Deutschland und der Erste Weltkrieg – First World War

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Deutschland und der Erste Weltkrieg
(Germany and the First World War)

Small Arms of theGerman Empire
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

During World War I, the German Empire was one of the Central Powers that ultimately lost the war.

It began participation with the conflict after the declaration of war against Serbia by its ally, Austria-Hungary.
German forces fought the Allies on both the eastern and western fronts, although German territory itself remained relatively safe from widespread invasion for most of the war, except for a brief period in 1914 when East Prussia was invaded.
A tight blockade imposed by the British Navy caused severe food shortages in the cities, especially in the winter of 1916-1917, known as the ‘Kohlrübenwinter’ (turnip winter)

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The Sarajevo Crisis

Arms of the Kingdom of Serbia
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


The causes of World War I, which began in central Europe in late July 1914, included intertwined factors, such as the conflicts and hostility of the four decades leading up to the war. Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism played major roles in the conflict as well.

The immediate origins of the war, however, lay in the decisions taken by statesmen and generals during the Crisis of 1914, ‘casus belli‘ for which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by Gavrilo Princip, an irredentist Serb.
The crisis came after a long and difficult series of diplomatic clashes between the Great Powers (Italy, France, Germany, the British Empire, the Austria-Hungarian Empire and Russia) over European and colonial issues in the decade before 1914 that had left tensions high.
In turn these diplomatic clashes can be traced to changes in the balance of power in Europe since 1867.
The more immediate cause for the war was tensions over territory in the Balkans.
Austria-Hungary competed with Serbia and Russia for territory and influence in the region, and they pulled the rest of the Great Powers into the conflict through their various alliances and treaties.

Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand
Sarajevo

Wilhelm was a friend of Franz Ferdinand, Erzherzog von Österreich  and he was deeply shocked by his assassination on 28 June 1914.
Wilhelm offered to support Austria-Hungary in crushing the ‘Black Hand’, the secret organization that had plotted the killing, and even sanctioned the use of force by Austria against the perceived source of the movement – Serbia.

SMS Hohenzollern

He wanted to remain in Berlin until the crisis was resolved, but his courtiers persuaded him instead to go on his annual cruise of the North Sea on 6 July 1914.
Wilhelm made erratic attempts to stay on top of the crisis via telegram, and when the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum was delivered to Serbia, he hurried back to Berlin.
He reached Berlin on 28 July, read a copy of the Serbian reply, and wrote on it:
‘A brilliant solution—and in barely 48 hours! This is more than could have been expected.
A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every pretext for war falls to the ground, and [the Ambassador] Giesl had better have stayed quietly at Belgrade.
On this document, I should never have given orders for mobilisation.’

Kaiser Franz Josef

Unknown to the Emperor, Austro-Hungarian ministers and generals had already convinced the 84-year-old Francis Joseph I of Austria to sign a declaration of war against Serbia.
As a direct consequence, Russia began a general mobilization to attack Austria in defense of Serbia.

On the night of 30 July, when handed a document stating that Russia would not cancel its mobilization, Wilhelm wrote a lengthy commentary containing these observations:
‘For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves—knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria—to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us… Our dilemma over keeping faith with the old and honourable Emperor has been exploited to create a situation which gives England the excuse she has been seeking to annihilate us with a spurious appearance of justice on the pretext that she is helping France and maintaining the well-known Balance of Power in Europe, i.e., playing off all European States for her own benefit against us.’
 Helmuth von Moltke

When it became clear that Germany would experience a war on two fronts and that the United Kingdom would enter the war if Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium Wilhelm attempted to redirect the main attack against Russia.

When Helmuth von Moltke (the younger) (who had chosen the old plan from 1905, made by the former German general von Schlieffen for the possibility of German war on two fronts) told him that this was impossible, Wilhelm said: “Your uncle would have given me a different answer!
Wilhelm is also reported to have said, “To think that George and Nicky should have played me false! If my grandmother had been alive, she would never have allowed it.
In the original Schlieffen plan, Germany would attack the (supposed) weaker enemy first, meaning France.
The plan supposed that it would take a long time before Russia was ready for war.
Defeating France had been easy for Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
At the 1914 border between France and Germany, an attack at this more southern part of France could be stopped by the French fortress along the border. However, Wilhelm II got von Moltke (the younger) to not also invade the Netherlands.


Overview


Geist von 1914 – Berlin

The German population responded to the outbreak of war in 1914 with a complex mix of emotions, in a similar way to the populations in other countries of Europe; often with enthusiasm known as the ‘Geist von 1914’ (Spirit of 1914).

The German government, dominated by the Junkers, thought of the war as a way to end Germany’s disputes with rivals France, Russia and Britain.


In Prussian history Junkers were members of the landed nobility in Prussia.
They owned great estates that were maintained and worked by Slavic peasants with few rights. They were a dominant factor in the Prussian and, after 1871, German military, political and diplomatic leadership. The most famous Junker was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Geist von 1914 – Ausflug nach Paris

The beginning of war was presented in authoritarian Germany as the chance for the nation to secure ‘unseren Platz unter der Sonne’ – (our place under the sun) as the Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bulow had put it, which was readily supported by prevalent nationalism among the public.

The Kaiser and the German establishment hoped the war would unite the public behind the monarchy, and lessen the threat posed by the dramatic growth of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which had been the most vocal critic of the Kaiser in the Reichstag before the war. 

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Wilhelm II  (Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen; English: 27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was a grandson of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe. Crowned in 1888, his ‘Neuer Kurs’ (New Course) in foreign affairs that culminated in his support for Austria-Hungary in the crisis of July 1914 that led to World War I. His generals dictated policy during World War I with little regard for the civilian government. Towards the end of the war he lost the support of the army, and abdicated in November 1918, and fled to exile in the Netherlands


Despite its membership in the Second International, the Social Democratic Party of Germany ended its differences with the Imperial government and abandoned its principles of internationalism to support the war effort.
It soon became apparent that Germany was not prepared for a war lasting more than a few months.
At first, little was done to regulate the economy for a wartime footing, and the German war economy would remain badly organized throughout the war.
Germany depended on imports of food and raw materials, which were stopped by the British naval blockade of Germany.
Food prices were first limited, then rationing was introduced.
The winter of 1916/17 was called “turnip winter” because the potato harvest was poor and people ate animal feed especially vile tasting turnips.
During the war from August 1914 to mid 1919, the excess deaths over peacetime caused by malnutrition and high rates of exhaustion and disease and despair came to about 474,000 civilians.

1914–15 

German Uhlans (Lancers) – 1914



All the armies, at the commencement of the war, imagined that the conflict would be conducted in the traditional manner, with fast moving’ mobile armies indulging in cavalry charges and set piece battles.
Briefly, that was the case, but soon the fighting slowed down, and eventually, for much of the conflict, became static.



Alfred Graf von Schlieffen
The German army opened the war on the Western Front with a modified version of the ‘Schlieffen Plan’, designed to quickly attack France through neutral Belgium before turning southwards to encircle the French army on the German border.
The Belgians fought back, and sabotaged their rail system to delay the Germans.
The Germans did not expect this and were delayed.
The plan called for the right flank of the German advance to converge on Paris and initially, the Germans were very successful, particularly in the Battle of the Frontiers (14–24 August).
By 12 September, the French with assistance from the British forces halted the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (5–12 September).
The last days of this battle signified the end of mobile warfare in the west.

French Cavalry Leave for the Front 1914

The French offensive into Germany launched on 7 August with the Battle of Mulhouse had limited success.

Imperial Russian Troops 1914

In the east, only one Field Army defended East Prussia and when Russia attacked in this region it diverted German forces intended for the Western Front.

