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Disillusion with war

The University of Vienna was converted into a hospital. The wounded were fed in the festival room.

The University of Vienna was converted into a hospital. The wounded were fed in the festival room.

However, the enthusiasm for war in Vienna was not as unanimous as is often claimed. There are numerous indications that fatalism and fear were wide-spread. We should examine if and to what extent the euphoric war patriotism circulated in the suburbs of the working class or in the rural areas. We have to take into account that war enthusiasm was steered by governmental media policies (censorship, disinformation, or silencing). It was accompanied by propaganda in newspapers, by propaganda events of the Christian Social and German national parties, and by sermons on war in the churches.

There was much hysteria in the city, which included worries about spies and bombings from the air, rumors about victories that never happened, denunciations of neighbors presumably singing enemy hymns. In some instances, mobs of people attacked supposed enemies and their shops and beat them half-dead.

If there was indeed war euphoria seizing the entire population, it lasted only a few days. Only a couple of days after mobilization it became clear that the Habsburg monarchy was not well prepared for the war, neither on the battle front nor on the home front. Long lists of the dead and wounded, published in the newspapers, frightened Vienna. Austrians were horrified to see that the war led to bitter sieges with tens of thousand of lives lost. The war against Serbia was a disaster, and the Russian army proved superior to the Habsburg army.

260,000 wounded hospitalised in Vienna

From August 24, 1914 on, large numbers of wounded arrived in Vienna on a daily basis, on some days they numbered only 500, on others up to 4,000 injured soldiers came to the city. Until October 2, 1914, a total of 43,151 wounded soldiers were stranded in Vienna. There was a great need for spaces where medical care could be provided. With haste, baracks-style hospitals were erected, but nevertheless the capacities of the hospitals were insufficient. Large public buildings were quickly transformed into hospitals: the University, Parliament, Secession building, Künstlerhaus (House of Artists) or Rotunda and half of the schools were used for wounded soldiers. The Viennese police reported in March 1915 that approximately 260,000 wounded had arrived in Vienna. The city of Vienna had become a huge hospital.

a wounded soldier, having lost his left arm.

a wounded soldier.

In the winter of 1914/15, the threat of a Russian invasion of Vienna was considered very real. As a result, 20,000 workers were hired to improve the fortification installations („Brückenkopf Wien“) in the wooded hills around the city. The recruitment of soldiers occurred, simultaneously with the decline in consumer demand and the closing of many firms, resulted in mass unemployment.

Lack of food and daily goods

Immediately after the beginning of the war, the food supply in Vienna dropped precipitously. Deprivation and restrictions left their mark on everyday life. Gradually, the home front became part of the „total war“, leaving behind destruction of another kind. The illusion that the war was taking place in far-away places and did not affect the populace at home was shattered. As early as the fall of 1914, price increases and a lack of supplies on the markets created a sense of crisis. Military transports had priority over non-military trade, which meant that goods destined for Vienna failed to reach the city. The City Administration reacted with even stronger restrictions and a range of measures intended to lower dissatisfaction and unrest among its inhabitants.

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