WWI’s Civilians, the Homefront, and an Uneasy Peace: Crash Course European History #34

Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History. So, World War I was a “total war,” meaning
it wasn’t just something that affected soldiers. All citizens were mobilized to participate
in the struggle—some on the battlefront and others on the so-called home front. In fact, the phrase “the home front” was
coined during World War I, as a way of reminding people that even if they weren’t firing
guns, they were still participating in a war. [Intro]
The home front is often defined as the site where battles did not rage but where civilians
produced the goods for those battles. So factory workers in cities made munitions,
and weapons, and ships, and tanks, and poisonous gas. And farmers in rural areas grew food, and
raised animals for meat, and provided other raw materials. Also on the home front, government officials
rationed food, and allocated raw materials to factories, and determined railroad schedules,
and censored newspapers and public speech as part of the war effort. Civilians were expected to shift every ounce
of their energy away from everyday concerns–like about the well-being of their families and
themselves–and into material support for the battle front. In the first months of the war, textile and
other factories that produced “luxuries” were closed and the workers—many of them
women—were fired and were left destitute. But as the war extended beyond the few weeks
most expected it to last, these closed factories were converted. They started making parts for airplanes and
parachutes, for example, or creating the many new uniforms that were suddenly needed to
replace those of the dead. And this meant that many of the women who
had been made unemployed by initial factory closures were rehired to work in munitions
and other jobs that had traditionally been seen as men’s work .
As the war progressed, governments increased the number of hours civilians needed to work. Care for children and the elderly became a
huge problem for the hard-pressed head of the family—which was often a woman. To address the women’s struggle to feed
themselves and their families, some local governments and factory owners set up canteens
to provide food for workers and also day-care centers for children. And Civilian work hours were mostly devoted
to fueling the war, not, like, building housing, or providing medical care, or repairing infrastructure,
and other ordinary things that civilizations need to grow. Early on, leaders in all countries called
a political truce on the home front. Kaiser William announced on August 4, 1914:
“I no longer recognize [political] parties. I recognize only Germans.” Which is one of those statements that suspiciously
benefits the person saying it. Like, Kaiser William was basically saying,
“there’s only one party at this party…my party.” But across Europe, people did often leave
behind their internal divisions. Like, Socialists, for instance, largely put
aside their belief in the international brotherhood and adopted the “Burgfrieden” or party
truce, also called the “union sacrée” or sacred union in France and Russia. Instead of acting on their belief that “the
working man has no country,” socialist men mostly volunteered for service like men from
other political perspectives. Feminists, many of whom were pacifists, rolled
up their sleeves and volunteered in hospitals. Some even served as nurses on the front lines. One German rabbi reinforced the Kaiser’s
celebration of unity: “In the German fatherland there are no longer any Christians and Jews,
any believers and disbelievers, there are only Germans.” Politicians felt that criticism and normal
complaints from inside communities had to be put aside, because there was an existential
threat to the community from the outside. So, to ensure the continuation of unity, they
enacted censorship laws that made certain types of criticism crimes against the state. But initially at least, the warm glow of patriotism
and shared sacrifice meant that those laws were hardly needed. However, the home front did eventually become
a site of tension around many issues, but especially gender roles. Industrialists and government officials had
summoned women out of the home and into factories, or driving ambulances and trucks, or conducting
streetcars, and serving the war effort in any way needed. Many women were elated to have jobs, especially
when their husbands and fathers had left for war and the family needed funds to survive. But , some civilians saw the situation as
chaos. Women were heading households; And by taking
jobs, women in factories were “sending men to the slaughter,” at least according to
one male worker. Of course, that’s not how war works. It doesn’t happen merely because there are
available bodies. But if there’s one thing we can say about
misogyny: It ain’t rational. At any rate, instead of calming gender tensions,
