I Guerra Mundial

Ninety-nine years ago today, the world was a year out from an armistice that would bring (some of) the fighting to an end in the first truly global conflict. The United States commemorates Nov. 11 as Veterans Day, but in Europe it’s Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, and four years of bloody fighting.

On Nov. 11, 1917, the Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria-Hungary, appeared to hold the strategic advantage. Russia — part of the Triple Entente with France and Britain — was on the verge of a defeat that would gut the population, production and territory of its western empire.…  Seguir leyendo »

One hundred years ago today, Congress voted to enter what was then the largest and bloodiest war in history. Four days earlier, President Woodrow Wilson had sought to unite a sharply divided populace with a stirring claim that the nation “is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.” The war lasted only another year and a half, but in that time, an astounding 117,000 American soldiers were killed and 202,000 wounded.

Still, most Americans know little about why the United States fought in World War I, or why it mattered.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nearly three years after the start of what was then called “The Great War,” the United States entered World War I with a congressional declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917. Until then, President Woodrow Wilson had maintained a policy of non-intervention, and a strong antiwar sentiment had swept the U.S. as casualties mounted on the battlefields across Europe and beyond. But the growing threat of a powerful German navy and its fleet of submarines attacking American shipping, plus evidence that Germany was trying to draw Mexico to its side, persuaded Wilson to join forces with Great Britain and France.…  Seguir leyendo »

«La civilización avanza lentamente» –escribe Morand en sus Diarios– «y después, en ocho horas retrocede ocho siglos». El 25 de diciembre de 1914, ante el pasmo de sus respectivos Estados Mayores, soldados británicos, franceses y alemanes abandonaron sus trincheras para intercambiar prisioneros, víveres, pitillos, algún dulce. Era la célebre Tregua de Navidad de la Gran Guerra y allí se cantaron villancicos y no dejaron de improvisarse partidos de fútbol. Justo un año después, en la Nochebuena de 1915, un sargento británico avanzaba hacia las líneas enemigas para confraternizar con la tropa alemana. Esta vez cayó abatido –un balazo– en la tierra de nadie.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the summer of 1916, a young Oxford academic embarked for France as a second lieutenant in the British Expeditionary Force. The Great War, as World War I was known, was only half-done, but already its industrial carnage had no parallel in European history.

“Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute,” recalled J. R. R. Tolkien. “Parting from my wife,” he wrote, doubting that he would survive the trenches, “was like a death.”

The 24-year-old Tolkien arrived in time to take part in the Battle of the Somme, a campaign intended to break the stalemate between the Allies and Central Powers.…  Seguir leyendo »

The British offensive on the Somme began on July 1, 1916. After 20 weeks, they had advanced six miles. The German line retreated, but was not broken. The horrifying casualties were shared equally between the two sides: 300,000 men died. Bloodier battles would come in 1918, but on the first day of the Somme the British Army suffered its greatest daily loss: 19,000 killed.

Coming at the mid-point of World War I, the Battle of the Somme is often taken to exemplify the stupidity of the war on the western front. But this terrible experience took place at a unique moment, defined by two facts.…  Seguir leyendo »

One hundred years ago, on Feb. 21, 1916, 1,200 German artillery pieces began firing on French positions around Verdun, the ancient fortress town on the Meuse River in eastern France.

It was the middle of World War I , and the fighting all along the Western Front that ran between the Channel and the Alps had settled into a static confrontation of men, planes and guns — guns, above all. That day the Germans dropped a million shells onto the forts, forests and ravines around Verdun, and in the 10 months that followed, 60 million more would fall in the area.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘On Remembrance Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn has already been compelled to promise his nervous parliamentary party that he will not be sporting a white poppy.’ Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

When I read yesterday that Jeremy Corbyn could not see “what there is to commemorate about the first world war”, I thought at once of my great-uncle Jack Arnot. A mining engineer who joined up early in the conflict and was a sergeant in the Northumberland Fusiliers, he was shot at the Somme in 1916, and died after 30 days struggling for life. That seems worth commemorating to me, if not to the Labour leader.

