Was Germany Responsible For Ww1
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The cause of World War One! Origins: Rap Battle - WW1 Uncut - BBC
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The war was started by the leaders of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Vienna seized the opportunity presented by the assassination of the archduke to attempt to destroy its Balkan rival Serbia. This was done in the full knowledge that Serbia's protector Russia was unlikely to stand by and this might lead to a general European war. Germany gave Austria unconditional support in its actions, again fully aware of the likely consequences. Germany sought to break up the French-Russian alliance and was fully prepared to take the risk that this would bring about a major war.
Some in the German elite welcomed the prospect of beginning an expansionist war of conquest. The response of Russia, France and later Britain were reactive and defensive. The best that can be said of German and Austrian leaders in the July crisis is that they took criminal risks with world peace. In my opinion, it is the political and diplomatic decision-makers in Germany and Austria-Hungary who must carry the burden of responsibility for expanding a localised Balkan conflict into a European and, eventually, global war.
Germany, suffering from something of a "younger child" complex in the family of European empires, saw an opportunity to reconfigure the balance of power in their favour via an aggressive war of conquest. On 5 July it issued the "blank cheque" of unconditional support to the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire trying to reassert its dominance over the rebellious Serbia , despite the likelihood of this sparking war with Russia, an ally of France and Great Britain.
However, Austria-Hungary's actions should not be ignored. The ultimatum it issued to Serbia on 23 July was composed in such a way that its possibility of being accepted was near impossible. The largest share of responsibility lies with the German government. Germany's rulers made possible a Balkan war by urging Austria-Hungary to invade Serbia, well understanding that such a conflict might escalate. Without German backing it is unlikely that Austria-Hungary would have acted so drastically. They also started wider European hostilities by sending ultimata to Russia and France, and by declaring war when those ultimata were rejected - indeed fabricating a pretext that French aircraft had bombed Nuremberg.
Finally, they violated international treaties by invading Luxemburg and Belgium knowing that the latter violation was virtually certain to bring in Britain. This is neither to deny that there were mitigating circumstances nor to contend that German responsibility was sole. Serbia subjected Austria-Hungary to extraordinary provocation and two sides were needed for armed conflict. Although the Central Powers took the initiative, the Russian government, with French encouragement, was willing to respond. In contrast, while Britain might have helped avert hostilities by clarifying its position earlier, this responsibility - even disregarding the domestic political obstacles to an alternative course - was passive rather than active.
The World War One Centenary. Image source, Alamy. Here 10 leading historians give their opinion. Sir Max Hastings - military historian. Image source, Getty Images. John Rohl - emeritus professor of history, University of Sussex. Gerhard Hirschfeld - professor of modern and contemporary history, University of Stuttgart. Prof Gary Sheffield - professor of war studies, University of Wolverhampton. Dr Catriona Pennell - senior lecturer in history, University of Exeter. David Stevenson - professor of international history, LSE. All scholars agree that the blockade made a large contribution to the outcome of the war.
Apart from leading to shortages in vital raw materials such as coal and nonferrous metals, the blockade also deprived Germany of supplies of fertiliser that were vital to agriculture. That led to staples such as grain, potatoes, meat and dairy products becoming so scarce by the end of that many people were obliged to instead consume ersatz products, including Kriegsbrot "war bread" and powdered milk. The food shortages caused looting and riots not only in Germany but also in Vienna and Budapest.
The German government made strong attempts to counter the effects of the blockade. The Hindenburg Programme of German economic mobilisation was launched on 31 August and designed to raise productivity by the compulsory employment of all men between the ages of 17 and A complicated rationing system, initially introduced in January , aimed to ensure that a minimum nutritional need was met, with "war kitchens" providing cheap mass meals to impoverished civilians in larger cities. All of those schemes enjoyed only limited success, and the average daily diet of 1, calories was insufficient to maintain a good standard of health, which resulted by in widespread disorders caused by malnutrition such as scurvy , tuberculosis and dysentery.
The official German statistics estimated , civilian malnutrition and disease deaths were caused by the blockade of Germany. The figures for the last six months of were estimated. Also in , Germany raised the issue of the Allied blockade to counter charges against the German use of submarine warfare. In , a German academic study, sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provided a thorough analysis of the German civilian deaths during the war. The study estimated , war-related deaths of civilians over the age of one in Germany, not including Alsace-Lorraine , and the authors attributed the civilian deaths over the prewar level primarily to food and fuel shortages in — The study also estimated an additional , Spanish flu deaths in  A study sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in estimated the German civilian death toll at over , Based on the German study, it maintained, "A thorough inquiry has led to the conclusion that the number of 'civilian' deaths traceable to the war was ,, to which number must be added about , deaths caused by the influenza epidemic".
