Trench warfare is one of the iconic symbols of World War I. This photograph shows British troops carrying boards over a support line trench at night during fighting on the western front. Cambrai, France, January 12, 1917.
November 2018 marked the centenary of the end of World War I (1914–18), the first great international conflict of the twentieth century. After almost 100 years of relative peace, the major European nations went into a war that left millions dead, empires toppled, and a continent devastated. The conflict and its divisive peace left a legacy that helped give rise to totalitarian ideologies, like Communism, Fascism, and Nazism, and paved the way for World War II and the Holocaust.
A crowd in front of the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) cheers the declaration of World War I. Berlin, Germany, August 1914.
Many enthusiastically believed that World War I would be over quickly. Instead, the war became a stalemate of costly battles and trench warfare. It lasted for years and was the first great international conflict of the twentieth century. The impact of the conflict and its divisive peace would reverberate in the decades following.
Adolf Hitler (front row, far left) served on the western front in World War I and during the course of the war was twice decorated for service, wounded, and temporarily blinded in a mustard gas attack. He used his veteran status in later election campaigns.
After the devastation of World War I, the victorious powers imposed a series of treaties upon the defeated powers. Among the treaties, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles held Germany responsible for starting the war. Germany became liable for the cost of massive material damages. The shame of defeat and the 1919 peace settlement played an important role in the rise of Nazism in Germany and the coming of a second “world war” just 20 years later.
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