I am sure that Corbyn’s allies will point out that his remarks were made in April 2013, more than two years before he succeeded Ed Miliband, and that they were inspired precisely by a sense of outrage at the “mass slaughter of millions of young men on the western front and all the other places” and that the true target of his invective was the Cameron regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Great War was supposed to have been over by Christmas. Instead, by the end of 1914, it had become a voracious monster, beyond the control of politicians, commanders and kings. All that was terrible in the world was contained within that monster, a beast feeding on nations. Yet beneath the carnage, a tiny flicker of humanity still glowed. One hundred days ago tomorrow, Christmas Day, 1914, that humanity provided a moment of warmth that would live forever.

The Christmas Truce, with its famous football match, is one event from the Great War that almost everyone knows about. Our remembrance has been stimulated by the extra attention paid to the War during this centenary year and by the remarkably accurate Sainsbury’s advert.…  Seguir leyendo »

Go to war and every politician will thank you, and they’ll continue to do so — with monuments and statues, war museums and military cemeteries — long after you’re dead. But who thanks those who refused to fight, even in wars that turned out to be tragic mistakes?

What brings all this to mind is an apparently heartening exception to the rule of celebrating war makers and ignoring peacemakers. But it turns out to be not quite as simple as it first appears. Let me explain.

Dec. 25 will be the 100th anniversary of World War I’s famous Christmas truce. After five months of unparalleled industrial-scale slaughter, fighting on the Western Front came to a spontaneous halt.…  Seguir leyendo »

La commémoration du centenaire du 11 novembre est-elle à la hauteur de ce que la Grande Guerre représente réellement pour notre pays ? Rien n’est moins sûr, car le souvenir de la guerre 1914-1918 n’échappe pas à la grande tendance au dénigrement. On a cru dresser du conflit un tableau sans fard en cherchant à le dépouiller des excès des discours patriotiques, comme on l’aurait soigné d’une maladie honteuse, sans s’apercevoir que l’on effaçait dans le même temps l’essentiel, l’adhésion et les motivations de chacun à ce qui était alors encore une grande idée, la nation française.

Aujourd’hui, la pensée dominante ne nous présente plus les poilus que comme des victimes passives d’une « boucherie » qu’ils auraient subie, comme une sorte de catastrophe inévitable.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Great War was over. But the “War to End All Wars” famously didn’t live up to its billing. Still, it had greater impact on the world than any event of the last thousand years. The question is whether another such war might be looming today..

It was in World War I that humanity first practiced the industrialization of human slaughter — 16 million people were killed, more than 17 million were wounded.

Nobody could seem to stop it. During the height of the carnage, at the battle of the Somme, about 60,000 died the first day.…  Seguir leyendo »

A hundred years ago this week, in the early morning hours of Thursday, Oct. 29, 1914, the near-death of a frontline German soldier almost changed the course of 20th century history. That morning, Adolf Hitler, along with 3,000 other recruits of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, was rousted from his bivouac and hard-marched through beet fields and larch forests toward the British lines near the Ypres salient in southern Belgium.

The 16th RIR took casualties as it advanced. When two flanking German regiments, one Saxon and one Württemberg, mistook the Bavarians’ gray-green caps for British uniforms, the 16th RIR was butchered by friendly fire.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ernst Barlach was one of Germany’s great Expressionist artists of the early 20th century. A virulent nationalist in the run-up to World War I, Barlach found that his experience of the Western Front stripped him of his jingoism. Much of his subsequent work explored the sorrow and suffering that he saw as the human condition.

