• World War 1 was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, successor to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by a Serbian nationalist
  • The German Empire got entangled in the European conflict due to its alliance with Austria-Hungary
  • World War 1 sees the first large-scale use of poison gas
  • The Battle of Verdun was one of the bloodiest theaters during World War 1

World War 1 was a devastating conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918 and involved many of the world's major powers. From a German perspective, the war was seen as a defensive conflict, fought in order to protect Germany and its allies from the aggressive actions of other nations. At the beginning of the war, Germany was part of the Central Powers, along with Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. The German military was well-prepared and believed that they could quickly defeat the Allied Powers, which included France, Russia, and Great Britain. However, the war quickly turned into a long and brutal struggle, with both sides suffering heavy casualties and enduring terrible conditions in the trenches. Germany was defeated in 1918, and the unjust Treaty of Versailles imposed harsh penalties on the country. The treaty required Germany to accept responsibility for the war and pay significant reparations to the Allied Powers. The treaty also led to the loss of German territory and a reduction in the size of its military.



More than one hundred years ago, World War 1 which was caused by vexing alliances, was in many respects an unnecessary war. Germany did not want to walk out on its ally to prove virtue. However, the Entente Powers' victory was used to lay the blame on the doorstep of the German Empire, setting the course for a dark age to come. In 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson argued that the great war (as it was called back then) was everyone's fault. France, however,  still had the third War of German Unification (1870) in mind, including the arrest of Napoleon III and the proclamation of the German Emperor Franz Willhelm II in the Hall of Mirrors (Versailles). The outcome of World War 1 was the harsh and humiliating Treaty of Versailles.





The period leading up to the outbreak of World War I was characterized by escalating tensions and conflicts among the major European powers. A complex web of political alliances, territorial disputes, and growing militarism set the stage for the devastating global conflict. The key factors that contributed to these tensions and ultimately led to the outbreak of the Great War are described in the following:




  • The scramble for colonies and resources intensified the competition among European powers, particularly Germany, Britain, and France.
  • Territorial disputes in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans fueled tensions and created a climate of aggression.





  • The rise of nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries exacerbated existing divisions among ethnic groups and nations.
  • Ethnic conflicts and aspirations for self-determination heightened the potential for conflict, particularly in regions like the Balkans.





  • The system of military alliances, such as the Triple Entente (Britain, France, and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy), created a delicate balance of power.
  • The alliance system deepened rivalries and created a dangerous environment where a local conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale war.





  • The arms race, especially between Britain and Germany, fueled mutual suspicion and an atmosphere of military preparedness.
  • The development of new weapons and technologies, such as battleships and machine guns, added to the perceived need for military superiority.





  • The Balkans, known as the "powder keg of Europe," witnessed a series of crises and conflicts in the early 20th century.
  • The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo in 1914, by a Serbian nationalist, triggered a chain reaction of events that ultimately led to the outbreak of war.




On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, successor to the Throne of Austro-Hungary, and his wife were shot by a Serbian Nationalist. Franz Ferdinand wanted to grant Slavic people their independence once he was in power. Serbia, however, wanted to reunite the Slavic people within a bigger Serbia country. This clash of interests led to Ferdinand's assassination.  Austro-Hungary wanted to take action against Serbia to call the instigators into account and asked German Emperor Wilhelm II if Germany was willing to fulfill its treaty obligations with Austro-Hungary. Wilhelm II confirmed the alliance and expected a short war. Austro-Hungary demanded a full investigation in the last request, but Serbia refused to let investigators on their soil and started its military mobilization. Russia had an alliance with Serbia and expressed their treaty obligations, and also started a mobilization. Austro-Hungary now declared war on Serbia.

Entente Dual Alliance (since 1879)

Great Britain



German Empire


Germany issued an ultimatum, demanding that Russia should withdraw its forces by July 31. After the deadline had elapsed, war was declared on Russia. Germany preemptively declared war on France and asked Belgium to open their borders to march through in return for compensation. The Belgians refused the offer, and the German Empire deployed its troops in Luxembourg. The sea power Great Britain simultaneously mobilized its fleet and warned Germany not to enter Belgium.


World War 1 started on August 4, 1914, when German troops marched into Belgium to defend their alliance. It ended on November 18, 1918, with the Treaty of Versailles. The first global conflict was the first war in which also civilians highly suffered. For Germany, it was a war on two fronts, the Western and Eastern front. The Russians were able to deploy their troops, faster than expected, to the Eastern front. Germany's armies were primarily engaged on the Western Front. Thus, the Russians invaded East Prussia. 




