On the 28 of June, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary was killed by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. Following this incident, the empire –delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia. Exactly one month later, the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots in preparation for the invasion of Serbia. Even though the assassination of the Archduke is generally seen as the reason for the outbreak of World War I, it was merely an excuse for the European powers, the United States of America and the Empire of Japan to give food for their hunger of colonial expansion. The real reason for the First World War was New Imperialism. The result was one of the bloodiest wars in human history, which lasted 4 years and killed about 9 million combatants in the field. It meant the end of the Old World as we knew it and reorganized the complete map of Europe. It was disastrous and we thought, never again.
It doesn’t take much to light a fire, especially when it is already smouldering. A new political map in Europe with the defeat of the WWI Central Powers, including Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, a major power shift in the vast country of Russia, and a failing global economy where enough for one person to stand up in a country that was hit hard after that first global war. Germany had lost 13% of its territory and was hopelessly broke. The total destruction of the national currency, the wiping out of people’s savings and businesses and the global depression were enough for Hitler to stir up emotions of pride and prejudice which eventually lead to another urge of nationalism, superiority and expansion. World War II, which started only 21 years after the first global war ended, lasted 6 years and killed a devastating 85 million people worldwide. Never had we seen such an onslaught, and we thought, never again.
We learned and we moved on, picking up the pieces and rebuilding our countries, our morals and our trusts. And even though there have been wars, or international conflicts as we now like to call them, there hasn’t been a war as large and all absorbing as those two global wars in the 20th century. Last week we remembered. We all focussed our positive thoughts on that one historical day, D-Day, June 6 1944, now 70 years ago, which was the beginning of the end of WWII. D-Day, the greatest amphibious military operation in history, has, over the years, become more than the battle that introduced the end of the war. It has become a symbol for political liberty for the European continent, a beacon of hope for freedom and one of the truly liberating moments in human history. There is no comparison, even after 7 decades. During the anniversary ceremony there were still some veterans who actually lived and experienced the original operation. But logically so, there are less and less. It is good to remember and one can only hope that in 10 years time, when most likely no survivor of June 6 1944 will participate to the 80th anniversary, the emotions, the intentions and the will to keep memorizing will still be alive. Peace is a fragile thing and we should never think that 70 years or more and a more mature attitude towards neighbouring countries is a guarantee that peace will last. The reasons that caused the first two world wars are still lurking. Failing currency, collapsing economies, nationalism and power hungry politicians. Already Russia warned Finland this week, the week of the D-Day anniversary, that if Finland decides to join the NATO, it could be cause for a 3rd World War. The dangers are there, always. It gives you enough reason to think: never again. –BM-
Cover photography: Adrian Wong.
Cover model: Leigh Pitchford.
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