First World War

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The First World War was fought in Europe , the Middle East , Africa , East Asia and on the oceans from 1914 to 1918 . Around 17 million people lost their lives because of it. It began on July 28, 1914 with Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Serbia , which had been preceded by the assassination attempt in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 and the July crisis it triggered . The armed conflict ended with the Armistice of Compiègne on November 11, 1918, which was synonymous with the victory of the out of theTriple Entente emerged war coalition was. Important parties involved in the war were the German Empire , Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria on the one hand, and France , Great Britain and its British Empire , Russia , Serbia , Belgium , Italy , Romania , Japan and the USA on the other. 40 states took part in the most comprehensive war in history to date , with a total of almost 70 million people under arms.

First World War - participating states
  • Entente and Allies
  • Central Powers
  • Neutrals
  • The assassination attempt in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 - on the left in a not entirely accurate contemporary representation - was followed by the July crisis and mutual mobilizations, on the right the French mobilization order on August 2, 1914 The assassination attempt in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 - on the left in a not entirely accurate contemporary representation - was followed by the July crisis and mutual mobilizations, on the right the French mobilization order on August 2, 1914
    The assassination attempt in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 - on the left in a not entirely accurate contemporary representation - was followed by the July crisis and mutual mobilizations , on the right the French mobilization order on August 2, 1914
    Artillery played a decisive role in the war: here a British 60-pound cannon at Cape Helles , Gallipoli (1915)
    The decisive battle at sea that was expected by all sides did not materialize. The submarine warfare became the most important aspect of naval warfare during World War I and was a major reason for entering the war the United States
    The trench warfare was particularly characteristic of the Western Front : British soldiers of the Royal Irish Rifles in a trench on the Somme, autumn 1916
    The chateau forest (castle forest) near Ypres consisted only of tree stumps after the intensive artillery bombing (1917). Large parts of Belgium and northern France were devastated in the war
    Despite technical problems, tanks became increasingly important from 1917 and were essentially only available to the Allies: British Mark IV during the Battle of Cambrai
    The aerial warfare became more and more important in the course of the war, but overall it was not a decisive factor in the events of the war (Photo: 1917/18)
    In light of the loss from the developed Kiel Mutiny the November Revolution : Output of the forward from November 9, 1918

    During the assassination attempt in Sarajevo , the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg , were murdered by Gavrilo Princip , a member of the revolutionary underground organization Mlada Bosna , which was linked to or was linked to official Serbian authorities. The main motive was the desired "liberation" of Bosnia-Herzegovina from Austro-Hungarian rule with the aim of unifying the southern Slavs under the leadership of Serbia.

    For action against Serbia, Austria sought the backing of the German Empire ( Mission Hoyos ), as an intervention by Russia as a protective power had to be expected. Kaiser Wilhelm II and Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg promised Austria-Hungary their unconditional support at the beginning of July. The July crisis began with the issue of this so-called blank check . On July 23, Austria-Hungary ultimately demanded a judicial investigation from Serbia against the participants in the June 28 plot with the participation of k. u. k. Organs. The Serbian government, reinforced by Russia's pledge of military support in the event of a conflict, rejected this as an unacceptable impairment of its sovereignty . Russia's stance, influenced by the Pan-Slav motive, was again supported by France in the course of the French state visit to St. Petersburg (July 20-23), which, in affirmation of the Franco-Russian alliance, guaranteed the Russians support in the event of war with Germany. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

    The interests of the great powers and the German military plans ( Schlieffen Plan ) let the local war escalate within a few days to a continental war with the participation of Russia (German declaration of war of August 1, 1914) and France (German declaration of war of August 3, 1914). The political consequences of the Schlieffen Plan - by bypassing the French fortress belt between Verdun and Belfort , German troops attacked France from the northeast and thereby violated the neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg - led the Belgian guaranteeing power Great Britain and its Dominions to enter the war (British declaration of war on August 4th 1914), which expanded into a world war.

    The German advance came to a standstill in September on the Marne , and between November 1914 and March 1918 the front in the west froze. Since Russia continued to take part in the war in the east until the October Revolution of 1917 and the separate peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk , Germany found itself in a war on two fronts for a long time, contrary to plan . Trench warfare and trench warfare as well as material battles with high losses and mostly only minor gains in terrain became typical features of the fighting . This concerned the battle of Verdun , the battle of the Somme , eleven of the twelve battles of Isonzo and the four battles of Flanders . The gas war , the unrestricted submarine war - which resulted in the USA entering the war against the Central Powers in 1917 - and the genocide of the Armenians in connection with the war are considered to be special escalation stages .

    Russia's withdrawal from the war after the separate peace with the Bolsheviks made the ultimately unsuccessful German spring offensive of 1918 possible , but the lack of supplies as a result of the British naval blockade , the collapse of the allies and the development on the western front during the Allied Hundred Days Offensive led the German military leadership to assess that the German front had become untenable. On September 29, 1918, contrary to all previous announcements , the Supreme Army Command informed the German Emperor and the government of the hopeless military situation of the Army and, through Erich Ludendorff, ultimately demanded the commencement of armistice negotiations. On 4th / 5th In October 1918, Chancellor Max von Baden asked the Allies for an armistice. By seeking the almost hopeless decisive battle with the Grand Fleet , which had been avoided so far, with the fleet order of October 24, 1918, the Naval War Command aroused the resistance of sailors who refused the order in increasing numbers and, as a result, the November Revolution triggered. On November 11, 1918, the Compiègne armistice came into force. The peace conditions were regulated in the Paris suburb treaties from 1919 to 1923 . Of the losing powers, only Bulgaria was able to maintain the state constitution of the prewar period, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary disintegrated, in Russia the tsarism perished, in Germany the empire.

    The First World War was the breeding ground for fascism in Italy and National Socialism in Germany and thus became the forerunner of the Second World War . Because of the upheavals that the First World War unleashed in all areas of life and its consequences, which have continued to have an impact in the recent past, it is considered the “ primal disaster of the 20th century ”. It marks the end of the age of (high) imperialism . The question of guilt for the outbreak of this war is still controversially discussed today, and the corresponding Fischer controversy has meanwhile become part of German history. In the cultural field, the First World War also marked a turning point. The thousands of fronts in the trenches, the mass deaths and the upheavals in everyday life caused by hardship changed the standards and perspectives in the societies of the countries involved.

    History and initial situation

    High imperialism

    Colonial empires in 1914

    Before 1914, Europe was at the height of its global dominance. As a result of the industrial revolution and population explosion , Europe, together with the powers Japan and the USA , which had also been imperial since the end of the 19th century, succeeded in establishing global political rule ( colonialism ). Essentially, only China was able to maintain its independence; before 1914, only the USA and the Spanish colonies on the American double continent and, with restrictions, a few white dominions succeeded in decolonizing . The establishment of the French protectorate over Tunisia (1881) and the British occupation of Egypt (1882) had given imperialism a new quality insofar as the European states increasingly sought formal rule over newly acquired territories. This increasingly became a question of national prestige, as the strength of the European states in the public perception seemed to be defined by their position outside of Europe. This inevitably shifted the tensions that had arisen in the periphery back to the continent, especially when the division of the world was essentially complete in the 1890s, without Italy and the German Empire having received a share that corresponded to their self-image.

    Crises

    When the German Empire was founded, an imbalance had arisen within the European pentarchy , and the German Empire emerged from the formerly weakest power ( Prussia ) . The German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine stood in the way of an understanding with France. Security interests, national prestige and economic interests all came together in this constellation of powers. Apart from that, domestic political tensions and fears of threats contributed to the ruling elites and governments leaning towards risky policies in order to divert attention from domestic deficiencies through foreign policy successes. In the age of imperialism , increasingly peace-threatening crises developed:

    • In the war-in-sight crisis (1875), Russia and Great Britain indicated that they would not accept a renewed defeat of France. Without being integrated into alliance systems, these powers reacted according to their great power interests, as they did later in the July crisis.
    • In the Balkan crisis (1875–1878) a local conflict developed into a small war ( Serbian-Ottoman War ) and from this the Russian-Ottoman War of 1877/78 . Although the Berlin Congress ended the crisis, it deepened the rivalry between Austria and Russia in the Balkans and worsened German-Russian relations.
    • French Boulangism exacerbated the tensions between Germany and France , especially during Georges Boulanger's tenure as Minister of War (January 1886 to May 1887) (exemplified in the Schnäbele Affair in 1887) and led to revanchism .
    • The Bulgarian crisis - namely the Serbian-Bulgarian War of 1885/87 - worsened the Austro-Russian relationship considerably.
    • The Faschoda Crisis (1898) and the Second Boer War (1899–1902) "signaled the filling of colonial power vacuums overseas [...] by European-North American imperialism around 1900, so that tensions on the periphery returned to Europe."
    • In the First Morocco Crisis (1904–1906) Germany tried to break France, isolated by Russia's weakness ( Russo-Japanese War 1904/05, Russian Revolution 1905 ), out of the Entente cordiale , but failed at the Algeciras Conference (1906). On the contrary, the attempt led to the unmistakable isolation of the German Reich, which subsequently became all the more tied to Austria-Hungary.
    • With the naval battle at Tsushima (May 27, 1905) and the Russo-Japanese War 1904/05, which was in fact lost for Russia , a reorientation of Russian politics took place. After the loss of the East Asian position and in view of the British position in the Middle East, the urge to expand the zones of influence was oriented back to Europe and especially to Southeast Europe, which brought the conflict with Austria-Hungary with it.
      Language map of Austria-Hungary 1880
    • The Bosnian annexation crisis in 1908/09 fueled Serbian nationalism. The further political effects also led to a humiliation of Russia, which almost resulted in a war with the Dual Alliance. In response to the annexation, the Mlada Bosna group was formed , which was to carry out the assassination attempt in Sarajevo with the support of the secret organization Black Hand .
    • Great Britain, mobilized by the Second Morocco Crisis (1911), warned the increasingly politically isolated Germany of a war against France. In view of the diplomatic failure ( Morocco-Congo Treaty ) despite German threats of war, the pressure of imperialist-oriented agitation organizations - such as the All-German Association and the German Fleet Association - increased on the German Kaiser and his government, which had backed away.
    • The two Balkan wars strengthened Serbia, deepened tensions in the Danube monarchy, intensified the Austro-Russian antagonism and further fueled Slavic nationalism.
    • The Liman von Sanders crisis of 1913/14 heightened distrust, especially in Russia, of Germany.

    Alliance system

    The European alliance system around 1900 and 1910
    The official alliance system in 1914:
    Triple Alliance Triple Entente
    
    
    The actual war constellation in the pre-war borders

    The alliance system sought by Bismarck after the founding of the empire tried to isolate France. For this, good relations with Austria-Hungary and Russia were necessary ( three emperor agreement of October 22, 1873). The Balkan crisis actually caused this agreement to fail, Germany's mediation in the Berlin Congress (ended with the Berlin Treaty on July 13, 1878) felt Russia to be hostile. The following year, Tsar Alexander II issued a more or less hidden threat of war in the event of a repetition, so that Bismarck looked for other allies. The German grain tariff policy from 1879 onwards developed further tensions with Russia. Austria-Hungary and Germany formed the two-alliance (October 7, 1879), which Italy joined in 1882 ( three-way alliance ), and Romania also joined in 1883 . The treaty required mutual assistance in the event of a simultaneous attack by two other powers on a signatory or a French attack on the German Reich or Italy. The avoidance of the European war by the Berlin Congress led to the first permanent alliance between great powers since the Crimean War. On June 18, 1881, the Dreikaiserbund was added , a secret neutrality agreement (German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Russia), which broke up in the Bulgarian crisis of 1885/87. The dismissal of Bismarck in March 1890 meant the end of his alliance policy . Wilhelm II then, on the recommendation of Bismarck's successor Leo von Caprivi and that of the Foreign Office , failed to extend the secret reinsurance treaty concluded between Germany and Russia on June 18, 1887 , which is considered one of the fatal decisions of the " New Course ". Due to the German Lombard ban of 1887, which prevented the purchase of Russian railway bonds in Germany, Russia has increasingly oriented itself towards France in financial policy since 1888. In 1891 France and Russia concluded an initially vague agreement, which was supplemented by a military convention in 1892 and in 1894 by Tsar Alexander III. has been ratified ( Franco-Russian Alliance ). After giving up its splendid isolation , Great Britain initially worked towards an alliance with Germany, which failed in the negotiations from March 29 to May 11, 1898.

    With the Faschoda crisis (1898) a violent Franco-English confrontation ensued, which was resolved in the Entente Cordiale (April 8, 1904), which regulated the general conflicts of interest for the colonies of Africa (" Race for Africa "). Great Britain then moved closer to France, because Germany refused to renounce the naval armament, which resulted in the German-British naval arms race. The underlying Tirpitz Plan was based on risk theory . Germany believed that it could lead a free hand policy . The resulting intransigent German attitude towards arms restrictions in the Hague Peace Conferences increased the general distrust of German politics. Great Britain, increasingly concerned by the German naval policy, supported France almost unconditionally during the Algeciras Conference (1906). Germany's erratic and clumsy foreign policy approach was a major factor behind the establishment of the Triple Entente in the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (August 31, 1907), even if this Entente, which anticipated the war coalition, was primarily concerned with regulating colonial rivalries. Britain, however, was not an integral part of the alliance and each side was careful not to let the other instrumentalize it. Russia kept its distance on the Moroccan question and neither France nor Great Britain wanted to intervene in favor of Russia in the Bosnian annexation crisis. The second Morocco crisis was accompanied by a violent conflict between the German and French public and prompted France to re-establish the relationship with Russia that had cooled off with the Bosnian annexation crisis, although France accepted the aggressive Balkan alliance supported by Russia, despite concerns . Germany's isolation, which was evident at the latest with the Algeciras conference, led to unconditional loyalty to Austria-Hungary, the last remaining ally.

    Balance of power

    On the eve of the war, the Central Powers were clearly inferior in numbers, economic output and military spending: in 1914 they (including Turkey) had a population of 138 million and 33 million men fit for military service, while the Entente (including colonies) had a population of 708 million and 179 million able-bodied men. The Entente's absolute armaments expenditure in 1913 was about twice as high as that of the Central Powers. Germany was only superior in terms of modern heavy artillery, which was particularly advantageous in the - generally not expected - trench warfare . The infantry armament was balanced in relation to the shooting performance, but the British troops had an above-average infantry rifle. At sea, the Entente and, above all, Great Britain were far superior to their opponents, so that Germany could blockade at a distance . In return, however, Russia could be cut off from supplies via the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. Germany and Austria-Hungary had the geostrategic advantage of the Inner Line , which meant that the numerical superiority of the Entente did not initially come into play.

    July crisis and outbreak of war

    Course of the First World War

    In the age of high imperialism , a considerable potential for conflict had accumulated in Europe. Nevertheless, the assassination attempt in Sarajevo (June 28, 1914) was initially not assessed as threatening peace. In Vienna only Chief of Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf and Finance Minister Leon Biliński - supported by large parts of the press - advocated immediate mobilization against Serbia. In a conversation with Foreign Minister Leopold Berchtold on July 1, von Hötzendorf made the war dependent on the question of whether Germany “covers our backs against Russia or not”. The German Foreign Office initially wanted to avoid the war between Austria and Serbia because it correctly foresaw the “ World War ” as a consequence. The Foreign Office held the opinion until July 4th that Austria should not make any humiliating demands on Serbia. As far as known, led largely a statement of Kaiser Wilhelm II. ( "With the Serbs must tidy and although soon .") July 4, to the fact that the Foreign Ministry immediately took the opposite view.

    Country alliance entry into the war
    Austria-Hungary Central Powers July 28, 1914
    Serbia Entente July 28, 1914
    The German Imperium Central Powers 0August 1, 1914
    Russian Empire Entente 0August 1, 1914
    Luxembourg Entente 0August 2, 1914
    France Entente 0August 3, 1914
    Belgium Entente 04th August 1914
    Great Britain Entente 04th August 1914
    Australia Entente 04th August 1914
    Canada Entente 04th August 1914
    Nepal Entente 04th August 1914
    Newfoundland Entente 04th August 1914
    New Zealand Entente 04th August 1914
    Montenegro Entente 0August 9, 1914
    Japan Entente August 23, 1914
    South African Union Entente 0September 8, 1914
    Ottoman Empire Central Powers October 29, 1914
    Italy Entente May 25, 1915
    San Marino Entente 0June 1, 1915
    Bulgaria Central Powers October 11, 1915
    Portugal Entente 0March 9, 1916
    Hejaz Entente 0June 5, 1916
    Romania Entente August 31, 1916
    Greece Entente November 24, 1916 /
    June 29, 1917
    United States Entente 0April 6, 1917
    Cuba Entente 0April 7, 1917
    Guatemala Entente April 22, 1917
    Siam Entente July 22, 1917
    Liberia Entente 04th August 1917
    China Entente August 14, 1917
    Brazil Entente October 26, 1917
    Panama Entente November 10, 1917
    Nicaragua Entente 0May 6, 1918
    Costa Rica Entente May 24, 1918
    Haiti Entente July 15, 1918
    Honduras Entente July 19, 1918

    Accordingly, on July 5th, the Legation Councilor sent to Berlin in the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Hoyos ( Mission Hoyos ), was promised to support the war course and generally recommended early action. The next day the Chancellor gave the envoy Hoyos and ambassador Szögyény the official, identical answer, which was later interpreted as a blank check issued in "extreme negligence" .

    According to Kurt Riezler's diary entries from the discussions with Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg (July 7/8, 1914), the motives of the Reich leadership were based on the consideration that a war could be won in 1914 rather than later due to Russia's growing military and transport potential. If Austria is not supported, there is a risk that it will turn to the Entente . Although the danger of world war was seen, the German Reich leadership hoped for a localization and saw the situation as favorable: “If the war comes from the East, so that we will fight for Austria-Hungary and not for us so we have a chance of winning it. If the war does not come, if the Tsar does not want to, or if dismayed France advises peace, we still have the prospect of disentangling the Entente through this action. "

    On the day after Hoyo's return (7 July), the Austro-Hungarian Council of Ministers decided to give Serbia an unacceptable ultimatum and, if it was expected to be rejected, to initiate military steps.

    From July 20 to 23, French President Raymond Poincaré and Prime Minister René Viviani visited the Russian capital St. Petersburg and assured the hosts of their full support. The consensus prevailed that Serbia was not responsible for the murders, that the (in principle already known) demands on Belgrade were illegitimate and that the Entente would stand firm against the Central Powers.

    The opening of the July crisis in the narrower sense formed the ultimatum that was granted by the k. u. k. Foreign Minister Count Berchtold was issued to Serbia on July 23, 1914 with 48 hours' notice.

    Encouraged by the results of the talks during the French government visit, the Russian Council of Ministers decided on July 24th to support Serbia and, if necessary, initiate mobilization.

    The corresponding telegram arrived in Belgrade on July 25, just in time for the Serbian response to the ultimatum. To what extent it influenced the Serbian rejection of the key points of the ultimatum is not clear. The answer to Vienna was partly conciliatory, partly evasive. However, the participation of Austrian officials in the prosecution of suspects was flatly refused on the grounds that it would violate the Serbian constitution. Foreign Minister Nikola Pašić personally handed the answer to the Austrian legation shortly before the deadline. Ambassador Giesl scanned the text and left immediately with the entire staff of the embassy.

    In the states of the Entente, doubts were voiced that Austria-Hungary was the driving force behind the events, they increasingly suspected the significantly stronger Germany.

    On July 31, 1914,
    Wilhelm II decreed a state of war (announced as the state of imminent danger of war ) in accordance with Article 68 of the Imperial Constitution

    On the morning of July 28 1914 signed Emperor Franz Joseph in Bad Ischl the declaration of war the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the Kingdom of Serbia ( To My Peoples! ) . Before that, the German government had again massively urged the alliance partner to "discuss it immediately" on July 25th. Up until this point in time, Vienna wanted to declare war only after the mobilization had been completed and thus around August 12th. Since the attack at Temes Kubin (alleged fire attack by the Serbs on July 26th) was a propaganda invention and an alleged reason for war (similar to the plane from Nuremberg), the "shooting war" began on July 29th shortly after 2 am with the bombardment of Belgrade the internal warships SMS Temes, Bodrog and Somes. On July 29th, the Russian army was partially mobilized .

    On July 29th, Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg announced to the British Ambassador Edward Goschen that Germany would attack France in breach of Belgian neutrality and that Germany would restore the territorial integrity of France and Belgium - but not that of their colonies - after the war in order to achieve British neutrality offer.

    Tsar Nicholas II approved the general mobilization of the Russian army on July 30th, which was published the next morning (July 31st). The German Reich thereupon demanded in an ultimatum the immediate withdrawal of the Russian mobilization (by August 1, 12 noon local time in St. Peterburg), although it was known that it would be significantly slower than the German. After the withdrawal failed to materialize, Wilhelm II gave the order to mobilize on August 1 (5 p.m.) and declared war on Russia on the same day (7 p.m., St. Petersburg time). France, allied with Russia, also issued the mobilization order on August 1 (4 p.m.). On the morning of August 2, German troops occupied the city of Luxembourg as planned , mounted patrols penetrated France without a declaration of war, whereby one French and one German soldier were killed. In the evening (8 p.m.) Belgium was asked to make a statement within twelve hours stating that the Belgian army would behave passively when German troops march through; this was refused the next morning. On the evening of August 3, Germany declared war on France for alleged border violations and fabricated air strikes (“ Airplane from Nuremberg ”). On the same day, the Italian Foreign Minister Antonio di San Giuliano informed the German Ambassador Hans von Flotow that, in the opinion of the Italian government, the Casus Foederis was not given because Austria and Germany were the aggressors . The Italian declaration of neutrality took place in the afternoon.

    Also on August 3, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg sent a letter of justification to the British government. Bethmann Hollweg described the “violation of Belgium's neutrality” as a consequence of a military predicament due to the Russian mobilization. German patrols had already crossed the Belgian border on the morning of that day; corresponding reports were received in London. The German Reich violated Article I of the London Treaty of April 19, 1839 , in which the major European powers had guaranteed Belgian neutrality, and endangered British security interests. On the afternoon of August 3rd in the House of Commons, Edward Gray described the violation of Belgian neutrality and the danger of France being overthrown as incompatible with British state interests, and Parliament followed this assessment.

    On August 4 at 6:00 am, the German ambassador in Brussels informed the Belgian government that, after its proposals had been rejected, the German Reich would be forced to use force to implement the measures necessary to "ward off the French threat" if necessary. A few hours later, German troops marched into neutral Belgium, contrary to international law and without a declaration of war. On the same day (August 4), the British Ambassador Goschen presented the German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg with an ultimatum limited to midnight, in which a promise was required that Germany would respect Belgian neutrality in accordance with the London Treaty of 1839. Bethmann Hollweg reproached the ambassador that Great Britain was going to war against Germany because of a "scrap of paper", which was received with indignation in London. After the ultimatum expired, Great Britain was at war with the German Empire, its Dominions followed immediately (mostly without a separate declaration of war), so that within a few days the local war had developed into a continental war and from this the world war. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on August 6, ending the "grotesque situation that Germany was at war with Russia six days earlier than the ally for whose sake it took up the fight in the first place".

    course

    War year 1914

    Failure of the war plans and transition to trench warfare on the western front

    A rail-mounted 42 cm ballast gun from Krupp (“Dicke Bertha”) was prepared to fire on August 7, 1914 near Liège
    First payout after mobilization, Berlin, 1914

    While the assembly of the German army on the western border was still in progress, the German Xth Army Corps carried out a coup-like raid on the citadel of the Belgian fortress of Liège, which had already been planned in the Schlieffen Plan . The city quickly fell into the hands of the attackers (August 5–7), while the belt of twelve forts could not be conquered at first. Only after the heaviest artillery had been brought in ( Fat Bertha von Krupp and the lesser known, more mobile Slim Emma von Škoda ) was it possible to occupy the fortresses and to conquer Liège completely by August 16 . The climax of the fighting was the destruction of Fort Loncin on August 15th by a direct hit in the ammunition chamber. The rapid elimination of the forts, which were considered impregnable, led to strategic changes in the further French war planning.

    Appeal from Kaiser Wilhelm II (
    listen ? / I ) on August 6, 1914Audio file / audio sample

    On August 4th, the first violent attacks on the civilian population occurred in the Belgian villages of Visé , Berneau and Battice near Liège. In the coming weeks, German troops committed many atrocities against the civilian population in Belgium and France, which were justified with attacks by Franc-tireurs . The first mass shootings of Belgian civilians took place on August 5th, and German troops committed particularly serious war crimes in Dinant , Tamines , Andenne and Aarschot . Around 6,500 civilians fell victim to the reprisals between August and October 1914, and the arson in Leuven received special attention and was condemned worldwide . The reception of actual and fictitious attacks went into the English propaganda term Rape of Belgium (desecration of Belgium), which is still used today .

    While the German troops unfolded their arching movement over Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan, Plan XVII was being prepared on the French side , which, in contrast to the German strategy of encircling, relied on the strategy of penetrating the center ( Lorraine ). Before the actual major attack as part of this strategy, there was an advance attack on Mulhouse / Mulhouse . The French commander Joffre wanted to tie up German troops in the south and strengthen the enthusiasm of the French population by advancing into Alsace , which fell to Germany after the defeat of 1871 , which was quite successful during the short-term capture of the second largest city and the most important industrial location in the region. On August 7th, Mulhouse could be taken, with part of the local population cheering the French soldiers. As early as August 9th, the German troops were back at it. After a renewed conquest, the city and all Alsatian areas with the exception of the Dollertal and some Vosges heights fell back to the Germans on August 24 for the remainder of the war. General Louis Bonneau , in command of the French attack, was dismissed by Joffre.

    Joffre initially had no intention of being influenced by the German attack on Belgium in his deployment according to Plan XVII and concentrated 1.7 million French soldiers in five armies for the attack. However, he could not completely ignore the movement of the German troops and accordingly moved the 5th Army under Charles Lanrezac further northwest. The British Expeditionary Force under General John French , which had just landed in France , joined the north at Maubeuge . The French offensive began on August 14th: the 1st Army under General Auguste Dubail and the 2nd Army under General Noël de Castelnau crossed the border and advanced to Saarburg (Lorraine) , among others . The German 6th and 7th Armies - both commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria at the time - initially retreated fighting.

    Failure of the French Plan XVII:
    the border battles on the Western Front from August 3 to 26, 1914

    On August 18, after the defeat of the Liège fortress (final fall of Liège on August 16), the real major offensive by the German right wing to encircle the Allied armies began. In doing so, he advanced very quickly to Brussels and Namur . The main part of the Belgian army withdrew to the fortress of Antwerp , whereupon the two-month siege of Antwerp began. On August 20, the actual French offensive in the direction of German-Lorraine and the Saar-Ruhr area began, and the German counterattack began at the same time. From this and from a number of other battles near Saarburg, near Longwy , in the Ardennes , on the Meuse, between Sambre and Meuse and near Mons , the so-called border battles developed for both sides between the Vosges and the Scheldt , the so-called border battles . The French troops suffered extremely great losses; 40,000 soldiers died between August 20 and 23, 27,000 on August 22 alone. The losses were mainly caused by machine guns. The French 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Armies were hit head-on by the German 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Armies, as was the 5th Army and the British Expeditionary Corps on the left wing. However, the French troops managed to withdraw in a sufficiently orderly manner behind the Meurthe and the fortress ring around Nancy on the one hand, and behind the Meuse on the other hand, while preserving the Verdun fortress , without the German troops being able to encircle and completely destroy large units. In disregard of the Schlieffen Plan, Crown Prince Rupprecht asked Chief of Staff Moltke to take advantage of the success and to go on the offensive himself, which he approved. However, this German offensive between August 25 and September 7 did not bring about a breakthrough.