The Schlieffen Plan, devised by General Alfred von Schlieffen, was a military strategy designed to rapidly defeat France in the early stages of World War I. The plan relied on a swift invasion of Belgium and a rapid encirclement of the French army. It was developed in response to the potential two-front war Germany faced against France and Russia. The plan's key objective was to achieve a quick and decisive victory over France, thereby avoiding a two-front war that could jeopardize Germany's military advantage.


To execute the plan, Germany initiated the invasion of Belgium, as it was a neutral country located between Germany and France. The German forces believed that a rapid advance through Belgium would allow them to bypass the heavily fortified French border defenses and swiftly encircle and defeat the French army from the north. The plan heavily relied on the speed and surprise of the German offensive, aiming to quickly capture Paris and force France to surrender.


The German invasion of Belgium, however, led to the involvement of the British, who had guaranteed Belgium's neutrality. This resulted in the formation of the Allied forces, which included Britain, France, and eventually other nations, opposing the Central Powers led by Germany. The German advance through Belgium faced stiff resistance from the Belgian army and encountered delays due to Belgian resistance and the destruction of key infrastructure, such as bridges and railways.


Despite the initial challenges, the German forces made significant progress in their invasion of France. They successfully pushed deep into French territory, reaching the Marne River near Paris. However, their advance was halted during the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914. The French and British forces launched a counteroffensive, forcing the Germans to retreat and dig into defensive positions along the Western Front, where a stalemate would develop.


The Schlieffen Plan, while initially showing promise, ultimately failed to achieve its intended objectives. The German forces were unable to swiftly defeat France and force a quick surrender, leading to a protracted and bloody conflict along the Western Front. The plan's failure had significant consequences for the course of the war, as it resulted in a long and grueling stalemate with devastating casualties.




The Western Front during World War I witnessed one of the most infamous aspects of the conflict: the prolonged and brutal stalemate known as the trench warfare. As the German advance was halted during the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914, both the Allied and German forces dug in and established elaborate networks of trenches that stretched for hundreds of miles. These trenches provided a means of protection from enemy fire and formed a defensive line that neither side could easily breach.


Life in the trenches was harsh and grueling. Soldiers endured unsanitary conditions, constant threat of enemy attacks, and the physical and mental toll of living in close quarters with the constant sound of artillery and gunfire. The trenches were muddy, waterlogged, and infested with rats and disease. Soldiers faced the constant risk of trench foot, a painful and debilitating condition caused by prolonged exposure to wet and unsanitary conditions.


The front line trenches were fortified with barbed wire, machine gun nests, and artillery emplacements, creating a formidable barrier for any attacking force. These defenses were mirrored by the opposing side, resulting in a stalemate where neither side could gain a significant advantage or break through the enemy lines.


Attempts to break the stalemate often involved large-scale offensives, such as the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Verdun. These offensives, characterized by massive artillery barrages and infantry charges, aimed to gain ground and achieve a breakthrough. However, the heavily fortified trenches and the effectiveness of defensive measures, such as machine guns, made it incredibly difficult to achieve significant advances.


The battles on the Western Front resulted in tremendous casualties for both sides. Soldiers faced the constant threat of death or injury from enemy fire, shelling, or even sniper attacks. The stalemate meant that gains in territory were often measured in yards or meters at a high cost in human lives.


Despite the challenging and stagnant nature of trench warfare, soldiers on both sides displayed remarkable resilience and courage. They endured unimaginable hardships and demonstrated unwavering loyalty and bravery in the face of unimaginable conditions.




At the battle Masuren (February 7 - February 25, 1915), the Germans were able to drive the Russians back after they had already defeated the Soviet armies at the famous Battle of Tannenburg (August 26 - August 30, 1914), in which Paul von Hindenburg arose as a national hero. Unfortunately, the success was short-lived, and the war's ugly face turned on millions of soldiers and civilians.


Verdun's (February 21 - December 19, 1916) and Somme's (July 1 - November 18, 1916) fallen soldiers are still a testimony to the first World War's senselessness. Both battles had high casualties on the German and the French side. No one had expected a long war when the conflict broke out in 1914. An (illegal) British naval blockade cut free trade and caused supply problems. More than 800000 Germans died of starvation. On the other hand, Germany's fulsome submarine warfare triggered the United States' entry into World War 1 on April, 6 1917. Anti-war demonstrations were held all across Germany by 1918 due to the famines.