war accelerated them. And that unity and patriotism among civilians
also became complicated because of soaring inflation across Europe. Inflation: The Most Underrated Historical
Force. Furthermore, farmland was turned into trenches
on the western front and into a vast battlefield stripped of produce and animals on the eastern
front. So the food allotted to the civilian population
declined, and the British naval blockade of the Central Powers prevented foodstuffs from
neutral countries reaching workers in cities, which intensified the shortages. Anti-Semitism also flourished; So, throughout
history hard times often get blamed on those considered outsiders, and people standing
in line for ever more expensive food often wrongly blamed the rising prices on Jewish
people. Meanwhile, because some countries, notably
Germany, did not tax war profits, some civilians grew incredibly rich from the war and showed
off that rising wealth. And the resulting growing class differences
weakened the sense of solidarity that was supposed to keep all the civilians mobilized
together to sacrifice for the armies at the front. I mean, it didn’t seem like the people making
all this untaxed wealthe were sacrificing much. I wonder if the workers will ever figure out
that they can seize the means of production and just take back the excess wealth of the
rich? What’s that? Oh, apparently we’re talking about that
next week. By 1916, east-central and eastern Europe had
become ever more barren battlefields. In the first year of the war, Russian and
Central Power armies pushed the front back and forth across hundreds of miles of farmland. And both pursued a scorched earth policy in
Poland, and parts of Latvia and Lithuania, and Ukraine. So, the retreating Russian army in late 1914
and 1915 drove people from their houses, torched entire villages, burned crops in the fields,
and took all the cattle, so that advancing Germans would have no resources. Germans and Austro-Hungarians did the same
to deprive Russians of resources. And of course in all this, civilians suffered
tremendously. did the center of the world just open? Is there a camera in there? There is! You may have noticed there are a lot more
images in these episodes of Crash Course European History than in our early episodes, and the
reason for that is, there were many more images. Like, today it’s difficult to even process
how common the image has become, and how much we interact with images in our everyday life. Like, for instance, you are interacting with
one now… But the growing proliferation of both still
and moving pictures dramatically shaped people’s understanding of the world in the early twentieth
century, and also, their understanding of each other’s suffering. So remember, when you’re looking at footage
like this, you’re looking at footage that literally wasn’t available in, for instance,
the Wars of 1848, OK. So, amid all of this violence, some six million
people were registered as refugees in Russia, a number that does not include the many who
were living in forests and deserted areas. Altogether an estimated two million houses
were burned in the region. Roads were so clogged with fleeing civilians
that armies had a difficult time advancing or retreating, a situation that was made more
difficult by the many bodies of those who did not survive. Meanwhile other civilians were driven westward,
taking shelter in cities like Vienna, which was a nightmarish site of disease and starvation. The Habsburg government was hard-pressed to
offer any help, leaving the task of public welfare to civilians. That meant that across multiethnic eastern
Europe, clubs and other organizations took to tending to refugees of their own ethnicity,
helping to provide food and medical services and find at least minimal housing. And all that civilian activism really undermined
the claims and credibility of the imperial governments of Germany, and Austria-Hungary,
and Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. Like, if governments don’t provide people
with security, or create stable and just social orders in which people can live and work and
raise their children in peace and some measure of prosperity, what’s even the point of
governments? As one group of ten starving peasant women
wrote to the Ottoman minister of the interior in 1917: “Either deport us all to another
place or cast us into the sea,” What crops they grew were often taken by deserters or
the army and their livestock and even pots and pans were seized by the government. And so as the war and its miseries dragged
on and on and on, the so-called home front (which in the case of eastern Europe was often
simultaneously a battlefront) became a site of uprisings. And all this expanded beyond Europe as the
war expanded: The Allies inflicted a famine in Greater Syria (today Lebanon and Syria)
to provoke an uprising. In Africa, many villages became wastelands. And so, really, it’s no wonder that the