    The French and British armies on the left began a general but orderly retreat through northern France, which was interrupted by isolated battles such as the Battle of Le Cateau (August 26) and the Battle of St. Quentin (August 29) the pursuing German right wing closer and closer to Paris. The French government left the capital on September 2nd and moved to Bordeaux , the defense of Paris was entrusted to the reactivated General Joseph Gallieni . In the meantime, the French high command pulled together troops from the right wing and reserves in order to set up a new (6th) army under Joseph Maunoury near Paris , which threatened the German advance on the flank. Another (9th) Army under Ferdinand Foch was pushed into the center. Joffre planned to use the Marne as a catchment position in order to stop the German advance from here with an offensive on the entire front.

    German attack planning according to the Schlieffen Plan (left) and its failure (right): Allied troops hit the gap between the 1st and 2nd German armies on September 8, 1914 German attack planning according to the Schlieffen Plan (left) and its failure (right): Allied troops hit the gap between the 1st and 2nd German armies on September 8, 1914
    German attack planning according to the Schlieffen Plan (left) and its failure (right): Allied troops hit the gap between the 1st and 2nd German armies on September 8, 1914
    French peasant family on the run, 1914

    The German swivel wing - the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th German Army - had already rotated towards the southwest and south at still high speed; The 1st Army deviated from its planned direction of advance already after the capture of Brussels (August 20) south, as Commander Alexander von Kluck was pursuing the French troops and the British expeditionary corps. As the front expanded, the surprise effect of the German offensive disappeared, and the numerical superiority of the right German wing was lost as it expanded, the lines of communication between the Germans and the French became ever shorter. The spreading German front threatened to tear apart at the end of August, the right wing had to change its thrust further due to counter-attacks and swing south and south-east, the encirclement of Paris was abandoned on August 30, of which Joffre was informed on September 3.

    The Supreme Army Command stationed in Luxembourg now lost track of the operational situation, and in particular there was no telephone connection to the threatened right wing. The technically inadequate radio traffic could not make up for this, the aircraft reports often remained unused. The 1st Army (320,000 soldiers) tried to enclose the British expeditionary army with forced marches and neglected the western flank protection. The surrender of two corps to the Eastern Front, abandoned siege troops ( Antwerp , Maubeuge ), marching and combat losses and supply difficulties caused stoppages, the exhausted 1st Army had covered more than 500 kilometers in heavy fighting.

    On September 6, the French offensive against the open flank of the German army (" Battle of the Marne ") began. The German 1st Army, which, despite instructions to the contrary, had advanced south of the Marne on September 5, 1914 and reached the most westerly points of the communities of Le Plessis-Belleville , Mortefontaine and Meaux around Paris (furthest advance:) , had to merge in one withdraw two-day forced march. Due to its sudden U-turn, it created a gap about 40 kilometers wide between the 1st and 2nd German Armies, into which strong French and British forces pushed towards noon on September 8, 1914. The connection of the German front was torn, the danger of an operational breakthrough and an encirclement of the German armies increased hour by hour, there was a threat of the cutting off and destruction of individual parts of the German army, an escape-like retreat and, in the worst case, a rearward encirclement of the entire German western army. The German armies were at the end of their tether after their ceaseless advance. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hentsch , who was sent by the Supreme Army Command (OHL) to the High Command of the 1st and 2nd Armies, recommended the withdrawal, which was ordered by the commanders-in-chief of the two armies on September 9, without further contact with the neighboring armies or the OHL. World icon

    The necessity of the withdrawal - especially that of the 1st Army - was later controversial, but today an opinion such as Holger Afflerbach formulated: "Operationally, the withdrawal order was correct and absolutely necessary, its psychological effects were fatal. “The Schlieffen Plan had failed, the constriction of the French army on the eastern border (Lorraine and Alsace) had failed. On September 9th, Chief of Staff Moltke saw the envelope and wrote on that day:

    "It's bad ... The beginning of the war, which began so hopefully, will turn into the opposite [...] how different it was when we opened the campaign so splendidly a few weeks ago [...] I'm afraid our people in their triumphant frenzy will hardly be unhappy can endure. "

    The "race to the sea" was characterized by unsuccessful attempts to grip the opponent's wings and roll up his front
    Wounded Belgian soldiers in Calais on November 11, 1914
    British and German soldiers fraternized at Christmas 1914 in
    Ploegsteert, Belgium

    Chief of Staff Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown and was replaced by Erich von Falkenhayn . The 1st and 2nd German armies had to break off the battle and withdraw, the remaining attacking armies followed. The subsequent retreat of the German attack wing behind the Aisne culminated in the First Battle of the Aisne , which initiated the transition to trench warfare. However, after their retreat, the German troops were able to dig in on the Aisne and rebuild a cohesive, resilient front. On September 17th, the French counterattack came to a standstill. In France, this German withdrawal was later referred to as a “miracle on the Marne”, in Germany the order met with the sharpest criticism. Falkenhayn advised Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to inform the German public about the critical military situation after the failure of the attack plan, but the latter refused.

    At first, Falkenhayn stuck to the previous concept, according to which the decision should first be sought in the West. In the race to the sea (September 13 to October 19, 1914), both sides tried to outstrip each other, the fronts were extended from the Aisne to Nieuwpoort on the North Sea. In northern France the opponents tried to re-initiate the war of movement in the first weeks of October 1914, whereby the German troops were able to record some successes with heavy losses (capture of Lille , Gent , Bruges and Ostend ), but without achieving a breakthrough. After that, the focus of the fighting shifted further north to Flanders, and the English supply via Dunkirk and Calais was to be interrupted.

    On October 16, 1914, the declaration of the university professors of the German Reich appeared . It was signed by over 3,000 German university professors, i.e. almost all of the lecturers at the 53 universities and technical colleges in Germany, and justified the First World War as a “defense of German culture”. Foreign scholars replied in the New York Times and The Times a few days later .

    In Ypres square off against fighting developed ( First Battle of Ypres from 20 October to 18 November 1914). German reserve corps hurriedly set up suffered devastating losses near Langemarck and Ypres. Insufficiently trained young soldiers led by reserve officers with no front-line experience - some 15-year-olds - died here by the tens of thousands without achieving any objective worth mentioning. Nevertheless, the myth of Langemarck was constructed from this - the first significant example in this war of reinterpreting military defeats or failures into moral victories. The Allies succeeded in withdrawing German access to the canal ports of Boulogne and Calais , which are important for British supplies, and the Amiens railway junction .

    The war of movement ended with the fighting near Ypres. An extensive system of trenches ( trench warfare ) arose on the German western front . All attempts at breakthrough on both sides failed in 1914, a front stretching over 700 kilometers from the North Sea to the Swiss border (→  Switzerland in the First World War ) froze in trench warfare, and the foremost trenches on the front lines were often barely 50 meters away from the enemy positions.

    On November 18, 1914, Falkenhayn announced Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg that the war against the Triple Entente could no longer be won. He pleaded for a diplomatic liquidation of the war on the continent, for a negotiated and separate peace with one or more opponents, but not with Great Britain, with whom he did not consider a political compromise possible. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg rejected this. The Chancellor had mainly domestic political reasons for this. In view of the great victims of the attack, he did not want to forego annexations and a “victory prize” for the people. Hindenburg and Ludendorff proceeded from the unconditional will to annihilate the opponents and also considered a victory peace to be possible. The Chancellor and the General Staff did not tell the nation the significance of the defeats on the Marne and Ypres. In this way they upheld the nation's will to fight and persevere. The discrepancy between the politico-military situation and the demands of the economic and political elites for the war aims increased as the war progressed, which contributed to the social position at the front during the war and beyond.

    In November 1914, the British Navy declared the entire North Sea a war zone and imposed a distance blockade . Ships flying the flag of neutral states could become the target of British attacks in the North Sea without warning. This action by the British government violated international law , including the Paris Declaration of 1856, which Britain had signed.

    On December 24th and the following two days, the so-called Christmas Peace , an unauthorized armistice among the soldiers , took place on some sections of the western front . Probably more than 100,000 mainly German and British soldiers were involved in this Christmas truce, combined with gestures of fraternization.

    Fight in the east and in the Balkans

    Since, contrary to the assumptions of the Schlieffen Plan, two Russian armies invaded East Prussia two weeks after the outbreak of war and thus unexpectedly early , the situation on the Eastern Front was initially extremely tense for the German Reich. Due to the Schlieffen Plan, the Germans were rather defensive on their eastern front, only a few Russian-Polish border towns were occupied, which resulted in the destruction of Kalisz . After the Battle of Gumbinnen (August 19-20), the 8th Army, defending East Prussia, was forced to surrender large parts of the country. As a result, the troops were strengthened and the previous commanders were replaced by Major General Erich Ludendorff and Colonel General Paul von Hindenburg , who initiated the security of East Prussia with the victory in the Battle of Tannenberg from August 26th to 31st. German troops succeeded in enclosing and largely destroying the Russian 2nd Army (Narew Army) under General Alexander Samsonow . From September 6th to 15th the Battle of the Masurian Lakes followed , which ended with the defeat of the Russian 1st Army ( Nyemen Army ) under General Paul von Rennenkampff . The Russian troops then evacuated most of East Prussia.

    Russian troops occupied after the Battle of Galicia from August 24 to September 11, which belongs to Austria-Hungary Galicia . The Austro-Hungarian army had after a raid on the Galician capital of Lviv because of overwhelming Russian superiority in September to the Carpathian retreat ( Battle of Galicia August 26-September 1). The first siege of Przemyśl from September 24th to October 11th was repelled. One to relieve the k. u. k. Troops of the newly formed German 9th Army started the offensive in southern Poland (from September 29 to October 31) with the aim of reaching the Vistula , but failed. On November 1st, Colonel General von Hindenburg was appointed Commander in Chief East of the German Army. On November 9, the second siege of Przemyśl, which ended fatally for Austria on March 22, 1915, began, and on November 11, the German counter-offensive in the Łódź area , which lasted until December 5 , after which the tsarist troops switched to the defensive. From 5 to 17 December succeeded Austro-Hungarian troops, a Russian advance on Cracow stop, after which the enemy persisted in many areas Front, first in trench warfare . In the winter battle in the Carpathians (December 1914 to April 1915) the Central Powers were able to assert themselves against Russia.

    Refugee and evacuation transport from Serbia 1914/15 in Leibnitz

    The starting point of the war, the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, came to the fore in view of the large-scale escalation from August onwards. The three offensives of the Austro-Hungarian army between August and December 1914 mostly failed or only brought partial success, in December Belgrade could only be taken briefly. The k. u. k. The army suffered a devastating failure in this theater of war as well. Especially the first k. U.K. offensives were accompanied by serious attacks against the Serbian civilian population. Several thousand civilians were killed, and villages looted and burned down. The Austrian army command admitted some of the attacks and spoke of “unorganized requisitions” and “senseless reprisals”. The Serbian army was at the end of its tether in December after the exertion - against an opponent who was several times superior in terms of resources. Epidemics had also broken out in the country .

    Entry into the war of the Ottoman Empire

    The Sheikhul Islam Urgüplü Mustafa Hayri Efendi proclaimed jihad against the "enemies of the Ottoman Empire" on November 14, 1914

    The German military missions in the Ottoman Empire and the construction of the Baghdad Railway had already intensified relations between the German and the Ottoman Empire before the war. On August 1, two battleships ordered in Great Britain and some of which had already been paid for were seized. The government of the Ottoman Empire initially tried to stay out of the fighting in an "armed neutrality". It was clear to the ruling Young Turks that they had to lean on a great power in order to be able to withstand militarily. At the instigation of Enver Pasha , a war alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary finally came about , which was controversial in the cabinet.

    On September 27th, the Dardanelles were officially closed to international shipping. After the two ships of the German Mediterranean Division under Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon , Goeben and Breslau , had escaped from the British Mediterranean Fleet and entered Constantinople, on October 29, the two ships handed over to the Ottoman fleet, still commanded by Souchon and manned by German seamen, fired at Russian warships Coastal cities in the Black Sea. As a result, France, Great Britain and Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire in early November. On the morning of 14 November, the called Scheichülislam the Ottoman Empire Ürgüplü Mustafa Hayri Efendi before the Fatih Mosque in Constantinople Opel after an edict Sultan Mehmed V. the jihad against the enemy States. During the war, this appeal was only echoed by individual Muslim troops in British service, such as Indian Muslims from the Punjab , who mutinied in Singapore on February 15, 1915. The appeal had an intensifying effect on the anti-British mood in Afghanistan , which broke out after the end of the Third Anglo-Afghan War .

    Shortly after the declaration of war, British-Indian troops held ready landed at Fao in the Persian Gulf on November 6th to protect the British oil concessions of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company , thus opening the Mesopotamia front . After several encounters with weaker Ottoman troops, they succeeded in taking Basra on November 23 .

    At the beginning of November, Russian troops also launched the offensive ( Bergmann Offensive ) on the Caucasus Front . There it came in winter when attempting a counterattack by the Ottoman 3rd Army to their first heavy defeat in the Battle of Sarıkamış . On the Russian side, Armenian volunteer battalions were involved in the fighting, which intensified the mood against the Armenians in the Young Turkish leadership, although the majority of the ethnic group was loyal to the Ottoman Empire. Russian troops attacked from the north-east of Persia, which they had occupied for a long time (→  First World War in Persia ). For the time being, there was no major fighting on the Palestine front.

    War in the colonies

    As early as August 5, 1914, the London Committee of Imperial Defense had decided, unilaterally interpreting the treaties of the Berlin Africa Conference of 1884/85 (" Congo Conference "), to extend the war and attack all German colonies or by French, Indian, South African, Australian, attack New Zealand or Japanese troops. In Africa in particular there were sometimes heavy fighting. The colony of Togo , which was surrounded on all sides, was taken immediately. Cameroon was also difficult to hold: by the end of 1914, the German troops withdrew into the hinterland. A grueling guerrilla war developed there that dragged on until 1916. The South African Union attacked German South West Africa , which was initially able to assert itself in the Battle of Sandfontein from September 24th to 26th. The anti-British uprising of part of the Boer population, which was not finally suppressed until February 1915, had a delaying effect on the attacks by the South African Union . German East Africa defended itself doggedly under Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and initially forced the British troops to retreat in the Battle of Tanga (November 2-4, 1914). Thanks to the German strategy of withdrawals and guerrilla tactics, the protection force for German East Africa was able to hold out until the end of the war. The German colonies in the Pacific , in which no protection troops were stationed, were surrendered to Japan, Australia and New Zealand almost without a fight. The German colony of Kiautschou was bitterly defended during the siege of Tsingtau until material and ammunition were used up (surrender November 7, 1914).

    War year 1915

    Submarine war

    Extra edition of the New York Times on the sinking of the RMS Lusitania : "a serious crisis is imminent"

    On February 4, the German Reich officially announced the submarine war against merchant ships on February 18. The waters around Great Britain and Ireland were declared a war zone against the protests of neutral states, although not enough submarines were available to effectively block Great Britain. With the use of submarines against merchant ships, Germany broke new ground militarily and under international law. Submarines could only incompletely comply with the rules of award law, especially since the increasing armament of British merchant ships endangered the safety of the boats. In addition, the submarine commanders were not given any clear instructions. The naval command apparently assumed that most of the sinkings would take place without warning and that this would act as a deterrent to neutral shipping. Due to the protests of neutral states after the German announcement, however, the submarine war was formally restricted to the extent that neutral ships were not allowed to be attacked.

    On May 7th, the German submarine U 20 sank the British passenger ship Lusitania , which sparked a wave of protests, especially in the USA. More than 200 Americans were on board the Lusitania when it left the port of New York on May 1, 1915 , even though the German embassy in Washington had warned against using British ships to cross to the United Kingdom. For Americans, the fall of the Lusitania and the deaths of many Americans came as a shock that made it clear to them how difficult it was to stay out of the world war. When the passenger steamer was sunk on May 7, 1198 passengers and crew, including nearly 100 children and 127 Americans, died. There was outrage in America and the American and German governments exchanged notes. On June 1 and 6, the Kaiser agreed to the Chancellor's request (at the time still supported by the OHL on this issue) that German submarines should not sink neutral ships and generally no large passenger steamers. Grand Admiral Tirpitz and Admiral Gustav Bachmann immediately submitted requests to leave, which the Emperor rejected in a harsh manner. After the sinking of the steamer Arabic on August 19, 1915 by U 24 , which again killed Americans, Ambassador Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff made the restrictions imposed by the American government clear ( Arabic pledge ) . The German press was informed at the end of August and their editors-in-chief - explicitly Ernst Graf zu Reventlow , but also Georg Bernhard - instructed by the General Staff to immediately launch the campaigns for the unlimited submarine war and against the USA (based on their grades) to adjust.

    Germany seeks the decision to go to war on the Eastern Front

    On the eastern front , the German army defeated the Russians in the winter battle in Masuria from February 2 to 27 with the help of the newly arrived 10th Army . The Russian troops then finally withdrew from East Prussia.

    Withdrawal of Russian troops between May (blue front line) and September 1915 (blue dashed front line)

    In November 1914, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich von Ludendorff, as his chief of staff, had received supreme command over all German troops on the Eastern Front and since then they have successfully campaigned for an attempt at a war decision in the East in 1915. The aim of the German leadership was to prepare the demolition of the opposing coalition by weakening Russia. Since the general situation in the east - almost all of Galicia was occupied by Russia - initially made a separate peace push by the Central Powers seem unpromising, the pressure on Russia should be increased by military means and also a favorable impression on the neutral states, especially in the Balkans, be achieved. Above all, Italy's anticipated entry into the war threatened a dangerous strategic situation for Austria-Hungary: The Russians had been able to assert themselves in the winter battle in the Carpathian Mountains , and when Italy entered the war, a large-scale pincer movement (between the Isonzo and the Carpathian Mountains ) would have the military end of the Danube Monarchy can mean. A breakthrough in western Galicia as far as the San was intended to force the Russian units to retreat from the mountains, otherwise they themselves would have to fear closure. For this purpose, parts of the Western Army (the 11th Army under August von Mackensen ) were relocated to the Eastern Front in the spring of 1915 . From May 1st to May 10th the battle of Gorlice-Tarnów took place east of Krakow , during which the German and Austro-Hungarian troops (4th Army) managed to break into the Russian positions unexpectedly deeply, they reached as early as mid-May den San. The battle marked a turning point on the Eastern Front. The success could not hide the fact that Austria-Hungary suffered losses of nearly 2 million men from the beginning of the war until March 1915 and was increasingly dependent on massive German aid.

    At the end of June, the Central Powers continued their attack with the Bug Offensive . After the retaking of Przemyśl on June 4th and Lemberg on June 22nd, the constriction of the front arc in Russian Poland seemed within reach, with coordinated attacks from the north and south, the Russian units were to be included there, the Supreme Army Command presented such a success Eyes - attacks on other fronts back. However, this planning by Ludendorff appeared to Falkenhayn and Mackensen - in view of the experiences in the Marne Battle - as too ambitious and was accordingly reduced. The Bug Offensive (June 29th to September 30th) and the Narew Offensive (July 13th to August 24th) did not lead to the encirclement of large units, but the Russian army could be forced to the " Great Withdrawal ": evacuation of Poland, Lithuania and large parts of Courland and shortening the Russian front from 1,600 to 1,000 kilometers. By September the Central Powers had captured important cities such as Warsaw (August 4th), Brest-Litovsk and Vilnius . In Russian Poland, the occupying powers created two general governments: an Austrian in Lublin and a German based in Warsaw. In " Ober Ost ", de facto a military state in the areas under German command other than Russian Poland, an occupation policy aimed at intensive economic exploitation of the country and its human resources was subsequently pursued. Towards the end of September, further offensives of the 10th Army under Ludendorff against Minsk and the Austrian troops against Rowno failed . Despite the overall higher losses of the Russian army, it remained numerically superior after the conclusion of the Great Withdrawal (September 1915), the planned relocation of large parts of the German troops to the western front could not take place to the extent hoped for.

    The Western Front 1915

    In 1915 the Allies tried to push in the flanks of the great German arch between Lille and Verdun (upper half of the picture)
    Gas attack after the blowing process, on the right in the picture infantry is ready for the next attack
    Champagne: blasted forest in the Argonne

    On the western front, the Allies initially pursued the classic strategy of cutting off the great German front arc between Lille in the north and Verdun in the south by pushing in the two flanks and thereby interrupting the railway lines that were important for supplies. Under this strategy, initially it came to the end of 1914, prepared First Battle of Champagne (end of March), in which the type of material battle emerged: several days of, is to barrage the intended massive demoralization and physical wear and tear of the opponent escalating artillery shelling, whereupon the massive attack of the infantry followed. However, this tactic did not lead to success, as the Germans were prepared for the attack from the fire and, due to the structural advantages of the defender in trench warfare, were able to repel it from the well-developed shelters with barrages and machine guns . Allied attacks on the small, strategically threatening front arch of Saint-Mihiel ( Easter Battle or First Woëvre Battle between Meuse and Moselle ) also failed.

    The use of poison gas on the first day of the Second Battle of Flanders , April 22nd, is considered a “new chapter in the history of warfare” and the “birth of modern weapons of mass destruction”. The Allies had already used irritants in the gas war during the First World War , but since deadly chlorine gas was used on April 22nd, the attack was seen internationally as a clear violation of the Hague Land Warfare Regulations and was used accordingly for propaganda purposes. The gas attack was carried out with the Haber's blowing method, which is dependent on the wind direction . As early as March, pioneers installed concealed gas bottles in the foremost trenches near Ypres, from which the gas was to be blown off. Since east winds are relatively rare in West Flanders, the attack had to be postponed several times. On April 22nd a steady north wind was blowing, accordingly the gas was blown off on the northern part of the allied front arc around Ypres. The effect was much more serious than expected: the French 87th and 45th (Algerian) divisions fled in panic, opening a six-kilometer gap in the Allied front. The number of deaths from this gas attack was given at the time as up to 5,000; today's estimates are around 1,200 dead and 3,000 wounded. The German leadership had not expected such an effect and probably therefore did not provide sufficient reserves for a further advance, apart from that the gas impaired the attackers. The front arc of Ypres was only reduced in size as part of the Second Battle of Flanders and could be held by the British troops and the Canadian division newly arrived at the front. Due to the use of gas, the defenders' losses were significantly higher than those of the attackers (around 70,000 to 35,000), which was unusual for trench warfare in World War I.

    On May 9, the British and French attempted a breakthrough in Artois in the Battle of Loretto . Despite enormous losses (111,000 Allied and 75,000 German soldiers), this only achieved partial success and was canceled in mid-June. On the German side, the structural advantages of the defender in trench warfare were increasingly being expanded through tactical changes: While the defense had traditionally been concentrated on a first line on the front slope (best overview and wide field of fire), the German troops left because of their material superiority of the Allies increasingly to shift the focus of the defense to the second line in the rear slope position. On the one hand, this left enough time for the Allied breakthrough to bring reserves; on the other hand, the superior Allied artillery was no longer accurate enough to eliminate the German positions due to the lack of direct visibility.

    The last major combat operations on the Western Front in the war year 1915 were Allied offensives between September 22nd and October 14th, again in Artois and Champagne . The autumn battle in Champagne and the autumn battle near La Bassée and Arras hardly brought any results with high losses and a successive increase in the use of materials: "The troops of the Entente had to pay for minimal gains in land with losses of up to a quarter of a million men."

    The Allied Gallipoli Company

    British infantry during a training exercise on the Greek island of Limnos for the later attack on Gallipoli

    On February 19, the Allies' Dardanelles operation began with British and French warships bombarding the Turkish coastal forts along the Dardanelles . At first, deminers tried to clear the Turkish mine barriers in the strait in order to be able to reach the destination Constantinople directly. The Allies wanted to push the Ottoman Empire out of the war by threatening its capital and to open the supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles. On March 18, a breakthrough attempt was made by the naval forces under Admiral John de Robeck , three Allied battleships were sunk and others were damaged. As a result, the Allied governments decided to force the opening of the Dardanelles with the landing of ground troops. The British military had previously considered landing troops at Alexandretta in order to separate the southern areas of the Ottoman Empire from the Anatolian heartland.

    On April 25, the Allies landed on the Gallipoli peninsula and on the opposite Asian coast at Kum Kale. Allied troops had previously occupied the island of Limnos , disregarding Greek neutrality, among other things , in order to use it as a starting point for attacks against the Ottoman Empire. 200 merchant ships - covered by 11 warships - deposited 78,000 British soldiers from the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and 17,000 French soldiers from the Corps expéditionnaire d'Orient , including the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) on its first war mission. The attack failed due to the unexpectedly fierce Turkish resistance, whereby in the 5th Ottoman Army under the command of Otto Liman von Sanders in particular Mustafa Kemal stood out as commander of the 19th division and laid the foundation for his reputation as a folk hero. The operation, in which a total of over 500,000 Allied soldiers were used, had to be broken off by January 9, 1916 with a comprehensive amphibious evacuation . 110,000 soldiers on both sides lost their lives in the battle.

    Italy enters the war

    The Italian front 1915 to 1917, Italian conquests in blue

    On May 23, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. Germany had previously put pressure on Austria since January to surrender the Trentino and other areas to Italy in order to at least guarantee its neutrality. Even after the termination of the Triple Alliance on May 4, Italy was presented with ever more extensive offers, including the cession of Trentino and the Isonzo region on May 10 , largely free rein in Albania, and more. On the other hand, Italy had negotiated with the Allies and had obtained more far-reaching commitments in the London Treaty of April 26th in the event that the Allies entered the war . Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino had, after months of maneuvering, with the express consent of King Victor Emanuel III. determined to declare war on Austria. They followed the pressure of public opinion, even though there was no majority in favor of war either in the population or in parliament at the time of the declaration of war. The advocates of the war against Austria were far more active and were able to unite the most important Italian opinion leaders from all political directions. Political irredentism , for example, could fall back on Cesare Battisti . Gabriele D'Annunzio - writer and later pioneer of European fascism - organized high-profile events and mass demonstrations for the war in Rome, while the socialist publicist Benito Mussolini had been advocating war since October 1914, which led to his exclusion from the Partito Socialista Italiano . Mussolini then founded - presumably financed by France - his own newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia , with which he continued to call for Italy to enter the war on the side of the Entente. The advocates of war received additional public support from the Futurists around Filippo Tommaso Marinetti . Even shortly before the declaration of war, parliament supported the neutrality course of the majority leader and previous prime minister Giovanni Giolitti , which earned him calls for murder on the part of D'Annunzio, but parliament was not the actual place of political decision-making. When it was convened on May 20 to approve the war credits, only the socialists voted against the credits, while the former opponents of the war such as the Giolitti supporters and the Catholics tried to prove their patriotic attitude by accepting the war credits.

    The Italian front ran from the Stilfser Joch on the Swiss border via Tyrol along the Dolomites , the Carnic Alps and the Isonzo to the coast of the Adriatic Sea . With this, Austria-Hungary found itself in a three-front war with immediate effect, which made the situation of the Central Powers more difficult. In addition, the Austrians were unable to adequately secure parts of the Italian front at the beginning of the fighting; in many cases, only local militias, Landwehr and Landsturm were deployed, including 30,000 riflemen . The fighting began on the Isonzo immediately after the declaration of war, the actual start of the First Isonzo Battle is scheduled for June 23rd. Despite great superiority and territorial gains, the Italians did not achieve a decisive breakthrough either in this battle (until July 7th) or in the immediately following Second Isonzo Battle (July 17th to August 3rd). This also applies to the Third and Fourth Isonzo Battles ; high losses of people and material went hand in hand with no changes to the overall strategic picture. The first Dolomite offensive (July 5 to August 4), the actual beginning of the Alpine War , also fitted into this picture, it also constituted another novelty in military history : never before had there been protracted fighting in the high mountains that reached up to sea ​​level of 3900 meters took place ( Ortler creation ).

