Kaiser Wilhelm II and Emperor Franz Josef

August 1, 1917 marked the three-year anniversary of Germany’s declaration of war on Russia. Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia on July 28, but Kaiser Wilhelm II’s announcement of hostilities took things to a new level. Armies across Europe were now mobilizing with even greater urgency. For the most part Europeans and Americans were not reflecting too much in the early dog days of August 1917. The British and their allies were fully occupied against the Huns in Flanders. Austro-Hungarian troops were driving the Russians back on the Eastern Front in Galicia. Meanwhile the Wilson Administration was doing all it could getting up to speed, which was taking more time than anyone would have liked. One can imagine that the fighting in Ypres, especially for the Germans, had taken on a sense of urgency with the realization that the Americans were already trickling in. Pershing was in Paris for a full month by this time.

Still, people did pause and meditate on the events of the past thirty-six months. Much had happened and millions were already killed. Franz Josef had died in 1916 after sixty-eight years on the Austro-Hungarian throne. By August 1917 Nicholas II of Russia had been deposed; he and his family were in exile in Tsarskoye Selo, the royal palace in St. Petersburg, where the  Romanoffs were a tourist attraction for curious gawkers who came to watch them garden. The Germans seemed to be the most invested in the third anniversary. Kaiser Wilhelm II was out in public a fair amount. By this time he had a collection of 10,000 books on the Great War to go along with his trove of photographs. If contemporary accounts are to believed, Berlin’s Royal Library now held 50,000 books on the Great War published just since the war began. Despite everything, optimism in Germany was apparently holding. At the time of the third anniversary enthusiasts in Germany formed a society within the Hindenburg Museum in Posen for members to share photographs, monographs, and Great War-related memorabilia.

(image/New York Public Library)