First World War
The First World War was fought from 1914 to 1918 in Europe , in the Near East , in Africa , in East Asia and on the oceans . About 17 million people lost their lives because of it. It began on July 28, 1914, with Austria-Hungary 's declaration of war on Serbia , which had been preceded by the Sarajevo assassination of June 28, 1914 and the July Crisis it triggered . The armed conflict ended with the Armistice of Compiègne on November 11, 1918, which tantamount to the victory of those from theTriple Entente war coalition. Important participants in the war were the German Empire , Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria on the one hand, and France , Great Britain and its British Empire , Russia , Serbia , Belgium , Italy , Romania , Japan and the USA on the other. 40 countries took part in what was then the most comprehensive war in history, and a total of almost 70 million people were under arms.
In the Sarajevo assassination , Archduke Franz Ferdinand , heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg , were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip , a member of the underground revolutionary organization Mlada Bosna , which was or was associated with official bodies in Serbia. The main motive was the desired "liberation" of Bosnia-Herzegovina from Austro-Hungarian rule with the aim of unifying the southern Slavs under the leadership of Serbia.
For action against Serbia, Austria sought the backing of the German Empire ( Mission Hoyos ), since it had to be expected that Russia would intervene as a protecting power . Kaiser Wilhelm II and Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg pledged their unconditional support to Austria-Hungary at the beginning of July. The July crisis began with the issuance of this so-called blank check . On July 23, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia requesting a judicial investigation against the participants in the June 28 plot involving k. u.k. organs. The Serbian government, encouraged by Russia's promise of military support in the event of a conflict, rejected this as an unacceptable impairment of its sovereignty . During the French state visit to St. Petersburg (July 20 to 23), Russia 's attitude, which was partly determined by the pan- Slavic motive, was supported by France, which, by confirming the Franco-Russian alliance , guaranteed the Russians support in the event of war with Germany. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.
The interests of the major powers and German military planning ( Schlieffen Plan ) caused the local war to escalate within a few days into a continental war involving Russia (German declaration of war dated August 1, 1914) and France (German declaration of war dated August 3, 1914). The political consequences of the Schlieffen Plan – German troops attacked France from the northeast while bypassing the French fortress belt between Verdun and Belfort , thereby violating the neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg – led to the entry into the war of the Belgian guarantor power Great Britain and its dominions (British declaration of war of August 4th 1914), which led to a world war.
The German advance came to a standstill on the Marne in September , and between November 1914 and March 1918 the western front froze. With Russia continuing to participate in the war in the east until the October Revolution of 1917 and the separate peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk , Germany found itself for a long time contrary to plan in a war on two fronts . Position and trench warfare as well as material battles with high casualties and mostly only minor gains in territory became typical features of combat . This concerned the Battle of Verdun , the Battle of the Somme , eleven of the twelve Battles of the Isonzo and the four Battles of Flanders . The gas war , unrestricted submarine warfare – which resulted in the USA entering the war against the Central Powers in 1917 – and the Armenian genocide in connection with the war events are considered to be special stages of escalation .
While Russia's withdrawal from the war effort after the separate peace with the Bolsheviks made possible the ultimately unsuccessful German Spring Offensive of 1918 , supply shortages resulting from the British naval blockade , the Allied collapse and developments on the Western Front during the Allied Hundred Days Offensive led the German military leadership to assess that the German front had become untenable. On September 29, 1918, contrary to all previous announcements , the Supreme Army Command informed the German Emperor and the government about the hopeless military situation of the army and, through Erich Ludendorff , issued an ultimatum to the start of armistice negotiations. On the 4th/5th In October 1918, Chancellor Max von Baden asked the Allies for an armistice. When the Naval War Staff sought the previously avoided, almost hopeless decisive battle with the Grand Fleet with the fleet order of October 24, 1918 in the sense of an "honorable sinking" , they aroused the resistance of sailors , who refused the order in increasing numbers and as a result the November Revolution triggered. On November 11, 1918, the Armistice of Compiègne came into force. The peace terms were regulated in the years 1919 to 1923 in the Paris Suburb Treaties. Of the losing powers, only Bulgaria was able to retain the state constitution of the pre-war period, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary fell apart, the tsardom fell in Russia and the empire in Germany.
The First World War was the breeding ground for fascism in Italy , Nazism in Germany and thus became the forerunner of the Second World War . Because of the upheavals that the First World War unleashed in all areas of life and its consequences, which have continued to have an impact until the recent past, it is considered the " primeval catastrophe of the 20th century ". It marks the end of the age of (high) imperialism . The question of who was to blame for the outbreak of this war is still the subject of controversial discussion today, and the corresponding Fischer controversy has meanwhile become part of German history. In the cultural field, the First World War also meant a turning point. The many thousands of experiences at the front in the trenches, the mass deaths and the upheavals in everyday life caused by hardship changed the standards and perspectives in the societies of the countries involved.
history and initial situation
Before 1914, Europe was at the height of its global dominance. As a result of the industrial revolution and population explosion , Europe, together with the powers Japan and the USA , which had also been active imperially since the end of the 19th century , had succeeded in establishing global political rule ( colonialism ). Essentially, only China was able to retain its independence; before 1914, only the USA and the Spanish colonies on the American double continent and, with restrictions, a few white dominions managed to decolonize . The establishment of the French protectorate over Tunisia (1881) and the British occupation of Egypt (1882) gave imperialism a new quality insofar as the European states increasingly sought formal rule over newly acquired territories. This increasingly became a question of national prestige, since the strength of the European states seemed to be defined in public perception by their non-European position. As a result, the tensions that had arisen in the periphery inevitably shifted back to the continent, especially when the division of the world was essentially complete in the 1890s, without Italy and the German Reich having received a share that corresponded to their self-image.
With the founding of the German Empire , an imbalance arose within the European pentarchy , and the German Empire emerged from what had previously been the weakest power ( Prussia ) . The German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine permanently stood in the way of an understanding with France. In this constellation of powers, security interests, concerns about national prestige and economic interests all clashed more intensely. Apart from that, domestic political tensions and fears of threats contributed to the fact that the ruling elites and governments tended towards risky policies in order to distract from internal shortcomings through foreign policy successes. In the age of imperialism , crises that threatened peace increasingly developed:
- In the War in Sight Crisis (1875), Russia and Great Britain indicated that they would not tolerate another defeat of France. Without being integrated into alliance systems, these powers reacted according to their great power interests, as they did later in the July crisis.
- During the Balkan Crisis (1875–1878) a local conflict developed into a small war ( Serbian-Ottoman War ) and from this the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877/78 . Although the Berlin Congress ended the crisis, it intensified the rivalry between Austria and Russia in the Balkans and worsened German-Russian relations.
- French Boulangism aggravated the tensions between Germany and France (exemplified in the Schnäbele affair of 1887) and led to the revival of revanchism , especially during Georges Boulanger 's term of office as Minister of War (January 1886 to May 1887) .
- The Bulgarian crisis - namely the Serbian-Bulgarian War of 1885/87 - significantly worsened the Austro-Russian relationship.
- The Fashoda Crisis (1898) and the Second Boer War (1899–1902) "signaled the filling of colonial power vacuums overseas [...] by European-North American imperialism around 1900, so that peripheral tensions returned to Europe."
- In the First Moroccan Crisis (1904–1906), Germany tried to break out France, isolated by Russia's weakness ( Russo-Japanese War 1904/05, Russian Revolution 1905 ), from the Entente cordiale , but failed at the Algeciras Conference (1906). On the contrary, the attempt led to the conspicuous isolation of the German Reich, which subsequently tied itself even more closely to Austria-Hungary.
- With the naval battle of Tsushima (May 27, 1905) and the fact that Russia lost the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/05, a reorientation of Russian politics took place. After the loss of the East Asian position and in view of the British position in the Middle East, the push for expansion of the spheres of influence was oriented back to Europe and in particular to Southeastern Europe, which brought with it the conflict with Austria-Hungary.
- The Bosnian annexation crisis of 1908-09 fueled Serbian nationalism. The further political effects also led to a humiliation of Russia, which almost ended in a war with the Dual Alliance. In reaction to the annexation, the group Mlada Bosna was formed, which was to carry out the assassination attempt in Sarajevo with the support of the secret organization Black Hand .
- Britain, mobilized by the Second Moroccan Crisis (1911), warned an increasingly politically isolated Germany against war with France. In view of the diplomatic failure ( Morocco-Congo Treaty ) despite German threats of war, the pressure from imperialist-oriented agitation groups - such as the Pan-German Association and the German Fleet Association - grew on the German Kaiser and his government, who had retreated.
- The two Balkan wars strengthened Serbia, deepened tensions in the Danube monarchy, exacerbated Austro-Russian antagonism and further fueled Slavic nationalism.
- The Liman von Sanders crisis of 1913/14 intensified mistrust, especially in Russia, towards Germany.
The alliance system that Bismarck sought after the founding of the empire tried to isolate France. This required good relations with Austria-Hungary and Russia ( Three Emperors Agreement of October 22, 1873). The Balkan crisis actually caused this agreement to fail, Germany's mediation in the Berlin Congress (ended with the Berlin Treaty on July 13, 1878) felt hostile to Russia. The following year, Tsar Alexander II issued a more or less veiled threat of war in the event of a repetition, prompting Bismarck to look for other allies. Due to the German grain tariff policy from 1879, further tensions with Russia developed. Austria-Hungary and Germany formed the Dual Alliance (October 7, 1879), which Italy joined in 1882 ( Triple Alliance ), and Romania joined in 1883 . The treaty committed to mutual support in the event of a simultaneous attack by two other powers on a signatory or a French attack on the German Reich or Italy. The avoidance of war in Europe by the Berlin Congress thus led to the first permanent alliance between major powers since the Crimean War. In addition, on June 18, 1881, came the League of the Three Emperors , a secret neutrality agreement (German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Russia), which broke up in the Bulgarian crisis of 1885/87. Bismarck's dismissal in March 1890 spelled the end of his alliance policy . On the recommendation of Bismarck's successor Leo von Caprivi and the Foreign Office , Wilhelm II then refrained from extending the secret reinsurance treaty concluded between Germany and Russia on June 18, 1887 , which is considered one of the fatal decisions of the " New Course ". Due to the German Lombard ban of 1887, which prevented the purchase of Russian railway bonds in Germany, from 1888 Russia increasingly oriented itself towards France in terms of financial policy. In 1891, France and Russia concluded an initially vague agreement, which was supplemented by a military convention in 1892 and signed by Tsar Alexander III in 1894. was ratified ( Franco-Russian Alliance ). After giving up its splendid isolation , Great Britain initially worked towards an alliance with Germany, which failed in the negotiations from March 29 to May 11, 1898.
The Fashoda Crisis (1898) was followed by a violent Franco-British confrontation, which was resolved in the Entente Cordiale (April 8, 1904), which regulated the general conflicts of interest over the colonies of Africa (“ Race for Africa ”). Great Britain then approached France, because Germany refused to renounce the naval armament, which resulted in the Anglo-German naval arms race. The underlying Tirpitz plan was based on risk theory . Germany believed she could pursue a free-hand policy . The resulting intransigent German attitude to arms limitations in the Hague peace conferences increased the general distrust of German politics. Great Britain, increasingly alarmed by German naval policy, supported France almost unreservedly during the Algeciras Conference (1906). Germany's erratic and clumsy foreign policy actions were a key factor in the establishment of the Triple Entente in the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (August 31, 1907), even if this Entente, which anticipated the war coalition, was primarily concerned with the settlement of colonial rivalries. Britain, however, was not an integral part of the alliance and each side was careful not to be exploited by the other. Russia kept its distance on the Moroccan question, and neither France nor Great Britain wanted to intervene on Russia's behalf in the Bosnian annexation crisis. The second Moroccan crisis was accompanied by violent opposition between German and French public opinion and prompted France to reconsolidate its relationship with Russia, which had cooled off after the Bosnian annexation crisis . Germany's isolation, which became evident at the latest with the Algeciras Conference, led to unconditional loyalty to Austria-Hungary, the last remaining ally.
balance of power
On the eve of the war, the Central Powers were clearly inferior in terms of numbers, economic output and armaments expenditure: in 1914 they (including Turkey) had a population of 138 million and 33 million able-bodied men, while the Entente (including the colonies) had 708 million inhabitants and 179 million able-bodied men. The Entente's absolute armaments expenditures in 1913 were about twice as high as those of the Central Powers. Germany was only superior in terms of modern heavy artillery, which brought a considerable advantage, especially in the - generally unexpected - trench warfare . The infantry armament was balanced in terms of shooting power, but the British troops had an above-average infantry rifle. At sea, the Entente and above all Great Britain were far superior to their opponents, so that Germany could be blocked from a distance . In return, however, Russia could be cut off from supplies via the Baltic and Black Seas. Germany and Austria-Hungary had the geostrategic advantage of the Inner Line , which initially meant that the Entente's numerical superiority did not come into play.
The troop strengths of the most important participants in the war are shown in the following table:
|Country||troops to enter the war||after mobilization||Total war participants||Remarks|
|Germany||761,000||3.8 million||approx. 13 million|
|Austria-Hungary||395,000||2.3 million||8 million||incl. Landwehr|
|osm. rich||—||about 800,000||2.8 - 3.5 million|
|Bulgaria||85,000||650,000||1.2 million||Entry into the war in 1915|
|Russia||1.4 million||4.5 million||12 - 15 million||Exit from the war winter 1917/18|
|France||823,000||3.8 million||8.4 million||including colonial troops|
|Great Britain||250,000||250,000||8.9 million||Western Front 1914: 120,000 men; from 1916 conscription; Figures column veterans inges. including Empire|
|Belgium||117,000||267,000||267,000||no further mobilization basis wg. occupation|
|Montenegro||40,000||50,000||50,000||Surrender in early 1916|
|Japan||—||—||800,000||bound forces of the Central Powers in East Asia only in 1914|
|Italy||—||4.3 million||5.6 million||Entry into the war in May 1915|
|Portugal||—||200,000||100,000||entry into the war in 1916; deployed 100,000 men|
|Romania||—||—||750,000||entry into the war in 1916; Armistice at the end of 1917|
|USA||—||—||4.3 million||Entry into the war in 1917|
|Greece||—||—||230,000||officially entered the war in 1917|
Central Powers Entente
Overall, the Entente used 41,851,000 soldiers and thus 19 percent of able-bodied men (and around 300 female soldiers), the Central Powers deployed 24,400,000 soldiers and thus 71 percent of able-bodied men.
July crisis and beginning of war
In the age of high imperialism , a considerable potential for conflict had accumulated in Europe. Nevertheless, the assassination attempt in Sarajevo (June 28, 1914) was initially not assessed as a threat to the peace. In Vienna, only Chief of Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf and Minister of Finance Leon Biliński - supported by large parts of the press - advocated immediate mobilization against Serbia. In a conversation with Foreign Minister Leopold Berchtold on July 1, von Hötzendorf made the war dependent on the question of whether Germany “is protecting our backs against Russia or not”. The German Foreign Office initially wanted to avoid war between Austria and Serbia, since it correctly foresaw the “ World War ” as a consequence. The Foreign Office was of the opinion until July 4 that Austria should not make any humiliating demands on Serbia. As far as is known, a statement by Kaiser Wilhelm II (“The Serbs must be cleaned up and soon . ”) on July 4th led to the Foreign Office immediately taking the opposite stance.
|Country||alliance||entry into the war|
|Austria-Hungary||Central Powers||July 28, 1914|
|Serbia||Entente||July 28, 1914|
|Deutsches Reich||Central Powers||August 1, 1914|
|Russian Empire||Entente||August 1, 1914|
|Luxembourg||Entente||Aug. 2, 1914|
|France||Entente||Aug. 3, 1914|
|Belgium||Entente||August 4, 1914|
|Great Britain||Entente||August 4, 1914|
|Australia||Entente||August 4, 1914|
|Canada||Entente||August 4, 1914|
|Nepal||Entente||August 4, 1914|
|Newfoundland||Entente||August 4, 1914|
|New Zealand||Entente||August 4, 1914|
|Montenegro||Entente||August 9, 1914|
|Japan||Entente||August 23, 1914|
|South African Union||Entente||September 8, 1914|
|Ottoman Empire||Central Powers||October 29, 1914|
|Italy||Entente||May 25, 1915|
|San Marino||Entente||June 1, 1915|
|Bulgaria||Central Powers||October 11, 1915|
|Portugal||Entente||March 9, 1916|
|Hijaz||Entente||June 5, 1916|
|Romania||Entente||August 31, 1916|
November 24, 1916 / |
June 29, 1917
|United States||Entente||April 6, 1917|
|Cuba||Entente||April 7, 1917|
|Guatemala||Entente||April 22, 1917|
|Siam||Entente||July 22, 1917|
|Liberia||Entente||August 4, 1917|
|China||Entente||August 14, 1917|
|Brazil||Entente||October 26, 1917|
|Panama||Entente||November 10, 1917|
|Nicaragua||Entente||May 6, 1918|
|Costa Rica||Entente||May 24, 1918|
|Haiti||Entente||July 15, 1918|
|Honduras||Entente||July 19, 1918|
Accordingly, on July 5, support for the war course was promised to the legation councilor sent to Berlin in Alexander Hoyo 's Imperial and Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs ( Mission Hoyos ), and an early attack was generally recommended. The next day, the Reich Chancellor handed the official, identical answer to the envoy Hoyos and Ambassador Szogyény , which was later interpreted as a blank check issued with “extreme negligence” .
According to Kurt Riezler’s diary entries from the meetings with Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg (July 7/8, 1914), the motives of the Reich leadership were the consideration that a war could be won in 1914 rather than later due to Russia’s growing military and transport potential. If Austria is not supported, there is a risk that it will turn to the Entente . Although the danger of the world war was seen, the German Reich leadership hoped for a localization and saw the situation favourably: "If the war is coming from the East, so that we will fight for Austria-Hungary and not Austria-Hungary for us , so we have a chance of winning it. If war doesn't come, if the tsar doesn't want to, or if dismayed France advises peace, we still have a chance of maneuvering the Entente apart with this action."
The day after Hoyo's return (July 7), the Austro-Hungarian Council of Ministers decided to give Serbia an unacceptable ultimatum and, if it was expected to be rejected, to take military action.
From July 20th to 23rd, French President Raymond Poincaré and Prime Minister René Viviani visited the Russian capital St. Petersburg and assured the hosts of their full support. There was a consensus that Serbia was not responsible for the murders, that the (in principle already known) demands on Belgrade were illegitimate and that the Entente would stand firm against the Central Powers.
Encouraged by the results of the talks during the French government visit, the Russian Council of Ministers decided on July 24 to support Serbia and, if necessary, to initiate mobilization.
The corresponding telegram arrived in Belgrade on July 25, just in time for the Serbian reply to the ultimatum. To what extent it influenced the Serbian rejection of the key points of the ultimatum is not clear. The reply to Vienna was partly accommodating, partly evasive. However, the participation of Austrian officials in the prosecution of suspects was flatly denied on the grounds that it violated the Serbian constitution. Foreign Minister Nikola Pašić personally handed the reply to the Austrian Embassy shortly before the deadline. Ambassador Giesl skimmed the text and left immediately with all the legation staff.
Doubts were expressed in the Entente states that Austria-Hungary was the driving force behind the events, and they increasingly suspected the significantly stronger Germany.
Russia began initial mobilization measures on July 26, which may have been intended only as a precautionary measure or signal of deterrence, but added a military note and escalated the conflict, which had been conducted diplomatically despite threats.
On the morning of July 28, 1914, Emperor Franz Joseph signed the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy 's declaration of war on the Kingdom of Serbia ( An Meine Völker! ) in Bad Ischl . Since July 25, the German government had once again massively urged the alliance partner to have an “immediate discussion”. Until then, Vienna wanted to declare war only after mobilization had been completed, around August 12th. Since the attack at Temes Kubin (alleged fire attack by the Serbs on July 26) was a propaganda invention and an alleged reason for war (similar to the Nuremberg plane), the "shooting war" began on July 29 shortly after 2 a.m. with the shelling of Belgrade the inland warships SMS Temes, Bodrog and Számos. On July 29, the Russian army was partially mobilized .
On July 29, Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg revealed to British Ambassador Edward Goschen that Germany would attack France, breaking Belgium's neutrality, and that for British neutrality Germany would restore the territorial integrity of France and Belgium - but not that of their colonies - after the war offer. To Bethmann-Hollweg's dismay, the British side - which had regarded the Reich Chancellor as a force to moderate Vienna and had hitherto acted cautiously - reacted with a sharp rejection and indicated that this would constitute a reason for war for Great Britain. Bethmann-Hollweg then attempted to recapture the escalation process and - together with the Kaiser - to persuade Vienna to adopt a "Halt-in-Belgrade" plan, ie to be satisfied with the occupation of Belgrade near the border as collateral, but it was already too late and the escalation in full swing. Moltke thwarted Bethmann-Hollweg's attempts by persuading Conrad von Hötzendorf to deploy against Serbia and the Russian Empire. Vienna rejected the plan for a temporary occupation of Belgrade because it would only have been a partial solution to its Serbian problem. More time might have changed the Austrian positioning, but that was exactly what happened.
On July 30, Tsar Nicholas II approved the general mobilization of the Russian army, which was published the next morning (July 31). The German Reich then issued an ultimatum demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Russian mobilization (by August 1, 12 noon local time in St. Petersburg), although it was assumed that it would be much slower than the German one. After the withdrawal failed to materialize, Wilhelm II issued the mobilization order on August 1 (5 p.m.) and declared war on Russia on the same day (7 p.m. local time St. Petersburg). France, which is allied with Russia, also issued the mobilization order on August 1 (4 p.m.). On the morning of August 2, German troops occupied the city of Luxembourg as planned , mounted patrols entered France without a declaration of war, and one French and one German soldier died . In the evening (8 p.m.) Belgium was requested to submit a declaration within twelve hours to the effect that the Belgian army would remain passive in the face of a march through by German troops; this was rejected the next morning. On the evening of August 3, Germany declared war on France over alleged border violations and fabricated airstrikes (“ Plane of Nuremberg ”). On the same day, the Italian Foreign Minister Antonio di San Giuliano informed the German Ambassador Hans von Flotow that, in the Italian government's view, the casus foederis did not apply because Austria and Germany were the aggressors . The Italian declaration of neutrality was made in the afternoon.
Also on August 3, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg sent a letter of justification to the British government. In it, Bethmann Hollweg presented the "violation of Belgium's neutrality" as a consequence of a military dilemma caused by Russian mobilization. German patrols had already crossed the Belgian border that morning; Corresponding reports were available in London. The German Empire thus violated Article I of the London Treaty of April 19, 1839 , in which the major European powers had guaranteed Belgian neutrality, and endangered British security interests. On the afternoon of August 3rd in the House of Commons, Edward Gray described the violation of Belgian neutrality and the risk of France's defeat as incompatible with British national interests, and Parliament agreed with this assessment.
At 6:00 a.m. on August 4, the German ambassador in Brussels informed the Belgian government that, having rejected its proposals, the German Reich was forced to implement the necessary measures to "repel the French threat", if necessary by force. A few hours later, in violation of international law and without a declaration of war, German troops marched into neutral Belgium. On the same day (4 August) the British Ambassador Goschen handed the German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg an ultimatum limited to midnight, demanding that Germany respect Belgian neutrality in accordance with the 1839 Treaty of London. Bethmann Hollweg reproached the ambassador that Great Britain was going to war against Germany over a "scrap of paper", which was met with outrage in London. After the ultimatum had expired, Great Britain was at war with the Empire, its dominions followed immediately (mostly without a separate declaration of war), which means that within a few days the local war had developed into a continental war and from this into the world war. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on August 6th, thereby ending the “grotesque situation that Germany found itself at war with Russia six days earlier than the ally for whose sake it took up the fight in the first place”.
war year 1914
Failure of the war plans and transition to trench warfare on the western front
While the assembly of the German army on the western border was still in progress, the German X. Army Corps carried out a coup de grâce on the citadel of the Belgian fortress of Liège , which had already been envisaged in the Schlieffen plan . The city quickly fell into the hands of the attackers (5–7 August), while the belt of twelve forts could not be captured at first. Only after bringing in the heaviest artillery (the Fat Bertha from Krupp and the lesser-known, more mobile Slim Emma from Škoda ) was it possible to occupy the fortresses and completely conquer Liège by August 16 . The high point of the fighting was the destruction of Fort Loncin on August 15 with a direct hit in the ammunition store. The rapid elimination of the forts, which were considered impregnable, led to strategic changes in further French war planning.
On August 4, German soldiers in the Belgian villages of Visé , Berneau and Battice near Liège committed the first violent attacks on the civilian population. In the coming weeks, German troops committed numerous atrocities against the civilian population in Belgium and France, which were justified by attacks by franc-tireurs . The first mass shootings of Belgian civilians took place on August 5. German troops committed particularly serious war crimes in Dinant , Tamines , Andenne and Aarschot . Around 6,500 civilians fell victim to the reprisals between August and October 1914, and the arson fires in Leuven attracted particular attention and were condemned worldwide . The reception of actual and invented attacks went into the still common English propaganda term Rape of Belgium (desecration of Belgium).
While the German troops deployed their arcing movement over Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan, Plan XVII was being prepared on the French side, which, in contrast to the German encirclement strategy, relied on the strategy of pushing through in the center ( Lorraine ). An advance attack on Mulhouse / Mulhouse took place before the actual major attack as part of this strategy . The French commander Joffre wanted to use it to tie up German troops in the south and to increase the enthusiasm of the French population by advancing into Alsace , which fell to Germany after the defeat of 1871, which was quite successful during the short-term capture of the second largest city and the most important industrial center in the region. On August 7, Mulhouse was taken, with part of the population there jubilantly greeting the French soldiers. Already on August 9th it was back to the German troops. After a recapture, the city and all Alsatian areas, with the exception of the Doller valley and some Vosges mountains , fell back to the Germans on August 24 for the remainder of the war. General Louis Bonneau commanding the French attack was dismissed by Joffre.
Joffre initially had no intention of being influenced by the German attack on Belgium in his deployment according to Plan XVII and concentrated 1.7 million French soldiers in five armies for the attack. However, he could not completely ignore the movement of the German troops and accordingly moved the 5th Army under Charles Lanrezac further north-west. The British Expeditionary Force under General John French , which had just landed in France , joined north at Maubeuge . The French offensive began on August 14: the 1st Army under General Auguste Dubail and the 2nd Army under General Noël de Castelnau crossed the border and advanced on Saarburg (Lorraine) , among other places . The German 6th and 7th armies – both commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria at the time – initially retreated fighting.
