The Spanish flu pandemic

Brief summary

In three devastating waves, the pandemic killed over twenty million people: more than twice the number of soldiers killed in the war.

The war led to huge developments in medical science: healthcare services everywhere were reorganised, and effective methods and new procedures were developed to treat infectious diseases. Such achievements, however, could not prevent or suppress the Spanish flu pandemic which broke out in the last year of the war, and which claimed the lives of more victims than the war itself. According to modern research, the influenza-type infection that killed at least twenty million people was caused by the virus subtype H1N1. The origins of the disease had little to do with Spain: because it was a neutral country it was the first in which the disease was reported to the public, as censorship in the belligerent countries prevented soldiers and civilians being informed about the pandemic. The Spanish flu swept across the world in successive waves from 1918 onwards. One of its final victims was our last king, Blessed Charles of Austria-Hungary, who abdicated in 1918 and died in 1922.



„No epidemic since the Black Death of the 14th century has claimed so many victims."
8 Órai Újság, January 16, 1919


„Yesterday my revered husband died. My little Otto is laid low with a fever, and is delirious. Mother shudders at my every cough. The streets are filled with the blackness of mourning armbands."
Hannah Schulle, Braunschweig, 1919





Sterilisation kit

Bandage sterilizer

(Semmelweis Medical Museum, Library and Documentation Department)


Medical cabinet with instruments and bandages

Hospital stretcher and benches

(László Makai)




Further rooms

An entire era is lowered into the grave

Franz Joseph’s death was felt as a tragedy by his contemporaries.

Back from the front

The military casualties of the war numbered 10 million dead and 21 million wounded.

The creators of the peace structure

The victors invoked the principle of “national self-determination”, but their decisions bore no trace of this.

The dawn of the American century

After World War I the United States took over the leading role in world politics from Europe.

Europe in tumult

The continent’s victors and vanquished alike faced similar problems: everyday life was overshadowed by social unrest and economic hopelessness.

The Spanish flu pandemic

In three devastating waves, the pandemic killed over twenty million people: more than twice the number of soldiers killed in the war.

The league of nations

The organisation founded at President Wilson’s initiative was the first attempt at peaceful resolution of the world’s conflicts.

Red terror

Violence and intimidation were from the very start the essence of communist dictatorships.

The Leninist model

Attempts at transforming European societies and the threat of a communist world revolution posed a serious challenge to European states.

Changes – 1914–1922

“Divide and rule!” The victors redrew the world map in a way that would possibly perpetuate ethnic and religious conflicts.

In the shadow of Trianon

The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy plunged the Kingdom of Hungary into its deepest crisis since the Ottoman occupation.