In 1927, he created for the cathedral in Güstrow, a small town north of Berlin, a war memorial called Der Schwebende (“the Floating One”). The sculpture featured a figure with a haunted, grief-stricken face cast in bronze and suspended from the ceiling, as if hovering, angel-like, over the fields of Flanders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando las sociedades tienen mucho pasado y oscuro presente, como nos ocurre a nosotros, suceden cosas tan insólitas como festejar una derrota cual si se tratara de una efeméride -véase por ejemplo la descarada manipulación de 1714 que tan buena rentabilidad está dando a la generación intelectual más corrupta e incompetente de la Catalunya contemporánea-. Porque cuando los “clérigos”, que diría Julien Benda, eligen los aniversarios que desean promocionar para que los poderes políticos los respalden y los subvencionen dadivosamente, siempre aparecen las huellas de las grandes mentiras con absoluto desdén a sus víctimas, convertidas ahora en anónimos patriotas antes de que existieran las patrias.…  Seguir leyendo »

El centenario de la Primera Guerra Mundial está provocando la publicación de numerosos libros sobre este conflicto, aunque no siempre las obras de los especialistas responden a los intereses y demandas actuales. Muchos de los libros vuelven a plantear debates historiográficos y políticos que parecían superados, y se insiste en buscar cuáles fueron los principales responsables de aquella sangrante guerra. También han salido hábiles publicaciones que coinciden con lo que un determinado público desea. Es el caso del libro del australiano Christopher Clark, Sonámbulos, que ha tenido un gran éxito en Alemania -más de 300.000 ejemplares vendidos- porque minimiza las responsabilidades políticas alemanas y se enfrenta a las autocríticas tesis elaboradas hace décadas por Fritz Fischer, predominantes en ese país hasta ahora.…  Seguir leyendo »

Este año en el mundo se ha estado conmemorando el inicio de la Primera Guerra Mundial, un acontecimiento de carácter trascendental. La Gran Guerra, como se llamó en su momento, fue presentada como “una guerra para poner fin a todas las guerras”. Lamentablemente no cumplió tal cometido: quienes combatieron y murieron en ella no habrían esperado su secuela apenas 25 años después.

Pero si bien la guerra acabó en las trincheras con la flor de la juventud europea, una generación entera de talentosos poetas, artistas y deportistas, también involucró a soldados de tierras lejanas que poco tenían que ver con los amargos odios históricos de Europa.…  Seguir leyendo »

En estos días se cumple el centenario del comienzo de la Gran Guerra, luego llamada Primera Guerra Mundial y que acaso algún día vuelva a llamarse la Gran Guerra, pues cada día parece más una nueva Guerra de los Treinta Años lo ocurrido entre agosto de 1914 y agosto de 1945. Ya en la borrosa memoria de los descendientes de quienes participaron en esas luchas, la Primera y la Segunda Guerra Mundial empiezan a verse como una sola contienda. Y si añadimos la Guerra Fría, las guerras asiáticas, las balcánicas, las de Oriente Medio –directa o indirectamente procedentes del terrorismo nacionalista en Sarajevo– alcanzaremos una nueva Guerra de los Cien Años.…  Seguir leyendo »

One hundred years ago today, Austro-Hungarian artillery and gunboats on the Danube began shelling Serbia — the first shots of the great cataclysm that over the next four and a half years would remake our world for the worse, in every conceivable way. We think of the First World War as having its causes in Europe, where the greatest bloodshed and destruction would take place. But several of the illusions that propelled the major powers so swiftly into war had their roots in far corners of the world.

The biggest illusion, of course, was that victory would be quick and easy.…  Seguir leyendo »

El verano del 14

Hace ahora cien años, en aquel mes de julio que siguió al atentado de Sarajevo, las cancillerías europeas echaban humo. Entre amenazas y ultimatos, negociaban febrilmente intentando impedir el inicio de una guerra que al final, sin embargo, estallaría e implicaría a casi todos. Un siglo después, es bueno reflexionar sobre aquella matanza y sus consecuencias para Europa. Matanza, ante todo, y de dimensiones nunca vistas en la historia humana: unos 10 millones de muertos en campos de batalla; al menos otras tantas víctimas civiles, aunque estas sean imposibles de cuantificar; incontables destrozos en infraestructuras y tesoros artísticos; y descomunal gasto de dinero público, que se prolongaría en la posguerra con las indemnizaciones y pensiones a huérfanos, viudas o mutilados (a las que la Francia de los años veinte dedicaba casi la mitad del presupuesto nacional).…  Seguir leyendo »