Wednesday, August 6, 2008

4 August 1914: The War Becomes a World War

A month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia, on 28 July.  Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August.  However, the conflict truly became a world war when hostilities spread to the west. On 3 August, Germany declared war on France. The following day, it invaded neutral Belgium, triggering a British declaration of war.  (The US thereupon declared neutrality that same day.)

It was on the evening of 4 August that British Foreign Secretary Lord Grey is said to have made the famous comment, "The lights are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

Referring to the concept of "Bildung"--more than mere "education":  total development of the individual personality --at the heart of German schooling and high culture, Erwin Piscator, who had fought in the German army on the Western Front, recalled: 
My calendar begins on August 4, 1914.

     From that day the barometer rose:
     13 million dead.
     11 million maimed.
     50 million soldiers on the march.
       6 billion guns.
     50 billion cubic meters of gas.

What room does that leave for 'personal development'?  Nobody can develop 'personally' under these conditions.  Something else develops him.  The twenty-year-old was confronted by War.  Destiny.  It made every other teacher superfluous.

Fewer than a dozen verified World War I veterans are alive today, and of those, only about  half saw combat.

Resources:  World War I Document Archive (from Brigham Young U.)

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