    Genocide against the Armenians

    Since the battle of Sarıkamış, the Young Turkish leadership increasingly suspected the Armenians of sabotage. When the Russians approached Lake Van in mid-April , five local Armenian leaders were executed in the region. This and other incidents led to riots in Van . On April 24th, a wave of arrests of Armenian intellectuals began in Constantinople (now Armenia's national day of remembrance ). Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov published an international protest note (already prepared on April 27) on May 24, alleging that the population of more than 100 Armenian villages had been massacred and that representatives of the Turkish government had coordinated the killing. The next day (May 25), the Ottoman Interior Minister Talât Pascha announced that the Armenians would be deported from the war zone to Syria and Mosul . On May 27th and 30th, the government of the Ottoman Empire passed a deportation law, which began the systematic phase of the genocide of the Armenians and the genocide of the Assyrians . The German ambassador Hans von Wangenheim reported to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg in June of Talât Pascha's view that “the Porte wanted to use the world war to clean up their internal enemies - the local Christians - without being disturbed by diplomatic intervention from abroad to become". Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter , German Vice Consul in Erzerum , also reported at the end of July "that the ultimate goal [of] the action against the Armenians was the complete extermination of them in Turkey". In December 1915, the German ambassador and successor to Wangenheim, Paul Metternich, tried to intervene with the Turkish government on behalf of the Armenians and suggested that the German government make the deportations and riots public. This was not approved by Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, however, he rather noted: “The proposed public coramation of an ally during the ongoing war would be a measure that has never been seen in history. Our only goal is to keep Turkey by our side until the end of the war, regardless of whether the Armenians perish or not. ”Also an intervention by Pope Benedict XV, who wrote directly to Mohammed V, the Sultan of the Ottoman Rich, turned, came too late. The genocide claimed an estimated one million deaths by the end of the war and was already referred to as the " Holocaust " in its forerunners ( massacres and pogroms 1895/96 and the Adana massacre in 1909) .

    Bulgaria's entry into the war and the Central Powers' campaign in Serbia

    Wilhelm II. , Ferdinand I of Bulgaria and Field Marshal von Mackensen in Niš , Serbia (1915)
    Bulgarian soldiers around 1916

    The Central Powers received reinforcements on October 14, 1915 when Bulgaria entered the war . Bulgaria had not been able to enforce its territorial claims to create an "ethnic Bulgaria" during the Balkan Wars , practically all the conquests made in the First Balkan War had to be surrendered in the Peace of Bucharest in 1913, and the country was also considerably weakened by the wars. The government of Vasil Radoslawow first declared the strict neutrality of Bulgaria on August 1, 1914. The Central Powers and the Allies subsequently tried to get Bulgaria, which in turn could make its participation in the war dependent on the respective offer. The Central Powers were in a better starting position, they were able to accommodate the territorial interests at the expense of Serbia and possibly Romania and Greece (whose entry into the war was expected on the side of the Allies) more easily than the Allies, so the Bulgarians were promised Macedonia , Dobruja and Eastern Thrace . Accordingly, and due to the relatively favorable course of the war in autumn 1915, Bulgaria gave the Central Powers the contract. On September 6, Bulgaria had already agreed to cooperate with the Central Powers who wanted to establish a land connection with the Ottoman Empire by attacking Serbia. Participation in the war was extremely controversial in Bulgaria, after the government's decision to enter the war, the opposition parties - with the exception of parts of the Social Democrats - supported the course of the war. On October 6th, under the command of Mackensen, the offensive of the Central Powers against Serbia began , on October 14th Bulgaria declared war on Serbia. Thus the Serbs faced a considerable superior force, which the Allies could not compensate with a landing of troops north of Thessaloniki . Greece refused to enter the war on the part of Serbia with reference to the insufficient Allied support, although it had committed itself in a bilateral agreement to support Serbia on June 1, 1913. After the fall of Belgrade (October 9) and Niš (November 5), the remnants of the Serbian army (around 150,000 men; at the beginning of the war: 360,000 men) under the leadership of Radomir Putnik and around 20,000 prisoners of war withdrew into the Albanian and Montenegrin army Mountains back; after being reorganized in Corfu, it was later used again on the Salonikifront . The occupied Serbia was divided between Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria.

    Other secondary fronts in 1915

    The Battle of Sarıkamış on the Caucasus Front ends on January 5, 1915 with a heavy defeat for the Ottoman Empire. On the Palestine front, Ottoman troops under Friedrich Freiherr Kreß von Kressenstein launched an unsuccessful offensive against the Suez Canal at the end of January .

    The surrender of the German Schutztruppe in July 1915 ended the fighting in southwest Africa .

    End of November was the British advance on the Mesopotamian campaign (now Iraqi territory ) in the Battle of Ctesiphon (22 to 25 November) by the Ottoman army under the de facto command of Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz stopped and the expeditionary force of the British Indian Army on December 7th to be locked in Kut (→  Siege of Kut ).

    Political and social developments

    Joseph Joffre , commander in chief of all French troops since the beginning of December, convened an Allied conference in Chantilly from December 6th to 8th , where the Grand Quartier Général had been based since October 1914 . In order to deprive the Central Powers of the advantages of the “ Inner Line ”, coordinated attacks on all fronts were agreed for mid-1916. The British government under Herbert Henry Asquith had to be reorganized in May of that year due to the unfavorable war situation, especially at the Dardanelles, with the involvement of the conservatives who had been opposition until then. The coalition government under Asquith included a Ministry of Munitions in response to the ammunition crisis of the early of 1915 .

    In October and November there were riots in Germany in view of the tightened food restrictions in front of grocery stores, dispensaries and outdoor banks , but increasingly also to protest gatherings of predominantly female demonstrators. On November 30th, 58 women were arrested at a protest meeting on Unter den Linden in Berlin . The press was not allowed to report on them. As early as November 1914, the prices for grain, bread, butter and potatoes had risen sharply, and at that time the urban markets were only supplied hesitantly or not at all by the farmers. The reasons for the supply problems lay in the organizational ineptitude of the authorities - no one had expected and prepared a long war - as well as the discontinuation of food and saltpeter imports (the latter for fertilizer production), and horses and workers were withdrawn from agriculture as a result of the war. At the end of 1914, the Federal Council set maximum prices for bread, potatoes and sugar, and in January 1915 other staple foods followed, so that farmers tried more and more to market their goods through " surreptitious trade ". At the end of 1915, an observer noted: “The rise in prices has assumed a threatening character [...] The mood change in recent weeks, since the start of the stricter food restrictions, has been very pronounced. The women in particular get brutal [...] the women shout 'Give us something to eat!' and 'we want our men' ”. In view of the flourishing black market, the population believed less and less the official propaganda that the English sea blockade alone was responsible for the poor food supply. The consequence of the state's inability to deal with the food issue was a gradual “alienation of the citizens from the state, and indeed an actual 'delegitimisation' of the state”, beginning at the end of 1915 at the latest.

    The parliamentary group in the Reichstag and the party executive of the SPD decided on November 27th to introduce a “peace interpellation” in the Reichstag with the question of when and under what conditions Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg intends to initiate peace negotiations. Bethmann Hollweg tried unsuccessfully to withdraw the interpellation, and on December 9th it was dealt with in the Reichstag. The Chancellor answered the question put forward by Philipp Scheidemann insofar as "safeguards" (annexations) in East and West were indispensable for peace; abroad this was seen as a "hegemony speech". As a result, 20 Social Democrats in the Reichstag session on December 21st rejected the renewed approval of war credits and issued a declaration that Bethmann Hollweg was in favor of "annexation drivers".

    War year 1916

    Propaganda cartoon about the occupation of Albania by Austrian troops
    Battle of Verdun , March 14, 1916: German infantrymen attack the heights of the dead man
    Bomb crater around Fort Douaumont in late 1916
    German storm troop soldier on the Western Front, late 1916
    Military cemetery on the Eastern Front, around 1916

    Occupation of Montenegro and Albania

    On January 4th Austrian troops attacked the Kingdom of Montenegro , on January 23rd King Nikola surrendered and went into exile in France (→  Campaign in Montenegro and Austro-Hungarian occupation of Montenegro 1916–1918 ). The Principality of Albania was occupied also be about two-thirds by the Austro-Hungarian army (→  Austro-Hungarian occupation of Albania from 1916 to 1918 ). Most of the Serbian troops who had fled to Montenegro and Albania withdrew to Durrës , where an Italian expeditionary force landed in December 1915. In March 1916, the Italians evacuated 260,000 people from this port. These included 140,000 Serbian soldiers who were embarked on the island of Corfu , which had previously been annexed by the French , and who were militarily reorganized there (transferred to the Oriental Army in Thessaloniki in June ); the Serbian government-in-exile , headed by Nikola Pašić , set up its headquarters on Corfu. Among those evacuated from Durrës were 24,000 Austrian prisoners of war who were taken to the Sardinian island of Asinara , where around 5,000 died. The Italians were able to hold the port city of Vlora in Albania and thus expand their area of ​​power in southern Albania. In Montenegro was Viktor Weber Edler von Webenau of 26 February 1916 to 10 July 1917 for military governor-general. In Albania, which was not an active participant in the war, a civil board of directors was set up under the chairmanship of the consul general August Ritter von Kral . With the participation of Albanian leaders and the expansion of schools and infrastructure, the occupying power tried to win the Albanians for themselves.

    Battle for Verdun

    The Battle of Verdun began on February 21st . In contrast to later representations by Erich von Falkenhayn , which were adopted by many authors , the original intention of the attack was not to let the French army "bleed out" itself without spatial targets. With this assertion made in 1920, Falkenhayn tried to give the unsuccessful attack and the negative German myth of the "blood mill" an ostensible meaning. Originally the idea of ​​the attack at Verdun came from Crown Prince Wilhelm , Commander-in-Chief of the 5th Army , with Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf , Chief of Staff of the 5th Army, in charge. The German army command decided to attack the originally strongest fortress in France, which had been partially disarmed since 1915, in order to get the war on the western front going again. Around Verdun there was also an indentation of the front between the front arch of St. Mihiel in the east and Varennes in the west, which threatened the flanks of the German front there. Capturing the city itself was not the primary goal of the operation, but the heights of the east bank of the Meuse , in order to bring the own artillery into a dominant situation analogous to the siege of Port Arthur and thus make Verdun untenable. Falkenhayn believed that, for reasons of national prestige, France could be persuaded to accept unacceptable losses in defense of Verdun. In order to hold Verdun, if the plan had succeeded, it would have been necessary to recapture the heights occupied by German artillery, which was almost impossible in view of the experiences from the battles in 1915.

    In the first phase, after eight hours of barrage from 1,500 gun barrels, eight German divisions of the 5th Army attacked over a width of 13 kilometers near Ornes (now the desert ) in the north of Verdun. Contrary to German expectations, the French resisted bitterly, and initially hardly any land gains were recorded. On February 25th, Fort Douaumont was captured by German troops, which was of little tactical importance due to the eastern orientation of this fortress. On the occasion of the loss of the fort, the French decided that the Verdun fortress should be kept. General Pétain was charged with defending the city . The so-called Noria was successfully built via the only connecting road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun ( stylized as the “ Voie Sacrée ”) - the replenishment via this road was carried out with great effort. The battle took place in four phases: The first ended on March 4th, as the French artillery fire from the heights west of the Meuse brought the German advance to a standstill.

    In the second phase, Falkenhayn gave in to the urging of the 5th Army and launched attacks on these mountain ranges. The height of " Le Mort Homme " ("Dead Man") was taken several times, but not held for very long. Le Mort Homme and the height 304 are due to the brutal fighting as a symbol for the " Hell of Verdun ", Le Mort Homme lost six meters in height due to the bombardment.

    In a third phase, the attackers put the focus again on the capture of Verdun itself. On June 7th, Fort Vaux surrendered early in the morning due to lack of water, on June 23rd an attack on the Vaux - Fleury line began with 78,000 men , which also got stuck. For a short time, the German troops succeeded in a fourth phase up to July 11th, and fierce fighting broke out over the Ouvrage de Thiaumont (immediately southwest of Douaumont). At Fort de Souville (about five kilometers northeast of Verdun) and in front of the Ouvrage de Froideterre , the German attack finally stalled; in view of this, and in view of the Allied attack on the Somme that began on July 1, Falkenhayn ordered the cessation on the afternoon of July 12 Offensive.

    Resignation of Tirpitz and Skagerrakschlacht

    At the beginning of 1916, the question of an intensified submarine war against Great Britain was discussed again in the German leadership. After the elimination of Serbia, Falkenhayn believed the moment had come to flank the Verdun offensive and take more active action against Great Britain, while accepting a break with the USA. He was supported in this by assurances from the Admiral's Chief of Staff Henning von Holtzendorff that Great Britain could be brought to its knees within a year. In negotiations, the Chancellor managed to postpone the decision by the Kaiser and a preliminary compromise: intensification of submarine warfare (including sinking armed merchant ships without warning), but no return to unrestricted submarine warfare.

    At the beginning of March, a campaign initiated by the Reichsmarineamt began by sections of the press in favor of unrestricted submarine warfare (“Better war with America than starve”), which, however, annoyed the Kaiser (“His Majesty see an unheard of here, in the end the Person of the emperor as the supreme leader of imperial politics and the conduct of war before the whole people exposed procedure ”), so that Alfred von Tirpitz had to resign on March 15th from his post. The intensification of the submarine war was reversed in April after the Sussex incident .

    On May 31st and June 1st, the Skagerrakschlacht ( Battle of Jutland ) took place rather unintentionally and - measured by the tonnage of the ships involved (approx. 1.8 million tons displacement ) - "the largest sea battle in world history" . More than 8,600 sailors died, including the writer Gorch Fock . With luck and tactical skill, the German deep-sea fleet escaped annihilation by the overwhelming British forces and was able to inflict significantly higher losses on the British than the other way around. However, this changed nothing in terms of the strategic location and thus only confirmed British naval rule .

    Brusilov Offensive and Battle of the Somme

    As agreed at the Chantilly Conference, three major Allied offensives were planned for mid-1916: the attack on the Somme , the Brusilov offensive and another Isonzo battle . The attack on the Somme on July 1st was originally planned under French leadership, due to the Battle of Verdun it was largely taken over by the British. On the Italian front, the 6th Isonzo battle did not begin until August 4th, as the Allies requested an attack on March 11th (5th Isonzo battle) due to the German attack on Verdun and the Austrians launched the South Tyrol offensive on May 15th (until May 18th) June), because of which the Brusilov offensive was brought forward and began on June 4th.

    With the Brusilov offensive , the most successful Allied offensive to date began on June 4th. Alexei Brusilov , the new Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Southern Army since March, had drawn tactical conclusions from the previous failures: In contrast to the previous approach, the attack was carried out on a broad front (400 kilometers as the crow flies) so that the enemy could not concentrate troops at a foreseeable decisive point ; the attacking infantry were protected by deep shelters that were pushed up to 50 meters to the enemy lines (previously attacks were common over up to 1600 meters of no man's land, which led to considerable losses). Although Brusilov's numerical superiority was not great (too small to attack), the 8th Russian Army was able to defend the 4th k. East of Kovel by June 8th . u. k. Army almost completely destroyed, the 9th Russian Army rubbed the 7th k in the south between the Dniester and the Carpathians . u. k. Army and conquered important cities such as Chernivtsi and Kolomea . The losses for Austria-Hungary amounted to 624,000 men. Brusilov was able to advance far near the Romanian border (up to 120 kilometers), which in Romania was the decisive factor for the Allies to enter the war. Logistical problems prevented further penetration, however, and supportive attacks according to the old pattern (on a narrow section of the front) in the area of ​​the Pripjet swamps and near Baranavichy failed, as did the attempt to capture the Kovel traffic junction. "Nevertheless, the Brusilov Offensive was - by the standards of the First World War, in which every meter of ground was fought for - the greatest victory that the Allies achieved on any front since the trench warfare began on the Aisne ."

    The BEF, under the command of Douglas Haig, took control of the attack on the Somme , as the French contingent had been reduced from 40 to 11 divisions due to the Battle of Verdun. After eight days of uninterrupted artillery preparation using over 1,500 artillery pieces, during which around one and a half million shells were fired, the attack on the German positions on the Somme began on July 1, 1916. Despite the heavy gunfire, numerous German shelters remained intact, so that the German soldiers were able to counter the British attack with machine-gun fire. On the first day of the Somme battle alone, 19,240 British soldiers died, 8,000 of them in the first half hour. Despite the enormous losses, Haig let the offensive continue. On September 15, the discussions led to war historically first use of tanks ( tank ) by the British. The fighting lasted until November 25th, the Allies were able to push in the German front by 8 to 10 kilometers at the focal point of the attack front (as the crow flies) about 30 kilometers wide. The British and French losses for this modest gain in land amounted to 624,000 men, on the German side the losses were 420,000 men. The numbers of German casualties are controversial, British authors calculate the number of slightly injured persons - allegedly not recorded in the German medical report (local loss figure: 335,688) as well as in the corresponding Allied reports - and come to German casualties of up to 650,000 men. The Battle of the Somme was in any case the single battle with the greatest losses of the First World War. July 1st as the beginning of the battle still has a certain significance as a day of remembrance in Great Britain. The British historian John Keegan summed up in 1998: “For the British, the Somme battle was their greatest military tragedy in the 20th century, indeed in their history at all […]. For Great Britain, the Somme marked the end of an era of sparkling optimism to which it never found its way back ”. The knowledge of the extent of the losses on the Somme in late 1916 was one of the decisive factors behind the change in British government in December from Herbert Henry Asquith to David Lloyd George .

    South Tyrol offensive and Isonzo battles

    From May to June the Austro-Hungarian army led an offensive against the Italian positions in South Tyrol , which had to be broken off due to the situation on the Eastern Front (Brusilov offensive) after minor initial successes. The Italian army carried out several major attacks on the Isonzo from March to November ( 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th battles of the Isonzo ). The Italians conquered the city of Gorizia and the Doberdò plateau , and the Italian army failed to achieve any further success. On August 28, 1916, Italy also declared war on the German Reich. As early as May to November 1915, a reinforced German division ( Alpine Corps ) had been transferred to the front in South Tyrol to support the Austro-Hungarian ally , as the OHL saw southern Germany at risk. During the mountain war in the Southern Alps on December 13, 1916, several thousand Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers died in dozens of avalanches. The avalanche disaster of December 13, 1916 is considered to be one of the worst weather-related disasters in Europe.

    Romania's entry into the war

    On August 27, 1916, Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary and had in fact opened the Romanian theater of war a few days earlier . Romania had joined the Triple Alliance in 1883 , but at the beginning of the war Romania remained neutral in a literal interpretation of the treaty. Domestically, Romania was initially divided, the liberals under Prime Minister Ion Brătianu favored rapprochement with the Entente, while the majority of the conservatives tended to advocate neutrality. King Charles I was one of the few politicians who pleaded for the Central Powers to join the war . Russia had already guaranteed Romania support for its territorial claims in Transylvania in an agreement of October 1, 1914 . Since Romania had received the southern Dobruja , mostly inhabited by Bulgarians and Turks, in the Peace of Bucharest after the Second Balkan War , the Bulgarian entry into the war on the part of the Central Powers was another factor that moved Romania towards the Entente. The "Greater Romanian unification" in the form of the inclusion of the areas of Transylvania, the Banat and the Bukovina , which belong to Austria, could only be achieved with a war alliance against Vienna. The Entente also made corresponding territorial advances (without wanting to fulfill them in full), so that Romania contractually joined the Entente on August 17, 1916, also in view of the successes of the Brusilov offensive (see also war aims ). First of all, the numerically far superior, but poorly equipped Romanian army in Transylvania was able to achieve an extensive break-in into Hungary. The 9th German Army, under the command of the former chief of the OHL Falkenhayn , defeated the Romanians in the Battle of Sibiu (September 26-29). In a large-scale urban warfare - which was rather untypical for the First World War - Kronstadt could be recaptured by October 8th . The Central Powers set up a classic pincer movement: On November 23, Bulgarian, Turkish and German troops (“ Danube Army ”) crossed the Danube from the southwest. Bucharest, bombed several times by airships and attack aircraft , was captured on December 6th . Romania's entry into the war brought advantages for the Central Powers, as they were able to take over the oil fields of Ploieşti and large agricultural capacities in the course of 1916 , which initially noticeably alleviated supply shortages in Germany. The Romanians could only hold the northeast of their country with Russian help, King Ferdinand evaded with the government to Iași .

    Dismissal of Falkenhayn and 3rd OHL

    During the serious crisis that German warfare got into in the summer of 1916 due to the all-front war of the Entente, Kaiser Wilhelm was increasingly tempted to finally part with Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn . Romania's entry into the war on August 27 was the occasion. The new leadership (from August 29) with Paul von Hindenburg and his chief of staff Erich Ludendorff , also known as the 3rd OHL, broke off the offensive actions against Verdun and immediately initiated measures to increase economic mobilization; on August 31, the Prussian Ministry of War was presented with corresponding demands , later known as the Hindenburg program . The appointment of the 3rd OHL also meant a political turnaround that led to a de facto military dictatorship : “With the appointment of the Hindenburg / Ludendorff general duo, who were virtually irremovable due to their nimbus, the monarch not only faded into the background even more than before during the war also got into the political pull of the OHL. [...] The indispensable duo of generals [...] was [...] ready to intervene in politics far beyond their military competencies, to put the emperor under pressure and even to exert decisive influence on the selection of personnel - the center of imperial power. "

    French counterattack at Verdun and replacement of Joffres

    In the autumn the French army started a counter-offensive at Verdun. On October 24th, French troops took the forts of Douaumont and Thiaumont . Further French offensives forced the Germans to evacuate Fort Vaux on December 2nd . The fort was blown up by German pioneers after it was cleared. By December 16, the French had recaptured almost all of the territories that the Germans had taken in their spring offensive.

    The battle of Verdun claimed 337,000 men losses among the Germans (including 143,000 dead) and 377,000 men among the French (162,000 dead). At least 36 million shells had fallen on the battlefield, which was around 30 kilometers wide and 10 kilometers deep.

    Since the French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre was accused of misunderstanding the German intention to attack Verdun and the bloody and useless offensives in Champagne and the Somme, he came under increasing criticism. On December 3, he was replaced by General Robert Nivelle (1856-1924), who had led the successful counter-offensive at Verdun and thus recommended himself to lead the allied spring offensive planned for the next year. Nivelle was initially preferred to Philippe Pétain , the successful defender and "hero of Verdun", who was considered too defensive.

    The reign of Poland and the peace initiative of the Central Powers

    On November 5th, the part of Poland , which was Russian until 1915, was proclaimed an independent kingdom by the Central Powers . Expectations with regard to substantial military support from Poland were not fulfilled, however, only a small national Polish volunteer contingent - until July under the leadership of Józef Piłsudski - fought on the side of the Central Powers. This contingent was declared a Polish Wehrmacht . Hundreds of thousands of soldiers of Polish nationality also served as "subjects" in the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian armed forces without forming separate national units.

    After the capture of Bucharest , the Central Powers made an offer of peace to the Allies on December 12th, which the Allies rejected on December 30th.

    War year 1917

    Submarine warfare intensified and the United States entered the war

    U-boat war: The U-boat SM U 35 bombarded a British cargo ship in the Mediterranean in the spring of 1917. U 35 sank at least 226 ships, making it probably the most “successful” warship in world history

    On January 8 and 9, 1917, after much pressure (since January 1916, ultimately since December 1916), the Supreme Army Command obtained the approval of the Kaiser to resume unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1. The previous peace offer by the Central Powers ( see above ) and its expected rejection also served to prepare this step in terms of domestic and foreign policy.But only the reply from the Allies to the unexpected offer of mediation by Woodrow Wilson (dated December 18, 1916), which became known on January 12, resulted in a far-reaching domestic political alliance. Wilson had requested, among other things, the disclosure of the respective war goals. The editor-in-chief of Berliner Tageblatt , Theodor Wolff , who was otherwise quite critical of the government , noted on January 12th and 13th: “The Entente's reply to Wilson has been published. She announces the war aims of the Entente. Separation of the previously conquered provinces and areas from Germany, complete dissolution of Austria-Hungary according to the nationality principle , expulsion of Turkey from Europe, etc. enormous effect. Deep delight in the Pan-Germans and similar elements. Nobody can claim that the Entente does not want a war of extermination and is ready to negotiate. [...] As a result of the Entente answer, the emperor appeals to the people. Everything is now in preparation for unrestricted submarine war. ”The Central Powers rejected Wilson's mediation proposal and at the same time notified the United States on January 31 that unrestricted submarine war would be resumed. On February 3, the United States responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.

    On April 6, 1917, the USA declared war on the German Reich after President Wilson had asked the US Congress four days earlier to participate in the crusade of the "peace-loving" democracies against the "militarily aggressive" autocracies of the world. Both Houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor. The deeper causes for this development lay initially in the view that the respective ideas of a global post-war order were mutually exclusive and that German continental European hegemonic intentions and global political ambitions could not be reconciled with American interests. Even before the war, the United States had increasingly come to believe that the political strategy associated with the Tirpitz Plan was in conflict with American interests in the long term, including the Monroe Doctrine . Furthermore, the attitude of leading American scholars and politicians at the beginning of the 20th century was marked by deep distrust of the German claim to cultural superiority and the German state idea . The increasing economic ties with the Entente since the beginning of the war, reports of actual and alleged German war atrocities such as the Bryce Report and sinking ships with American victims - namely those of the RMS Lusitania - intensified the anti-German mood. Initially, however, the increasing armament efforts since the beginning of the war did not focus on entering the war, but on the potential war after this war. In the election campaign for the presidential election of November 7, 1916 , Wilson focused on maintaining American neutrality, which after Wilson's election victory helped the German government's decision to escalate the warfare further. The German reaction to Wilson's peace initiative of December 18, 1916 ( see above ) was decisive for the development towards the entry of the war . The confidential and at the same time relativized transmission of the German peace conditions - de facto a rejection of the mediation offer - took place at the same time as the Reich announced the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare . Germany declared that ships from neutral states, including the USA, would also be sunk in a war zone defined by Germany. Wilson received this initially in disbelief and then with deep disappointment. Although the majority of Wilson's advisors - above all Robert Lansing and Edward Mandell House - were now definitely pressing for war, Wilson only broke off diplomatic relations with the German Empire on February 3 and initially wanted to wait and see whether the Reich leadership carried out their threat. On February 24, the American government became aware of an intercepted telegram from the Secretary of State in the Foreign Office, the Zimmermann telegram , which was published in The New York Times on March 1 . In it, Germany submitted an offer of alliance to the government of Mexico in the event of war and signaled “ample financial support and agreement” if Mexico “recaptures previously lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona”. After this news, there was no longer any doubt that the American population was ready to go to war, and American citizens were again killed in March by German submarine attacks. After the declaration of war on Germany, that on Austria-Hungary took place in December 1917.

    Starvation winter in Germany

    In the winter of 1916/17 several developments came together that led to the so-called turnip winter, including a particularly bad harvest due to the weather . The distorted price structure ( see above ) meant that it was more profitable for producers to use potatoes and bread grains as animal feed or to sell them to distilleries. In February, the average daily ration dropped to 1,000 kilocalories per day ( average requirement: 2,410 kilocalories), which escalated food difficulties. The turnip winter also caused a deep cut in the collective perception of social solidarity (producers versus consumers) and the ability of the state to provide food.