armistice on November 11, 1918 failed to bring a true end to the fighting. In October and November in Germany, citizens
were on the streets demanding the Kaiser’s ouster; in Vienna, soldiers manned the streets
to keep order among starving civilians who were demanding change because their lives
literally depended on it. As the Spanish influenza hit, causing an estimated
100 million deaths worldwide, caregiving and death added to the tragedies of civilian life
in the early 20th century. Meanwhile after the armistice, Britain, backed
by the United States, encouraged the Greeks to invade Turkey, with Britain hoping to gain
Constantinople for itself. The Turkish countryside went up in flames
as the Greek army and Greek civilians burned Turkish villages, while Turkish people retaliated
in kind. Eastern Europe also remained a site of bloodshed
as many soldiers refused to demobilize and formed paramilitary groups supporting the
rise of new states to replace the defeated Habsburg Empire. And many soldiers returned home deeply traumatized,
in ways that often lasted for the rest of their lives. So, as Europe remained a militarized powder-keg
of civil war and revolution, in 1919 representatives from the victorious powers—Britain, France,
Italy, the United States, and their allies–met in Paris. Their goal was to determine conditions for
creating a “lasting peace” to end this “great war.” Unlike the Congress of Vienna following Napoleon’s
defeat in which France participated, the meeting in Paris excluded Germany, Austria-Hungary,
and the Ottomans, as well as Russia, which was busy having the civil war we’ll be talking
about next week. All right , Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. 1. The air at the meeting was hardly pacifistic: 2. “Hang the Kaiser,” had been Prime Minister
David Lloyd George’s recent election slogan. 3. Some 20 million people had officially been
declared dead in the war, 4. approximately half soldiers and half civilians. 5. So, French and British negotiators saw U.S.
President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal as deeply naive- 6. -not least because one of the Points involved
colonial rulers and colonies just, like, getting together and settling their differences. 7. The Allies also rejected Japan’s drive to
declare an allied opposition to racism. 8. Instead in six treaties, collectively called
the Peace of Paris 9. and enacted between 1919 and 1923, 10. the victors dismantled and reduced in size
the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and German Empires. 11. From the vast, multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire
the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye created small successor states: 12. Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, 13. and the Balkan states that would eventually
unite to become Yugoslavia. 14. The Treaty of Trianon drastically shrank the
size of Hungary, 15. while the Treaty of Neuilly dealt with Bulgaria. 16. But the centerpiece of the settlement was
the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, 17. which stripped Germany of its colonies, 18. imposed a massive penalty for warmongering, 19. and forbid it to have an air force or
to build an army bigger than 100,000. 20. And importantly it also imposed a “war guilt”
clause blaming Germany for the war. Thanks Thought Bubble. So, heads of state and negotiators also founded
the League of Nations, Point 14 in Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points. Some historians maintain that the League of
Nations should more appropriately be called the League of Empires. Indeed, instead of recognizing the promises
made by Britain to give Arab countries their freedom in exchange for help in the war, Britain
and France expanded their empires by taking oil-rich regions of the Middle East as “mandates”
because the people were supposedly incapable of ruling themselves. And in the end, despite the League of Nations
being an American President’s idea, the U.S. never actually joined it, which further
weakened its ability to accomplish much on a global scale. Many were outraged at the peace settlement,
especially Germans, Hungarians, and Middle Eastern people, and of course, it would have
further consequences. When I was a kid, I usually imagined World
War I and World War II as being separated by generations–my grandparents and many other
people I knew during my childhood had fought in World War II, while World War I seemed
very distant. a
But in fact, they were only separated by a couple decades, and both the nature of World
War I’s violence and the nature of the war’s peace treaties had a profound impact on the
rest of the 20th century–a reminder that how you fight a war matters, and how you end
one matters, too. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “WWI’s Civilians, the Homefront, and an Uneasy Peace: Crash Course European History #34

