First World War

First World War

First World War, global war, starting from Europe, in the years 1914-18.  After the aborted naval battle on the Skagerrak (May 31 / June 1, 1916), the British fleet limited itself to the blockade at the North Sea access points. The unrestricted submarine war in Germany led to the USA entering the war (April 6, 1917). Before American intervention could take effect, the German army tried from March to July 1918 to force the decision through large-scale attacks on the Western Front. Allied counter-attacks, e.g. Sometimes with the use of “tanks” (tanks), but forced the German front to be relocated. After its allies left the war, the German Reich closed on November 11th. a truce.

According to, the First World War came to an end in Versailles Treaty. The consequences of the war included the abolition of the monarchy in the German Reich (November Revolution), in Russia, in the Ottoman Empire and in Austria-Hungary, the dissolution of the latter two into a large number of individual states, the economic supremacy of the USA in the world and the emergence of the Soviet Union.

War economy and finance

Right at the beginning of the war, Great Britain imposed an economic blockade on the Central Powers, so that the German Reich and its allies were excluded from the world market. Important raw materials necessary for warfare, such as B. Saltpeter from Chile had to be replaced. The synthetic nitrogen production developed by the chemists F. Haber and C. Bosch was able to bridge this bottleneck, which was decisive for the war. In the food supply, too, more and more »substitutes« had to prevent impending food crises. Grain and potato shortages were mainly offset by the use of beets. In the “turnip winter” in 1916/17 in particular, the food situation sank to a health-threatening low.

Prices rose, the black market flourished and the so-called “war profiteers” were denounced. Morale on the home front deteriorated.

A flu epidemic in the winter of 1917/18 caused the death rate to skyrocket. Hunger strikes and protest demonstrations were the result. The labor market situation called for increasing employment of women. Prisoners of war, forced deportees and, above all, increasingly women, had to fill the workers’ reservoir. The manless and fatherless society changed the family and social structure. Increasing impoverishment, the brutalization of customs and the brutalization of society were the consequences that were formative for the Weimar Republic and, above all, were instrumentalized by the radical parties.

What the war office created on November 1, 1916 did not succeed in providing food supplies, was managed by war raw materials management. In order to forestall the impending ammunition crisis, the War Resource Department (KRA) was set up in the Prussian War Ministry in August 1914. W. Rathenau , who had pointed out the necessity of this measure, but also the imminent regulation of the labor market, was in charge of the central collection and distribution of war-necessary raw materials until March 1915. A combination of a state-controlled planned economy and a private market economy created new, future-oriented forms of economy, which were controversially discussed under the terms “mixed economy”, “community economy”, “new economy” and “war socialism”.

A long war was neither economically nor financially prepared. The escalating war costs were to be paid for not through tax increases, as was the case in Great Britain, for example, but through high-interest bonds. The prospect that – as already after the Franco-German War of 1870/71 – the opponents to be defeated would have to pay the war debts through reparation payments made the nine bonds issued attractive and it is not surprising that the discussion about the war objectives found no limits. The result was creeping but escalating inflation that culminated in a catastrophic climax in 1923. The impoverishment of the middle class was caused by this problematic loan policy.

Peace treaties and balance sheet

After the special peace agreements of the Central Powers with Soviet Russia (Brest-Litovsk, March 3, 1918) and Romania (Bucharest, May 7, 1918) as well as after the armistice agreements of the Allies with Bulgaria (September 29), the Ottoman Empire (October 30), Austria-Hungary (3.11.) And Germany (11.11.1918), the First World War found its conclusion under international law in the Paris suburb treaties: the Versailles treaty with Germany (28.6.1919) and the peace treaties of Saint-Germain-en-Laye with Austria (10.9.1919), Trianon with Hungary (4.6.1920), Neuilly-sur-Seine with Bulgaria (27.11.1919) and Sèvres with the Ottoman Empire (10.8.1920). – The League of Nations was established in 1919/20.

The number of those who took part in the war and those who died in the war reached unprecedented levels: over 65 million soldiers were mobilized on both sides. In total there were around 8.5 million fallen, over 21 million wounded, around 7.8 million prisoners of war and missing persons. The suffering of the civilian population through flight, hunger and privation was immeasurable. a. under the hunger blockade of the Central Powers, but also the British and neutral merchant shipping under the German submarine war. The direct costs of the war were around 956 billion gold marks on both sides, without taking into account the indirect losses due to production losses and inflation during and after the war.

First World War

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