Germany defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the First Battle of Tannenberg (17 August – 2 September), but this diversion exacerbated problems of insufficient speed of advance from rail-heads not foreseen by the German General Staff.
The Central Powers

The Central Powers were thereby denied a quick victory and forced to fight a war on two fronts.
The German army had fought its way into a good defensive position inside France and had permanently incapacitated 230,000 more French and British troops than it had lost itself. 
Despite this, communications problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of obtaining an early victory.


German Zepplin Raids

Zepplin Command Cabin

The first Zeppelin raid on England took place in January 1915.

From then until the end of World War I the German Navy and Army Air Services mounted over 50 bombing raids on the United Kingdom. these were generally referred to as “Zeppelin raids”, although both Zeppelin and Schütte-Lanz airships were used.

From the beginning the airships had the advantage of flying at a higher altitude than could be reached by defending aircraft or anti-aircraft fire, and could carry a significant bomb-load; however, weather conditions and night flying conditions made navigation and therefore bombing accuracy difficult. Bombs could be dropped miles off target (one raid on London actually bombed Hull instead) and pin-point accuracy to hit military targets was impossible.

Zepplin LZ 32

The airships made 20 raids in 1915, mostly Navy, mostly Zeppelins, and dropped 37 tons of bombs, killing 181 and injuring another 455 people.

In 1916 improved defensive measures, including the introduction of incendiary bullets, made raids more hazardous, and several zeppelins were destroyed.

Newer classes of ships with improved ceilings restored the advantage, but led to further flying and navigation problems; oxygen was needed to fly at high altitude, and provision for an observation car, for bombing through clouds, reduced the bomb load.


German Gotha Bomber over London

Nevertheless, in 1916 23 raids dropped 125 tons of bombs, killing 293 and injuring 691 people.

In September 1916 the Army abandoned raids by airship in favour of developing a heavier than air alternative; in May 1917 saw the first ‘Gotha Raid’.


The Gotha G.V was a heavy bomber used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I. Designed for long range service, the G V series was used principally as night bombers.

The Navy, under FK Peter Strasser, continued with airships, though there were only six in 1917 and four in 1918.

Peter Strasser (right) Ferdinand von Zeppelin (centre)
Hugo Eckener (left)
The last Zeppelin raid on Britain took place in August 1918 when four ships bombed targets in the Midlands and the North of England.

Zepplin L70

The raid also a saw the loss of Strasser when L70 was shot down in flames over the North Sea.

Zeppelins performed about 51 strategic bombing raids during World War I.

These raids caused numerous civilian casualties, killing 557 and injuring another 1,358 people. More than 5,000 bombs were dropped on towns across Britain, causing £1.5 million in damage. 84 airships took part, of these 30 were lost, either shot down by enemy action or lost in accident.
The raids, though disconcerting to civilian morale, were militarily ineffective.

1916

1916 was characterized by two great battles on the Western front, at Verdun and Somme.

They each lasted most of the year, achieved minimal gains, and drained away the best soldiers of both sides.
Verdun became the iconic symbol of the murderous power of modern defensive weapons, with 280,000 German casualties, and 315,000 French.
At Somme, there were over 600,000 German casualties, against over 400,000 British, and nearly 200,000 French.
At Verdun, the Germans attacked what they considered to be a weak French salient which nevertheless the French would defend for reasons of national pride.
The Somme was part of a multinational plan of the Allies to attack on different fronts simultaneously.
The Battle marked the point at which German morale began a permanent decline and the strategic initiative was lost, along with irreplaceable veterans and confidence.

1917

Enthusiasm faded with the enormous numbers of casualties, the dwindling supply of manpower, the mounting difficulties on the home-front, and the never-ending flow of casualty reports.
A grimmer and grimmer attitude began to prevail among the general population.
Morale was helped by victories against Serbia, Greece, Italy, and Russia which made great gains for the Central Powers.
Morale was at its greatest since 1914 at the end of 1917 and beginning of 1918 with the defeat of Russia following her rise into revolution, and the German people braced for what Ludendorff said would be the ‘Friedensoffensive’ (Peace Offensive) in the West.

1918

In spring 1918, Germany realized that time was running out.
It prepared for the decisive strike with new armies and new tactics, expecting to win the war on the Western front before millions of American soldiers appeared in battle
General Erich von Ludendorff and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg had full control of the army, they had a large supply of reinforcements moved him from the Eastern front, and they trained storm troopers with new tactics that raced through the trenches and attacked the enemy’s command and communications centers.
The new tactics would indeed restore mobility to the Western front, but the German army was too optimistic.
During the winter of 1917-18 it was “quiet” on the Western Front – British casualties averaged “only” 3,000 a week.
Serious attacks were impossible in the winter because of the deep mud.
Quietly the Germans brought in their best soldiers from the eastern front, selected elite ‘storm troops’, and trained them all winter in the new tactics.
With stopwatch timing, the German artillery would lay down a sudden, fearsome barrage just ahead of its advancing infantry.
Moving in small units, firing light machine guns, the storm troopers would bypass enemy strong-points, and head directly for critical bridges, command posts, supply dumps and, above all, artillery parks.
By cutting enemy communications they would paralyze response in the critical first half hour. By silencing the artillery they would break the enemy’s firepower.
Rigid schedules sent in two more waves of infantry to mop up the strong points that had been bypassed.
The ‘shock troops’ always frightened and disoriented the first line of defenders, who would flee in panic.
In one instance an easy-going Allied regiment broke and fled; reinforcements rushed in on bicycles.
The panicky men seized the bikes and beat an even faster retreat.
The storm-trooper tactics provided mobility, but not increased firepower.
Eventually – in 1939 and 1940 – the formula would be perfected with the aid of dive bombers and tanks, but in 1918 the Germans lacked both.

Erich von Ludendorff

Ludendorff erred by attacking the British first in 1918, instead of the French.

He mistakenly thought the British to be too uninspired to respond rapidly to the new tactics.
The exhausted, dispirited French perhaps might have folded.
The German assaults on the British were ferocious – the largest of the entire war
At the Somme River in March, 63 divisions attacked in a blinding fog.
No matter, the German lieutenants had memorized their maps and their orders.
The British lost 270,000 men, fell back 40 miles, and then held.
They quickly learned how to handle the new German tactics: fall back, abandon the trenches, let the attackers overextend themselves, and then counterattack.
They gained an advantage in firepower from their artillery and from tanks used as mobile pillboxes that could retreat and counterattack at will.
In April Ludendorff hit the British again, inflicting 305,000 casualties – but he lacked the reserves to follow up.
Ludendorf launched five great attacks between March and July, inflicting a million British and French casualties.
The Western Front now had opened up – trenches were still there but the importance of mobility now reasserted itself.
The Allies held.
The Germans suffered as many casualties as they inflicted, including most of their precious storm-troopers.
The new German replacements were under-aged youth or embittered middle-aged family men in poor condition.
They were not inspired by the elan of 1914, nor thrilled with battle – they hated it, and some began talking of revolution.
Ludendorff could not replace his losses, nor could he devise a new method that might somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The British likewise were bringing in boys and men aged 50, but since their home-front was in good condition, and since they could see the Americans pouring in, their morale was stiff.
The great German spring offensive was a race against time, for everyone could see the Americans were training millions of fresh young man would eventually arrive on the Western Front.
The attrition warfare now caught up to both sides.
Germany had used up all the good fighters they had, and still had not conquered much territory. The British were out of fresh manpower, the French nearly so.
Berlin had calculated it would take months for the Americans to ship all their men and supplies – but the Americans came much sooner, for they left their supplies behind, and relied on British and French artillery, tanks, airplanes, trucks and equipment.
Berlin also assumed that Americans were fat, undisciplined and unaccustomed to hardship and severe fighting.
They soon discovered these supposedly soft, materialistic Americans really could fight.
The Germans reported that “The qualities of the Americans individually may be described as remarkable.They are physically well set up, their attitude is good… They lack at present only training and experience to make formidable adversaries. The men are in fine spirits and are filled with naive assurance.
By September 1918, the Central Powers were exhausted from fighting, and the American forces were pouring into France at 10,000 a day.

