Seven Gunshots and A Broken World
The Plot to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand and how it led to a World at War
The First World War was fought with no preexisting context. It was the war of the unexpected, of unbounded despair, and of hopelessness, all in a quest for an unknown conclusion. It is all the more fitting that we should offer no agreement in our teaching, and precious little in the lessons learned.
European nations began World War I with a glamorous vision of war, a temporary folly and an irrational break from the norm. However this vision was to be psychologically shattered by the realities of the trenches. The experience changed the way people referred to the glamour of battle; they treated it no longer as a positive quality but as an immoral danger.
World War I was begun by seven bullets, fired from a FN Model 1910, 9MM Semi-Automatic pistol. The assassination was carried out by a Serb Nationalist looking to unite all of the Slavs into one Balkan paradise, He called it the 'Universal Land of the Slavs' or 'Yugoslavia' in his speeches.
The date was June 28, 1914, and the scene playing out before us is one of a rapidly growing world that was at the height of the Industrial Revolution.
But as you will see, the struggle was between old and new; between establishment and yet-to-be-built governments; and between Medieval monarchies and newly built Democracies.
We were a world where many were just starting to dip their toes into the promise of the future while having the other foot planted firmly in the miry clay of Europe's feudal past.
The Gun Used to Assassinate Archduke Ferdinand
We were a world where many were just starting to dip their toes into the promise of the future while having the other foot planted firmly in the miry clay of Europe's feudal past.
Those seven shots brought the deaths of two very prominent people within Europe. It would lead to the most colossal of outcomes, with millions dead and others starving. It brought the world to arms, and the war that followed brought devastation upon three continents and profoundly affected two others. Nation after nation were drawn into the whirlpool and more were drawing toward it.
No one could predict how it would end, but one thing was certain: The world was becoming unhinged and the dialogue between nations was non-existent. The lack of communication and wildly incorrect assumptions led to one blunder after another, until the improbable was soon reality.
Any understanding of the terrible chain of events that followed the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand begins with an assessment of our own human nature. The cultural unknown tends to cause a great cause of fear for us, and it was no different at the time World War I began.
Prejudice and bigotry was such a fact of life that few thought it was incorrect. The result was to create an environment of fear, assumptions, worries and defensiveness. A living and complex labyrinth of ethnic nationalism and pride arose and challenged Medieval views of how states should be ruled. It was a tragic clash of ideas and peoples, where all the pieces of humanity had shattered into small shards of glass, never to be successfully or peacefully put back together. Even to this day, these scars of WWI are upon our landscape. As for WWI and subsequently, WWII, many in America share a link with its forefathers.
They died in a struggle that is growing more and more distant to us in time.
Our history text-books devote less and less space to these defining moments of our human story. The first World War introduced the globe to blood-lust and reckless disregard for civilian populations. But where we make a mistake is thinking that World War I was so futile. The deaths of so many were a great tragedy, but they were not for nothing.
The groundwork for war had already been laid within a foundation of hate, envy, poverty and industrialization. If it hadn’t been Archduke Ferdinand, it would have been something else to set off the powder-keg of destruction.
For the world as we knew it then, there seemed to be no other path. Hopefully you will find yourself back in time, on that day before the World turned black with the smoke of war. The characterizations are from Primary Documents and letters that I have painstakingly researched and synthesized for this, a most fascinating and pivotal moment in time.
A hundred years after the war, our part in the first World War was tragically important and although so very brief, it was necessary. But this story is less about America’s involvement and more about what the world was like the day BEFORE Archduke Ferdinand and the Duchess Sophie were assassinated. After all, the chain of events that were to follow didn’t appear out of thin air.
The Geography of War
The area of North-Eastern France had been an integral part of the European theater since the Holy Roman Empire. Situated on the Rhine River, the region was annexed and re-annexed, conquered and defeated and reconquered for hundreds of years. In the years after Charlemagne, the rulers of the Empire, ‘’Rex Romanorum’’ were known by their Latin, ‘King of the Romans.’’
But as Charlemagne was of Germanic in origin, the area that situated on the border was to be known as “Römischer König”. The languages and cultures couldn’t have been more different. The laws were different amongst those of Germanic background and those of French or Roman background.
The landscape was among the most spectacular in all of Europe. Large rolling hills and snow-capped mountains predominated the terrain. Rivers of freshly melted spring water provided fresh water and cleaner living conditions than just about any other part of Europe.
