Ignaz Seipel was a theologist, prelate and Christian Socialist politician. During the First World War he was Minister of Social Welfare in the ‘Lammasch cabinet’.
During the four years of the war Julius Meinl II militated in favour of a negotiated peace, amongst other things through the Austrian Political Society founded by him.
How was daily life at home and on the front between 1914 and 1918? Was the life of a middle-class woman similar to that of a worker? Did officers experience warfare in the same way as other ranks? Or were the experiences of the population at home and the soldiers at the front too individual and diverse for generalisations?
It is a widely held view that the First World War revolutionised the traditional roles of men and women in society. Photos of tram conductresses, female coach drivers and postwomen would appear to confirm this, as does the assumption by women of the traditional male role as providers for the family. But did things change that much, and what was left of the supposed changes after 1918?
Desertion was a phenomenon that all of the armies – including the multinational Habsburg army – had to deal with throughout the four years of the war. This official proclamation from 1915 in three languages (Hungarian, German and Serbian) relates cases of desertion by prisoners of war and their ‘deliberate’ support by the local civilian population. It is described as a ‘crime against military supply’, which is subject to ‘merciless’ punishment.
The face on the 1000-schilling note is Bertha von Suttner, probably the most famous representative of the Austrian peace movement. During the First World War there were lots of people and groups who followed her example and protested against the war and in favour of peace. Although they had little influence, their advocacy of peace was particularly courageous in view of the prevailing and controlling censorship.
For a long time, the First World War was narrated only from the point of view of prominent personalities or generals. The way in which the people of the Austro‑Hungarian Monarchy experienced and survived it remained unheard. Personal documents like this diary give us new and diverse insights into how individuals experienced, understood and felt about the war.
Everyday life in the Habsburg Monarchy was characterised by propaganda, monitoring and control, as can be seen by the many blank spaces in the daily newspapers and deletions in private correspondence and telegrams. At the same time an attempt was made in texts and audio-visual media to whip up general enthusiasm for the war. Not even the youngest inhabitants of the empire remained untouched, and the influence of the state was also felt in the schools of the Monarchy.
The longer the war lasted, the more disagreement was voiced by representatives of the Austrian peace and women’s movements and also by sections of the Austro‑Hungarian population. They became increasingly tired of the war, reflected in strikes and hunger riots and in mass desertions by front soldiers towards the end of the war.
The First World War separated thousands of families, in some cases for many years. It was therefore all the more important for each individual to stay in touch with loved ones far away. Many people hitherto unaccustomed to writing now took up a pen or pencil and attempted to stay in contact with absent families, friends and acquaintances.