  1. I think a larger act of misogyny is not sending women equal to men to die in Europe because apparently they don’t die as well as men do and not one persons comment that….. hey it’s not fair that men are getting sent to die while women take all the jobs state side.

  2. The armistices of late 1918 didn't end the war for basically anyone. In Russia, American troops fought a major battle on armistice day, French troops would soon be sent to occupy bits of Germany and to quell uprisings in the new colonies. British troops would soon fight in Ireland against their former brothers in arms. German troops would get embroiled in the Freikorps and the chaotic war in the Balkans as well as at home. Habsburg forces would fight each other while building nations. Like, Belgian soldiers got to go home in 1918. I can't think of anyone else.

  3. 3:20 100,000 Jewish Germans served in the German Army during WWI, 72,000 of which were in the infantry. 18,000 of those won the Iron Cross, and 12,000 were killed in action. Many of these veterans were later killed in the Holocaust.

  4. Only total war is going to make a lasting peace. WW I had the potential but the leaders lost the will and thus Germany arose from the ashes and we had WW II. Total destruction of the nation of Germany and the dispersal of it's people would have prevented that. The premise is both as simple as it is horrible, kill everyone; quite doable really.

  5. 3:30 Some context for that is that Jews had successfully pushed for citizenship in the decades prior to the war, which meant they now did military service and in the war Jews had some of the best participation per capita on the German side. This was a social contract they had wilfully entered into and were proud to uphold.

  6. 5:00 Also prior to the nitrogen fixation of Fritz Haber Germany could not even feed it's population domestically in peace time. And the nitrogen fixation method was far from universally implemented at this point.

  7. 11:47 I know it's part of a different treaty and this map is probably technically accurate, but the way you show Hungary here being undivided and don't mention its later dismemberment kinda bothers me.

  8. What is the point of war? Everyone just loses more than gets, lose lose.
    But how ever I do want WW 3 to start because I’m so bored and no drama, so plzz donald and butin

  9. Really cool episode as usual, but the map at 11:56 is very misleading… Hungary was also dismantled completely shortly afterwards at the treaty of Trianon.

  10. Another group outraged by the Treaty of Versailles was China, which, despite being a Allied Nation (and provided large amounts of materiel and laborers for the war effort) was completely snubbed at the Paris Conference. The German colonies in and around Shandong Province–which China was hoping to get back as reward for helping to defeat Germany, was instead given to Japan.

    This act sparked country-wide protests and anti-government violence in China (May Fourth Movement), and the legitimacy and authority of the Nationalist Chinese government was severely weakened. One of the protest groups founded during this turmoil was the Chinese Communist Party.

    And the rest, as they say, is history.

  11. I think its kinda funny how the spanish flou is sutch a big deal in the english speaking world while it is not even a real side note in Germany. A bit like: Most of our Population is allready starving, so of course there are diseases. While in the US, where life was more or less "normal", it was like an Apokalypse.

  12. "This is not a peace; it is a ceasefire for 20 years." —Allied Commander in Chief Ferdinand Foch*

    *Or possibly Winston Churchill, but he claimed Foch said it.

  13. Sorry, but you have made a HUGE mistake describing the Paris peace treaties, because in the treaties regarding the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the disection of the empire was completely different. First, North Tyron remained part of Austria (as it is today), second, the Kingdom of Hungary was torn to pieces in the 1920 treaty of Trianon, Croatia was separated, Burgenland was given to Austria, Slovakia was created, Transylvania was given to Romania, and lands were given to Serbia as well. This is a cause for tension in the region even today, so missing it out a big deal. Love the show though.

  14. whats with the wrong map of central europe after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire? Are you a Hungarian imperialist? not cool

  15. 9:13 that's actually wrong greater Syria was mostly self sufficient in terms of food, the ottomans allocation of said food to the front caused the famine. The martyr square statue in Beyrouth city is a reminder of ottoman oppression during that period, not allies.

  16. 11:49 In naming the successor states, Slovakia was kind of skipped, as only the Czech areas were highlighted. Wonder if it was on purpose (stressing the point that during the First Czechoslovak Republic, the country recognized as worth something, was mostly Czechia) or it was just a mistake, showing that no matter how much we want to talk about it, there is just a natural world complex of overlooking Slovakia. (And subsequently Slovak Napoleonic complex about being overlooked xD)

  17. I think it's relevant to mention that all of the treaties that ended WWI included the War Guilt clause, as WWI was trying to end differently than past wars. Prior treaties would include an indemnity, these treaties included reparations, and the clause was meant as a legalese admission of liability to justify the reparations.