Soon after the death of Napoleon, a new wave of German and French Nationalism brought the territory into the crosshairs of each nation. For France, it is and always was a region within French borders. As for the German, their predominance to the language and common history gave them something they hadn’t before – a place of their own.
We Germans who know Germany and France know better what is good for the Alsatians than the unfortunates themselves. In the perversion of their French life they have no exact idea of what concerns Germany.
— Heinrich von Treitschke, German historian, 1871
The Plot and the Planning Begins
In a park in Belgrade, Georges Princeps was practicing his target shooting. His ultimate goal was far more ambitious. In 1914, his principle wish was granted. ‘’I am an adherent of the radical anarchist idea that looks to free the world of terrorism and to free the world of tyranny.’’
King George V has just visited France, cementing the Franco-Anglican Alliance. Kaiser Wilhelm launches fourteen newly fitted battleships. The Czar has improved his army to the modern age. Europe has become a tinder-box, ready to explode. In this environment, the age of Franz Jospeh looked sure to be close to an end due his advancing years. He was despised for his rigid opposition to reform. But Archduke Ferdinand had hoped to change all of this – embracing his smaller communities regardless of religion, state, and culture. He was politically naïve.
He was also hopelessly unaware that annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire had destroyed any hope of a peaceful reconciliation with the Serbs.
The first World War began almost by accident and ended almost as strangely. In between it was more destructive than any war previously. More British, French and Italian soldiers died in the First World War than would die in the second World War. It was the first truly global conflict, being fought in all reaches of the earth.
A small group assembled in a coffee shop in Sarajevo in 1910. They formed ‘’The Unification of Death’’ a terror organization loosely based on the Italian ‘’Carbonera’’ who had formed in an effort to overthrow Italy decades earlier. Violence was a certainty. The Serbian Parliament makes first mention of this organization, also referring to it as ‘’The Black Hand’’ in 1911. The organization, though clandestine, drew the enthusiastic support of Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslovia.
His endorsement only seemed to empower the terrorist group. As for the group itself, several of the seven members were army officers. The members of the Black Hand were that Princeps was to be an integral part of were seven young men, all in their twenties, who have carried with them a fanatical belief that Serbia had been stripped, strafed, and shamed into the twentieth century.
Two-hundred miles from Sarajevo, in another country, the mastermind behind the plot is having breakfast and planning the assassination of the Archduke.
Grigutan Dimitrijević - known as Api – to those closest around him had seen his underground organization swell to almost 1100 radical supporters. His one aim was to recreate the Serbia of the 1300s when it was powerful and owned the land of Bosnia. Historians remembered the time when Serbia was at the height of her greatness and nationalistic feeling among Serbs throughout the Balkans is running high. Their one aim is to create a Serbia of power once again.
The war was fought in Asia, South America, at sea and in the air, on mountains and on beaches and in dense jungles. The fault lines from previous inept peace settlements before and after set a continuous chain of bloodshed that still lasts. So many things that we live with to this very day were the result of the legacies of World War I.
The ‘’War to End All Wars’’ launched a Russian Revolution with a chilling coldness to murder. This war gave birth to the United States – who was less than fifty years removed from a Civil War, seemingly now to be the World’s greatest power. New technology gave the war an unprecedented distance and a cold impersonalization between the men who were fighting.
Some would say that it made the killing all that much easier. And before it was all over, a terrible new weapon with horrifying results, chemical gas, would be used with an indiscriminate appetite for torture. Even the Germans themselves became victims when the wind would blow the wrong direction.
ALL THAT WAS LEFT BEHIND
The War in Afghanistan in 1979, The Cold War, The War in Vietnam, Korea, World War II and countless other smaller conflicts all owe their origins from the destruction established by the continental greed that made up the Treaty of Versailles. Almost all of the blood that has been shed in this twentieth century can be traced back to the first World War. We live with its bitter consequences in the Middle East and Balkans.
But the ideas were still the same. Democracy, Human Rights, The Foundation of a Republic and the heart to be self-governed were all at the center of the conflict. But there was a much less idealistic side to this war as well. The idea that wherever there were ethnic majorities, there should be ethnic counties also pervaded. All over Europe there were Lithuanians, Slavs, Poles, Ukrainians, Estonians and Jews with no borders of their own. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Balkans.
Three great Balkan kingdoms were born out of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. The Crimean War was, in many respects, the Last Crusade. Russia – who saw itself as a Christian empire, steamrolled into Asia Minor in order to drive the Ottomans completely out of Europe. The British and the French sent their young to die in a war that was largely without gain.
