On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the problem of Slavic nationalism once and for all. As Russia supported Serbia, an Austro-Hungarian leaders received assurances from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany would support their cause in the event of a Russian intervention.
On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed. On July 29, Austro-Hungarian forces began to shell the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and Russia, Serbia’s ally, ordered a troop mobilization against Austria-Hungary. France, allied with Russia, began to mobilize on August 1. France and Germany declared war against each other on August 3. After crossing through neutral Luxembourg, the German army invaded Belgium on the night of August 3-4, prompting Great Britain, Belgium’s ally, to declare war against Germany. Most patriotically assumed that their country would be victorious within months.
By summer of 1918, assaults by the British and French rolled back the German opposition. As September ended, it became clear to German officers that the time to sue for peace had come. On November 9th, Kaiser Wilhelm officially stepped down from the German throne as part of the conditions for the cease-fire. Orders were soon shipped through to commanders near the front lines on both sides: fighting would officially come to an end at November 11, 1918 at 11am. The end of combat operations was greeted with cheers from all angles.
World War I had resulted in an estimated 30 million deaths and injuries among the troops, with an additional 10 million civilian casualties. The advent of new technologies to deal death — tanks, airplanes equipped with bombs, mustard gas — wreaked destruction on unprecedented levels. Saddling the Germans with heavy responsibility and extensive financial obligations, the Treaty of Versailles announced on June 28, 1919, triggered the World War II.