Balkan Tragedy

The map below shows World War One casualties [civilian and military] as a percentage of a country’s population.  The darker the colour the higher the percentage. The country with the highest national casualty rate was Serbia.  France lost 16.8%, Germany 15.4%, Russia 11.5%,  Italy 10.3% and USA 0.13%.

Serbia lost 27% of its overall population and 60% of its male population. A total of more than 1,100,000 people.

The nation responsible for these losses was the Hapsburg state of Austria-Hungary.

World War 1 deaths as % of pre-war population

Austria-Hungary was not only responsible for the Serbian losses but, in the minds of many historians, for starting the First World War.  Germany may have been a wiling accomplice but Austria-Hungary was the instigator [see Watson, A., 2014. Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918, London: Allen Lane.]. Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia [after giving them an ultimatum that they knew the Serbs could not accept]. Russia moved to assist Serbia and, thanks to a series of existing treaties France, Britain, Germany and Italy were dragged into the conflict.

AlliancesAustria-Hungary invaded Serbia. As well as being swine they were also incompetent and initially they suffered heavy losses. However, Austria-Hungary had more men and guns and in time they were able to defeat the Serbian Army so completely that about 155,000 survivors had to be evacuated to Greece by British ships.

WW1 Serbians executed by Austro-Hungarians

Serbians POWs being executed by Austro-Hungarians

WW1 Serbians executed by Austro-Hungarians 02

That left the Serbian population at the mercy of the Austro-Hungarians who carried out numerous atrocities. Concentration camps were set up, there were mass hangings, crops were destroyed and wells poisoned. In addition to all this Serbia suffered a severe typhoid epidemic.

WW1 Serbians executed by Austro-Hungarians 03

WW1 Serbians executed by Austro-Hungarians 01In 1915 Bulgaria also invaded Serbia and carried out its own series of atrocities, including the massacre at Surdulica.

At the end of WW2 some war criminals were executed. Things were different after the First World War. Count Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, who was more responsible than any other for the start of WW1 was allowed to retire to his estates in Hungary where he lived  until 1942.



Von Hotzendorf was Chief of the Hapsburg General Staff and a war criminal. He was allowed to make a fortune from his memoirs and lived comfortably in the German spa town of Bad Mergentheim.



Only a few minor war criminals stood trial and none were executed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Please enter your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s