Of course, neither the British or the French were completely sold on the idea of that the Middle East was a hapless desert of hopes and ambitions. But neither were the Russians, who began the very bad habit of draining their treasury for a plot of land that would profit them little.
As the turn of the century rolled around, all the nations of Europe had given birth to a new generation of young. The economies of countries like Germany and France boomed during the industrial age. Steel, precious metals, textiles and wood became resources in high demand as the population centers of the continent boomed. And in the aftermath of the Crimean war, there was terrible ethnic tensions.
Old-world thinking had permeated a new-world economy, and that combination made for it easy to kill, justifiable to murder, and rewarding to the plunderer.
By the time WWI had come around, they fought for power and influence as well as economic rights. The Austria-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire competed. Slavia, Serbia and Albanian were all that was left. And yet, despite being in decline, it gave the Ottoman Turks the upper hand.
The Serbs had thrown the Turks out and set themselves up as independent kingdoms. More and more events would unfold that would separate the Serbs from just about everyone else. The disdain for the Turks was always strong amongst the Serbs, who felt that they to protect their cultural identity.
Princeps was born in the Balkans and grew to hate the Austria-Hungarians. His particular target of hatred was the ruler of the Hapsburgs, Franz Joseph.(1848-1916) The emperor was actually one of the few to sit on two thrones – As Emperor of Austria, and the King of Hungary. By 1914 Franz Joseph had been in power for 66 years and he resisted political change or economic reform of any kind. ‘’You see in me, he boasted to Theodore Roosevelt, ‘’the last European monarch of the old school.’’
It was a curious statement by the king, who personally suffered the tragedies and unspeakable losses during his lifetime. He experienced losing his own brother at the hands of assassin. His son, and only heir, Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889. Empress Elisabeth, his wife was shot down in cold-blood in just ten years later in1899. Such were the turbulent times Franz Joseph lived through.
The suicide of his son Rudolf and the murder of his wife, Baroness Mary Vetsera, had a shocking effect on European history for years to come. Without an heir, Franz Joseph would pass the empire to his brother, Karl Ludwig, and his firstborn son, Archduke Ferdinand.
It’s strange how one moment in our history would change the entire world. And yet, this is exactly what happened. The destabilization endangered the growing reconciliation between the Austrian and the Hungarian factions of the empire, which became a catalyst of the developments that led to the murder of Ferdinand.
Rarely seen out of military uniform, he kept up a strict leadership. Austria was the marvel of the scientific world at this time. If you had visited Vienna just prior to the war you would be apt to think that this to be the most cosmopolitan of cities, rich in culture, tolerant of others, and with beautiful architecture and incredible learning that brought forth both Mozart and Freud.
Here, you could meet at least ten other nationalities, sample their food, listen to their music, and play their games. This was often the case in Vienna, a city that so much to gain, and so very much to lose. The capitol of Austria was a pearl of the continent, beautiful and grand, birthplace of Freud, Chopin and Marx. It was a Renaissance city in a very 19th century manner. The enchanting architecture and cobblestone pathways were a crossroads of multiple ethnic people and languages. ‘’A city of miraculous beauty, there are sights too dazzling to believe.’’ offered a Travelers guide to Europe. They had Croats, Czechs, Poles, Italians, Slovaks, Romanians and Bosnians. But ethnic unrest was evident, as a guide prepared by the Irish Foreign Travel Office indicated.
The British Foreign Office on Travel To Vienna, 1914
Teutons: Anti Slav-vigorous; hard-headed. They tend to have light brown hair with blue eyes.
Poles: Savage and Ignorant and Anti-German. All for Polish independence; the Galician Poles are mostly pro-Austrian. They are closely and practically united. Intellectually stunted. Yet they are sturdy, square in facial structure, great capacity for work.
Slovaks: Big noses and hard working. Their women are given over to completely lustful desires. Pleasant, indifferent and untrustworthy.
Moravians: Dreadfully lazy and like to drink. They are at times forceful and anti-German.
Bosnians: Similar to the Teuton, only wooded and hardheaded; rather shy and suspicious, very closefisted. They are not clean-shaven. Pro-Yugo and Slav’’
Austrians: Educated and clerical, very tall and with big noses. They tend to be more robust than others. Manly and patriotic, tendency to drink to excess. Many are your typical peasants’
Croats: A small but educated people, they take offense very easily. Temperamental and dour in personality. They have black or dark colored hair and eyes with small frames. They like to make furniture.