On August 18, after the defeat of the fortress of Liège (final fall of Liège on August 16), the actual large-scale offensive of the German right wing to encircle the Allied armies began. He quickly advanced to Brussels and Namur . The main part of the Belgian army withdrew to the fortress of Antwerp , whereupon the two-month siege of Antwerp began. On August 20, the actual French offensive began in the direction of German-Lorraine and the Saar-Ruhr area, at the same time the German counterattack began. From this and from a series of other battles near Saarburg, near Longwy , in the Ardennes , on the Maas, between Sambre and Maas and near Mons , battles between the Vosges and the Scheldt developed for both sides , the so-called border battles . The French troops suffered exceedingly heavy losses; 40,000 soldiers fell between August 20 and 23, 27,000 on August 22 alone. The losses were mainly caused by machine guns. The French 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Armies were badly beaten head-on by the German 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Armies, as were the 5th Army and the British Expeditionary Force on the left wing. However, the French troops managed to retreat behind the Meurthe and the ring of fortresses around Nancy in a sufficiently orderly manner , while preserving the fortress of Verdun behind the Meuse without the German troops being able to encircle and completely destroy large parts of the troops. Disregarding the Schlieffen plan, Crown Prince Rupprecht asked Chief of Staff Moltke to take advantage of the success and go on the offensive himself, which he approved. However, this German offensive between August 25 and September 7 did not produce a breakthrough.
The French and British armies on the left wing began a general but orderly retreat through northern France, punctuated by isolated battles such as the Battle of Le Cateau (26 August) and the Battle of St Quentin (29 August) and the pursuing German right wing closer and closer to Paris. The French government left the capital on September 2nd and moved to Bordeaux , the defense of Paris was entrusted to the reactivated General Joseph Gallieni . The French high command, meanwhile, gathered troops from the right wing and reserves to raise a new (6th) army under Joseph Maunoury near Paris , which threatened the German advance on the flank. Another (9th) army under Ferdinand Foch was pushed in in the centre. Joffre planned to use the Marne as a base from which to stop the German advance with an offensive along the entire front.
The German turning wing - the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th German Armies - had already made its turn to the southwest and south, still at high speed; The 1st Army deviated from its planned advance south after taking Brussels (August 20), since Commander Alexander von Kluck was pursuing the French troops and the British Expeditionary Force . As the front expanded, the surprise effect of the German offensive disappeared, and the numerical superiority of the German right wing was lost with the expansion; the German lines of communication grew longer and longer, those of the French shorter and shorter. The German front threatened to tear apart at the end of August, the right wing had to continue to change direction due to counterattacks and swing to the south and south-east, the encirclement of Paris was abandoned on August 30, of which Joffre was informed on September 3.
In the meantime, the Supreme Army Command stationed in Luxembourg had lost track of the operational situation. Above all, there was no telephone connection to the threatened right wing. The technically inadequate radio traffic could not make up for this, the air traffic reports often remained unused. The 1st Army (320,000 soldiers) attempted to encircle the British Expeditionary Force with forced marches and neglected the western flank protection. The surrender of two corps to the Eastern Front, besieging troops left behind ( Antwerp , Maubeuge ), losses on the march and in battle and supply difficulties caused congestion, the exhausted 1st Army had covered over 500 kilometers under heavy fighting.
On September 6, the French offensive began against the open flank of the German army (" Battle of the Marne "). The German 1st Army, which, despite instructions to the contrary, had advanced south of the Marne on September 5, 1914 and had reached the communities of Le Plessis-Belleville , Mortefontaine and Meaux around Paris as its westernmost points (furthest advance: ), had to unite in a retreat after a two-day forced march. With its sudden about-face, it caused a gap of about 40 kilometers between the 1st and 2nd German armies, into which strong French and British forces pushed at around noon on September 8, 1914. The cohesion of the German front was torn, the danger of an operational breakthrough and an encirclement of the German armies grew hour by hour. There was a risk of individual parts of the German army being cut off and destroyed, a hasty retreat and, in the worst case, a rear encirclement of the entire western German army. After their ceaseless advance, the German armies were at the end of their strength. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hentsch , who was sent by the Supreme Army Command (OHL) to the High Command of the 1st and 2nd Armies, recommended the withdrawal, which was ordered by the commanders-in-chief of the two armies on September 9, without establishing further contact with the neighboring armies or the OHL.
The necessity of the retreat – especially that of the 1st Army – was later disputed, but today the majority of opinions are as formulated by Holger Afflerbach , for example : “The order to withdraw was operationally correct and absolutely necessary, but its psychological effects were fatal. The Schlieffen plan had failed, the constriction of the French army on the eastern border (Lorraine and Alsace) had failed. On September 9, Chief of Staff Moltke saw the envelope and wrote on that day:
"Things are going badly ... The beginning of the war, which began so hopefully, will turn into the opposite [...] how different it was when we opened the campaign so brilliantly a few weeks ago [...] I'm afraid our people in their ecstasy of victory will hardly be unlucky can endure."
Chief of Staff Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown and was replaced by Erich von Falkenhayn . The 1st and 2nd German Armies were forced to abandon the battle and retreat, with the remaining attacking armies following. The subsequent retreat of the German attack wing behind the Aisne culminated in the First Battle of the Aisne , which ushered in the transition to trench warfare. However, after retreating along the Aisne, the German troops were able to dig in and reestablish a cohesive, resilient front. On September 17, the French counterattack came to a standstill. In France, this German retreat was later referred to as the "miracle on the Marne", in Germany the order was severely criticized. Falkenhayn suggested that Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg inform the German public about the critical military situation following the failure of the plan of attack, but he refused.
At first Falkenhayn stuck to the previous concept, according to which the decision should first be sought in the West. In the race to the sea (September 13 to October 19, 1914) both sides tried to outflank each other, the fronts were extended from the Aisne to Nieuwpoort on the North Sea. In northern France, in the first weeks of October 1914, the opponents tried to initiate war of movement again, with the German troops being able to record some successes with heavy losses (taking Lille , Ghent , Bruges and Ostend ), but without achieving a breakthrough. After that, the focus of the fighting shifted further north to Flanders, and English supplies via Dunkirk and Calais were to be interrupted.
On October 16, 1914, the declaration of the university teachers of the German Reich was published . It was signed by more than 3,000 German university teachers, i.e. almost all the faculty of the 53 universities and technical colleges in Germany, and justified the First World War as a "defense of German culture". Foreign scholars responded a few days later in The New York Times and The Times .
Bitter battles developed near Ypres ( First Battle of Ypres from October 20th to November 18th, 1914). German reserve corps, which had been set up in great haste, suffered devastating losses at Langemarck and Ypres. Insufficiently trained young soldiers led by reserve officers with no front-line experience - some as young as 15 - died here in their tens of thousands without achieving any significant goal. Nevertheless, the myth of Langemarck was constructed from this - the first significant example in this war of reinterpreting military defeats or failures into moral victories. The Allies succeeded in withdrawing the Channel ports of Boulogne and Calais , which are important for British supplies , and the Amiens railway junction from German access.
The war of movement ended with the fighting at Ypres. An extensive system of trenches ( trench warfare ) developed on the German western front. All attempts to break through by both sides failed in 1914, a front more than 700 kilometers long from the North Sea to the Swiss border (→ Switzerland in the First World War ) froze in trench warfare, on the front sections the foremost trenches were often barely 50 meters away from the enemy positions.
On November 18, 1914, Falkenhayn announced to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg that the war against the Triple Entente could no longer be won. He pleaded for a diplomatic liquidation of the war on the continent, for a negotiated and separate peace with one or more opponents, but not with Great Britain, with whom he did not think a political settlement was possible. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg refused. The Reich Chancellor primarily had domestic political reasons for doing so. In view of the great casualties of the attack, he did not want to do without annexations and a “victory prize” for the people. Hindenburg and Ludendorff assumed that the enemy was absolutely willing to destroy and also believed that a victorious peace was still possible. The Reich Chancellor and the General Staff concealed from the nation the significance of the defeats on the Marne and at Ypres. In this way they upheld the nation's will to fight and persevere. As the war progressed, the discrepancy between the political and military situation and the demands of the economic and political elites for war goals increased, which contributed to the social frontline during the war and beyond.
In November 1914, the British Navy declared the entire North Sea a war zone and imposed a distance blockade . Ships flying the flag of neutral countries could be the target of British attacks in the North Sea without warning. This action by the British government violated applicable international law , including the 1856 Declaration of Paris to which Britain had signed.
On December 24th and the following two days, the so-called Christmas peace , an unauthorized armistice among the soldiers, was enacted on some sections of the western front . Presumably more than 100,000 mostly German and British soldiers were involved in this Christmas truce, combined with gestures of fraternization.
Battles in the East and the Balkans
Since two Russian armies, contrary to the assumptions of the Schlieffen Plan , invaded East Prussia two weeks after the outbreak of war and thus unexpectedly early , the situation on the Eastern Front was initially extremely tense for the German Reich. The Germans were more defensive on their eastern front because of the Schlieffen plan. Only a few Russian-Polish border towns had been occupied; in the process Kalisz was destroyed . After the Battle of Gumbinnen (19/20 August), the 8th Army , defending East Prussia, had to give up other parts of the country. As a result, the troops were reinforced and the previous commanders were replaced by Major General Erich Ludendorff and Colonel General Paul von Hindenburg , who initiated the securing of East Prussia with the victory in the Battle of Tannenberg from August 26 to 31. German troops succeeded in enclosing and largely destroying the Russian 2nd Army (Narew Army) under General Alexander Samsonow . The Battle of the Masurian Lakes followed from 6 to 15 September, ending in the defeat of the Russian 1st Army ( Nyemen Army ) under General Paul von Rennenkampff . The Russian troops then evacuated most of East Prussia.
Russian troops occupied Galicia, part of Austria-Hungary, after the Battle of Galicia from 24 August to 11 September . After an advance on the Galician capital Lemberg , the Austro-Hungarian army had to retreat to the Carpathians in September because of the overwhelming Russian superiority ( Battle of Lemberg August 26 to September 1). The first siege of Przemyśl from September 24th to October 11th was repelled. One to relieve the k. u.k. An offensive in southern Poland (from 29 September to 31 October) launched by the newly formed German 9th Army with the aim of reaching the Vistula failed. On November 1, Colonel-General von Hindenburg was appointed Commander-in-Chief East of the German Army. The second siege of Przemyśl, which ended fatally for Austria on March 22, 1915, began on November 9th, and on November 11th the German counter-offensive in the Łódź area lasted until December 5th , after which the Russian troops went on the defensive. From December 5 to 17, Austro-Hungarian troops managed to stop a Russian advance on Kraków ; after that the opponents initially persisted in trench warfare in large areas of the front . In the winter battle in the Carpathians (December 1914 to April 1915), the Central Powers were able to assert themselves against Russia.
The starting point of the war, the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, received little attention due to the large-scale escalation from August onwards. The three offensives of the Austro-Hungarian Army between August and December 1914 mostly failed or brought only partial success; in December Belgrade could be taken briefly. the k u.k. The army had to accept a devastating failure in this theater of war as well. Especially the first k. u. k. offensives were accompanied by serious attacks on the Serbian civilian population. Several thousand civilians were killed, villages were looted and burned. The Austrian army leadership partially admitted to the attacks and spoke of "unorganized requisitions" and "senseless reprisals". The Serbian army was at the end of its strength after the effort in December - against an opponent with many times superior resources. In addition, epidemics had broken out in Serbia . (see also History of Serbia#1914 )
Entry into the war of the Ottoman Empire
The German military missions in the Ottoman Empire and the construction of the Baghdad railway had intensified relations between the German and Ottoman Empires even before the war. On August 1, two battleships that had been ordered and partially paid for in Great Britain were confiscated. The government of the Ottoman Empire initially tried to stay out of the hostilities in an "armed neutrality". It was clear to the ruling Young Turks that they had to lean on a major power in order to be able to hold out militarily. At the instigation of Enver Pasha , a war alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary finally came about , which was controversial in the cabinet.
On September 27, the Dardanelles were officially closed to international shipping. After the two ships of the German Mediterranean Division under Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon , Goeben and Breslau , had escaped the British Mediterranean Fleet and entered Constantinople, the two handed over to the Ottoman fleet, still commanded by Souchon and manned by German sailors, shelled Russian warships on October 29 Coastal towns in the Black Sea. As a result, France, Great Britain and Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire in early November. On the morning of November 14, the Sheikhul Islam of the Ottoman Empire Ürgüplü Mustafa Hayri Efendi proclaimed jihad against the enemy states in front of the Fatih Mosque in Constantinople in accordance with an edict from Sultan Mehmed V. This appeal was echoed only by isolated Muslim units in British service during the war, such as the Punjabi Indian Muslims who mutinied in Singapore on February 15, 1915. The appeal had an amplifying effect on anti-British sentiment in Afghanistan , which erupted after the end of the Third Anglo-Afghan War .
Shortly after the declaration of war, ready British-Indian troops landed at Fao in the Persian Gulf on November 6 to protect the British oil concessions of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company , thus opening the Mesopotamian front . After several encounters with weaker Ottoman troops, they succeeded in taking Basra on November 23rd .
Russian troops also opened the offensive on the Caucasus front in early November ( Bergmann Offensive ). There it came in winter when the Ottoman 3rd Army tried to counterattack and suffered their first serious defeat in the Battle of Sarıkamış . On the Russian side, Armenian volunteer battalions were involved in the fighting, which aggravated anti-Armenian sentiment in the Young Turk leadership, even though the ethnic group was mostly loyal to the Ottoman Empire. Russian troops attacked from north-east Persia, which they had occupied for a long time (→ First World War in Persia ). For the time being there were no major combat operations on the Palestine front.
war in the colonies
As early as August 5, 1914, the London Committee of Imperial Defense had decided, under a unilateral interpretation of the treaties of the Berlin Africa Conference of 1884/85 (" Congo Conference "), to extend the war and attack all German colonies or use French, Indian, South African, Australian, allow New Zealand or Japanese troops to attack. There was heavy fighting , especially in Africa . The colony of Togo , surrounded on all sides, was taken immediately. Cameroon was also difficult to hold: by the end of 1914, German troops had retreated into the hinterland. A grueling small war developed there, which lasted until 1916. The South African Union attacked German South West Africa , which was initially able to hold its own in the Battle of Sandfontein from 24 to 26 September. The anti-British uprising of a part of the Boer population, which was only finally put down in February 1915, had a delaying effect on the attacks by the South African Union . German East Africa fought doggedly under Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and initially forced the British troops to retreat in the Battle of Tanga (November 2nd/4th, 1914). Thanks to the German strategy of retreat and guerrilla tactics, the Schutztruppe for German East Africa was able to hold out until the end of the war. The German colonies in the Pacific , where no Schutztruppe were stationed, were handed over to Japan, Australia and New Zealand almost without a fight. The German colony of Kiautschou was fiercely defended during the siege of Tsingtau until material and ammunition were exhausted (surrender November 7, 1914).
war year 1915
On February 4, the German Reich officially announced the U-boat war against merchant ships on February 18. The waters around Great Britain and Ireland were declared a war zone against the protests of neutral states, although there were not enough submarines available to effectively blockade Britain. With the use of submarines against merchant ships, Germany broke new ground both militarily and under international law. U-boats could only imperfectly comply with the rules of the prize law , especially since the increasing armament of British merchant ships endangered the safety of the boats. Added to this was the fact that the U-boat commanders were not given clear instructions on how to carry out the task. The naval command obviously assumed that most sinkings would take place without warning and that this would deter neutral shipping. However, due to protests from neutral states after the German announcement, U-boat warfare was formally restricted to the extent that no neutral ships were allowed to be attacked.
On May 7, the German submarine U 20 sank the British passenger liner Lusitania , triggering a wave of protests, especially in the United States. More than 200 Americans were on board the Lusitania when it left New York Harbor on May 1, 1915 , even though the German embassy in Washington had issued advertisements warning against using British ships to cross to the United Kingdom. For the Americans, the sinking of the Lusitania and the deaths of many Americans came as a shock, which made it clear to them how difficult it was to stay out of the world war. When the passenger liner was sunk on May 7, 1,198 passengers and crew died, including nearly 100 children and 127 Americans. There was outrage in America, followed by an exchange of notes between the American and German governments. On June 1 and 6, the Kaiser agreed to the Chancellor's suggestion (at the time still supported by the OHL on this issue), according to which German U-boats should not sink any neutral ships and generally no large passenger steamers. Grand Admiral Tirpitz and Admiral Gustav Bachmann therefore immediately submitted resignations, which the Emperor bluntly rejected. After the sinking of the steamer Arabic on August 19, 1915 by U 24 , in which more Americans lost their lives, Ambassador Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff made clear the restrictions now in force by the American government ( Arabic pledge ) . The German press was informed at the end of August and their chief editors - explicitly Ernst Graf zu Reventlow , but also Georg Bernhard - were instructed by the General Staff to immediately stop the campaigns being carried out by some newspapers for unlimited submarine warfare and against the USA (on the basis of their notes). set.
Germany seeks the decision of the war on the Eastern Front
On the Eastern Front , the German army, with the help of the newly arrived 10th Army, defeated the Russians in the winter battle in Masuria from February 2nd to 27th . The Russian troops then finally withdrew from East Prussia.
In November 1914, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich von Ludendorff, as his chief of staff, had been given supreme command of all German troops on the eastern front and have since successfully campaigned for an attempt to decide the war in the East in 1915. The goal of the German leadership was to prepare the way to break up the opposing coalition by weakening Russia. Since the general situation in the east - almost all of Galicia was occupied by Russians - initially made a separate peace push by the Central Powers appear little promising, the pressure on Russia should be increased with military means and also a favorable impression should be made on the neutral states, especially in the Balkans. be achieved. Above all, Italy's expected entry into the war threatened a dangerous strategic situation for Austria-Hungary: the Russians had been able to assert themselves in the winter battle in the Carpathians , and if Italy entered the war, a large-scale pincer movement (between the Isonzo and the Carpathians ) would have brought the military end of the Danube monarchy can mean. A breakthrough in western Galicia up to the San should force the Russian formations to withdraw from the mountains, since otherwise they in turn would have to fear being surrounded. For this purpose, parts of the Western Army (the 11th Army under August von Mackensen ) were transferred to the Eastern Front in the spring of 1915. From May 1 to May 10, the Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow took place east of Kraków , during which the German and Austro-Hungarian troops (4th Army) managed to make an unexpectedly deep penetration of the Russian positions, reaching them in mid-May den San. The battle marked a turning point on the Eastern Front. The success could not hide the fact that from the beginning of the war until March 1915 Austria-Hungary had to bear losses of almost 2 million men and was increasingly dependent on massive German help.
At the end of June, the Central Powers continued their attack with the Bug Offensive . After the recapture of Przemyśl on June 4th and Lemberg on June 22nd, the cutting off of the front arc in Russian Poland seemed within reach, with coordinated attacks from the north and south the Russian units were to be surrounded there, the Supreme Army Command presented - such a success Eyes - Attacks back on other fronts. This plan by Ludendorff appeared to Falkenhayn and Mackensen - in view of the experiences in the Battle of the Marne - as too ambitious and was reduced accordingly. The Bug offensive (June 29th to September 30th) and the Narew offensive (July 13th to August 24th) did not result in the encirclement of large units of troops, but the Russian army was able to be forced into the “ Great Retreat ”: evacuation of Poland, Lithuania and large parts of Kurland and shortening of the Russian front from 1600 to 1000 kilometers. By September, the Central Powers had succeeded in taking important cities such as Warsaw (4 August), Brest-Litovsk and Vilnius . In Russian Poland, the occupying powers created two general governments: an Austrian one in Lublin and a German one based in Warsaw. In " Ober Ost ", a de facto military state in the areas under German supreme command except Russian Poland, an occupation policy was pursued for the intensive economic exploitation of the country and its human resources. Towards the end of September further offensives by the 10th Army under Ludendorff against Minsk and by the Austrian troops against Rovno failed . Despite the overall higher losses of the Russian army, this remained numerically superior after the end of the Great Retreat (September 1915), the planned relocation of large parts of the German troops to the western front could not take place to the extent hoped for.
The Western Front 1915
On the western front, the Allies initially pursued the classic strategy of cutting off the large German front between Lille in the north and Verdun in the south by pressing in on both flanks, thereby interrupting the railway lines that were important for supplies. As part of this strategy, the winter battle in Champagne (until the end of March) that had already been prepared at the end of 1914 took place, during which the type of battle of material emerged: artillery fire lasting for days escalating to barrage , intended to massively demoralize and materially deplete the enemy, whereupon the massive attack of the infantry followed. However, this tactic was unsuccessful, as the Germans were prepared for the attack due to the shelling and were able to repel it from the well-developed dugouts with barrage and machine guns due to the structural advantages of the defender in trench warfare . Allied attacks on the small, strategically threatening front arc of Saint-Mihiel ( Easter Battle or First Woëvre Battle between Meuse and Moselle ) also failed.
The use of poison gas on the first day of the Second Battle of Ypres , April 22, is considered a "new chapter in the history of warfare" and the "birth of modern weapons of mass destruction". Although irritants had already been used by the Allies in the gas war during World War I , since deadly chlorine gas was used on April 22, the attack was internationally regarded as a clear violation of the Hague Convention on Land Warfare and was used accordingly for propaganda purposes. The gas attack was carried out using Haber 's blowing method, which was dependent on the wind direction . As early as March, pioneers were installing hidden gas bottles in the foremost trenches near Ypres, from which the gas was to be blown off. Since easterly winds are relatively rare in West Flanders, the attack had to be postponed several times. On April 22 a steady north wind blew, accordingly the gas was blown off in the northern part of the Allied front arc around Ypres. The effect was far more serious than expected: the French 87th and 45th (Algerian) Divisions fled in panic, leaving a six-kilometer gap in the Allied front. The number of dead from this gas attack was given at the time as up to 5000, today's estimates are around 1200 dead and 3000 wounded. The German command did not expect such an effect and probably therefore did not provide sufficient reserves for a further advance, apart from that, the gas impaired the attackers. The Ypres salient was only reduced in size during the Second Battle of Ypres and was held by British troops and the newly arrived Canadian division. Due to the use of gas, the defenders lost significantly more than the attackers (about 70,000 to 35,000), which was unusual for trench warfare in the First World War .
On May 9, the British and French attempted a breakthrough in the Artois in the Battle of Loretto . Despite enormous losses (111,000 Allied and 75,000 German soldiers), this brought only partial success and was broken off in mid-June. On the German side, it was increasingly possible to expand the structural advantages of the defender in trench warfare through tactical changes: while traditionally the defense was concentrated on a first line in the front position (best overview and wide field of fire), the German troops left because of their material superiority of the Allies increasingly shifted the focus of defense to the second line in the rear position. On the one hand, this left enough time for reserves to be brought up when the Allies broke through, and on the other hand, the superior Allied artillery was no longer accurate enough to eliminate the German positions due to a lack of direct line of sight.
The last major combat operations on the western front of the war year 1915 were Allied offensives between September 22nd and October 14th, again in the Artois and in the Champagne . The autumn battle in Champagne and the autumn battles at La Bassée and Arras brought hardly any results with high losses and successively increasing use of material: "The troops of the Entente had to pay for minimal gains in territory with losses of up to a quarter of a million men."
Allied Gallipoli Operation
On February 19, the Allied Dardanelles operation began with British and French warships shelling Turkish coastal forts along the Dardanelles . First, deminers tried to clear the Turkish mine barriers in the straits in order to be able to reach Constantinople directly. The Allies intended to force the Ottoman Empire out of the war by threatening its capital and to open the supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles. On March 18, Admiral John de Robeck 's naval forces attempted a breakthrough , sinking three Allied battleships and damaging others. As a result, the Allied governments decided to force the opening of the Dardanelles by landing ground troops. British military officials had previously considered troop landings at Alexandretta to cut off the southern reaches of the Ottoman Empire from the Anatolian heartland.
On April 25, the Allied landings began on the Gallipoli peninsula and on the opposite Asian coast at Kum Kale. Allied troops, disregarding Greek neutrality, had previously occupied the island of Limnos , among other things , in order to use it as a starting point for attacks against the Ottoman Empire. 200 merchant ships - covered by 11 warships - deployed 78,000 British soldiers from the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and 17,000 French soldiers from the Corps expéditionnaire d'Orient , including the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in its first war effort. The attack failed due to the unexpectedly fierce Turkish resistance, with Mustafa Kemal in particular as commander of the 19th Division in the 5th Ottoman Army under the supreme command of Otto Liman von Sanders , laying the foundation for his reputation as a folk hero. The operation, in which a total of over 500,000 Allied soldiers were deployed, had to be terminated by January 9, 1916 with a comprehensive amphibious evacuation . 110,000 soldiers from both sides lost their lives in the battle.
Italy's entry into the war
On May 23, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. Germany had been pressuring Austria since January to cede Trentino and other areas to Italy, at least to ensure its neutrality. Even after the termination of the Triple Alliance on May 4th, Italy was made more and more extensive offers, such as the cession of Trentino and the Isonzo area on May 10th , a largely free hand in Albania and much more. On the other hand, Italy had negotiated with the Allies and obtained more far-reaching commitments in the London Treaty of April 26 in the event of the Allies entering the war . Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and Secretary of State Sidney Sonnino had, after months of manoeuvring, with the express consent of King Victor Emmanuel III. decided to declare war on Austria. In doing so, they followed the pressure of public opinion, although there was no majority for the war either in the population or in parliament at the time war was declared. Proponents of the war against Austria were far more active and attracted the main Italian opinion leaders from all political persuasions. Political irredentism could fall back on Cesare Battisti , for example . Gabriele D'Annunzio - writer and later pioneer of European fascism - organized public events and mass demonstrations for the war in Rome, the socialist publicist Benito Mussolini had been pleading for the war since October 1914, which led to his expulsion from the Partito Socialista Italiano . Mussolini then founded his own newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia , presumably financed by France , with which he continued to call for Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Entente. The supporters of the war received further popular support from the Futurists around Filippo Tommaso Marinetti . Shortly before the declaration of war, parliament supported the neutrality course of the majority leader and previous prime minister Giovanni Giolitti , which earned him calls for assassination from D'Annunzio, but parliament was not the actual place of political decision-making. When it convened on May 20 to approve the war credits, only the Socialists voted against the credits, while former war opponents such as the Giolitti supporters and the Catholics tried to show their patriotism by accepting the war credits.
The Italian front ran from the Stelvio Pass on the Swiss border through Tyrol along the Dolomites , the Carnic Alps and the Isonzo to the coast of the Adriatic Sea . Austria-Hungary was now in a three-front war, which made the situation of the Central Powers more difficult. The Austrians were also unable to adequately secure parts of the Italian front at the beginning of the hostilities, often only local militias, Landwehr and Landsturm were used, including 30,000 Standschützen . The fighting began on the Isonzo immediately after the declaration of war, the actual start of the First Isonzo Battle is scheduled for June 23rd. Despite great superiority and territorial gains, the Italians did not achieve a decisive breakthrough either in this battle (until July 7) or in the immediately following Second Battle of the Isonzo (July 17 to August 3). This also applies to the Third and Fourth Battle of the Isonzo , high losses of people and material went hand in hand with no changes in the overall strategic picture. The First Dolomite Offensive (July 5th to August 4th) as the actual beginning of the war in the Alps also fit into this picture, it also formed another novelty in military history : never before had there been long-lasting combat operations in the high mountains , which went down to sea level of 3900 meters ( Ortler position ).
