How were the battles in the First World War

The First World War and its Consequences: Important Events

Outbreak of war

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary when he and his wife Sophie were murdered in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. The attack was carried out by Serbian nationalists. The international crisis that followed eventually led to the outbreak of the First World War.

After the attack, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, supported by the German government, gave Serbia an ultimatum. Among other things, it called on the country to stop all activities against Austria-Hungary. The Serbs could count on Russian support and rejected the demands of the Austro-Hungarian government. In response, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. Russia entered the conflict on the Serbian side. Germany first declared war on Russia, then France, which was militarily allied with Russia. The German offensive quickly violated Belgian neutrality and the British declared war on August 4, 1914.

Within six weeks of the attack, Europe was at war.

The following timeline describes some key events related to World War I and its aftermath.

26.-30. August 1914: The Battle of Tannenberg

The Battle of Tannenberg was fought between Russia and Germany and was one of the first battles of the war and the first major battle Germany won on the Eastern Front. It led to the almost complete annihilation of the Russian 2nd Army. The victory at Tannenberg brought Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his staff officer Erich Ludendorff, who were to play a major role in Germany in the years to come, a great reputation.

Spring 1915: Bryce Report - Committee report on alleged German atrocities

When the German army invaded Belgium in 1914, the advancing German military killed around 6,000 Belgian civilians. The reports of the atrocities in Belgium sparked international outrage. A British commission documented the atrocities in a highly publicized and inflammatory report.

After World War I it became clear that many of the depictions were grossly exaggerated and sometimes fictitious, which aroused skepticism in later reports of atrocities. When the first reports of atrocities committed by National Socialists made the rounds at the outbreak of the Second World War, this was simply ignored by many people due to the experiences with reporting at the time.

April 22, 1915 to May 25, 1915: Chlorine gas attack in the second Battle of Ypres

The second Battle of Ypres was fought between the German army and the British, French and Belgian armed forces with the aim of bringing Ypres under control. The battle claimed about 70,000 victims among the Allies and 35,000 among the Germans, but neither side managed to achieve a clear victory over the city. During the battle, the German military first used lethal poison gas on the Western Front, which violated the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.

There were many artistic responses to the horrors of war. Wilfred Owen, one of the most famous war poets, described a poison gas attack in his poem "Dulce et Decorum Est".

Wednesday, December 8, 1915: publication of "In Flanders Fields"

The poem by the Canadian John McCrae "In Flanders Fields" is one of the best-known works about the First World War. It tells of Ypres from the perspective of two fallen soldiers. Through the poem, the poppy, which was one of the few flowers to thrive on the devastated soil of the Belgian battlefields, became a symbol of remembrance of the First World War.

February 21 to December 18, 1916: Battle of Verdun

The Battle of Verdun was one of the longest and deadliest battles in the war. The German army launched an offensive near the French city of Verdun, but it quickly came to a standstill. German forces were later withdrawn from Verdun when the British began the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of Verdun ended in December when the French recaptured the territories initially occupied by the Germans. Around 300,000 soldiers were killed and many more wounded.

Tuesday, May 16, 1916: Sykes-Picot Agreement

The Sykes-Picot Accord was a secret agreement between Britain and France with the consent of Russia. In the agreement, the Ottoman Empire was divided into French, British and Russian spheres of influence, which had long-term effects in the Middle East.

July to November 1916: Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme in France was an Allied offensive against the German positions. The first day was the deadliest day of fighting in British history. The British lost 20,000 soldiers and had an additional 37,000 wounded. The battle became a symbol of the pointless death and futility of war.

Spring 1915 to Autumn 1916: Armenia

Under the guise of war, the Ottoman government committed genocide against the Armenian Christian minority. Between spring 1915 and autumn 1916, the Ottomans killed between 664,000 and 1.2 million of the estimated 1.5 million Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire. The rulers of the Ottoman government ordered mass shootings in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed. Others were deported to the desert, where they died of starvation, exhaustion, lack of water and disease. Many Armenian children have been forcibly torn from their families and forced to convert to Islam.

1917: The Russian February Revolution

Problems within Russia reached a turning point in 1917. After Tsar Nicholas II personally assumed command of the Russian army in September 1915, the military suffered heavy losses while the home front struggled with hunger and labor unrest. At the beginning of 1917 the tsar had lost all support. As a result of the Russian February Revolution, he finally abdicated for himself and his son. Tsar Nicholas was followed by a democratic government known as the Provisional Government. Under the leadership of the Russian parliamentarian Alexander Kerensky, the Provisional Government undertook to comply with the Russian agreements to continue the war.

Friday April 6, 1917: United States enters World War I.

The United States had remained neutral at the start of World War I. The Americans generally supported the Allied approach but did not want to get involved in the war. The German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, however, was directed against all ships - whether passenger or military ship, neutral or involved in the war. As a result, there were also deaths among the American civilian population.

The British naval intelligence service intercepted a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to Mexico. In it, Germany offered Mexico territories in the United States in return for Mexican aid should the United States decide to go to war with Germany. The decoded text of the telegram was given to the US ambassador in London and then sent to the American President Woodrow Wilson. Based on this information and the resumption of submarine warfare on the part of the German Navy, Wilson appeared before Congress on April 2 and moved to declare war on Germany. A few days later, on April 6, 1917, Congress approved the motion.

