World War I

It started with two shots in Sarajevo and ended in the "seminal catastrophe of the 20th century": The First World War was a mass war of hitherto unprecedented scale and ultimately captured three-quarters of the world population. From 1914 to 1918 the "Great War" claimed 17 million human lives.

After the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand in June 1914, the Great Powers declared war on another in some sort of a fatal chain reaction. On August 4, German troops invaded the neutral Belgium. However, the war parties were entangled into a gigantic static and attrition warfare on the western front with gruesome battles at the Marne, the Somme and at Verdun. The fighting in the east spread over the Balkans to the Orient. At Tannenberg, on the Isonzo and on Gallipoli, devastating battles were fought. In naval warfare, the British fleet always kept the upper hand against the Imperial German Navy on the Dogger Bank and the Skagerrak.

The enduring battles of the war became more and more senseless, the situation for the Central Powers more and more hopeless. In September 1918, Hindenburg finally asked for truce. The Peace of Versailles, however, would only begin an inter-war period in Europe.