In March , Winston Churchill told the British House of Commons: "We are holding all our means of coercion in full operation or in immediate readiness for use. We are enforcing the blockade with vigor. We have strong armies ready to advance at the shortest notice. Germany is very near starvation. The evidence I have received from the officers sent by the War Office all over Germany shows first of all, the great privations which the German people are suffering, and secondly, the great danger of a collapse of the entire structure of German social and national life under the pressure of hunger and malnutrition. Now is therefore the moment to settle". The blockade was maintained for eight months after the November armistice.
Germans considered the armistice a temporary cessation of the war and feared that if fighting broke out again, the ships would be confiscated outright. Facing food riots at home, Germany finally agreed to surrender its fleet on 14 March The Allies allowed Germany, under their supervision, to import , tons of grain and 70, tons of cured pork per month until August Paul Vincent maintains that for the German people, they were the most devastating months of the blockade because "in the weeks and months following the armistice, Germany's deplorable state further deteriorated.
At the armistice discussions in January , the Allies offered to let Germany import food if it agreed to turn over its merchant fleet, but Germany refused until the last armistice discussions in March. He feared that if Germany surrendered it, the Allies would confiscate it as reparations. Before he surrendered the fleet, he wanted guarantees that the food imports could be financed with foreign credit owed to German businesses. The Allies would gain an unfair competitive edge over the German steel industries, which depended on import of ore and sale to countries abroad, by charging high prices for ocean transport. Not included in the German government's December figure of , deaths were civilian deaths related to the famine in A recent academic study maintains that no statistical data exist for the death toll of the period immediately after the November armistice.
Max Rubner in an April article claimed that , German civilians had died from the continuation of the blockade of Germany after the armistice. The impact on childhood was assessed by Mary E. Cox by using newly discovered data, based on heights and weights of nearly , German schoolchildren, who were measured between and The data indicate that children suffered severe malnutrition. Class was a major factor, as the working-class children suffered the most but were the quickest to recover after the war. Recovery to normality was made possible by massive food aid organized by the United States and other former enemies.
However, a European war was not inevitable. Right until the last moment, some European statesmen were desperately trying to avoid an escalation of the crisis by advocating mediation, while others did everything in their power to ensure that a localised war would break out whose escalation into a European conflict they were willing to risk. The previous day the nineteen-year-old Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip , part of a small group of conspirators who had planned an attack on this representative of the Dual Monarchy, had shot and killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife.
The murder of the Archduke caused widespread outrage. Why did the Archduke become a victim of a violent conspiracy? Serbia had been a threat and irritant to Austria-Hungary, particularly since it had emerged victorious from the recent Balkan Wars of and and as a consequence nearly doubled its territory and increased its population from 3 million to 4. Three of the young conspirators had left impoverished lives in Sarajevo for Belgrade. In Vienna, the assassination was immediately perceived as a Serbian provocation, even though actual evidence of Serbian involvement in the plot was hard to come by. They could not have known at the time that one of the instigators of this act was indeed a member of the Serbian government. This was not, however, a plot which had been sanctioned by the Serbian government.
However, this actually made him more of a target, for it was feared that upon his accession to the throne, he might allow the minorities in the Dual Monarchy more of a say in their own affairs. The would-be assassins were trained in the use of weapons in Belgrade and equipped with weapons from the Serbian state arsenal in Kragujevac. The youngest of their group was just seventeen. However, the first attempt to kill the Archduke failed. It exploded underneath the car behind, injuring a few of the onlookers and passengers in that car, among them Erik von Merizzi , the adjutant of the Austro-Hungarian military governor of the province, Oskar Potiorek The Archduke was unhurt; his wife suffered a small wound on the cheek.
The couple were hurriedly taken to the Town Hall. However, Franz Ferdinand insisted on visiting Merizzi in the hospital before continuing the official programme. Only the visit to the National Museum would be cancelled. As a compromise, it was agreed that the convoy should follow a different route and not, as planned, travel down Franz-Joseph-Strasse. However, tragically, this change of plan appears not to have been communicated to the driver in the first car, who turned into the street as previously planned. A few metres away from his target he managed to shoot the Archduke in the neck and his wife in the abdomen. Sophie died in the car, and Franz Ferdinand shortly after reaching the Governor's residence. The hapless young assassins could not have known to what extent they had made history that day.