    Revolution in Russia

    Mass demonstrations in Petrograd sparked the February Revolution

    The demands of the first "industrial" war increasingly exceeded the forces of the Russian Empire, which was largely shaped by the agricultural economy, and led to an exacerbation of the already serious social problems. Added to this was the sea blockade of the Baltic Sea and the Dardanelles, which played a major role in the exhaustion of Russia in the course of the war: before the war, 70 percent of imports into the Czarist Empire went through the Baltic Sea, the remaining 30 percent predominantly crossed the Black Sea . Against the background of the war stresses, increasing inflation and above all because of the severe shortage of food, primarily workers 'and soldiers' wives and, for the first time, peasant women organized on 23 February July. / March 8th greg. (therefore later date of International Women's Day ) in Petrograd mass demonstrations, which took place on February 26th . / March 11th greg. attacked the Petrograd garrison troops and expanded into the February Revolution . As in 1905, councils ( soviets ) were formed from workers' committees , which represented the demands of the demonstrators and tried to enforce them politically. At the head of the councils was an executive committee, which initially consisted of a majority of Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries . On March 1st, Jul. / March 14th greg. who issued Petrograd Soviet the No. 1 Command. , alleging only commands the government were to follow that those of the Soviets disagreed not - what the Soviet was able to prevail. In the Duma represented civil parties formed parallel a provisional government under Prime Minister Georgi Lvov and were able to persuade the Tsar to abdicate (March 3 jul. / 16 March greg. ). This created a state of limbo between the Provisional Government and the Soviets known as “ dual power ”. To the disappointment of large parts of the Russian population, the provisional government decided to continue the war; the Soviets in their composition at that time followed the government's course on this point. The Allies rated the events in Russia largely positive, because Russia, as an anti-democratic state, posed a problem for the Allied propaganda, which always emphasized the struggle of democracy against arbitrary rule. The German leadership made it possible that on March 21 . / April 3, greg. Lenin and 30 other leading Bolsheviks - sometimes on a German train - were able to return from exile in Switzerland to Russia via Finland. The “Bolshevik” (majority) wing of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party , whose leaders had mostly lived in exile since the revolution of 1905 , had tried to mobilize from the beginning of the war against the war policy of their own government and the “transformation of the present imperialist war into civil war “Propagated, but initially without great success. The imperial government, which had established contact with Lenin, who lived in Switzerland through the intermediary Alexander Parvus , subsequently supported the revolutionaries with large amounts of money (probably several million marks ) in order to destabilize the Russian state. Immediately after his return, on April 7th, Lenin published jul. / April 20, greg. his April theses , in which he presented his views on the further development of the revolution and demanded the immediate end of the war, which met with great approval from the war-weary population. The publication of the Miliukov Note (continuation of the war, no separate peace), of all things, on the " day of struggle of the workers' movement " (April 18 July / May 1 greg. ) Further fueled the already heated mood of the demonstrating masses and triggered the "April- Crisis ”, which led to a government reshuffle with the participation of the moderate-left parties represented in the Soviets.

    Meet in no man's land
    Meeting in front of the Russian wire barn

    Alexander Kerensky - Minister of War in the May 6th jul. / May 19, greg. The first coalition government formed and at the same time deputy chairman of the Workers 'and Soldiers' Soviets - implemented a Kerensky offensive, later named after him, with the goals of Brzezany , Lemberg and Vilnius in accordance with his concept of “peace without defeat” . The attack began on June 29th with artillery bombardment with a previously unknown intensity on the Eastern Front, its focus was in the Stanislau area , beyond which the Russian army advanced to Kalusz (July 11th), only to get stuck thereupon. The attack also failed on the other sections of the front. As a result, there were mass deserts and disintegration phenomena of the Russian army, Kerensky stopped the offensive on July 25th. In a counterattack, the Central Powers advanced as far as Tarnopol and Chernivtsi (August 3), which was accompanied by the reconquest of Eastern Galicia and Bukovina . In Russia itself there was an attempted coup by the Bolsheviks at the beginning of July , which was suppressed by the military. Lenin then fled to Finland . In September German troops conquered the city of Riga and in October the Baltic islands of Ösel , Dagö and Moon in Operation Albion , whereupon the military resistance of the Russian army almost collapsed.

    When General Kornilov attempted a coup at the end of September , Kerensky had to fall back on the Bolsheviks to defend the revolution, which went hand in hand with factual and legal rehabilitation. The situation in Russia escalated at the beginning of November. Through the October Revolution of October 24th, July 24th, led by Lenin, who has meanwhile returned from Finland . / November 6th greg. until October 25th jul. / November 7th, greg. the Provisional Government was overthrown and power was taken over by the Bolsheviks. Already on October 26th July / November 8th greg. the new Russian rulers issued the Decree on Peace , which paved the way for strong military relief for the Central Powers on their eastern front.

    On December 5th, a ten-day armistice, which was later extended several times, was agreed between the Central Powers and Russia and the initially unsuccessful peace negotiations opened in Brest-Litovsk on December 22nd , which ended on March 3rd, 1918 with the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty ( see below ) .

    Germany on the defensive on the western front

    St. Quentin was largely destroyed as part of the Siegfried Line, in the picture the entrance to the German headquarters
    Unsuccessful French assault on a German position almost completely leveled by barrage
    Bombed forest near Ypres
    Air-backed tank attack: The Battle of Cambrai is considered a milestone in war history

    In March, the German troops in the central section of the western front on the Somme withdrew to the Alberich company in the heavily developed Siegfried line . The actual movement was carried out within three days, March 16-19. This retreat and the intensification of the naval war were consequences of the great battles of 1916 at Verdun and on the Somme; the German troops were battered. The initiative came from the Army Group "Crown Prince Rupprecht" , which prevailed against the resistance of Ludendorff. The construction of the Siegfriedstellung was probably the largest construction project of the First World War, the work was mainly done by prisoners of war and forced labor. As instructed, German troops systematically devastated the area to be cleared before the tactical retreat (“ scorched earth ”), partially mined it (also with booby traps ) and deported its residents. Towns such as Bapaume were blown up, a total of 150,000 people were deported, roughly all of the 40,000 inhabitants of Saint-Quentin . Militarily, the operation was a success, it improved the situation of the German troops by shortening the front and withdrawing to the well-developed Siegfried position, the attack plans of the surprised Allies for the spring of 1917 initially came to nothing. The effect on public opinion abroad, on the other hand, was just as devastating as the operation which “completely destroyed civil life and turned a historical landscape into a desert” in the affected area.

    At the second conference in Chantilly (location of the French headquarters ), the Allies again agreed on a combined offensive in November 1916. Robert Nivelle, who was appointed joint commander in chief for this offensive , chose the northern French city of Arras as the starting point for an attack ( Battle of Arras ) by the British army (including Canadian and New Zealand units) that began on April 9th . The main attack of the French army followed a little later on the Aisne ( Battle of the Aisne ) and in the Champagne. After the failure on the Somme, the Allies returned to the tactical concept of 1915: The still large German front arc between Lille in the north and Verdun in the south was to be cut off by pushing in the two flanks. The main goal of the French was to take the Chemin des Dames . The attack at Arras surprised the German troops under General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, who was subsequently relieved . The extent of the imminent attack had remained hidden from the German reconnaissance, not least because of the 24,000 soldiers hidden in the "tunnel city" of Arras. Apart from that, the use of materials was significantly higher than on the Somme in the previous year. The Canadians succeeded in taking a strategically important ridge at Vimy , but the advance stopped afterwards. The French attack 130 kilometers further south was a failure in spite of the gains in terrain; the Chemin des Dames as an operational target could not be taken. Both offensives had to be canceled in May after heavy losses. According to a flexible defense strategy developed by Fritz von Loßberg ("Defense in the Depth"), the German army had switched to staggering the defenses in a deeper and more complex manner. The tanks used by the British and the French (170 in total) were unable to spark any major impact due to technical problems and insufficient numbers. Poison gas was used by both sides, and with these two battles the gas grenade increasingly replaced the blowing method.

    The failed offensive on Chemin des Dames (Battle of the Aisne) caused mutinies in 68 divisions of the French army, a total of about 40,000 men (out of 2 million). Five divisions were seriously affected, these were directly to the south of the attack zone of the offensive on the Chemin des Dames, between Soissons and Reims . Similar problems arose with the Russian expeditionary force also deployed there . In view of the initial British successes at Arras, the high expectations were particularly disappointed there. As a rule, the mutinies did not begin with the troops in the front line, but with those in the break of fighting when they were ordered to return to the front. The specific demands were more leave from the front, better nutrition, better conditions for the soldiers' families, an end to the “slaughter” (protest against the methods of warfare) and, in isolated cases, “peace” and an end to “injustice” (primarily in the sense of military justice meant). “Most of the mutinous soldiers did not question the war itself, but only protested against being slaughtered for no use.” On April 29, the French commander-in-chief Nivelle was replaced by General Pétain, who had organized the defense of Verdun. By moving to a defensive stance, Pétain was able to curb the unrest in the French army, and Pétain introduced a new way of fighting that was similar to the German "defense in depth". Apart from two limited, successful operations at Verdun in August and on the Aisne in October (where the Germans were thrown back behind the Ailette ), the French army made no more offensives between June 1917 and July 1918. In addition, Pétain made improvements in terms of food and rest times for the troops. About 10 percent of the mutineers were brought to justice, 3,427 soldiers were convicted, the courts-martial passed 554 death sentences, 49 of which were carried out. During the high phase of the mutiny between May and June, the German troops were content to accept the passivity of the enemy, since they did not understand the causes and were bound on other fronts.

    In the Battle of Messines (May 21st to June 7th) the British succeeded in conquering a strategically important mountain range in the south of Ypres. Miners from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had placed 21 large mines under the German positions in a year and a half, the detonation of which triggered the “most effective” non-nuclear explosion in war history (10,000 dead, 6,400 stunned). The conquest of the ridge secured the right flank and enabled a major Allied offensive under British leadership, the Third Battle of Flanders (July 31 to November 6). The goals of a hoped-for breakthrough included the German submarine bases in Ostend and Zeebrugge . After some successes, the attack got stuck at Langemark-Poelkapelle on October 9th , and the main thrust against the strategically important plateau of Geluveld failed , as a result of which the Allied troops were exposed to constant flank fire. After Canadian troops took the ruins of Passchendaele on November 6th, the fighting subsided - the Allies were only able to push back the German front here and thus on the most successful section by only 8 kilometers. The losses on both sides amounted to about 585,000 soldiers.

    The Battle of Cambrai (November 20 to December 6) saw the first operational use of closed tank formations, a "milestone in the history of warfare." Around 320 operational tanks of the Royal Tank Regiment - supported by 400 aircraft and six infantry - as well as three cavalry divisions - after a short artillery preparation broke through the Siegfried position on a 15 km wide front in the area of Havrincourt and advanced about seven kilometers. The new method of attack was surprising, as the usual day-long artillery preparation was expected in the event of attack intentions due to the deeply structured positions. The breakthrough to the Cambrai railway junction did not succeed, however, a good third of the attacking tanks were destroyed, and in a counter-offensive launched on November 30, the German troops managed to recapture most of the lost terrain. This defensive success strengthened the German army command in its misjudgment that the establishment of its own armored force was not a priority.

    The secondary fronts

    The British Indian Army, led by Frederick Stanley Maude , invades Baghdad

    At the beginning of the year, the British renewed their offensive on the Mesopotamia front towards Baghdad , on February 24 they reached Kut al-Amara and surprisingly took Baghdad before the start of the rainy season on March 11; the Turks had to retreat to Mosul . The fall of Baghdad was a heavy blow for Turkey and the Central Powers, as it called into question all plans in the Orient , including those connected with the Baghdad Railway . For this reason, the former chief of staff, Falkenhayn, was given the task of preparing the reconquest of Baghdad together with Enver Pascha under the code name "Jilderim" (lightning).

    Eleftherios Venizelos , accompanied by Admiral Pavlos Koundouriotis (left) and General Maurice Sarrail (right), inspect Greek troops

    On June 29, 1917, the Kingdom of Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies, after Greek volunteer organizations had already fought on their side on the Salonika Front. Since the landing of Allied troops in Greece end of 1915 it had become a " national schism came," in which the faces of the Entente provisional rebel government of Eleftherios Venizelos , finally, thanks to increasing British-French intervention against the ruling "germanophile camp" to I. Constantine prevailed . After the occupation of almost all strategically important parts of the country, including Athens, by the Allies and an ultimatum from the French High Commissioner Jonnart , Constantine abdicated in June 1917 and went into exile. In return, Venizelos returned from Saloniki to Athens, convened the parliament elected in 1915 and formed a government that immediately declared war on the Central Powers. The new king was Alexander I.

    Initial situation of the 12th Isonzo battle and development of the situation up to November 12, 1917

    In the 11th Isonzo battle (August 17 to September 12) Austria-Hungary narrowly escaped a severe defeat. Since Emperor Karl I feared that he would no longer be able to withstand the next Italian attack, he and the Austrian High Command requested German support, which was provided in the form of the 14th Army (including the German Alpine Corps ) newly established for this mission . The anticipated attack by the Italians was anticipated with an offensive of their own, in the twelfth battle of the Isonzo (also “Battle of Good Freit ”, Italian “Battaglia di Caporetto”, October 24th to 27th / November 11th) the breakthrough was surprisingly achieved in eleven days The Central Powers advanced 130 kilometers, occupied Udine, the first major Italian city, and stood 30 kilometers from Venice . The Italians lost more than 305,000 men (Central Powers: 70,000), including 265,000 prisoners of war. The success was based above all on the "shock troop procedure" (rapid advance of assault battalions on a narrow corridor without paying special attention to flank protection ), developed from the experiences of the first years of the war and first used on a large scale in the battle of Riga . The front could be stabilized with difficulty on the Piave and on Monte Grappa . The Allies sent five British and six French divisions in support. The somewhat revolutionary situation in Italy (strikes, mass desertions) subsided because of the disaster, because: "The war of aggression turned into a defensive war". In response to this defeat, the Allied Supreme War Council was founded on November 7th at the Rapallo Conference , and the Italian Chief of the General Staff Luigi Cadorna was replaced by Armando Diaz .

    November 1917: German soldiers in Jerusalem

    The last major offensive of the war year 1917 was also the last major cavalry attack in military history: On October 31, 1917, the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade with 12,000 cavalrymen and the British 5th Mounted Brigade under the command of General Edmund Allenby attacked by Ottoman and German troops held Beersheba and it could conquer. Falkenhayn then moved into his headquarters in Jerusalem on November 5th and wanted to defend the city at all costs. However, the OHL ordered the evacuation so as not to further damage the reputation of the Central Powers in the world if the holy places were destroyed. The battle for Jerusalem with the support of insurgent Arabs ( TE Lawrence ) thus ended on December 9th with the British troops taking Jerusalem without a fight.

    Politics and Peace Initiatives

    In the Easter message of April 7th, Wilhelm II promised vague democratic reforms after the war. On April 11th, the USPD was founded in Gotha as a split from the SPD, the background being the escalated disciplining of left-wing parties in the SPD to maintain the truce policy , the Russian February Revolution and the April strikes . A week later, on April 19, the SPD (later in the year increasingly referred to as MSPD ) demanded equal citizenship rights as well as steps towards a parliamentary system (" parliamentarization ") and declared its approval of the Petrograd Soviets' demand at the end of March: peace without annexations and reparations, free national development of all peoples. Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, who had previously isolated himself increasingly with his indifferent attitude to the war aims and political reforms, was thus in trouble: Since he now, in view of the MSPD declaration, from the OHL's point of view, “could no longer master social democracy”, demanded Hindenburg and Ludendorff at the Kaiser - initially unsuccessfully - the dismissal of the Chancellor. At the war target conference in Bad Kreuznach on April 23, the Chancellor, under pressure from the OHL, signed a protocol that, even in Admiral Müller's opinion, was a document of “complete excess” with regard to the annexation targets .

    The Stockholm Conference of the Second International took place from June 2 to June 19, but it was just as ineffective as various explorations for a separate peace, especially on the part of the new Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles I. Attempts at peace with Russia failed in the spring initially due to the unacceptable German demands.

    On July 6th, Matthias Erzberger's speech in the Reichstag ( German Center Party ) triggered a “sensation in all political circles”: The conservative politician, originally an advocate of a “ victory peace ”, gave the military evidence of false information about the effectiveness of the submarine war and campaigned for a " mutual agreement ": Germany must renounce annexations. On the same day, leading MPs from the MSPD, the Center and the Liberal Progressive Party also agreed the Intergroup Committee as the coordination body of the majority parliamentary groups, which is considered the start of the parliamentarization of Germany and was accordingly interpreted by conservatives at the time as the "beginning of the revolution". Because of Erzberger's speech, Hindenburg and Ludendorff spoke to the Kaiser on July 7th and called for the Chancellor to be replaced, which the Kaiser again refused. On July 10th, the Chancellor got the emperor's promise of equal suffrage in Prussia after the war (as opposed to three-class suffrage ), which became known to the public on July 12th. On the same evening, Hindenburg and Ludendorff threatened to resign if the Chancellor was not recalled, which caused the Kaiser to back down. On the morning of July 13th, Bethmann Hollweg, informed of this, submitted his resignation, and the largely unknown Georg Michaelis was appointed as his successor .

    On July 19, 1917, the majority of the Reichstag approved the very general peace resolution submitted by Erzberger , which accordingly remained without consequences. Domestically, however, the peace resolution of the Reichstag had an impact, among other things, as the annexionist, völkisch-nationalist German Fatherland Party was founded on this occasion as a counter-reaction . The peace note Dès le début from Pope Benedict XV. August 1st to the leaderships of the warring countries likewise remained without consequences. Among other things, the Pope proposed a peace without annexations and reparations, free sea routes and a settlement of the disputed questions with the help of international law. This initiative, combined with humanitarian activities (e.g. initiation of an exchange of wounded and a missing person tracing service) and a repeated condemnation of the war (“useless bloodshed”), is regarded as the prelude to the modern foreign policy of the Holy See .

    Since Chancellor Michaelis clearly saw himself to a large extent as a fulfillment aid for the OHL, the majority in the Reichstag had been pressing for his dismissal since the end of October and was able to enforce this . Georg von Hertling became his successor on November 1st .

    On December 3, negotiations between Russia and the Central Powers began on a separate peace, and on December 6, Finland proclaimed its independence from Russia.

    War year 1918

    Wilson's 14 points and mass strikes

    President Woodrow Wilson presented his 14-point program in a keynote address to both houses of the US Congress on January 8th . Wilson claimed to want to realize liberal political principles globally, as the most important goal Wilson proclaimed the right of the peoples to self-determination . Among other things, the 14 points included the evacuation and restoration of Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro as well as the evacuation and abandonment of Alsace-Lorraine, a separate Polish state, freedom of the seas, arms restrictions and "autonomous development" for the peoples of Austria-Hungary required. On January 24th, Germany and Austria-Hungary rejected the 14 points .

    On January 14th, the January strikes began at the armaments factories in and around Wiener Neustadt , the strike front expanded and only crumbled in the face of massive military violence, and work was resumed on January 23rd. In Germany, between January 28 and February 2, in Berlin and other industrial centers there were mass protests and strike actions with more than a million workers ( January strike ) who, in contrast to earlier actions, were primarily politically motivated and supported the Pronounced “general peace” and against “annexations and contributions”, which was aimed primarily at the annexionist attitude of the OHL in Brest-Litovsk. The MSPD sent Friedrich Ebert , Otto Braun and Philipp Scheidemann to the action committee to “keep the movement on track”. As in Austria, however, the movement could only be suppressed with military repression; on January 31, the authorities in Berlin declared a state of aggravated siege, arrested members of the strike leadership and subsequently sent 50,000 workers involved to the front. As of February 3rd, most of the companies resumed their work.

    Peace with Russia, the spring offensive and the turn of the war

    Russian and German soldiers celebrate fraternization during the armistice on the Eastern Front
    Soviet Russia lost territory by March 1918

    In the peace negotiations in Brest-Litovsk on January 19, the German side demanded in the ultimate form Russia's abandonment of Poland, Lithuania and western Latvia , whereupon the Soviet negotiator Leon Trotsky obtained a break in negotiations. In Petrograd the government and the Central Committee decided in favor of Trotsky's proposal to postpone negotiations in anticipation of the imminent uprising of the Western European proletariat. On January 25, Ukraine declared itself independent by resolution of the non-Bolshevik Central Na Rada ; on February 9, the Central Powers concluded a separate peace (" Bread Peace ") with Ukraine . In return for the generous demarcation of the border in western Ukraine, the Central Powers demanded extensive grain deliveries from the Ukrainian government, at the same time they presented Russia with an ultimatum to accept the peace conditions, whereupon Trotsky - still in hope of the imminent revolution in Germany - unilaterally without signing the treaty announced the demobilization. As a result, the Central Powers advanced in Operation Faustschlag on February 18 and in a few weeks occupied large parts of the western border areas in the Baltic States, in western Ukraine, in the Crimea , in the industrial area on the Donets and in Belarus. Without re-entering into negotiations, the Soviet delegation had to accept the considerably stricter German conditions, and the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty was signed on March 3rd. The Central Powers undertook to evacuate the occupied territories with the exception of Livonia , but Russia had to renounce territorial claims in Poland, Lithuania and Courland, as well as the area claimed by Turkey in the Caucasus. In connection with the treaty, Germany agreed in March to an independent Lithuania, closely bound to Germany (declaration of independence on February 16). A supplementary agreement signed on August 27 stipulated Russia's renunciation of Livonia and the recognition of the independence of Finland and Ukraine. The German Reich had previously (June 28) made the momentous decision not to advance to Petrograd and, despite ideological reservations, to keep Bolshevism alive because the other groups in the Russian Civil War did not accept the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. With the treaty, Russia gave up a third of its population and most of its raw material and industrial potential.

    The relief of the eastern front, which was foreseeable at the end of 1917, meant that on November 11, 1917, the German army command decided on an offensive on the western front in Mons , for which various competing plans were drawn up and which gave a turn to the war before the arrival of the Americans should. Another aspect was the poor supply situation at home, which made a quick military decision appear necessary.

    On January 21, 1918, Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided on a variant under the code name " Michael ": an offensive in the area of St. Quentin along the Somme, which should pivot to the northwest, encompass the British army and force them to retreat to the canal ports. By withdrawing troops, especially from Russia, the number of German divisions in the west could be increased from 147 to 191, compared to only 178 Allies - for the first time since 1914 the German army had again achieved a numerical superiority, but still no material one. On March 10th, Hindenburg issued the attack order for March 21st.

    German A7V tank in Roye , about 40 kilometers west of the starting point of the spring offensive
    Spring offensive 1918: Paul von Hindenburg, Wilhelm II. And Erich Ludendorff as well as other members of the OHL on the way to the headquarters in Avesnes-sur-Helpe

    The German spring offensive began in the early morning of March 21, 1918 . After a comparatively short artillery preparation - over five hours - the German stormtroopers achieved a deep penetration into the British front with their infiltration tactics (coined by Herman Geyer ). A new type of German infantry weapon - the MP18 submachine gun - contributed to the success. However, the OHL shifted the focus and direction of the attack several times in the following days. Above all, Ludendorff “gave up the strategy of a single, massive advance and opted for an attack with three points, none of which was strong enough to achieve a breakthrough”, which earned him considerable criticism from the General Staff and weakened the offensive: “How During the advance on Paris in 1914, the German army reacted to the events and followed the line of least resistance instead of usurping the law of action. ”In addition, there were logistical difficulties in the devastated Somme area. Attacks were also stopped by the fact that the poorly supplied German troops plundered the British depots. Furthermore, the material superiority of the Allies could not be permanently compensated for by the surprising focus. A novelty in the history of war can be considered that for the first time on longer sections of the front, the majority of German losses were due to air raids. On April 3, under the pressure of events, the Allies agreed on Ferdinand Foch as joint commander-in-chief. Although the German troops had advanced up to 60 kilometers deep on a front 80 kilometers wide (from St. Quentin to the west of Montdidier ), the offensive had created a large new front arc with high losses that could no longer be compensated and achieved no strategic goals. After a counter-attack by Australian troops off Amiens , the Michael company was shut down on April 5th.

    Ludendorff, who in the meantime had been openly accused of leadership errors in the General Staff, resorted to an alternative plan to the Michael offensive: Operation Georg, an attack in Flanders along the Leie River on a front width of 30 kilometers with the aim of the Channel coast west of Ypres ( Fourth Battle of Flanders ). Due to Operation Michael, the operation could only be carried out to a lesser extent and was accordingly renamed to Georgette. After some initial successes such as conquering the strategically important Kemmelberg on April 25th, Georgette got stuck. As part of the offensive there was the first major tank battle in war history , but the most famous event is the death of Manfred von Richthofen . More serious for the German army, however, was the increasing refusal of attack orders by the exhausted and disappointed troops from around mid-April. The OHL was aware of the dwindling morale of its own troops and therefore immediately launched a new offensive on May 27th ( Battle of the Aisne or Operation Blücher-Yorck) with the hitherto strongest artillery use of the war, firing almost 6,000 artillery pieces within four hours two million shells. On May 29th the Germans were again on the Marne, on June 3rd shortly before Villers-Cotterêts , Paris was only 90 kilometers by road and 62 kilometers as the crow flies from the German front - shells from the Paris gun hit the French capital, the British cabinet discussed the evacuation of the British expeditionary army on June 5th. However, the Marne Line was stabilized with the help of American troops. The OHL broke off the attack because of the losses, the Allied counterattacks and logistical problems on June 5th / 6th. June from. As part of the fighting, there was a battle in Belleau Forest with the participation of the United States Marine Corps .

    On June 9th, Ludendorff opened another attack on the Matz (Operation Gneisenau), which had to be canceled on June 14th due to American-French counterattacks. Shortly afterwards, a final attack by the Austro-Hungarian troops on the Italian front also ended in failure ( Second Battle of the Piave from June 15 to 22). The real turning point of the war on the Western Front was the second Battle of the Marne : The German attack, which began on July 15, with all the troops still available, initially made good progress, but on July 18, the French and Americans carried out a massive counterattack small and agile tank ( Renault FT ). The exhausted, poorly cared for and therefore (according to some authors) affected by the first wave of the Spanish flu more than the Allies were affected by the German troops, they were surprised and retreated over the Marne, which had only been crossed three days earlier. The rear connections of the 7th Army were in danger; almost all of the territory conquered in May and June had to be given up. July 18th was considered in the contemporary official war historiography as the actual "turning point of the war". On that day, the Allies won the initiative not to give it up until the end of the war.

    Allied Hundred Days Offensive

    Final Allied offensive, front movement from August 30 (dotted line) to November 11, 1918 (dashed line)
    In the summer of 1918, German soldiers were increasingly on the defensive: attempting to defend themselves against a British Mark IV tank attack with a flamethrower

    In the battle of Amiens that began on August 8, 1918 , the German army suffered a heavy defeat (“ Black Day of the German Army ”) and the battle initiated the Hundred Days Offensive . Aided by heavy fog, 530 British and 70 French tanks - followed by Australian and Canadian infantry - pushed through the surprised and understaffed lines east of Villers-Bretonneux . The affected 2nd Army was in a desperate state after the spring offensive (“shadow army ” with a “ militia-like ” character). The German losses on August 8th alone amounted to about 27,000 men, of whom at least 12,000 were prisoners, at the end of the battle 75,000 men, of whom 50,000 were prisoners. The operational success (break-in a maximum of 20 kilometers to Bray-sur-Somme and Chaulnes ) was rather average compared to the German attacks in March, but the moral effect was enormous, especially since significant parts of the army obviously lost the will to continue fighting had.

    On August 13, the OHL came to the conclusion that the initiative could no longer be regained during the war. At the Spa conference on August 13 and 14, however, the OHL expressed the opinion to the Emperor and Chancellor Hertling that defensive operations would paralyze the Allied will to fight and that Germany should only offer peace talks after the next success in the West. Objections from Hertling, Foreign Minister Paul von Hintze and Kaiser Karl did not come into play; the OHL's opinion was still decisive.