Hungarians: Agricultural and agrarian; a hearty people; honest but seldom integrate with people of different languages.
Italians: The Italians of Vienna are fiercely anti-German, anti Austrian and highly educated for Italians as a group. They have big noses and are often mistaken for Jews. They make master tradesman and workers.
Slavs: The Catholic Slavs of the South have a long and deep hatred of the Germans which is only matched by their hatred of the Croats.’’
In all the Empire, only the Hungarians and Austrians had any power. For countries like Serbia, Austria-Hungary was a repressive undemocratic state where the wealthy were few and the poor were many. In 1905, Vienna saw a Nationalist uprising in Budapest. Ethnic unrest had occurred throughout almost every city in the Balkans, and terrible division was endemic. By 1914, the disorder had been so great that parliaments and local governments had been halted.
Serbia however wanted the unrest, particularly in Croatia and Bosnia. It was their aim to bring the downfall of the empire. Serbia saw itself as the only hope for Slavs living in the geography. and unrest throughout the entire Balkan peninsula. Troops were often brought in to restore order, parliaments and governments were frequently closed. Austria-Hungary brought its domestic upheaval to the rest of Europe. But it was within its borders that Serbia and others sought to make this uneasiness even worse.
Soon, underground organizations began to form. One such was known as ‘’The Black Hand’’ and was led by a captain in the Serbian Army, Dragutin Dimitrijević. He had already made a name for himself by ordering the murder of the previous King of Serbia because, as he said, he was ‘’growing too close to the Austrians.’’
Now - backed by Russia, Serbian Slavs sought independence for every Slav on the Balkan Peninsula. Furthermore, they thought its only path was through Russian help. Serbia welcomed the unrest in Croatia and Bosnia and imagined a world where they had their own united country – called Yugoslavia. Dimitrijević lamented that of ‘’The blind surrender to Austria’s embrace was a blind betrayal of Serbian traditions. ‘’I realize that Serbia, must in full measure, become a full leader, not only of Serbs, but in Yugoslavia.’’
It had gotten to the point where an all-out war was declared – one we seldom hear about – but was a precursor to World War I. For seven months between 1912-1913, the kingdoms of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro fought again the Ottoman empire. The Ottomans should have realized that their armies were weakened and the resources depleted when the Balkan League easily defeated the Turks.
As a result of the war, the League captured and partitioned almost all remaining European territories of the Ottoman Empire. These were perhaps the empire’s best hope of supplying grain to the starving and those dying of disease. The creation of Albania occurred as a result. But the Balkan League had always been rife with tension and unequal distribution of the winnings gave the Bulgars a great deal of resentment. When Macedonia didn’t get divided in a manner Bulgaria thought fair, they attacked their former allies just three weeks AFTER the first war had concluded. Conflict was exceedingly commonplace.
Once the Bulgars attacked, the Serbs and Greeks pushed back the offensive. Spies tipped them off and neither the Serbs or the Greek armies were caught unprepared. This time, the armies entered Bulgaria. As they did, Romania sought to even an old score with Bulgaria and they too declared war. And, always eager to avenge a loss, the Ottomans took advantage and regained lost territories.
As the Bulgarian capital of Sofia was surrounded, they finally asked for a truce. This resulted in the Treaty of Bucharest, in which Bulgaria had to surrender the territories it had won just a year earlier. It is difficult to imagine the chaos of what living there must have been like.
These were the borders drawn up after the Treaty of Bucharest
Meanwhile, the unrest swelled to other territories and regions. Dimitrijević believed that killing kings brings social and political changes. Monarchies, after all, “are a thing of the past.’’ But killing kings had sadly worked before. In 1903, he had killed the King of Servia, installing a new one. Belgrade punished the act of anyone becoming too close to Hungary. Still, Yugoslavia was born – but never recognized. All over Europe, Serbia was treated like a rogue nation, a bloody bunch of revolutionaries. Only two nations even sent ambassadors to the new King Peter’s coronation – Russia, Serbia’s greatest ally, and Hungary – its greatest enemy.
Dimitrijević had reason to like King Peter. After all, his Godfather was King George V of England, and this created an immediate sense of power. But Princeps plan to assassinate the Archiduke on a pre-announced visit suited Dimitrijevic just fine.
