At what age do soldiers withdraw

1914: With hurray into the war

It should be patriotic, religious and religious. 100 years ago, young people were not allowed to rebel or try themselves out. On the one hand, you grow up at an early age, but from a legal point of view you only come of age at the age of 21. Political co-determination is even only allowed from the age of 25 - but this only applies to the male half of the population. Women have no right to vote.

At the age of 12 or 13, working-class children have to work up to ten hours a day to support the family. Many girls are exploited as maids, in some cases sexually by their own employers. Daughters from better circles are prepared for marriage early on. After school they go to a boarding school where they learn manners and housekeeping. Striving for a job of your own is undesirable.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    The last scream

    Paris was the center of the fashion world as early as 1914. The Redfern couturiers designed this elegant outfit: "A slightly tailored dress with white and red stripes, buttons and red pockets, plus a red jacket with a striped lining and a black silk tie."

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    "Fin de Siècle"

    The Parisian fashion house Révillon Frères presented fur fashion for the "high society", the "upper ten thousand": indulgent and luxurious - as if there were no tomorrow. The period around 1900 until the beginning of the war four years later is considered "Fin de Siècle", the end of an era, a time between optimism, fear of the future and decadence.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    "Comme il faut"

    "As it should be": the right robe for every occasion. This is how a French fashion magazine imagined the appropriate dress for the lady of the world in the afternoon.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    The honest counterpart

    There are galaxies between Parisian fashion and this Berlin couple. The photo was taken on a festive occasion. The young-looking facial features of the two do not seem to match the well-behaved and narrow-minded appearance.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    Little adults

    Around 1900 the word "marine" had an almost magical sound in the German Empire. The country was in naval fever and the emperor was ahead. Wilhelm II had issued the slogan: "Our future lies on the water". The maritime trend left its mark on fashion: sailor suits for boys were extremely popular.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    Young lady from a good family

    Daughters of wealthy parents were sent to boarding school after school, where they learned handicrafts and housekeeping. So to speak, everything you need for a life of well-tended boredom as a wife and mother.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    Sundays in Berlin

    Horse races were considered a social event and a welcome pastime for the finer circles. The visitors to the Grunewald racecourse in Berlin have dressed up accordingly.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    Do not show nakedness

    Even when bathing, here in Ostend, Belgium, it was pretty buttoned up. The lady wears a hat, blouse and shorts, the gentleman on the far left is wearing a suit with rolled up trousers: "bathing suits" in the truest sense of the word.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    What woman wore underneath

    There is hardly any deep breath in here. This drawing shows a patented corset from the USA in 1914. Tied into conventions - that was true on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • What fashion reveals about the zeitgeist

    Well protected

    Whether in Paris, Berlin or here in Vienna: Without a headdress, women would never have left the house in their day. This picture shows women of good society buying flowers from a street vendor.

    Author: Birgit Görtz


A generation is discovering itself

A growing part of the youth no longer want to go along with it. She begins to emancipate herself. In a Berlin school newspaper from 1913 it says: "We must no longer have so much false pity for our parents. We have already spoiled them too much."

Confident and self-determined: the Wandervögel

Two opposing currents arise. The "Wandervogel" was founded in 1895 at a grammar school in Berlin-Steglitz. A movement of young people who like to hike through nature. It is mostly offspring from a good family who go out into the world, cook and sleep in the open air, sing loud folk songs and play songs on the lute. At peak times, the Wandervogel has around 10,000 members.

The authoritarian state lets them go, the migratory birds hardly have any revolutionary potential. The youth in the workers' associations are different. They are suppressed because they are close to their political opponents, the trade unions and the SPD.

Between longing for war and fear of war

The German Reich is on the way to becoming a world power - economically, scientifically and militarily. But political and social developments are lagging behind. At the head of the Prussian corporate state is the Kaiser, Wilhelm II. The nobility occupies the most important posts in administration and the military. The origin counts. The rising bourgeoisie is questioning the traditional structures as well as the working class.

Patriotic move in September 1914 in Berlin

The threatening shadow of war hovers over everything. Many long for it. For example, the military who want to finally try out their new branches of weapon. Nationalists and imperialists too: They want to secure Germany the place they think it deserves in the ranks of world powers - the "place in the sun" that was so much cited at the time.

A regional conflict escalates into a global catastrophe

On June 28, a Serbian assassin kills the Austrian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The regional conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary escalates into an international crisis, in the wake of which all the major European powers of the time fall.

The bad thing: The military - not only in Germany - are caught up in the fallacy that the war is a brief armed conflict and that Christmas will be home again. They all underestimate the murderous power of the new weapons: machine guns, artillery, tanks. The result: trench warfare, material battles, poison gas. The First World War is the first industrialized war in human history. A regional conflict turns into a world war that lasts four years and kills 17 million.

A generation goes to war

The nationalist-minded press and the German government are heating up the nationalist mood after the attack in Sarajevo. Germany is threatened, surrounded by enemies, attack is the best defense. On August 4, 1914, the Kaiser gave a speech in the Berlin Reichstag: "I don't know any political parties any more, I only know Germans!" The national-conservative elite in the state and in the military relies on the patriotic solidarity of all Germans. This has an effect: offspring from the middle and upper classes long to show it to Germany's "enemies". They report in rows and go to war with a lot of cheers.

From extra sheet to extra sheet: Berlin at the beginning of August 1914

Women and girls are also drawn to the front. In Germany alone, between 100,000 and 120,000 war nurses volunteer. 25,000 of them experience the war at first hand during deployment in the so-called stage, the area between the immediate front and home.

Despite all ideals of freedom: Even the adolescents of the Wandervogels volunteer for military service in droves. Many working class children, on the other hand, tend to be hostile to the war. It's not their war, it's that of those up there. "Down with the war" - under this motto, hundreds of thousands of German youths took to the streets to protest in July 1914. Then the anti-war demonstrations are banned.

Growing up at the front

Horror Western Front: German poison gas attack in Flanders in 1917

Disillusionment sets in quickly at the front: the young men, some of them still children, realize that they are just "cannon fodder". In this war, the type of war volunteer is no longer appropriate. Well-trained, technically skilled soldiers are required.

The number of victims among war volunteers is correspondingly high: every fourth Wandervogel dies, among German students it is every fifth. Those who survive the war are injured in body and soul. Every second soldier is wounded (based on the number of treatment cases), and many are badly disfigured. Countless diaries and photos give an idea of ​​the suffering of the soul. But above all the more than 28 billion field post letters that German soldiers send home.

For further reading:

Fred Grimm: "We want another world." Youth in Germany 1900 - 2013, Haffmanns & Tolkemitt, Berlin 2010

Ernst Piper: Night over Europe. Cultural history of the First World War, Propylaea, Berlin 2013