The First World War, often referred to as the “cataclysm of humankind”, not only claimed the lives of seventeen million people, it also has had wide-ranging economic, political, and social repercussions across the world. Although Switzerland was spared armed conflict, the Great War transformed the country in many ways. Especially the so-called economic war, which caused food shortages and the loss of purchasing power, led to the impoverishment of wide parts of the population. This paved the way for social and political unrest, climaxing in the general strike of 1918. The event was one of the factors that led to major changes in the country’s economic, political, and social systems which the exhibition “14/18: Die Schweiz und der Grosse Krieg” addresses. Arranged in chronological stations the show touches upon themes such as “mobilization and border defense” (1914) and “war economy and export boom” (1915) with the help of objects, photographs, films, and documents. The travelling exhibition that comes with an accompanying publication was designed by a team of historians and curators in collaboration with several universities. It is being shown at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich as well as the historical museums in Lausanne, Neuchâtel, St Gallen, Frauenfeld, and Basel where the exhibition officially opens on 22 August 2014.
The Foundation Board decided to award a project grant of CHF 30,000 in support of this exhibition that deals with the ramifications of the First World War for Switzerland, thus bringing a rather neglected chapter of recent Swiss history to the attention of a wide audience.