What problems did the Second World War solve?

In 1915 there seemed to be a certain consolidation of the war economy. However, it took a long time for the military leadership to realize that the 'modern' war requirements not only required the continuous provision of new 'human material', but generally developed in the direction of a 'material battle' of huge proportions. In addition to increasing armaments production in the narrower sense, this required the ongoing supply of raw materials and coal (as the most important source of energy not only for industry, but also for the railways). The railroad formed the backbone of supplying the front with soldiers, food, ammunition and supplies.

In order to keep war production free from social 'obstacles' such as unwillingness to work, sabotage and strikes, defense-related companies were subjected to military disciplinary authority with recourse to the “War Act” announced on December 26, 1912. At the beginning of February 1915, around 1,000 companies and the workers employed there were included in Cisleithanien, and a year later 4,500 companies with 1.3 million workers. The workers were classified as "soldiers without a batch grade" and could be punished with penalties up to the death penalty.

Despite these draconian measures, it took a long time before those responsible - unprepared and fixated on a short war - got the problems of converting to the war economy under control, at least in principle. The situation only improved in the course of 1915. The problems in the food sector, however, could never be satisfactorily resolved until 1918 and led - the longer the war lasted - to permanent malnutrition of the civilian population and soldiers (which was related to the drafting of farmers and farm workers for military service and the lack of supplies from Hungary).

War economic planning - priorities in the allocation of raw materials and preliminary products according to military criteria - only started with a time lag (establishment of "war centers" from autumn 1914, in Hungary even later) and could never be brought under control. Nor was it possible to solve the transport problems (and thus the supply of coal as a whole). No provision was made for the many prisoners of war brought into the monarchy. They were interned in camps, were poorly fed and therefore prone to epidemics. In contrast to the Second World War, they were used less as slave labor in industry and mining, but very often for manual work (such as carpentry and basketry in the camps), in agriculture or for logistical activities in the stage area behind the front. How many prisoners of war were interned in Austria-Hungary cannot be determined to this day. The estimates vary widely; they vary between 1.2 and 2.3 million people.


Clark, Christopher: The Sleepwalkers. How Europe moved into World War I, Munich 2013

Gusenbauer, Ernst: POW camps during the First World War in Austria-Hungary and their effects on the life of the civilian population, Munich 2000

Janz, Oliver: The Great War, Frankfurt am Main 2013

Rauchsteiner, Manfried: The First World War and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2013

Wegs, Robert J .: The Austrian War Economy 1914–1918, Vienna 1979