A7V ‘Sturmpanzer’ Heavy Tank

In contrast to World War II, Germany fielded very few tanks during World War I, with only 20 of the A7V type being produced during the war.
The first tank versus tank action took place on 24 April 1918 at the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, France, when three British Mark IVs met three German A7Vs. Captured British Mk IVs formed the bulk of Germany’s tank forces during World War I; about 35 were in service at any one time. Plans to expand the tank programme were under way when the War ended.

A7V ‘Sturmpanzer’ Heavy Tank

The A7V tank was introduced by Germany in 1918, near the end of World War I. One hundred vehicles were ordered during the spring of 1918, but only 20 were delivered. They were used in action from March to October of that year, and were the only tanks produced by Germany in World War I to be used in operations.
The A7V was 7.34 metres (24.1 ft) long, 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, and the maximum height was 3.3 metres (11 ft). The tank had 20 mm of steel plate at the sides, 30 mm at the front and 10 mm for the roof.

The crew normally consisted of up to seventeen soldiers and one officer: commander (officer, typically a lieutenant), driver, mechanic, mechanic/signaller, twelve infantrymen (six machine gunners, six loaders), and two artillerymen (main gunner and loader).

Wappen der Weimarer Republik
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The decisive Allied counteroffensive, known as the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’, began on 8 August 1918 – what Ludendorff called the ‘Schwarzer Tag der deutschen Armee’ (Black Day of the German army).

The Allied armies advanced steadily as German defenses faltered.
Although German armies were still on enemy soil as the war ended, the generals, the civilian leadership – and indeed the soldiers and the people – knew all was hopeless.
They started looking for scapegoats.
The hunger and popular dissatisfaction with the war precipitated revolution throughout Germany.
By 11 November Germany had virtually surrendered, the Kaiser and all the royal families had abdicated, and the Empire had been replaced by the Weimar Republic.


The German Home Front

Germany had no plans for mobilizing its civilian economy for the war effort, and no stockpiles of food or critical supplies had been made.
Germany had to improvise rapidly.
All major political sectors supported the war at least at first, including the Socialists.
The “spirit of 1914” was the overwhelming, enthusiastic support of all elements of the population for war in 1914.
In the Reichstag, the vote for credits was unanimous, with all the Socialist joining in.
One professor testified to a “great single feeling of moral elevation of soaring of religious sentiment, in short, the ascent of a whole people to the heights.”
At the same time, there was a level of anxiety; most commentators predicted the short victorious war – but that hope was dashed in a matter of weeks, as the invasion of Belgium bogged down and the French Army held in front of Paris.
The Western Front became a killing machine, as neither army moved more than a few hundred yards at a time. 
Industry In late 1914 was in chaos, unemployment soared while it took months to reconvert to munitions productions.
In 1916, the ‘Hindenburg Program’ called for the mobilization of all economic resources to produce artillery, shells, and machine guns.
Church bells and copper roofs were ripped out and melted down.
The German economy was severely handicapped by the British blockade, that cut off food supplies
The mobilization of so many farmers – and horses – steadily reduce the food supply.
Supplies that had once come in from Russia and Austria were cut off.
The concept of ‘totalen Krieg’ (total war) in World War I, meant that supplies had to be redirected towards the armed forces and, with German commerce being stopped by the British blockade, German civilians were forced to live in increasingly meager conditions.
Food prices were first controlled.
Bread rationing was introduced in 1915 but apart from Berlin it never worked well.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians died from malnutrition – usually from a typhus, or a disease their weakened body could not resist. (Starvation itself rarely caused death.)
Conditions deteriorated rapidly on the home front, with severe food shortages reported in all urban areas.
The causes involved the transfer of so many farmers and food workers into the military, combined with the overburdened railroad system, shortages of coal, and the British blockade that cut off imports from abroad.
The winter of 1916-1917 was known as the “turnip winter,” because that hardly-edible vegetable, usually fed to livestock, was used by people as a substitute for potatoes and meat, which were increasingly scarce.
Thousands of soup kitchens were opened to feed the hungry people, who grumbled that the farmers were keeping the food for themselves.
Even the army had to cut the rations for soldiers.
Morale of both civilians and soldiers continued to sink.
The drafting of miners reduced the main energy source, coal.
The textile factories produced Army uniforms, and warm clothing for civilians ran short.
The device of using ‘ersatz’ materials, such as paper and cardboard for cloth and leather proved unsatisfactory.
Soap was in short supply, as was hot water.
All the cities reduced tram services, cut back on street lighting, and close down theaters and cabarets.
The food supply increasingly focused on potatoes and bread, it was harder and harder to buy meat.
The meat ration in late 1916 was only 31% of peacetime, and it fell to 12% in late 1918.
The fish ration was 51% in 1916, and none at all by late 1917.
The rations for cheese, butter, rice, cereals, eggs and lard were less than 20% of peacetime levels.
In 1917 the harvest was poor, and the potato supply ran short, and Germans substituted almost inedible turnips; the “turnip winter” of 1917–18 was remembered with bitter distaste for generations.
German women were not employed in the Army, but large numbers took paid employment in industry and factories, and even larger numbers engaged in volunteer services.
Housewives were taught how to cook without milk, eggs or fat; agencies helped widows find work.
Banks, insurance companies and government offices for the first time hired women for clerical positions.
Factories hired them for unskilled labor – by December 1917, half the workers in chemicals, metals, and machine tools were women.
Laws protecting women in the workplace were relaxed, and factories set up canteens to provide food for their workers, lest their productivity fall off.
The food situation in 1918 was better, because the harvest was better, but serious shortages continued, with high prices, and a complete lack of condiments and fresh fruit.
Many migrants had flocked into cities to work in industry, which made for overcrowded housing. Reduced coal supplies left everyone in the cold.
Daily life involved long working hours, poor health, and little or no recreation, an increasing fears for the safety of loved ones in the Army and in prisoner of war camp.
The men who returned from the front were those who had been permanently crippled; wounded soldiers who had recovered were sent back to the trenches.

Defeat and Socialist Revolution 

German Troops Returning Through the Brandenburg Gate 1918

Many Germans wanted an end to the war and increasing numbers of Germans began to associate with the political left, such as the Social Democratic Party and the more radical Independent Social Democratic Party which demanded an end to the war.

The third reason was the entry of the United States into the war in April 1917, which changed the long-run balance of power in favor of the Allies.
The end of October 1918, in Kiel, in northern Germany, saw the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–19.
Civilian dock workers led a revolt and convinced many sailors to join them; the revolt quickly spread to other cities.

Generalfeldmarschall
Paul von Hindenburg

Meanwhile, Hindenburg and the senior generals lost confidence in the Kaiser and his government.

In November 1918, with internal revolution, a stalemated war, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire suing for peace, Austria-Hungary falling apart from multiple ethnic tensions, and pressure from the German high command, the Kaiser and all German ruling princes abdicated.
On 9 November 1918, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed a Republic, in cooperation with the business and middle classes, not the revolting workers.
The new government led by the German Social Democrats called for and received an armistice on 11 November 1918; in practice it was a surrender, and the Allies kept up the food blockade to guarantee an upper hand.
The war was over; the history books closed on the German Empire
It was succeeded by the democratic, yet flawed, Weimar Republic.
Seven million soldiers and sailors were quickly demobilized, and they became a conservative voice that drowned out the radical left in cities such as Kiel and Berlin.
The radicals formed the ‘Spartakusbund’ and later the ‘Communist Party of Germany’ (KPD).
Germany lost the war because it was decisively defeated by a stronger military power; it was out of soldiers and ideas, and was losing ground every day by October 1918.
Nevertheless it was still in France when the war ended on Nov. 11 giving die-hard nationalists the chance to blame the civilians back home for betraying the army and surrendering.
This was the ‘Dolchstoß in den Rücken Legende’ (Stab-in-the-back legend) that re-emerged in German politics in the 1920s, and caused a distrust of democracy and the Weimar government.


