Makoto Abe “Germany was responsible for the start of World War I”, to what extent do you agree? Ever since the end of World War II, historians debated who were responsible for the twoWorld Wars. At the end of World War I, Germany was blamed for the start of the war and the Treatyof Versailles were established. The Treaty included large amounts of reparations therefore the treatywas a harsh punishment towards Germany. However the question of war guilt came in light onceagain at the end of World War II and people started to doubt that Germany was at fault for the startof the World War. But Professor Fritz Fischer’s book published in 1961 caused a major catastrophe.Fischer’s thesis was that Germany was the one who have caused the World War to become a worldclass power or the “Weltmacht”. Therefore Germany was responsible for the start of World War I toa large extent. To a certain extent, the rivalry and friction between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was thecause of the World War. The Bosnia Crisis in 1908 created friction between Austria-Hungary andSerbia. Austria annexed Bosnia which angered Serbia because they too were planning to annexBosnia. However Austria was able to keep Bosnia which made Serbia hostile towards Austria-Hungary. Serbia’s desire to gain Bosnia to unite all the Slavic people into one nation encouragedstronger hate towards Austria which caused the start of the war. The two Balkan Wars continued tocreate tension between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. At the end of the Balkan War, the Serbs werenot happy with their gains because they wanted Albania. However Austria-Hungary, Germany, andGreat Britain insisted that Albania become an independent state because they did not want Serbia tobecome too powerful. This applied especially to Austria-Hungary because Serbia wanted to unite allthe Serbs together under Pan-Slavism and there were many Serbs living in Austria-Hungary.Therefore Austria was determined to stop Serbia’s ambitions. The assassination of the AustrianArchduke Franz Ferdinand was the final step to the friction between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. InJune 1914, the Archduke was killed by a Serb terrorist, Gavrilo Princip. Austria blamed this on the
Serbian government and sent them a harsh ultimatum. Even though the Serbian government hadanswered to most of the Ultimatum, Austria still declared war on Serbia. Also the demands were toodemanding that it would weaken Serbia as a nation therefore Austria-Hungary knew that Serbiacould not follow all the demands but used it as an excuse to provoke war with Serbia. The Serbian-Austrian relations were the cause of World War I in a certain extent however Germany’s actionswere the most likely to have caused the war. Germany was in a large extent responsible for the start of World War I because Germanycontinued to pursue their aims despite the risk of war. As soon as the war started, Germany quicklymade plans for large-scale territorial annexations. Bethmann’s memorandum of 9 September 1914,clearly illustrated Germany’s aims for large-scale annexations. The Germany’s aims in theBethmann’s memorandum include; the reduction of France to a second power class by territorialannexations, establishment of a long-term control over Belgium, and spread of German powereastwards. Since annexations can be established by wars, it is noticeable that Germany was readyfor war to carry out their aggressive aims. Also this connects to the idea that Germany wanted toestablish a “Weltmacht” or a great power so that they can catch up to other nations whom werealready ahead of Germany. This thesis introduced by Fritz Fischer can be proved by the Bethmann’smemorandum because of the aim of the reduction of France to a second power class. Germany inspite of risk of war encouraged their Austrian allies to provoke war with Serbia. In 1914 Germanyagreed to support Austria-Hungary with the war against Serbia under the “Blank Cheque”. SoAustria-Hungary would not have provoked war with Serbia if they did not have a reassurance thatGermany is there for full support. Therefore if Germany had not agreed to the “Blank Cheque” a warmight have been avoided because Austria-Hungary would have not provoked war against Serbia.Germany’s aggression towards their aims has caused the war however the German’s actions andrelations with other nations also triggered the war.
The Germany’s aggression towards Britain and France had caused World War I. The navalwar between Germany and Britain had caused friction between the two nations. The naval racebegan because Kaiser Wilhelm wanted Germany to become the world class power. This point is alsosupported by the historian Fischer whom claimed that the cause of the World War was Germanybecause Germany wanted to become a world power. Therefore Germany started this naval race inspite of the risk of war with Great Britain. The Schlieffen Plan and the Bethmann’s memorandumclearly illustrated Germany’s aggression towards France. The Schlieffen Plan is a war plan to avoid atwo front war with France and Russia. Also in the Bethmann’s memorandum, one German aim wasto reduce France into a second class power. The Schlieffen Plan and the Bethmann’s memorandumshow Germany’s aggressiveness towards France. France and Germany have been hostile towardseach other every since France’s defeat from Germany in the Franco-Prussian war. Therefore it isclear that Germany was planning to start a war with France. The Moroccan Crisis and the AgadirCrisis in 1911 caused friction with France as well as Great Britain. It was an event where Germanytried to expand their empire as well as to test the recently signed Anglo-French “Entente Cordiale”.So Germany promised the Sultan of Morocco that they would protect them from France. And toavoid war a conference was held where the other nations agreed that France should take overMorocco. At the end the tension between Germany and France increased because of Germany’saggression towards Morocco. In the Agadir Crisis, Germany sent a gunboat, the Panther near Agadirto pressurize the French. Near Adagir was a British naval base and the British believed that theGerman warship was a threat. Therefore Lloyd George warned Germany which caused them torecognize French protectorate over Morocco. This caused more friction between the three nations.Therefore the German’s aggression in their aims, actions, and relations with other nations was thereason for the cause of World War I. Germany was responsible for the cause of the World War because they were aggressivetowards their aims as well as creating friction between themselves and other nations. However thiswar guilt question still continues as different historians come up with various historiography. Other
theories include nationalism, militarism, and the alliance systems; but Germany seemed to beinvolved in all three aspects which make Germany responsible of the start of World War I.