Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

2
LEARNING ABOUT WAR,
REVOLUTION, AND PEACE
1914-1919

IN JUNE 1914, news from Sarajevo produced a tension that I have never forgotten: The crown prince and his wife had been murdered. My family was in the dining room of our apartment, the grown-ups with their newspapers, and someone read aloud: "In spite of the tragedy, there will be no war." I was properly worried about war and the likelihood of father's being drafted.

"Why will there be no war?" I asked. "Because there is no reason that there should be war." "But if there is no reason, why does the newspaper say that there will be no war?" I remember my confusion to this day. Until then, my questions had always earned me my mother's immediate attention and an explanation. On this occasion, not only did my questions go unanswered, I was even told to be quiet!

Today, I believe I know the answer. In 1914, Franz Joseph was eighty‐ four. He had begun his rule in 1848, as part of the resolution of the Hungarian revolt, at the age of eighteen. About two decades later, in the hope of increasing popular support, Emperor Franz Joseph granted considerable autonomy to Hungary and added the title "King of Hungary" to his name. During the following years, Austro-Hungary expanded south into Bosnia‐ Herzegovina, which then, as now, was a region of intense ethnic pride and nationalistic conflict.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the menace of terrorism spread through the western world; the terrorists of the nineteenth century—called anarchists—wanted to bring an end to all government. Like their twentieth‐ century counterparts, they committed acts of violence to provoke countermeasures that would, in turn, bring down the existing order. Anarchists

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