Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Most Evil Day of the Twentieth Century

The Most Evil Day of the Twentieth Century

Today, the 28th of June 2014 is the centenary of the most evil day in the Twentieth century, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. You might say that you can think of more evil deeds and you would be correct, except that nearly all of those evil deeds can be traced back to this one.

The assassination itself was the second attempt on the Archdukes life that day. The first was a bomb that was thrown at his car, the fuse on the bomb didn't explode until the next car in line passed under it. It was intended to kill the Archduke but instead it wounded around 20 people, both travelling in the car and bystanders. The attempted Assassin then took cyanide and jumped into a river to commit suicide. He was pulled out of the river as it was very shallow and the poison only made him sick, he was of course arrested, after the police retrieved him from the crowd who attacked him. The Archduke then made a speech with the Mayor of Sarajevo in which he thanked the people of Sarajevo for their support. The assassins were not locals but Serbians. The Archduke and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg then decided to change their plans and go to the hospital to show their support for those wounded in the earlier bombing. Unfortunately their driver was not informed and he continued onto the old route, he was told to stop and reverse the car as it was going to the hospital by a more direct route. It was here that quite by chance the second Assassin was waiting. Not only had the car gone this way when it wasn't supposed to but the car stopped directly in front of the Assassin. He was less than 2 arms lengths away when he fired two shots. The first struck the Archduke in his jugular vein, the second hit the Duchess in the stomach. The Assassin said his second shot was directed at the Mayor of Sarajevo and not at the Duchess. All the same she died on the way to the hospital and the Archduke died 10 minutes after his wife.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his death started a trail of events that would lead to the First World War and the deaths of at least 10 million people. It would end the German, Russian, Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires as well as lead to the murders of the Russian Imperial family. The chaos of that war would allow Communism, Fascism and Nazism to arise, something it is impossible to imagine without the war. Something like 30 million people died between the two world wars because of these political philosophies. Most in the Soviet Union, also a creation of the chaos from the war. The great depression was caused by the debt induced by the war. All of this lead into the Second World War and the deaths of at least 50 million people. Then add to that the tens of millions who died during the Cold War period, in battle and in the failed policies of various Communist Governments. That is more than 100 million people, 100,000,000!

Of course if the Archduke had not been assassinated wars would still have been fought and evils would still have been committed, without question. Human nature has not changed despite the many attempts to do just that. And it is human nature that is most responsible for wars, just as human nature lead to the First World War. But human nature is not enough, it requires events to push human failings along. The assassination thrust both together. The consequences of the war have been catastrophic for our Civilization and it is here that it began to die.

Each nation had valid reasons to go to war, the tragedy is not that war exists, or that wars happen but that this one happened at the exact time that it did. When every nation was rich enough to fight and organised enough to have huge armies and navies. That the technology existed to transport masses of men quickly via railways and that quick firing artillery and machine guns existed which meant that it was always easier to defend than attack. The technology to overcomes these, long range airplanes and reliable tanks did not exist for decades, even though both were used during the war. Further the war was a tragedy because of an irony, there had been too much peace. No general war since 1815, thats 99 years and no war between major European powers since the early 1870's, thats 40 years. It meant that the technology that existed was not really understand and each part of it was looked at in isolation without an idea of what would happen when all of these things got put together.

It is a problem today as well. The next war will be much more destructive than we can imagine, that sadly doesn't mean we shouldn't fight it. We may have no choice in the matter and peace through fear means you have lost your freedom without even fighting, not a great outcome. Today we live in a world that is the result of that evil day. It is a rare thing to be able to chase so much misery to one event, on one day.

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1 comment:

  1. It's a big claim, that most of the evils of the last century were caused directly or indirectly by the First World War. But I'm pretty sure you're correct. It really was the day that western civilisation committed suicide.