The Great War

The Great War (1914-1918)

Part 5 takes place at the time of the Great War. In 1917, the United States entered the war, and a hard time for German Americans began. Chiara’s husband John also went overseas with the troops.

Herbestal, at the border between Germany and Belgium
The Great War

July Crisis

[Rhineland and Belgium, July 1914] Some newspapers spoke of war, yet a local one against Serbia that, as most people thought, was no match for the Habsburg Empire, and Serbia was far away anyway.

Mobilization. Bonn
The Great War

Europe at war

[Germany, July/August 1914] During the last few weeks, hectic diplomatic activity had been going on behind the scenes. Military leaders were secretly planning for a war. Yet, diplomacy failed.

Steamer Aimée, Rhine and Königswinter
The Great War

The steamer Aimée’s last tour

[Germany, August 1914]  Mobilization was underway. Enthusiasm for the war swept away all other emotions, suspicion was growing, thus even friends and acquaintances became enemies.

German troops in Brussels, 1914
The Great War

War Year 1914

[Rhineland and Belgium, 1914] On August 2, Germany troops crossed the border into Luxemburg, on August 4, the border into Belgium. Soon a large part of Belgium and the northeastern part of France were occupied.

Soup kitchen in the Limbach Stübchen
The Great War

Soup kitchen

[Rhineland, 1914/15] Nobody was prepared for a long war. The soldiers had been so sure of victory, “At Christmas we will be back”. But since the turnaround on Marne in early September, this was unlikely.

War year 1915, poison gas
The Great War

War year 1915

[1915] At the Eastern front, the Austrian-Hungarian army was in a catastrophic situation. A gigantic Russian army was besieging the mighty fortress Przemysl in Galicia. By May 1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary.

No Picture
The Great War


Already in August 1914, Great Britain had established a naval blockade, cutting off Germany from imports of all kinds. In early November 1914, Britain declared the Northern Sea to be a war zone.

War year 1916, trenches
The Great War


[Rhineland and France, 1916] Bad news came from everywhere. Although the war propaganda relentlessly promised a German victory, it became obvious that the war would not be over soon,

Vienna 1916
The Great War

Austria-Hungary 1916

[Austria-Hungary, 1916]  While the battles of Verdun and the Somme were raging in the West, the Russians attacked again in June 1916 and pushed forward to the Carpathians. Austria-Hungary seemed lost.

People waiting in queue for bread
The Great War

“Turnip Winter” in Germany

[Germany, winter 1916/17]  The British naval blockade caused great suffering in Germany. This winter, the need was dramatic. A rainy autumn had caused a potato slight and only half of the harvest could be saved,

Remember Belgium, war propaganda
The Great War

“Halt the Hun” War Propaganda

[USA, 1917/18] Horrified, Lorenz Bergmann’s granddaughter Chiara looked at the Liberty Bonds she was about to buy. It showed a creature with a Pickelhaube, thus obviously a German.

Hindenburg, Kaiser William II, Ludendorff
The Great War

No chance for peace

[Germany, summer 1917] The war was already entering its third year, and there was no prospect of peace. Several times Pope Benedict XV had urged the belligerent nations to negotiate peace, but in vain.

War year 1918, tanks
The Great War

War Year 1918

The Great War had been raging for three years now. Trenches, machine guns, air reconnaissance, barbed wire and modern artillery had helped bring the battle lines of World War I to a stalemate.

The Great War

Spanish Flu

[Germany, Autumn 1918] While the war was raging, one catastrophe affected enemies and allies alike – the Spanish flu pandemic. People in all countries and continents feared this devastating pandemic.

German revolution, Berlin 1918
The Great War

German Revolution 1918/19

[Germany, 1918/19] The war was lost. Yet, at the end of October 1918, the military commanders ordered, by their own authority, the navy to set sail for a last battle against the British Royal Navy.

Kaiser Charles I of Austria-Hungary
The Great War

Austria-Hungary 1918

[Austria-Hungary, November 1918] Already in the last days of the war, the Czechs, Galicians, Poles, Slovenes and Croats had broken away from Austria-Hungary. In Transylvania, Romania had taken power.

The Great War

Will France annex the Rhineland?

[Rhineland, 1918] For most Germans, the defeat had come as a surprise. Until the end, the war propaganda had promised victory, Now Allied soldiers would march into the Rhineland. Martial law still prevailed.