Kaiser Wilhelm II and the ‘Grosse Krieg’

Paul von Hindenburg – General Ludendorff
and Kaiser Wilhelm II

Wilhelm’s role in wartime was of ever-decreasing power as he increasingly handled awards ceremonies and honorific duties.

The high command foolishly continued with its strategy even when it was clear that the Schlieffen plan had failed.
By 1916 the Empire had effectively become a military dictatorship under the control of Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff.
Paul von Hindenburg

Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, known universally as Paul von Hindenburg –  (2 October 1847 – 2 August 1934) was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934.
Hindenburg enjoyed a long career in the Prussian Army, retiring in 1911. He was recalled at the outbreak of World War I, and first came to national attention, at the age of 66, as the victor at Tannenberg in 1914. As Germany’s Chief of the General Staff from 1916, he and his deputy, Erich Ludendorff, rose in the German public’s esteem until Hindenburg came to eclipse the Kaiser himself.
Hindenburg retired again in 1919, but returned to public life one more time in 1925 to be elected as the second President of Germany.



Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff

Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (sometimes referred to as von Ludendorff) (9 April 1865 – 20 December 1937) was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg. From August 1916 his appointment as Quartermaster general made him joint head (with Paul von Hindenburg), and chief engineer behind the management of Germany’s effort in World War I until his resignation in October 1918.
After the war, Ludendorff became a prominent nationalist leader who was convinced that the German Army had been betrayed by Marxists and Republicans in the Versailles Treaty. He took part in the unsuccessful coups d’état of Wolfgang Kapp in 1920 and the Beer Hall Putsch of Adolf Hitler in 1923, and in 1925 he ran for president against his former colleague, Paul von Hindenburg,


Increasingly cut off from reality and the political decision-making process, Wilhelm vacillated between defeatism and dreams of victory, depending upon the fortunes of his armies. Nevertheless, Wilhelm still retained the ultimate authority in matters of political appointment, and it was only after his consent had been gained that major changes to the high command could be effected.

Helmuth von Moltke
Prinz Ruprecht and Wilhelm II
Wilhelm was in favour of the dismissal of Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in September 1914 and his replacement by Erich von Falkenhayn.

Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke (23 May 1848, Biendorf – 18 June 1916), also known as Moltke the Younger, was a nephew of Field Marshal Count Moltke and served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. The two are often differentiated as Moltke the Elder and Moltke the Younger. Moltke the Younger’s role in the development of German war plans and the instigation of the First World War is extremely controversial.



Erich von Falkenhayn

Erich von Falkenhayn (11 September 1861 – 8 April 1922) was a German soldier and Chief of the General Staff during World War I. He became a military writer after World War I.

Falkenhayn succeeded Moltke as Chief of the General Staff of the German Army after the Battle of the Marne on 14 September 1914. Confronted with the failure of the Schlieffen Plan due to Moltke’s interference, he attempted to outflank the British and French in the “Race to the Sea”, a series of engagements throughout northern France and Belgium in which each side tried to turn the other’s flank until they reached the coastline. The British and French eventually stopped the Germans at the First Battle of Ypres (October–November 1914).
Falkenhayn preferred an offensive strategy on the Western Front while conducting a limited campaign in the east: he hoped that Russia would accept a separate armistice more easily if it had not been humiliated too much. This brought him into conflict with Hindenburg and Ludendorff, who favored massive offensives in the east. Eventually – either in the hope that a massive slaughter would lead Europe’s political leaders to consider ending the war, or that losses would in the end be less harmful for Germany than for France – Falkenhayn staged a massive battle of attrition, as claimed in his post-war memoires, at Verdun in early 1916. Although more than a quarter of a million soldiers eventually died – for which Falkenhayn was sometimes called “the Blood-Miller of Verdun” – neither side’s resolve was lessened, because, contrary to Falkenhayn’s assumptions, the Entente was able to replace their dead. 
After the failure at Verdun, coupled with several reverses in the east and incessant lobbying by Hindenburg and Ludendorff, Falkenhayn was replaced as Chief of Staff by Hindenburg.

Georg Michaelis
In 1917, Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided that Bethman-Hollweg was no longer acceptable to them as Chancellor and called upon the Kaiser to appoint somebody else.
When asked whom they would accept, Ludendorff recommended Georg Michaelis, a nonentity he barely knew.
The Kaiser did not know Michaelis, but accepted the suggestion.
The Kaiser’s support collapsed completely in October–November 1918 in the army, in the civilian government, and in German public opinion, as President Woodrow Wilson made clear the Kaiser could no longer be a party to peace negotiations.
That year Wilhelm also became seriously ill during the worldwide 1918 flu pandemic, though he survived.


Abdication

Wilhelm was at the Imperial Army headquarters in Spa, Belgium, when the uprisings in Berlin and other centres took him by surprise in late 1918.

The Kiel Mutiny – 1918

Mutiny among the ranks of his beloved Kaiserliche Marine, the imperial navy, profoundly shocked him.

The Kiel mutiny was a major revolt by sailors of the German High Seas Fleet on 3 November 1918. The revolt triggered the German revolution which was to sweep aside the monarchy within a few days. It ultimately led to the end of the German Empire and to the establishment of the Weimar Republic.
On 7 November, the revolution had spread as far south as München, causing Ludwig III of Bavaria to flee.

After the outbreak of the German Revolution, Wilhelm could not make up his mind whether or not to abdicate.
Up to that point, he was confident that even if he were obliged to vacate the German throne, he would still retain the Prussian kingship.

Socialist Revolution – Berlin – 1919
Maximillian Prinz von Baden

The unreality of this belief was revealed when, in the hope of preserving the monarchy in the face of growing revolutionary unrest, Wilhelm’s abdication both as German Emperor and King of Prussia was abruptly announced by the Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, on 9 November 1918.
Prince Max himself was forced to resign later the same day, when it became clear that only Friedrich Ebert, leader of the SPD could effectively exert control.
Wilhelm consented to the abdication only after Ludendorff’s replacement, General Wilhelm Groener, had informed him that the officers and men of the army would march back in good order under Paul von Hindenburg’s command, but would certainly not fight for Wilhelm’s throne on the home front.
The monarchy’s last and strongest support had been broken, and finally even Hindenburg, himself a lifelong royalist, was obliged, with some embarrassment, to advise the Emperor to give up the crown, thus ending the Hohenzollern dynasty’s five-century rule.
The fact that the High Command might one day abandon the Kaiser had been foreseen in December 1897, when Wilhelm had visited Otto von Bismarck for the last time.
Bismarck had again warned the Kaiser about the increasing influence of militarists, especially of the admirals who were pushing for the construction of a battle fleet.
Bismarck’s last warning had been:
‘Your Majesty, so long as you have this present officer corps, you can do as you please. But when this is no longer the case, it will be very different for you.’
Subsequently, Bismarck had predicted accurately:
Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this” – a prophecy fulfilled almost to the month.
On November 10, Wilhelm Hohenzollern crossed the border by train, as a private citizen, and went into exile in the Netherlands, which had remained neutral throughout the war.
Upon the conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles in early 1919, Article 227 expressly provided for the prosecution of Wilhelm “for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties“, but Queen Wilhelmina refused to extradite him, despite appeals from the Allies.
King-Emperor George V wrote that he looked on his cousin as “the greatest criminal in history (?)“, but opposed Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s proposal to “hang the Kaiser“.
President Wilson rejected extradition, arguing that punishing Wilhelm for waging war would destabilize international order and lose the peace.