1917: The Russian October Revolution

On November 6th and 7th, 1917 (or October 24th and 25th according to the old Julian calendar), left-wing revolutionaries under the leadership of the Bolshevik party leader Vladimir Lenin launched an almost bloodless coup against the Kerensky government. With the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks and Lenin came to power in one fell swoop. The new Soviet government immediately withdrew Russia from the war and signed the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with the German Empire in March 1918. After Russia withdrew from the war, Germany no longer had to fight a two-front war and was able to win a number of territorial disputes. The civil war between the Bolshevik Reds and their loosely allied opponents, the whites, raged from 1917 to 1922.

Friday November 2, 1917: Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration affirmed that "His Majesty's Government is in favor of the establishment of a national homestead for the Jewish people in Palestine." B. the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The interpretable wording of the document should cause further disagreement in the years to come.

Tuesday, January 8, 1918: Wilson 14-point program

American President Woodrow Wilson published a set of principles that should guide the post-war peace negotiations. In these principles, which are also known as the Fourteen Points, Wilson called for, among other things, open and public peace treaties, freedom of navigation and trade, arms restrictions, the settlement of colonial claims, the establishment of a "general union, a league of nations" and the right to national self-determination . Wilson's ideals were directed at the Central Powers, whose war failure now seemed certain, and at ethnic minorities who hoped for the establishment of nation states.

Friday March 8th 1918: First report of the Spanish flu

In 1918, a new strain of the influenza virus emerged in the United States, causing a worldwide pandemic. When American soldiers were sent to Europe in May, the flu virus also spread across the Atlantic. Around 500 million people around the world contracted the flu, and 50 million people died. More American soldiers died of the flu in World War I than in combat.

Monday, November 11, 1918: Armistice

In 1918 the Central Powers gradually collapsed. On November 9, 1918, the German monarchy was overthrown. A German delegation negotiated an armistice with the Allies. In this context, the so-called "stab in the back legend" arose. According to this interpretation, Germany lost the war not because of military defeat, but because the country had been betrayed by Republican leaders on the home front who agreed to the armistice. The armistice was signed on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at eleven minutes past the eleventh hour and put an end to the devastating fighting.

Sunday, December 1, 1918: establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929) was proclaimed on December 1, 1918. The new state comprised Serbia and Montenegro, two previously independent areas, as well as parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, including Dalmatia, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The founding of Yugoslavia promised a stronger Serbian nationalism, but it did not succeed in creating a common national identity.

Saturday June 28, 1919: Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919 after months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. The aim of the treaty was to ensure that Germany could never again pose a military threat to Britain or France. Its notorious "war guilt clause" made Germany responsible for the war. For example, Germany had to cede areas with a total area of ​​more than 70,000 square kilometers and make overwhelming reparations payments. The Germans had hoped for a place at the negotiating table based on Wilson's Fourteen Points, instead they had to be content with bitter protest. They condemned the contract as dictation.

Friday, April 25, 1919: the film was released J'accuse by Abel Gance

The catastrophic devastation of World War I inspired numerous artistic responses. The main themes were the futility of war and the futility of dying. In the French film J'accuse wounded and mutilated, the war dead rise from their graves to return to their villages and see whether their sacrifice has been in vain. Filmmaker Abel Gance filmed the scenes on original battlefields in 1918, using French soldiers as actors. Many of these soldiers were killed in combat before the end of the war.

November 19, 1919 and March 19, 1920: US Senate rejects Treaty of Versailles

Not all Americans shared the idealistic internationalism that President Wilson had outlined in his Fourteen Points. While Wilson saw international cooperation as the way to lasting peace, many Americans preferred isolationism. As a result, the US should interfere as little as possible in international affairs. The US Senate twice rejected the Treaty of Versailles and membership in the League of Nations. Without American involvement, the League's influence and prestige were severely limited.

1919: Foundation of the Weimar Republic

The German government that was in power between the collapse of the German Empire (1918) and the rise of the Nazi regime (1933) was called the Weimar Republic. The Weimar Republic was the first democratic government in Germany. From the beginning it was difficult for them to establish democratic norms in the face of the post-war tumult, the political violence and the economic crisis of the time. At the same time, Germany experienced a cultural boom during the Weimar Republic, which coincided with a new era of social freedoms. However, the instability of the Weimar Republic ultimately helped Adolf Hitler come to power.

August 27, 1928: Briand-Kellogg Pact

The Briand-Kellogg Pact was an international agreement signed by 65 nations in which they agreed to "renounce war as a tool of national politics". In view of the devastation in World War I, the aim of the Briand-Kellogg Pact was to prevent future war and make peace a task. This shows how drastic the experiences from the First World War had been. The US Senate ratified the treaty in January 1929, which could be seen as a sign of a cautious American return to international affairs.

1929: Publication of nothing new in the West

The 1929 masterpiece by Erich Maria Remarque nothing new in the West describes the experiences of the troops at the front and impressively expresses the alienation of the "lost generation" of those returning from the war. The young soldiers found themselves unable to adapt to peacetime and were tragically misunderstood by the people on the home front, who had not witnessed the horrors of war. The book has been translated into 45 languages ​​and sold millions of times.

October 29, 1929: Stock market crash and global economic crisis

In October 1929, the American stock market crashed, triggering a global financial crisis known as the Great Depression. The worst years of the Great Depression lay between 1929 and 1933 and were characterized by high unemployment and escalating inflation.

No country was spared the economic crisis, but Germany was hit particularly hard. The German economy had only just begun to recover from the economic impact of World War I, the Versailles reparations payments, and the terrible hyperinflation of 1923 that wiped out the savings of ordinary people. The economic misery, coupled with the weakness and instability of the Weimar Republic, made the German public receptive to political messages such as Hitler's, in which he promised to take action against the Versailles Treaty and help Germany regain its size.

Last edited: Sep 10, 2020