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"Sabotage. Deadlier than a dive bomber. Watch out! ”( Sabotage. More deadly than a dive bomber . Be careful! ) Poster of the Office for Emergency Management, War Production Board, early 1940s

As sabotage to the deliberate disturbance of a designated economic or military process to achieve a certain (often political) goal. In everyday parlance, sabotage often means the violent damage and destruction of devices, machines, infrastructure, etc. Sabotage can also affect manufacturing processes, documentation and other defined procedures. People who engage in sabotage are known as saboteurs .


The exact origin of the term is not clear and various explanations can be found in the literature. What is certain is that the term in its current meaning was discussed in the French labor movement towards the end of the 19th century as a means of class or industrial struggle and gained national and international fame in connection with the French railroad strike of 1910. It is also certain that it is ultimately derived from the French word sabot ( wooden shoe ). There are also the following explanations:

The wooden shoe (French sabot) as a symbol of sabotage
  • French railway workers used sabots during the 1910 strike to hinder rail operations, and sabot can also refer to a drag shoe and parts of the rail bracket .
  • At the beginning of the 19th century, the word sabotage initially stood for wooden shoe manufacture itself and the verb saboter meant, among other things, “to trample or kick with wooden shoes” and “to appear roughly, to behave improperly”. From this original use, the term developed further and was then used to denote botch in technical applications or work ("messing around") as well as to refer to a nuisance or undesirable behavior in general, until it was then towards the end of the 19th century was finally used in today's sense.

German criminal law

According to the German Criminal Code (StGB), anyone who unauthorized destroys, damages, changes, renders unusable or removes a means of defense or a facility or facility that serves wholly or primarily for national defense or the protection of the civilian population against the dangers of war is sabotaging defenses and thereby destroys the The security of the Federal Republic of Germany, the effectiveness of the troops or human lives are endangered, and anyone who knowingly manufactures or delivers such an object or the material intended for it incorrectly ( Section 109e, Paragraph 1 f.

Furthermore, anyone who destroys structures ( Section 305 StGB), arson , dangerous interference in rail, air, ship or road traffic, causes an explosive or nuclear weapon explosion or a flood, abuses ionizing radiation , air or Attacks sea traffic, disrupts public operations, disrupts telecommunications systems or damages important systems ( Section 87 (2) No. 1 StGB).

Also punishable is anyone who is available for acts of sabotage on behalf of a foreign power, scouts out objects of sabotage, produces sabotage devices, procures them for himself or others, leaves them in safe custody to someone else, introduces them, sets up camps for the acceptance of sabotage devices or bases for sabotage activities, entertains or checks or uses them Train the commission of acts of sabotage or train others to do so ( Section 87 (1) StGB).

Sabotage is also the act of disrupting the following in whole or in part or withdrawing them for their intended purposes: systems or companies that serve the public supply of postal services or public transport, telecommunications systems that serve public purposes, companies or systems that serve the public supply of water, light, heat or power ( supply companies ) or are otherwise vital for the supply of the population, or services, facilities, facilities or objects that wholly or predominantly serve public safety or order ( Section 88 (1) StGB).

United States

In the United States , the Industrial Workers of the World in particular propagated and developed sabotage as an important component in the arsenal of forms of struggle of the labor movement. William E. Trautmann (1912), Walker C. Smith (1913), and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1916) promoted the idea of ​​sabotage in popular brochures. Flynn defines sabotage as the "conscious withdrawal of industrial efficiency by the workers", i.e. as a means in the labor and class struggle that may involve violence against things like production facilities or products and thus logically also violating laws, but not damaging them Aims or accepts health or life.

The American trade union organizer Big Bill Haywood is said to have brought the term sabotage with him from a trip to Europe, where he experienced an impressive strike by French railway workers in 1910 (see above), in which the efficiency of this form of action became clear.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Sabotage  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Sabotage in the Encyclopædia Britannica .
  2. a b c d The dictionary of origin . Duden - Volume 7, ISBN 3-411-00907-1
  3. ^ A b c David T. Zabecki: World War II in Europe: an Encyclopedia . Taylor & Francis 1999, ISBN 0-8240-7029-1 , p. 1256 ( limited online version (Google Books) )
  4. ^ A b Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts: World War I Encyclopedia . ABC-CLIO 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2 , p. 1033 ( limited online version (Google Books) )
  5. a b c d Charles Earle Funk: Thereby Hangs a Tale - Stories of Curious Word Origins . READ BOOKS 2007, ISBN 1-4067-7319-0 , p. 245.
  6. ^ Philip S. Foner: History of the labor movement in the United States . Volume 4, International Publishers Co 1972, ISBN 0-7178-0396-1 , p. 160.
  7. a b c Etymological dictionary of German . Volume 3, Berlin 1989.
  8. Rodney Carlisle: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Spies and Espionage . Alpha Books 2003, ISBN 0-02-864418-2 , p. 126.
  9. Peter Seyfert, in: Klaus Mathis / Luca Langensand (eds.), Anarchy as a domineering order ?, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2019, p. 132.
  10. ^ "Sabotage - the conscious withdrawal of the workers' industrial efficiency" Elisabeth Gurley Flynn, IWW Publishing Bureau, Chicago 1916. (Original brochure online or as a pdf download from the Internet Archive Open Source Books)