    The Allies were able to gradually gain ground by mid-September, on August 21, the British attacked Albert , at the beginning of September the Germans were pushed back to the starting position of their March offensive, the OHL reluctantly ordered the retreat to the Siegfried position on September 2 . On September 12th, the Americans began their first independent offensive with the Battle of St. Mihiel , which was followed on September 26th by the large-scale Meuse-Argonne offensive that lasted until the end of the war , and on September 29th the Siegfried line was broken for the first time. The German troops were able to inflict high losses on the inexperienced Americans in particular, but they were increasingly demoralized. The strength of the crew had sunk drastically due to cumulative losses, desertion, capture and illness, reserves were no longer available. In addition, there was poor food - namely the lack of basic food such as potatoes - and other supply problems. The Allies increasingly played their material and personal superiority, and tactical improvements in their warfare had an impact. Although the Allies, and especially the USA, were more severely affected by the second wave of the Spanish flu than Germany - it caused the Americans to lose more soldiers than combat operations - it had a more serious impact on Germany due to the overall situation. The German front did not collapse completely until the armistice on November 11th, which helped the so-called stab-in- the-back legend after the war. In November 1918, the German troops occupied only a small part of north-eastern France and a good half of Belgium and Luxembourg; the Allies still hardly occupied any German territory.

    Collapse of the German allies and October reform

    Italian propaganda poster (German: They talk about peace and hide the dagger!). The peace initiatives of Emperor Charles, which became known in April 1918, are presented as a ruse

    In the battle of Palestine from September 19-21, the Ottoman army was finally defeated. More importantly, however, the resistance of the Bulgarian army collapsed in mid-September and Bulgaria sought an unconditional armistice on September 26th. With its conclusion on September 29th, Romania was the central oil supplier as well as Hungary and the k. u. k. Troops in Albania and Serbia threatened. Already earlier, on September 14th, Austria-Hungary had sent an (initially unanswered) note to the Allies asking for peace. This development and the widespread attacks on the Western Front resulted in Ludendorff having a nervous breakdown on September 28 at the Grand Headquarters (at the time in Spa ). On the morning of September 29, the OHL presented the military situation to Foreign Minister Paul von Hintze , followed immediately by Wilhelm II. A "revolution from above" was agreed in the form of a broad national government including all parties represented in the Reichstag, from a military dictatorship that was also being discussed should be avoided. When Chancellor Georg von Hertling - who rejected democratic reforms - came late to Spa, he saw himself faced with a fait accompli and resigned. His successor on October 3rd was Max von Baden , who formed a new cabinet to which Social Democrats were appointed for the first time, along with Philipp Scheidemann and Gustav Bauer . The day before, October 2nd, Major von dem Bussche had explained the militarily hopeless situation to the stunned party leaders of the Reichstag. Ludendorff did not allow the new Chancellor's and the government's concerns about an immediate ceasefire offer to apply, so the new cabinet sent a note to President Wilson on the night of October 4th to 5th : Wilson was asked on the basis of his 14 points as well as the Supplementary 5 points of September 27, 1918 to take the restoration of peace in hand and to bring about an immediate armistice. Shortly afterwards, a German submarine sank the British passenger ship RMS Leinster (October 10), which was immediately reflected in the American notes of October 14 and 23. Wilson demanded a guarantee of the continued military superiority of the Allies (i.e. an extensive disarmament of Germany) and parliamentary control of politics and the military as conditions for peace negotiations (but not necessarily for the armistice). In view of the American notes of October 14 and 23, Ludendorff and Hindenburg again took a negative stance against peace negotiations, drove from headquarters to Berlin without imperial permission and declared in an army order (October 24) that the last Wilson notes (disarming ) are unacceptable. Chancellor Max von Baden was able to prove the insubordination of the OHL and insisted on a change of personnel. Ludendorff and Hindenburg had to ask Kaiser Wilhelm for their release on October 26th, the Kaiser accepted Ludendorff's request for release, but not Hindenburg's. The October reforms brought about a change in the system of government . From October 28 to November 9, Germany was formally a parliamentary monarchy , unique in its history .

    Second Piave battle, house wall with an inscription later famous in Italy (German: Everyone is a hero! Either the Piave, or everyone is killed!)

    The situation in Austria-Hungary had worsened dramatically in 1918. The soldiers were malnourished, and desertion , suicides and epidemics increased rapidly. The army was falling apart, the arms industry was on the verge of collapse. Bohemia, Galicia, Hungary and Upper Austria stopped delivering food to other parts of the country where hunger prevailed. In addition, spectacular scandals and failures such as the Sixtus affair (April 1918), the sinking of the SMS Szent István (June 10), the Second Battle of the Piave (June 15 to 22) and the undisturbed propaganda flight over Vienna by Gabriele D. 'Annunzio (August 9th) Austria-Hungary shaken. On August 21, the deputy chief of the general staff, Alfred von Waldstätten , explained the hopeless situation to the stunned generals of all armies at the Belluno conference . The first peace demarche of September 14th was followed by another on October 4th. Austria-Hungary began to dissolve in October 1918, and the state as a whole increasingly became a "world of illusions", something that Emperor Karl's Manifesto of October 16 could not change, but instead accelerated the dissolution. On October 6, was constituted in Zagreb the National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs , in Budapest was formed on October 25 as part of the Aster Revolution of the Hungarian National Council . The day before, the Hungarian government issued an instruction to the soldiers in the k. u. k. Army to return home immediately. At the same time, in this situation, the Allies began a major attack near Vittorio , and on October 27 the attackers gained bridgeheads east of the Piave . The Austro-Hungarian troops refused to give orders to counterattack, making the situation hopeless. On October 28, a request was made for a ceasefire. On the same day the republic was proclaimed in Prague and Czechoslovakia founded, on October 29th the state of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs . On October 7th, the Polish Regency Council had already issued a call for the establishment of a Polish state , and on October 11th it took over military command. On October 30th, the state of German Austria was constituted in response to the secession of all non-German territories . An independent government was formed in Hungary on November 1 , after Hungary terminated the Real Union with Austria on October 31 ; thus the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was dissolved. The attempt to shift responsibility for accepting the ceasefire conditions to the parties in parliament failed, unlike Germany, because of their refusal to end a war started by the emperor (as explicitly stated by Victor Adler in the State Council ). On November 3, General Weber signed the Villa Giusti armistice with the Allies. On November 11th, Karl I./IV. as Emperor of Austria on every share in state affairs, on November 13th in the same way as King of Hungary, with which the Habsburg monarchy ended.

    November Revolution in Germany and armistice

    Philipp Scheidemann proclaims the republic on November 9th from the west balcony of the Reichstag
    November Revolution: Revolutionary soldiers on November 9th in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
    Wilhelm II (fourth from left) escaped into exile in the Netherlands on November 10, 1918, here on the platform of the Belgian-Dutch border crossing in Eysden
    Marshal Foch (second from right) and his delegation in front of the Compiègne car after the armistice was signed

    On September 30, one day after Ludendorff called for an armistice, Admiral Reinhard Scheer , the head of the naval war command formed in August, had pulled together the high seas fleet in the roadstead near Schillig near Wilhelmshaven without giving any reason . It was signaled to the fleet command that a demand for the delivery of the German fleet had to be met. Rear Admiral Adolf von Trotha then developed a plan of attack on the Grand Fleet, which was more than twice as strong, on the basis of previous plans drawn up in spring 1917 and April 1918 . The plan of operations provided for a night advance of the entire fleet into the Hoofden on October 30th . At daybreak, the Flemish coast and the Thames estuary were to be attacked. Since the British fleet would most likely cut off the retreat to the German Bight , the naval command expected the great naval battle at Terschelling on the late afternoon of the second day of the operation . The admirals saw a certain chance of victory, so they did not plan a "death voyage" for 80,000 seafarers from the outset, but such a voyage was accepted as a more likely variant. Neither the Kaiser nor the Chancellor were informed, but Ludendorff was very well informed. The motives for the naval advance lay in the admirals' questions of honor and existence: it was believed that without a final deployment, the coming reconstruction of the fleet would be endangered. According to the corresponding fleet order of October 24, there were refusals of orders on October 27 on some of the largest ships. On October 29, Admiral Franz von Hipper postponed the order to sail and ordered the fleet squadrons to their respective locations. The particularly restless III. Fleet squadron arrived in Kiel on November 1st, where 47 sailors who were considered to be the main ringleaders were arrested. The Kiel sailors' uprising developed out of protest actions against this measure, during which seven demonstrating workers and soldiers were shot on November 3rd . The MSPD , whose leadership the October reforms were sufficient and the revolution rejected, could not stop the further development. The November Revolution swept across town after town. Workers 'and soldiers' councils were formed all over the Reich and took power on November 6th in Hamburg and on November 7th in Munich. Kaiser Wilhelm, who had been at the headquarters in Spa , Belgium since October 29, was officially confronted with the demand for his abdication for the first time on November 1, based on a note from US President Wilson. After a questioning of 39 commanders on the Western Front, he received the answer on November 9th that the troops would mostly refuse to give orders if they were to work against the revolution.

    On November 7th, the MSPD finally called on the Chancellor to move the Kaiser to abdicate, otherwise it would resign from the government. The MSPD feared that otherwise it would no longer be able to stop the revolution. Since the actual abdication did not take place despite a vague promise by the Emperor, the major Berlin companies went on a general strike on November 9th, and large crowds of people with red flags marched through the streets in Berlin, which were hoisted on many public buildings - such as the Brandenburg Gate . The MSPD resigned from the government at 9 a.m., Chancellor Max von Baden announced the abdication of the Emperor and the resignation of the Crown Prince and handed over his office to Friedrich Ebert . At 2 p.m. Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the German republic - without consulting Friedrich Ebert, who was very angry about it . Karl Liebknecht from the Spartakusbund proclaimed the free socialist republic of Germany at 4 p.m. Under pressure from the grassroots, the previously hostile social democratic parties MSPD and USPD constituted a joint council of people's representatives on November 10th . Liebknecht's demand for a front position against the MSPD was practically only met with protests. Wilhelm II, who feared the fate of the tsarist family, fled from Spa to the Netherlands on the same day , where he did not formally renounce the Prussian crown and the German imperial crown until November 28, “for all future”. Wilhelm II left the country without words of thanks to the people and the troops who had fought in his name, nor did he remember the fallen. Even many supporters from the conservative milieu perceived going into exile without prior abdication as deserting . In the Ebert-Groener Pact , Ebert and General Wilhelm Groener agreed on joint action against unclearly defined “Bolshevik” groups, which was to have far-reaching effects on the Weimar Republic .

    From October 29 to November 4, a conference of the Allied War Coalition took place in Paris to discuss the terms of the armistice. The German combination of a peace offer and an armistice request was interpreted as an admission of defeat. This was one of the reasons why the American representative Edward Mandell House could no longer fully commit Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau and David Lloyd George to the 14-point program , so that in the so-called Lansing Note of November 5, two serious tightenings were formulated: the freedom of The seas (including the lifting of the blockade) will only be settled in later negotiations and the “restoration of the occupied territories” includes the demand for extensive reparations. The answer arrived in Berlin on November 6th, where, in view of the spreading November Revolution and due to pressure from the OHL, they were already thinking of sending a delegation with a white flag across the front line without a reply. Originally, General Erich von Gündell was to be the first authorized representative of the Armistice Commission , in Spa State Secretary Matthias Erzberger ( German Center Party ) and Paul von Hintze agreed at short notice that Erzberger would take over the management, for which Erzberger had been given a blank power of attorney as a precaution in Berlin. The momentous idea , first formulated in the cabinet meeting on November 2, to add a civilian state secretary (de facto: minister) to the Armistice Commission, came from Erzberger himself. The four-member delegation, consisting of Erzberger, General Detlof von Winterfeldt , Captain Ernst Vanselow and the diplomatic Alfred von Oberdorff , passed in today's municipal area of La Flamengrie on November 7 at the present Monument de la Pierre d'Haudroy the frontline and met in the early morning of 8 November on the clearing of Rethondes in the forest of Compiegne , a , where Marshal Ferdinand Foch had the armistice terms, which were perceived as very harsh, read out in the “ Car of Compiègne ” . On the evening of November 8th, Hindenburg expressly requested the German delegation in two - partly unencrypted - dispatches to accept the conditions even if no improvements were possible. In the negotiations that followed, only minor relief could be achieved. On the morning of November 11, between 5:12 a.m. and 5:20 a.m. French time, both delegations signed the Compiègne armistice . Among other things, this envisaged the evacuation of the areas occupied by the German army within 14 days as well as the left bank of the Rhine and three bridgeheads in Mainz, Koblenz and Cologne within 25 days. The peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the peace of Bucharest had to be repealed and large quantities of means of transport, weapons and considerable parts of the fleet had to be given up in order to prevent the empire from continuing the war. The armistice came into effect at 11 a.m. French time (12 p.m. German time) and was initially limited to 36 days, but in fact ended the war.

    Individual aspects

    Enthusiasm for war and anti-war demonstrations

    Departure of the Lübeck regiment on July 31, 1914
    Reservists on trucks, Berlin, 1914

    At the beginning of the war, people showed a broad spectrum of very different reactions, ranging from protest and refusal to helplessness and shock to patriotic exuberance and hysteria. There was no general enthusiasm for the war, nor were the proletarian and peasant classes united and consistently opposed to the war. Large sections of the bourgeois academic classes in particular welcomed the coming war event. The conservative bourgeoisie reacted to the ultimatum and Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Serbia with patriotic parades, for example in Berlin-Mitte on July 25, 1914 with around 30,000 participants. In smaller towns and especially in rural regions, however, the mood was downright dejected, thoughtful and pessimistic. The coming war produced similarly restrained and depressed reactions among the workers in the industrial centers. In none of the countries affected by the outbreak of war has there been an “intoxicating” enthusiasm for war that touched all sections of the population.

    On the other hand, in Germany, as in Great Britain and France, anti-war demonstrations took place at the end of July, for example in Germany alone (according to the SPD) 288 meetings and marches in around 160 cities, for example in Berlin-Mitte on July 28, 1914 with more than 100,000 people and this despite a ban by the magistrate. The turning point to the truce was the news of the Russian partial mobilization on July 28, 1914. Similar to the labor movement in other countries, the Social Democrats joined the political united front, although only a few days earlier they had opposed the “warmongering” of their own government . On August 1, 1914, between 40,000 and 50,000 people gathered in front of the Berlin City Palace for the second balcony speech by Wilhelm II , who announced that he knew “no more parties and no more denominations”. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg also knew how to portray Russia as an alleged aggressor. SPD party executive Hugo Haase , who had organized numerous anti-war rallies and fought within the party against the acceptance of war credits until August 3, 1914, declared for the SPD the next day: “In the hour of danger, we will not let our own fatherland down ”. In all the countries involved in the war, there was broad political solidarity at the start of the war, and there was a concerned, serious and determined acceptance of the war.

    War target policy

    German war targets in the west

    Germany’s military war goal, which was initially in the foreground and contributed significantly to the outbreak of war, was - in accordance with the council of war of December 8, 1912 - to wage the war against the Entente, which was considered to be inevitable, at a favorable point in time had been considered favorable. According to the German military leadership, the European balance of power developed increasingly unfavorable for Germany. Triggered by the army's rapid successes in the Western campaign, annexations in East and West were added as political goals to secure a hegemonic position for the German Empire on mainland Europe, which was reflected in the 1914 “ September Program ” , among other things . The demands for annexation, which could not be reconciled with the general military situation during the war, were a major obstacle to peace negotiations.

    Austria-Hungary claimed to be fighting for its interests in the Balkans and for its very existence. Contrary to the nationalistic tendencies of the time, Austria-Hungary stuck to the universal idea of ​​empire and thus to the multi-ethnic state. The official war goal of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was to maintain its existence and strengthen its position as a great power. At the same time, Austria-Hungary sought the integration of Serbia, Montenegro and Romania or, instead of the latter, Russian Poland.

    French extremists' ideas of a post-war order in Europe (1915)

    The primary war goal of France was the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine . In the autumn of 1915, further French war aims emerged: the pushing back of Germany to the Rhine through the annexation or neutralization of the Rhineland up to the dissolution of imperial unity or at least its weakening in the federal sense as well as an economic and military annexation of Belgium and Luxembourg to France. According to the Briand government's war target program of November 1916, France should at least get the border of 1790 and thus Alsace-Lorraine with the Saarland. The establishment of two neutral, independent buffer states under French protection was preferred to the permanent occupation of the Rhineland. Contrary to the ideas of the General Staff, Belgium should be left independent.

    Russia saw itself as the natural protective power of Pan-Slavist endeavors in the Balkans. After the Ottoman war, the Russian side hoped to gain Constantinople and the straits between the Aegean and the Black Sea (→  Agreement on Constantinople and the Straits ). The Russian war goals included the old goal of the straits as well as Galicia and East Prussia, which protruded into Russian territory . In his 13-point program of September 14, 1914, Russian Foreign Minister Sasonov primarily provided for territorial cedings of Germany, allegedly on the basis of the nationality principle. Russia would annex the lower reaches of the Nyemen ( Memelland ) and the eastern part of Galicia as well as annex the east of the province of Posen , (Upper) Silesia and western Galicia to Russian Poland .

    At the beginning of the war, Great Britain demanded the restoration of the independence of the smaller European nations that had been destroyed by the attack by the Central Powers, especially those of Belgium, whose invasion was the official reason for entering the war. The formula of smashing Prussian militarism emerged as the goal of liberating Belgium . On March 20, 1917, Lloyd George described the elimination of reactionary military governments and the establishment of democratically legitimized governments as war goals that should contribute to the creation of international peace. Increasingly, their own expansion wishes came to light in the form of demands for self-determination for the German colonies and the already occupied Arab parts of Turkey under British rule . The fall of Russia from the war coalition and - to a lesser extent - the annexation wishes of France endangered the British concept of the balance of power even in the event of the Allied victory. In the east, a cordon sanitaire of states dependent on France and Great Britain should now be created in order to create a new counterweight to Germany. At the inter-allied economic conference in Paris from June 14 to 17, 1917, negotiations were held, not least on the initiative of the British, on a post-war economic order with which the German position in world trade was to be permanently suppressed. Great Britain was also particularly interested in the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the division of the Arab territories. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916 regulated the interests of Great Britain and France in the Middle East . Great Britain received southern Mesopotamia while Palestine was to be internationalized. Great Britain insisted on the surrender of the bulk of the German fleet.

    Italy's war aims were primarily the annexation of Italian-populated areas under Austro-Hungarian rule (→  irredentism ). After the Russian Empire agreed to the Italian wish to annex Slavic populated areas and thereby establish the Adriatic as mare nostro (“our sea”), the secret treaty of London came into being on April 26, 1915.

    The American war goals were formulated in the 14-point program of January 8, 1918. It contained the complete restoration of Belgian independence, the return of Alsace-Lorraine, the establishment of Italian borders along the nationality borders and the continued existence of Austria-Hungary, whose nations should be allowed to develop freely. Turkey was granted independence, but without the inclusion of other nationalities, the straits were to be kept open by international guarantees. The establishment of an independent Polish state was called for. In October 1918 the Americans added and expanded Wilson's 14 points: Italy was granted South Tyrol and a protectorate over Albania for strategic reasons, the liberation of all Slavic peoples under German and Austro-Hungarian rule was demanded and the division of the Middle East between Great Britain and France was demanded accepted.

    War economy

    Women work in an English arms factory (1915)
    Women in the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell

    Central problems of the war economy were the regulation of the relationship between the state and the economy, the maintenance of industrial peace, the restructuring for arms production, the security of consumption and the financing of the war. The economic potential of the Central Powers and the Entente were already unequal at the beginning of the war; the former only had 46 percent of the population and 61 percent of the Entente's national product.

    At the beginning of the war, those provisions that were intended for military mobilization and for a short war came into force. For example, exports of war-essential products were banned, food imports were made easier and maximum prices were set for some goods. The gold standard as the basis of most pre-war currencies was suspended in the warring countries. These measures were often not sufficient. The munitions crisis of 1914/15 initiated the transition to a war economy. The origins of the " total war " propagated by Ludendorff in 1935 and later by the National Socialists can be found in the war economy of the First World War.

    The transition was opposed by war-related restrictions: France had lost a large part of its industrial potential as a result of the German occupation in the north, Russia was underdeveloped industrially and largely cut off from supplies by the Allies due to the sea blockade of the Dardanelles and the Baltic Sea, and German foreign trade was in turn due to the English naval blockade severely restricted. Great Britain's foreign trade could only be seriously threatened by the submarine war in the first half of 1917. The US did not have to mobilize the economy to the same extent as the warring states in Europe. The state gained considerable influence on the economies since 1916/17, the government spending ratios increased considerably, in Germany from 17 to 70 percent, in Great Britain from 13 to 48 percent and in the USA from 1.4 to 22 percent.

    Aside from the arms sector, industrial production declined in many warring states. Industrial production in the German Reich fell by almost half. The decline was weaker in Great Britain, while there were hardly any restrictions in the USA. Agricultural yields also fell in most of the warring states, again with the exception of Great Britain and the United States. A bottleneck in the course of the conversion to the war economy was the supply of raw materials, on the one hand due to the sea blockades (the Central Powers and Russia were affected) and in France due to the separation of the northern departments. Another bottleneck, especially in the Central Powers and in France, resulted from the fierce competition between the army, which required more and more soldiers, and industry, which required qualified personnel.

    To maintain industrial peace, cooperation and discipline were applied in different proportions: In Austria-Hungary, workers in armaments factories were tied to their jobs and were subject to military control and jurisdiction. In Germany there was no militarization of employment relationships; with the auxiliary service law of December 5, 1916, however, compulsory service was introduced, while corporatist regulations ensured the consent of the trade unions. In France, postponed workers were placed under the supervision of the military by the Loi Dalbiez (named after the politician Victor Dalbiez ) of August 15, 1915. In Great Britain, the Treasury Agreement with the trade unions and the Munitions of War Act 1915 restricted the right to strike and the free movement of arms workers . There were no comparable restrictions in the USA, but the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917 (to build up the army) could be used to direct workers into the arms industry.

    In spite of the drafts, the number of employees in the war economy hardly rose or fell, and through the expansion of mass production and assembly line production, it was able to expand its production considerably. In Germany, the number of people employed in the armaments industry rose by 44 percent, while those in civilian production fell by 40 percent. Prisoners of war, conscripts and foreign workers (mostly from the colonies) were used to varying degrees. At the same time, women and young people moved up. In Great Britain the number of working women rose by 23 percent, in Germany by 17 percent.

    Private consumption - important for morale on the home front - was indeed subordinate to the war economy in all states, the success of distributing the available goods fairly fairly, or at least giving the impression of doing so, was achieved with varying degrees of success. The USA hardly had to accept any restrictions, in Great Britain the supply was comparatively good. But even there, spending on private consumption fell by around 20 percent between 1913 and 1918. In France, in cooperation with the Allies, food could be guaranteed relatively well. The Central Powers, on the other hand, encountered considerable problems - and not only because of the sea blockade - which arose, among other things, from the forced state economy that began in 1914. The supply problems and especially the injustice in the distribution of food undermined the authority of the state and led to unrest. The same was true for Russia. The supply policy in favor of urban consumers and industrial workers fizzled out because of its discontinuity and lack of coercive means. The tsarist empire disintegrated into supply regions excluding the cities, as the farmers marketed less and less.

    Public expenditures to finance war rose dramatically. In Great Britain the last war budget was 562 percent above the first, in Germany it was 505, in France 448 and in Russia (until 1916) 315 percent. The war cost around $ 209 billion (adjusted for inflation in 1913 prices: $ 82 billion). In terms of the amount of money expended, it was “cheaper” to lose the war than to win it: the Allies raised $ 147 billion for the conduct of the war, the Central Powers $ 62 billion.

    The war was financed in all states by taxes, loans or money creation. The public sector raised money for government spending from the central banks in exchange for short-term debt . After the money had flowed to the economy and households, it was partly siphoned off again through taxes or loans. Since tax increases were only used to a limited extent to finance war for various reasons (truce, poorly efficient tax systems) (France 15 percent, Germany 17 percent, Great Britain 26 percent), all warring states relied primarily on loans ( war bonds ) granted by the enemy after the War should pay in reparations. The Allies continued to borrow heavily abroad, primarily in the USA. In total, inter-allied debts totaled $ 16.4 billion.

    After the war, Germany faced a mountain of debt totaling 156 billion marks (1914: 5.4 billion), Great Britain before 5.8 billion pounds (1914: 0.6 billion). The French national debt increased by 130 billion francs and the American by 24 billion dollars. The money supply had grown by 111 percent in Great Britain and by 285 percent in Germany, which laid the foundation for German inflation until 1923 .

    Trench warfare

    Originally a German trench, occupied by the British during the Battle of the Somme
    Aerial view of the trench system at Warneton (West Flanders) on September 3, 1917

    Trench warfare and grave war are almost as a "symbol" and determining forms of the First World War: a war along permanent fortified front lines, "millions of soldiers, many years mired in the mud in a senseless battle, only to achieve tiny under ungeheurlichen losses territorial gains, a years Bloodletting for the population and the resources of the warring nations. ”This trench warfare mainly characterized the situation on the approximately 700-kilometer-long western front between November 1914 and March 1918, but at times also the situation on the eastern front and the Italian front . Until 1914, all great powers had included a war of movement in their war plans. After the failure of the Schlieffen Plan and the mutual outflanking in the race to the sea , the armies dug themselves in. The reasons for the freezing of the fronts were the level of military development, which favored the defender, as well as the initial loss of control in the operational leadership of the mass armies and the relative balance of forces.

    In January 1915, the German Supreme Army Command ordered that the front positions on the western front had to be expanded so that they could be held against numerically superior forces. The experience of combat led initially to the relocation of the line - as far as possible - to a rear slope and the introduction of a second line, from around the end of 1916 the warring parties had introduced three trench lines in many areas, from the simple trench line increasingly a deeply staggered position system and an elastic one developed Zone defense. Successful attacks required local superiority and careful preparation. At first they tried to destroy the enemy position system with several days of treacherous artillery preparation, attacks increasingly turned into material battles with previously unknown ammunition consumption. Other attempts to soften the frozen fronts were the use of poison gas ( gas warfare ), blowing up mines ( mine warfare ), and the introduction of tanks , grenade launchers and submachine guns ("trench sweeps"). The hand grenade experienced a renaissance, while the bayonet almost lost its importance as a conventional melee weapon: in the narrow trenches (sometimes sharpened) feldspades were used as edged weapons . The German army reacted with tactical changes, especially in the spring offensive of 1918, shock troops pushed through the lines regardless of any remaining resistance and tried to destroy the infrastructure at the rear with this "infiltration tactic". On the other hand, in this positional warfare there was what is known as “ live and let live ”, an unpredictable occurrence of non-aggressive behavior between warring troops, which in some areas of the front was maintained over a longer period of time.

    The everyday life of the soldiers in the trenches was characterized by alternating phases of long periods of inactivity and an acute struggle for survival. The results were on the one hand art forms such as "Trench Art" (" trenching "), on the other hand severe war neuroses (for example in the case of buried victims) and war trauma (such as " war tremors ") or previously little known fear reactions such as so-called "sleepy sleep" (falling asleep suddenly in the trench , especially from attacks).