Archiduke Franz Ferninand was a great hunter. By the age of 50, he had shot 5000 stags and up to 200,000 other animals. Their taxidermists corpses are displayed even to this day in the Czech Republic and aer all carefully numbered. Ferdinand was considered ‘’irascable’’ and ‘’apocoleptic’’ is someone wandered onto the land he was hunting. By 1914, he was ready to take over for Franz Joseph. The Emperor would die any day.
Ferdinand had no patience for the customs of the day. He couldn’t be caught up in social circles of royalty, and yet he understood the trappings. He married a commoner, Sophie Hoteck, whom he considered his equal. ‘’The most intelligent thing I have ever done, was to marry my entire happiness, my dear Soph.’’ he said.
The old system that separated ethnic minorities needed to change. The less power the minorities would have, the more they would look outside the empire for help. ‘’I must have the minorities with me, as it is the only salvation for the future.’’ Indeed, the world was crumbling around him for a hundred years. Nothing was working, ‘why?’’ He asked. ‘I cannot help but think there is no loyalty among the nationalities for their treatment in so many years past.’’
In 1914, the German Kaiser visited, and he had a simple manner in which to take care of the Slavs. ‘’They wouldn’t rise against me, he said. ‘’they were born not to lead, but to obey.’’
Wilhelm had a map commissioned called ‘’Gross-Osterreich’’ or the ‘Totalll Eastern Front showing how the Hapsburg Empire could become United. He toasted to peace, not wanting to see a war with so little to gain.
City Map Of Sarajevo, 1905
The morning of June 24th , Princeps sought his way into Belgrade over the Drina River. A Serbian guardpost helped him wade ashore and eventually made his way to Sarajevo. On that morning, the 25th of June, the plan to attack him on the 28th was put together. This was a poor choice of days and it may have been deliberate in its choice, for the 28th was Serbian National Day. The ambassador relayed his fears of the visit saying ‘’Some young Serb might put a live round in his gun.’’ But the ambassador’s warnings were rebuffed. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie arrived in Sarjevo. There were few guards in sight.
When he saw the vehicle, he ordered the top left down and ordered the drive to be slow so he could see the crowd and they could see him. As they made their way through Sarajevo, the flags were blowing hard from the east. A witness, General Oscar Potrovicz said of the moment, ‘’ Very suddenly, the Archduke’s wife shrieked. Something had been thrown into the car but had bounced out, or off the vehicle. It then exploded, causing little damage but injuring two. ‘’I always thought something such as this would happen’’ he calmly said. The Archduke took a moment to look over the victims and then drove off.’’
When he arrived in front of the courthouse in Sarajevo, the mayor greeted him with a speech. The Archduke abruptly confronted the mayor. ‘’Lord Mayor, what good are your speeches? What use are your welcomes and banners when we come for a friendly visit driving through town and someone throws a bomb at us? This is outrageous.’’
Princeps plans had gone badly awry. The conspirators were so sure that there would be a high alert that they were sure to have abandoned the plan altogether. One wonders what he must have thought at this moment, and seeing his plans scuttled in such a manner. He stopped along Franz Joseph street to eat. He had come way too far to fail.
And it was here that the young his luck changed. The young Bosnian could scarcely believe his own eyes. Ferdinand had left the town hall – this time leaving too fast to have a repeat of earlier in the day. Given the change in plans and now fearing for the Archduke’s safety, the plan was to leave very quickly and head back to the train station.
Perhaps unfamiliar with the change in route, the driver took a wrong turn, heading directly down Franz Joseph street. The wrong turn forced the driver to have to make an uncomfortable U-Turn at the end of the street – forcing a line of other cars to turn back in a slow and plodding line. As the driver turned Graf&Stift Toro, several shots rang out. A ruckus on the side of the car had occurred. People in the cars behind the Archduke scrambled for both safety and curiosity.
According to Oscar Potracicz, ‘’a stream of blood came out of the Archduke’s mouth as the Duchess asked, ‘’My heavens, what has happened?’’ and then she herself slumped inside the car. I thought she had fainted, but I heard his Imperial Highness say, ‘My Dear Soph, stay alive, stay alive, for the sake of the children…’’ Both died on the way to the hospital.
At this time, no one was aware that a group of Serbian Army Officers had secretly planned the assassination. But they made the same leap the world did, that Serbia had pulled the trigger. Almost at once, Serbs were rounded up, shot or hung in the city square. By night’s end, 200 Serbs were executed and pogroms in Bosnia and Herzegovina killed many more.