Wilhelm after his Abdication

The erstwhile Emperor first settled in Amerongen, where on 28 November he issued a formal statement of abdication.

He subsequently purchased a country house in the municipality of Doorn on 16 August 1919 and moved in on 15 May 1920.
This was to be his home for the remainder of his life.
From this residence, ‘Huis Doorn’, Wilhelm absolved his officers and servants of their oath of loyalty to him; however, he himself never formally relinquished his titles, and hoped to return to Germany in the future.
The Weimar Republic allowed Wilhelm to remove twenty-three railway wagons of furniture, twenty-seven containing packages of all sorts, one bearing a car and another a boat, from the New Palace at Potsdam.


Aftermath

Out of a population of 65 million, Germany suffered 2.1 million military deaths and 430,000 civilian deaths due to wartime causes (especially the food blockade), plus about 17,000 killed in Africa and the other overseas colonies.
The Allied blockade continued until July 1919, causing severe additional hardships.

The Causes of the ‘Great War’

THE CAUSES OF THE ‘GREAT WAR’
The causes of World War I, which began in central Europe in late July 1914, included intertwined factors, such as the conflicts and hostility of the four decades leading up to the war.
Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism played major roles in the conflict as well.
The immediate origins of the war, however, lay in the decisions taken by statesmen and generals during the Crisis of 1914, ‘casus belli’ for which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by Gavrilo Princip, an irredentist Serb.

The crisis came after a long and difficult series of diplomatic clashes between the Great Powers (Italy, France, Germany, the British Empire, the Austria-Hungarian Empire and Russia) over European and colonial issues in the decade before 1914 that had left tensions high.
In turn these diplomatic clashes can be traced to changes in the balance of power in Europe since 1867.
The more immediate cause for the war was tensions over territory in the Balkans.
Austria-Hungary competed with Serbia and Russia for territory and influence in the region, and they pulled the rest of the Great Powers into the conflict through their various alliances and treaties.

Background
In November 1912, Russia was humiliated because of its inability to support Serbia during the Bosnian crisis of 1908 – also known as the ‘First Balkan War’, and announced a major reconstruction of its military.
On November 28, German Foreign Secretary Gottlieb von Jagow told the Reichstag, that “If Austria is forced, for whatever reason, to fight for its position as a Great Power, then we must stand by her.
As a result, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey responded by warning Prince Karl Lichnowsky, the Germany Ambassador in London, that if Germany offered Austria a “blank cheque” for war in the Balkans, then “the consequences of such a policy would be incalculable.”
To reinforce this point, R. B. Haldane, the Germanophile Lord Chancellor, met with Prince Lichnowsky to offer an explicit warning that if Germany were to attack France, Britain would intervene in France’s favor.
With the recently announced Russian military reconstruction and certain British communications, the possibility of war was a leading topic at the German Imperial War Council of 8 December 1912 in Berlin, an informal meeting of some of Germany’s top military leadership called on short notice by the Kaiser.
Attending the conference were Kaiser Wilhelm II, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz – the Naval State Secretary, Admiral Georg Alexander von Müller, the Chief of the German Imperial Naval Cabinet (Marinekabinett), General von Moltke – the Army’s Chief of Staff, Admiral August von Heeringen – the Chief of the Naval General Staff and General Moriz von Lyncker, the Chief of the German Imperial Military Cabinet.
The presence of the leaders of both the German Army and Navy at this War Council attests to its importance, however, Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg and General Josias von Heeringen, the Prussian Minister of War, were not invited.
Wilhelm II called British ‘balance of power’ concept “idiocy,” but agreed that Haldane’s statement was a “desirable clarification” of British policy.
His opinion was that Austria should attack that December and/ if “Russia supports the Serbs, which she evidently does…then war would be unavoidable for us, too,” and that would be better than going to war after Russia completed the massive modernization and expansion of their army that they had just begun. Moltke agreed.
In his professional military opinion “a war is unavoidable and the sooner the better“.
Moltke “wanted to launch an immediate attack“.
Both Wilhelm II and the Army leadership agreed that if a war were necessary it were best launched soon. Admiral Tirpitz, however, asked for a “postponement of the great fight for one and a half years” because the Navy was not ready for a general war that included Britain as an opponent.
He insisted that the completion of the construction of the U-boat base at Heligoland and the widening of the Kiel Canal were the Navy’s prerequisites for war.
The date for completion of the widening of the Kiel Canal was the summer of 1914.
Though Moltke objected to the postponement of the war as unacceptable, Wilhelm sided with Tirpitz. Moltke “agreed to a postponement only reluctantly.”
It should be noted that this War Council only showed the thinking and recommendations of those present, with no decisions taken.
Admiral Müller’s diary states: “That was the end of the conference. The result amounted to nothing.” Certainly the only decision taken was to do nothing.
With the November 1912 announcement of the Russian ‘Great Military Programme’, the leadership of the German Army began clamoring even more strongly for a “preventive war” against Russia.
Moltke declared that Germany could not win the arms race with France, Britain and Russia, which she herself had begun in 1911, because the financial structure of the German state, which gave the Reich government little power to tax, meant Germany would bankrupt herself in an arms race.
As such, Moltke from late 1912 onward was the leading advocate for a general war, and the sooner the better.
Throughout May and June 1914, Moltke engaged in an “almost ultimative” demand for a German “preventive war” against Russia in 1914.
The German Foreign Secretary, Gottlieb von Jagow, reported on a discussion with Moltke at the end of May 1914:
Moltke described to me his opinion of our military situation. The prospects of the future oppressed him heavily. In two or three years Russia would have completed her armaments. The military superiority of our enemies would then be so great that he did not know how he could overcome them. Today we would still be a match for them. In his opinion there was no alternative to making preventive war in order to defeat the enemy while we still had a chance of victory. The Chief of the General Staff therefore proposed that I should conduct a policy with the aim of provoking a war in the near future.”
The new French President Raymond Poincaré, who took office in 1913, was favourable to improving relations with Germany.
In January 1914 Poincaré became the first French President to dine at the German Embassy in Paris.
Poincaré was more interested in the idea of French expansion in the Middle East than a war of revenge to regain Alsace-Lorraine.
Had the Reich been interested in improved relations with France before August 1914, the opportunity was available, but the leadership of the Reich lacked such interests, and preferred a policy of war to destroy France.
Because of France’s smaller economy and population, by 1913 French leaders had largely accepted that France by itself could never defeat Germany.
In May 1914, Serbian politics were polarized between two factions, one headed by the Prime Minister Nikola Pašić, and the other by the radical nationalist chief of Military Intelligence, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, known by his codename Apis.
In that month, due to Colonel Dimitrigjevic’s intrigues, King Peter dismissed Pašić’s government.
The Russian Minister in Belgrade intervened to have Pašić’s government restored.
Pašić, though he often talked tough in public, knew that Serbia was near-bankrupt and, having suffered heavy casualties in the Balkan Wars and in the suppression of a December 1913 Albanian revolt in Kosovo, needed peace.
Since Russia also favoured peace in the Balkans, from the Russian viewpoint it was desirable to keep Pašić in power.
It was in the midst of this political crisis that politically powerful members of the Serbian military armed and trained three Bosnian students as assassins and sent them into Austria-Hungary.
Domestic Political Factors
German Domestic Politics  –  Left-wing parties, especially the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) made large gains in the 1912 German election.
German government at the time was still dominated by the Prussian Junkers who feared the rise of these left-wing parties.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Junker was an often pejorative designation for a member of the landed nobility in Prussia and eastern Germany.
Supporting monarchism and military traditions, they were seen as reactionary, anti-democratic and protectionist. This political class held tremendous power over industrial classes and government alike.
It is possible that the Junkers deliberately sought an external war to distract the population and whip up patriotic support for the government.
Russia was in the midst of a large-scale military build-up and reform that they completed in 1916–17.
It is also argued, however, that German conservatives were ambivalent about a war, worrying that losing a war would have disastrous consequences, and even a successful war might alienate the population if it were lengthy or difficult.
French Domestic Politics  –  The situation in France was quite different from that in Germany as going to war appeared to the majority of political and military leaders to be a potentially costly gamble.
It is undeniable that forty years after the loss of Alsace-Lorraine a vast number of French were still angered by the territorial loss, as well as by the humiliation of being compelled to pay a large reparation to Germany in 1870.
The diplomatic alienation of France orchestrated by Germany prior to World War I caused further resentment in France.
Nevertheless, the leaders of France recognized Germany’s strong military advantage against them, as Germany had nearly twice as much population and a better equipped army.
At the same time, the episodes of the Tangier Crisis in 1905 and the Agadir Crisis in 1911 had given France a strong indication that war with Germany could be inevitable if Germany continued to oppose French colonial expansionism.
More than a century after the French Revolution, there was still a fierce struggle between the left-wing French government and its right-wing opponents.