  18. CrashCourse: If you don't mention Serbia more (at least it's own episode [We deserve it]) all these videos about WW1 will be for nothing.

  19. It's funny to think about it, pretty much one year ago we were at the same point in this century as the end of WWI was in the last one, and look how different the world was by the end of the millennium.
    It's very difficult to even try and imagine just how much the world is going to change before the 22nd century.

  20. Given what kind of war Japan was waging when they tried to declare an "allied opposition to racism" I can only see that as being incredibly self serving. Despite how racist the European governments were at the time.

  21. Czechoslovakia. It's called that way because it included Slovakia. And between world wars it also included Subcarpathian Ruthenia. What map shows as Czechoslovakia is Czech Republic.

  22. Fun fact, My paternal grandparents were in elementary school during WWI. Grandma was a year older than my youngest maternal grandparent's mom. (They adopted Dad rather late.)

  23. i love being this early but i will have to come back to watch it. i saw 1917 the other night and was duly shook.
    war is war and hell is hell and of the two war is worse- mash

  24. It would be more accurate to say " The phrase 'the home front' was coined during WWI to CONVINCE people that, even if they weren't firing guns, they were still participating in a war."

    Governments fight wars. People are simply made to participate- and propaganda like "the home front" is a form of compulsion.

  25. This is a case where the lies matter as much as the facts. Many nation's made promises during the war intending to break them at peace. It shaped how the larger world saw Europe and the West and how they would interact to this day.

  26. At 11:55, the graphic shows Czechoslovakia only as Bohemia, Moravia and some parts of Silesia. Shouldn't it also include Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia?

  27. In short WW1 was a complete waste of life that lead to an even worse wars that culminated in WW2.
    There were no good guys, only villians.

  28. "Inflation, the most underrated historical force". 😱

    So true… even in Argentina, where it is like: tango, football and inflation.

  29. One additonal thing. I trust CC will get into the fallout of WW1 in a later entry, but one thing that can't be measured is how much war changed the status quo. So many roles and rules that seemed monolithic before the war vanished over night during it. War made beggars of kings and empires. Women driving, holding down factory jobs and the like did more for the Sufferage movement than conferences and pamphlets.

    The phrase 'How will you keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paris?" would echo throughout the 20's, 30's and find meaning again in WW2. The Great War showed people a larger world and many did not want to return to the status quo that birthed the conflict.

  30. WWI: Millions of young men are sent to be slaughtered on a frontline for a cause they don't even understand

    Crash Course: The women were oppressed!

  31. I absolutely love the Crash Course History videos. I really hope John Green does another Crash Course Literature series soon.

  32. 11:56 Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina (part of northern Serbia) joined to form the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. It consisted of southern (prewar) parts of A-H Monarchy. Croatia was not part of Hungary, as its wrongly shown on the map. On the 29. of October 1918., Croatian Parliament broke all ties with A-H Monarchy and declared the State Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. On the 1. of December that same year the state of SCS joined with Kingdom of Serbia to form the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes ( later named Yugoslavia). The map that's in the video is wrong. No hard feelings, just giving some context.

  33. CrashCourse: You have a mistake in the map where you divide Austria-Hungary into successor states: You say "Czechoslovakia", but you mark only Czechia. Czechoslovakia included also Slovakia, which is (in your map) a northern part of Hungary.

  34. In Mcmerika cops openly display defaced and desecrated American flags to provoke veterans who had friends caskets draped with the real American flag…American courts aren't legitimate anymore…they're flying a different flag than they did when I was a kid and gas was 79 cent a gallon

  35. The Versailles Treaty wasnt too harsh or punitive. The problem was the allies didn't actually enforce the treaty. After WW2 ended we left 50 thousand soldiers in Germany and we are still there 75 years later. Had the Allies actually enforced Versailles then who knows what happens but the victor blaming of the Allies causing the rise of Hitler I disagree with

  36. Finally, its the first time i have seen a youtube channel touching in post-war attrocities of greece with english on us Turks.

