Who was responsible for WW1?

who is responsible for World War One 

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THE FIRST BALKANS WAR 1912

  • 1911 - Italy attacked the Ottoman Empire in Libya - this further highlighted the growing decline of the Ottoman influence. 
  • It encouraged the formation of the Balkan League of: Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegrro which aimed to seize territory from the collapsing Ottoman Empire.
  • The Austrians were horrified when the Balkan league invaded Albania
  • They were determined to stop Serbs from gaining any more power
  • 1912 - Austria demanded an Independent Albania
  • The Serbs ignored the Austrians (supported by Russia)
  • Germany pressed the Habsburgsd to make their point.

= international crisis

The Kaiser ordered for a war council - to consider his options. Two days later the Kaiser spoke about how war was inevitable. 

The first Balkan war was ended via the Treaty of London - 1913. 

HOWEVER - this affair heightened Germany's obsession of encirclement. 

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THE FIRST BALKANS WAR 1912

The increasing Slav threat provided the context of a lot of the future German policy:

1913 - ARMY BILL - increased Germany's army size by 170,000 troops (in response to this France and Russia also increased their armies)

SECOND BALKANS WAR - between the countried of the Balkans league saw Serbia emerge strenthened - Serbian troops entered Albania - The Austrian government threatened Serbia with an ultimatum - warning Serbia (supported by Germany)

There most certainly the feeling in Europe that war was inevitable - shown by the increasing size of army and navy etc. 

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JULY CRISIS. 1914

28 JUNE 1914 - Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne - was assassinated by a memeber of a Serbian terrorist group called the Black Hand. 

5 JULY - Austrian diplomat Count Hoyos, travelled to Berlin seeking Germany's support for action against Serbia.

The Kaiser and the German government gave Austria a 'Blank Cheque' offering their unconditional support. 

Austria gave Serbia an ultimatum ----- Serbia rejected Austrian enquiry into the

assassination which happened in Serbia ------Russia declared it's support for

Russia, with French assurances of support as well. ------- 28 JULY AUSTRIA

DECLARE WAR ON SERBIA ------ 1 AUG - Russia and France mobilise their

troops and Germany declared war on RUssia -------3 Aug - Germany invade

Belguim and declare war on France ------ Britain declares war on Germany in

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protection of Belgium -----6 AUG Austria declared war on Russia.

TO WHAT EXTENT WAS GERMANY RESPONSIBLE?

ARGUMENTS THAT GERMANY WAS RESPONSIBLE:

  • (Fischer) War of illusions - Germany used war to maintain the status quo - a solution to difficult internal problems via uniting people through war.
  • (Fisher) 1961 - Germany waged war to achieve European dominance - hoped that the 'blank cheque' would lead to war. 
  • WAR COUNCIL - 1912 -  Kaiser and his top military advisers - evidence that the path to war had already been decided upon but was postponed to give Germany more time to prepare. 
  • Schlieffen plan 1890-1905 
  • Evidence that Germany was planning for war: Navy laws - arms race with Britain, increased the size of their army in june 1913 
  • German fear of encirclement - felt threatened by the Entente - evidence: German foreign policy was obsessed with breaking the alliances. 
  • A war off aggression and conquest, launched to break encirclement. 
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TO WHAT EXTENT WAS GERMANY RESPONSIBLE?

ARGUMENTS THAT GERMANY WAS NOT RESPONSIBLE:

  • During the 1930's many politicians proposed a 'comfortable' consensus that the war was the fault of all the Great powers. At the time they were trying to re-build peaceful and lasting relations. - this has been discredited as an argument.
  • Germany was dragged into war by Austria-Hungary
  • The trigger was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand - which Germany had no impact on. 
  • The war started due to escalation of events. 
  • A defensive war? launched to break the fear of encirclement rather than a war of aggression.
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THE FISCHER CONTROVERSY

1961 - German historian Fritz Fischer launched a historiographical revolution with his book 'Germany's Aims in the First World War'. Fischer concluded that:

  • Germany had waged war to achieve European and worldwide domination - a bid for world power.
  • Germany had hoped the 'Blank Cheque' given to Austria would lead to war

FISCHER'S EVIDENCE:

A document written by Kurt Riezler (Bethmann-Hollweg's private secretary) on 9 September 1914. 

