During World War I, millions of civilians died; though the percentage of civilians in total human deaths then was lower then it would become in later wars.
Millions of soldiers died; most of them conscripts, not volunteers.
And many millions of animals died; not one of them a volunteer. Marianne Lubrecht, exhibition organiser of the natural history museum in Maastricht, interviewed this morning on Dutch radio, estimated that ten million horses alone were killed in the war.
She told about an exhibition right now in her museum about the role of animals during the first world war. The military massively used animals. They tried to limit deaths a bit by providing some dogs (see photo at the top of this blog post) and horses with gas masks. However, that did not help much.
Other animals had not been enlisted by the military, but still played a role in the war. In and near the trenches, dead soldiers were often not buried; or, if they had been buried, incoming artillery grenades brought the dead bodies back to the surface. This attracted many rats feeding on the dead soldiers.
The Maastricht museum exhibition organiser also told about the role of wolves on the eastern front. There, wolves fed on dead soldiers, and sometimes attacked wounded soldiers. The enemy armies of the German and Russian empires decided to stop shooting at one another for one day; and to kill wolves instead. So, the Christmas truce of 2014 of Allied and German soldiers stopping to kill each other at least for Christmas was not the only ceasefire during World War I. Though the eastern front one was not because of peaceful motives, and decided by the top brass, not by the rank and file.
The exhibition attracts many visitors. Ms Lubrecht said she was trying to extend it beyond its originally planned final day of 4 January 2015; if museums from Belgium and elsewhere which had loaned items to Maastricht would agree with that.