Posts Tagged ‘germany’

100th Anniversary of the Battle of Verdun

Battle of Verdun Research Topic

Battle of Verdun Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

February 21, 2016, marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the bloodiest battle in world history. After the First Battle of the Marne, where Kaiser Wilhelm’s armies almost reached the gates of Paris before being repulsed, Germany remained on the defensive behind an almost impregnable line of trenches while the French and British threw themselves in vain against it at a staggering cost in lives. Only once did the Germans deviate from this strategy, and that was at Verdun. In terms of the armies involved, the Battle of Verdun began as a relatively “small affair,” but quickly turned into an epic “Blutbad.” This “grimmest battle in all that grim war” is now considered to be the longest battle of all time (303 days) and gained the reputation of being the battlefield with the highest density of dead per square yard that has ever been known. Before this battle, Germany had a chance of winning the war. When it was over, neither the French nor the German armies were the same. The battle, midway between the beginning of the Great War in 1914 and the Armistice in 1918, marked a turning point.

Henri Philippe Petain

Henri Philippe Petain [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Erich von Falkenhayn

Erich von Falkenhayn [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]










Compared to the casualties in our modern wars (Vietnam and both Iraq wars, for instance), the numbers of injuries and deaths from just this one battle are almost unimaginable. Estimates from after the war found a total of over 700,000 casualties (377,000 French and 337,000 German), an average of 70,000 casualties for each month of the battle. More recent estimates place the overall casualty number at 976,000. Verdun, located near the Meuse in France, was of great historical and military significance to the French. German commander Erich von Falkenhayn’s aim of the campaign (code-named “Judgement”) was to bleed the French army dry at Verdun and capture Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux. French Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre issued a statement noting that any commander who gave ground to the advancing Germans would be court-martialed. Pledging to Joffre that the Germans “shall not pass,” General Henri Philippe Petain took personal control of the defense. He also created an effective supply route, designing a 50-mile road that ferried troops and ammunition to the Verdun battlefield. This became known to the French as the “la Voie Sacree,” the Sacred Road.

Battle of Verdun 1916

Battle of Verdun 1916 [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

The casualties from Verdun and the impact of the battle on the French army was the primary reason the British initiated the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. By the end of October 1916, the French had re-captured the two forts at Vaux and Douaumont, but the surrounding countryside where the battle had been fought since February was a wasteland. The only real effect of the battle (which ended December 18, 1916) was the depletion of both armies. After the loss of nearly 1 million men, no tactical or strategic advantage was gained by either side.

Voie Sacree (Sacred Road)

Monument of the Voie Sacree [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

German Document Given To the Family of a Verdun Casualty

Battle of Verdun Document [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]









This February, use the many resources in eLibrary to research this grim but fascinating period in world history.


DK Eyewitness World War I (Reference Book)

eLibrary Research Topics

Journal of Military History (Scholarly Journal)

MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (Magazine)

Military History (Magazine)

World War I eLibrary Topic Search

World War I: A History in Documents (Reference Book)

Teaching Tip: In conjunction with eLibrary resources, teachers could also use the great WWI film Paths of Glory (1957). Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas, this film more than even “All Quiet on the Western Front” shows the senseless brutality witnessed on the Western Front.


100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Lusitania

Lusitania Research Topic

Lusitania Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

When the Great War erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States. As a result, many in the German high command jokingly referred to Wilson as “The Great Neutral.” In February 1915, Germany declared a submarine blockade of Great Britain. Any ship approaching England would be considered a legitimate military target. Britain was one of America’s closest trading partners, so tension soon arose between the U.S. and Germany over the blockade.

In early May 1915, several New York newspapers published a warning that Americans traveling on British or Allied ships in war zones did so at their own risk. The announcement coincided with an advertisement of the sailing of the RMS Lusitania from New York back to Liverpool. The British Admiralty warned the Lusitania to avoid the south coast of Ireland and to take evasive action in the area. Apparently, the captain of the Lusitania, William Turner, ignored those warnings.

Captain William Turner

William Turner via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

U-Boats Research Topic

U-Boats Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary








At 2:10 p.m. on May 7, 1915, Kapitanleutnant Walther Schwieger, commander of the German U-20, was patrolling off the coast of Queenstown, Ireland when he spotted a huge “four-stacker” in his sites. The 32,000-ton Lusitania was hit by one exploding torpedo on its starboard side. The blast was followed by a larger explosion (maybe one of the ship’s boilers), and the ship sank in less than 20 minutes. Of the more than 1,900 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,190 died, including 123 Americans.

Sinking of the Lusitania (1915)

Sinking of the Lusitania via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

The sinking of the Lusitania played a significant role in turning public opinion in the U.S. against Germany. It also marked the end of any delusions that so-called “civilized warfare” would survive into the 20th Century. It would be almost another two years before Wilson allowed America to formally enter the war.

