28 June 1914: Fateful day for generations

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. They were shot to death by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian student and member of the Serbian secret society "Black Hand". The assassination was the immediate cause of World War One, which lasted from 1914 until 1918.

On 23 July 1914, almost exactly one month after the assassination, Austria-Hungary issued a demarche against Serbia that contained a list of demands such as dissolving the "Black Hand" and similar secret societies, removing from the military service, the administration, the public instruction and the press all people guilty of propaganda against Austria-Hungary, and beginning a judicial inquiry into the assassination including organs delegated by the Austro-Hungarian government. The Austro-Hungarian ambassador to Serbia delivered the message that Austria-Hungary expected a satisfactory reply within 48 hours, this means by 25 July 1914 at 6 pm.

The Serbian government sent its reply just before the deadline expired on 25 July 1914. However, the response was considered inadequate by Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian ambassador and his staff left Serbia immediately and diplomatic relations were suspended. The Serbians ordered mobilisation. On 28 July 1914 Austria-Hungary issued a declaration of war against Serbia.

Going to war - with God, for emperor and fatherland

People in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in the German Empire were ecstatic about the war. They did not think of defeat and human tragedies. They wanted to go to war and eventually eradicate nationalist tendencies on the Balkans. "The Last Days of Mankind", a massive satiric play about World War One by Karl Kraus was published in 1922. In his masterpiece Kraus chronicles the development of the war. One of his statements was that a clean table is the best piece of furniture in the house. In 1918 there were no more clean tables and no more houses either …

1914 until 1918: What was this war like?

The second verse of the Austro-Hungarian hymn went something like "possessions and blood for our emperor", and a lot of possessions and blood were indeed lost in this war that raged for four years. More than 30 nations were at war. The battles of Verdun, Ypres and of the Isonzo will always be remembered. Millions of people died in this war that was different from all the wars that had been fought before. New technologies were developed and improved. Bombers and pursuit planes, submarines and tanks, machine guns and the use of poison gas were major military innovations in World War One. However, the military leaders were not able to react adequately to these innovations, which resulted in senseless and heavy losses. The military was overwhelmed by such a huge number of soldiers at war and such powerful new technologies. But they fought at all costs because the lives of people did not count. What remained were white crosses on soldiers’ graves that provided an answer to the question "Where have all the soldiers gone?"

Here is a brief story of 1914: Bertha von Suttner died in Vienna on 21 June 1914. She was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her novel "Lay Down Your Arms". She was a radical pacifist and leading figure in the peace movement. World War One broke out shortly after her death.

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