Since the Battle of Sarıkamış , the Young Turk leadership increasingly suspected the Armenians of sabotage. As the Russians approached Lake Van in mid-April , five local Armenian leaders were executed in that region. This and other events led to riots in Van . On April 24, a wave of arrests of Armenian intellectuals began in Constantinople (now National Day of Remembrance in Armenia ). On May 24, Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov published an international protest note (already prepared on April 27) claiming that the population of more than 100 Armenian villages had been massacred and that representatives of the Turkish government had coordinated the killings. The next day (May 25), the Ottoman Interior Minister Talât Pasha announced that the Armenians would be deported from the war zone to Syria and Mosul . On May 27 and 30, the government of the Ottoman Empire issued a deportation law, beginning the systematic phase of the Armenian Genocide and the Assyrian Genocide . As early as June, the German ambassador Hans von Wangenheim reported to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg about Talât Pasha's view that "the Porte wanted to use the world war to thoroughly clean up with its internal enemies - the local Christians - without being disturbed by diplomatic intervention from abroad to become". Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter , German vice consul in Erzerum , also reported at the end of July that "the ultimate goal [of the] action against the Armenians was their complete extermination in Turkey". In December 1915, the German ambassador and Wangenheim's successor , Paul Metternich , tried to intervene with the Turkish government on behalf of the Armenians and suggested that the German Reich government make the deportations and riots public. However, this was not approved by Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, he rather noted: "The proposed public coramation of an ally during the ongoing war would be a measure unprecedented in history. Our only goal is to keep Turkey on our side until the end of the war, regardless of whether Armenians perish or not.” Also an intervention by Pope Benedict XV, who wrote directly to Mohammed V, the Sultan of the Ottoman Reiches, turned, came too late. By the end of the war, the genocide claimed an estimated one million lives and was already referred to as the “ Holocaust ” in its predecessors ( massacres and pogroms of 1895/96 and the massacre of Adana in 1909) .
Bulgaria enters the war and the Central Powers campaign in Serbia
The Central Powers received reinforcements on October 14, 1915 when Bulgaria entered the war . During the Balkan Wars , Bulgaria was unable to enforce its territorial claims to create an "ethnic Bulgaria". Practically all of the conquests made during the First Balkan War had to be surrendered in the Peace of Bucharest in 1913, and the country was also considerably weakened by the wars. Wassil Radoslavov 's government initially declared Bulgaria's strict neutrality on August 1, 1914. The Central Powers and the Allies subsequently tried to win over Bulgaria, which in turn was able to make its participation in the war dependent on the respective offer. Here the Central Powers were in a better starting position, they could accommodate the territorial interests at the expense of Serbia and possibly Romania and Greece (whose entry into the war was expected on the Allied side) more easily than the Allies, so the Bulgarians were promised Macedonia , Dobruja and East Thrace . Accordingly, and due to the relatively favorable course of the war in the autumn of 1915, Bulgaria gave the contract to the Central Powers. As early as September 6, Bulgaria had agreed to cooperate with the Central Powers, who wanted to establish a land connection with the Ottoman Empire by attacking Serbia. Participation in the war was extremely controversial in Bulgaria. After the government's decision to go to war, the opposition parties - with the exception of parts of the Social Democrats - supported the war course. On October 6, under the command of Mackensen , the Central Powers' offensive against Serbia began , on October 14 Bulgaria declared war on Serbia. The Serbs were thus faced with a considerable superiority, which the Allies could not compensate for by landing troops north of Thessaloniki . Greece refused to enter the war on the side of Serbia, pointing to insufficient Allied support, although it had committed itself to supporting Serbia in a bilateral treaty on June 1, 1913. After the fall of Belgrade (October 9) and Niš (November 5), the remnants of the Serbian army (about 150,000 men; at the beginning of the war: 360,000 men) under the leadership of Radomir Putnik with about 20,000 prisoners of war withdrew to the Albanian and Montenegrin mountains back; it was later used again on the Salonika front after it was reformed on Corfu . Occupied Serbia was divided between Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria.
Other subsidiary fronts in 1915
The Battle of Sarıkamış on the Caucasus Front ends on January 5, 1915 with a heavy defeat for the Ottoman Empire. On the Palestine front, Ottoman troops under Friedrich Freiherr Kreß von Kressenstein undertook an unsuccessful offensive against the Suez Canal from the end of January .
At the end of November, the British advance on the Mesopotamian front (now Iraqi territory ) was stopped at the Battle of Ktesiphon (22–25 November) by the Ottoman army under the de facto command of Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz , and the British Indian Army 's Expeditionary Force on 7 December to be enclosed in Kut (→ Siege of Kut ).
Political and social developments
Joseph Joffre , commander-in-chief of all French troops since early December, convened an Allied conference at Chantilly from 6 to 8 December , where the Grand Quartier Général had been based since October 1914. In order to deprive the Central Powers of the benefits of the “ Inner Line ”, coordinated attacks on all fronts were agreed for mid-1916. The British government under Herbert Henry Asquith had to be reshuffled in May of that year due to the unfavorable war situation, particularly on the Dardanelles, involving the Conservatives who had previously been in opposition. The coalition government under Asquith included a Ministry of Munitions in response to the munitions crisis of Spring 1915 .
In October and November in Germany, due to the tightened food restrictions, there were initially riots in front of grocery stores, distribution points and outdoor benches , but increasingly there were also protest assemblies, mostly by female demonstrators. On November 30, 58 women were arrested at a protest meeting on Unter den Linden in Berlin . The press was not allowed to report on this. As early as November 1914, the prices for grain, bread, butter and potatoes had risen sharply, and at that time farmers were only hesitant or not at all making deliveries to the city markets. The reasons for the supply problems lay in the organizational inability of the authorities - nobody had expected and prepared a long war - as well as the cessation of food and saltpeter imports (the latter for fertilizer production), and horses and workers were taken away from agriculture by the war. At the end of 1914, the Federal Council set maximum prices for bread, potatoes and sugar, followed by other staple foods in January 1915, so that farmers increasingly tried to market their goods in the " surreptitious trade ". At the end of 1915, an observer noted: “Inflation has taken on a threatening character […] The change in mood in the last few weeks, since the start of the stricter food restrictions, has been very strong. The women in particular are getting angry [...] the women are shouting 'Give us something to eat!' and 'we want our men'”. In view of the flourishing black market, the population believed less and less the official propaganda, according to which the English naval blockade alone was responsible for the poor food supply. The result of the incompetence of the state in the question of nutrition was a gradual "alienation of the citizens from the state, even an actual 'delegitimization' of the state" beginning at the end of 1915 at the latest.
The Reichstag faction and the SPD party executive decided on November 27 to introduce a “peace interpellation” in the Reichstag with the question of when and under what conditions Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg intended to initiate peace negotiations. Bethmann Hollweg tried unsuccessfully to have the interpellation withdrawn, and on December 9 it was dealt with in the Reichstag. The Reich Chancellor answered the question put forward by Philipp Scheidemann to the extent that "securing" (annexations) in East and West were indispensable for peace, while abroad this was seen as a "hegemony speech". As a result, in the Reichstag session on December 21, 20 Social Democratic MPs rejected the renewed approval of war credits and issued a statement that Bethmann Hollweg favored "annexists".
war year 1916
Occupation of Montenegro and Albania
On January 4th, Austrian troops attacked the Kingdom of Montenegro , on January 23rd King Nikola capitulated and went into exile in France (→ Campaign in Montenegro and Austro-Hungarian occupation of Montenegro 1916–1918 ). About two-thirds of the Principality of Albania was also occupied by the Austro-Hungarian army (→ Austro-Hungarian occupation of Albania 1916–1918 ). Most of the Serb troops who had fled to Montenegro and Albania retreated to Durrës , where an Italian expeditionary force had landed in December 1915. In March 1916, the Italians evacuated 260,000 people from this port. Among them were 140,000 Serbian soldiers who were embarked on the island of Corfu , which had previously been annexed by the French , and reorganized themselves militarily there (relocated to the Orient Army in Thessaloniki in June ), the Serbian government in exile headed by Nikola Pašić set up its headquarters in Corfu. Among those evacuated from Durrës were 24,000 Austrian prisoners of war who were taken to the Sardinian island of Asinara , where about 5,000 died. The Italians were able to hold the port city of Vlora in Albania and thus expand their sphere of influence in southern Albania. In Montenegro , Viktor Weber Edler von Webenau was Military Governor-General from February 26, 1916 to July 10, 1917. In Albania, which was not an active participant in the war, a civilian board of directors was set up under the chairmanship of Consul General August Ritter von Kral . By involving Albanian leaders and expanding schools and infrastructure, the occupying power tried to win over the Albanians.
Battle of Verdun
On February 21, the Battle of Verdun began . In contrast to later accounts by Erich von Falkenhayn , which were adopted by many authors, the original intention of the attack was not to "bleed the French army dry" without spatial targets. With this assertion made in 1920, Falkenhayn tried to give an alleged meaning to the failed attack and the negative German myth of the "blood mill". The idea of attacking at Verdun originally came from Crown Prince Wilhelm , Commander-in-Chief of the 5th Army , with Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf , Chief of Staff of the 5th Army, in charge. The German army command decided to attack the originally strongest fortress in France, which had been partially disarmed since 1915, in order to get the war on the western front moving again. Around Verdun there was also an indentation in the front between the arc of St. Mihiel in the east and Varennes in the west, which threatened the flanks of the German front there. A capture of the city itself was not the primary objective of the operation, but rather the heights of the east bank of the Meuse , in order to bring their own artillery into a dominant position, analogous to the siege of Port Arthur , and thus make Verdun untenable. Falkenhayn believed that France could be persuaded to accept unacceptable losses in defense of Verdun for reasons of national prestige. In order to hold Verdun, if the plan had succeeded, it would have been necessary to recapture the heights occupied by German artillery, which was considered almost impossible against the background of the battles of 1915.
In the first phase, after eight hours of barrage from 1,500 gun barrels, eight German divisions of the 5th Army attacked over a width of 13 kilometers near Ornes (today Wüstung ) north of Verdun. Contrary to German expectations, the French put up fierce resistance, and at first there were hardly any gains in territory. On February 25, Fort Douaumont was captured by German troops, which was of little tactical importance because of the eastern orientation of this fortress. After the loss of the fort, the French decided that the fortress of Verdun should be held at all costs. General Pétain was entrusted with the defense of the city. Via the only connecting road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun ( stylized as the " Voie Sacrée "), it was possible to build the so-called Noria - the replenishment via this road was operated at great expense. The battle was divided into four phases: the first ended on March 4, as French artillery fire from the heights west of the Meuse stalled the German advance.
In the second phase, Falkenhayn gave in to the urging of the 5th Army and launched attacks on these ridges. The height " Le Mort Homme " ("Dead Man") was taken several times, but not held for very long. Because of the brutal fighting, Le Mort Homme and Height 304 are considered a symbol of the " Hell of Verdun "; Le Mort Homme lost six meters in height as a result of the shelling.
In a third phase, the attackers put the focus back on taking Verdun itself. Early in the morning of June 7, Fort Vaux surrendered due to lack of water. On June 23, 78,000 men began an attack on the Vaux - Fleury line , which also got stuck. For a short time, the German troops managed to push beyond it in a fourth phase until July 11th, fierce fighting broke out around the Ouvrage de Thiaumont (immediately southwest of Douaumont). At Fort de Souville (about five kilometers northeast of Verdun) and in front of the Ouvrage de Froideterre , the German attack finally got stuck. In view of this and bearing in mind the Allied attack on the Somme that had begun on July 1, Falkenhayn ordered the cessation of the attack on the afternoon of July 12 Offensive.
Resignation of Tirpitz and Battle of the Skagerrak
At the beginning of 1916, the question of an intensified submarine warfare against Great Britain was again discussed in the German leadership. After eliminating Serbia, Falkenhayn thought the moment had come to take more active action against Great Britain, flanking the Verdun offensive, while accepting a break with the USA. He was encouraged in this by assurances from Chief of Staff Henning von Holtzendorff that Great Britain could be brought to its knees within a year. In negotiations, the Chancellor obtained a postponement of the decision by the Kaiser and a temporary compromise: intensified submarine warfare (including the sinking of armed merchant ships without warning), but no return to unrestricted submarine warfare.
At the beginning of March, parts of the press initiated a campaign initiated by the Reichsmarineamt in favor of unrestricted submarine warfare ("Better war with America than starvation"), which greatly annoyed the Kaiser ("His Majesty saw this as an outrageous, ultimately the Personality of the Kaiser as the supreme leader of imperial politics and the conduct of the war in front of the whole people embarrassing procedure"), so that Alfred von Tirpitz had to resign from his post on March 15. The intensification of the submarine warfare was reversed in April after the Sussex incident .
On May 31st and June 1st , the Battle of Jutland broke out rather unintentionally and with it – measured by the tonnage of the ships involved (about 1.8 million tons displacement ) – “the largest naval battle in world history”. . More than 8600 sailors died, including writer Gorch Fock . With luck and tactical skill, the German high seas fleet escaped destruction by British superiority and was able to inflict significantly higher losses on the British than vice versa. However, this did not change the strategic situation and only confirmed British naval supremacy .
Brusilov Offensive and Battle of the Somme
According to the agreement at the Chantilly Conference , three major Allied offensives were planned for mid-1916: the attack on the Somme , the Brusilov offensive and another Battle of the Isonzo . The attack on the Somme on July 1 was originally planned under French leadership, but due to the Battle of Verdun it was largely taken over by the British. On the Italian front, the 6th Isonzo Battle did not begin until August 4th, because the German attack on Verdun at the request of the Allies led to an attack on March 11th (5th Isonzo Battle) and the Austrians launched the South Tyrol offensive on May 15th (until August 18th ). June) had opened, because of which the Brusilov offensive was brought forward and began on June 4th.
The Brusilov offensive , the hitherto most successful Allied major offensive, began on June 4th. Alexei Brusilov , who has been the new commander-in-chief of the Russian Southern Army since March, had drawn tactical conclusions from the previous failures: in contrast to the previous approach, the attack took place on a broad front (400 kilometers as the crow flies), so that the enemy could not concentrate troops at a predictable, crucial point ; the attacking infantry was protected by deep dugouts pushed up to 50 meters to the enemy lines (before that, attacks over up to 1600 meters of no man's land were common, resulting in significant casualties). Although Brusilov's numerical superiority was not great (too few to attack), the Russian 8th Army was able to defeat the 4th k. u.k. Army almost completely destroyed, the 9th Russian Army rubbed the 7th k. in the south between the Dniester and the Carpathians . u.k. army and captured important cities such as Chernivtsi and Kolomea . Austria-Hungary lost 624,000 men. Brusilov was able to advance far (up to 120 kilometers), especially near the Romanian border, which was the deciding factor for the Allies to enter the war in Romania. However, logistical problems prevented a further advance, and supporting attacks based on the old pattern (on a narrow front section) in the area of the Pripet swamps and at Baranavichy failed, as did the attempt to take the Kovel transport hub. "Nevertheless, the Brusilov Offensive was - by the standards of World War I, where every inch of ground was being fought for - the greatest victory the Allies had won on any front since trench warfare began on the Aisne . "
The BEF under the command of Douglas Haig took the lead in the attack on the Somme , as the French contingent had been reduced from 40 to 11 divisions due to the Battle of Verdun. After eight days of uninterrupted artillery preparation by more than 1,500 guns, during which around one and a half million shells were fired, the attack on the German positions on the Somme began on July 1, 1916. Despite the heavy gunfire, numerous German dugouts remained intact, allowing the German soldiers to counter the British attack with machine-gun fire. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme alone, 19,240 British soldiers died, 8,000 of them in the first half hour. Despite the enormous losses, Haig continued the offensive. On September 15, the British used tanks for the first time in history . The fighting lasted until November 25th, the Allies were able to push in the German front by 8 to 10 kilometers in the focal point of the attack front, which was about 30 kilometers wide (as the crow flies). The British and French losses for this modest gain of ground amounted to 624,000 men, on the German side the losses were 420,000 men. The numbers of German losses are disputed, British authors extrapolate the number of minor injuries – which the German medical report (loss figure there: 335,688) allegedly does not cover to the same extent as in the corresponding Allied reports – and come up with German losses of up to 650,000 men. In any case, the Battle of the Somme was the most costly single battle of the First World War. July 1st, when the battle began, still has some significance as a day of remembrance in Britain today. The British historian John Keegan summed it up in 1998: “For the British, the Battle of the Somme was their greatest military tragedy of the 20th century, indeed in their history […]. For Britain, the Somme marked the end of an epoch of buoyant optimism to which she has never recovered. The knowledge of the extent of the losses on the Somme in late 1916 was one of the reasons for the change in leadership in Britain from Herbert Henry Asquith to David Lloyd George in December .
South Tyrol offensive and Isonzo battles
From May to June, the Austro-Hungarian army in South Tyrol led an offensive against the Italian positions, which had to be broken off after little initial success due to the situation on the eastern front (Brussilov offensive). The Italian army undertook several large-scale attacks on the Isonzo from March to November ( 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Isonzo Battle ). The Italians conquered the city of Gorizia and the plateau of Doberdò , further successes of the Italian army failed to materialize. On August 28, 1916, Italy also declared war on the German Reich. Already from May to November 1915 a reinforced German division ( Alpenkorps ) had been transferred to the front in South Tyrol to support the Austro-Hungarian ally , since the OHL saw southern Germany endangered. On December 13, 1916, during the mountain warfare in the southern Alps , dozens of avalanches killed several thousand Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers. The avalanche disaster of December 13, 1916 is considered one of the worst weather-related disasters in Europe.
Romania's entry into the war
On August 27, 1916, Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary and had in fact opened the Romanian theater of war a few days earlier . Although Romania had joined the Triple Alliance in 1883 , at the beginning of the war Romania remained neutral in a literal interpretation of the alliance treaty. Domestically, Romania was initially divided, with the Liberals under Prime Minister Ion Brătianu favoring rapprochement with the Entente, while the majority of Conservatives were more in favor of neutrality. King Charles I of Russia was one of the few politicians who called for the Central Powers to enter the war. In an agreement dated October 1, 1914, Russia had already promised Romania support for its territorial claims in Transylvania . Since Romania had received southern Dobrogea , inhabited by a majority of Bulgarians and Turks , in the Peace of Bucharest after the Second Balkan War , the Bulgarian entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers was another factor that moved Romania towards the Entente. The "Greater Romanian unification" in the form of the inclusion of the Austrian territories of Transylvania, the Banat and Bukovina could only be achieved with a war alliance against Vienna. The Entente also made corresponding territorial advances (without wanting to fulfill them completely), so that Romania, also in view of the success of the Brusilov offensive , contractually joined the Entente on August 17, 1916 (see also War Aims ). First, the numerically far superior but poorly equipped Romanian army in Transylvania was able to achieve an extensive incursion into Hungary. The German 9th Army , commanded by the former chief of OHL Falkenhayn , defeated the Romanians at the Battle of Hermannstadt (September 26–29). In a - for the First World War rather atypical - large-scale house -to-house combat, Kronstadt was recaptured by 8 October . The Central Powers set up a classic pincer movement: on November 23, Bulgarian, Turkish and German troops (" Danube Army ") crossed the Danube from the south-west. Bucharest, repeatedly bombed by airships and attack aircraft , was captured on December 6th . Romania's entry into the war brought advantages to the Central Powers, since they were able to take over the Ploieşti oil fields and large agricultural capacities in the course of 1916, which initially noticeably alleviated the supply shortages in Germany. With Russian help, the Romanians were only able to hold the north-east of their country, King Ferdinand moved to Iași with the government .
Dismissal of Falkenhayn and 3. OHL
During the serious crisis in which German warfare fell in the summer of 1916 as a result of the all-front war of the Entente, Kaiser Wilhelm was increasingly urged to finally part with Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn . Romania's entry into the war on August 27 provided the occasion. The new leadership (from August 29) with Paul von Hindenburg and his chief of staff Erich Ludendorff , also known as the 3rd OHL, broke off the offensive actions against Verdun and immediately initiated measures for increased economic mobilization; on August 31, the Prussian Ministry of War submitted corresponding demands , later known as the Hindenburg program . The appointment of the 3rd OHL also meant a political change that led to a de facto military dictatorship : "With the appointment of the commander duo Hindenburg/Ludendorff, who were virtually irremovable due to their aura, the monarch not only receded even further into the background than before in the war, but also got caught up in the political pull of the OHL. […] The indispensable general duo […] was […] ready to intervene in politics far beyond military competence, to put the emperor under pressure and to exert a decisive influence even on the selection of personnel – the center of imperial power.”
French counterattack at Verdun and relief of Joffre
In the autumn, the French army launched a counter-offensive at Verdun. On October 24, French troops captured Forts Douaumont and Thiaumont . Further French offensives forced the Germans to evacuate Fort Vaux on December 2nd . After its evacuation, the fort was blown up by German sappers. By December 16, the French had regained almost all of the territory taken by the Germans in their spring offensive.
The Battle of Verdun claimed 337,000 German casualties (including 143,000 dead), 377,000 French (162,000 dead). At least 36 million shells fell on the approximately 30 km wide and 10 km deep battlefield.
Since the French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre was accused of misjudging the German intention to attack at Verdun and of the bloody and useless offensives in Champagne and on the Somme, he came under increasing criticism. On 3 December he was replaced by General Robert Nivelle (1856-1924), who had led the successful counter-offensive at Verdun and had thus recommended himself to lead the Allied spring offensive planned for the following year. Nivelle was thus initially preferred to Philippe Pétain , the successful defender and "hero of Verdun", who was considered too defensive.
Regency Kingdom of Poland and peace initiatives
On November 5, the Central Powers proclaimed the part of Poland that had been Russian until 1915 an independent kingdom . However, expectations of significant military support from Poland were not met, only a small contingent of national Polish volunteers - until July led by Józef Piłsudski - fought on the side of the Central Powers. This contingent was declared the Polish Wehrmacht . Hundreds of thousands of soldiers of Polish nationality also served as respective "subjects" in the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian armed forces, without forming separate national units.
On December 21, 1916, while the Entente was still deliberating before its reply, the American President Woodrow Wilson surprisingly addressed his own peace note to the warring parties. He tried to give the peace process a clearer direction by calling on the belligerent powers to specify and publicly announce their war aims and to explore an understanding on this basis. Both the Allies and Germany reacted cautiously to dismissively to the mediation attempt. While the Entente emphasized the sole responsibility of Germany and its allies, with whom it did not want to be put on a par, and listed some goals hardly acceptable to the Central Powers, the German government refused to allow America to participate in peace negotiations and to publish terms.
war year 1917
Intensification of submarine warfare and entry of the United States into the war
On January 8th and 9th, 1917, after much urging (since January 1916, ultimately since December 1916), the Supreme Army Command obtained the Kaiser's approval to resume unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1st. The preceding peace offer from the Central Powers ( see above ) and its expected rejection also served to prepare for this step in terms of domestic and foreign policy.But it was not until the Allies' response to Woodrow Wilson 's unexpected offer of mediation (of December 18, 1916), which became known on January 12, that a broad political alliance was achieved. Among other things, Wilson had requested disclosure of the respective war aims. The editor-in-chief of the Berliner Tageblatt , Theodor Wolff , who is otherwise thoroughly critical of the government , noted on January 12 and 13: “The Entente’s reply to Wilson has been published. It announces the Entente's war aims. Separation of the previously conquered provinces and areas from Germany, complete dissolution of Austria-Hungary according to the nationality principle, Turkey being driven out of Europe, etc. Enormous effect. Deep delight in the pan -German and similar elements. No one can claim anymore that the Entente does not want a war of annihilation and is ready for negotiations. […] As a result of the Entente response, the Emperor appeals to the people. Everything is now in preparation for unrestricted submarine warfare.” The Central Powers rejected Wilson's proposal for mediation and at the same time informed the USA on January 31 that unrestricted submarine warfare would be resumed. On February 3, the United States responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, four days after President Wilson had called on the US Congress to participate in the crusade of “peace-loving” democracies against the “military-aggressive” autocracies of the world. Both houses of Congress approved overwhelmingly. The deeper reasons for this development lay initially in the view that the respective ideas of a global post-war order were mutually exclusive and that German continental European hegemonic intentions and global political ambitions could not be reconciled with American interests. Even before the war, there was a growing perception in the United States that the political strategy associated with the Tirpitz Plan ran counter to long-term American interests, including the Monroe Doctrine . Furthermore, the attitude of leading American scholars and politicians at the beginning of the 20th century was characterized by a deep distrust of German claims to cultural superiority and the German idea of the state . The increasing economic ties with the Entente since the beginning of the war, reports on actual and alleged German war atrocities such as the Bryce Report and ship sinkings with American victims - namely those of the RMS Lusitania - strengthened the anti-German mood. Initially, however, the increasing armament efforts since the beginning of the war were not aimed at entering the war, but at the potential war after this war. Even during the campaign for the presidential election of November 7, 1916 , Wilson focused on maintaining American neutrality, which after Wilson's election victory was beneficial to the decision of the German Reich leadership to further escalate the war effort. The German reaction to Wilson's peace initiative of December 18, 1916 ( see above ) was decisive for the development leading to the war . The confidential and immediately relativized transmission of the German peace conditions - de facto a rejection of the mediation offer - took place at the same time as the announcement of the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Reich. Germany declared that ships from neutral states, including the USA, would also be sunk in a war zone defined by Germany. Wilson took this with disbelief at first and then with deep disappointment. Although the majority of Wilson's advisors - above all Robert Lansing and Edward Mandell House - were now definitely pushing for war, Wilson merely broke off diplomatic relations with the German Empire on February 3 and initially wanted to wait and see whether the Reich leadership made good on their threat. On February 24, the US government became aware of an intercepted cable from the Secretary of State at the State Department, the Zimmermann Cable , which was published in The New York Times on March 1 . In it, Germany made an offer of alliance to the government of Mexico in the event of war and signaled "ample financial support and agreement" if Mexico "reconquered previously lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona". After this news there could no longer be any doubt about the American population's willingness to go to war. In March, moreover, American citizens were again killed by German submarine attacks. After the declaration of war on Germany followed in December 1917 that on Austria-Hungary.
Hunger winter in Germany
In the winter of 1916/17, several developments came together that led to the so-called swede winter, including a particularly poor harvest due to the weather . The distorted price structure ( see above ) meant that it was more profitable for producers to use potatoes and bread grain as animal feed or to sell them to distilleries. In February, the average daily ration dropped to 1,000 kilocalories per day ( mean requirement: 2,410 kilocalories), escalating food supply difficulties. At the same time, the swede winter caused a deep cut in the collective perception of societal solidarity (producers versus consumers) and the state's ability to provide food.
