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World War I (1914–1919)

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The Collapse of the Central Powers

Summary The Collapse of the Central Powers

On October 12, the German government announced that it had accepted Wilson’s requirement and that it would withdraw its forces from France and Belgium. Despite the announcement, however, the fighting on the western front continued without letup. On October 21, Germany announced that it would cease all submarine warfare. On October 25, Allied military commanders met at Senlis, France, to discuss formal terms for an armistice. Although they disagreed over matters of detail, all concurred that Germany must be rendered unable to make war again.

The Dissolution of Austria-Hungary

By the end of October, Germany was still actively trying to broker a favorable way out of the war, but Austria could no longer afford to wait, because the country was already falling apart. On October 27, 1918, Austria approached the Allies independently for an armistice and ordered the Austrian army to retreat the same day. On October 29, Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes proclaimed the establishment of a southern Slavic state to be called Yugoslavia.

On October 30, an Austrian delegation arrived in Italy to surrender unconditionally. That same day, Hungary formally declared its independence. On November 3, all the terms of the Austrian armistice were in place, and on the following day, Austria-Hungary formally ceased to exist.

The Collapse of the Ottoman Empire

On October 14, 1918, Sultan Mehmed VI of the Ottoman Empire, having suffered heavy territorial losses over the past year and facing a British invasion of Turkey proper, requested peace terms. An armistice was signed on October 30. One of its terms was that the Dardanelles be opened immediately to Allied ships. In the coming months, most of the territory of the Ottoman Empire would be redistributed under the trusteeship of various Allied forces and eventually reorganized into independent countries.

The Collapse of Germany

In the early days of November 1918, the situation in Germany deteriorated from unstable to outright chaotic. Prince Max von Baden proved ineffective at negotiating favorable terms for a German armistice, and unrest within the military grew, especially in the navy, where mutinies were becoming widespread. Kaiser Wilhelm II, who by this point was in hiding in the Belgian resort town of Spa, found himself under rapidly increasing pressure to abdicate, which he stubbornly refused to do.

On November 7, Max dispatched a group of German delegates by train to the secluded location of Compiègne, France, to negotiate an armistice. The delegation arrived on the morning of November 9, and negotiation promptly began. That same day, Prince Max took the step of announcing Wilhelm II’s abdication of the German throne—without the now-delusional kaiser’s agreement. Prince Max himself then resigned, and separate left-wing political groups respectively proclaimed the establishment of a German Soviet Republic and a German Socialist Republic, though neither would actually come to be.

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