Oscar Petrovicz wasted no time in urging that Austria-Hungary exact its revenge on Serbia. In Vienna, on the 4th of July, the funeral for the two of the rulers happened. Newspapers urged an attack on Serbia. ‘’This is not the crime of a single man, it is the crime of a peoples, a place. And the Serbs must learn to fear us again.’’ Others feared more ethnic unrest if this was not addressed.
In life, he had been a champion of peaceful co-existence with Serbia. In death, he had become synomonous with revenge.
The German Conrod Von Hudsondorff had pushed for war twenty or more times. I expressed to His Majesty that war with Serbia is unavoidable. ‘’That is exactly correct, said His Majesty. ‘’...But how can we wage war when Serbia’s allies, in-particular Russia, is there to fight back?’’
''At this time, I told him that we have backing from Germany.
His Majesty looked at me puzzled, and said, ‘’Can we be certain of that?’’
No one said a word. It was at this moment, another Balkan War would emerge into an extraordinary debacle in human history. Europe was divided. On one side was Germany, Austria and Italy. On the other – France and Russia. No one knew how each would respond. Rather then discuss it, each ambassador was sure their countries wouldn’t push for war.
A Total Failure to Communicate
Incompetance and wishful thinking was evident in the thinking of Kaiser Wilhelm, who left for holiday – believing that even ‘’Russia would tire of Serbia.’’ (It was a principle reason behind the League of Nations.) The very idea that such a war could begin due to an astounding lack of communication led to the idea of universal communication at a common location. Although the League of Nations would ultimately fail, it gave way to the birth of the United Nations after World War II. The ongoing belief is that when nations have a common interest and open dialogue, war can be averted.
A document was handed to the Serbian ambassador while Princeps was sentenced to twenty years. Germany pushed Austria into war, but was certain that they themselves would never be part of the conflict. No one bothered to ask anyone what they were thinking. The Austrian ultimatum was so severe and insulting, the Serbians could never accept them.
On the 23rd of July 1914, the news of the ultimatum was expected. The news spread quickly as bars filled with anxious people. The world’s diplomats were caught sleeping. Paris in the summer is a not only a great place to visit, but for those who live there, a great place to leave. Their ambassadors had collectively left for holiday. The Italian Ambasador is in Ireland and the Kaiser was on his ship in Norway. Nonetheless, it didn't stop the Wilhelm for making an astute observation.
‘’That’s a pretty strong note for once-in-a-while…’’ the Kaiser reportedly said.
It was a note that meant war. If only the Kaiser had believed it.
On the 24th of July, the foreign minister of Serbia met with the Russian Foreign Minister asking for help and an alliance. On the 26th, the Russians brought up their reserves. This alarmed Britain. ‘’From the moment this dispute becomes one where a great power is involved, it cannot but help to become the greatest catastrophe in Europe.’’ Earl Gray said.
The Austrian-Hungary Empire declared war the next day. Dimitrijević and the ‘Black Hand’’ blew up a hospital and a key bridge. The War had begun. Explosions ripped through Serbia. Refugees haunted by incessant war and purposeful murder began to flee in all directions. It was chaos on a grand scale.
On the 29th of July, a last-minute rush to keep this from becoming a world war began. ‘’Austria would not have acted without support from Germany.’’ offered the Russian Ambassador. Telegrams desperately trying to stem the crisis streamed from one monarch to the other.
‘’My Dear Nicky, a war of terrible confluence has begun…. ’’Czar-to-Kaiser, Cousin-to-Cousin, ‘’Dear Willie, my troops shall not take any provocative action.’’ But the war had spun out of control. For Germany, Russian monbilization meant war. It couldn’t afford to wait as it had France on the western front as well. They didn’t want to fight….they didn’t want declare war…but they had no choice. To hesitate would have meant certain death.
The Flags of War ripped in the wind, leaving an entire continent in shambles and a legacy of pure and unbridled hatred. The seeds planted then are sprouting now. As the world at war of the early part of the century raged, humanity itself hung in the balance. The sheer scale of death and suffering is hard to fathom.
Today, we are no less closer to solving our differences than we were then. But the stakes have changed and the implications are daunting.
For those whose lives were forever changed, the first World War was supposed to be the last. Such lessons however, seem hard to learn and even harder to apply.
Such is where we stand today. ####
Written by Robert Bluestein
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