Revolution in Russia
The demands of the first "industrial" war increasingly exceeded the forces of the Russian Empire , which was largely shaped by agriculture, and led to an aggravation of the already serious social problems. In addition, there was the naval blockade of the Baltic Sea and the Dardanelles, which played a major role in Russia's exhaustion during the war: Before the war, 70 percent of imports into the Tsarist Empire went through the Baltic Sea, while the remaining 30 percent went predominantly via the Black Sea . Against the background of the burden of war, increasing inflation and above all because of the severe lack of food, primarily workers' and soldiers' women and, for the first time, peasant women, organized on 23 February jul. / March 8th greg. (Therefore later date of the International Women's Day ) in Petrograd mass demonstrations, which already on February 26th jul. / March 11 greg. spread to the Petrograd garrison troops and expanded into the February Revolution . As in 1905, workers' committees formed councils ( soviets ), which represented the demands of the demonstrators and tried to enforce them politically. The councils were headed by an executive committee, which was initially composed mostly of Mensheviks and SRs . On March 1st July / March 14 greg. The Petrograd Soviet issued Order No. 1 , according to which only government orders that did not contradict those of the Soviet were to be obeyed - which the Soviet was able to enforce. At the same time, the bourgeois parties represented in the Duma formed a provisional government under Prime Minister Georgi Lvov and were able to persuade the tsar to abdicate (March 3 Jul. / March 16 Gregory ). This led to a state of limbo between the provisional government and the Soviets , known as “ dual power ”. To the disappointment of large sections of the Russian population, the provisional government decided to continue the war, and the Soviets in their composition at the time followed the government's course in this regard. The Allies assessed the events in Russia mostly positively, because Russia, as an anti-democratic state, posed a problem for Allied propaganda, which always emphasized the struggle of democracy against arbitrary rule. The German leadership made it possible that on March 21st . / April 3 greg. Lenin and 30 other leading Bolsheviks – sometimes on a German train – were able to return to Russia from Swiss exile via Finland. The “Bolshevik” (majority) wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party , most of whose leaders had lived in exile since the 1905 revolution , had tried to mobilize against the war policy of their own government from the start of the war and “transform the current imperialist war into civil war ' was propagated, but initially without much success. The Reich government, which had established contact with Lenin, who lived in Switzerland, through the middleman Alexander Parvus , subsequently supported the revolutionaries with large sums of money (probably several million marks ) in order to destabilize the Russian state. Immediately after his return, on April 7, Lenin published jul. / April 20 greg. his April Theses , in which he presented his views on the further development of the revolution and called for the immediate end of the war, which met with great approval among the war-weary populace. The publication of the Miliukov Note (continuation of the war, no separate peace) on the “ Day of Struggle of the Labor Movement ” (April 18th / May 1st Gregory ) of all times fueled the already heated mood of the demonstrating masses and triggered the “April Crisis” that led to a government reshuffle involving the moderate left parties represented in the Soviet Union.
Alexander Kerensky – Minister of War in the July 6th / May 19 greg. formed the first coalition government and at the same time deputy chairman of the Workers' and Soldiers' Soviet - enforced his concept of "peace without defeat" in accordance with the implementation of a Kerensky offensive , later named after him, with the objectives of Brzezany , Lemberg and Wilna . The attack began on June 29th with artillery fire of unprecedented intensity on the Eastern Front, its focus being in the Stanislau area , beyond which the Russian army advanced to Kalusz (July 11th) only to become bogged down. The attack also failed on the other front sections. As a result, there were mass desertions and signs of dissolution of the Russian army, and Kerensky stopped the offensive on July 25. In a counterattack, the Central Powers advanced as far as Tarnopol and Chernivtsi (August 3), which was accompanied by the reconquest of eastern Galicia and Bukovina . In Russia itself there was an attempted coup by the Bolsheviks in early July , which was crushed by the military. Lenin then fled to Finland . In September, German troops captured the city of Riga and in October, in Operation Albion , the Baltic islands of Ösel , Dagö and Moon , whereupon the military resistance of the Russian army all but collapsed.
When General Kornilov attempted a coup at the end of September, Kerensky had to resort to the Bolsheviks to defend the revolution, which involved de facto and legal rehabilitation. At the beginning of November, the situation in Russia escalated. The October Revolution of October 24, led by Lenin, who has meanwhile returned from Finland . / November 6th greg. until october 25th / November 7th greg. the provisional government was overthrown and power was taken over by the Bolsheviks. Already on October 26th . / November 8th greg. The decree on peace was issued by the new Russian rulers , which paved the way for a strong military relief for the Central Powers on their eastern front.
On December 5, a ten-day armistice between the Central Powers and Russia, which was later extended several times, was agreed and the initially unsuccessful peace negotiations opened on December 22 in Brest-Litovsk , which ended on March 3, 1918 with the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ( see below ) . .
Germany on the Western Front on the defensive
In March, the German troops stationed in the central section of the western front on the Somme retreated to Operation Alberich into the heavily fortified Siegfried Position. The actual movement was carried out in three days, from March 16th to 19th. This retreat and the intensification of the naval war were the consequences of the major battles of 1916 at Verdun and on the Somme; the German troops were battered. The initiative came from the army group "Kronprinz Rupprecht" , which prevailed against Ludendorff's resistance. The construction of the Siegfried Line was probably the largest construction project of the First World War, the work was mainly done by prisoners of war and forced laborers. In accordance with instructions, before the tactical retreat, German troops systematically devastated the area to be released (“ burnt earth ”), partially mined it (also with booby traps ) and deported its inhabitants. Villages such as Bapaume were blown up, and a total of 150,000 people were deported, roughly all 40,000 inhabitants of Saint-Quentin . The operation was a military success, it improved the situation of the German troops by shortening the front and retreating to the well-developed Siegfried Line. The attack plans of the surprised Allies for the spring of 1917 initially came to nothing. The effect on public opinion abroad, on the other hand, was just as devastating as the operation, which "completely destroyed civilian life and turned a historical landscape into a desert" in the affected area.
At the second conference in Chantilly (site of French headquarters ) in November 1916, the Allies had again agreed on a combined offensive. Robert Nivelle, who was appointed joint commander in chief for this offensive , chose the northern French city of Arras as the starting point of an attack ( Battle of Arras ) that began on April 9th by the British army (including Canadian and New Zealand units). The main attack by the French army followed a little later on the Aisne ( Battle of the Aisne ) and in Champagne. After the failure on the Somme, the Allies returned to the tactical concept of 1915: the still large German front arc between Lille in the north and Verdun in the south was to be pinched off by pushing in the two flanks. The main goal of the French was the capture of the Chemin des Dames . The attack at Arras surprised the German troops under General Ludwig von Falkenhausen , who was subsequently relieved . The extent of the impending attack had remained hidden from German reconnaissance, not least because of the 24,000 soldiers hidden in the "tunnel city" of Arras. Apart from that, the use of materials was significantly higher than on the Somme in the previous year. The Canadians managed to capture a strategically important ridge near Vimy , but the advance stalled afterwards. The French attack 130 kilometers further south was a failure despite gains in territory, the Chemin des Dames could not be taken as an operational target. Both offensives had to be called off in May after heavy losses. Following a flexible defense strategy (“defense in depth”) developed by Fritz von Loßberg , the German army began staggering its defenses deeper and more complex. The tanks used by the British and the French (170 in all) have not yet had a greater effect due to technical problems and too few numbers. Poison gas was used by both sides, with the gas grenade increasingly replacing the blowing method with these two battles.
The failed offensive at the Chemin des Dames (Battle of the Aisne) gave rise to mutinies in 68 divisions of the French army, totaling about 40,000 men (out of 2 million). Five divisions were seriously affected, these lying just to the south of the attacking zone of the Chemin des Dames offensive, between Soissons and Reims . Similar problems arose when the Russian Expeditionary Force was also deployed there . In view of the initial British successes at Arras, the high expectations were particularly disappointed there. As a rule, the mutinies did not begin among the troops in the front line, but among those in the lull in fighting when the order to return to the front was given. The concrete demands were more leave from the front, better nutrition, better conditions for the families of the soldiers, an end to the "slaughter" (protest against the methods of warfare) and occasionally also "peace" and an end to "injustice" in general (primarily in the sense of military justice meant). "The overwhelming majority of the mutinous soldiers did not question the war itself, but only protested against being slaughtered uselessly." On April 29, the French commander-in-chief Nivelle was replaced by General Pétain, who had organized the defense of Verdun. By adopting a defensive stance, Pétain was able to contain unrest in the French army, Pétain introduced a new style of fighting similar to the German "defence in depth". Apart from two limited, successful operations at Verdun in August and at the Aisne in October (where the Germans were thrown back behind the Ailette ), the French army made no further offensives between June 1917 and July 1918. In addition, Pétain made improvements in terms of food and rest periods for the troops. About 10 percent of the mutineers were tried, 3,427 soldiers convicted, the courts- martial handed down 554 death sentences, of which 49 were carried out. During the high phase of the mutiny between May and June, the German troops were content to accept the enemy's passivity, since they did not see through the causes and were tied to other fronts.
In the Battle of Messines (May 21 to June 7), the British succeeded in conquering a strategically important ridge south of Ypres. In a year and a half, miners from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand planted 21 large mines under the German positions, the detonation of which triggered the "most effective" non-nuclear explosion in the history of the war (10,000 dead, 6,400 stunned). The conquest of the ridge secured the right flank and enabled a major Allied offensive under British leadership, the Third Battle of Ypres (July 31 to November 6). Targets of a hoped-for breakthrough included the German U-boat bases in Ostend and Zeebrugge . After some successes, the attack got stuck at Langemark-Poelkapelle on October 9 , and the main thrust against the strategically important Geluveld plateau failed , leaving the Allied troops exposed to constant flank fire. After Canadian troops took the ruins of Passchendaele on November 6, the fighting died down – the Allies were only able to push back the German front by 8 kilometers even here, the most successful section. Casualties on both sides were about 585,000 soldiers.
The Battle of Cambrai (November 20th to December 6th) saw the first operational use of closed armored formations, a "landmark in the history of warfare." Around 320 operational tanks from the Royal Tank Regiment - supported by 400 aircraft and six infantry - as well as three cavalry divisions - after a short artillery preparation broke through the Siegfried Line on a 15-kilometer-wide front in the area of Havrincourt and advanced about seven kilometers. The new attack method was surprising, since the usual day-long artillery preparation was expected when planning an attack due to the deeply structured positions. However, the breakthrough to the Cambrai railway junction did not succeed, a good third of the attacking tanks were destroyed. In a counter-offensive launched on November 30, German troops succeeded in recapturing most of the lost terrain. This defensive success strengthened the German army command in their misjudgment that the establishment of their own armored force was not a priority.
The side fronts
At the beginning of the year, the British renewed their offensive towards Baghdad on the Mesopotamian front . On February 24th they reached Kut al-Amara and surprisingly took Baghdad on March 11th before the start of the rainy season. The Turks had to withdraw to Mosul . The fall of Baghdad was a heavy blow for Turkey and the Central Powers, as it called into question all plans in the Orient, including those related to the Baghdad railway . Therefore, the former chief of staff Falkenhayn was assigned to prepare the reconquest of Baghdad together with Enver Pasha under the code name "Jilderim" (Lightning).
On June 29, 1917, the Kingdom of Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies, after Greek volunteer associations had previously fought on their side on the Salonika front. Since the landing of Allied troops in Greece at the end of 1915, there had been a “ national schism ” in which the provisional counter-government of Eleftherios Venizelos , which was aligned with the Entente , finally prevailed against the ruling “Germanophile camp” around Constantine I thanks to increasing Anglo-French interventions . After the occupation of almost all strategically important parts of the country, including Athens, by the Allies and an ultimatum from the French High Commissioner Jonnart , Constantine resigned in June 1917 and went into exile. In return, Venizelos returned to Athens from Salonika, convened the parliament elected in 1915 , and formed a government that immediately declared war on the Central Powers. Alexander I became the new king .
In the 11th Battle of the Isonzo (17 August to 12 September), Austria-Hungary narrowly escaped a heavy defeat. Since Emperor Charles I feared that he would no longer be able to withstand the next Italian attack, he and the Austrian high command requested German support, which was provided in the form of the 14th Army (including the German Alpine Corps ), which was newly formed for this operation. The expected attack by the Italians was forestalled with their own offensive, in the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo (also "Battle of Karfreit ", Italian "Battaglia di Caporetto", October 24th to 27th/November 11th) the surprising breakthrough came in eleven days the Central Powers advanced 130 kilometers, occupied the first major Italian city, Udine , and were 30 kilometers from Venice . The Italians lost more than 305,000 men (Central Powers: 70,000), including 265,000 prisoners of war. The success was mainly based on the "shock troop procedure" (rapid advance of assault battalions in a narrow corridor without particular attention to flank protection ) developed from the experiences of the first years of the war and first used on a large scale in the Battle of Riga . The front could be stabilized with difficulty on the Piave and Monte Grappa . The Allies sent five British and six French divisions in support. However, the rudimentary revolutionary situation in Italy (strike, mass desertion) abated due to the disaster, because: "The war of aggression became a war of defence". In response to this defeat, the Allied Supreme War Council was formed at the Rapallo Conference on November 7 , and the Italian chief of staff, Luigi Cadorna , was replaced by Armando Diaz .
The last major offensive of the war year 1917 was also the last major cavalry attack in military history: On October 31, 1917, the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade with 12,000 cavalrymen and the British 5th Mounted Brigade under the command of General Edmund Allenby attacked Ottoman and German troops held Be'er Sheva and were able to conquer it . Falkenhayn then moved into his headquarters in Jerusalem on November 5 and wanted to defend the city at all costs. However, the OHL ordered the evacuation in order not to further damage the reputation of the Central Powers in the world public opinion in the event of a possible destruction of the holy places. The battle for Jerusalem with the support of rebellious Arabs ( TE Lawrence ) thus ended on December 9th with the capture of Jerusalem by British troops without a fight.
politics and peace initiatives
In the Easter message of April 7, Wilhelm II vaguely promised democratic reforms after the war. On April 11, the USPD was founded in Gotha as a split from the SPD, the background being the escalated disciplining of party leftists in the SPD to maintain the Burgfrieden policy , the Russian February Revolution and the April strikes . A week later, on April 19, the SPD (increasingly referred to as the MSPD as the year progressed ) called for equal citizenship rights and moves toward the parliamentary system (" parliamentarization "), and declared its support for the Petrograd Soviets' late-March demand: peace without annexations and reparations, free national development of all peoples. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, who had already increasingly isolated himself with his indifferent attitude to the war aims and to political reforms, was in trouble: Since he now, in view of the MSPD declaration, from the OHL’s point of view “can no longer master social democracy”, demands were made Hindenburg and Ludendorff appealed to the Kaiser – initially unsuccessfully – to dismiss the chancellor. At the War Goals Conference in Bad Kreuznach on April 23, the chancellor, under pressure from the OHL, signed a protocol that even Admiral Müller considered a document of “complete excess” with regard to the annexation goals.
The Stockholm Conference of the Second International took place from June 2nd to June 19th, but it remained just as ineffective as various soundings for a separate peace, especially on the part of the new Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles I. Attempts at a peace with Russia in the spring failed initially due to the unacceptable German demands.
On July 6, the Reichstag speech by Matthias Erzberger ( German Center Party ) caused a “sensation in all political circles”: The conservative politician, originally an advocate of a “ Siegfrieden ”, proved that the military had made false statements about the effectiveness of submarine warfare and campaigned for a “ peace of understanding ”: Germany must refrain from annexations. On the same day, leading MPs from the MSPD, Zentrum and liberal Progressive Party also agreed on the Intergroup Committee as the coordinating body of the majority groups, which is regarded as the start of Germany's parliamentarization and was accordingly interpreted by conservatives at the time as the "beginning of the revolution". Because of Erzberger's speech, Hindenburg and Ludendorff called on the Kaiser on July 7 and demanded that the Chancellor be replaced, which the Kaiser in turn refused. On July 10, the chancellor obtained the Kaiser's promise of equal suffrage in Prussia after the war (as opposed to three -class suffrage ), which became public knowledge on July 12. That same evening, Hindenburg and Ludendorff threatened to resign unless the chancellor was recalled, causing the emperor to back down. On the morning of July 13, Bethmann Hollweg, informed of this, submitted his resignation, and the largely unknown Georg Michaelis was appointed as his successor.
On July 19, 1917, the majority of the Reichstag approved the very general peace resolution submitted by Erzberger , which accordingly had no consequences. Domestically, however, the peace resolution of the Reichstag had repercussions, among other things, in that the annexationist, völkisch-nationalist German Fatherland Party was founded on September 2 as a counter-reaction . Pope Benedict XV 's peace note Dès le début . on August 1 to the leaders of the belligerent countries also had no consequences. Among other things, the Pope proposed a peace without annexations and reparations, free sea routes and a settlement of the disputed issues with the help of international law. This initiative, combined with humanitarian activities (e.g. initiating an exchange of wounded people and a missing persons search service) and repeated condemnation of war (“useless bloodshed”), is considered the prelude to the modern foreign policy of the Holy See .
Since Reich Chancellor Michaelis evidently saw himself largely as a vicarious agent of the OHL, the Reichstag majority had been pushing for his dismissal since the end of October and was able to enforce this . Georg von Hertling became his successor on November 1 .
war year 1918
Wilson's 14 points and mass strikes
President Woodrow Wilson presented his 14-point program in a keynote address to both houses of the US Congress on January 8th . Wilson claimed that he wanted to implement liberal political principles globally, and he proclaimed the right of peoples to self-determination as the most important goal . Among other things, the 14 points mentioned the evacuation and restoration of Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro, as well as the evacuation and abandonment of Alsace-Lorraine, a separate Polish state, freedom of the seas, limitations on armaments and “autonomous development” for the peoples of Austria-Hungary required. On January 24, Germany and Austria-Hungary rejected the 14 points .
On January 14, the January strikes began in the armaments factories in and around Wiener Neustadt , the strike front spread and only crumbled in the face of massive military violence. Work resumed on January 23. In Germany, between January 28 and February 2 in Berlin and other industrial centers, mass protests and strikes involving more than a million workers ( January strike ) were primarily politically motivated, in contrast to earlier actions, and advocated the "general peace" and against "annexations and contributions", which was mainly aimed at the annexationist attitude of the OHL in Brest-Litovsk. The MSPD sent Friedrich Ebert , Otto Braun and Philipp Scheidemann to the Action Committee to "keep the movement on track". Similar to Austria, however, the movement could only be suppressed with military repression. On January 31, the authorities in Berlin declared an intensified state of siege, arrested members of the strike leadership and subsequently sent 50,000 workers involved to the front. From February 3, most establishments resumed work.
Peace with Russia, spring offensive and turning point in the war
In the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations on January 19, the German side demanded in the ultimatum that Russia renounce Poland, Lithuania and western Latvia , whereupon the Soviet chief negotiator, Leon Trotsky , obtained a pause in the negotiations. In Petrograd, the government and the Central Committee agreed with Trotsky's proposal to delay negotiations in anticipation of the imminent uprising of the West European proletariat. On January 25, the non-Bolshevik Central Rada decided that Ukraine declared itself independent. On February 9, the Central Powers signed a separate peace (" Bread Peace ") with Ukraine . In return for the generous border demarcation in western Ukraine, the Central Powers demanded large supplies of grain from the Ukrainian government, while at the same time giving Russia an ultimatum to accept the peace terms, whereupon Trotsky – still hoping for an imminent revolution in Germany – unilaterally resigned without signing the treaty announced demobilization. The Central Powers therefore advanced from February 18 in Operation Punch and in a few weeks occupied large parts of the western border areas in the Baltic States, in western Ukraine, on the Crimea , in the industrial area on the Donets and in Belarus. Without entering into negotiations again, the Soviet delegation had to accept the considerably tightened German conditions, and the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty was signed on March 3rd. Although the Central Powers undertook to evacuate the occupied territories with the exception of Livonia , Russia had to renounce territorial claims in Poland, Lithuania and Courland , as well as territory claimed by Turkey in the Caucasus. In connection with the treaty, Germany agreed in March to an independent Lithuania closely tied to Germany (declaration of independence on February 16). A supplementary treaty signed on August 27 stipulated Russia's renunciation of Livonia and recognition of the independence of Finland and Ukraine. The German Reich had earlier (June 28) made the momentous decision not to advance to Petrograd and, despite ideological reservations, to keep Bolshevism alive, since the other factions in the Russian Civil War did not accept the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. Russia gave up a third of its population and most of its raw material and industrial potential with the treaty.
The foreseeable relief of the pressure on the eastern front at the end of 1917 meant that on November 11, 1917, the German army command in Mons decided to launch an offensive on the western front, for which various competing plans were drawn up and which gave the war a turn before the Americans arrived should. Another aspect was the poor supply situation at home, which made a quick military decision appear necessary.
On January 21, 1918, Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided on a variant codenamed “ Michael ”: an offensive in the St. Quentin area along the Somme, pivoting to the northwest, encircling the British army and forcing a retreat to the Channel ports. With the withdrawal of troops, primarily from Russia, the number of German divisions in the West could be increased from 147 to 191, which were opposed by only 178 Allies – for the first time since 1914, the German army had regained numerical superiority, but still no material superiority. On March 10, Hindenburg issued the attack order for March 21.
In the early morning of March 21, 1918, the German Spring Offensive began . After a comparatively short artillery preparation - more than five hours - the German stormtroopers achieved a deep penetration into the British front with their infiltration tactics (coined by Herman Geyer ). A new type of German infantry weapon - the MP18 submachine gun - contributed to the success. However, the OHL repeatedly shifted the focus and direction of the attack in the following days. Most notably, Ludendorff "abandoned the strategy of a single, massive thrust and opted for a three-pronged attack, none of which was strong enough to make a breakthrough," earning him considerable criticism from the General Staff and weakening the offensive: "How In 1914, when advancing on Paris, the German army reacted to the events and followed the line of least resistance instead of seizing the law of action.” In addition, there were logistical difficulties in the devastated Somme region. Attacks were also held up not least by the fact that the poorly supplied German troops plundered the British depots. Furthermore, the material superiority of the Allies could not be permanently offset by the surprising setting of priorities. A novelty in the history of the war is that, for the first time, the majority of German losses on longer sections of the front were due to air raids. On April 3, under the pressure of events, the Allies agreed on Ferdinand Foch as joint commander-in-chief. Although the German troops had advanced up to 60 kilometers deep on an 80-kilometer-wide front (from St. Quentin to the west of Montdidier ), the offensive had created a large new front arc with high losses that could no longer be offset and had not achieved any strategic goals. After a counterattack by Australian troops off Amiens , Operation Michael was discontinued on April 5th.
Ludendorff, who in the meantime was openly accused of leadership mistakes in the general staff, resorted to an alternative plan to the Michaelsoffensive: Operation Georg, an attack in Flanders along the Leie river over a front width of 30 kilometers with the aim of the Channel coast west of Ypres ( Fourth Battle of Ypres ). Due to Operation Michael, the action could only be carried out on a reduced scale and was accordingly renamed Georgette. After a few initial successes, such as conquering the strategically important Kemmelberg on April 25, Georgette got stuck. The offensive saw the first major tank battle in the history of the war , but the most famous event is the death of Manfred von Richthofen . More serious for the German army, however, was the increasing refusal to attack orders from the exhausted and disappointed troops from around mid-April. The OHL was aware of the dwindling morale of its own troops and therefore immediately opened a new offensive on May 27 ( Battle of the Aisne or Operation Blücher-Yorck) with the hitherto strongest artillery deployment of the war, almost 6000 guns fired within four hours two million shells. On May 29, the Germans were again at the Marne, on June 3 just before Villers-Cotterêts , Paris was only 90 kilometers by road and 62 kilometers as the crow flies from the German front - shells from the Paris gun hit the French capital, on June 5 the British cabinet discussed the evacuation of the British expeditionary force. However, the Marne Line was stabilized with the help of American troops. OHL broke off the attack because of casualties, Allied counterattacks and logistical problems on 5/6. June off. As part of the combat operations, the Battle of Belleau Forest took place with the participation of the United States Marine Corps .
On June 9, Ludendorff launched another attack on the Matz (Operation Gneisenau), which also had to be canceled on June 14 due to American-French counterattacks. Shortly thereafter, a final attack by Austro-Hungarian troops on the Italian front also ended in failure ( Second Piaveschlacht June 15–22). The real turning point of the war on the Western Front was the Second Battle of the Marne : the German attack launched on July 15 with all the troops still available initially made good progress, but on July 18 the French and Americans counterattacked with massive deployment small and maneuverable tank ( Renault FT ). The German troops, exhausted and poorly supplied and therefore (according to some authors) more severely affected than the Allies by the first wave of Spanish flu , were surprised and withdrew again across the Marne, which had only been crossed three days earlier. 7th Army 's rear communications were threatened; almost all of the territory conquered in May and June had to be given up. In contemporary official war historiography, July 18 was considered to be the actual “turning point of the war”. The Allies won the initiative that day, not to relinquish it until the end of the war.
Allied Hundred Days Offensive
In the Battle of Amiens , which began on August 8, 1918 , the German army had to accept a heavy defeat (" Black Day of the German Army "), the battle initiated the Hundred Days Offensive . Aided by heavy fog, 530 British and 70 French tanks – followed by Australian and Canadian infantry – pushed through the surprised and undermanned lines east of Villers-Bretonneux . After the spring offensive, the affected 2nd Army was in a desolate state ("shadow army" with a " militia-like " character). The German losses alone on August 8 were around 27,000 men, including at least 12,000 prisoners, at the end of the battle 75,000 men, including 50,000 prisoners. The operational success (a maximum of 20 kilometers to Bray-sur-Somme and Chaulnes ) was rather average compared to the German attacks in March, but the moral effect was enormous, especially since large parts of the army obviously lost the will to continue fighting had.
On August 13, the OHL came to the conclusion that the initiative could no longer be regained in the war. However, at the Spa conference on August 13 and 14, the OHL expressed the opinion to the Kaiser and Chancellor Hertling that defensive operations would paralyze the Allied will to fight and that Germany should only offer peace talks after the next success in the West. Objections by Hertling, Foreign Minister Paul von Hintze and Emperor Karl were ignored, and the opinion of the OHL was still decisive.