  37. Ummmm, guys, the map of the Treaty of Saint-Germain is pretty awful, and looks like a strange and monstrous mishmash of all sorts of periods. Hungary is represented as completely unreduced by Trianon (whereas in reality it lost 2/3rds of it's territory), Austria didn't lose the whole of Tyrol (as it did against napoleon), just South Tyrol, Italy didn't gain Dalmatia, only some cities and islands along the coast, and (the yet not-named-as-such) Yugoslavia included Croatia – it didn't have this weird Slovenian exclave separated from the country by "Hungary" (which is actually Croatia). Also, Hungary lost Burgenland along the border with Austria (via referendum), Transylvania (eastern third of Hungary) was annexed by Romania, and the north of Hungary became Slovakia and joined with Bohemia to form Czechoslovakia.

    Mistakes do happen, but this map is pretty horribly inaccurate.

  38. 1914, Central Powers: Let's start a war so that we can become even more powerful.
    Meanwhile: Millions of people die.
    1919, Central Powers: Cry that peace treaties are too harsh, as if their only sin is stealing a lollipop from a baby.

  39. These episodes on the "seminal tragedy" of the 20th century really got me craving for a "Crash Course History of the 20th Century". Maybe just the "short" one, in Hobsbawm terms.

    Just saying…

  40. "People supposedly incapable of ruling themselves"
    looks at the middle east today
    They did have a point that has lasted a hundred years.

  41. On the map in the Versailles Treaty part of the video, in The Netherlands the 'Flevopolder', the huge piece of artifical land created in, what was then, 'De Zuiderzee' (now 'IJsselmeer') is shown. That was only created a couple of decades later.

  42. Thanks to Bill Wurtz, I can never say "the league of nations" normally ever again.


  43. Awesome video! But your maps at 11:49 need some work! You accidentally not only gave the Italians South Tyrol, but also North Tyrol, East Tyrol and Vorarlberg!

  44. To this day quite a few hungarians still hold a grudge because of the treaty of trianon. I was in budapest for the aniversary….and I was shocked at how many people seemed to go with the protest

  45. "They were still participating in a war" – so that makes civilians legitimate military targets? So how does this impact convictions for war crimes?

  46. We recall the Africa American formations raised during the civil war were met with official and unofficial resistance. How were the female only military units raised by the femunists treated? Did they have an equal level of success in transitioning from support missions to full combat units?

  47. Hey ! Thanks for your video, it really is good, talking as a historian too
    Just wanted to say that "Saint-Germain-en-Laye" is written without the "e" after "Germain" 😉

  48. you should do an episode on Ireland around this time because things get really crazy for a decade or so from about 1912 to 1923.

  49. Today I learned that certain groups are always innocent and merely a scape 🐐. Thank you for telling us the truth. 100% correct, no grey areas here.

  50. 8:39 they were writing "either deport us all to another place or cast us into the sea" to an empire that was literally doing those things to ethnic minorities

  51. What the hell is that map @ 11:56 ????
    Hungary owning croatia, slovakia, and transylvania? Poland with no danzig corridor?
    Very disappointing work

  52. 12:54– Hilariously, Cynical Historian–who see Wilson as "evil president"–made a claim that entire 14 Point had a backdoor benefits for American benefits (being left unscathed after the war to benefit from free trade, League of Nations to be headed by US, and selectively interpret "self-determination" for Britain and France).
    Then next president after Woodrow Wilson decided to become isolationist (though to be honest, Wilson is somewhat "controversial" like expanding Segregation to Federal level, having Birth of the Nation premiered at White House. and authoritarian policies during WW1, and his foreign intervention did border on imperialism like Vera Cruz expedition).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *