessions … did not change anything to this barbary. On the contrary.
Historians estimate that:
- 639 executed by a firing squad in France
- 256 for United Kingdom
- 23 for Canada
- 26 for Ireland
- 5 for New Zealand
- 12 for Belgium
- 50 for Germany
- 800 for Italy
Without taking into account the summary executions and none identified executed. A single shot by a firing squad is already a war crime, thousands are crimes against humanity.
These executions for example will lead, much later, to recognize the trauma of trenches, known as Shell Shock. It was the posthumous revenge of the thousands of soldiers executed for cowardice.
However, most of these poor men have never been rehabilitated, nor their honor restored, nor their families given back the sense of dignity. In 2005 United Kingdom amended the armed forces bill to “erase the mistakes” of the 306 Shot at Dawn and give them a form of “forgiveness”. A monument was erected in Staffordshire in their memory.
But in other countries, no such thing was done. In France, the National Federation of Freethinkers, La Libre Pensée, alongside and with other associations (former veterans, pacifists, human rights activists) have started vigorous action for their collective rehabilitation.
The freethinker, humanist and secular movement is, in essence, deeply pacifist and internationalist, because it doesn’t think that war is the solution to the problems of Humanity. There are many other ways to peacefully resolve conflicts.
Therefore, the undersigned associations urge all the concerned countries, when nothing have been done yet, to return their honor to these thousands of soldiers executed by firing squad to set an example during World War I, in the way those countries will decide as the most appropriate.
- For France:
- National Federation of Freethought (FNLP)
- Republican association of the War veterans (ARAC)
- Pacifist union of France (UPF)
- For Belgium:
- Circle of Free Thought – Kring van het Vrije Denken (CLP–KVD)
- Association of Freethinkers of Huy and Region
- For Switzerland:
- Freethought of Geneva
- For Canada:
- Humanist Association of Quebec
- Atheist Freethinkers
- Ontario Humanist Society
- For New Zealand:
- New Zealand Association of Rationalists & Humanists
- For Germany:
- International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (IBKA)
- For Ireland:
- Shot at Dawn Campaign
- For Italy:
- National Association of Freethought “Giordano Bruno”
- For Autria:
- Freethinker’s union of Austria (FDBÖ)
- For United Kingdom:
- Humanist Peace Forum