By mid-September, the Allies were gradually gaining ground, on August 21 the British attacked near Albert , by early September the Germans had been pushed back to the starting position of their March offensive, and on September 2 the OHL reluctantly ordered a retreat to the Siegfried Line . On September 12, the Americans began their first independent offensive with the Battle of St. Mihiel , which was followed on September 26 by the large-scale Meuse-Argonne Offensive that lasted until the end of the war . On September 29, the Siegfried Line was breached for the first time. Although the German troops were initially able to inflict high losses, especially on the inexperienced Americans, they became increasingly demoralized. Due to cumulative casualties, desertion, capture and disease, the number of men had fallen drastically, and there were no longer any reserves. Added to this was the poor food supply – in particular the lack of staple foods such as potatoes – and other supply problems. The Allies increasingly exploited their material and personal superiority, and tactical improvements in their warfare also had an effect. Although the Allies and especially the USA were hit harder by the second wave of Spanish flu than Germany - the Americans lost more soldiers to it than to combat operations - it had a more serious impact on Germany due to the overall situation. However, the German front did not completely collapse until the armistice on November 11th, giving rise to the so-called stab in the back legend after the war. In November 1918, German troops only occupied a small part of north-eastern France and a good half of Belgium and Luxembourg, and the Allies continued to occupy hardly any German territory.
Collapse of the German allies and October reform
In the Battle of Palestine from September 19 to 21, the Ottoman army was finally defeated. What was more important, however, was that in mid-September the resistance of the Bulgarian army collapsed and Bulgaria requested an unconditional armistice on September 26th . u.k. Troops threatened in Albania and Serbia. Earlier, on September 14, Austria-Hungary had sent a note (initially unanswered) to the Allies asking for peace. This development and the all-out attacks on the Western Front led to Ludendorff suffering a nervous breakdown at Grand Headquarters (at the time in Spa ) on 28 September. On the morning of September 29, the OHL presented the military situation to Foreign Minister Paul von Hintze , followed immediately by Wilhelm II. A “revolution from above” was agreed in the form of a broad national government involving all parties represented in the Reichstag, from a military dictatorship that was also discussed should be avoided. When Chancellor Georg von Hertling - who rejected democratic reforms - came late to Spa, he found himself faced with a fait accompli and resigned. On October 3, he was succeeded by Max von Baden , who formed a new cabinet in which Social Democrats, Philipp Scheidemann and Gustav Bauer , were appointed for the first time. The day before, October 2, Major von dem Bussche had explained the militarily hopeless situation to the stunned party leaders in the Reichstag. Ludendorff did not accept the concerns of the new Reich Chancellor and the government against an immediate offer of a ceasefire, so that the new cabinet sent a note to President Wilson on the night of October 4/5: Wilson was asked, on the basis of his 14 points and the additional 5 points of September 27, 1918 to take the establishment of peace into their own hands and to bring about an immediate armistice. Shortly afterwards, at the wrong time, a German submarine sank the British passenger ship RMS Leinster (October 10), which was immediately reflected in the American notes of October 14 and 23. Wilson demanded a guarantee of continued Allied military superiority (i.e. extensive disarmament of Germany) and parliamentary control of politics and the military as conditions for peace negotiations (but not necessarily for the armistice). Ludendorff and Hindenburg, in the face of the American notes of October 14 and 23, again took a negative stance against peace negotiations, drove from headquarters to Berlin without imperial permission and declared in an army order (October 24) that the final Wilson notes (disarmament ) are unacceptable. Chancellor Max von Baden was able to prove the OHL's insubordination and insisted on a change of personnel. Ludendorff and Hindenburg had to ask Kaiser Wilhelm for their release on October 26. The Kaiser accepted Ludendorff's request for release, but not Hindenburg's. The October reforms brought about a change in the system of government . Formally, Germany was a parliamentary monarchy from October 28 to November 9, for the first time in its history .
The situation in Austria-Hungary had deteriorated dramatically in 1918. The soldiers were malnourished, desertion , suicides and plagues increased rapidly. The army disintegrated rapidly, the armaments industry was close to collapse. Bohemia, Galicia, Hungary and Upper Austria stopped delivering food to other parts of the country where hunger prevailed. In addition, spectacular scandals and failures such as the Sixtus affair (April 1918), the sinking of the SMS Szent István (June 10), the Second Battle of the Piave (June 15 to 22) and the undisturbed propaganda flight over Vienna by Gabriele D 'Annunzio (9 August) Austria-Hungary shaken. On August 21, the deputy chief of staff, Alfred von Waldstätten , explained the hopeless situation to the stunned generals of all armies at the Belluno conference . The first peace demarche on September 14th was followed by another on October 4th. In October 1918 Austria-Hungary began to disintegrate, and the state as a whole increasingly became an "illusory world", which the People's Manifesto of October 16 on the part of Emperor Karl could no longer change, but instead further accelerated the dissolution. The National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was constituted in Agram on October 6th, and the Hungarian National Council was formed in Budapest on October 25th as part of the Aster Revolution . The day before, the Hungarian government issued instructions to the soldiers in the k. u.k. Army to return home immediately. At the same time, in this situation , the Allies launched a major attack near Vittorio . On October 27, the attackers gained bridgeheads east of the Piave . The Austro-Hungarian troops refused the order to counterattack and the situation became hopeless. On October 28, a request for an armistice was issued. On the same day the republic was proclaimed in Prague and Czechoslovakia was established, on 29 October the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs . As early as October 7, the Polish Regency Council called for the founding of a Polish state , and on October 11 it took over military command. On October 30, the state of German- Austria was constituted in response to the secession of all non-German territories . An independent government was formed in Hungary on November 1, after Hungary had denounced the real union with Austria on October 31 ; thus the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was dissolved. The attempt to shift responsibility for accepting the terms of the armistice onto the parties in parliament failed, in contrast to Germany, due to their refusal to end a war started by the Kaiser (as explicitly stated by Victor Adler in the Council of State ). On November 3, General Weber signed the Villa Giusti Armistice with the Allies. On November 11, Charles I./IV. as Emperor of Austria on every share in state affairs, on November 13th in the same way as King of Hungary, which ended the Habsburg monarchy .
November revolution in Germany and armistice
Already on September 30, one day after Ludendorff had called for an armistice, Admiral Reinhard Scheer , head of the Naval War Staff formed in August, had assembled the High Seas Fleet in the roadstead near Schillig near Wilhelmshaven without giving any reason . The fleet command was signaled that a demand for the surrender of the German fleet had to be met. Rear Admiral Adolf von Trotha then developed a plan of attack on the Grand Fleet , which was more than twice as strong, on the basis of previous plans drawn up in spring 1917 and April 1918 . The operational plan called for a night advance of the entire fleet into the Hoofden on October 30th . At daybreak the coast of Flanders and the Thames estuary were to be attacked. Since the British fleet would most likely cut off the retreat to the German Bight , the naval command expected the great naval battle at Terschelling in the late afternoon of the second day of operations . The admirals saw a certain chance of victory, so they did not plan a "death voyage" for 80,000 sailors from the outset, but such a variant was accepted as a more likely option. Neither the Kaiser nor the Chancellor were informed, but Ludendorff was. The motives for the naval advance lay in questions of honor and survival of the admirals: it was believed that without a last action the coming reconstruction of the fleet would be endangered. Following the relevant fleet order of October 24th, on October 27th there were insubordinations on some of the largest ships. On October 29, Admiral Franz von Hipper canceled the order to leave the port and ordered the fleet squadrons to their respective locations. The particularly troubled III. Fleet squadrons arrived in Kiel on November 1, where 47 sailors believed to be the main ringleaders were arrested. The Kiel Sailors' Uprising developed from protest actions against this measure, during which seven demonstrating workers and soldiers were shot dead on November 3rd . The MSPD , whose leadership was satisfied with the October reforms and rejected the revolution, was unable to stop progress. The November Revolution swept through town after town in quick succession. Workers' and soldiers' councils formed all over the Reich and took power on November 6 in Hamburg and on November 7 in Munich. Kaiser Wilhelm, who had been at the General Headquarters in Spa , Belgium since October 29, was officially confronted with the demand for his abdication for the first time on November 1 due to a note from US President Wilson. After questioning 39 commanders on the western front, he received the answer on November 9 that the troops would mostly refuse to give orders if they were deployed against the revolution.
On November 7, the MSPD issued an ultimatum to the Reich Chancellor to persuade the Kaiser to abdicate, otherwise they would resign from the government. The MSPD feared that otherwise they would no longer be able to stop the revolution. Since the concrete abdication did not follow despite a vague promise from the Kaiser, large companies in Berlin went on a general strike on November 9, large crowds with red flags roamed the streets of Berlin, which were hoisted on many public buildings - such as the Brandenburg Gate . The MSPD left the government at 9 a.m., Chancellor Max von Baden arbitrarily announced the abdication of the Kaiser and the renunciation of the throne by the Crown Prince and handed over his office to Friedrich Ebert . At 2 p.m., Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the German Republic – without consulting Friedrich Ebert, who was very upset about this . Karl Liebknecht from the Spartakusbund proclaimed the free socialist republic of Germany at 4 p.m. Under pressure from the grassroots, the hitherto hostile social democratic parties MSPD and USPD constituted a joint council of people's representatives on November 10. Liebknecht's demand for a front line position against the MSPD was practically met with protests. Wilhelm II, who feared the fate of the Tsar's family, fled from Spa to the Netherlands on the same day , where he formally and "for all future" renounced the Prussian crown and the German imperial crown only on November 28. Wilhelm II left the country without saying thank you to the people and the troops who had fought in his name, nor did he commemorate the fallen. Even many supporters from the conservative milieu saw going into exile without prior abdication as desertion . In the Ebert-Groener Pact , Ebert and General Wilhelm Groener agreed on joint action against ill-defined "Bolshevik" groups, which was to have far-reaching effects on the Weimar Republic .
A conference of the Allied war coalition was held in Paris from October 29 to November 4 to discuss the terms of the armistice. The German combination of peace offer and armistice request was interpreted as an admission of defeat. For this reason, too, the American representative Edward Mandell House was no longer able to fully commit Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau and David Lloyd George to the 14-point program , so that two serious tightenings were formulated in the so-called Lansing Note of November 5th: the freedom of the seas (including the lifting of the blockade) will only be regulated in later negotiations and the "restoration of the occupied territories" includes the demand for comprehensive reparations. The answer arrived in Berlin on November 6, where, in view of the spreading November revolution and because of the pressure from the OHL, thoughts were already being raised of sending a delegation across the front line with a white flag, even without an answer. Originally, General Erich von Gündell was intended to be the first representative of the Armistice Commission . In Spa, State Secretary Matthias Erzberger ( German Center Party ) and Paul von Hintze agreed at short notice that Erzberger would take over the leadership, for which Erzberger had been given blank powers of attorney in Berlin as a precautionary measure. The far- reaching idea, formulated for the first time in the cabinet meeting on November 2nd, of adding a civilian state secretary (de facto: minister) to the armistice commission came from Erzberger himself. The four-strong delegation, consisting of Erzberger, General Detlof von Winterfeldt , and Captain Ernst Vanselow and the diplomat Alfred von Oberndorff , crossed the front line in what is now the municipality of La Flamengrie on November 7 at what is now the Monument de la Pierre d'Haudroy and arrived in the early morning of November 8 in the Compiègne clearing in the Compiègne forest , where Marshal Ferdinand Foch had the armistice conditions, which were perceived as very harsh , read out in the “ Carriage of Compiègne ”. On the evening of November 8, Hindenburg expressly requested the German delegation in two – partially unencrypted – cables to accept the conditions even if no improvements were possible. In the negotiations that followed, only minor relief was achieved. On the morning of November 11, between 5:12 a.m. and 5:20 a.m. French time, both delegations signed the Armistice of Compiègne . Among other things, this provided for the evacuation of the areas occupied by the German army within 14 days and the left bank of the Rhine and three bridgeheads in Mainz, Koblenz and Cologne within 25 days. The peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the Peace of Bucharest had to be rescinded and large quantities of means of transport, weapons and significant parts of the fleet had to be handed over in order to prevent the Reich from continuing the war in practice. The armistice came into effect at 11:00 a.m. French time (12:00 p.m. German time) and was initially limited to 36 days, but effectively ended the war.
War enthusiasm and anti-war demonstrations
At the beginning of the war, people showed a wide spectrum of very different reactions, ranging from protest and refusal to helplessness and shock to patriotic exuberance and hysteria. There was neither general enthusiasm for the war, nor did the proletarian and peasant strata stand united and consistently opposed to the war. Above all, large parts of the bourgeois academic classes welcomed the coming war event. The conservative bourgeoisie reacted to the ultimatum and Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Serbia with patriotic parades, for example in Berlin-Mitte on July 25, 1914 with around 30,000 participants. On the other hand, in smaller towns and especially in rural areas, the mood was downright depressed, thoughtful and pessimistic. The coming war produced similarly restrained and depressed reactions among the workers in the industrial centers. In none of the countries affected by the outbreak of the war was there an “intoxicated” enthusiasm for war that gripped all sections of the population.
On the other hand, similar to Great Britain and France, anti-war demonstrations took place in Germany at the end of July. In Germany alone (according to the SPD) there were 288 meetings and marches in around 160 cities, for example in Berlin-Mitte on July 28, 1914 with more than 100,000 people and this despite the ban of the magistrate. The turning point for the truce was the news of the partial Russian mobilization on July 28, 1914. Similar to the labor movement in other countries, the Social Democrats joined the political united front, although only a few days earlier they had turned against the "warmongering" of their own government . On August 1, 1914, between 40,000 and 50,000 people gathered in front of the Berlin City Palace for Wilhelm II 's second balcony speech , who announced that he "didn't know any more parties or denominations". Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg was also adept at portraying Russia as an alleged aggressor. SPD party executive Hugo Haase , who had organized numerous anti-war rallies and fought within the party against the acceptance of the war credits until August 3, 1914, declared for the SPD the following day: "In the hour of danger we will not abandon our own fatherland ". At the beginning of the war there was broad political solidarity in all countries involved in the war, and there was a concerned, serious and determined acceptance of the war.
War Target Policy
According to the war council of December 8, 1912 , Germany’s military war aim, which was initially in the foreground and contributed significantly to the outbreak of war, was to wage the war against the Entente, which was considered unavoidable, at a still favorable point in time, with the war council of 1912 already defining mid-1914 as had been deemed favorable. In the opinion of the German military leadership, the European balance of power was developing increasingly unfavorably for Germany. Triggered by the rapid successes of the army in the Western campaign, annexations in East and West to secure a hegemonic position of the German Reich on the European mainland were added as political goals , which were reflected, among other things, in the " September Program " of 1914. The demands for annexation, which could not be reconciled with the overall military situation as the war progressed, were a major obstacle to peace negotiations.
Austria-Hungary claimed to be fighting for its interests in the Balkans and for its very existence. Contrary to the nationalist tendencies of the time, Austria-Hungary held fast to the universal idea of the empire and thus to the multinational state. The official war aim of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was to maintain its existence and to strengthen its position as a great power. At the same time, Austria-Hungary sought the incorporation of Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania, or instead of the latter, Russian Poland.
France's primary war aim was the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine . In the autumn of 1915, further French war aims became apparent: pushing Germany back to the Rhine through annexation or neutralization of the Rhineland up to the dissolution of the unity of the empire or at least its weakening in the federal sense, as well as the economic and military annexation of Belgium and Luxembourg to France. According to the Briand government's war target program of November 1916, France was to be given at least the 1790 border and thus Alsace-Lorraine with the Saarland. The establishment of two neutral, independent buffer states under French protection was preferred to a permanent occupation of the Rhineland. Contrary to the ideas of the General Staff, Belgium should be left in independence.
Russia saw itself as the natural protector of pan-Slavic aspirations in the Balkans. After the Ottoman entry into the war, the Russian side hoped to gain Constantinople and the straits between the Aegean and the Black Sea (→ Agreement on Constantinople and the Straits ). In addition to the old goal of the Straits, the Russian war aims also included Galicia and East Prussia , which extended into Russian territory . In his 13-point program of September 14, 1914, the Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov primarily provided for territorial cessions by Germany, allegedly on the basis of the nationality principle. Russia would annex the lower reaches of the Njemen ( Memelland ) and the eastern part of Galicia, as well as annex the eastern province of Posen , (Upper) Silesia and western Galicia to Russian Poland .
At the beginning of the war Great Britain demanded the restoration of the respective independence of the smaller European nations which had been destroyed by the attack of the Central Powers, above all those of Belgium, whose invasion was the official reason for entering the war. The aim of liberating Belgium was to smash Prussian militarism . On March 20, 1917, Lloyd George identified the elimination of reactionary military governments and the establishment of democratically legitimate governments as war aims that would contribute to the establishment of international peace. Increasingly, the German colonies and the Arab parts of Turkey that had already been occupied by the British rule expressed their own desire for expansion in the form of demands for self-determination . The withdrawal of Russia from the war coalition and – to a lesser extent – France's desire for annexation endangered the British concept of the balance of power , even in the event of an Allied victory. In the east, a cordon sanitaire of the states dependent on France and Great Britain should now be created in order to create a new counterweight to Germany. At the inter-allied economic conference in Paris from June 14 to 17, 1917, a post-war economic order was negotiated, not least on British initiative, with which the German position in world trade was to be permanently suppressed. Great Britain was also particularly interested in the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the division of the Arab territories. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 16 May 1916 regulated Britain's and France's zones of interest in the Middle East . Britain received southern Mesopotamia , while Palestine was to be internationalized. Britain insisted on handing over most of the German fleet.
Italy's war aims were primarily the annexation of Italian-populated areas under Austro-Hungarian rule (→ irredentism ). After the Russian Empire agreed to the Italian desire to annex Slavic-populated areas and thus establish the Adriatic as mare nostro ("our sea"), the secret Treaty of London came about on April 26, 1915.
The American war goals were formulated in the 14-point program of January 8, 1918. It included the full restoration of Belgian independence, the return of Alsace-Lorraine, the establishment of Italian frontiers along the nationality frontiers, and the continued existence of Austria-Hungary whose nations were to be allowed to develop freely. Turkey was granted independence, but without including other nationalities, the straits were to be kept open by international guarantees. The establishment of an independent Polish state was demanded. In October 1918, the Americans supplemented and expanded Wilson's 14 points: Italy was granted South Tyrol and a protectorate over Albania for strategic reasons, the liberation of all Slavic peoples under German and Austro-Hungarian rule was demanded, and the division of the Middle East between Great Britain and France accepted.
The central problems of the war economy were regulating the relationship between state and economy, maintaining industrial peace, restructuring for armaments production, securing consumption and war financing. The economic potentials of the Central Powers and the Entente were already unequal at the beginning of the war; the former had only 46 percent of the population and 61 percent of the Entente's national product.
At the beginning of the war, those provisions came into force that were intended for military mobilization and for a short war. For example, the export of war products was prohibited, food imports were facilitated and maximum prices were set for some goods. The gold standard , the basis of most pre-war currencies, was suspended in the warring countries. These measures were often insufficient. The ammunition crisis of 1914/15 initiated the transition to a war economy. The origins of the " total war " propagated by Ludendorff in 1935 and later by the National Socialists can be found in the war economy of the First World War.
The transition was opposed by war-related restrictions: France had lost a large part of its industrial potential as a result of the German occupation in the north, Russia was industrially underdeveloped and largely cut off from supplies by the Allies due to the naval blockade of the Dardanelles and the Baltic Sea, German foreign trade was in turn restricted by the English naval blockade severely restricted. Great Britain's foreign trade could only be seriously threatened by the U-boat war in the first half of 1917. The USA, on the other hand, did not have to mobilize the economy to the same extent as the warring states in Europe. From 1916/1917 the state gained considerable influence over the economy, and the state expenditure ratio increased significantly, in Germany from 17 to 70 percent, in Great Britain from 13 to 48 percent and in the USA from 1.4 to 22 percent.
Apart from the armaments sector, industrial production fell in many warring states. Overall industrial production in the German Reich fell by almost half. The decline in Great Britain was weaker, while there were hardly any restrictions in the USA. Agricultural yields also fell in most of the warring states, again with the exception of Great Britain and the USA. A bottleneck in the course of the conversion to the war economy was the supply of raw materials, on the one hand due to the naval blockades (the Central Powers and Russia were affected) and in France due to the separation of the northern departments. Another bottleneck, especially in the Central Powers and in France, resulted from the fierce competition between the army, which needed more and more soldiers, and industry, which needed qualified personnel.
Cooperation and disciplining were used in varying proportions to maintain industrial peace: In Austria-Hungary, workers in armaments factories were tied to their jobs and subjected to military control and jurisdiction. In Germany there was no militarization of working conditions; however , the Auxiliary Service Act of December 5, 1916 introduced compulsory service, while corporatist regulations ensured union approval. In France, by the Loi Dalbiez (named after the politician Victor Dalbiez ) of August 15, 1915, deferred workers remained under military supervision. In Britain, the Treasury Agreement with the unions and the Munitions of War Act 1915 restricted the right to strike and freedom of movement for armaments workers. There were no similar restrictions in the United States, but the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917 (creating the army) could be used to direct labor into the armaments industry.
Despite the conscription, the number of people employed in the war economy hardly increased or decreased, and through the spread of mass and assembly line production they were able to greatly expand their production. In Germany, the number of people employed in the armaments industry rose by 44 percent, while those in civilian production fell by 40 percent. Prisoners of war, conscripts and foreign workers (mainly from the colonies) were used to varying degrees. At the same time, women and young people moved up, with the number of working women in Great Britain increasing by 23 percent and in Germany by 17 percent.
Although private consumption – important for morale on the home front – was subordinate to the war economy in all countries, there were varying degrees of success in distributing existing goods fairly fairly, or at least giving the impression of doing so. The USA hardly had to accept any restrictions, in Great Britain the supply was comparatively good. But even there, spending on private consumption fell by around 20 percent between 1913 and 1918. In France, in cooperation with the Allies, food was relatively well guaranteed. The Central Powers, on the other hand, encountered considerable problems – not only because of the naval blockade – which resulted, among other things, from the forced economy that had started as early as 1914. The supply problems and above all the injustice in the distribution of food undermined the authority of the state and led to unrest. The same applied to Russia. The supply policy in favor of the urban consumers and the industrial workers came to nothing because of their discontinuity and the lack of coercive measures. The tsarist empire disintegrated into supply regions that excluded the cities, since the farmers sold less and less.
Public spending to finance the war increased dramatically. In Great Britain the last war budget was 562 percent higher than the first, in Germany it was 505 percent, in France 448 percent and in Russia (until 1916) 315 percent. The war cost about $209 billion (adjusted for inflation in 1913 prices: $82 billion). In terms of the amount of money spent, it was "cheaper" to lose the war than to win it: the Allies spent $147 billion on warfare, the Central Powers $62 billion.
In all countries, the war was financed by taxes, loans or money creation. The public sector raised money for government spending from the central banks against short-term debt securities . After the money had flowed to the economy and households, it was partly skimmed off again through taxes or loans. Since, for various reasons (civil peace, inefficient tax systems), tax increases were only used to a limited extent to finance the war (France 15 percent, Germany 17 percent, Great Britain 26 percent), all the belligerent states relied primarily on loans ( war bonds ) that the enemy received after the war should be paid in the form of reparations. The Allies in particular continued to borrow heavily abroad, primarily in the USA. Total inter-allied debts totaled $16.4 billion.
After the war, Germany faced a debt mountain of 156 billion marks (1914: 5.4 billion), Great Britain faced 5.8 billion pounds (1914: 0.6 billion). The French national debt increased by 130 billion francs and the American one by 24 billion dollars. The money supply had grown 111 percent in Britain and 285 percent in Germany, laying the foundation for German inflation by 1923 .
Trench warfare and trench warfare are almost "symbols" and defining forms of the First World War: warfare along permanent, fortified front lines, "Millions of soldiers, for years enmeshed in the mud in a senseless fight, only to achieve tiny gains in terrain with enormous losses, a year-long battle Bloodletting for the population and the resources of the warring nations.” This trench warfare primarily characterized the situation on the approximately 700-kilometer-long western front between November 1914 and March 1918, but at times also the situation on the eastern front and the Italian front . Up until 1914, all the great powers had planned a war of movement in their war plans. After the failure of the Schlieffen plan and outstripping each other in the race to the sea , the armies dug in. The reasons for the freezing of the fronts were the level of military-technical development, which favored the defender, as well as the initial loss of control in the operational management of mass armies and the relative balance of forces.
In January 1915, the German High Command ordered that the front positions on the western front must be expanded so that they could be held against numerically superior forces. Combat experience initially led to the line being moved - as far as possible - to a rear position and the introduction of a second line. From around the end of 1916, the warring parties had introduced three trench lines in many areas, and the simple trench line increasingly developed into a deeply staggered position system and an elastic one zone defense. Successful attacks required local superiority and careful preparation. At first, attempts were made to destroy the enemy position system with several days of treacherous artillery preparation. Attacks increasingly turned into material battles with previously unknown consumption of ammunition. Other attempts to soften the frozen fronts included the use of poison gas ( gas warfare ), detonation of mines ( mine warfare ), the introduction of tanks , grenade launchers and submachine guns (“ditch sweepers”). The hand grenade experienced a renaissance, while the bayonet almost lost its importance as a conventional melee weapon: in the narrow trenches (sometimes sharpened) field spades were used rather than edged weapons . The German army reacted with tactical changes, especially in the spring offensive of 1918. Shock troops pushed through the lines regardless of the remaining resistance and tried to destroy the rear infrastructure with this "infiltration tactic". On the other hand, precisely in this trench warfare, there was the so-called “ live and let live ”, non-aggressive behavior between enemy units that had not been agreed upon and which was maintained in some areas of the front over a longer period of time.
The everyday life of the soldiers in the trenches was characterized by alternating phases of long periods of inactivity and an acute struggle for survival. The results were on the one hand art forms such as “Trench Art” (“ trench work ”), on the other hand severe war neuroses (e.g. in those who were buried) and war trauma (such as “ war tremors ”) or previously little-known fear reactions such as so-called “sleeping with fear” (suddenly falling asleep in the trenches ). , especially from attacks).
On April 22, 1915, up to 5,000 people fell victim to a German use of chlorine gas at the Ypres bend (today's estimates: 1,200 dead and 3,000 wounded). Today, this date is seen as the hour of birth of modern weapons of mass destruction and the actual beginning of gas warfare, which changed and questioned the image of the soldier and the idea of war as a “knightly struggle” much more radically than with the introduction of other means of warfare. The military leadership was completely surprised by the resounding success of the first use of the blowing method developed by Fritz Haber and could not exploit it due to a lack of reserves, and the attackers were also affected by the gas. The Allies saw the massive use of deadly gases as a clear violation of the Hague Convention on Land Warfare and as further proof of the "barbaric" German warfare. While the use of chemical weapons was no longer a novelty, only irritants had previously been used in this war, and they were ineffective. The failure of offensive warfare, the grueling trench warfare and the ammunition crisis due to a lack of saltpeter, as well as the superior but underutilized German chemical industry led to the decision in favor of this weapon. The German officer corps certainly had concerns, but ultimately accepted the deployment as a supposedly necessary evil. On May 31, 1915, during a German attack on the eastern front near Bolimów , phosgene (" green cross ") was added for the first time . Most gas deaths in the First World War can be traced back to the effect and, above all, the long-term consequences of this warfare agent, which is being used in increasing concentrations. On September 25, 1915, the British launched the first large-scale gas attack at the start of the Battle of Loos , which also enabled a break-in into German positions.