Austria

In 1867, the Austrian Empire fundamentally changed its governmental structure, becoming the ‘Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary’.
For hundreds of years, the empire had been run in an essentially feudal manner, with a German-speaking aristocracy at its head, however, with the threat represented by an emergence of nationalism within the empire’s many component ethnicities, some elements, including Emperor Franz Joseph, decided that a compromise was required to preserve the power of the German aristocracy.
In 1867, the Ausgleich was agreed on, which made the Magyar (Hungarian) elite in Hungary almost equal partners in the government of Austria-Hungary.
This arrangement fostered a tremendous degree of dissatisfaction among many in the traditional German ruling classes.
Some of them considered the Ausgleich to have been a calamity, because it often frustrated their intentions in the governance of Austria-Hungary.
For example, it was extremely difficult for Austria-Hungary to form a coherent foreign policy that suited the interests of both the German and Magyar elite.
Throughout the fifty years from 1867 to 1914, it proved difficult to reach adequate compromises in the governance of Austria-Hungary.
At the same time, a form of social Darwinism became popular among many in the Austrian half of the government.
This thinking emphasised the primacy of armed struggle between nations, and the need for nations to arm themselves for an ultimate struggle for survival.
As a result, at least two distinct strains of thought advocated war with Serbia, often unified in the same people.
Some reasoned that dealing with political deadlock required that more Slavs be brought into Austria-Hungary to dilute the power of the Magyar elite.
With more Slavs, the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary could force a new political compromise in which the Germans could play the Magyars against the South Slavs.
Another fear was that the South Slavs, primarily under the leadership of Serbia, were organizing for a war against Austria-Hungary, and even all of Germanic civilization.
Some leaders, such as Conrad von Hötzendorf, argued that Serbia must be dealt with before it became too powerful to defeat militarily.
A powerful contingent within the Austro-Hungarian government was motivated by these thoughts and advocated war with Serbia long before the war began.
Prominent members of this group included Leopold von Berchtold, Alexander von Hoyos, and Johann von Forgách.
Although many other members of the government, notably Franz Ferdinand, Franz Joseph, and many Hungarian politicians did not believe that a violent struggle with Serbia would necessarily solve any of Austria-Hungary’s problems, the hawkish elements did exert a strong influence on government policy, holding key positions.
It is important to understand the central role of Austria-Hungary in starting the war.
Convinced Serbian nationalism and Russian Balkan ambitions were disintegrating the Empire, Austria-Hungary hoped for a limited war against Serbia and that strong German support would force Russia to keep out of the war and weaken its Balkan prestige.

Imperialism

Some attribute the start of the war to imperialism.
Countries such as the United Kingdom and France accumulated great wealth in the late 19th century through their control of trade in foreign resources, markets, territories, and people.
Other empires, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia all hoped to do so as well in economic advantage.
Their frustrated ambitions, and British policies of strategic exclusion created tensions.
In addition, the limits of natural resources in many European nations began to slowly alter trade balance, and make national industries seek new territories rich in natural resources.
Commercial interests contributed substantially to Anglo-German rivalry during the scramble for tropical Africa.
This was the scene of sharpest conflict between certain German and British commercial interests.
There have been two partitions of Africa.
One involved the actual imposition of political boundaries across the continent during the last quarter of the 19th century; the other, which actually commenced in the mid-19th century, consisted of the so-called ‘business’ partition.
In southern Africa the latter partition followed rapidly upon the discoveries of diamonds and gold in 1867 and 1886 respectively.
An integral part of this second partition was the expansion in the interior of British capital interests, primarily the British South Africa Company and mining companies such as De Beers.
After 1886 the Witwatersrand goldfields prompted feverish activity among European as well as British capitalists.
It was soon felt in Whitehall that German commercial penetration in particular constituted a direct threat to Britain’s continued economic and political hegemony south of the Limpopo.
Amid the expanding web of German business on the Rand, the most contentious operations were those of the German-financed N.Z.A.S.M. or Netherlands South African Railway Company, which possessed a railway monopoly in the Transvaal.
Rivalries for not just colonies, but colonial trade and trade routes developed between the emerging economic powers and the incumbent great powers.

Berlin-Baghdad Railway

This rivalry was illustrated in the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, which would have given German industry access to Iraqi oil, and German trade a southern port in the Persian Gulf.
A history of this railroad in the context of World War I has arrived to describe the German interests in countering the British Empire at a global level, and Turkey’s interest in countering their Russian rivals at a regional level.
It was felt in England that if, as Napoleon is said to have remarked, Antwerp in the hands of a great continental power was a pistol leveled at the English coast, Bagdad and the Persian Gulf in the hands of Germany (or any other strong power) would be a 42-centimetre gun pointed at India.’
On the other side, “Public opinion in Germany was feasting on visions of Cairo, Baghdad, and Tehran, and the possibility of evading the British blockade through outlets to the Indian Ocean.”
Britain’s initial strategic exclusion of others from northern access to a Persian Gulf port in the creation of Kuwait by treaty as a protected, subsidized client state showed political recognition of the importance of the issue.
If outcome is revealing, by the close of the war this political recognition was re-emphasized in the military effort to capture the railway itself, recounted with perspective in a contemporary history: “On the 26th Aleppo fell, and on the 28th we reached Muslimieh, that junction on the Baghdad railway on which longing eyes had been cast as the nodal point in the conflict of German and other ambitions in the East.”
The Treaty of Versailles explicitly removed all German ownership thereafter, which without Ottoman rule left access to Mesopotamian and Persian oil, and northern access to a southern port in British hands alone.

Otto von Bismarck

Rivalries among the great powers were exacerbated starting in the 1880s by the scramble for colonies, which brought much of Africa and Asia under European rule in the following quarter-century.
It also created great Anglo-French and Anglo-Russian tensions and crises that prevented a British alliance with either until the early 20th century.
Otto von Bismarck disliked the idea of an overseas empire, but pursued a colonial policy to court domestic political support.
This started Anglo-German tensions since German acquisitions in Africa and the Pacific threatened to impinge upon British strategic and commercial interests.
Bismarck supported French colonization in Africa because it diverted government attention and resources away from continental Europe and revanchism.
In spite of all of Bismarck’s deft diplomatic maneuvering, in 1890 he was forced to resign by the new Kaiser (Wilhelm II).
His successor, Leo von Caprivi, was the last German Chancellor who was successful in calming Anglo-German tensions.

