World War I: balance sheet and consequences

History sheet: What are the consequences of the war

I. Assessment of the First World War

A. The human toll

1. The demographic impact of the war
—words: 9 to 15 million
most affected countries (absolute value): Russia, Germany,
Austria-Hungary, France
relative value: dead/mobilized France 15%, Serbia +1/3
—war + Spanish flu
—wounded: + 30 million, including + 6 million invalids
—birth deficit → “hollow classes
—widow 4 million
—orphans 8 million
—population imbalances women > men
→ single women, white widows
—labor force deficit
Austria-Hungary 17%
Germany: 15
France: 10
→ call for immigration
2. Veterans
UK: 5.7 million
France 8 million
52% adult male population in 1920 (according to A. Prost)
40% in 1939
→ Visibility in the societies of the interwar period
Veterans’ associations:
Stahlhelm: Steel Helmet (Germany)
Reichsbund (Germany)
Zentralverbrand (Austria)
National Association of Combatants (Ita)
National Association of Disabled (Ita)
British Legion (GB)
American Legion (USA)
National Union of Combatants (France)
France: 3 million members of associations (against 8 million mobilized)

B. The economic and financial impact

1. An economic balance sheet that is difficult to quantify
Regions destroyed by the fighting
‘Red zone’/dead zone
Destruction of the economic apparatus, the GB merchant fleet
Cost? Thirty-four billion gold francs for France? $300,000,000,000 in all?
Reconversion into a peace economy
Difficulties: countryside, employment, dismissal of women
2. Financial impact
Financing the war
Borrowing by the population → domestic debt
Borrowing by states → foreign debt
Monetary inflation
Money supply in circulation increases
Metal cash in circulation decreases
→ depreciation of currencies – end of gold convertibility and price inflation
Vicious circle after the war (France 1920’s, Germany 1923)

C. The moral consequences of the war

1. The feeling of decadence
Paul Valéry: ‘We civilizations now know that we are mortal that we are mortal’ The crisis of the spirit, 1919.
Bankruptcy of the culture
Crisis of positivism
Sense of moral bankruptcy
Oswald Spengler writes The Decline of the West in 1918–1922
Albert Demangeon writes The Decline of Europe in 1920
2. To remember or to forget?
Significant dates and places
November 11th
national holiday, public holiday in France 1922
GB: Remembrance Day at the Whitehall cenotaph (poppy on the buttonhole symbolizing the renewal and persistence of life)
Other dates
November 4: Italy
April 25: Australia
→ Civil and integrative worship, cohesion of the nation
Ceremonies and monuments for ‘unknown soldiers’.
Westminster Abbey in 1920
Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 1920 (taken from the field of Verdun)
Altar of the Fatherland in Rome in 1921
Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, Virginia
ossuaries, cemeteries monuments to the dead
Commemorating a lost war?
—Germany: which place?
St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt (reminder of 1848)
Cologne Cathedral (unity of the nation)
Nazis → Tannenberg monuments. In 1934 burial of Field Marshal Hindenburg
alongside several soldiers of the Great War.
Who does the unknown soldier embody?
Poland: soldiers in several armies (Germany, Austria, Russia)
War 1920–1921 against Russia
Czechoslovakia: soldiers of the Austrian empire: defeated but culmination of the nationalism of existence
Memorial stakes
Multiethnic states: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia
Forgetting the war
the ‘Roaring Twenties
The roaring twenties
The golden years