Cano 1Sarah CanoMr. SouleIB 20th Century History SL13 September 2011 “Germany was responsible for the First World War.” To what extent do you agree with this assertion? During the late 19th century and early 20th century, the two great powers in Europe wereBritain and France. This was mainly due to their vast empires which spanned across Asia, Africa,and the Caribbean. However, during this time period Germany was just starting off as a unifiedcountry. It had gained Alsace and Lorraine in 1871 in the Franco-Prussian War, and was lookingto expand even further. Some evidences suggest that Germany wanted to become a world power,or Weltmacht, similar to France and Britain. Germans also believed that in order to keep theirnew country strong they had to have an alliance system. Thus the Dual Alliance betweenGermany and Austria-Hungry was signed in 1879, and a Triple Alliance was signed by Germany,Austria-Hungry, and Italy in 1882. To prevent the Triple Alliance from generating too muchpower, the Triple Entente was signed by Britain, France, and Russia in 1907. This created muchtension throughout Europe for many years because it divided the major European powers in twodifferent alliance systems. Yet, the final spark to start World War One was the assassination ofArchduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Serbia. This incident initiated nations to demonstratetheir military intentions, predominately Germany. To a large extent, Germany is responsible forthe First World War. Certain evidence suggests that Germany attempted to prevent World War One fromoccurring, as oppose to provoking the war. For instance, on 21 July 1914, Chancellor Bethmann-
Cano 2Hollweg wrote to German ambassadors located in St. Petersburg, Paris, and London that “[they]urgently desire a localization of conflict” in the Balkans (Lee 65). This illustrates Germany didnot desire the war between Austria-Hungry and Serbia to be the cause of World War One, butrather an internal conflict in the Balkans. Moreover, German officials were attempting toestablish a stronger bond between Germany and Britain. Professor Gerhard Ritter supports thistheory and believes Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg insisted the Kaiser stop naval production todecrease the tension between Germany and Britain (Joll 105). This indicates Germany waswilling to compromise with other nations in order to prevent a large scale war. Lastly, theGermans fear of encirclement motivated them to mobilize their army. The Germans had a rightto be worried because they were surrounded by Britain, France, and Russia who were known asthe Triple Entente in 1914. According to the Germans, the alliance system illustrated the TripleEntente was provoking war with Germany, and that war was inevitable. Ultimately, Germanytook preventative measures in order to avoid a large war. Although Germany appeared to take preventative measures to decrease the scale ofWorld War One, evidence implies that Germany provoked European nations, which ultimatelystarted the war. For example, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Germanypromised full support of an Austria-Hungry attack on Serbia. This is known as the „blank cheque‟and was sent by Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg on 6 July 1914.This demonstrates that Germanyyearned for war, and was planning on igniting war by pressuring Austria-Hungry to attack Serbia.Furthermore, Germany‟s immediate attack on France, known as the Schlieffen Plan, guaranteeda large-scale war. Germany declared war on France on 3 August 1914, and utilized the SchliffenPlan, which proposed Germany‟s army capture Paris within 6 weeks, then turn to the Easternborder and defend their country from Russia. This hasty mobilization and the declaration of war
Cano 3on France without motive insinuate that Germany desired more land and power throughoutcentral Europe. Due to Germany‟s „blank cheque‟ policy, and attack on France, Germany isultimately responsible for World War One. Before and during World War One, Germany‟s war aims were clearly demonstrated,which signifies that Germany planned to benefit from war, thus having motive to initiate WorldWar One. Before the outbreak of World War One, evidence suggests that German officials wereinfluenced by industrialists who were looking to expand Germany for personal gain. For example,Walter Rathenau was the head of an electrical combine (AEG), a director of the BerlinerHandelsgesellschaft, and was good friends with Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg. Rathenau sent awar aims paper to Bethmann-Hollweg “expressing the necessity for controlling France in orderto defeat England, and reiterates the importance of German supremacy in central Europe” (Joll107).This shows that German industrialist were keen on expanding the German empire forcontrol of central Europe, and that they had high power friends (Bethmann-Hollweg) to achievetheir goal. Additionally, German government officials were conspiring about war aims once warhad already begun. On September 9, 1914 what is known as the September telegram was sent byChancellor Bethmann-Hollweg to the State Secretary of the Interior, Clemens Delbruck. It statedthat Bethmann-Hollweg wished to strip France of all its power, and wanted Russia‟s border to bepushed as far east as possible (Joll 34). This clearly illustrates Germany‟s real goals for war, andhow Germany was not disappointed by a major war, but looked forward to the gains they couldpotentially have. Lastly, once they had some territorial gain, Germany believed it was just thebeginning of their territorial conquest. On March 1918 Germany got political and territorial gainin parts of Russia, which many Germans in authority believed was just the beginning of “moreextensive conquests” (Joll 103). This is important because it demonstrates that even towards the
Cano 4end of the war Germany was still looking at gaining land. Ultimately, due to Germany‟sindustrial influences, war telegrams, and strives for territorial gain during war; Germany‟s waraims give them a strong motive to want a major war. Although Germany took some preventative measure to weaken the chance of war, strongevidences suggests that Germany provoked World War One to a large extent in order to achievetheir war aims. It is hard to put sole blame on one country for the start of a major war, and eventhough there is evidence that suggests other European countries had war aims, Germany‟s goalswere by far the most aggressive, and forceful as demonstrated by the Schlieffem Plan. Word Count: 1,033
Cano 5 Works CitedJoll, James. “The 1914 Debate Continues. Fritz Fischer and His Critics.” Past & Present 34 (1966): 100-113. Print.Lee, Dong Sun. Power Shifts, Strategy, and War: Declining States and International Conflict. London: Routledge, 2008. Print.