It was evident that the Viennese were severely affected by the war and feared for their lives. Clothes and suits did not fit any longer. Everyone needed ointments for bites by fleas and bugs, shoes and soles became a highly desired good. One could see children walking barefoot in the winter. The threat of starvation affected half the population. A third of the population was sick, according to a survey of June 1918. Many suffered from diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies. Garbage collection and snow clearance services were suspended. Only a few horse-drawn transport wagons remained, private cars were not allowed any more, the tramways were terribly overcrowded so that mobility was very limited and many Viennese were forced to walk. Rural communities around the capital announced that city dwellers looking for food in the countryside were no longer welcome.
Aggressiveness and apathy
The population felt increasingly confined as well as forgotten by the government and city administration. Young people roamed the city in the search of food. They looted houses and cellars, children knocked on apartment doors to beg, adolescents raided shoe shops and butcheries. Injured soldiers tried to make money by playing barrel organs. The general mood was one of aggressiveness combined with apathy. Politeness and respect disappeared in the fight for survival. The shop windows were empty, many goods no longer existed, at the barred doors of the restaurants one could read: „Closed until the end of the war“.
The number of casualties directly caused by starvation was small, but lack of food and nutritional deficiency had the result that people easily fell victim to epidemics, esp. tuberculosis. In comparison to pre-war times, there was a striking increase of about 70,000 casualties in the city. The situation in hospitals and homes for the elderly was particularly dramatic. In such institutions, the number of dead doubled. Compared to the 25,000 Viennese soldiers killed in the war, the number of civilian deaths was three times as high. At the end of the war, the city had to feed 40,000 invalids plus their families (a total of about 120,000 persons).
With few exceptions, construction activities had ceased during the war. For four-and-a-half years there were hardly any renovations of buildings carried out. Vienna had become a dark and dirty metropolis. Many construction plans, which were ready to be implemented in July 1914, could neither be started nor finished. For example, the plans to build a subway system in Vienna had to be halted until the 1970s. 1914 was an epochal break in the glamorous construction history of the city.