The First World War - Euphoria and New Beginning
We extend a warm welcome to this joint Internet presentation of the history societies and museums participating in the project entitled "The First World War - Euphoria and New Beginning - Developments and Perceptions in European towns in 1914 and 1918".
The First World War can be regarded from a wide range of viewpoints. The various projects we will be describing on this website do however adopt particular and local perspectives. Our objective has been to present the situation in the various towns at the outbreak and end of the war, and so to convey a more accurate and perhaps more vivid impression of the events on the level of individual districts.
“The First World War – Euphoria and New Beginning – Developments and Perceptions in European Towns in 1914 and 1918“
– A European co-operation project –
The First World War, which has become established in the minds of the French and British as the “Great War“ of the twentieth century, from the German perspective pales in comparison to the terrible and deep-seated experience of the Second World War. Be that as it may, the Germans regard the First World War as the original catastrophe of the twentieth century. It generated enormous convulsions in Europe, which resounded right down to the local level of the towns of Central Europe.
There is an awesome difference between the wartime euphoria in 1914 and the new beginning in 1918, under very different conditions and political and social circumstances. Taking the chosen European towns as examples, the object of the exhibitions, publications and research projects is to illuminate this difference. The organisations taking part are the Opladen History Society in Leverkusen (OGV, Opladener Geschichtsverein of 1979 e.V. Leverkusen), in co-operation with the history societies and museums in Bracknell (UK), Jülich (Germany), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Ratibor (Poland), Schwedt (Germany) and Villeneuve d‘Ascq (France), and with the Leverkusen Haus der Stadtgeschichte (House of Town History).
The First World War has been regarded from a very wide range of viewpoints, which were however often restricted to the events and developments on the wartime front. The various sub-projects and issues dealt with during our project nevertheless did help us to focus on the local perspective. Our aim has been to present developments in the different European towns – at the outbreak of the war, sometimes during, and at the end of the war – and consequently to permit a more accurate and perhaps more vivid impression of events to be gained on a regional level, the so-called home front. Simultaneously we have aimed at making a pan-European comparison.
The changes caused by the war can be exemplified by the collaborating towns. The project has revealed firstly the varying perceptions of the start of the war in the four towns, which were at the time part of the German Empire, (Jülich, Leverkusen, Schwedt and Ratibor, here with a partly Polish population), in France (Villeneuve d’Ascq), Great Britain (Bracknell) and Austria-Hungary (Ljubljana, here with a partly Slovenian population). Secondly we will be examining the changes that occurred at the end of the war due to the overturning of the political system in the German Empire, and the resulting new situations. Jülich and Leverkusen were occupied by the British, Schwedt was a garrison town at the heart of the Empire, while Ratibor was subject to a certain amount of supervision by the League of Nations, until the referendum decided the choice between the German Empire and Poland in 1921. Villeneuve d‘Ascq suffered under the German occupation in the war, and the town of Ljubljana finally became part of the newly created kingdom of the Slovenes, Serbs and Croats.
It is the aim of the project to provide new perspectives of the First World War, Europe and its peoples, thanks to the regional viewpoint and the distance from the events of the war itself.
The project is being conducted by members of the history societies and museums in Bracknell, Jülich, Leverkusen, Ljubljana, Ratibor, Schwedt and Villeneuve d’Ascq, and also by members of the Leverkusen Haus der Stadtgeschichte, the town archives, the universities and schools in the towns, and by volunteers. The project is being managed by a group within the OGV, to which specialists from Leverkusen schools and regional universities also belong.
Deadlines and sub-projects
The project is divided into the following three sections.
The two exhibitions are devoted to the principal question – “What has the war done to the people?“ against the background of the home front. Alongside the two exhibitions in the Leverkusen Villa Römer, plans are under way for parallel publications, presentations on the project website and associated programmes of talks, films and readings.