Memory of the First World War

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New online resource Memory of the First World War

War diaries, letters from the field, historical film documents – 100 years after the outbreak of the First World War, sources like these can once again bring the history of this war to life. They are now available in digital form at the website "Europeana 1914 - 1918".

2 min reading time

Walter Trier: Map of Europe in 1914.Die von Walter Trier (1890-1951). This satirical map was published in 1914 along with a reprint of a "map of Europe in 1870" from the pen of the French caricaturist Paul Hadol (1835-1875). …

Europe in 1914. A map produced by the artist and illustrator Walter Trier.

Photo: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - PK / Fotostelle

The new online resource "Europeana 1914-1918" is a joint European project, which has the support not only of institutions but also of individuals in 20 countries. The venture has been coordinated by the Staatsbibliothek Berlin.

"Of the numerous projects initiated and financed by the German government to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, this digital project stands out by virtue of its international, cross-border dimension," declared Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters at the launch of the new website. It impressively illustrates how the fragmentation that marked Europe one hundred years ago gradually gave way to cooperation, she continued.

More than 500,000 items available online

People from across Europe have contributed to this project. Families of soldiers have made available letters, photographs and diaries – a total of about 90,000 personal documents and mementos.

Libraries and archives have combed their stocks and released some 400,000 documents. To these resources come another 660 or so hours of films, posters and photographs from more than 20 film archives.

A total of more than 500,000 items have come together and have now been digitalised by national libraries in eight states. And more is still to come as the homepage says.

Contribution to mutual understanding

It is a wealth of sources that will give not only historians but all those interested in the period new insights into the history of the First World War. The sheer variety of the items available illustrate what life was really like at the front, as well as reflecting everyday life on the home front during the war years.

"The Europeana project will change the way we see this period – and thus make a major contribution to mutual understanding in Europe – across historical dividing lines," declared Monika Grütters with conviction.

The Europeana is the European online library. The virtual library provides access in several languages to books, maps, films, museum exhibits and archive material.

Today the Europeana already embraces more than 30 million digitalised objects, making it a unique instrument for cultural communication.

The German government is one of the initiators of the project. The main German contribution is the German Digital Library which is still being established but should be fully networked with the Europeana before the end of the year.