In the fall of 1915, the first gas masks were introduced. Increasingly, the warring parties fired the gas with grenades in order to be less dependent on the wind direction. On July 10, 1917, near Nieuwpoort , “mask breakers” (“ Blue Cross ”) were used for the first time, which penetrated the filters of the gas masks. At the same time or shortly thereafter, a lung-damaging, mostly deadly warfare agent (e.g. "Grünkreuz") was usually fired, since the urge to cough often prompted the soldiers to take off their masks (" buntshooting "). Two days after the first use of "Blue Cross" a completely new warfare agent followed near Ypres , the contact poison mustard gas (" Yellow Cross "), also called "hun stuff" by the British . Mustard gas causes severe injuries (similar to chemical burns ) to the skin, eyes, and bronchi, and death at high levels of exposure . When using mustard gas, it was taken into account that the seriously injured, who required care, put more strain on the other side than the dead.
A total of around 112,000 tons of poison gas were used in World War I, 52,000 tons of it from Germany. The exact number of people who were poisoned and killed by war gas in World War I is difficult to determine, especially since the majority of the soldiers only died after the war as a result of the long-term effects: Estimates assume around 500,000 injured and 20,000 dead for the western front, with the number of dead probably needs to be set even higher. No reliable figures are available for the Eastern Front .
When the British arrived in France, they brought only 48 reconnaissance planes with them. They watched the front and reported enemy movements to the high command. It was mainly thanks to them that General Joffre initiated the offensive on the Marne. During its advance, the German army intended to bypass Paris to the west. When it unexpectedly veered south-east, leaving a large gap between the armies, it was first noticed by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) aviators. They passed the observation on to the French chain of command, which was then able to initiate the counterattack on the Marne.
Aerial reconnaissance and aerial photography became more important, which is why the first methods to combat them were developed. When trench warfare began, the airmen were used to coordinate artillery. The introduction of telegraphic extinguishing spark transmitters since 1915 was synonymous with the actual beginning of aeronautical radio .
French aviation pioneer Roland Garros was the first to develop a true fighter aircraft . He mounted a machine gun on the nose of his plane in 1915 . To protect the propeller blades from damage, he reinforced them with steel plates . In the spring of 1915, he spent 18 days chasing German, mostly unarmed aircraft over Flanders with his new weapon until he was shot down during one of his missions.
A little later, the Dutchman Anton Herman Gerard Fokker installed a breaker gear in his Fokker E.III . Due to the synchronization, the MG would stop firing whenever it would have hit the propeller. The first successful pilots of these machines were Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke , who established the reputation of the Fokkergeisel . By early 1916, the Germans dominated the skies over the western front.
In December 1914, German airships attacked the British Isles for the first time. Heavy raids on London continued until 1917, causing some industries to shut down. After that, the airships, which offered too much attack surface and were too immobile, were increasingly replaced by large aircraft . By 1918 German bombs dropped by zeppelins killed 1,400 British civilians and wounded nearly 5,000. The Royal Flying Corps in turn concentrated its attacks on the industry of West Germany and the zeppelin works at Lake Constance . World War I was the first war in which bombers were used. These were particularly large and stable biplanes that could drop aerial bombs with a weight of sometimes over half a ton.
In the course of the militarization of aviation, the seas were upgraded. Seaplanes and naval planes that had previously only been used for reconnaissance and landed on the water were armed and used against ports, coastal fortifications and military units in the air and at sea. The First World War was also the first war in which early aircraft carriers were used. For this purpose, the Americans and British converted several of their warships. These early models were only suitable for use by seaplanes, which would take off from the deck, land near the aircraft carrier and then be lifted back on board by crane. The accelerated development of aircraft carriers against the background of the First World War would prove decisive during the Second World War in the fighting in the Pacific .
From 1916 the Germans lost their air superiority again. The Allies had reorganized and made very successful attacks with a few robust aircraft (e.g. Nieuport 11). The Germans reacted. Oswald Boelcke trained some of the best pilots and passed on his combat knowledge, which he wrote down in the Dicta Boelcke . The German Jagdstaffeln (Jasta for short), particularly the Jasta 11 , inflicted heavy casualties on the Allies. After Boelcke's death, Jasta 11 was managed by Manfred von Richthofen in early 1917 . He and his pilots caused the bloody April in which the Allies lost 443 pilots. Richthofen himself shot down 20 aircraft during this time, his brother Lothar shot down 15. Another pilot, Kurt Wolff , claimed 22 aerial victories that April.
When the Americans arrived in 1918, the tide turned. Although the Americans were inexperienced, the Germans could not compensate for their numerical superiority in aircraft. From the summer of 1918, the imperial pilots had to try their luck with dive attacks, otherwise they had no chance against the Allied squadrons. The Allies then had several squadrons fly over each other, which continued to harass the Germans.
On April 21, 1918, Manfred von Richthofen was shot down by an Australian machine gunner while being pursued by Arthur Roy Brown . With 80 confirmed aerial victories, he was the most successful fighter pilot of the First World War. The loss of their idol and increasing supply difficulties put the German fighter squadrons. The air force could contribute little to the outcome of the war. The war was decided on the ground.
Numerous fallen German airmen, e.g. Richthofen, were buried in Berlin at the Invalidenfriedhof .
Prior to 1914, a large, if not decisive, role was attributed to the war at sea . In fact, the Battle of the Skagerrak was the “greatest naval battle in world history” but not the decisive battle that everyone had expected. The share of naval warfare in the outcome of the First World War as a whole was not decisive and was more important in its indirect effect.
In all theaters of war there was clear superiority of one side: Britain over Germany in the North Sea, Germany over Russia in the Baltic (in fact), France and Italy over Austria-Hungary in the Mediterranean (except for the Adriatic), and Russia (since late 1915) over the Turkey in the Black Sea, although Turkey managed a continued blockade of the Black Sea Straits. The seas were predominantly a place of movement for the war fleets, merchant ships and troop transports of the Entente, but not for those of the Central Powers.
The blockade of the North Sea by the Royal Navy in the form of the Northern Patrol around Scotland and the Dover Patrol in the English Channel contributed significantly, according to Anglo -American naval historians , to the exhaustion of the Central Powers , the blockades of the Baltic Sea and the Dardanelles played a major role in the defeat of the Russians army . Actions by the German Mediterranean Division prompted the Ottoman Empire to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers. Due to the lack of preparation on the part of the German admiralty and the lack of bases, the cruiser war – the means per se of numerically inferior naval forces – played only an insignificant part in the war. Unexpectedly, the submarine warfare turned out to be the most significant part of naval warfare. Since the submarine was underestimated by all sides as a weapon, the naval forces were generally unprepared for submarine warfare. German U-boats nevertheless brought the Entente into serious difficulties, especially in the first half of 1917. The submarine war indirectly led to the United States entering the war and ultimately to the defeat of the Central Powers.
Propaganda essentially promoted the motivation for military service and the support of war participation among the population or hoped-for allies, using xenophobic prejudices and patriotic symbols. For the first time in history, the warring states founded their own authorities for this purpose.
In the German Reich, the Central Office for Foreign Service was set up for propaganda purposes on October 5, 1914, followed by the Military Office of the Foreign Office (MAA) on July 1, 1916 and finally the Picture and Film Office (BUFA) on January 30, 1917. In Austria-Hungary was responsible for the Imperial and Royal War Press Quarters (KPQ), which had been created on July 28, 1914. The Allies founded the Maison de la Presse in France in February 1916, the War Propaganda Bureau in Great Britain and the Committee on Public Information in the USA for the same purpose .
In the German-speaking part of Austria-Hungary, the propaganda showed, among other things, war-glorifying drawings in poster size with the illustrated statement "Every kick a Britt, every push a Frenchman, every shot a Russ" and "Serbia must die". The motif of " Lord Kitchener Wants You " was copied many times during the war.
After reports about the fire in the university library in Louvain at the end of August 1914, prominent British scientists declared that the German army had set the fire on purpose. Prominent German scientists responded with counter-declarations, including the Manifesto of 93 and the Declaration of the University Professors of the German Reich , which sought to justify the World War as a Kulturkampf and a defensive war, which in turn prompted a British response to the German professors . The " Hun speech ", with which Wilhelm II had called on German troops, who had been sent to China in 1900 to put down the Boxer Rebellion , to a ruthless campaign of revenge, subsequently earned the Germans in Anglo-American countries the designation "huns". Other propaganda campaigns included the alleged crucifixion of nuns at church gates in Belgium or the alleged cutting off of children's hands by German troops in Belgium, which are reflected in the Bryce Report , among other things .
The attitude of the British press has been well studied: in the two years before the war it had taken an increasingly positive attitude towards Germany. The newspapers represented i.a. the opinion that the German naval rearmament, although annoying, posed no real danger to the Royal Navy. During the July crisis , the Russian Tsar was initially held primarily responsible for the escalation. This changed with the German ultimatum to Russia and above all with the invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg. As the war progressed, Germany was not only discredited as an enemy and branded as solely responsible for the war, but was stylized as the enemy of all mankind. It was only at the beginning of the war that a distinction was made between the government and the population. This exaggerated atrocity propaganda was one reason why no mutually agreed or negotiated peace was reached, and it made reconciliation more difficult on all sides after the war. The National Socialists were later able to cover up their crimes more easily by referring to this propaganda ( Völkischer Beobachter of September 4, 1939: " Atrocity reports as they once were ").
The atrocity propaganda of the Central Powers was less pronounced because hardly any German territory was occupied and therefore comparatively few German civilians were exposed to the direct effects of the war. First and foremost, the Russian side (army and population) were denigrated. The deployment of colored colonial troops on European battlefields by the Allies was alternately denounced as a breach of culture and as immoral. The propaganda departments of the Central Powers tended to belittle and ridicule their opponents and emphasize their own strength. Numerous pictures were published and sold as postcards showing fallen Allied soldiers and the corresponding mass graves .
In Germany after the war, enemy propaganda – namely British propaganda – was judged to be much more effective than Germany’s own, and quite a few attributed the German defeat in the war to enemy propaganda. In his Dutch exile, Wilhelm II wrote about the English publisher Northcliffe , whose newspapers were at the forefront of anti-German propaganda: “If we had had a Northcliffe, we could have won the war.” Erich Ludendorff also expressed his appreciation afterwards. In Mein Kampf , Adolf Hitler wrote extensively about war propaganda and summed it up with consequences: "I, too, learned a great deal from this enemy war propaganda. "
The First World War revolutionized weapon technology in many aspects. In the field of infantry equipment, the First World War brought the definitive breakthrough to camouflage clothing and the steel helmet . The rifles of the infantry were about the same, only the British Lee-Enfield was superior to those of the other combatants due to the rapid rate of fire and caused high German losses, especially in Flanders. Trench warfare brought a renaissance of hand grenades , only the Central Powers had sufficient quantities at the beginning of the war, the British had phased them out in 1870. The machine gun was developed from models that were difficult to transport (e.g. the German MG 08 weighing 30 to 40 kg) to lighter models (e.g. the later proverbial MG 08/15 weighing 14 kg). The first "real" submachine gun MP 18 was also called "trench sweeper" and was used primarily to support new infantry tactics ( stormtroopers ).
Machine guns and later tanks made the traditional use of cavalry an anachronism, the era of the well-known "battle cavalry" had inevitably come to an end as early as 1914, cavalry lost its status as the main branch of arms in the First World War and was mainly used for armed reconnaissance and terrain security. In the extensive areas of the eastern front, both sides still made extensive use of their cavalry troops, especially in the war of movement of 1914/15, the English towards the end of the war in Palestine. In the later years of the war, all the belligerent powers greatly reduced their cavalry forces.
From the first moderately successful Tank Mark I , the Allies developed the effective offensive weapon Mark IV and the "ancestor" of today's tank types, the Renault FT . By the end of the war, Germany had developed insufficient means of defense, such as the so-called tank rifle M1918 . The only serial German tank A7V could not be produced in sufficient numbers: only 20 A7Vs faced 1220 Mark IV and 2700 Renault FT as well as about 2,000 other Allied armored vehicles, which illustrates the material superiority of the Allies in the last year of the war.
In the course of the First World War, the limitations of artillery led to bombers gaining in importance . B. the at the beginning of the war against fixed targets sometimes effective " Big Bertha " systemic weaknesses (immobility, high shot wear, moderate accuracy). The technically complex Paris gun had no military value due to the very low accuracy and is considered a pure "terror weapon" against civilian targets. The light and mobile French " Canon 75 " revolutionized artillery even before the war and showed its effectiveness against the German attack, especially in the initial phase of the war, but proved to be too small for the requirements of position and trench warfare. The ratio of light to heavy batteries shifted among the belligerents in the context of trench warfare from 11:2 at the beginning of the war to 9:7 at the end of the war.
The first mass-produced fighter planes (e.g. Fokker EI ) emerged from provisional measures, which aimed at the enemy with rigidly installed machine guns and the entire aircraft. Early long-distance bombers such as the German large and giant aircraft or the British Handley Page Type O , which increasingly replaced war zeppelins, also developed from makeshift arrangements. The First World War can also be equated with the actual beginning of aeronautical radio , which raised the possibilities of air reconnaissance to a completely new level.
The submarine – before the war it was considered at best as an auxiliary weapon – became the central offensive weapon in naval warfare . The superior radio reconnaissance (“ Room 40 ”) of the British made the use of the high seas fleet more difficult until relevant operations in the North Sea came to a complete standstill. The British hardly used their superior Grand Fleet offensively, mainly because of the threat from submarines, so that the decline in the importance of capital ships began with the First World War.
Apart from the mobilization of all reserves within the framework of the war economy , industrialized warfare was reflected in the fact that long-range weapons primarily determined warfare: Artillery caused around 75 percent of all injuries in the war, infantry weapons around 16, hand grenades 1 to 2 and poison gas just under 1.7 percent. During the entire war, only 0.1 percent of wounds were inflicted by traditional, “bare” weapons (sabre, dagger, bayonet). However, the fact that almost a tenth of the German, a sixth of the Austro-Hungarian and a fifth of the French dead fell victim to an illness does not fit the picture of the industrialized and therefore “modern” war.
judgment of the military
The equally unexpected and all-round world war disaster of warfare had its main cause in the unequal development of technology and military tactics. In the last 30 years before the war, new inventions in weapons technology accumulated: low- smoke powder , small-caliber multi-loading rifles, rapid-fire guns , machine guns, airplanes and much more condensed into a "critical mass", whose behavior and consequences changed without the "big experiment". , which broke out in the summer of 1914, could not be judged easily.
Both the German and the French army command tried to ignore and devalue the ever-increasing importance of technology in their métier, instead placing the will and the idea of attack in the foreground. The emphasis on combat morale (" Offensive à outrance ") offered itself to relativize the problems caused by the mechanization of armaments. Accordingly, only one-sided lessons were drawn from the siege of Port Arthur (1904/05), although the new military-technical situation of the industrialized war was already clearly emerging here.
What was special about the military doctrines in France and Germany was not their orientation to the offensive, but their unique exaggeration - tactical reason was practically lost. Last but not least, the ideological character of social Darwinism played a role. Social Darwinism offered the craft of war a new, quasi-scientific legitimation: awareness of modernization combined with an emphasis on the vital element of warfare and thus led to a path that, in view of the unprecedented development of weapon technology, led to enormous bloodbaths. Nowhere were the military leaders willing to acknowledge that the unequal development of firepower and movement made offensive mobile warfare impossible. Victory could only be won with sacrifices that, even by the standards of the time, were disproportionate to the gain.
The First World War with its material battles brought about a change in the self-perception and in the external perception of the soldiers. Before the First World War, for example, the general idea of war was still characterized by open battles in which the soldier should bravely, knightly and heroically stand up to the enemy. Almost all Germans had remained static in their conception of war as it was in 1871 and earlier. Accordingly, the war was intended as an "open, honest fight with knightly arms" that would bring adventure, romance, and personal heroism to the participants. Commercial prostitution was widespread both at the front and in the rear . It took place in separate brothels for soldiers and officers, which were controlled by military doctors and sometimes even operated by the military itself . But the glorified view of the war could not withstand the realities of trench warfare. The experience at the front destroyed such ideas: "Courage, bravery and skill - all superfluous..." The war did not bring the hoped-for adventure and heroism to the soldiers, but the disturbing experience of a complete degradation of the individual to the defenseless object of the war machine, with which the picture of a depersonalized and industrialized war.
The almost uninterrupted artillery fire decisively shaped this impression, which claimed more than half of the victims of the war. The only reaction the soldiers had to this weapon was helplessly waiting for the impact, for the onset of an uncontrollable force: "The war machine seemed to become omnipotent and to impose its decisions on those who participated in its opaque movements." Accordingly, the Iconography of a new type of soldier, the "emotional, spontaneous and loyal young people" of the Langemarck myth gave way to the Verdun fighter, in the ideal image a "trained, cold, aggressive, isolated and technically equipped leader figure". The steel helmet became the symbol of the Soldiers, he represented the modern, technical and functional aspect of war.
Paradoxically, the static nature of trench warfare also tended to limit violence as long as soldiers on both sides maintained the status quo, which was the case across much of the frontline outside of major offensives. In order to break up this situation, the army commanders used specialists in the use of force, on the British side mainly snipers , on the German and Austrian side shock troop fighters with a high individual combat motivation, which was extreme in the normal troops because of the escalation of violence they pursued were unpopular. These special units felt themselves to be perpetrators in an emphatic sense. "It is therefore no coincidence that here, in addition to the German shock troops, also in the Italian elite units, the ' Arditi ', a direct line of continuity can be drawn to the fascist aestheticization of violence in the interwar period" and was also justified from a depth psychological and cultural scientific point of view .
consequences of war
The consequences of the war are not limited to the circumstances described in more detail below. The First World War is considered by some authors to be the “threshold of an epoch”. Through him, international relations were reorganized. It destroyed existing concepts of social order and the national political systems in most of the conquered states. The war claimed the entire society of a state, it left no area of life untouched and thus changed the living conditions of the people seriously. "The war [...] acted as a kind of 'change space' within which old orders could be delegitimized and new ones became possible."
The First World War claimed almost ten million fatalities and around 20 million wounded among the soldiers. The number of civilian casualties is estimated at another seven million. In the German Reich, 13.25 million men did military service during the war, of which 2 million died. The Russian Empire had recruited about 12 million men for military service, of whom 1.85 million died. Of the nearly 8.1 million French drafted, 1.3 million (≈ 16%) did not survive the war. The British Empire deployed a total of about 7 million soldiers, 850,000 of whom did not return from the war. Austria-Hungary counted around 1.5 million dead (≈ 19%) out of 7.8 million soldiers, on the Italian side there were almost 700,000 out of 5 million soldiers. Romania, Montenegro and Serbia suffered the proportionally greatest losses: around 130,000 of 700,000 Serbian soldiers died. Overall, Serbia lost about 11% (about 540,000 people) and Montenegro 16% of its population due to the war.
The war left dramatic gaps in the demographics of Germany (even more so in those of France, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey) and created an unprecedented level of social hardship among war orphans and widows .
Among the wounded were numerous invalids , sometimes disfigured beyond recognition , who were released into civilian life with previously unknown (facial) disfigurements and amputations , which had not yet known modern prosthetics , professional and medical rehabilitation . Countless former World War II soldiers died at a relatively young age after the end of the war as a result of war injuries and illnesses they had brought with them. To the wounded must be added numerous conscientious objectors who were mentally unfit for military service; they were sentenced to prison terms and imprisoned or psychiatric in institutions to “maintain the morale of the troops” . In addition to the military, there were also civilian casualties: According to an investigation commissioned by the League of Nations in 1928 , the blockade against the Central Powers led to 424,000 starvation deaths (→ rutabaga winter ), other estimates suggest up to 733,000. In the years from 1918 to 1920, the Spanish flu in Europe wiped out millions of civilians and soldiers, many of whom had already been weakened by the war, and claimed between 20 million and 50 million lives, estimates range up to 100 million. This means that more people died from the Spanish flu than from acts of war in the First World War. Estimates of the number of victims in Germany range between 209,000 and 300,000. The rapid and worldwide spread of the pandemic must be seen in connection with the war, according to all hypotheses about its geographical origin . It was probably spread from March 1918 primarily through infections in US Army training camps and reached Europe with troop transports in April 1918. In the Balkans, especially in Serbia, and in war-ravaged zones outside of Europe (particularly Central and East Africa), the population suffered great losses from diseases and epidemics from 1914 onwards.
The victims of the Armenian Genocide are to be seen in the context of the First World War.
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destruction and war costs
The particularly hard-fought areas in northern France ( zone rouge ) and Belgium had been largely destroyed in the war. The cost of the reconstruction was estimated at around 100 billion francs . The victors' assumption that they would be able to refinance the war costs through reparations proved to be an illusion. Britain went from being the world's largest creditor to one of its largest debtors. For Germany, the war ended in gigantic inflation , and the victorious powers became debtors to the USA. Europe had lost its world dominance as a result of the war.
Total direct wartime expenditures from 1914 to 1918 were 1016 billion gold marks . 268 billion of this went to the British Empire, 194 to Germany, 134 to France, 129 to the USA, 106 to Russia, 99 to Austria-Hungary and 63 billion to Italy. Essentially, with the exception of Great Britain, they were raised through war bonds and money printing.
In Germany alone, war-related expenditures amounted to around 60 to 70 million marks per day up to 1916. Thereafter, huge increases occurred as a result of increased armaments efforts, particularly under the Hindenburg Program . Only a small part of the war costs could be financed through tax revenues, around 87% remained uncovered. The Reich debt therefore increased by 145.5 billion marks.
After the war, the questions of contractual arrangements that arose were decided within the framework of the Paris suburban agreements . The Paris Peace Conference began on January 18, 1919 , not coincidentally on the day the German Reich was founded . The negotiations took place mostly in secret and, until the draft treaties were presented, in the absence of representatives of the vanquished and Russia. The subsequent exclusively written exchange with the vanquished took place through the Council of Four formed on March 24, 1919 , to which only the Prime Ministers of the European victorious powers France, Great Britain and Italy and the President of the United States belonged. Again, it was no coincidence that the draft treaty for the Versailles Treaty was handed over to the German representatives on May 7, 1919, the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania .
Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty answers the question of war guilt insofar as Germany and its allies are the "originators of all losses and all damage", which in Germany was predominantly understood as a " war guilt lie " , resulted in revision intentions and historical revisionism and contributed to the internal political to poison the atmosphere in the young Weimar Republic . In fact, however, the moral term "guilt" was not included in the text of the contract, so that an official admission of guilt was not required. Primarily because of the German insistence on this question, however, it was included in a cover note that was handed over on June 16, 1919 with the final text of the treaty, but was not part of the treaty. It says: The "government of Germany" had intended
“[…] to establish their supremacy by force. As soon as their preparations were completed, they encouraged a dependent ally [Austria-Hungary] to declare war on Serbia within forty-eight hours. Of this war […] they knew very well that it could not be localized and would unleash general war. In order to make this general war doubly certain, they shied away from every attempt at reconciliation and consultation until it was too late […] However, responsibility is not limited to the fact that they wanted and unleashed the war. Germany is equally responsible for the crude and inhumane way in which it was conducted.”
The atrocities of war during the invasion of Belgium, the first use of poison gas and the opening of the air and submarine warfare were mentioned, and at the end the "criminal[n] character of the war started by Germany" and the "barbaric[n] ] method that Germany used in conducting the war,” emphasizes.
The amount of the German reparations payments initially remained open. The Reparations Commission agreed on 226 billion gold marks, reduced it in April 1921 to 132 billion gold marks, which, according to the London payment plan of 1921, were to be paid at 2 billion gold marks annually and 26 percent of all German export earnings (about one billion gold marks). The immense German reparations debt was caused, among other things, by the historical novelty that, in accordance with the demands of Lloyd George and the prime ministers of the Dominions , military pensions and the financial support of war victims and survivors were among the war damages subject to reparation. The payment plan was revised in 1924 with the Dawes Plan and in 1929 with the Young Plan , and in 1932 payments were initially suspended. The Young Loan taken up for payment in 1930 was repaid under the London Debt Agreement from 1953 to about 1988, with a final installment of accrued debt only in 2010.
Germany had to accept areas covering an area of 70,570 km² and a loss of 7.3 million inhabitants, as well as giving up all its colonies. The treaty reaffirmed the occupation of the Rhineland , which was limited to 15 years, and a subsequent ten-kilometer-deep demilitarized zone. A connection of Austria to Germany was made subject to the reservation of the League of Nations .
In addition, there were armaments restrictions such as the abolition of general conscription, dissolution of the general staff, demolition of the fortresses in the neutral zone, ban on modern weapons (tanks, submarines, air force), reduction of the land army to 100,000 and the navy to 15,000 men.
The victors rejected German counter-proposals. From 16th to 22nd June 1919 there were dramatic and uninterrupted consultations in the relevant political bodies, the Scheidemann government resigned on 19th/20th June 1919. June back, on June 21st the German High Seas Fleet sank on the occasion of the peace terms. In view of the ultimate position of the victorious powers, the National Assembly accepted the treaty the following day, on June 22, 1919, with 237 votes to 138, with 6 abstentions, so that the Bauer government had to sign the Versailles Treaty on June 28, 1919 without any reservations.
The suburban treaties with Austria ( Treaty of Saint-Germain ) and Hungary ( Treaty of Trianon ) as well as with Bulgaria ( Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine ) and Turkey ( Treaty of Sèvres ) followed the model of the Versailles Treaty in many respects: no oral negotiations with the vanquished and their provisional exclusion from the League of Nations, as well as armaments restrictions, cessions of territory and high reparations. Hungary suffered the relatively greatest loss of territory. Since the US Senate rejected the ratification of the Versailles Treaty and the associated membership in the League of Nations on November 18, 1919 , the United States concluded bilateral agreements with the German Reich, Austria and Hungary with the Berlin Treaty , which raised hopes for a general Revision nourished. The treaty with Turkey did not come into force because Mustafa Kemal's revolutionary movement deposed the Turkish government as part of the Turkish War of Liberation . The revision of the Paris peace treaty – including the Treaty of Lausanne – was thus initiated with the most recently signed treaty.
Changes in the political map
The First World War caused significant changes in the political map, especially in Europe. Thus the states of Finland , Latvia , Lithuania , Estonia , the Second Polish Republic , the First Czechoslovak Republic , Hungary , Austria and Soviet Russia emerged from Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire . In addition, short-lived states such as the Ukrainian People's Republic , the Belarusian People's Republic , the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan , the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the Democratic Republic of Armenia were formed . At the end of 1922, the Soviet republics merged to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union, USSR). The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed from the merger of the Kingdom of Serbia and the Kingdom of Montenegro with parts of Austria-Hungary .
