Outbreak of the war
End of the war

In spite of the differing attitude of some regions and sectors of society, the people of the Habsburg Monarchy and the other warring nations mostly backed the decision of their rulers. The enthusiasm for war was also captured in propaganda films.

Showing off and sabre rattling, armaments programmes, imperial fantasies and chauvinist rhetoric were the mood of 1914. Representatives of European intelligentsia outdid each other in their enthusiasm and even glorification of the war. A wave of euphoria overtook large sections of the population.

Militarism and patriotism combined in many men with the desire for adventure. The troops of the Austro-Hungarian army marched off enthusiastically to war in 1914. Three out of four men in the Habsburg empire were called up. By 1918 the Danube Monarchy had mobilized more than 8 million men.

The comedy Wien im Krieg (A 1916) offered an amusing look at the changes to everyday life caused by the war. One sequence shows the enthusiasm with which the troops of the Austro-Hungarian army marched off to war in 1914. Recruitment was hyped as a masculine ritual: strength, commitment and combativeness were demonstrated. Acceptance into the army confirmed the manliness of the applicant. The desire to go to war was not questioned, and the emphasis was on patriotism and loyalty.

From autumn 1914 the newsreels from Wiener Kunstfilm (Kriegs-Journal) and Sascha-Filmfabrik (Sascha-Kriegswochenbericht) showed heroic reports of marching to war and life in the field. The films portrayed marching battalions at the start of the war. Peaceful pictures still predominated: the troops taking a break, posing for the camera and finally setting off full of motivation for the front (Compilation of Original Newsreels from the First World War, A/D 1914).

The alliance in 1916 between Sascha-Filmfabrik and the German Messter-Film produced highly effective documentation of the war. The two companies ultimately merged to form Sascha-Messter-Film, which dominated war reporting for two years.

Translation: Nick Somers


Bono, Francesco: Bemerkungen zur österreichischen Filmwirtschaft und Produktion zur Zeit des Stummfilms, in: Bono, Francesco/Caneppele, Paolo/Krenn, Günter: Elektrische Schatten. Beiträge zur österreichischen Stummfilmgeschichte, Wien 1999, 47-75

Leidinger, Hannes/Moritz, Verena: Der Erste Weltkrieg, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2011

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    War and art

    Many artists, intellectuals and writers welcomed the outbreak of the First World War. They saw it not as an apocalypse but as the opportunity for a change for the better. As such they joined in the patriotic fervour of the first weeks and months of the war. What motivated them not only to devote their artistic energies to the fatherland but also to take an active part in the fighting? How were anti-war sentiments articulated by artists? What other forms of relationship were there between art and warfare during and after the First World War?

  • Aspect

    Guiding the masses

    Guiding the mood of the masses was an important aspect of warfare during the First World War. Considerable information and communication work was carried out to persuade the population of the “true facts”. All areas of life were influenced by propaganda in a way that had not been seen hitherto: reports in the newspapers, posters on the walls, even teaching material in schools now communicated controlled information. What methods and media were used? How did the various warring nations attempt to influence public opinion? What was communicated and how effective was the propaganda?

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Object

    War enthusiasm

    This brass kitchen mortar was exchanged as part of a metal collection for an iron mortar as an example of the possible ways of participating actively in the war and showing enthusiasm for it. When the First World War broke out, large sections of the Austro-Hungarian population were gripped by veritable euphoria. This enthusiasm was not shared by all sectors of society, however. It was strong in urban, bourgeois and intellectual circles, less so in the rural and working population.

  • Object


    All Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1930. It was the film of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name about the experiences of a soldier during the First World War. Remarque’s book and the film adaptation are classic anti-war statements. Alongside the patriotic, glorified heroic epics and “authentic” documentation of service for the fatherland, this was just one way in which the First World War was portrayed in literature and films – a medium that had come into being only twenty years before the outbreak of war.

  • Object

    Depicting the war

    The photo by Alexander Exax shows a scene in the trenches in Galicia in 1915. The title “im Feuer” [“under fire”] gives the impression that the picture has been taken in the middle of the action. Dynamic photos like this were typical of the pictorial iconography of the First World War. The illustrated weeklies were among the most important distribution media, but there were others: exhibitions and posters, picture postcards and cinemas collaborated with private picture agencies and the official propaganda to provide a visual depiction of the war.


  • Development

    Daily life on the (home) front

    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?

  • Development

    Gender roles: change/no change?

    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?