    Gas war

    Canadian soldier with moderate mustard gas burns
    British soldiers blinded by poison gas await treatment
    German infantry during a gas attack near Armentières , spring 1918

    On April 22, 1915, up to 5,000 people fell victim to a German use of chlorine gas on the Ypres bend (today's estimates: 1,200 dead and 3,000 wounded). This date is seen today as the birth of modern weapons of mass destruction and the actual beginning of the gas war, with which the image of the soldier and the idea of ​​war as "knightly combat" was changed and called into question much more radically than with the introduction of other weapons. The military leadership was completely surprised by the resounding success of the first use in the blowing process developed by Fritz Haber and was unable to exploit it due to a lack of reserves, and the attackers were also affected by the gas. The Allies assessed the massive use of deadly gases as a clear violation of the Hague Land Warfare Regulations and as further evidence of the “barbaric” German warfare. The use of chemical weapons was no longer a novelty, but previously only irritants had been used in this war , which were also ineffective. The failure of offensive warfare, the grueling trench warfare and the ammunition crisis due to a lack of saltpetre as well as the superior but underutilized German chemical industry led to the decision in favor of this weapon. In the German officer corps , doubts arose, but ultimately accepted the mission as an allegedly necessary evil. On May 31, 1915, phosgene (" green cross ") was added for the first time during a German attack on the eastern front near Bolimów . Most of the gas deaths of the First World War can be traced back to the effects and, above all, the long-term consequences of this warfare agent, which is used in increasing concentrations. On September 25, 1915, the British opened the first large-scale gas attack at the beginning of the Battle of Loos , which also made it possible to break into the German authorities.

    The first gas masks were introduced in autumn 1915 . Increasingly, the warring parties fired the gas with grenades in order to be less dependent on the wind direction. On July 10, 1917 at Nieuwpoort the first use of "mask breakers" (" blue cross "), which penetrated the filters of the gas masks. At the same time or shortly thereafter, a lung-damaging, mostly fatal weapon (for example "green cross") was usually fired, as the urge to cough often caused the soldiers to take off their masks (" colorful shooting "). Two days after the first use of the “blue cross”, a completely new warfare agent followed near Ypres , the contact poison mustard gas (“ yellow cross ”), also called “hun stuff” by the British . Mustard gas leads to severe injuries (similar to chemical burns ) to the skin, eyes and bronchial tubes and, if exposed to high levels, death. When using mustard gas, it was definitely taken into account that seriously injured people requiring intensive care put more strain on the other side than dead people.

    In total, around 112,000 tons of poison gas were used in the First World War, 52,000 tons of which from Germany. The exact number of those who were poisoned or killed by war gas during World War I is difficult to determine, especially since the majority of soldiers died of the long-term effects only after the war: estimates assume around 500,000 injured and 20,000 dead for the Western Front, including the number of fatalities probably needs to be set even higher. No reliable figures are available for the Eastern Front .

    Aerial warfare

    Air combat (oil painting by Michael Zeno Diemer from 1918): German combat
    two-seater type Albatros C.III comes to the aid of a comrade (bottom right ) who is harassed by English machines (possibly Martinsyde G.102 ) after a British aircraft has been shot down becomes
    Silent film about American pilots

    The less robust aircraft at the beginning of the war were mainly used for aerial reconnaissance . In doing so, they fulfilled an important task that many generals initially underestimated.

    When the British arrived in France, they only brought 48 reconnaissance planes with them. They observed the front and reported the enemy movements to the high command. It was mainly thanks to them that General Joffre initiated the offensive on the Marne. The German army had intended on its advance to bypass Paris to the west. When it unexpectedly turned to the southeast, leaving a large gap between the individual armies, this was first noticed by the aviators of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). They passed the observation on to the French chain of command, which was then able to initiate the counterattack on the Marne.

    Aerial reconnaissance and aerial photography gained in importance, which is why the first methods of combating them were developed. When trench warfare began, the airmen were used to coordinate artillery. The introduction of telegraphic extinguishing spark transmitters since 1915 was synonymous with the actual beginning of aviation radio .

    The French aviation pioneer Roland Garros was the first to develop a real fighter plane . In 1915 he mounted a machine gun on the tip of his aircraft. To protect the propeller blades from damage, he reinforced them with steel plates . In the spring of 1915 he hunted German, mostly unarmed aircraft with his new weapon over Flanders for 18 days until he was shot down on one of his missions.

    A little later, the Dutchman Anton Herman Gerard Fokker installed an interrupter gearbox in his Fokker E.III . Due to the synchronization, the MG always put out its fire if it had hit the propeller. The first successful pilots of these machines were Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke , who established the reputation of the Fokker Scourge . Until the beginning of 1916, the Germans dominated the sky over the western front.

    Bombing attacks intensified as the war progressed. The first bombs dropped by German zeppelin on August 6th over Liège, more on August 24th, 1914 over Antwerp.

    A replica of the three- decker ,
    Fokker Dr.1 as it was flown by Manfred von Richthofen

    In December 1914, German airships attacked the British island for the first time. Heavy attacks were carried out on London until 1917 , after which some industries had to shut down. After that, the airships, which offered too large an attack surface and were too immobile, were increasingly replaced by large aircraft . By 1918, German bombs dropped by zeppelins had killed 1,400 British civilians and wounded nearly 5,000. The Royal Flying Corps, in turn, concentrated their attacks on the industry in West Germany and the zeppelin works on Lake Constance . World War I was the first war in which bombers were used. These were particularly large and sturdy biplanes that could drop aerial bombs , some weighing more than half a ton.

    In the course of the militarization of aviation, the seas were upgraded. Until then, seaplanes and naval aviators that had only been used for reconnaissance and landed on the water were armed and used against ports, coastal fortifications and military units in the air and at sea. The First World War was also the first war in which early aircraft carriers were used. For this purpose, the Americans and British converted several of their warships. These early models were only suitable for use by seaplanes, which took off from the deck, landed near the aircraft carrier and were then transported back on board with a crane. The accelerated development of aircraft carriers against the background of the First World War was to prove decisive in the fighting in the Pacific during the Second World War .

    From 1916 the Germans lost their air superiority again. The Allies had reorganized themselves and flew very successful attacks with some robust aircraft (for example Nieuport 11). The Germans responded. Oswald Boelcke trained some of the best aviators and imparted his combat knowledge to them, which he wrote down in the Dicta Boelcke . The German fighter squadrons (Jasta for short), especially the Jasta 11 , inflicted heavy losses on the Allies. After Boelcke's death in early 1917, Jasta 11 was managed by Manfred von Richthofen . He arranged with its pilots for the bloody April , in which the Allies lost 443 airmen. Richthofen himself shot down 20 planes during this time, his brother Lothar had 15 kills. Another pilot, Kurt Wolff , scored 22 aerial victories that April.

    When the Americans arrived in 1918, the tide turned. The Americans were inexperienced, but the Germans could not compensate for their numerical superiority in aircraft. From the summer of 1918, the imperial pilots had to try their luck with fall attacks, otherwise they would have no chance against the Allied squadrons. The Allies then let several squadrons fly over each other, which continued to harass the Germans.

    On April 21, 1918 Manfred von Richthofen was shot down by an Australian machine gunner while he was being pursued by Arthur Roy Brown . With 80 confirmed aerial victories, he was the most successful fighter pilot of the First World War. The loss of their idol and increasing supply difficulties hit the German hunting squadrons. The air forces could not contribute much to the outcome of the war. The war was decided on the ground.

    Numerous fallen German aviators, including Richthofen, were buried in the Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin .

    Naval warfare

    Sinking of the German large cruiser SMS Blücher in battle on the Dogger Bank , the crew tries to save themselves over the ship's walls (famous war photography )
    Skagerrakschlacht , "the greatest sea battle in world history", in the picture the
    Queen Mary explodes

    Before 1914, the war at sea was considered to have played a major, if not decisive, role. In fact, with the Battle of the Skagerrak the “greatest naval battle in world history” did occur, but not the decisive battle that was widely expected. The share of the naval war in the outcome of the First World War as a whole was not decisive and was more important in its indirect effect.

    In all theaters of war there was a clear superiority of one side: Great Britain over Germany in the North Sea, Germany over Russia in the Baltic Sea (in fact), France and Italy over Austria-Hungary in the Mediterranean Sea (except the Adriatic Sea) and Russia (since late 1915) over the Turkey in the Black Sea, although Turkey still managed to block the Black Straits. The seas were predominantly a place of movement for the war fleets, merchant ships and troop transports of the Entente, but not for those of the Central Powers.

    The blockade of the North Sea by the Royal Navy in the form of the Northern Patrol around Scotland and the Dover Patrol in the English Channel contributed significantly, according to Anglo-American naval historians , to the exhaustion of the Central Powers ; the blockades of the Baltic Sea and the Dardanelles played a major role in the defeat of the Russians Army . Actions by the German Mediterranean Division prompted the Ottoman Empire to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers. The cruiser war - the means per se of numerically inferior naval forces - had only an insignificant part in the war due to the lack of preparation on the part of the German admiralty and the lack of bases. Unexpectedly, the submarine war turned out to be the most important part of sea warfare. Since the submarine was underestimated as a weapon on all sides, the naval forces were generally poorly prepared for the submarine war. Nevertheless, German submarines brought the Entente into serious trouble, especially in the first half of 1917. The submarine war indirectly led to the entry of the United States into the war and thus ultimately to the defeat of the Central Powers.

    The order for the decisive battle at sea was only given when the Supreme Army Command had declared the war was lost, and led to the Kiel sailors' uprising , which in turn triggered the November Revolution.

    propaganda

    US propaganda poster: " Destroy This Mad Brute - Enlist ". The woman was supposed to represent neutral Belgium occupied by the Germans
    Photo of a mass grave near Vimy (or possibly Fromelles), as it was first published as a postcard in 1916 Presumably due to the officers' too casual attitude towards the fallen, the picture was retouched so that no officers could be seen any more
    Photo of a mass grave near Vimy (or possibly Fromelles ), as it was first published as a postcard in 1916
    Presumably due to the officers' too casual attitude towards the fallen, the picture was retouched so that no officers could be seen any more

    Propaganda campaigned mainly for the motivation for military service and for the support of the war participation in the own population or with hoped-for allies, for which xenophobic prejudices and patriotic symbols were used. For the first time in history, the warring states established their own authorities for this purpose.

    In the German Reich, the Central Office for Foreign Service was set up for propaganda purposes on October 5, 1914, followed by the Military Office of the Foreign Office (MAA) on July 1, 1916 and finally the Image and Film Office (BUFA) on January 30, 1917. In The Austro-Hungarian War Press Quarters (KPQ), created on July 28, 1914, was responsible for Austria-Hungary . On the side of the Allies, the Maison de la Presse was founded in France in February 1916, in Great Britain the War Propaganda Bureau existed for the same purpose , in the USA the Committee on Public Information .

    In the German-speaking part of Austria-Hungary, the propaganda showed, among other things, war-glorifying drawings in poster size with the illustrated statement “Every kick a Britt, every push a French, every shot a Russ” and “Serbia must die”. The motif of " Lord Kitchener Wants You " was copied many times during the war.

    After reports of the fire at the University Library in Leuven at the end of August 1914, prominent British scholars declared that the German army had set the fire on purpose. German prominent scholars responded with counter-declarations, including the Manifesto of 93 and the declaration of the university professors of the German Reich who tried to justify the world war as a cultural war and a war of defense, which in turn resulted in a British response to the German professors . The " Huns " speech , with which Wilhelm II had called on German troops sent to China to suppress the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 , to a ruthless campaign of revenge, subsequently earned the Germans in Anglo-American countries the name "huns". Other propaganda campaigns included the alleged crucifixion of nuns at church gates in Belgium or the alleged chopping off of children's hands by German troops in Belgium, which was reflected in the Bryce Report , among other things .

    The attitude of the British press has been well studied: in the last two years before the war it had adopted an increasingly positive attitude towards Germany. The newspapers represented inter alia. the opinion that the German armament at sea was a nuisance, but posed no real danger to the Royal Navy. During the July crisis , the Russian tsar was initially primarily blamed for the escalation. This changed with the German ultimatum to Russia and above all with the invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg. As the war continued, Germany was not only discredited as an enemy and branded as the sole bearer of war guilt, but also stylized as the enemy of all humanity. It was only at the beginning of the war that a distinction was made between government and population. This excessive atrocity propaganda was one reason why no mutual or negotiated peace could be reached, and after the war it made reconciliation more difficult on all sides. The National Socialists were later able to cover up their crimes more easily with reference to this propaganda ( Völkischer Beobachter of September 4, 1939: " Atrocity reports as before ").

    The atrocity propaganda of the Central Powers was already less pronounced because hardly any German territory was occupied and therefore comparatively few German civilians were exposed to direct effects of the war. First and foremost, the Russian side (army and people) were denigrated. The Allies' use of colored colonial troops on European battlefields was alternately denounced as a cultural breach or as immoral. The propaganda departments of the Central Powers tended to demean their opponents, to make them look ridiculous and to emphasize their own strengths. For this purpose, numerous pictures were published and distributed as postcards showing fallen Allied soldiers and corresponding mass graves .

    In Germany after the war, the enemy - especially British - propaganda was considered to be much more effective than their own, and not a few attributed the German defeat to the war with enemy propaganda. While in exile in the Netherlands, Wilhelm II wrote of the English publisher Northcliffe , whose newspapers were at the forefront of anti-German propaganda: "If we had had a Northcliffe, we could have won the war." In retrospect, Erich Ludendorff also expressed his appreciation. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler went into great detail about the war propaganda and summed it up with serious consequences: "I also learned infinitely from this hostile war propaganda."

    Weapon technology development

    1914: Rider of the German Schutztruppe in German South West Africa 1918: The Renault FT was formative for later tank types up to the present day
    1914: Rider of the German Schutztruppe in German South West Africa
    1918: The Renault FT was formative for later tank types up to the present day

    The First World War revolutionized weapons technology in numerous aspects. In infantry equipment, the First World War brought the final breakthrough to camouflage clothing and steel helmets . The rifles of the infantry were roughly equivalent, only the British Lee-Enfield was superior to those of the other combatants due to the rapid rate of fire and caused high German losses, especially in Flanders. The trench warfare brought a renaissance of the hand grenade , only the Central Powers had sufficient quantities at the beginning of the war, the British had retired them in 1870. The machine gun was developed from models that were difficult to transport (e.g. the German MG 08 weighing 30 to 40 kg) to lighter models (e.g. the later proverbial MG 08/15 weighing 14 kg). The first "real" submachine gun MP 18 was also tellingly called "Trench Sweep" and was mainly used to support new infantry tactics ( storm troops ).

    Machine guns and later tanks made the traditional use of cavalry an anachronism, the era of the well-known "battle cavalry " had inevitably come to an end as early as 1914, the cavalry lost its status as the main weapon in World War I and was mainly used for armed reconnaissance and terrain security. In the extensive areas of the Eastern Front, both sides made extensive use of their cavalry troops, especially in the war of movement of 1914/15, the British made extensive use of their cavalry troops towards the end of the war in Palestine. In the later years of the war, all belligerent powers greatly reduced their cavalry troops.

    From the first moderately successful tank Mark I , the Allies developed the effective attack weapon Mark IV and the "ancestor" of today's tank types, the Renault FT . By the end of the war, Germany developed insufficient means of defense, such as the so-called M1918 tank rifle . The only mass-produced German tank A7V could not be produced in sufficient numbers: only 20 A7Vs faced 1220 Mark IV and 2700 Renault FT as well as about 2,000 other Allied armored vehicles, which exemplifies the material superiority of the Allies in the last year of the war.

    The limits of the artillery led to an increase in the importance of bombers in the course of the First World War . For example, at the beginning of the war against fixed targets, “ Big Bertha ”, which was sometimes effective, was system-related weaknesses (immobility, high shot wear, moderate accuracy). The technically complex Paris gun had no military value because of its very poor accuracy and is considered a pure "terror weapon" against civilian targets. The light and manoeuvrable French " Canon 75 " revolutionized artillery even before the war and showed its capabilities against the German attack, especially in the early stages of the war, but proved to be too small-caliber for the requirements of trench warfare. The ratio of light to heavy batteries in the warring parties shifted in the context of trench warfare from 11: 2 at the beginning of the war to 9: 7 at the end of the war.

    The first series-produced fighter planes (e.g. the Fokker EI ), which aimed at the enemy with rigidly built-in machine guns and the entire plane, emerged from makeshift arrangements. Early long-range bombers such as the German large and giant aircraft or the British Handley Page Type O , which increasingly replaced war zeppelins, also developed from makeshift arrangements. The First World War can also be equated with the actual beginning of aviation radio , which raised the possibilities of aerial reconnaissance to a completely new level.

    The submarine - at best regarded as an auxiliary weapon before the war - became the central offensive weapon in naval warfare . The superior radio reconnaissance (" Room 40 ") of the British made it difficult for the deep-sea fleet to operate until relevant missions in the North Sea came to a complete standstill. The British rarely used their superior Grand Fleet offensively, mainly because of the threat posed by submarines, so that the decline in importance of capital ships began with the First World War .

    Apart from the mobilization of all reserves within the framework of the war economy , the industrialized war was shown by the fact that primarily ranged weapons dominated the war: artillery caused around 75 percent of all injuries in war, infantry weapons around 16, hand grenades 1 to 2 and poison gas just under 1.7 percent. The traditional, "bare" weapons (saber, dagger, side gun) inflicted only 0.1 percent of the wounds in the entire war. Less fits into the picture of the industrialized and thus “modern” war, however, that almost a tenth of the German, one sixth of the Austro-Hungarian and one fifth of the French dead fell victim to illness.

    Military judgment

    The equally unexpected and all-round world war disaster of warfare had its main cause in the unequal development of technology and military tactics. In the last 30 years before the war, new inventions in weapons technology piled up: low-smoke powder , small-caliber multi-loading rifles, rapid-fire guns , machine guns, aircraft and much more condensed into a "critical mass", the behavior and consequences of which could be reduced without the "big experiment" that broke out in the summer of 1914 could not be easily assessed.

    Both the German as well as the French army command tried to ignore and devalue the increasing weighting of technology in their profession, on the other hand to put the will and the idea of ​​attack in the foreground. The emphasis on fighting morale (" offensive à outrance ") offered itself to relativize the problems caused by the mechanization of armaments. Accordingly, lessons from the siege of Port Arthur (1904/05) were only drawn unilaterally , although the new military-technical situation of the industrialized war was already clearly emerging here.

    What was special about the military doctrines in France and Germany was not the focus on the offensive, but rather its unique exaggeration - tactical reason was practically lost in the process. Last but not least, the ideological character of social Darwinism played a role. Social Darwinism offered the trade of war a new, quasi-scientific legitimation: a consciousness of modernization was combined with an emphasis on the vital element of warfare and thus led on a path that, in view of an unprecedented development in weapons technology, led to tremendous bloodbaths. Nowhere were the military leaders willing to acknowledge that the unequal level of development of firepower and movement made offensive warfare of movement impossible. Victory could only be fought with victims who, even by the standards of the time, were disproportionate to the profit.

    Front experience

    Victims of a gas attack after portrayal by John Singer Sargent

    The First World War with its material battles brought about a change in the self-perception and in the external perception of soldiers. Before the First World War, the general idea of ​​war was still characterized by open field battles, in which the soldier was daring, chivalrous and heroic to stand up to the enemy. Almost all Germans had stuck to their ideas of war at the level of 1871 and earlier. Accordingly, the war was intended as an "open, honest fight with knightly weapons" that would bring adventure, romance and personal heroism to the participants. Commercial prostitution was widespread both at the front and at the stage . It took place in separate brothels for soldiers and officers, which were controlled by military doctors and in some cases even operated by the military itself . But the transfigured view of the war could not withstand the realities of trench warfare. The experience at the front destroyed such ideas: "Courage, bravery and skill - all superfluous ..." The war did not bring the soldiers the adventure and heroism they had hoped for, but the disturbing experience of a complete degradation of the individual to the defenseless object of the war machine, with which the image a depersonalized and industrialized war arose.

    The almost constant fire of the artillery shaped this impression, which claimed more than half of the victims of the war. The soldiers' only reaction to this weapon was the helpless wait for the impact, for the onset of a force that could not be influenced: "The war machine seemed to be all-powerful and to impose their decisions on those who participated in its opaque movements." Iconography of a new type of soldier, the "emotional, spontaneous and loyal youth" of the Langemarck myth gave way to the Verdun fighter, ideally a "trained, cold, aggressive, isolated and technically equipped leader figure." Soldiers, he represented the modern, technical and functional appearance of war.

    The static arrangement of trench warfare was paradoxically inherent in a tendency to limit violence as long as the soldiers on both sides pursued the safeguarding of the status quo, which was the case in large areas of the front outside of large offensives. In order to break this situation, the army guides specialists translated the violence one, on the British side, especially sniper ( "Snipers") on German and Austrian side shock troops fighters extremely high individual combat motivation, which in the normal force because of they operate escalation of violence were unpopular. These special units felt themselves to be perpetrators in an emphatic sense. "It is therefore no coincidence that here, in addition to the German shock troops, also with the Italian elite units, the ' Arditi ', a direct line of continuity can be drawn to the fascist aestheticization of violence in the interwar period" and was also justified from the point of view of depth psychology and cultural studies .

    Consequences of war

    The consequences of the war are not limited to the circumstances described in more detail below. Some authors consider the First World War to be the “threshold of an era”. Through him, international relations were rearranged. It destroyed existing notions of social order and in most of the defeated states the national political systems. The war took up the entire society of a state, it left no area of ​​life untouched and thus changed the living conditions of the people seriously. "The war [...] acted as a kind of 'space for change', within which old orders could be delegitimed and new ones became possible."

    losses

    War invalid begging in Berlin, 1923
    Memorial in honor of the fallen soldiers in Gräfinau-Angstedt (Thuringia)
    Bronze commemorative plaque with the Tsar's coat of arms on a memorial stone for Russian soldiers killed in
    action between 1914 and 1916. Location: Wahn Air Force Barracks

    The First World War killed almost ten million soldiers and wounded around 20 million. The number of civilian casualties is estimated at another seven million. In the German Reich, 13.25 million men did military service in the course of the war, of which 2 million died. The Russian Empire had recruited about 12 million men for military service, of whom 1.85 million died. Of the almost 8.1 million French drafted, 1.3 million (≈ 16%) did not survive the war. The British Empire had deployed a total of around 7 million soldiers, of whom 850,000 did not return from the war. Austria-Hungary counted around 1.5 million dead (≈ 19%) with 7.8 million soldiers, on the Italian side there were almost 700,000 with 5 million soldiers. The proportionally largest losses suffered Romania, Montenegro and Serbia: of 700,000 Serb soldiers around 130,000 died. Overall, Serbia lost around 11% (around 540,000 people) and Montenegro 16% of its population due to the war.

    The war left dramatic gaps in the demographics of Germany (even more so in those of France, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey) and created unprecedented social hardship among war orphans and widows .

    Among the wounded were numerous invalids , sometimes disfigured beyond recognition , who were released into a civilian life with previously unknown (facial) disfigurements and amputations that was not yet familiar with modern prosthetics , occupational and medical rehabilitation . Countless former World War II soldiers died after the end of the war from the consequences of war injuries and illnesses brought with them at a relatively low age. Numerous conscientious objectors must be counted among the wounded who were mentally incapable of military service; They were sentenced to prison terms and imprisoned or psychiatricized in institutions - to "maintain the morale of the troops" . In addition to the military, there were civilian victims: in Germany alone, according to an investigation commissioned by the League of Nations in 1928, the blockade against the Central Powers led to 424,000 deaths from hunger (→ turnip winter ), other estimates suggest up to 733,000. In the years from 1918 to 1920, the Spanish flu in Europe took away millions of civilians and soldiers, often weakened by the war, and claimed between 20 million and 50 million lives, estimates range up to 100 million. This means that more people died of the Spanish flu than in the First World War as a result of acts of war. The estimates of the number of victims in Germany range between 209,000 and 300,000. The rapid and worldwide spread of the pandemic must, according to all the hypotheses of its geographical origin, be seen in connection with the events of the war; it was probably spread from March 1918, primarily through infections in US Army training camps, and reached Europe with troop transports in April 1918. In the Balkans, especially in Serbia, and in war-ravaged zones outside Europe (especially Central and East Africa), the population has suffered great losses from diseases and epidemics since 1914.

    The victims of the Armenian genocide are to be seen in connection with the First World War.

    Military losses (in millions of people)
    Country of origin Soldiers as a whole Fallen Percentage of
    Fallen
    Germany 13.25 2.00 15%
    Austria-Hungary 07.80 1.50 19%
    Ottoman Empire 03.00 0.60 20%
    Bulgaria 01.20 0.10 08th %
    Russia 12.00 1.85 15%
    France 08.10 1.30 16%
    British Empire 07.00 0.85 12%
    Italy 05.00 0.68 14%
    Romania 01.20 0.34 28%
    Serbia 00.70 0.13 19%
    United States 04.74 0.21 04%
    total 63.99 9.56 15%

    Destruction and war costs

    War-torn areas ( Zone Rouge ) in northern and eastern France

    The particularly hard-fought areas in northern France ( zone rouge ) and Belgium were largely destroyed in the war. The cost of reconstruction was estimated at around 100 billion francs . The winners' assumption that the war costs could be refinanced through reparations turned out to be an illusion. Britain went from being the largest creditor in the world to becoming one of the largest debtors. For Germany, the war ended in gigantic inflation , and the victorious powers became debtors to the USA. Europe had lost its dominant position in the world as a result of the war.

    The total direct war expenditures from 1914 to 1918 amounted to 1,016 billion gold marks . The British Empire accounted for 268 billion, 194 for Germany, 134 for France, 129 for the USA, 106 for Russia, 99 for Austria-Hungary and 63 billion for Italy. Essentially, with the exception of Great Britain, they were raised through war bonds and money creation .

    In Germany alone, the war-related expenses amounted to around 60 to 70 million marks per day until 1916. After that, there were enormous increases as a result of increased armament efforts, particularly in accordance with the Hindenburg program . Only a small part of the war costs could be financed through tax revenues, around 87% remained uncovered. The imperial debt therefore rose by 145.5 billion marks.

    Peace treaties

    William Orpen : The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors . The representatives of the victorious powers, while Johannes Bell signed the peace treaty for Germany on June 28, 1919
    German territorial losses through the Versailles Treaty in Europe
    Map of the territorial division of Austria-Hungary according to the Paris suburb treaties

    The questions pending after the war regarding contractual arrangements were decided within the framework of the Paris suburb agreements . The Paris Peace Conference began on January 18, 1919 , not by chance on the day the German Reich was founded . The negotiations took place largely in secret and, until the draft treaties were presented, in the absence of representatives from the defeated and from Russia. The subsequent exclusively written exchange with the defeated took place through the Council of Four formed on March 24, 1919 , to which only the Prime Ministers of the European victorious powers France, Great Britain and Italy as well as the President of the United States belonged. Again, it was no coincidence that the draft contract for the Versailles Treaty was handed over to the German representatives on May 7, 1919, the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania .

    The Treaty of Versailles answered in Article 231, the question of war guilt in that Germany and its allies, "the author of all losses and all damages" are what in Germany predominantly as a " war guilt lie was" conceived, revision intentions and historical revisionism result had and helped the domestic To poison atmosphere in the young Weimar Republic . In fact, however, the moral term "guilt" was not included in the text of the contract, so that an official admission of guilt was not required. Primarily because of the German insistence on this question, however, it was included in a mantle note that was handed over on June 16, 1919 with the final text of the contract, but was not part of the contract. It says: The "rulers of Germany" intended

    "[...] to justify their supremacy with violence. As soon as their preparations were completed, they encouraged a dependent ally [Austria-Hungary] to declare war on Serbia within forty-eight hours. They knew very well about this war [...] that it could not be localized and that it would unleash general war. In order to make this general war doubly secure, they withdrew from any attempt at reconciliation and deliberation until it was too late [...] However, the responsibility is not limited to the fact of wanting and unleashing the war. Germany is equally responsible for the raw and inhumane way in which it was led. "

    The atrocities of war during the invasion of Belgium, the first use of poison gas as well as the opening of the air and submarine war were mentioned and in the end the “criminal character of the war started by Germany” and the “barbaric [n ] Method that Germany used in carrying out the war, ”emphasizes.

