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World War I - The Aftermath

VO: Rebecca Brayton
As a direct result of the First World War, over 16 million people across the world lost their lives. Aside from this massive loss of life, the world felt the aftermath of the war in their pockets, with national economies taking a big hit. Women had joined the workforce during the war, and decided to stay there once the fighting was over. And finally, political lines were redrawn, making the world a very different place than it had been prior to the battle. In Part 5 of our series on WWI, explores this and other lasting effects of the war.

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Death and Destruction

Undeniably, the greatest consequence of the First World War was the massive loss of life. France had lost nearly 1.4 million soldiers, and an additional 300 thousand civilians in the war. More than 1.8 million Russian soldiers were killed, as well as 1.5 million civilians. In total, World War 1 was responsible for the deaths of over 16 million people; however, numbers relating to the death toll are still debated. Considered separate but still related to World War 1 was the affect the flu pandemic of 1918 had on the world. First seen in North America, it is suspected the flu was brought to Europe by the American forces. This flu was ultimately responsible for the deaths of nearly 50 million people worldwide.

The United Kingdom

Many countries on both sides felt the severe economic consequences of waging a world war. The United Kingdom went from the world’s largest overseas investor, to one its biggest debtors. Less concrete changes for Britain were also apparent. There was a surge in national pride among some of the Commonwealth nations. Countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand held important roles in numerous battles throughout the war. Subsequently they received more diplomatic autonomy in the decade that followed.

On the Home Front

Returning home from the battlefields, soldiers across the world were greeted with a shifting social landscape. Women had filled the gap in jobs left by the men serving in the war. Motivated to help their country, many women worked distributing coal or making ammunition, and also provided a large amount of voluntary work. These new roles helped to change the social status and working lives of women even after World War 1 had ended.

Empires Fell

Political lines were re-drawn in the aftermath of the war. Once-powerful German, Russian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires were dissolved, with the latter two ceasing to exist altogether. There was civil war in Russia, a revolution in Germany, and declarations of independence throughout the former Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Large parts of the former empires were now split up into new countries like Finland, Turkey, and Czechoslovakia.

The Weimar Republic

Most importantly for the future of Europe and the world was what was happening in Germany. A parliamentary system called the Weimar Republic replaced the imperial form of government in 1919. However, the new government was riddled with issues. They were forced to deal with hyperinflation, hostility from other countries, and political extremists within their own country.

Unrest in Germany

Many in Germany were still resentful over the Treaty of Versailles, which had forced the country to accept sole responsibility in causing the First World War. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party used these strong emotions to their advantage, and Hitler climbed to the position of Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Very quickly, Hitler established a totalitarian regime called the Third Reich, and put an end to the Weimar Republic after only 14 years.

The Rise of Hitler and WWII

Only twenty years after the end of World War 1, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and the century’s Second World War was underway.

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