Learn more about the Lusitania and other World War I topics by visiting eLibrary!

Selected Resources:

Historic Ships (Topic Search)

History of the World: True Stories of the Great War (Anthology)

Journal of Military History (Scholarly Journal)

MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (Magazine)

Military History (Magazine)

The Reader’s Companion to Military History (Reference Book)

U.S. History (Anthology)

World War I: A History in Documents (Reference Book)



CultureGrams: 174 New Videos!

We’ve recently added 174 new videos to the CultureGrams video collection! These unique videos, produced by CultureGrams editors from footage submitted from contributors around the world, highlight many aspects of daily life and culture for 16 countries.

Watch young dancers perform in Côte d’Ivoire . . .


vendors sell their goods at a floating market in Thailand . . .


men weave cloth in Guinea-Bissau . . .


and people celebrate New Year’s in Cambodia . . .

You can also visit the traditional Malian drummer Boubou in his mud  house, learn how to make Colombia’s national dish of sancocho, shop at a fish market in Sri Lanka, root for South African veterinarians as they try to guide a sedated rhino into a trailer, and much more.

Special thanks to our prolific contributor Salym Fayad for providing beautiful, culturally important footage for so many of these videos.

All 612 videos in the CultureGrams collection are available for streaming and download in QT/MP4 and WMV formats. Feel free to incorporate these videos into presentations or use them for other educational purposes. Or watch them just for the fun of it. After all, it doesn’t get much better than a Thai hotel clerk singing karaoke at his desk while being bathed in a light show of his own creation.

Christmas Truce of 1914

While Christmas 2014 has come and gone, it might be a good time to stop and remember one of the most remarkable events in the history of modern warfare: the unofficial Christmas Truce of 1914.

German & British Soldiers During the Christmas Truce of 1914

German & British Soldiers During the Christmas Truce of 1914 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

By December of 1914, World War I had already turned into a horrific war of attrition. French, Belgian and British forces faced off against German soldiers along the Western front. The stalemate led to both sides digging a maze-like network of trenches that stretched for hundreds of miles across the French and Belgian countryside.

On Christmas Eve, 1914, the guns along many areas of the front fell silent. Stories differ as to how the truces began, but many witnesses said that French soldiers saw lighted trees from the German trenches. Then they began to hear songs, particularly “Stille Nacht.” British & French troops replied with their own versions of “Silent Night.”

Christmas Truce of 1914 Research Topic

Christmas Truce of 1914 Research Topic [Screencap via eLibrary]

Eventually, unarmed German soldiers walked out into the area between the trenches known as “No-Man’s Land.” Seeing that it was not a trap, French, British and Belgian soldiers began to do the same. Both sides met out in No-Man’s Land and shook hands, exchanged gifts of tobacco, food and personal mementos. There are stories of impromptu soccer games being played. Both sides also took this time to bury their dead, and joint burial services were held.

The truce lasted all night and throughout Christmas Day and in some places until New Year’s Day. After a week, the shooting resumed with 6,000 deaths each day for the next 46 months. There were no more Christmas Truces for the rest of the war. Generals on both sides issued strict orders to prevent them.

Find out more about the Christmas Truce of 1914 and other World War I topics in eLibrary.

100th Anniversary of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

“The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Ferdinand & Sophie moments before they were assassinated

Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary for Great Britain, was very nearly right when he made this apocalyptic comment in 1914.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie were on their way to the Austrian governor’s residence in Sarajevo, Bosnia, when a grenade was thrown at the Archduke’s car. The bomb exploded under a trailing automobile, killing two army officers. 45 minutes later, Ferdinand and Sophie left to visit an officer injured by the bomb. On their way to the hospital, their car took a wrong turn. Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand Society, stepped out of a crowd and shot Sophie in the stomach, killing her almost instantly. He then shot Ferdinand in the neck. The Archduke died 10 minutes later.

The assassination sparked the First World War

Bosnia had been part of AustriaHungary since 1908, but it was claimed by neighboring Serbia. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination, and declared war on July 28. This Balkan war quickly escalated into a European war: Russia supported Serbia; Germany supported Austria-Hungary; France supported Russia; Germany invaded Belgium, causing Great Britain to enter the war in support of Belgium. The “Great War” had begun.

Gavrilo Princip of The Black Hand pulled the trigger

What was to be the “War to End All Wars” ended up leading to the Second World War. The harsh terms dictated to Germany in the Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s.

eLibrary has a wealth of resources about the causes of World War I and its aftermath. You can search eLibrary’s Research Topics for information relating to World War One, as well as other resources, such as World War I: A History in Documents and articles relating to the Great War in Military History magazine. The 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the beginning of World War One would be a great time to introduce students to this transformative period in world history.