Leo von Caprivi

After his loss of office in 1894, German policy led to greater conflicts with the other colonial powers.
The status of Morocco had been guaranteed by international agreement, and when France attempted to greatly expand its influence there without the assent of all the other signatories Germany opposed it prompting the ‘Moroccan Crise’s, the ‘Tangier Crisis’ of 1905 and the ‘Agadir Crisis’ of 1911.
The intent of German policy was to drive a wedge between the British and French, but in both cases produced the opposite effect, and Germany was isolated diplomatically, most notably lacking the support of Italy despite Italian membership in the Triple Alliance.
The French protectorate over Morocco was established officially in 1912.
In 1914, there were no outstanding colonial conflicts, Africa essentially having been claimed fully, apart from Ethiopia, for several years, however, the competitive mentality, as well as a fear of “being left behind” in the competition for the world’s resources may have played a role in the decisions to begin the conflict.

The Arms Race

A self-reinforcing cycle of heightened military preparedness…was an essential element in the conjuncture that led to disaster…The armaments race…was a necessary precondition for the outbreak of hostilities.
If Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in 1904 or even in 1911, there might have been no war. It was…the armaments race…and the speculation about imminent or preventive wars  that made his death in 1914 the trigger for war.
Some historians see the German naval build-up as the principal cause of deteriorating Anglo-German relations.
The overwhelming British response, however, proved to Germany that its efforts were unlikely to equal the Royal Navy.
In 1900, the British had a 3.7:1 tonnage advantage over Germany; in 1910 the ratio was 2.3:1 and in 1914, 2.1:1.
So decisive was the British victory in the naval arms race that it is hard to regard it as in any meaningful sense a cause of the First World War.

This ignores the fact that the Kaiserliche Marine had narrowed the gap by nearly half, and that the Royal Navy had long intended to be stronger than any two potential opponents; the United States Navy was in a period of growth, making the German gains very ominous.
Technological changes, with oil- rather than coal-fuelled ships, decreasing refuelling time while increasing speed and range, and with superior armour and guns also would favour the growing, and newer, German fleet.
One of the aims of the ‘First Hague Conference’ of 1899, held at the suggestion of Russian Emperor Nicholas II, was to discuss disarmament.
The ‘Second Hague Conference’ was held in 1907.
All the signatories except for Germany supported disarmament.
Germany also did not want to agree to binding arbitration and mediation.
The Kaiser was concerned that the United States would propose disarmament measures, which he opposed.

Russian interests in Balkans and Ottoman Empire

The main Russian goals included strengthening its role as the protector of Eastern Christians in the Balkans (such as the Serbians).
Although Russia enjoyed a booming economy, growing population, and large armed forces, its strategic position was threatened by an expanding Turkish military trained by German experts using the latest technology.
The start of the war renewed attention of old goals: expelling the Turks from Constantinople, extending Russian dominion into eastern Anatolia and Persian Azerbaijan, and annexing Galicia.
These conquests would assure Russian predominance in the Black Sea.

Over by Christmas

Field Marshal Lord
Horatio Herbert Kitchener 

Both sides believed, and publicly stated, that the war would end soon.

The Kaiser told his troops that they would be, “…home before the leaves have fallen from the trees,” and one German officer said he expected to be in Paris by Sedantag, about six weeks away.
Germany only stockpiled enough potassium nitrate for gunpowder for six months.
Russian officers similarly expected to be in Berlin in six weeks, and those who suggested that the war would last for six months were considered pessimists.
Von Moltke and his French counterpart Joseph Joffre were among the few who expected a long war, but neither adjusted his nation’s military plans accordingly.
The new British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, was the only leading official on either side to both expect a long war (“three years” or longer, he told an amazed colleague) and act accordingly, immediately building an army of millions of soldiers who would fight for years.


Schlieffen Plan

Alfred Graf von Schlieffen 

Germany’s strategic vulnerability, sandwiched between its allied rivals, led to the development of the audacious (and incredibly expensive) Schlieffen Plan.

It aimed to knock France instantly out of contention, before Russia had time to mobilize its gigantic human reserves.
It aimed to accomplish this task within 6 weeks.
Germany could then turn her full resources to meeting the Russian threat.
Although Count Alfred von Schlieffen initially conceived the plan before his retirement in 1906, Japan’s defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 exposed Russia’s organizational weakness and added greatly to the plan’s credibility.
The plan called for a rapid German mobilization, sweeping through the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium, into France.
Schlieffen called for overwhelming numbers on the far right flank, the northernmost spearhead of the force with only minimum troops making up the arm and axis of the formation as well as a minimum force stationed on the Russian eastern front.
Helmuth von Moltke

Schlieffen was replaced by Helmuth von Moltke, and in 1907–08 Moltke adjusted the plan, reducing the proportional distribution of the forces, lessening the crucial right wing in favor of a slightly more defensive strategy.

Also, judging Holland unlikely to grant permission to cross its borders, the plan was revised to make a direct move through Belgium, and an artillery assault on the Belgian city of Liège.
With the rail lines and the unprecedented firepower the German army brought, Moltke did not expect any significant defense of the fortress.
The significance of the Schlieffen Plan is that it forced German military planners to prepare for a pre-emptive strike when war was deemed unavoidable.
Otherwise Russia would have time to mobilize and crush Germany with its massive army.
On August 1, Kaiser Wilhelm II briefly became convinced that it might be possible to ensure French and British neutrality, and cancelled the plan despite the objections of the Chief of Staff that this could not be done, and resuming it only when the offer of a neutral France and Britain was withdrawn.
It appears that no war planners in any country had prepared effectively for the Schlieffen Plan.
The French were not concerned about such a move. They were confident their offensive (Plan XVII) would break the German center and cut off the German right wing moving through Belgium.
They also expected that an early Russian offensive in East Prussia would tie down German forces.

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand 

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot dead in Sarajevo, by Gavrilo Princip, one of a group of six Bosnian Serb assassins coordinated by Danilo Ilić.

Franz Ferdinand, eldest son of Carl Ludwig, the brother of Emperor Franz Josef, was born in 1863. Educated by private tutors, he joined the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1883.
His military career included service with an infantry regiment in Prague and with the hussars in Hungary.
While in the army Ferdinand received several promotions: captain (1885), major (1888), colonel (1890) and general (1896). 

Crown Prince Rupert

In 1889, Rudolf (21 August 1858 – 30 January 1889), Erzherzog von Österreich (Archduke of Austria) and Kronprinz von Österreich, Ungarn und Böhmen, (Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia,) the son of Franz Josef, shot himself at his hunting lodge.
The succession now passed to Franz Ferdinand’s father, Carl Ludwig.
When he died in 1896, Franz Ferdinand became the new heir to the throne.

Sophie von Chotkovato 

After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato were driven through the city.
Gavrilo Princip, the assassin, stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car.
Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie von Chotkovato in the abdomen. Princip’s bullet had pierced the archduke’s jugular vein but before losing consciousness, he pleaded “Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” Franz Urban drove the royal couple to Konak, the governor’s residence, but although both were still alive when they arrived, they died from their wounds soon afterwards.


The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary’s south-Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Greater Serbia or a Yugoslavia.
The assassins’ motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as ‘Young Bosnia’. Serbian military officers stood behind the attack.
At the top of these Serbian military conspirators was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence, Dragutin Dimitrijević, his righthand man Major Vojislav Tankosić, and Masterspy Rade Malobabić. Major Tankosić armed (with bombs and pistols) and trained the assassins, and the assassins were given access to the same clandestine tunnel of safe-houses and agents that Rade Malobabić used for the infiltration of weapons and operatives into Austria-Hungary.
The assassins, the key members of the clandestine tunnel, and the key Serbian military conspirators who were still alive were arrested, tried, convicted and punished.
Those who were arrested in Bosnia were tried in Sarajevo in October 1914.
The other conspirators were arrested and tried before a Serbian kangaroo court on the French-controlled Salonika Front in 1916–1917 on unrelated false charges; Serbia executed three of the top military conspirators.
Much of what is known about the assassinations comes from these two trials and related records.
Assignment of responsibility for the bombing and murders of 28 June is highly controversial because the attack led to the outbreak of World War I one month later.

