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11-08-2015, 16:00

Overview of the War

In later years, men and women on both sides of the Atlantic remembered the early summer of 1914 as a moment marked by a particular brightness. For both the leaders and those they tried to lead, it was a time of beautiful weather for all and of leisure for many. The season's first day, June 2 1 , found Kaiser Wilhelm II touring northern Germany. His appearances at agricultural fairs and military maneuvers were scheduled to bring him shortly to the annual Elbe Regatta he so much enjoyed. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife. Countess Sophie, were visiting their favorite Bohemian castle at Chlumetz. Across the Atlantic the budding young American intellectual Walter Lippmann stayed at a cabin in the Maine woods, writing an analysis of labor problems for ex-president Theodore Roosevelt. In Paris, the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, who had recently shifted his endeavors from painting to sculpture, was planning a vacation trip to southern France. In Vienna, Dr. Sigmund Freud was preparing for his July vacation at the Bohemian spa city of Carlsbad, and General Helmuth von Moltke, the chief of staff of the German army, expected to be there as well. In Munich, a young fugitive from conscription, Adolf Hitler, who had fled only a year before from his Austrian homeland, was scratching out a living by painting advertising posters. Since May, the Russian revolutionary Vladimir I. Lenin had been on vacation at Poronin, a village in the Tatra Mountains of Austrian Poland located near the Russian border. A little more than a year earlier, he had dismissed the possibility of a major war: "A war between Austria and Russia would be a very useful thing for the revolution in all of Eastern Europe, but it is not likely that Franz Joseph [the emperor of Austria-Hungary] and Nikolashka ["Nicky," the tsar of Russia] will give us that pleasure."! Meanwhile, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, a Serb teenager named Gavrilo Princip, along with a coterie of fellow conspirators, counted the days until they could make a risky and inauspicious attempt to murder Franz Ferdinand. On June 28, when the summer was only a week old, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie lay dead in Sarajevo, while Princip, their assassin, was in police custody. The crisis of 1914, whose results would darken the next four years and haunt the decades following, had begun.