This document outlined the Chancellor's plans for peace negotiations which he expected to take place in the near future. 

Fischer argued that these plans were the continuation of policy made by politicians, military leaders and industrialists before the outbreak of war in 1914. 

It was clear that plans for annexation was made before war. 

Thus Germany was not the victim but the perpetrator of war. 

FISCHER'S THESIS:

  • Put Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg at the centre of the drive for expansionism
  • It removed the distinction between the expansionist military and the supposedly more moderate politicians. 
  • It linked foreign and domestic policy - suggesting the proposed annexations of land were a means of maintaining domestic dominance. 
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FISCHER CHALLENGED.

Historians such as Gerhard Ritter and Egmont Zechlin challenged Fischer's thesis. 

An aspect they objected to was the portrayal of Bethmann-Hollweg as central to the push for war. 

1980's - KARL DIETRICH ERDMANN - published the diaries of KURT RIEZLER.

  •  Erdmann was of the opinion that Germany had slipped into war in 1914.
  • The diaries suggested to Erdmann that Germany had been part of a push for war and had not been planning for war since 1912 nor have plans for annexation. 

HOWEVER - THERE ARE SUGGESTIONS BY SOME HISTORIANS THAT THE RIEZLER DIARIES WERE TAMPERED WITH. 

 

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Another challenge to Fischer's thesis was that there was little evidence that the outbreak of war constituted a grasp for world power.

Instead, some historians have suggested that the war was the consequence of Germany's sense of encirclement.

Especially after the failure of the Moroccan Crisis and the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907.

  • They argued that between 1909-1914 - German foreign policy was obsessed with the need to break this encirclement.
  • This mentality was partly due to the geography of Germany, the fact that Germany was born out of war, and due to the events that unfolded.
  • It stressed that the reasons for going to war were defensive not aggressive.
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WAR OF ILLUSIONS. 1969

Fischer made new conclusions in his 'War of Illusions' book published 1969 over the relationship between German domestic tensions and foreign policy.

He argued that:

  • The German government used war as a solution to difficult internal problems and the idea that there was a strong 'will to war'.
  • War was a leap forward to establish German dominance and keep domestic peace.
  • The whole decision making elite had to take responsibility for war. Germany's leaders felt the need to break the encirclement.
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EVIDENCE:

Fischer used the diaries of Admiral Muller (published 1965) which referenced the war council.

  • Fischer argued that the war council was evidence that the path to war had already been decided upon.
  • The war was only postponed because Bethmann-Hollweg insisted Germany had to prepare herself diplomatically and Tirpiz insisted that Germany needed to wait for an opening of the Kiel Canal.
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HOW SIGNIFICANT WAS THE 1912 WAR COUNCIL?

The War council conclusions:

  • The Kaiser insisted that Austria-Hungary should be supported in her actions against Serbia.
  • If Russia decided to fight - then Austria would have enough support to leave Germany to deal with France on land and Britain at sea.
  • Molkte thought that a war against Russia was inevitable and the sooner the bettter.
  • Tirpitz suggested that the navy need 12-18 months to prepare and for the Kiel Canal to have opened to allow large German naval vessels into the North sea.

However, there has been a debate over the significance of the war council.

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PRIMAT DER INNENPOLITIK.

(the dominance of internal policy)

Some Historians argue that the disruptive impact of industrialisation caused tensions in Germany's social and economic structure.

  • The Junkers/ financiers and industrialists resisted attempts by the middle classes to gain greater political power through the Reichstag.
  • The growth of the SPD presented a real challenge.
  • These tensions were diverted outwards - into foreign and diplomatic policy in order to preserve the status quo.
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WHAT ABOUT AUSTRIA - HUNGARY?

There is an argument to suggest that Germany was dragged into war by its ally, Austria-Hungary.

  • ww1 - the fateful meshing of aggressive German Weltpolitik with an even more aggressive Habsburg Balkanpolitik.

Some however, argue that:

  • Austria-Hungary provided the German military the excuse to wage the preventative war that they had been planning for years.
  • Austria-Hungary is responsible for planning a local third Balans war against Serbia - However it is the fault of Germany for causing the escalation for the conflict into a European war.
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