Consequences
The murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife produced widespread shock across Europe, and there was initially much sympathy for the Austrian position.
Within two days of the assassination, Austria-Hungary and Germany advised Serbia that it should open an investigation, but Secretary General to the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Slavko Gruic, replied “Nothing had been done so far and the matter did not concern the Serbian Government.”
An angry exchange followed between the Austrian Chargé d’Affaires at Belgrade and Gruic.
After conducting a criminal investigation, verifying that Germany would honor its military alliance, and persuading the skeptical Hungarian Count Tisza, Austria-Hungary issued a formal letter to the government of Serbia.


Serbia was a state in the Balkans that came into existence as a result of the Serbian Revolution which lasted between 1804 and 1817. Despite serious and extremely brutal oppression and revenge by the Ottoman authorities, the revolutionary leaders, first Karađorđe Petrović and then Miloš Obrenović I, succeeded in their goal to liberate Serbia after centuries of Ottoman rule.

The letter reminded Serbia of its commitment to respect the Great Powers’ decision regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina, and to maintain good neighborly relations with Austria-Hungary.
The letter contained specific demands aimed at preventing the publication of propaganda advocating the violent destruction of Austria-Hungary, removing the people behind this propaganda from the Serbian Military, arresting the people on Serbian soil who were involved in the assassination plot and preventing the clandestine shipment of arms and explosives from Serbia to Austria-Hungary.
This letter became known as the ‘July Ultimatum’, and Austria-Hungary stated that if Serbia did not accept all of the demands in total within 48 hours, it would recall its ambassador from Serbia.
After receiving a telegram of support from Russia, Serbia mobilized its army and responded to the letter by completely accepting point #8 demanding an end to the smuggling of weapons and punishment of the frontier officers who had assisted the assassins and completely accepting point #10 which demanded Serbia report the execution of the required measures as they were completed.
Serbia partially accepted, finessed, disingenuously answered or politely rejected elements of the preamble and enumerated demands #1–7 and #9.
The shortcomings of Serbia’s response were published by Austria-Hungary and can be seen beginning on page 364 of Origins of the War, Vol. II by Albertini, with the Austrian complaints placed side-by-side against Serbia’s response.
Austria-Hungary responded by breaking diplomatic relations.
The next day, Serbian reservists being transported on tramp steamers on the Danube crossed onto the Austro-Hungarian side of the river at Temes-Kubin and Austro-Hungarian soldiers fired into the air to warn them off.
The report of this incident was initially sketchy and reported to Emperor Franz-Joseph as “a considerable skirmish”.
Austria-Hungary then declared war and mobilized the portion of its army that would face the (already mobilized) Serbian Army on 28 July 1914.
Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand von Österreich
Under the Secret Treaty of 1892 Russia and France were obliged to mobilize their armies if any of the Triple Alliance mobilized.
Russia’s mobilization set off full Austro-Hungarian and German mobilizations.
Soon all the Great Powers except Italy had chosen sides and gone to war.
A review of the consequences of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria shows that it was the initial actions of the Serbian Government (see above – Serbian military officers stood behind the attack – probably members of the Black Hand – an organisation  formed on 6 September 1901 by members of the Serbian Army).

Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis (right) and his associates
Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis stated that he had organized the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 –
(the assassin was Гаврило Принцип – (Gavrilo Princip) – who was an athiest. 

Гаврило Принцип – (Gavrilo Princip)
Gavrilo Princip was born in the remote village of Obljaj near Bosansko Grahovo, at the time de jure part of Bosnia Vilayet within the Ottoman Empire, however the province had since 1878 been occupied by Austria-Hungary which governed it as its condominium, a de facto part of Austria-Hungary. Princip was too young to receive the death penalty, being only twenty-seven days short of his twentieth birthday at the time of the assassination. Instead, he received the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. He was held in harsh conditions which were worsened by the war. He contracted tuberculosis,[3] and had one of his arms amputated in 1917 when the disease infected an arm bone (probably because of a badly performed procedure to repair a bone broken during his capture).[10] He died on 28 April 1918 at Terezín 3 years and 10 months after he assassinated the Archduke and Duchess. At the time of his death, Princip weighed around 40 kilograms (88 lb), weakened by malnutrition, blood loss from his amputated arm, and disease.
His politics are unclear. Some of his associates were Muslims. ).
– in the process, Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis used not only his power over elements of the Serbian military, but also the Black Hand.

Dragutin Dimitrijević was born in Belgrade in 1876. At sixteen Dimitrijević went to the Belgrade Military Academy. A brilliant student, Dimitrijević was recruited into the General Staff of the Serbian Army immediately after his graduation.
Captain Dimitrijević and a group of junior officers planned the assassination of the autocratic and unpopular king of Serbia. On 11 June 1903, the group stormed the royal palace and killed both King Alexander and his wife Queen Draga. During the attack Dimitrijević was badly wounded, and, although he eventually recovered, the three bullets from the encounter were never removed from his body. When Dimitrijević heard that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was planning to visit Sarajevo in June 1914, he sent three members of the Young Bosnia group, Gavrilo Princip, Nedeljko Čabrinović, Trifko Grabež and four others from Serbia to assassinate him. At this time, Dimitrijević was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence.

Leaders of the Black Hand in turn had penetrated Narodna Obrana and used the Narodna organization to infiltrate the arms and assassins into Sarajevo.
So it can be categorically stated that responsibility for the ‘Great War’ lies with the actions of the Serbian Government.
Subsequently Serbian reservists were mobilized and moved into Austro-Hungarian territory.
In response to this invasion of their territory (combined with the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne by agents of the Serbian military, Austria-Hungary, in justified self-defense, declared war on Serbia.
Russia then mobilised in order to attack Austria.
Realising that Russian mobilisation threatened their Eastern borders, German mobilised against Russia, and Russia’s ally, France.
To prempt a French invasion of their Western borders, Germany, in accordance with the revised Schlieffen plan, sent her armies through Belgium.
In accordance with her treat obligations with regard to Belgium, Great Britain declared war on Germany.
REFLECTIONS

Bismarck’s emphasis on military force amplified the voice of the officer corps, which combined advanced modernization of military technology with reactionary politics.
The rising upper-middle-class elites, in the business, financial, and professional worlds, tended to accept the values of the old traditional elites.
The German Empire was a strange mixture of highly successful capitalist industrialization and socio-economic modernization on the one hand, and of surviving pre-industrial institutions, power relations and traditional cultures on the other, which produced a high degree of internal tension, which led on the one hand to the suppression of socialists, Catholics, and reformers, and on the other hand to a highly aggressive foreign policy.

The origins of Germany’s path to disaster lie in the 1860s–1870s, when economic modernization took place, but political modernization did not happen and the old Prussian rural elite remained in firm control of the army, diplomacy and the civil service.
The historiographical concept of a German Sonderweg has had a turbulent history.
Nineteenth century scholars, who emphasized a separate German path to modernity, saw it as a positive factor that differentiated Germany from the “western path” typified by Great Britain.
They stressed the strong bureaucratic state, reforms initiated by Bismarck and other strong leaders, the Prussian service ethos, the high culture of philosophy and music, and Germany’s pioneering of a social welfare state.
Traditional, aristocratic, pre-modern society battled an emerging capitalist, bourgeois, modernizing society. Recognizing the importance of modernizing forces in industry and the economy and in the cultural realm,  reactionary traditionalism dominated the political hierarchy of power in Germany, as well as social mentalities and in class relations (Klassenhabitus).
The catastrophic German politics between 1914 and 1918 may be interpreted in terms of a delayed modernization of its political structures.