Turkey emerged from the Ottoman Empire , as did various League of Nations mandates, such as the League of Nations Mandate for Syria and Lebanon , the British Mandate of Mesopotamia (which became the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932 ), and the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine . The German colonies also went over to League of Nations mandates , only in Namibia , the former German South West Africa , there is still a significant German minority. The colonial empires and zones of influence of the British and those of the French reached their maximum extent after the First World War.
Middle East Conflict
The Middle East conflict is at least "in the broadest sense a product of the First World War". In search of allies, the British distributed the hoped-for spoils of war to Palestine three times. The promises and agreements of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence , the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration were in fact mutually exclusive.
In the "Hussein-McMahon Correspondence", which only became known in 1939, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon , promised the Sherif of Mecca , Hussein ibn Ali , a Greater Arab Empire, which McMahon formulated primarily in the letter of October 24, 1915: Britain is "ready to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs within the countries that lie within the borders proposed by the Sherif of Mecca". The British later stated that the Sherif failed to fulfill the treaty as the Arab Revolt was not the promised general insurrection.
In fact, Britain had never been ready to accept a Greater Arab Empire, as made clear in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916. In this treaty, France and Great Britain demarcated their spheres of interest, while the British wanted to create a zone of influence from the Mediterranean Sea to what is now Iraq. Palestine should - apart from Haifa (British) - come under international control. The state promised to the Arabs shortly beforehand was to be divided into a French zone of influence in the north and a British zone in the south.
The Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, issued in a letter from British Foreign Secretary Balfour to the President of the World Zionist Organization , Walter Rothschild , finally pledged the British Government's support for the establishment of a national home in Palestine for the Jewish people, which interpreted as an unprecedented diplomatic success for the Jewish organization. On January 3, 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference , Hussein's son Faisal concluded the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement with the later President of the World Zionist Organization, Chaim Weizmann , in which Faisal promised the Arab side's agreement in principle to a Jewish state in the event that Arab independence would be recognized. However, the promises made by the Allied powers to the Arabs, in particular those of the Anglo-French declaration of November 7, 1918, were only partially implemented.
The conflicting interests led to the first anti-Jewish actions in Jerusalem on April 4, 1920 ( Nabi Musa riots ). Palestine was officially handed over to Great Britain by the League of Nations on July 24, 1922 , whereby the Balfour Declaration was adopted verbatim in the mandate text, despite concerns from Foreign Minister Curzon , for example. Clashes between Jews and Arabs increased, and in 1929 the conflicts took on the quality of massacres for the first time ( Hebron massacre ).
Committee of Inquiry and War Crimes Trials
On August 21, 1919, the Weimar National Assembly set up a committee of inquiry to investigate the events that led to the outbreak, prolongation and loss of the war. In the course of the discussion on the question of extradition and war guilt, the very existence of the committee was heavily criticized by the conservatives. The party-political structure of the committee meant that the will of the majority quickly shifted to the side of the forces that were strong from the start and had no interest in clarifying the issue. Accordingly, the committee ultimately had only a functional character for official German foreign policy.
On February 3, 1920, the Allies presented the chairman of the German peace delegation , Kurt von Lersner , with an Allied note demanding the extradition of around 900 German suspected war criminals. Out of protest, Lersner initially refused to pass it on to the Reich government and threatened to resign. Chancellor Gustav Bauer publicly distanced himself from Lersner's position, and the extradition request was then officially handed over on February 7, 1920. Surprisingly, the Allies moved away from the extradition request in a note dated February 16, 1920 and agreed that the accused in Germany itself would carry out the procedure, whereby they reserved control rights and, if necessary, wanted to take over the procedure again. The reasons why the Allies gave way were the "cross-class and cross-party" resistance to the extradition request in Germany and the clearly increasing differences between the Allies since November 1918.
Even before that, on January 15, 1920, the first Allied note had been sent to the Dutch government to extradite Wilhelm II . The Netherlands rejected the request because it was not a party to the peace treaty, there was no statute on criminal offenses and their punishment before the war and the granting of asylum is an expression of a fundamental legal conviction and a centuries-old tradition.
As part of the London ultimatum of May 5, 1921, the Allies complained, among other things, that the war criminals had not yet been sentenced. On this point, the Reich government could point out that the trials before the Reich Court in Leipzig will take place from May 1921. In the years 1921 to 1931, the Reich Court and the Reich Prosecutor's Office dealt with the proceedings against so-called "war accused". Most of the cases were closed in closed session by resolution or by order of the senior Reich attorney; there were only 17 proceedings with seven convictions. The public proceedings were suspended as early as 1922 after two notes from the Allies. In the notes, the Allies criticized the work of the Reichsgericht and announced that they would no longer cooperate with the German courts and conduct proceedings in absentia. However , the Allies waived an extradition request in accordance with Article 228 of the Versailles Treaty . In France and Belgium, 493 trials were held in absentia, and for all convictions abroad, the Reich Prosecutor's Office discontinued the proceedings in Germany on the recommendation of the Foreign Office . Only the conviction of two officers of SM U 86 for the shooting of shipwrecked people on the hospital ship Llandovery Castle had a further history of impact on international law , since the Reich Court in this case exceptionally expressly stated: if an "order is obvious, for everyone, including the subordinates, without a doubt as criminal”, then the recipient of the order bears the criminal responsibility and cannot invoke acting on orders .
"Although obliged by law to prosecute them, the Reich Prosecutor's Office and the Reich Court showed very little inclination to bring sufficiently suspect war criminals into serious distress [...] Certainly no direct connection can be made between German behavior in Belgium in 1914 and in the Soviet Union from 1941 [ …] Nevertheless, there are parallels in the willingness to accept legally unlimited wartime violence, and it can also be found where the war was not a declared war of annihilation.”
The failure of the Leipzig trials was intended to encourage the Allies from 1943 ( Moscow Declaration ) to initially take the prosecution of Nazi crimes into their own hands – including within the framework of the Nuremberg trials .
Influence on fascism and national socialism
“The Third Reich is inconceivable without the First World War and its legacy . The popularity of Nazism had crucial psychological roots that cannot be explained without this legacy. The same applies to his ability to influence the memory of the World War and the trauma it undoubtedly caused and to use it for political purposes [...] This was particularly true of the view that the defeat of 1918 left Germany in an ongoing catastrophe had been thrown. In the eyes of Hitler and the regime’s leadership, the Second World War was the unfinished legacy of the First.”
The majority of Germans could neither accept nor understand the defeat, so the distorted image of the First World War and the reasons for the defeat cultivated by the National Socialists fell on fertile ground. The defeat can be explained in this pattern with the revolutionary activities of left-wing parties and above all with a racist variant of the stab in the back legend (“failure of the homeland”), which made “ world Jewry ” responsible.
"Since 1933 [this] interpretation of the war became the basis of the political and ideological formation of the new Germany: the war not as a teacher of peace, but as a teacher of the next war and the preparation for it, this is how one can summarize these interpretations, which began in 1919 and up to 1945 - even beyond that, in that ' Versailles ' was used as legitimation for the Second World War far into the Federal Republic.”
Italy, on the other hand, which was one of the victorious powers, suffered from the "arrogance with which it was treated by the Allies and, on the other hand, from dissatisfaction with the war gains [...] The disappointments created a climate of frustration, which is expressed in the slogan ' mutilated victory' condensed." The Italian regency on the Quarnero (1919/20) - shaped by Gabriele D'Annunzio - is considered the first pre-fascist system , it anticipated essential elements of National Socialism and Italian fascism and paved the way for a "modern style of politics “, which relies on the involvement of the masses and their manipulation. Above all, Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party took advantage of the massive disappointment of the rural and petty-bourgeois lower classes, who had been particularly hard hit by the war. The social acceptance of the fascist takeover of power, which was characterized by illegality and the use of force, is attributed not least to the war experience.
“In contemporary perception and in many countries today, this war remains the 'big war', 'the Great War', 'la Grande Guerre'” and la Grande Guerra. Especially in Germany, memories of the First World War are overshadowed by the Second World War , on the one hand because of the breach in civilization that the National Socialist regime caused in the course of the Eastern Campaign and the Holocaust . On the other hand, there was only comparatively little material damage on German territory during the First World War.
Years before the outbreak of war in 1914, there was talk of the coming “World War” in the German Reich, for example in the anti-British novel “The World War” by August Wilhelm Otto Niemann , published in 1904 . The term First World War was first used by Ernst Haeckel in September 1914, he or First World War also appeared occasionally in other publications around 1920/21 and can therefore only be described as a retronym to a limited extent.
In historical studies, the First World War is one of the most important topics in modern history . "World War II research" represents an area in which general research tendencies are reflected: Since the mid-1980s, research has increasingly turned to everyday history, the level of experience of the "little man", "in order to break up the previous dominance of elite research and create a history of Also to underpin society during war from below.” “Whereas until the 1960s the questions revolved around political history , this was increasingly replaced by socio -historical focal points. Since the mid-1990s, studies that are committed to the history of experience or trace the representations of war have dominated. In the meantime, a disparate and differentiated field of research has emerged in which social and cultural -historical aspects are brought together.” The historiography of mentalities has also been modified for some time by the “war culture” research, which also dominates on an international scale. Mentalities, worlds of experience, propaganda and ideology flow together more strongly in this topic than in pure "experience" research. Particular attention is paid to the "myth of the war experience". In this process, military historiography has come closer to general historical scholarship.
General meaning of the war
The First World War is described as the "threshold of an epoch", "primal catastrophe" and a political-cultural "space for change", which went hand in hand with the delegitimization of old and the facilitation of new orders. The war brought about an upheaval in international relations, the emergence of the new leading powers, the Soviet Union and the USA, and the decline of Europe as world and regulatory powers. There is broad agreement among scholars that the First World War – as the American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan put it – was politically the “ primeval catastrophe of the 20th century ”. It was an event that had a fatal impact on the further history of Europe: the October Revolution , Stalinism , fascism , National Socialism and finally the Second World War are unthinkable without the convulsions of the First World War. Some historians summarize the years from 1914 to 1945 as the second Thirty Years' War and describe the time of the world wars as a catastrophic time in German history. The war is also seen as the political, economic and structural collapse of the previous Europe: "By this we mean the failure of the system of the great powers to function, the failure of their foreign policy interaction, on which a significant part of their world standing was based. Some see this failure as early as the outbreak of war, others see it in the inability to end this war in time and without outside help.” In 1913, Europe still accounted for 43 percent of world production, ten years later, in 1923, it was only 34 percent . Furthermore, serious internal political, social and (further) economic consequences as well as "mental" and socio-cultural changes are mentioned. The war destroyed or changed existing social norms and rules and ideas about political order. However, there is no agreement on the question of whether the war brought about completely new developments or merely reinforced existing ones.
According to many scholars, the First World War marked the end of an epoch – the long 19th century , as it is often called, which had begun with the French Revolution (1789) and is commonly referred to as the “bourgeois age”. Other researchers doubt this, the war was merely an internal turning point within an epoch, as it promoted rather than interrupted the processes of change that emerged in the 19th century. In this context, the war is attributed the function of a catalyst, which strengthened developments that had already been initiated or helped them to break through; for example, important ideas, artistic trends and aspects of modern mass society had already begun before 1914.
discussion of the causes of war
Triggered mainly by the sole war guilt of the German Empire, which was claimed in the Treaty of Versailles , extensive apologetic literature was written in the Weimar Republic in the years after the First World War to ward off the “war guilt lie”. The attempt to use a parliamentary committee of inquiry set up by the German Reichstag in August 1919 to name those responsible for the outbreak, prolongation and loss of the war largely failed. Most historians of the victorious states held that Germany and its allies were solely to blame for the war. The period of National Socialism brought an interruption to serious research in Germany and led to isolation from western historical scholarship. After the Second World War, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George initially believed that the peoples of Europe had “slid into the world war”. In the 1960s, the Hamburg historian Fritz Fischer questioned this view of history. It triggered a first, long-standing historians' dispute, beginning with an article in the Historisches Zeitung in 1959 and above all his book Griff nach der Weltmacht, published in 1962, according to which "the German Reich leadership assumed a considerable part of the historical responsibility for the outbreak of general war " wearing. In the subsequent, emotionally charged Fischer controversy , which in turn can be considered part of German history, he sharpened his theses regarding the war guilt of the German Reich leadership.
More recent overviews assume that German policy in the July crisis was a high-risk crisis strategy that "consciously accepted the possibility of a major war without necessarily wanting to bring it about." This position should be enforced "with the help of a 'policy of limited offensive', while accepting a 'calculated risk'". However, according to Jürgen Angelow , the terms “limited offensive” and “calculated risk” are not enough to fully express “the irresponsible and abysmal” of the German position. In contrast, the term brinkmanship used by younger historians describes a "daring policy of 'uncalculated risk', of walking on the edge of the abyss. " common political culture" in Europe and the associated "paranoia". Clark does not want to question Fritz Fischer's results in general. Ian Kershaw names Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia as the main contributors to the war, with "Germany playing the pivotal role". According to Annika Mombauer , after initial attempts at mediation, Russia and France welcomed a coming war after it seemed inevitable. "Ultimately, however, it was the governments in Berlin and Vienna who risked war, since the decisive decisions were made immediately after the assassination." Holger Afflerbach sees the Central Powers and Russia as primarily responsible for the outbreak of war.
There is general agreement today that the outbreak of war in 1914 was "one of the most complex events in recent history" and that the discussion about the causes of the First World War is therefore continuing. It is questionable "whether new findings will really enrich the debate in the future".
Research since the turn of the millennium can be divided into different main topics, in which the variety of methods and approaches with which historians approach the First World War becomes clear. Thus, the investigation of specific social groups often goes hand in hand with the analysis of the media and symbols that represent them. Picture postcards , for example, were made accessible as a relatively new type of source for the First World War, but reporting on the combat operations in official army reports and the mass media has also aroused research interests. Differentiated investigations of the effects of war on various groups dealt with children, women, corporate students, the war invalids and the hitherto underestimated conscientious objectors in the First World War. However, medals and decorations are no longer analyzed in a context-free manner in recent research, but are considered in their material and symbolic meaning in connection with the concept of military honor .
The examination of personal testimonies such as diaries or letters was always an important part of World War research. "Since self-testimonies were often made in the immediate vicinity of the events, they are not shaped by later events and knowledge" and are therefore usually assessed as particularly valuable sources and edited as such in recent years. Ernst Jiinger 's War Diary 1914-1918, published in 2010, is regarded as the "undoubtedly most important new publication" , from which Jiinger took the inspiration for many of his literary works. But letters from socialist soldiers, which contain numerous passages critical of the war, or diary entries by intellectuals were also published as source editions, as were the diaries of the lawyers Karl Rosner (1873–1951) and Harry Graf Kessler (1868–1937). Unlike field post letters sent home by soldiers, letters to soldiers have rarely survived. Their more recent editions "show the efforts of soldiers and those at home to bridge distances and to provide insights into everyday wartime life at the front and at home."
One of the leitmotifs of current World War research is the experience of violence on and behind the front. The wartime violence of the First World War is viewed as a link between the older forms of violence, the new technical developments since the turn of the century and the delimitation of violence in the Second World War. The dynamics of destruction are regarded as part of the history of mentality in warring societies. Studies on Austrian occupation policy in Serbia also deal with violence, although it is disputed whether the outbreaks of violence were predominantly random or systematic. The occupation rule over Romania, on the other hand, took place in close cooperation with the local elites, so coercive measures were not the defining element. The situation is different for the German occupation of Belgium, in which the world war becomes visible as a “global economic conflict between industrialized nations”. In the autumn and winter of 1916, Belgian workers were not recruited but forced into forced labour ; However, this practice did not prove successful, so that the occupation regime soon refrained from doing so under the impression of international protests. The prisoner of war camps have also been the subject of several recent studies; The focus of research increasingly fell on the internment of civilians: "Here, too, it is evident that the dividing line between combatants and civilians faded during the First World War . " Austro-Hungarian southern front in the Old Tyrol area.
With regard to the war experience of the front-line soldiers, dealing with sport - the popularization of football - and animals in war received new attention. The history of experience also includes “the long wait” by German and British naval officers for a naval war , “which ultimately hardly took place.” Conventional themes of classic operational history – planning, tactics, battles and descriptions of battles – were hardly considered by researchers for a long time: “Publications , who felt committed to the new military historiography, often avoided such questions and addressed military action in a broader context. In the meantime, the combat deployment of military personnel has become the subject of some investigations.” Processes of change have come into focus, such as the turning away from French offensive fetishism during trench warfare and the learning processes in which the warring parties adopted the tactics of the enemy. The mental stress on soldiers at the front and the factors contributing to "enduring" the war situation were also scientifically examined. In doing so, Alexander Watson developed a new explanation for the defeat of the German Reich on the western front: front-line officers would have led their units into captivity as a way out of their bad situation, especially the lack of supplies, by surrendering to enemy troops who were outnumbered.
Beyond the experience of the front, the effects of the war in the home towns of the soldiers have meanwhile received some attention; During World War I , Roger Chickering tried to create a total historical perspective with Freiburg, which is intended to demonstrate the formative influence of the war on all areas of life. Here, too, the declining ability to "hold out" after the winter of 1916/17 played a decisive role. But Great Britain at war was also examined more closely, for example by Adrian Gregory: “He rejects the thesis of widespread enthusiasm for war in 1914, which has since been put into perspective, and analyzes the reports on German wartime atrocities. The propaganda in no way seduced the masses, rather 'real events' up to 1915 supported the image of a demonic Germany”. State control of public communications played an important role in both German and British society.
The historiography of the Eastern Front of the First World War takes up little space within the literature for the years 1914 to 1918. One reason for the low level of research interest was the Cold War , which made access to the Eastern archives more difficult for Western researchers. Under Lenin, military cemeteries of the Tsarist Empire were destroyed in an attempt to erase the events connected with them from people's historical consciousness. In the Soviet Union, negative portrayals of the Imperial Russian Army in World War I , but also positive and patriotic ones, could lead to problems for the author, so the subject was avoided. Norman Stone wrote the first comprehensive account of events on the Eastern Front in 1975. Stone doubts the economic backwardness of the Russian Empire. According to Stone, Russia's weakness lay in its antiquated administration, which was to blame for the supply difficulties and inefficient army leadership. The war in the east differed markedly from what was happening on the western front; the war in the east remained a mobile war, when in the west the fronts had already become rigid. The reasons for this were the sparse means of communication and the poor access to transport, gaps in the defense lines that had been opened could not be closed as quickly as in the west. The spatial extension of the eastern front with several 1000 kilometers of front contrasted with only 800 kilometers in length of the western front. Only in the more recent Western depictions and research on the First World War does the Eastern Front come into focus again. In August 2004, the Military History Research Office (MGFA) in Potsdam held a conference on "The Forgotten Front".
Even today, the question of why the European powers did not manage to end the war by mutual agreement still has an impact on European self-confidence. Holger Afflerbach put forward the thesis that the outcome of the First World War was open for a long time and stood on "a knife's edge": Not in the sense of a German victory, but a military draw. Ultimately, neither side was willing to give in decisively, and there were fatal misinterpretations. The war was waged so bitterly to bring about a decision militarily. The long war and the losses associated with it were ultimately responsible for the fact that each side regarded a complete defeat of the enemy as the only satisfactory outcome of the war. Afflerbach holds the Western Allies and Italy primarily responsible for the long course of the war, for whom a drawn peace was out of the question and who were counting on a complete victory at any price.
commemorations and memorials
The most well-known memorial sites – some of which are also museums – are now in the vicinity of Verdun . The Fort de Douaumont , the Fort Vaux , the Douaumont Ossuary , the associated military cemetery and other remains of the Battle of Verdun now form a vast complex. On September 22, 1984, the memorial formed the backdrop for Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand demonstrating holding hands at a major ceremony commemorating the victims of the wars between France and Germany. The Notre-Dame-de-Lorette war memorial as another important memorial was opened on November 11, 2014 on the edge of the largest French military cemetery " Notre Dame de Lorette " near Ablain-Saint-Nazaire . Apart from Douaumont and Notre Dame de Lorette, the Mémorial des batailles de la Marne in Dormans and the memorial at Hartmannswillerkopf are among the four French national monuments of the First World War. The ruins of Fort Loncin are an important Belgian war memorial.
The German military cemetery in Vladslo is best known for the figural group “Mourning Parents” by Käthe Kollwitz . The history of the origins of the German Military Cemetery Langemarck is related to the myth of Langemarck . Around Ypres there are numerous memorials, especially for soldiers from Great Britain, at the Menin Gate in Ypres itself, The Last Post is blown every day at 8 p.m. in honor of the fallen . On July 1, 2016, the central German commemoration event “100 Years of the Somme Battle” organized by the German War Graves Commission took place at the German war cemetery in Fricourt . The British and French marked the day in the presence of President François Hollande , Prime Minister David Cameron , Prince Charles and other members of the British Royal Family at the Thiepval Memorial . Nearby Lochnagar Crater is the largest surviving mine crater from the war. In the area of the monumental Canadian National Vimy Memorial and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial , the battlefields have been preserved and the trench systems and explosion craters can still be read in the topography. The history of the memorial in the Compiègne clearing refers to the connection between the two German wars of aggression in the 20th century.
In Italy the Sacrarium of Redipuglia (Sacrario di Redipuglia), the Monument to the Fallen on Monte Grappa (Monumento al Caduti de Monte Grappa), the Military Sacrarium of Fagarè della Battaglia ( Sacrario Militare di Fagarè della Battaglia ) and the Bell of the Fallen in Rovereto (Campana dei Caduti Maria Dolens) .
During the Weimar Republic, no consensus could be reached in Germany on a central Reich memorial for those who died in the war. In 1935 Hitler decreed the Tannenberg memorial for this purpose. The Hall of Honor (memorial to the fallen) on the Luitpoldhain in Nuremberg , inaugurated in 1930, became the focal point for the National Socialist Nazi Party Rally Grounds and served as the central backdrop for the staging of the Nazi death cult. From 1931 to 1945, the Neue Wache in Berlin was the Berlin "Memorial for the fallen of the war", since 1993 it has been the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny". Since 1972, the German Army memorial has been located at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Koblenz , the Navy memorial in Laboe and the memorial for all those who died in the U-boat war in Heikendorf near Kiel .
In France and Britain in particular, national memorials were deliberately often kept simple, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile . The new type of monument was intended to commemorate the many unidentifiable and missing soldiers of this war. This form of commemoration was taken up in many countries, but less so in Germany in the interwar period, where conservative and right-wing groups, who found such memorials too pacifist, opposed it. Works that did not idealize the life and death of soldiers were often attacked in Germany and removed during the Nazi era , such as those by Ernst Barlach . The victims of the First World War were the reason for the introduction of the national day of mourning in Germany in 1926. In Germany and France, especially in smaller towns, numerous war memorials were erected , on which all the victims of the community were named, but less frequently in larger cities, such as the War Memorial in Munich and the War Memorial in Heilbronn .
The central memorials in the former British Dominions are of national importance , of which Canada, Australia and New Zealand in particular see participation in the First World War as a significant step towards becoming a nation. In Australia, for example, there are the Avenues of Honour , the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial , in Canada the National War Memorial , in New Zealand the World War One Memorial in Wellington and the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch . In Great Britain itself - especially in London - there are also numerous smaller and larger memorials; symbolically significant is the tomb of an unknown soldier in the nave of Westminster Abbey , "among the kings, because he served his god and country well," as an inscription proclaims. In 2014, the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red in the moat of the Tower of London caused a sensation and a large number of visitors . The Commonwealth of Nations and France still celebrate Remembrance Day and Armistice 1918 on November 11, and ANZAC Day on April 25 in Australia, New Zealand and Tonga .
100 years after the Armistice of Compiègne , numerous celebrations took place, especially in France. President Emmanuel Macron visited memorials between November 4 and 11, 2018, including the Monument de la Pierre d'Haudroy on November 7, 2018 , the memorial to the arrival of the German negotiators on November 7, 1918 near La Capelle , November the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and on November 10, 2018 together with Chancellor Angela Merkel the clearing of Compiègne . Macron and Merkel unveiled a bilingual commemorative plaque on which "the importance of Franco-German reconciliation in the service of Europe and peace is reaffirmed" and visited the museum there, which is identical in construction to the Compiègne wagon in which the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 was signed. Federal President Walter Steinmeier took part in a peace concert with Macron on November 4, 2018 in Strasbourg Cathedral and with Prince Charles in the celebrations for Remembrance Sunday in London. Dozens of heads of state and government from all over the world traveled to the celebrations in Paris on November 11, 2018, including Merkel, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin .
In Europe alone there are more than 750 World War I museums. In addition to numerous objects, the Museum of Military History in Vienna shows the automobile in which the Austrian heir to the throne was murdered . The Imperial War Museum in London has a very extensive collection on the First World War that was redesigned for the commemoration year . Important collections and/or individual pieces are also on display at the Musée de l'Armée in Paris, the National Army Museum in Bucharest (Muzeul Militar Naţional) and the Military History Museum of the German Armed Forces in Dresden. The Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt presents the largest permanent exhibition on the First World War in Germany. The only original German tank from World War I ( A7V ) is in the Queensland Museum , Australia (relocated to the Australian War Memorial for a limited period in 2015 ).
Museums dedicated exclusively to the First World War are mostly found in northern France, notably the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and the Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux . The 26 meter high monumental statue La Liberté éplorée by the American artist Frederick William MacMonnies directly at the museum in Meaux marks the point of the furthest German advance towards Paris in September 1914 ( ). On November 10, 2017, Emmanuel Macron and Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the first joint German-French museum (Historical) on the war at the Hartmannswillerkopf Memorial .
The Mémorial de Verdun and the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres also offer outstanding presentations, the municipality of Heuvelland near Ypres has restored the trench system of the German position Bayernwald on the basis of archaeological investigations and made it accessible to visitors. Also worth mentioning is the Rovereto War Museum , part of the Rete Trentino Grande Guerra network , an association of museums and memorials in Trentino dedicated to the centenary of the commemoration, and the Kobarid Museum in present-day Slovenia, dedicated to the Battles of the Isonzo (especially the Twelfth Isonzo Battle ).
works of art
The World War had an impact on literary expressionism in particular . The world war experience found its strongest German-language lyrical expression in August Stramm , but from a global perspective In Flanders Fields by John McCrae can be seen as the most influential poem. Among the British war poets , Wilfred Owen ( Dulce et Decorum est ) and Laurence Binyon ( For the Fallen ) should also be mentioned.
The novel, neglected by the German Expressionists, became the preferred genre of literature again after the World War, since the consequences and causes of the epochal event demanded the epic form. The emergence of Dadaism can be seen in connection with the war. Well-known German-language depictions that deal with the events of war in the narrower sense include Ernst Jiinger 's In Stahlgewittern , Der Wanderer Between Two Worlds by Walter Flex (one of the best-selling German-language books of all time) and Erich Maria Remarque 's Nothing New in the West . Among the German dramas created in response to the war were Karl Kraus 's The Last Days of Mankind and Bertolt Brecht's Drums in the Night .
