“To End All Wars”
Since the publication of his first book, Adam Hochschild has published seven books that address human rights and history with his most recent publication “To End All Wars,” a 377-page story that initially examines the events leading up to the start of what most people refer to as World War I but what is also known as “The Great War” because of the “great” loss of life (estimates range from 10-35 million soldiers and civilians).
Throughout France and Belgium, memorials – Australian, New Zealand, American, British, South African and more – are dotted across the countryside with enlisted soldiers from their respective countries giving tours and answering questions all in honor of their fellow countrymen who lost their lives when they came to the aid of France, Belgium, Britain, and other countries. There were also mounds of wavy earth that looked like ski moguls without the snow among the flat fields: the mounds were trenches that were left for survivors and visitors to see how this war was fought.
I learned this brutal 4-year conflict was primarily battles of trench warfare complicated by barbed wire (a simple but effective weapon in this war) which slowed down or stopped forces on the offensive. Later in the war, all sides came to realize that the Calvary was no longer the preferred method of fighting when the opposing side uses machine guns from concrete bunkers to cut down thousands of men in their tracks. Traditional methods of warfare were eventually replaced with tanks (to get across the barbed wire), poisonous gas, planes, better communication equipment, and weapons that could reach longer distances.
“Was its horrendous death toll heart-rending but necessary to prevent the German conquest of all of Europe? Or was it senseless, a spasm of brutal carnage that in every conceivable way remade the world for the worse?”
“…the Second World War, which grew so inevitably out of the First, did result in Germany’s overrunning almost all of Europe – and the Nazis carried out an immeasurably more murderous agenda than Kaiser Whilhelm II ever would have.The war that prevented a German conquest of Europe in 1914 virtually guaranteed the one that would begin in 1939.”
In closing, Adam Hochschild so eloquently ends his book by writing “If we were allowed to magically roll back history to the start of the twentieth century and undo one – and only one – event, is there any doubt that it would be the war that broke out in 1914?”