What was the extent of opposition 1914-16?

Unit 3 - The impact of the first world war on Germany 

What was the extent of opposition 1914-16?

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Extent of opposition 1914-16

There was minimal opposition. Socialists were not in favour of the war, but by supporting the war it put an end to there parties isolation. 

In August 1914, 14 of the 110 socialists in the reichstag argued against the war before accepting party discipline and voting for war credits Karl Liebknecht voted against war credits (money for way) and so did 20 other deputies. Yet they were lone voices.

A handful of radicals including Liebeknecht and Rosa Luxemburg agued that the only way to find peace was through revolution, there impact was limited due to the fact they spent the majority of the war in prison. 

Small numbers of pacifists attempted to organise in groups such as the german peace league, yet they had little impact.

Against them were the party and trade union leadership as well as the Deputy Commanding Generals, police, press and public opinion.  

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1916: the year of attrition

The war of 1916 was the defining year of the war. Falkenhayn had come to the conclusion that the only way to win the war was through Ermittlung. In February, the Germans launched an assult on Verdun with the aim of wearing down the french to the point of surrender. However there was an obscene amount of casulties on both sides for no military gain. The western allies opened an offensive on the somme with equally murderous results. In Galicia in the east the Russians launched an initially successful attack against Austria. Germany sent troops to help Austria and succeeded in pushing Russia back in an attack known as the Brusilov Offensive. But the German army became more stretched when in August 1916 the romanians entered the war on the side of the allies. At the end of that month Falkenhayn had fallen from position.  

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Hindenburg and Ludendorff

The appointment of Hindenburg and Ludendorff as Supreme Army Command and Chief of Staff marked the beginning of a quasi (semi) military dictatorship that was to last until the end of the war. Ludendorff was now the most powerful man in Germany yet there was still constraints on his power:- 

  • The Kaiser still needed to be consulted
  • The bureacracy ran the war effort
  • The Reichstag still held budgetary control and was representative to a degree, of public opinion

Yet from August 1916 it was Lundendorff and Hindenburg who decided the strategy of the war, yet there views contrasted with Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg's:-

  • They Rejected any idea of negotiated peace
  • The war had to be prosecuted with all avaliable resources until a conclusion
  • Russia should be knocked out of the war and subjected to a harsh peace settlement
  • The reward for the German people after the war for their toil and sacrifice during this period would come from vast annexations of land.
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The Hindenburg Programme

The introduction of the Hindenburg programme marked the beginning of Total War meaning the mobilisation of all resources within a nation, human and otherwise for the war effort. The aim of the programme was to compensate for Germany's lack of raw materials. To mobilise efforts, all non essential industries were shut down. This process of rationalisation to transform the German war economy was to be done administratively and also through tighter control over labour.

  • A new War Minister was appointed to assume control over economic mobilisation named Hermann von Stein.
  • A new agency named the Supreme War Office was created under General Groener to oversee the process of economic mobilisation
  • A central pillar of the programme was the Auxillary Labour Law, the purpose of this was to mobilise all avaliable male labour for the war effort, so all men aged between 17 and 60 were required to help the war effort.
  • Yet most Germans were not decieved; the Auxillary Labout Law was basically forced labour. 
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Overall the Hindenburg Programme failed to proved the effciency needed.

  • The Supreme War Office failed to resolve the bureaucratic chaos. General Groener and his subordinates found it difficult to shut down supposedly "non-essential" buisnesses.
  • The Auxillary Labour Law failed to mobilise a large number of men because there was simply no men left.
  • The Hindenburg Programme placed an even bigger strain on the already stretched supply of raw materials.
  • However the plan did have an impact on the production of munitions.
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