Producer
Director
Manfred Oldenburg
Producer
n/a
Genre
History
Broadcaster
ZDF
Length
1 x 45'
Editor
Year
2014
Sarajevo
The road to disaster

It began in Sarajevo, at the end of June 1914. A Serbian nationalist shot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife. A few weeks later, war broke out in Europe, leading to the bloodiest mass deaths mankind had ever experienced.

The documentary "Sarajevo - The Road to Catastrophe" not only looks at the circumstances of the attack, but focuses on the catastrophic consequences of the assassination, which triggered a crisis that led to the First World War.

It was in the air that there might be a trial of strength in Europe at some point. The sabre-rattling of the great powers had become a tradition. War was still considered the ultimate means of politics. Since the turn of the century, the arms spiral had been turning faster and faster - but an escalation was by no means inevitable. The powers wanted to be prepared for conflict, but in no way wanted to be seen as the aggressor. The governments in Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Paris and London agreed on this. Even the shots fired in Sarajevo did not change anything at first. But within a few weeks the tide turned.

In retrospect, the July crisis of 1914 seems like a disastrous chain reaction. The powers recognised the danger, but they did not prevent the escalation. Pledges of alliance were reaffirmed, mobilisation followed mobilisation. All future warring parties finally declared themselves to be under attack. None saw themselves as attackers. Crowds in the capitals euphorically greeted the outbreak of the war, of which no one yet suspected how murderous it would really become - and that it would mean the end of old Europe.

The fighting began with the attack of the German armies in the West. In past decades, there was little dispute about the thesis that the Wilhelmine Empire bore the main blame for the outbreak of the First World War. But more recent research puts this view into perspective. Christopher Clark's "Sleepwalkers" fuels the debate about whether all the powers involved did not stagger into the catastrophe together in complete ignorance of the risks.

The documentary recapitulates the few weeks between the fatal shots and the first salvos of the war. How could a single assassination spark the world conflagration? Was the chain reaction in July 1914 unstoppable? Who fuelled the escalation, who could have prevented the "primordial catastrophe of the 20th century"?

Accompanying the documentary, the website aufbruchindiekrise was published.

First broadcast: Monday, 28 April 2014, 21:55 on ZDF.

Sarajevo - The road to disaster

It began in Sarajevo, at the end of June 1914. A Serbian nationalist shot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife. A few weeks later, war broke out in Europe, leading to the bloodiest mass deaths mankind had ever experienced.

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