One Hundred Years Ago #WorldWarI #centenary

Cross and rifle…a shot was fired, followed by another. It was the 4th of August 1914. Those shots killed two people, one of them a crowned head: Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, the other his wife. It set off a lot of uncountable other shots – millions killed in a war that was supposed to end all wars and we call it “The Great War”. Not so much because it was ‘great’ but for the fact that it involved the whole world and is referred to as WWI. Expected to last a few weeks or maybe a few months, it lasted four years and the outcome was one that nobody could have expected:

  • the end of the Empire of the Habsburgs,
  • the abdication of the German Emperor,
  • the end of the Czar-ruled Russia,
  • the rise of socialism, communism and, last, but not least,
  • the rise of Adolf Hitler and his aim for a “Thousand-Year-Reich”.

Those shots changed the world.

History writers still argue about the real reason of WWI – but every single one is just speculating. We will never know. Those first shots were the “starter’s” shot for the war but the true reasons had been smouldering for years. Many books have been written on WWI and writers today are still trying to dig deeper. One of the most frequent questions in discussions is always the fact that the Archduke was not protected and then “was the plot planned, was he supposed to be killed? Who was behind it all, what was the real reason?”

We will never know. Maybe the WWI General Ludendorff was right when he stated: “Peace is just an interlude between wars.” Did the years between WWI and WWII prove this theory? In our part of the world, we have enjoyed a long period of peace but if we look at the horrors of war in the Middle East and the on-going strife in Ukraine, – I for one shake in my boots. Having lived and survived WWII, I would not like to see yet another with a number III attached to it.

WWI – 100 years since and counting… #WWICentenary

We all learned in history class that the shooting of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo started WWI also known as the ‘Great War’. True? Yes and no. It certainly hastened it but the plans that would lead up to WWI had already been drawn up some ten years earlier. The Schlieffen plan, updated and modernized by Moltke (Google it) was the ‘fore-runner’, so-to-speak, with an eye on how Germany could defeat France and Russia.

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand had married Sophie, a Czech-born countess, – her bloodline not being good enough for the aristocratic houses of Europe, but they were very much in love. The treatment of Sophie before they were married caused Franz Ferdinand to be antagonistic towards the Slavic countries.

The shots that killed both of them were actually the second assassination attempt on the same day, June 28th 1914, one-hundred years ago. After the official part of the day the couple was on route to the hospital to visit the wounded from the earlier unsuccessful bomb attack. The driver made a wrong turn – someone alerted him about it and he stopped right in front of the Serb assassin Gavrilo Princip, who fired those two fatal shots from just four feet away. The assassinations changed the world.

WWI and the Russian Revolution in 1917 gave us Lenin and Stalin and, in a way, later also Adolf Hitler. The peace treaties signed at Versailles in 1918 paved the way towards WWII since the conditions were so severe that the defeated Germany could not meet its obligations.

Read my account of the ensuing years in my book “We Don’t Talk About That”.