Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Jakob Zenzmaier


Artillery I.: Technical Innovation and late Modernisation

In 1900 it became more than apparent that the guns of the Imperial Artillery were by and large outdated compared to those of the other Great Powers.  An extensive process of modernisation was to balance out that deficiency. Yet the projected new gun models could not be brought to readiness for start of production before the beginning of the war in 1914.


From the Lorenz Gun of Königgrätz to the Ordnance Weapon M1895

Right up to the mid 19th century soldiers of the Austrian Imperial Army were equipped with manufactured muzzle-loading guns. Despite their ballistic advantages they were at a disadvantage compared to the newly developed breech-loaders: to reload the gun the soldiers had to stand up from their cover.


Explosive Discoveries. From Gunpowder to TNT

Like in other areas of the arms industry there had also been significant innovations since the second half of the 19th century in the fields of explosives and blowing agents ('powders'): this concerned mainly synthetic explosives which around the turn of the century by and large superseded the hitherto common gunpowder. 


The Leipzig Trials (1921-1927). Between national disgrace and juridical farce

The extent of violence and destruction in the First World War was horrifying for all participants. Military norms were also transgressed in a dimension never seen before. As the Allies shifted the main portion of guilt to the German Empire, this nation – long an object of suspicion with its militarism for the victors of the war – was to be made an example of. 


Prohibited war material: Dum-dum shells and deployment of gas

"The warring parties do not have unlimited rights in the choice of means to damage the enemy." This is stated in Article 22 of the Hague Land War Convention. The fact that the war participants – from the individual soldier to the commanders-in-chief – acted here ‘more liberally’ than permitted by the law of war is shown by the use of dum-dum shells and toxic gas.


War imprisonment. The right "to be treated with humanity"

In the course of the First World War between 7 and 8.5 million soldiers are estimated to have been held prisoner. The prisoners of war, according to the Hague Land War Convention, were under special protection. In general they possessed the right to be treated with ‘humanity’. Yet despite a series of coded prohibitions and regulations, hundreds of thousands of them perished. The chances of surviving captivity varied considerably in the various countries concerned. 


The war crimes of the Habsburg army. Between soldateska and court martial.

Driven by resentment and suspicions of spying, the Habsburg army persecuted parts of its own population as the ‘enemy within’. Yet many thousands of civilians fell victim to the soldiers’ acts of atrocity during the military invasion, too. Besides the war crimes of the marauding troops, the Habsburg military courts also distinguished themselves with an inglorious ‘efficiency’.


Russia’s ‘enemies within’. Jewish and German minorities on the Eastern Front.

During the First World War international attention and propagandistic indignation – on account of the invasion of Belgium that violated international law alone – was directed against the German war crimes on the Western front. This resulted in crimes in other theatres of war receiving mostly little attention, although the scale on the Eastern and Southern fronts significantly exceeded that of the Western front.


The First World War and the law on war in effect

Since the second half of the 19th century, the attempt had been made to create a law on war that was established in written form and generally recognised. Early successes were seen in the years around the turn of the century. The generally accepted law of war around the time of the First World War was formed by the Geneva Convention (1906) and the Hague Land Warfare Convention (1907).