    The amount of the German reparations payments initially remained open. The Reparations Commission agreed to 226 billion gold marks, reduced it in April 1921 to 132 billion gold marks, which, according to the London payment plan of 1921 , were to be paid with 2 billion gold marks annually and 26 percent of all German export earnings (around one billion gold marks). The immense German reparation debt arose, among other things, from the historical novelty that, according to the demands of Lloyd George and the Prime Minister of the Dominions, military pensions and financial support for war victims and survivors were among the war damages that were subject to reparation. The payment plan was revised in 1924 with the Dawes Plan and in 1929 with the Young Plan , and in 1932 payments were initially discontinued. The Young Loan , taken out for payment in 1930 , was repaid from 1953 to around 1988 under the London Debt Accord, with a final installment of accrued debt not until 2010.

    Germany had to accept areas with an area of ​​70,570 km² and population losses of 7.3 million inhabitants as well as surrender all colonies. The treaty affirmed the 15-year occupation of the Rhineland and a subsequent ten-kilometer-deep demilitarized zone. An annexation of Austria to Germany was made under the reservation of the League of Nations .

    In addition, there were armaments restrictions such as the abolition of general conscription, the dissolution of the general staff, the razing of the fortresses in the neutral zone, the ban on modern weapons (tanks, submarines, air force), and the reduction of the land army to 100,000 and the navy to 15,000 men.

    The winners rejected German counter-proposals. From 16 to 22 June 1919 there were dramatic and uninterrupted deliberations of the relevant political bodies, the Scheidemann government took office on 19/20. June back, on June 21st, the German deep sea fleet sank on the occasion of the peace conditions. In view of the ultimate stance of the victorious powers, the next day, on June 22, 1919, the National Assembly adopted the treaty by 237 votes to 138, with 6 abstentions, so that the Bauer government had to sign the Versailles Treaty on June 28, 1919 without any compromises.

    The suburban agreements with Austria ( Treaty of Saint-Germain ) and Hungary ( Treaty of Trianon ) as well as with Bulgaria ( Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine ) and Turkey ( Treaty of Sèvres ) followed in many ways the model of the Versailles Treaty: no verbal negotiations with the defeated and their provisional exclusion from the League of Nations as well as arms restrictions, cedings of territory and high reparations. Hungary suffered the largest loss of territory in relative terms. Since the US Senate rejected the ratification of the Versailles Treaty and the associated membership in the League of Nations on November 18, 1919 , the United States concluded bilateral treaties with the German Reich, Austria and Hungary, including the Berlin Treaty , which raised hopes for a general one Revision nourished. The treaty with Turkey did not come into force because the revolutionary movement Mustafa Kemal ousted the Turkish government as part of the Turkish Liberation War . The revision of the Paris Peace Treaty - including the Treaty of Lausanne - was thus initiated with the most recently signed treaty.

    Changes in the political map

    Changes in Europe's political borders as a result of the First World War (left: 1914, right: 1929) Changes in Europe's political borders as a result of the First World War (left: 1914, right: 1929)
    Changes in Europe's political borders as a result of the First World War (left: 1914, right: 1929)

    The First World War brought about considerable changes in the political map, especially of Europe. The states of Finland , Latvia , Lithuania , Estonia , the Second Polish Republic , the First Czechoslovak Republic , Hungary , Austria and Soviet Russia emerged from Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire . In addition, short-lived states such as the Ukrainian People's Republic , the Belarusian People's Republic , the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan , the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the Democratic Republic of Armenia were formed . At the end of 1922, the Soviet republics merged to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union, USSR). The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed from the merger of the Kingdom of Serbia and the Kingdom of Montenegro with parts of Austria-Hungary .

    From the Ottoman Empire who went Turkey and various League of Nations mandates appears, according to the League of Nations Mandate for Syria and Lebanon , the British Mandate of Mesopotamia (from 1932, the Kingdom of Iraq was established) and the Mandatory Palestine . The German colonies were also transferred to League of Nations mandates , only in Namibia , the former German South West Africa , is there still a notable German minority today. The colonial empires and zones of influence of the British and those of the French reached their maximum extent after the First World War.

    Middle East conflict

    Spheres of Interest in the Middle East under the Sykes-Picot Agreement
    Faisal's delegation to the Paris Peace Conference

    The Middle East conflict is at least "in the broadest sense a product of the First World War". In search of allies, the British distributed the hoped-for spoils of Palestine three times. The promises and agreements of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence , the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration were in fact mutually exclusive.

    In the "Hussein-McMahon correspondence", which only became known in 1939, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon , the Sherif of Mecca , Hussein ibn Ali , promised a Greater Arab Empire, which McMahon formulated above all in his letter of October 24, 1915: Britain is "ready to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs within the countries that lie within the borders proposed by the Sherif of Mecca". The British later stated that the Sherif had failed to fulfill the treaty as the Arab revolt was not the promised general uprising.

    In fact, Britain had never been ready to accept a Greater Arab Empire, as made clear in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916. In this treaty, France and Great Britain delimited their spheres of interest, the British wanted to create a zone of influence from the Mediterranean to today's Iraq. Apart from Haifa (British), Palestine should come under international control. The state promised to the Arabs shortly before should be divided into a French zone of influence in the north and a British zone in the south.

    The Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, delivered in a letter from British Foreign Minister Balfour to the President of the World Zionist Organization , Walter Rothschild , finally promised the British government's support for the establishment of a national home in Palestine for the Jewish people, which was interpreted as an outrageous diplomatic success for the Jewish organization. On January 3, 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference , Hussein's son Faisal, together with the later President of the World Zionist Organization, Chaim Weizmann , signed the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement , in which Faisal promised the fundamental consent of the Arab side to a Jewish state, if the Arab one Independence would be recognized. The promises made by the Allied powers to the Arabs, especially those in the Anglo-French declaration of November 7, 1918, were only partially implemented.

    The conflicting interests led to the first anti-Jewish actions in Jerusalem on April 4, 1920 ( Nabi Musa riots ). Palestine was officially handed over to Great Britain by the League of Nations as a mandate territory on July 24, 1922 , whereby the Balfour Declaration was adopted verbatim in the mandate text, despite concerns from Foreign Minister Curzon, for example . The clashes between Jews and Arabs increased, and in 1929 the conflicts took on the quality of massacres for the first time ( Hebron massacre ).

    Committee of Inquiry and War Crimes Trials

    The Weimar National Assembly constituted a committee of inquiry on August 21, 1919, which was supposed to deal with the events that led to the outbreak, the prolongation and the loss of the war. In the course of the discussion about the question of extradition and war guilt, the Conservatives already heavily criticized the very existence of the committee. The party-political structure of the committee meant that the majority will quickly shifted to the side of the strong forces from the beginning who had no interest in clarifying the issue. Accordingly, the final result of the committee was only of a functional character for official German foreign policy.

    On February 3, 1920, the Allies presented the chairman of the German peace delegation, Kurt von Lersner, with an Allied note demanding the extradition of around 900 German alleged war criminals. Lersner initially refused to hand it over to the Reich government in protest and threatened to resign. Reich Chancellor Gustav Bauer publicly distanced himself from Lersner's position, and the official handover of the extradition request took place on February 7, 1920. Surprisingly, the Allies moved away from the extradition request in a note dated February 16, 1920 and agreed that the accused in Germany itself carried out the procedure, whereby they reserved control rights and, if necessary, wanted to retake the procedure. The reasons for the Allies to give way were the "cross-class and cross-party" resistance to the extradition demand in Germany and the differences between the Allies, which had increased significantly since November 1918.

    Before that, on January 15, 1920, the first Allied note had been sent to the Dutch government to extradite Wilhelm II . The Netherlands rejected the request because it was not a party to the peace treaty, there was no statute on crimes and their punishment before the war and the granting of asylum was an expression of fundamental legal convictions and centuries of tradition.

    As part of the London ultimatum of May 5, 1921, the Allies complained, among other things, that the war criminals had not yet been tried. The Reich government could point out on this point that the trials before the Reichsgericht in Leipzig will take place from May 1921. In the years 1921 to 1931 the Reichsgericht and Reichsanwaltschaft dealt with the proceedings against so-called "war suspects". Most of the cases were closed in a closed session by decision or by order of the senior Reich attorney, there were only 17 proceedings with seven convictions. The public proceedings were suspended in 1922 after two notes by the Allies. In the notes, the Allies criticized the work of the Reichsgericht and announced that they would no longer cooperate with the German courts and conduct proceedings in absentia. However , the Allies waived a request for extradition in accordance with Article 228 of the Versailles Treaty . In France and Belgium 493 absenteeism proceedings took place; for all convictions abroad, the Reich Prosecutor discontinued the proceedings in Germany on the recommendation of the Foreign Office . Only the conviction of two officers of the SM U 86 for the shooting of castaways from the hospital ship Llandovery Castle had a further history of impact on international law , since the Imperial Court in this case, as an exception, expressly stated: when an "order is evident, for everyone, including subordinates, beyond any doubt portrayed as criminal ”, then the recipient of the order bears the criminal responsibility and cannot invoke action on orders .

    "Although legally obliged to prosecute them, the Reich Prosecutor and the Reichsgericht showed very little inclination to seriously distress suspected war criminals [...] Certainly no direct connection can be made between German behavior in Belgium in 1914 and in the Soviet Union from 1941 onwards [ ...] Nevertheless, there are parallels in the willingness to accept legally unbounded war violence, and it can also be found where the war was not a declared war of extermination. "

    The failure of the Leipzig Trials was intended to encourage the Allies from 1943 ( Moscow Declaration ) to initially take the prosecution of Nazi crimes into their own hands , including in the context of the Nuremberg Trials .

    Influence on fascism and national socialism

    The Nazism and Italian Fascism related major parts of their special characteristics and their legitimacy from the First World War.

    “Without the First World War and its legacy, the Third Reich is inconceivable. The popularity of National Socialism had crucial psychological roots that cannot be explained without this legacy. The same applies to his ability to influence the memory of the world war and the trauma it undoubtedly caused and to instrumentalize it for political purposes [...] This was especially true for the view that Germany was in an ongoing catastrophe due to the defeat of 1918 was thrown. In the eyes of Hitler and the regime’s leadership, the Second World War was the unfinished business of the First. "

    The majority of Germans could neither accept nor understand the defeat, so the falsified image of the First World War and the reasons for the defeat, cultivated by the National Socialists, fell on fertile ground. The defeat was explained in this pattern with the revolutionary activities of left parties and above all with a racist variant of the stab-in- the-back legend (“failure of the homeland”), which “ world Jewry ” made responsible.

    “Since 1933 [this] interpretation of the war became the basis of the political and ideological formation of the new Germany: The war not as a teacher of peace, but as a teacher of the next war and the preparation for it and until 1945 reached - even beyond that, in that ' Versailles ' was used as a legitimation for the Second World War well into the Federal Republic of Germany . "

    Italy, which was one of the victorious powers, suffered from the "arrogance with which it was treated by the Allies and, on the other hand, from the dissatisfaction with the war gains [...] The disappointments created a climate of frustration, which is reflected in the slogan of ' The Italian reign on the Quarnero (1919/20) - shaped by Gabriele D'Annunzio - is considered the first pre-fascist system , it anticipated essential elements of National Socialism and Italian fascism and provided the guide for a “modern political style “, Which relies on the inclusion of the masses and their manipulation. Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party took advantage of the massive disappointment of the rural and petty-bourgeois lower classes, which were particularly hard hit by the war. The social acceptance of the fascist takeover, which is characterized by illegality and the use of force, is attributed not least to the experience of war.

    reception

    “In contemporary perception and in many countries to this day, this war remains the 'great war', 'the Great War', 'la Grande Guerre '“and la Grande Guerra. In Germany in particular, memories of the First World War are overshadowed by the Second World War , on the one hand because of the rupture in civilization that the National Socialist regime caused in the course of the Eastern campaign and the Holocaust . On the other hand, there was only comparatively minor material damage on German territory during the First World War.

    Years before the outbreak of war in 1914, there was talk of the coming “World War” in the German Reich, for example in the anti-British novel “The World War” by August Wilhelm Otto Niemann , published in 1904 . The term First World War was used for the first time by Ernst Haeckel in September 1914, it or First World War also appeared sporadically in other publications around 1920/21 and can therefore only be called a retronym to a limited extent .

    Historical research

    In historical studies , the First World War is one of the most important topics in modern history . “World war research” represents an area in which general research tendencies are reflected: Since the mid-1980s, research has increasingly turned to everyday history, the level of experience of the “little man”, “in order to break up the previous dominance of elite research and a history of To feed society from below during the war. ”“ If the questions revolved around political history until the 1960s , this was increasingly replaced by social-historical focuses. Since the mid-1990s, studies that are committed to the history of experience or tracing the representations of war have dominated. In the meantime, a disparate and differentiated field of research has arisen in which social and cultural-historical aspects are brought together. ”The historiography of mentalities has also been modified for some time by the“ war culture ”research, which also dominates on an international scale. In this topic, mentalities, worlds of experience, propaganda and ideology flow together more strongly than in pure "experience" research. Particular attention is paid to the “myth of the war experience”. In this process, military historiography has moved closer to general history.

    General meaning of the war

    The First World War is referred to as an “epoch threshold”, “primordial catastrophe” and a political and cultural “space for change”, which went hand in hand with a delegitimation of old and the facilitation of new orders. The war brought an upheaval in international relations, the appearance of the new leading powers, the Soviet Union and the USA, and the decline of Europe as world and order powers. There is broad consensus in research that the First World War - as the American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan put it - was politically the " primal catastrophe of the 20th century ". It was an event that had a fatal effect on the further history of Europe: the October Revolution , Stalinism , fascism , National Socialism and finally the Second World War are inconceivable without the tremors of the First World War. Some historians summarize the years from 1914 to 1945 as the Second Thirty Years' War and describe the period of the world wars as a time of catastrophe in German history. The war is also seen as a political, economic and structural collapse of the previous Europe: “By this we mean the failure of the functioning of the system of the great powers, the failure of their foreign policy interaction, on which a substantial part of their international standing was based. Some see this failure as the outbreak of war, others in the inability to end this war in time and without outside help. ”In 1913 Europe still had 43 percent of world production, ten years later, in 1923, it was only 34 percent . Furthermore, serious domestic political, social and (further) economic consequences as well as “spiritual” and socio-cultural changes are mentioned. The war destroyed or changed existing social norms and rules and ideas of political order. However, there is no consensus on the question of whether the war brought about completely new developments or merely reinforced existing ones.

    In the opinion of many scholars, the First World War marked the end of an era - the long 19th century , as it is often called, which began with the French Revolution (1789) and is commonly referred to as the “bourgeois age”. Other researchers doubt this, the war was merely an internal turning point within an epoch, as it promoted rather than interrupted the change processes that arose in the 19th century. In this context, war is assigned the function of a catalyst that strengthened developments that had already been initiated or helped them to break through; for example, important ideas, art movements and moments of modern mass society began before 1914.

    Discussion about the causes of war

    Triggered mainly by the sole war guilt of the German Empire claimed in the Versailles Treaty , an extensive apologetic literature to ward off the "war guilt lie" was created in the Weimar Republic in the years after the First World War. The attempt to use a parliamentary committee of inquiry set up by the German Reichstag in August 1919 to name those responsible for the outbreak, prolongation and loss of the war largely failed. Historians of the victorious states held fast to the sole war guilt of Germany and its allies. The time of National Socialism brought an interruption of serious research in Germany and led to isolation from Western history. After the Second World War, the view of the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George initially prevailed that the peoples of Europe had "slipped into the world war". In the 1960s, the Hamburg historian Fritz Fischer questioned this view of history. It triggered a first, long-term historians' dispute, beginning with an article in the historical journal in 1959 and above all his 1962 book Griff nach der Weltmacht, according to which “the German Reich leadership took a considerable part of the historical responsibility for the outbreak of the general war " wearing. In the subsequent, emotionally tinged Fischer controversy , which in turn can be considered part of German history, he tightened his theses regarding the war guilt of the German Reich leadership.

    More recent overviews assume that German policy in the July crisis was a high-risk crisis strategy that “consciously accepted the possibility of a major war without necessarily wanting to bring it about.” The improvement of one's own that was found necessary The position should be enforced “with the help of a 'policy of limited offensive', while accepting a 'calculated risk'”. According to Jürgen Angelow , the terms “limited offensive” and “calculated risk” are not enough to fully express “the irresponsible and abysmal” of the German position. On the other hand, the term brinkmanship used by younger historians describes a “daring policy of 'uncalculated risk', of walking on the edge of the abyss.” Christopher Clark, on the other hand, stands for a direction in research into the origins of the First World War that saw the outbreak of war as the “fruit of a common political culture ”in Europe and thus a common“ paranoia ”. Clark does not want to generally question the results of Fritz Fischer. Ian Kershaw names Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia as the main culprits for the war, with "Germany playing the decisive role". According to Annika Mombauer , after initial attempts at mediation, Russia and France welcomed a coming war after it seemed inevitable. “Ultimately, however, it was the governments in Berlin and Vienna that made a war come down, as the decisive decisions were made immediately after the attack.” With regard to the outbreak of war, Holger Afflerbach sees the Central Powers and Russia as being primarily responsible.

    Today there is consensus that the outbreak of war in 1914 was "one of the most complex events in modern history" and that consequently the discussion about the causes of the First World War continues. The question is whether "whether new findings will really enrich the debate in the future".

    Main topics

    Research since the turn of the millennium can be divided into various key topics, which illustrate the variety of methods and approaches with which historians approach the First World War. The study of specific social groups often goes hand in hand with an analysis of the media and symbols that represent them. Picture postcards, for example, were developed as a relatively new type of source for the First World War, but reports on the fighting in official army reports and in the mass media also aroused research interests. Differentiated studies of the effects of war on different groups dealt with children, women, corporation students, war invalids and the previously underestimated conscientious objectors in World War I. But even medals and decorations are no longer analyzed context-free in recent research, but instead considered in their material and symbolic meaning in connection with the concept of military honor .

    The examination of personal testimonies such as diaries or letters was always an important part of world war research. "Since personal testimonies were often made in the immediate vicinity of what happened, they are not over-shaped by later events and knowledge" and are therefore mostly regarded as particularly valuable sources and have been edited as such in recent years. Ernst Jünger's war diary 1914–1918, published in 2010, is considered “undoubtedly the most important new publication” , from which Jünger took the inspiration for many of his literary works. Letters from socialist soldiers containing numerous passages critical of the war or journal entries by intellectuals were also published as source editions, as were the diaries of the lawyers Karl Rosner (1873–1951) and Harry Graf Kessler (1868–1937). In contrast to field post letters from soldiers at home, letters to soldiers have rarely survived. Her more recent editions "show the efforts of soldiers and those who stayed at home to bridge distances and provide insights into everyday war life at the front and at home."

    One of the leitmotifs of current world war research is the experience of violence on and behind the front. The violence of the First World War is seen as a link between the older forms of violence, the new technical developments since the turn of the century and the delimitation of violence in the Second World War. The dynamics of destruction are seen as part of the history of mentality in warring societies. But studies on the Austrian occupation policy in Serbia also deal with violence, where it is disputed whether it is predominantly accidental or systematic outbreaks of violence. The occupation rule over Romania, on the other hand, took place in close cooperation with the local elites, so that coercive measures were not the defining element. The situation is different for the German occupation of Belgium, in which the world war becomes visible as a “global economic conflict between industrial nations”. In the autumn and winter of 1916, Belgian workers were not recruited, but were forced into forced labor ; however, this practice did not prove to be successful, so that the occupation regime soon abandoned it under the impression of international protests. The prisoner-of-war camps have also been the subject of several recent studies; The research focus increasingly fell on the internment of civilians: "Here, too, it can be seen that the dividing line between combatants and civilians in World War I faded." Another research focus is the often nationally diverging cultures of remembrance in the various successor states of the Central Powers , such as the example of Austro-Hungarian southern front in the Alto Adige area was shown.

    Regarding the war experience of the soldiers at the front, the handling of sport - the popularization of football - and animals in war received new attention. The history of experience also includes “the long wait” of German and British naval officers for a naval war , “which ultimately hardly took place.” Conventional topics of classic operational history - planning, tactics, battles and description of the battle - have for a long time been neglected by research: “Publications who felt committed to the new military historiography, often avoided such questions and addressed military action in a wider context. In the meantime, the combat deployment of military personnel has become the subject of some investigations. ” Processes of change came into focus, for example the turning away from French offensive fetishism during the trench warfare and the learning processes in which the warring parties took over the tactics of the enemy. The psychological stress on soldiers at the front and the factors contributing to "holding out" the war situation were also scientifically investigated. Alexander Watson developed a new explanation for the defeat of the German Reich on the Western Front: Front officers had led their units into captivity as a way out of their bad situation, especially the lack of supplies, by surrendering even to outnumbered enemy troops.

    Beyond the experience of the front, the effects of the war in the hometowns of the soldiers have meanwhile received some attention; Roger Chickering worked with Freiburg in the First World War to develop a total historical perspective, which should demonstrate the formative influence of the war on all areas of life. Here, too, the decreasing ability to "persevere" played a decisive role since the winter of 1916/17. But Great Britain during the war also received closer scrutiny, for example from Adrian Gregory: “He rejects the now relativized thesis of widespread enthusiasm for war in 1914 and analyzes the reporting on the German war atrocities. The propaganda had by no means seduced the masses, rather 'real events' up until 1915 supported the image of a demonic Germany ”. State control of public communications played an important role in both German and British society.

    The historiography of the Eastern Front of the First World War takes up little space in the literature on the years 1914 to 1918. One reason for the low level of research interest was the Cold War , which made access to the Eastern archives difficult for Western researchers. Under Lenin, military cemeteries of the tsarist empire were destroyed and so an attempt was made to erase the events connected with them from the historical consciousness of the people. In the Soviet Union, negative portrayals of the Imperial Russian Army in World War I , but also positive and patriotic ones, could lead to problems for the author, so that the topic was rather avoided. In 1975, Norman Stone wrote the first comprehensive account of what happened on the Eastern Front. Stone doubts the economic backwardness of the Russian Empire. For Stone, Russia's weakness lay in its outdated administration, which was to blame for the supply difficulties and inefficient army command. The war in the east differed markedly from the events on the western front; in the east it remained a war of movement when the fronts in the west had already frozen. The reasons for this lay in the poor communication possibilities and poor traffic development, broken gaps in the defense lines could not be closed as quickly as in the west. The spatial extension of the eastern front with several thousand front kilometers contrasted with the length of the western front only 800 kilometers. Only in the more recent western representations and research on the First World War does the eastern front come into focus again. The Military History Research Office (MGFA) in Potsdam held a conference on "The Forgotten Front" in August 2004.

    Even today, the question of why the European powers failed to end the war by mutual agreement still has an impact on European self-confidence. Holger Afflerbach put forward the thesis that the outcome of the First World War was open for a long time and was on the "knife edge": not in the sense of a German victory, but a military draw. Ultimately, neither side was prepared to give in decisively, and there were fatal misinterpretations. The war was fought so bitterly that a military decision could be reached. The long war period and the losses it caused were ultimately responsible for the fact that each side viewed a complete defeat of the enemy as the only satisfactory outcome of the war. Afflerbach primarily blames the western allies and Italy for the long course of the war, for whom a tied peace was out of the question and who wanted a complete victory at any price.

    Memorials and memorials

    The hall of honor for the fallen of the war in Nuremberg was integrated into the staging of the Nazi party rallies even before its inauguration The hall of honor for the fallen of the war in Nuremberg was integrated into the staging of the Nazi party rallies even before its inauguration
    The hall of honor for the fallen of the war in Nuremberg was integrated into the staging of the Nazi party rallies even before its inauguration
    The Douaumont ossuary
    Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey

    The most famous memorials - some of them also museums - are now in the area around Verdun . The Fort de Douaumont , the Fort Vaux , the Douaumont Ossuary , the associated military cemetery and other remnants of the Battle of Verdun today form a large complex. On September 22, 1984, the memorial formed the background for the demonstrative Hand in Hand by Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand on the occasion of a large ceremony in memory of the victims of the wars between France and Germany. The Fallen Memorial Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, another important memorial, was opened on November 11, 2014 on the edge of the largest French military cemetery " Notre Dame de Lorette " near Ablain-Saint-Nazaire . Apart from Douaumont and Notre Dame de Lorette, the Mémorial des batailles de la Marne in Dormans and the Hartmannswillerkopf memorial are among the four French national monuments of the First World War. The ruins of Fort Loncin are an important Belgian war memorial.

    The German military cemetery in Vladslo is best known for the group of figures “Mourning Parents” by Käthe Kollwitz . The history of the German military cemetery in Langemarck is related to the myth of Langemarck . There are numerous memorials around Ypres , especially for soldiers from Great Britain, at the Menenpoort in Ypres itself, The Last Post is blown daily at 8 p.m. in honor of the fallen . The central German commemorative event “100 Years of the Summer Battle ”, organized by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge , took place in the German war cemetery in Fricourt on July 1, 2016 . The British and French celebrated the day at the Thiepval Memorial in the presence of President François Hollande , Prime Minister David Cameron , Prince Charles and other members of the British Royal Family . The nearby Lochnagar crater is the largest surviving mine crater from the war. In the area of ​​the monumental Canadian National Vimy Memorial and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial , the battlefields have been preserved and the trench systems and explosion craters are still legible in the topography. The history of the memorial in the clearing of Rethondes refers to the connection between the two German wars of aggression of the 20th century.

    In Italy are the Sacrarium of Redipuglia (Sacrario di Redipuglia), the Monument to the Fallen on Monte Grappa (Monumento al Caduti de Monte Grappa), the Military Sacrarium of Fagarè della Battaglia ( Sacrario Militare di Fagarè della Battaglia ) and the Bell of the Fallen in Rovereto (Campana dei Caduti Maria Dolens) .

    During the Weimar Republic, no consensus could be reached in Germany on a central Reich memorial for those who fell in the war, in 1935 Hitler decreed the Tannenberg memorial for this purpose. The hall of honor (fallen monument) on Luitpoldhain in Nuremberg , inaugurated in 1930, became the focal point for the Nazi party rally grounds and served as the central backdrop for the staging of the Nazi cult of the dead. The Neue Wache in Berlin was from 1931 to 1945, the Berlin "Ehrenmahl to the fallen of war" since 1993, she is the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the victims of war and tyranny." The memorial of the German Army has been located on the Ehrenbreitstein fortress in Koblenz since 1972 , the naval memorial in Laboe and the memorial for all those who died in the submarine war in Heikendorf near Kiel .

    In France and Great Britain in particular, national memorials were often carefully designed simply, such as the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile . The new type of monument was intended to commemorate the many unidentifiable and missing soldiers of this war. This form of commemoration was taken up in many countries, but less so in inter-war Germany, where conservative and right-wing groups opposed who viewed such memorials as too pacifist. Works that did not idealize the life and death of soldiers were often attacked in Germany and removed during the Nazi era , such as those by Ernst Barlach . The victims of the First World War were the reason for the introduction of the day of national mourning in Germany in 1926. In Germany and France, numerous war memorials were created, especially in smaller towns , on which all the victims of the community were named, but less often in larger cities, such as the one War memorial in Munich and the war memorial in Heilbronn .

    The central memorials in the former British Dominions are of national importance , of which Canada, Australia and New Zealand in particular see participation in the First World War as a significant step towards becoming a nation. For example, in Australia there are the Avenues of Honor , the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial , in Canada the National War Memorial , in New Zealand the World War One Memorial in Wellington and the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch . In Great Britain itself - especially in London - there are also numerous smaller and larger memorials; The grave of an unknown soldier in the nave of Westminster Abbey is symbolically significant , "in the midst of the kings, because he served his god and fatherland well," as an inscription proclaims. The installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red in the moat of the Towers of London caused a sensation and a large number of visitors in 2014 . In the Commonwealth of Nations and France, Remembrance Day and Armistice 1918 are still celebrated on November 11th, and ANZAC Day in Australia, New Zealand and Tonga on April 25th .

