Rushville Republican

Columns

March 25, 2014

The catastrophe of a century ago

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. It’s a little early for the actual state date of that four year conflict, which was July 28, 1914, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about the war that made the 20th century the bloodiest of all time. By the end of “The Great War,” as it was called until the start of World War II in 1939, more than 9 million men had been killed in combat. Another 21 million had been wounded, some horrifically, by the date of the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918.

One interesting highlight is the misunderstanding about the difference between signing an armistice and signing an actual peace treaty. An armistice is merely an agreement by the opposing sides to stop fighting for a certain period of time, much like a truce. Technically speaking, after Nov. 11, 1918, a state of war still existed for another seven months. The actual peace treaty wasn’t signed until June 28, 1919, with the Treaty of Versailles. The United States didn’t officially end its involvement in the war until the Knox-Porter Resolution was signed in 1921. For the nitpicky, the official legal date upon which World War I ended was with the signing of the final peace agreement, known as the Treaty of Lausanne, on July 24, 1923, when the Allied Powers and the Republic of Turkey finally concluded a peace agreement. Most people, however, think of the end date for World War I as Nov. 11, 1918.

There are many who would ague that there really was only one world war between 1914 and 1945, with nothing more than a period of rearmament from 1918 to 1939. I tend to agree with that point of view. Germany was in turmoil following the end of the first war and it was during 1919 that Hitler began his rise to power. By 1933, Hitler was Chancellor of Germany and the start of the march toward World War II, which began in 1939, had begun.

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