Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Germany Before the War

Bernd Huppauf, New York University

It may be very difficult to understand that the large majority of the German population had the feeling that they were engaged in a war that had been forced upon them,

Modern, Affluent Berlin 1912

that they were a part of a war in which they defended their very existence, and that this was a war fought not for material possessions, the annexation of territory, or colonies, but that it was a war in which Germany herself defended her bare existence. Indeed, it might be difficult to understand that that was the common feeling in Germany.

In order to be able to understand this, one has to look back to the previous years, the last four decades. Germany had been united in 1871 and considered herself to be a young nation — a latecomer.

The world had been carved up before they arrived. The world in terms of colonies, the world in terms of power politics, had been finalized, and the Germans came late. Yet, they felt they deserved a position in this world, according to their self-esteem, according to their size, according to their grandiose history leading back into the Middle Ages. For quite some time, there was a discussion of the inevitability of war common amongst all European societies.

There was the fear that with German unification, the power structure had changed to a degree, that now war had to be waged, that war had become inevitable. The only question remaining — when was it a good time to start the war?

Berlin During the War

In England, and in France, in particular, the imaginary war was waged in novels, in science fiction, in pseudo-scientific discourse, so it was no grand surprise that in 1914 the majority of the German population felt that what had happened was a logical consequence of a development that had happened over many years.

From the PBS Website, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century

1 comment:

  1. Even more, did Austria Hungary fight for her very existence. Just look what happened to her in October-November,1918.