    100 years after the Compiègne armistice, numerous celebrations took place, especially in France. President Emmanuel Macron visited memorial sites between November 4 and 11, 2018, including the Monument de la Pierre d'Haudroy on November 7, 2018 , the memorial for the arrival of the German negotiators on November 7, 1918 near La Capelle , on November 9 , 2018 November the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and on November 10, 2018 together with Chancellor Angela Merkel the clearing of Rethondes . Macron and Merkel unveiled a bilingual commemorative plaque on which "the importance of Franco-German reconciliation in the service of Europe and peace is affirmed" and visited the museum there, the identical version of the car from Compiègne , in which the armistice on November 11, 1918 was signed. Federal President Walter Steinmeier took part in a peace concert with Macron on November 4, 2018 in Strasbourg Cathedral and with Prince Charles in the Remembrance Sunday celebrations in London. Dozens of heads of state and government from all over the world traveled to the celebrations in Paris on November 11, 2018, including Merkel, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin .

    Museums

    In Europe alone there are more than 750 museums dedicated to the First World War. In addition to numerous objects, the Army History Museum in Vienna shows the automobile in which the Austrian heir to the throne was murdered . The Imperial War Museum in London has a very extensive collection on the First World War that has been redesigned for the commemorative year . The Musée de l'Armée in Paris, the National Army Museum in Bucharest (Muzeul Militar Naţional) and the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden also show significant collections and / or individual items . The Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt presents the largest permanent exhibition on the First World War in Germany. The only originally preserved German tank from the First World War ( A7V ) is in the Queensland Museum , Australia (temporarily relocated to the Australian War Memorial in 2015 ).

    Museums that deal exclusively with the First World War can be found mainly in northern France, noteworthy are the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and the Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux . The 26 meter high monumental statue La Liberté éplorée by the American artist Frederick William MacMonnies directly at the museum in Meaux marks the point of the furthest German advance towards Paris in September 1914 ( ). On November 10, 2017, Emmanuel Macron and Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the first joint German-French museum (Historial) on the war in the Hartmannswillerkopf Memorial . World icon

    The Mémorial de Verdun and the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres also offer outstanding presentations; the municipality of Heuvelland near Ypres has restored the trench system of the German position in Bayernwald on the basis of archaeological research and made it accessible to visitors. Also worth mentioning is the Rovereto War Museum in the Rete Trentino Grande Guerra network , an amalgamation of museums and memorials in Trentino on the occasion of the centenary of the commemoration, as well as the Kobarid Museum in present-day Slovenia, which focuses on the Isonzo Battles (especially the Twelfth Isonzo Battle ).

    Works of art

    Literary works

    The world war mainly had an impact on literary expressionism . The world war experience found its strongest German-language lyrical expression in August Stramm , but from a global perspective In Flanders Fields by John McCrae can be seen as the most influential poem. Among the British war poets , Wilfred Owen ( Dulce et Decorum est ) and Laurence Binyon ( For the Fallen ) should also be mentioned.

    The novel, neglected by the German Expressionists, became the preferred genre of literature again after the World War, as the consequences and causes of the epochal event required the epic large form. The emergence of Dadaism can be seen in connection with the war. As well-known German-language depictions that deal with war events in the narrower sense, Ernst Jüngers In Stahlgewittern , The Wanderer Between Two Worlds by Walter Flex (one of the best-selling German-language books of all) and Erich Maria Remarques in the West cannot be named anything new . Among the German dramas, as reactions to the war, the last days of mankind by Karl Kraus and Bertolt Brecht's Drums in the Night were created .

    Visual arts

    Albin Egger-Lienz: The Nameless 1914 (1916)
    Mourning parents of Käthe Kollwitz (military cemetery in Vladslo )

    Until the First World War, artists were mostly uninvolved witnesses of the war. In the First World War, on the other hand, there were - in addition to the war painters - numerous freelance artists among the soldiers. Most of her works received little attention after the end of the war, and - with the exception of Otto Dix - many authors distanced themselves from their war works. Artists such as Max Beckmann and Fernand Léger did not even attempt to exhibit them, but turned to other topics immediately after their demobilization. Well-known works are Sturmtruppe goes under gas (Otto Dix, 1924), Gassed ( John Singer Sargent , 1918) and The Nameless 1914 by Albin Egger-Lienz as well as the self-portrait as a soldier ( Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 1915). In this war, the artists of the European avant-garde finally renounced the rules that had ruled battle painting until then. They looked for new means to do justice to the appalling reality: essentially cubism , futurism , expressionism and abstract art . “The time of heroic realism and patriotic allegories was finally over. The detonation of projectiles, the omnipotence of the artillery, the total war could no longer be imitated, it had to be transposed. Broken lines and bright colors were necessary, not to depict details of the battle, but to express their inhuman violence. ”The World War abruptly ended the architecture of Historicism and Art Nouveau in Germany , as the use of ornaments and the corresponding In view of the war and the need, additional costs no longer seemed appropriate. The war thus brought about the breakthrough of modernity in architecture and the formula “ form follows function ” as well as the view put forward by Adolf Loos in the pamphlet Ornament und Verbrechen (1908) that the use of ornaments and décor was superfluous.

    Numerous sculptural works were created, especially in connection with the war memorials . At German art works mainly these are from today's perspective Grieving parents of Käthe Kollwitz and the The Floating and Magdeburg cenotaph of Ernst Barlach to name. The so-called nail pictures corresponded to the zeitgeist ; a propaganda movement that originated in Vienna in the first half of 1915 . The Iron Hindenburg in Berlin , Heinrich the Lion in Iron in Braunschweig , Dä kölsche Boor en Iser in Cologne , the Nagelsäule in Mainz and the Isern Hinnerk in Oldenburg became particularly well known .

    music

    The Argonnerwaldlied, picture postcard from the First World War

    For music, the First World War is not regarded as the limit of the epoch, since the turning point with the advent of atonal music is set to 1908/09. Other than that, music plays almost no role in many of today's depictions of war. In terms of the history of composition, the First World War was important, art music took a stand, and even more naturally military music and popular music in the form of soldier songs such as B. the Argonnerwaldlied or wild geese rush through the night . Every German soldier had a field hymn book with them, a well-known song from it is e.g. B. We come to pray . Hymns during the war were sometimes used ambivalently, especially the chorals Now all thank God and A solid castle is our God "to be described as" fighting songs of Prussian-Protestant Germany par excellence ". The functionalization of music for the war was nothing new and in Germany, as in other countries, composers, lyricists and publishers quickly switched to the production of war-glorifying, national and heroic music at the beginning of the war. Pieces by composers from rival nations were partially removed from the concert hall program, especially at the beginning of the war. At the beginning of the war, the musical theaters increasingly included so-called patriotic German operas such as Richard Wagner's Meistersinger or Heinrich Zöllner's Der Überfall . A few war operettas were written, but from around February 1915 hurrapatriotic pieces with current war themes largely disappeared from the theater, Biedermeier operettas and the classical opera repertoire dominated the repertoire again. Only one war operetta lasted the whole war on the stage, the “Fatherland folk piece with singing in 4 pictures” set to music by Walter Kollo . .

    At the front, the music provided cultural practices in which the everyday life of the war could take a back seat, at least for a few moments. In the Christmas peace of 1914, for example, music was a mediator and bridge-builder between the trenches; the common singing of songs with the same melody like Silent Night / Silent Night and Heil Dir im Siegerkranz / God save the King ushered in the spontaneous armistice.

    Compositions worth mentioning that were published in connection with the war were, for example, Edward Elgar's Carillon, Claude Debussy's Berceuse héroïque, Igor Stravinsky's Souvenir d'une marche boche and Vincent d'Indy's La légende de Saint Christophe . Art songs on the tragedy of the war were written by Franz Schreker , Franz Lehár , Charles Ives , Erich Wolfgang Korngold , Richard Strauss , Lili Boulanger , Giacomo Puccini , Hanns Eisler and Paul Hindemith .

    On the occasion of the 100th year of commemoration after the beginning of the First World War, Altuğ Ünlü composed a requiem , which was premiered on November 1, 2014.

    Movies

    The First World War provided material for numerous film adaptations. The 1916 British documentary The Battle of the Somme, shot for propaganda purposes, saw 20 million moviegoers in Great Britain within six weeks, a record that was only surpassed 60 years later with Star Wars . In 2005 it was recognized as the world's first documentary heritage as the first British contemporary document . The most famous films today are Nothing New in the West (1930) based on the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque , Paths to Fame (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

    literature

    Christoph Nübel has compiled an overview of the research literature up to 2014 ; in sehepunkte 14 (2014) there are links to several book reviews.

    Overall representations

    Prehistory, causes and July crisis

    • Luigi Albertini : The Origins of the War of 1914 . Translated from the Italian by Isabella M. Massey. Oxford University Press, London 1952–1957 (3 volumes) (Reprint: Enigma Books, New York 2005, ISBN 1-929631-26-X ) (Original: Le origini della guerra del 1914. Milan 1942/43).
    • Jürgen Angelow: The way to the original disaster. The disintegration of old Europe 1900–1914. Be.bra-Verlag, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-89809-402-3 .
    • Christopher Clark : The Sleepwalkers: How Europe moved into the First World War . Translated from the English by Norbert Juraschitz. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-421-04359-7 .
    • Fritz Fischer : War of Illusions. German politics from 1911–1914. 2nd Edition. Düsseldorf 1970, ISBN 3-7700-0913-4 . (Underpinning and tightening of the theses of reaching for world power )
    • Imanuel Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume I. Edited and introduced by Imanuel Geiss. With a foreword by Fritz Fischer. Publishing house for literature and contemporary history, Hanover 1963, DNB 451465709 . (Standard work).
    • Imanuel Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume II. Edited and introduced by Imanuel Geiss. Publishing house for literature and contemporary history, Hanover 1964, DNB 451465717 . (Standard work).
    • Imanuel Geiss (Ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 3. Edition. Munich 1986, ISBN 3-423-02921-8 (publication of the most important documents by the well-known student of Fritz Fischer).
    • Imanuel Geiss: The long way to catastrophe. The prehistory of the First World War 1815–1914. 2nd Edition. Piper, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-492-10943-8 .
    • Richard F. Hamilton, Holger H. Herwig: The Origins of World War I. Cambridge 2004, ISBN 0-521-81735-8 .
    • Gerd Krumeich : July 1914. A balance sheet. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-77592-4 .
    • Sean McMeekin : Russia's Road to War. The First World War - the origin of the catastrophe of the century. Europa Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-944305-63-9 .
    • Annika Mombauer : The July crisis: Europe's way into the First World War . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66108-2 . (Summary of the current state of research).
    • Michael S. Neiberg : Dance of the Furies. Europe and the Outbreak of World War I. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA) 2011.
    • Keith Nelson, Zara Steiner : Britain and the Origins of the First World War. 2nd Edition. Macmillan, 2003, ISBN 0-333-73467-X .
    • Stefan Schmidt: France's foreign policy in the July crisis 1914. A contribution to the history of the outbreak of the First World War. (= Paris historical studies. Volume 90). Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59016-6 . Online at perspectivia.net.

    Testimonies

    End of the war and its consequences

    • Eckart Conze : The great illusion. Versailles 1919 and the reorganization of the world. Siedler Verlag, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-8275-0055-7 .
    • Jörg Duppler , Gerhard P. Groß (ed.): End of the war 1918. Event, effect, aftermath (= contributions to military history. Series of publications by the Military History Research Office. Volume 53). R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56443-9 .
    • Fritz Fellner; Heidrun Maschl, Brigitte Mazohl-Wallnig (ed.): The disintegration of the Danube monarchy from a world historical perspective. and The Treaty of St. Germain. In: From the Triple Alliance to the League of Nations: Studies on the History of International Relations 1882-1919. Verlag R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-486-56091-3 .
    • Paul Fussell : The Great War and Modern Memory . Oxford University Press, New York 1975. (Numerous reprints, most recently 2011: ISBN 0-19-513331-5 )
    • Gerd Hankel : The Leipzig trials. German war crimes and their prosecution after the First World War. Hamburger Edition HIS Verlagsgesellschaft, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-930908-85-9 .
    • Eberhard Kolb: The Peace of Versailles. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-50875-8 .
    • Gerd Krumeich (ed.) With Anke Hoffstadt and Arndt Weinrich: National Socialism and First World War (= writings of the library for contemporary history. NF Volume 24). Klartext-Verlag, Essen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8375-0195-7 .
    • Gerd Krumeich: The unresolved defeat. The trauma of the First World War and the Weimar Republic. Herder Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 2018, ISBN 978-3-451-39970-1 .
    • Jörn Leonhard : The overwhelmed peace. Versailles and the world 1918–1923. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72506-7 .
    • Margaret MacMillan : The Peace Makers: How the Versailles Treaty Changed the World . Translated by K.-D. Schmidt. Propylaen Verlag, Berlin 2015 (3rd edition), ISBN 978-3-549-07459-6 .

    Individual aspects

    • Jonas Campion / Laurent López / Guillaume Payen (eds.): European Police Forces and Law Enforcement in the First World War , Cham / Schweiz (palgrave macmillan) 2019. ISBN 978-3-030-26101-6 . ISBN 978-3-030-26102-3
    • Justus D. Doenecke: Nothing Less than War. A New History of America's Entry into World War I. The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington (Kentucky) 2011, ISBN 978-0-8131-3002-6 .
    • Peter Englund : beauty and horror. A story of the First World War, told in nineteen fates. Translated from the Swedish by Wolfgang Butt. Rowohlt, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-87134-670-5 .
    • Jörg Ernesti : Benedict XV. Pope between the fronts. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. Et al. 2016, ISBN 978-3-451-31015-7 .
    • Martin Farndale: Western front, 1914-1918. London 1986, ISBN 1-870114-00-0 .
    • Fritz Fischer : Reach for world power . Düsseldorf 1961, 2000, ISBN 3-7700-0902-9 . (The two opening chapters in particular sparked the Fischer controversy ).
    • Sabine Giesbrecht: Music and Propaganda. The First World War in the mirror of German picture postcards. epOs-Music , Osnabrück 2014, ISBN 978-3-940255-51-8 .
    • Christa Hämmerle (Ed.): Childhood in the First World War. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 1993, ISBN 3-205-05498-9 .
    • Stefan Hanheide, Dietrich Helms, Claudia Glunz, Thomas F. Schneider (eds.): Music takes a stand. Functionalization of music in the First World War . V&R unipress, Göttingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-8471-0206-9 .
    • Sebastian Haffner : The seven deadly sins of the German Empire in the First World War . Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2001, ISBN 3-7857-2077-7 .
    • Paul G. Halpern: A naval history of World War I. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD 1994, ISBN 0-87021-266-4 .
    • John Horne , Alan Kramer: German war atrocities 1914. The controversial truth. Translated from the English by Udo Rennert. Hamburger Edition , Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 . ( Review )
    • Frank Jacob , Riccardo Altieri (ed.): War and Peace in the Mirror of Socialism 1914–1918. Metropol, Berlin 2018.
    • Ernst Johann (ed.): Interior view of a war. Pictures, letters, documents 1914–1918. Scheffler, Frankfurt am Main 1968. (Chronologically arranged documents and reports on the history of the First World War)
    • George F. Kennan : The Fateful Alliance. France and Russia on the eve of the First World War. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1990, ISBN 3-462-02036-6 .
    • Nicola Labanca , Oswald Übergger (ed.): War in the Alps: Austria-Hungary and Italy in the First World War (1914–1918). Böhlau, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-205-79472-1 .
    • Heinz von Lichem : The Tyrolean High Mountain War 1915–1918 in the air. Steiger, Innsbruck 1986, ISBN 3-85423-052-4 .
    • Andreas Leipold: The German naval warfare in the Pacific in the years 1914 and 1915. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-447-06602-0 .
    • Hans Linnenkohl: From a single shot to a fire roller . The race between technology and tactics in the First World War . Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Koblenz 1990, ISBN 3-7637-5866-6 .
    • Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius : Land of War in the East. Conquest, colonization and military rule in the First World War 1914–1918. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-930908-81-6 .
    • Dieter Martinetz: The gas war 1914/18. Development, manufacture and use of chemical warfare agents. The interaction of military command, science and industry. Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-7637-5952-2 .
    • Wolfgang J. Mommsen (Ed.): Culture and War. The role of intellectuals, artists and writers in the First World War (= writings of the Historisches Kolleg . Colloquia 34). Munich 1995, ISBN 978-3-486-56085-5 ( digitized version )
    • John H. Morrow: The Great War in the Air. Military aviation from 1909 to 1921. Airlife, Shrewsbury 1993, ISBN 1-85310-445-0 .
    • Gerhard Ritter : The Schlieffen Plan. Criticism of a myth. With the first publication of the texts and 6 map sketches . Publishing house R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1956.
    • Stefan Rinke : In the wake of the catastrophe. Latin America and the First World War . Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2015, ISBN 978-3-593-50269-4 .
    • Norman Stone : The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London 1975, ISBN 0-14-026725-5 .
    • Barbara Tuchman : August 1914. 2nd edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-596-15395-6 .
    • Cornelia Rauh, Arnd Reitemeier, Dirk Schumann (eds.): The beginning of the war in Northern Germany. On the development of a “war culture” in 1914/15 from a transnational perspective (= publications of the Historical Commission for Lower Saxony and Bremen. Volume 284). Göttingen 2015, pp. 199–221.
    • Axel Weipert et al .: Machine to brutalize the world? The First World War - Interpretations and attitudes 1914 to today, Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster 2017, ISBN 978-3-89691-108-7 .
    • Hartmut Kühn : Poland in World War I: The struggle for a Polish state up to its re-establishment in 1918/1919 , Peter Lang Verlag Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-631-76530-2
    • Niels Werber , Stefan Kaufmann, Lars Koch (ed.): First World War. Cultural studies manual. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2014, ISBN 978-3-476-02445-9 .

    Web links

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    Remarks

    1. a b c d Spencer Tucker (Ed.): The Encyclopedia of World War I. A Political, Social and Military History. ABC-Clio Verlag, Santa Barbara 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2 , p. 273.
    2. Entry and exit dates as well as changes in the form of government during the war (Russia) see: Participants in the First World War .
    3. Including British Dominions. Presumably due to difficulties in defining the statehood of some of those involved, different information can be found in the literature, which is why many authors refrain from giving figures.
    4. G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 664 f.
    5. G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The age of imperialism . 2009, pp. 49-71, 160-175.
      I. Geiss: The long way to catastrophe. The prehistory of the First World War 1815–1914. 1991, pp. 115-297.
      Imanuel Geiss: History at a Glance. Dates and connections in world history. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-499-16511-2 , p. 453 ff.
    6. Imanuel Geiss: History at a Glance. Dates and connections in world history. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-499-16511-2 , p. 462.
    7. ^ I. Geiss: The long way into the catastrophe. The prehistory of the First World War 1815–1914. 1991, pp. 115-297.
      Imanuel Geiss: History at a Glance. Dates and connections in world history. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-499-16511-2 , p. 453 ff.
      Ch. Clark: Die Schlafwandler: How Europe moved into the First World War. 2013, pp. 169–471.
      G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The age of imperialism . 2009, pp. 49-89, 160-196.
    8. G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The age of imperialism . 2009, p. 184.
    9. G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The age of imperialism . 2009, pp. 73-89, 160-196.
      I. Geiss: The long way to catastrophe. The prehistory of the First World War 1815–1914. 1991, pp. 115-253.
      G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, pp. 447, 456 ff.
    10. Hans Linnenkohl: From the single shot to the fire roller . The race between technology and tactics in World War I Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Koblenz 1990, ISBN 3-7637-5866-6 , p. 89 ff.
    11. G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 344 ff., 575 ff., 664 f.
      Matthias Erzberger (MdR): The armaments expenditure of the German Reich. In: Financial issues of the time. Heft 14, Stuttgart 1914, p. 15 f.
      Niall Ferguson : The pity of war, Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 0-465-05712-8 , section Public Finance and National Security p. 106. there cited from John M. Hobson : The Military-Extraction Gap and the Wary Titan: The Fiscal-Sociology of British Defense Policy, 1870-1913. In: Journal of European Economic History. 22 (3), 1993, pp. 466-507.
    12. ^ I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. 1963, pp. 38, 58 ff., 71 f., 75 f.
      Ch. Clark: The sleepwalkers: How Europe moved into the First World War. 2013, pp. 507, 510 f.
    13. ^ I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume I, 1963, p. 58 f. (Italic text by Wilhelm II. Underlined), 128.
      Ch. Clark: Die Schlafwandler: How Europe moved into the First World War. 2013, p. 529 ff.
    14. Parts of Abyssinia (late 1915 to October 27, 1916 under Iyasu IV. ), The Fur Sultanate ( Darfur from 1916), the Senussi state (since 1915) and Persia ( First World War in Persia since November 2, 1914) fought partly on the side of the Central Powers. Central Arabia and the Hejaz were militarily on the side of the Entente in the Arab revolt from June 1916. Bolivia , Peru , Ecuador , Uruguay and the Dominican Republic broke off their diplomatic relations with Germany in 1917 under the influence of the USA. See Spencer Tucker (Ed.): The Encyclopedia of World War I. A Political, Social and Military History . ABC-Clio Verlag, Santa Barbara 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2 , p. 672.
    15. The actual start of the fighting is given, the dates of the individual declarations of war differ from this in some cases. Unless otherwise stated, according to Erik Goldstein: Wars & Peace Treaties 1816–1991. Routledge, London 1992, ISBN 0-203-97682-7 , pp. 197 ff.
    16. Date of the declaration of support to the British Empire, no formal declaration of war was made.
    17. ^ Provisional Government / Royal Government
    18. Jürgen Angelow: The way to the great catastrophe. The disintegration of old Europe 1900–1914. be.bra, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-89809-402-3 , p. 121 ff. (quotation p. 124).
      Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Moved into World War I. 2013, p. 531 ff.
    19. ^ Karl Dietrich Erdmann (ed.): Kurt Riezler. Diaries-Essays-Documents. Introduced and edited by Karl Dietrich Erdmann. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1972, ISBN 3-525-35817-2 , p. 182 ff.
    20. Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Drew into World War I. 2013, p. 545 ff.
    21. Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Drew into World War I. 2013, pp. 570, 575 ff.
    22. Austro-Hungarian Red Book. Diplomatic files on the prehistory of the war in 1914. Popular edition. Manzsche k. u. k. Hof-Verlags- und Universitäts-Buchhandlung, Vienna 1915, Doc. 7, pp. 15-18.
    23. Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Drew into World War I. 2013, p. 605 ff.
      I. Geiss (Ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. 1963, p. 354 f.
    24. Gerd Krumeich: July 1914. A balance sheet. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-77592-4 , p. 128 ff.
      Ch. Clark: Die Schlafwandler: How Europe moved into the First World War. 2013, p. 592 ff.
    25. ^ I. Geiss (Ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 254.
    26. ^ I. Geiss (Ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, pp. 139, 190, 211 f.
      Ch. Clark: The sleepwalkers: How Europe moved into the First World War. 2013, p. 601.
    27. Manfried Rauchsteiner: The First World War and the end of the Habsburg Monarchy 1914–1918. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-205-78283-4 , pp. 129 ff., 145 ff.
    28. G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 725.
    29. ^ I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume II. 1964, p. 266, 301 f., 303 ff.
    30. ^ I. Geiss (Ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, pp. 167 f., 302 f.
    31. Karl Kautsky , Max Montgelas (ed.): The German documents on the outbreak of war, 1914. Volume 3: From the awareness of Russian general mobilization to the declaration of war on France. German publishing company for politics and history, Berlin 1927, p. 173.
      I. Geiss (Hrsg.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume II. 1964, pp. 549, 558, 628, 659 f., 759 ff.
    32. ^ I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume II. 1964, pp. 645, 658, 660.
      Fritz Fischer: War of Illusions. German politics from 1911–1914. 2nd Edition. Düsseldorf 1970, ISBN 3-7700-0913-4 , p. 736.
    33. ^ I. Geiss (Ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 364 f.
    34. ^ I. Geiss (Ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 370.
    35. ^ Laurence van Ypersele: Belgium. In: G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 44.
      Hermann Kantorowicz: Expert opinion on the war guilt issue 1914. Edited from the estate and introduced by Imanuel Geiss. With a foreword by Gustav W. Heinemann. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1967, p. 260.
    36. ^ Luigi Albertini: The Origins of the War of 1914. Volume 3, London / New York / Toronto 1952, pp. 484 ff.
      Fritz Fischer: The War of Illusions. 2nd Edition. Düsseldorf 1970, p. 732.
    37. Excerpt from the Belgian gray book , entry no. 27 of August 4, 1914.
    38. Thomas Müller: Imagined West. The concept of the "German western area" in the national discourse between political romanticism and National Socialism. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8376-1112-0 , p. 25.
      Gottfried Niedhart (Ed.): Gustav Mayer: As a German-Jewish historian in war and revolution, 1914–1920. Diaries, notes, letters (= German historical sources of the 19th and 20th centuries. Volume 65). Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59155-2 , p. 49.
    39. ^ I. Geiss (Ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 344 ff., 371.
    40. Gerhard Richter: State art and war craft. The problem of "militarism" in Germany. Second volume: The main powers of Europe and the Wilhelmine Empire (1890–1914). Verlag R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1960, p. 334.
    41. ^ Wolfdieter Bihl: The First World War. 1914-1918. Böhlau, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-205-78379-4 , p. 90.
      G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 45, p. 686 f.
    42. See To the German People! at Wikisource .
    43. John Horne, Alan Kramer: German war horrors 1914. The controversial truth. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 , p. 24 f.
    44. John Horne, Alan Kramer: German war horrors 1914. The controversial truth. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 , p. 23 ff., P. 120 ff., P. 137 ff.
      Ulrich Keller : questions of guilt: Belgian underground war and German retaliation in August 1914 . With a foreword by Gerd Krumeich. Schöningh, Paderborn 2017, ISBN 978-3-506-78744-6 , pp. 106, 131 ff., 169 ff.
    45. Spencer Tucker (Ed.): The Encyclopedia of World War I. A Political, Social and Military History . Verlag ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2 , p. 192.
      G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 46 f.
    46. John Horne, Alan Kramer: German war horrors 1914. The controversial truth. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 , p. 21 ff.
      Ulrich Keller: Questions of guilt: Belgian underground war and German retaliation in August 1914 . With a foreword by Gerd Krumeich. Schöningh, Paderborn 2017, ISBN 978-3-506-78744-6 , p. 43 ff.
    47. J.-J. Becker, G. Krumeich: The great war. Germany and France 1914–1918. 2010, p. 202 ff.
      J. Keegan: The First World War. A European tragedy. 2001, p. 136 ff.
    48. J.-J. Becker, G. Krumeich: The great war. Germany and France 1914–1918. 2010, p. 202 ff.
      J. Keegan: The First World War. A European tragedy. 2001, p. 138 ff.
      G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 533 f.
    49. J. Keegan: The First World War. A European tragedy. 2001, p. 144 ff.
    50. J.-J. Becker, G. Krumeich: The great war. Germany and France 1914–1918. 2010, p. 208 f.
    51. ^ J. Piekałkiewicz: The First World War. 1988, p. 59 ff.
      Becker, Krumeich: The great war. Germany and France 1914–1918. 2010, p. 209.
    52. ^ J. Piekałkiewicz: The First World War. 1988, p. 61 f.
    53. J. Keegan: The First World War. A European tragedy. 2001, p. 168 ff.
      Holger Afflerbach: The military planning in the German Reich. In: Michalka: The First World War. Effect - perception - analysis . 1997, p. 286.
      G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 552.
      Holger Afflerbach: On a knife's edge. How the German Reich lost the First World War. Munich 2018, p. 68 ff.
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    This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on December 8, 2010 .