The battles on the Eastern Front were characterized by large-scale offensives, rapid troop movements, and high casualty rates. The vast landscapes of Eastern Europe and Russia posed logistical challenges for both sides, with harsh weather conditions and limited infrastructure exacerbating the difficulties.


When war broke out in 1914, the Russian Empire mobilized its vast armies and launched offensives against German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Initially, the Russian forces made significant gains, pushing deep into German and Austrian territories. However, the Russian military faced logistical challenges, including long supply lines and difficulties in coordinating their vast forces, which hindered their ability to sustain their momentum.


Recognizing the need to divert resources from the Eastern Front to the Western Front, Germany launched a counteroffensive, inflicting heavy losses on the Russian forces. The Central Powers employed superior military tactics and advanced weaponry to gain the upper hand.


In 1915, Germany and Austria-Hungary launched a joint offensive known as the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive. The offensive successfully broke through the Russian lines and forced a retreat. The Central Powers continued their advance, capturing large portions of Russian territory and causing significant casualties.


The Russian army, facing internal unrest and resource shortages, experienced a decline in morale and cohesion. The Russian October Revolution of 1918 seemed to turn the war to Germany's advantage. The new administration negotiated a ceasefire with the German Empire. All resources were taken to the Western front in a last attempt to achieve progress. This undertaking failed, and former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson presented his Fourteen Points in Congress, which contained the American terms of peace. On October 3, 1918, Germany formed a new government with Max von Baden as chancellor. They sought peace negotiations with the U.S., based on Wilson's Fourteen Points.




The submarine warfare revolutionized naval warfare and had a profound impact on the conflict. Germany's use of U-boats posed significant challenges for the Allies, disrupting supply lines and causing economic strain. Germany employed unrestricted submarine warfare, a policy that involved targeting all vessels, including civilian ships, regardless of their nationality. This controversial tactic drew international condemnation, particularly after the sinking of the British passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1915, which resulted in the deaths of over a thousand passengers, including Americans. In response to the devastating impact of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Allies implemented countermeasures. The United States, which had initially maintained neutrality in the war, entered the conflict in 1917 partly due to the German U-boat campaign. The introduction of convoy systems and increased naval patrols significantly reduced the effectiveness of U-boat attacks.


Ultimately, the U-boat war did not deliver a decisive victory for Germany. The Allies' ability to adapt to the U-boat threat, coupled with the entry of the United States into the war, shifted the balance of power at sea. The Allies increased their anti-submarine efforts, developed better defensive technologies, and improved intelligence gathering to counter the U-boat menace.





The inhumane horrors of World War 1 resulted in devastating numbers:


  • Almost 2 Million German soldiers died
  • More than 750.000 German civilians lost their lives
  • 160 tons of poison gas was used for the very first time in military history on April 22, 1915, in Ypern (Belgium)
  • Thousands of civilians lost their lives during the submarine war


Even more than 100 years later, the question of guilt is not entirely solved. There is widespread consent that it was not Germany's fault alone due to the knotty alliances. However, it is an accepted fact that the outcome of World War 1 with its unfair and humiliating peace treaty, cleared the way for World War 2



July 28, 1914 Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, leading to a chain reaction of alliances.

August 1,


Germany declares war on Russia.

August 3,


Germany declares war on France and invades Belgium.

August 4,


Britain declares war on Germany.

August 23 - 30, 1914

The Battle of Tannenberg ends with a decisive German victory against Russia.

February 4,


Germany declares a submarine blockade around the British Isles.

April 22 - May 25


The Second Ballte of Ypres sees the first large-scale use of poison gas by the Germans.

May 7,


The British ocean liner RMS Lusitania is sunk by a German U-boat, leading to international outrage.

February 21 - December 18


The Battle of Verdun, a major and bloody confrontation between Germany and France.

May 31 -

June 1


The Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the war, takes place between the British Royal Navy and the German High Seas Fleet.

January 31,


Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare, targeting all ships in British waters.

April 6


The U.S. enters the war on the side of the Allies.

July 31 -

November 10


The Third Battle of Ypres results in heavy casualties on both sides.

March 21 -

July 18


The Spring Offensive, a series of German offensives on the Western Front, attempts to achieve a decisive victory but ultimately fails.

November 11,


An armistice is signed between Germany and the Allies, ending the fighting on the Western Front.

June 28,


The Treaty of Versailles is signed, formally ending the war and imposing heavy reparations and territorial losses on Germany.