Princip succeeded in murdering the royal couple, but failed to kill himself and was arrested before the outraged crowd could lynch him. In the aftermath of the assassination, all they could do was to wait for the official reaction to this murder in Vienna. However, in Vienna the response was more varied. The official reaction to the assassination was indignant outrage, but this outward appearance was in stark contrast to the privately held thoughts of some.
Franz Ferdinand had not been universally popular — the Germans within the Dual Monarchy had considered him to be too Slavophile, the Slavs too German, and the Hungarians too Austrian. In order to explain the escalation of the crisis into full-scale war, this article first looks at Vienna and its ally Berlin. It was in Vienna that war that is to say a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was first consciously risked and planned in response to the assassination. France, Russia, Britain and Italy only participated decisively much later in July , when most decisions had already been taken and an ultimatum been given to Belgrade with the intention to begin a war.
Of course, they did expect a reaction to the assassination and had got word of a planned action against Serbia, so that the ultimatum was not a complete surprise to them when it was finally delivered. Just one day after the assassination Conrad had a confidential meeting with Foreign Minister Count Leopold von Berchtold in which the Chief of Staff immediately demanded a war against Serbia in response to the crime. An early opportunity for this was a meeting with the German Ambassador in Vienna, Heinrich von Tschirschky He, however, did not seem to favour a war. This report, when received in Berlin on 2 July, was greeted by Kaiser Wilhelm II with a characteristically irate outburst.
That is very stupid. He was genuinely struck by the loss of his friend, and the idea of a regicide was particularly abhorrent to him. The assassination was a crime that had to be avenged. From now on, the government in Vienna would only receive encouragement from its ally. However, early in the crisis Austria-Hungary could not be certain how Germany would act in the event of an Austrian-Serbian war. In Berlin, the possibility of a Balkan crisis was greeted favourably by military and political decision-makers, for it was felt that such a crisis would ensure that Austria would definitely be involved in a resulting conflict unlike during the earlier Moroccan crises , for example.
They were still confident that a war, should it break out, could be won by the Triple Alliance partners Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy , while in the long run, the Entente Powers Russia, France and Great Britain would be come invincible. The worry was in particular that Russia would increase its army and improve its railway infrastructure to such an extent that in the near future it would become impossible for Germany to fight a successful war against Russia. This occurred in an important meeting of the Joint Council of Ministers on 7 July. All participants were aware of the fact that any action against Serbia could not only lead to a war with that country, but had the potential of escalating into a war against Russia Russia saw itself as a protector of Slavic people and might not be prepared to look on as Serbia was crushed by Austria-Hungary.
Following long discussions the meeting agreed that a war with Serbia needed to be provoked with an ultimatum, so that, at least outwardly, Vienna appeared to be acting reasonably and moderately, rather than simply declaring war on Serbia immediately. The delay was necessary for a number of reasons. This was the time of the annual harvest leave of soldiers. Not only would it have looked suspicious if these had all been recalled to their barracks, but also the harvest could not be jeopardised. And furthermore, an additional problem was posed by a planned state visit of the French President and other members of the French government to Russia. Between 21 and 23 July the two allies would be able to discuss their joint response to any Austrian provocation of Serbia.
He would not step on French soil until 29 July, leaving the French government essentially without effective leadership. As Berchtold informed Kaiser Franz Joseph:. The text of the ultimatum was decided in a further ministerial council meeting on 14 July, as well as details about its delivery. It was to be deliberately unacceptable in character, and only forty-eight hours would be given to Belgrade to respond. While most decision-makers in Vienna and Berlin did not actually want a European war, the available evidence shows that they were certainly willing to risk it. Neither France nor Britain felt they could abandon Russia for fear of what would happen if she emerged victorious from the war. The Italian alliance partner was also deliberately kept in the dark, save for some indiscretions of the German Ambassador Ludwig von Flotow Despite such deliberate deception, Russian, French and British leaders expected a reaction by Vienna and used this time to co-ordinate their stance e.
Petersburg — though when details of it finally emerged, the harsh nature of the ultimatum surprised everyone. It is due to this deception that the other major powers did not play a decisive role in the July Crisis until 23 July, the day when the ultimatum was finally presented in Belgrade. While increasingly suspicious of the intentions of the Austrian government and aware that some action was being planned, the governments of the other European powers expected that Austria-Hungary would seek redress of some kind, but they were largely unaware of the extent of the secret plotting in Vienna and Berlin.
The harsh nature of the ultimatum confirmed to the decision-makers in St.