Up to the First World War, artists were mostly uninvolved witnesses of war events. In the First World War, on the other hand, there were numerous freelance artists among the soldiers in addition to the war painters. Most of their works received little attention after the end of the war, and - with the exception of Otto Dix - many authors distanced themselves from their wartime works. Artists such as Max Beckmann and Fernand Léger did not even attempt to exhibit them, but turned to other themes as soon as they were demobilized. Well-known works are Sturmtruppe vor geht unter Gas (Otto Dix, 1924), Gassed ( John Singer Sargent , 1918) and Den Namenlose 1914 by Albin Egger-Lienz as well as the self-portrait as a soldier ( Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 1915). During this war, the artists of the European avant-garde finally renounced the rules that had previously dominated battle painting. They sought new means of doing justice to the appalling reality: essentially Cubism , Futurism , Expressionism and Abstract Art . “The time of heroic realism and patriotic allegory was definitely over. The detonation of projectiles, the omnipotence of artillery, total war could no longer be imitated but had to be transposed. Broken lines, garish colors were necessary, not to depict details of the battle, but to express its inhuman violence.” The World War abruptly ended Historicism and Art Nouveau architecture in Germany , since the use of ornamentation and the corresponding Additional costs no longer seemed appropriate in view of the war and the need. The war thus brought about the breakthrough of modernism and the formula “ form follows function ” in architecture, as well as the view put forward by Adolf Loos in the pamphlet Ornament and Crime (1908) that the use of ornaments and decoration was superfluous.
Numerous works of sculpture were created primarily in connection with the war memorial sites . From today's perspective, German works of art include Käthe Kollwitz's Mourning Parents and Ernst Barlach 's Der Schwebende and the Magdeburg Memorial . The so-called nail pictures corresponded to the zeitgeist ; a propaganda movement that emanated from Vienna in the first half of 1915 . The Iron Hindenburg in Berlin , Heinrich the Lion in Iron in Braunschweig , Dä kölsche Boor en Iser in Cologne , the Nagelsäule in Mainz and the Isern Hinnerk in Oldenburg were particularly well known .
For music, the First World War is not seen as the epochal boundary, since the turning point with the advent of atonal music was set in 1908/09. Apart from that, the music plays almost no role in many modern depictions of the war. In terms of compositional history, the First World War nevertheless had a significance, art music took a stand, and even more naturally military music and popular music in the form of soldiers' songs such as e.g. B. the Argonne Forest song or wild geese rushing through the night . Every German soldier had a field hymn book with him, a well-known song from it is z. B. We step to pray . Church hymns during the war were sometimes used ambivalently, especially the hymns Now thank you all God and A solid castle is our God as "battle songs of Prussian-Protestant Germany par excellence". The functionalization of music for war was nothing new, and in Germany, as in other countries, composers, lyricists and publishers rushed to produce war-glorifying, national and heroic music at the beginning of the war. Pieces by composers from enemy nations were partially removed from the program of the concert halls, especially at the beginning of the war. At the beginning of the war, music theaters increasingly included so-called patriotic German operas such as Richard Wagner's Meistersinger or Heinrich Zöllner 's Der Überfall in their schedules . A few war operettas were created, but from around February 1915 hurray patriotic pieces with current war themes largely disappeared from the theaters, Biedermeier operettas and the classical opera repertoire dominated the schedules again. Only one war operetta stayed on stage throughout the war, Walter Kollo 's "Vaterländische Volksstück with song in 4 scenes" Always firmly druff! .
At the front, music provided cultural practices in which everyday wartime life could recede into the background, at least for a few moments. In the Christmas Peace of 1914, for example, music was a mediator and bridge-builder between the trenches; the joint singing of songs with the same melody, such as Stille Nacht/Silent Night and Heil Dir im Siegerkranz /God save the King, initiated the spontaneous armistice.
Notable compositions published contemporaneously in connection with the events of the war include Edward Elgar's Carillon, Claude Debussy's Berceuse héroïque, Igor Stravinsky 's Souvenir d'une marche boche and Vincent d'Indy's La légende de Saint Christophe . Art songs on the tragedy of war were written by Franz Schreker , Franz Lehár , Charles Ives , Erich Wolfgang Korngold , Richard Strauss , Lili Boulanger , Giacomo Puccini , Hanns Eisler and Paul Hindemith .
The First World War provided material for numerous film adaptations. The British documentary film The Battle of the Somme from 1916, shot for propaganda purposes , was seen by 20 million cinemagoers in Great Britain within six weeks, a record that was only surpassed 60 years later with Star Wars . In 2005 it was the first British contemporary document ever to be recognized as a world documentary heritage . The best-known films today are Nothing New in the West (1930) based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque , Ways to Glory (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
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- Daniel Marc Segesser: The First World War in Global Perspective. Marixverlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-86539-953-3 .
- David Stevenson: 1914-1918. The First World War. Translated from the English by Harald Eckhardt and Ursula Vones-Liebenstein. Dusseldorf 2006, ISBN 3-538-07214-0 . (Second edition. Düsseldorf 2010, ISBN 978-3-491-96274-3 ) (Important overview; Orig. 1914–1918. The History of the first World War. London 2004).
- Hew Strachan : The First World War. Volume 1: To Arms. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2001, ISBN 0-19-820877-4 . Volume 2: The outbreak of the First World War. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2003, ISBN 0-19-925726-4 . (Two volumes of a planned three-volume comprehensive account, written by a distinguished modern military historian.)
- Hew Strachan: The First World War. A New Illustrated Story. Translated from English by Helmut Ettinger, Bertelsmann, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-570-00777-4 . (Paperback Pantheon Verlag, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-570-55005-2 ) (Orig.: The Oxford illustrated history of the First World War. New York 2000).
- Volker Ullrich: The nervous great power 1871-1918. Rise and fall of the German Empire. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-596-17240-5 .
- Ian Westwell: The First World War. A chronicle. Translated from English by Heiko Nonnenmann. Gondrom Verlag, Bindlach 2000, ISBN 3-8112-1748-8 .
- Jay Winter (ed.): The Cambridge History of the First World War. 3 volumes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2014 ( summary review ).
Prehistory, causes and July crisis
- Luigi Albertini : The Origins of the War of 1914 . Translated from the Italian by Isabella M. Massey. Oxford University Press, London 1952–1957 (3 volumes) (Reprint: Enigma Books, New York 2005, ISBN 1-929631-26-X ) (Original: Le origini della guerra del 1914. Milan 1942/43).
- Jürgen Angelow: The way to the great catastrophe. The Decay of Old Europe 1900-1914. Be.bra-Verlag, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-89809-402-3 .
- Christopher Clark : The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to the First World War . Translated from English by Norbert Juraschitz. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-421-04359-7 .
- Fritz Fischer : War of Illusions. German Politics 1911-1914. 2nd Edition. Dusseldorf 1970, ISBN 3-7700-0913-4 . (Substantiation and intensification of the theses of grip after the world power )
- Imanuel Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume I. Edited and introduced by Imanuel Geiss. With a foreword by Fritz Fischer. Publisher for literature and contemporary history, Hanover 1963, . (standard work).
- Imanuel Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume II. Edited and introduced by Imanuel Geiss. Publisher for literature and contemporary history, Hanover 1964, . (standard work).
- Imanuel Geiss (ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 3rd Edition. Munich 1986, ISBN 3-423-02921-8 (publication of the most important documents by the well-known student of Fritz Fischer).
- Imanuel Geiss: The long road to disaster. The history of the First World War 1815-1914. 2nd Edition. Piper, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-492-10943-8 .
- Richard F Hamilton, Holger H Herwig: The Origins of World War I. Cambridge 2004, ISBN 0-521-81735-8 .
- Gerd Krumeich : July 1914. A balance sheet. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-77592-4 .
- Sean McMeekin : Russia's Road to War. The First World War - origin of the catastrophe of the century. Europa Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-944305-63-9 .
- Annika Mombauer : The July Crisis: Europe's Path to World War I. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66108-2 . (summary of the current state of research).
- Michael S Neiberg : Dance of the Furies. Europe and the Outbreak of World War I. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA) 2011.
- Keith Nelson, Zara Steiner : Britain and the Origins of the First World War. 2nd Edition. Macmillan, 2003, ISBN 0-333-73467-X .
- Stefan Schmidt: France's foreign policy in the July crisis of 1914. A contribution to the history of the outbreak of the First World War. (= Paris Historical Studies. Volume 90). Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59016-6 . Online at perspective.net.
- British National Archives Source Online Edition : Operation War Diary . 2014. ( War diaries of commanding officers; English homepage; initially 2000 TB will be published )
- Deutsches Historisches Museum (ed.): The First World War in German picture postcards , CD–ROM, Directmedia Publishing , Berlin 2004, ISBN 978-3-89853-766-7 .
- Deutschlandfunk (ed.): Feldpostbriefe / Lettres de poilus 1914–1918 . (Audio CD) Arrangement: Peter Lieck, Philipp Schepmann, Cedrik Piquard. Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89813-027-4 . (Joint radio production by Radio France and Deutschlandfunk, broadcast in 1998)
- Karl Dietrich Erdmann (ed.): Kurt Riezler . Diaries-Essays-Documents. Introduced and edited by Karl Dietrich Erdmann. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1972, ISBN 3-525-35817-2 (important source work, Riezler was an employee and confidant of Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg).
- Lisbeth Exner / Herbert Kapfer (ed. German Diary Archive ): Hidden Chronicle 1914. Galiani Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86971-086-0 .
- Lisbeth Exner / Herbert Kapfer (ed. German Diary Archive): Hidden Chronicle 1915-1918. Galiani Verlag, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-86971-090-7 .
- Gerhard Hirschfeld, Gerd Krumeich, Irina Renz (eds.): "No one feels more human here..." Experience and impact of the First World War. Fischer paperback publishing house, Frankfurt 1996, ISBN 3-596-13096-4 . (Contribution to the recent research perspective of the history of mentality)
- Susanne Miller (edit.), in connection with Erich Matthias : The war diary of the Reichstag deputy Eduard David 1914 to 1918 . (= Sources on the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Series 1: From constitutional monarchy to parliamentary republic. Volume 4). Droste, Dusseldorf 1966.
- Bernd Ulrich , Benjamin Ziemann (eds.): Frontline in the First World War. sources and documents. Fischer paperback publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-596-12544-8 .
- Bernd Ulrich, Benjamin Ziemann (eds.): Frontline in the First World War. A historical textbook. Klartext Verlag, Essen 2008, ISBN 978-3-8375-0015-8 .
- Theodor Wolff : Diaries 1914–1919. The First World War and the emergence of the Weimar Republic in diaries, editorials and letters by the editor-in-chief of the “Berliner Tageblatt” and co-founder of the “German Democratic Party”. Two parts, ed. by Bernd Soesemann. Boldt, Boppard am Rhein 1984, ISBN 3-7646-1835-3 (important source work).
End of War and Consequences
- Eckart Conze : The Great Illusion. Versailles 1919 and the reorganization of the world. Siedler Verlag, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-8275-0055-7 .
- Jörg Duppler , Gerhard P. Great (eds.): End of the war in 1918. Event, effect, aftermath (= contributions to military history. Series of publications by the Military History Research Office. Volume 53). R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56443-9 .
- Fritz Fellner; Heidrun Maschl, Brigitte Mazohl-Wallnig (eds.): The disintegration of the Danube monarchy from a world historical perspective. and The Treaty of St. Germain. In: From the Triple Alliance to the League of Nations: Studies in the History of International Relations 1882-1919. Verlag R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-486-56091-3 .
- Paul Fussell : The Great War and Modern Memory . Oxford University Press, New York 1975. (Numerous reprints, most recently 2011: ISBN 0-19-513331-5 )
- Gerd Hankel : The Leipzig Trials. German war crimes and their criminal prosecution after the First World War. Hamburger Edition HIS Verlagsgesellschaft, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-930908-85-9 .
- Eberhard Kolb: The Peace of Versailles. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-50875-8 .
- Gerd Krumeich (ed.) with Anke Hoffstadt and Arndt Weinrich: National Socialism and the First World War (= writings of the library for contemporary history. NF Volume 24). Klartext Verlag, Essen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8375-0195-7 .
- Gerd Krumeich: The unresolved defeat. The Trauma of World War I and the Weimar Republic. Verlag Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2018, ISBN 978-3-451-39970-1 .
- Jörn Leonhard : The overwhelmed peace. Versailles and the World 1918–1923. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72506-7 .
- Margaret MacMillan : The Peacemakers: How the Treaty of Versailles Changed the World . Translated by K.-D. Schmidt. Propyläen Verlag, Berlin 2015 (3rd ed.), ISBN 978-3-549-07459-6 .
- Jonas Campion/Laurent López/Guillaume Payen (eds.): European Police Forces and Law Enforcement in the First World War , Cham/Switzerland (palgrave macmillan) 2019. ISBN 978-3-030-26101-6 . ISBN 978-3-030-26102-3
- Justus D. Doenecke: Nothing Less than War. A New History of America's Entry into World War I. The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington (Kentucky) 2011, ISBN 978-0-8131-3002-6 .
- Peter Englund : Beauty and Terror. A history of the First World War, told in nineteen fates. Translated from the Swedish by Wolfgang Butt. Rowohlt, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-87134-670-5 .
- Jörg Ernesti : Benedict XV. Pope between the fronts. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2016, ISBN 978-3-451-31015-7 .
- Martin Farndale: Western Front, 1914-1918. London 1986, ISBN 1-870114-00-0 .
- Fritz Fischer : Reach for world power . Dusseldorf 1961, 2000, ISBN 3-7700-0902-9 . (The opening two chapters in particular sparked the Fischer controversy ).
- Sabine Giesbrecht: Music and Propaganda. The First World War as reflected in German picture postcards. epOs Music , Osnabrück 2014, ISBN 978-3-940255-51-8 .
- Christa Hämmerle (ed.): Childhood in the First World War. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 1993, ISBN 3-205-05498-9 .
- Stefan Hanheide, Dietrich Helms, Claudia Glunz, Thomas F. Schneider (eds.): Music takes a stand. Functionalization of Music in World War I. V&R unipress, Goettingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-8471-0206-9 .
- Sebastian Haffner : The Seven Deadly Sins of the German Empire in the First World War . Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2001, ISBN 3-7857-2077-7 .
- Paul G. Halpern: A naval history of World War I. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD 1994, ISBN 0-87021-266-4 .
- John Horne , Alan Kramer: German War Atrocities 1914. The Disputed Truth. Translated from English by Udo Rennert. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 . ( review )
- Frank Jacob , Riccardo Altieri (ed.): War and Peace in the Mirror of Socialism 1914-1918. Metropolis, Berlin 2018.
- Ernst Johann (ed.): Inside view of a war. Pictures, letters, documents 1914–1918. Scheffler, Frankfurt am Main 1968 (chronologically arranged documents and reports on the history of the First World War).
- George F. Kennan : The Fateful Alliance. France and Russia on the eve of World War I. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1990, ISBN 3-462-02036-6 .
- Hartmut Kühn : Poland in the First World War. The struggle for a Polish state until its re-establishment in 1918/1919. Peter Lang Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-631-76530-2 .
- Nicola Labanca , Oswald Überegger (eds.): War in the Alps: Austria-Hungary and Italy in World War I (1914–1918). Böhlau, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-205-79472-1 .
- Heinz von Lichem : The Tyrolean High Mountain War 1915-1918 in the air. Steiger, Innsbruck 1986, ISBN 3-85423-052-4 .
- Andreas Leipold: German naval warfare in the Pacific in 1914 and 1915. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-447-06602-0 .
- Hans Linnenkohl: From a single shot to a roller fire. The Race Between Technique and Tactics in World War I. Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Koblenz 1990, ISBN 3-7637-5866-6 .
- Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius : Warland in the East. Conquest, Colonization, and Military Rule in World War I 1914–1918. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-930908-81-6 .
- Dieter Martinetz: The Gas War 1914/18. Development, production and use of chemical warfare agents. The interaction of military leadership, science and industry. Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-7637-5952-2 .
- Wolfgang J. Mommsen (ed.): Culture and War. The role of intellectuals, artists and writers in the First World War (= Writings of the Historical College . Colloquia 34). Munich 1995, ISBN 978-3-486-56085-5 ( digital copy )
- John H. Morrow: The Great War in the air. Military aviation from 1909 to 1921. Airlife, Shrewsbury 1993, ISBN 1-85310-445-0 .
- Gerhard Ritter : The Schlieffen plan. critique of a myth. With the first publication of the texts and 6 map sketches . Verlag R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1956.
- Stefan Rinke : In the wake of the catastrophe. Latin America and the First World War . Campus, Frankfurt am Main/ New York 2015, ISBN 978-3-593-50269-4 .
- Norman Stone : The Eastern Front 1914-1917. Penguin Books, London 1975, ISBN 0-14-026725-5 .
- Barbara Tuchman : August 1914. 2nd edition. Fischer Paperback Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-596-15395-6 .
- Cornelia Rauh, Arnd Reitemeier, Dirk Schumann (eds.): Beginning of the war in Northern Germany. On the development of a "war culture" in 1914/15 in a transnational perspective (= publications of the Historical Commission for Lower Saxony and Bremen. Volume 284). Goettingen 2015, pp. 199–221.
- Axel Weipert and others: Machine for brutalizing the world? The First World War - Interpretations and attitudes from 1914 to the present day, Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster 2017, ISBN 978-3-89691-108-7 .
- Niels Werber , Stefan Kaufmann, Lars Koch (eds.): First World War. Cultural Studies Handbook. Metzler, Stuttgart/Weimar 2014, ISBN 978-3-476-02445-9 .
More content in Wikipedia
|Commons||– Media content (category)|
|Wiktionary||– Dictionary entries|
|wikisource||– Sources and full texts|
- First World War. on the website of the Federal Agency for Civic Education . In: bpb.de.
- Thematic portal World War I. at Clio-online . In: first-world-war.clio-online.de.
- LeMO Chapter - First World War. on the website of the Deutsches Historisches Museum . In: dhm.de.
- Experience at the front and post-war order. In: zeitgeschichte-online.de.
- 100 years after the end of the First World War. in the information portal for political education . In: Politik-bildung.de.
- 1914-1918 online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1). In: encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net. (English).
- Virtual Exhibition “100 Years First World War” – home page. In: www.dnb.de. - Virtual exhibition of theGerman National Library(TheGerman Library, the forerunner of the German National Library, created a World War II collection as early as 1914, so that many testimonies of this warlike phase can be documented. For the 2014 commemoration year, this collection has been newly indexed and partially digitized.)
- The First World War. In: mediathek.at. - an online exhibition of theAustrian Mediathek
- Hans Rudolf Fuhrer , Mauro Cerutti, Marc Perrenoud, Markus Bürgi: First World War. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . January 11, 2015 .
- Search results WWI casualty lists. Digitized casualty lists from the First World War. In: des.genealogy.net.
- Deutschlandfunk - Broadcasts: Feldpostbriefe - Lettres de poilus. In: dradio.de. –DeutschlandfunkandRadio Francecommemorated the First World War in a joint series (manuscript, audio files and accompanying information).
- Thematic portal of the Federal Archives on the First World War with digitized sources
- Aribert Reimann: The First World War - Great Catastrophe or Catalyst? (PDF; 90 kB) In: first-world-war.clio-online.de. 2004 .
- First World War.com - A Multimedia History of World War One. World War I online library. In: firstworldwar.com.
- Christoph Nübel: New research on the cultural and social history of the First World War. Topics, tendencies, perspectives. In: hsozkult.de. July 8, 2011 .
pictures and maps
- Research – POP. French World War I era color photographs. In: pop.culture.gouv.fr. (French).
- BBC—BBC World War One. Presentation of the BBC with many pictures. In: bbc.co.uk. (English).
- The World War I Era: 1914-1920. In: historyonthenet.com. (English).
- Photos from the German Eastern Front collected by Erwin Biesenbach and taken by himself
- Peter Walther: Photography – SPIEGEL ONLINE. with 18 color photos by the war photographer Hans Hildenbrand . In: spiegel.de. November 11, 2008 .
- Austrian National Library – Collections. Digital Collection: WWI 1914-1918. In: onb.wg.picturemaxx.com.
- 1914-1918 - Europeana Collections. Collection of public & private original documents in the virtual library Europeana 1914–1918 . In: europeana.eu.
- "In the airship on the battlefields." fr:"En dirigeable sur les champs de bataille." Commentary by Mathias Greffrath on the film
- UB Heidelberg: field newspapers from the 1st World War - digital. In: ub.uni-heidelberg.de.
- ANNO search. Full-text search in newspapers in Austria-Hungary. In: anno.onb.ac.at.
- Paul Schreckenbach : Illustrated World War Chronicle of the Leipzig Illustrirten Zeitung . Weber, Leipzig
- Spencer Tucker (ed.): The Encyclopedia of World War I. A Political, Social and Military History. ABC-Clio Publishers, Santa Barbara 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2 , p. 273.
- Entry and exit dates and changes in the form of government during the war (Russia) see: Participants in the First World War .
- Including British Dominions. Presumably due to difficulties in defining the statehood of some of those involved, there are different figures in the literature, which is why many authors refrain from giving a number.
- G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 664 f.
G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The age of imperialism . 2009, pp. 49–71, 160–175.
I. Geiss: The long road to catastrophe. The history of the First World War 1815-1914. 1991, pp. 115-297.
Imanuel Geiss: History at a glance. Dates and contexts of world history. Rowohlt paperback publishing house, Reinbek near Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-499-16511-2 , p. 453 ff.
- Imanuel Geiss: History at a glance. Dates and contexts of world history. Rowohlt paperback publishing house, Reinbek near Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-499-16511-2 , p. 462.
I. Geiss: The long road to disaster. The history of the First World War 1815-1914. 1991, pp. 115-297.
Imanuel Geiss: History at a glance. Dates and contexts of world history. Rowohlt paperback publishing house, Reinbek near Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-499-16511-2 , p. 453 ff.
Ch. Clark: The sleepwalkers: How Europe moved into the First World War. 2013, pp. 169–471.
G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The Age of Imperialism . 2009, pp. 49–89, 160–196.
- G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The age of imperialism . 2009, p. 184.
G. Schöllgen, F. Kießling: The age of imperialism . 2009, pp. 73–89, 160–196.
I. Geiss: The long road to catastrophe. The history of the First World War 1815-1914. 1991, pp. 115-253.
G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 447, 456 ff.
- Hans Linnenkohl: From the single shot to the fire roller. The race between technology and tactics in World War I Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Koblenz 1990, ISBN 3-7637-5866-6 , p. 89 ff.
G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 344 ff., 575 ff., 664 f.
Matthias Erzberger (MdR): The armaments expenditure of the German Reich. In: Financial issues of the time. Issue 14, Stuttgart 1914, p. 15 f.
Niall Ferguson : The pity of war, Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 0-465-05712-8 , section Public Finance and National Security p. 106. There quoted from John M. Hobson : The Military-Extraction Gap and the Wary Titan: The Fiscal-Sociology of British Defense Policy, 1870-1913. In: Journal of European Economic History. 22(3), 1993, pp. 466-507.
- G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, pp. 664 f., 870 ff. 927 ff.
I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. 1963, pp. 38, 58 ff., 71 f., 75 f.
Ch. Clark: The sleepwalkers: How Europe got into the First World War. 2013, p. 507, 510 f.
I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume I, 1963, p. 58 f. (italic text underlined by Wilhelm II), 128.
Ch. Clark: The sleepwalkers: How Europe went into the First World War. 2013, p. 529 ff.
- Parts of Abyssinia (end of 1915 to October 27, 1916 under Iyasu IV ), the Fur Sultanate ( Darfur from 1916), the Senussi State (since 1915) and Persia ( World War I in Persia since November 2, 1914) fought partly on the part of the Central Powers. Central Arabia and the Hijaz had militarily sided with the Entente in the Arab Revolt since June 1916. Bolivia , Peru , Ecuador , Uruguay and the Dominican Republic broke diplomatic relations with Germany in 1917 under US influence. See Spencer Tucker (ed.): The Encyclopedia of World War I. A Political, Social and Military History . ABC-Clio Publishers, Santa Barbara 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2 , p. 672.
- The actual start of hostilities is given, dates of the individual declarations of war differ in some cases. Unless otherwise noted, from Erik Goldstein: Wars & Peace Treaties 1816–1991. Routledge, London 1992, ISBN 0-203-97682-7 , pp. 197 ff.
- Date of the declaration of support to the British Empire, a formal declaration of war was not made.
- Provisional Government/Royal Government
Jürgen Angelow: The way to the Urkatastrophe. The Decay of Old Europe 1900-1914. be.bra, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-89809-402-3 , p. 121 ff. (quote p. 124).
Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to the First World War. 2013, p. 531 ff.
- Karl Dietrich Erdmann (ed.): Kurt Riezler. Diaries-Essays-Documents. Introduced and edited by Karl Dietrich Erdmann. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Goettingen 1972, ISBN 3-525-35817-2 , p. 182 ff.
- Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to the First World War. 2013, p. 545 ff.
- Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to the First World War. 2013, p. 570, 575 ff.
- Austro-Hungarian Red Book. Diplomatic files on the prehistory of the war 1914. People's edition. Manzsche k. u.k. Hof-Verlags- und Universitäts-Buchhandlung, Vienna 1915, Doc. 7, pp. 15-18.
Ch. Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to the First World War. 2013, p. 605 ff.
I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war in 1914. A collection of documents. 1963, p. 354 f.
Gerd Krumeich: July 1914. A balance sheet. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-77592-4 , p. 128 ff.
Ch. Clark: The sleepwalkers: How Europe moved into the First World War. 2013, p. 592 ff.
- I. Geiss (ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 254.
- David Stevenson: 1914-1918. The First World War. Albatros-Verlag, Mannheim 2010, p. 43 ff.
I. Geiss (ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, pp. 139, 190, 211 f.
Ch. Clark: The sleepwalkers: How Europe went into the First World War. 2013, p. 601.
- Manfried Rauchensteiner: The First World War and the end of the Habsburg Monarchy 1914-1918. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-205-78283-4 , pp. 129 ff., 145 ff.
- G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 725.
- I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume II. 1964, p. 266, 301 f., 303 ff.
- I. Geiss (ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 167 f., 302 f.
- David Stevenson: 1914-1918. The First World War. Albatros-Verlag, Mannheim 2010, p. 47 ff.
Karl Kautsky , Max Montgelas (eds.): The German documents on the outbreak of war, 1914. Volumes 3: From the announcement of the Russian general mobilization to the declaration of war on France. German publishing company for politics and history, Berlin 1927, p. 173.
I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A document collection. Volume II. 1964, pp. 549, 558, 628, 659 f., 759 ff.
I. Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war 1914. A collection of documents. Volume II. 1964, pp. 645, 658, 660.
Fritz Fischer: War of Illusions. German Politics 1911-1914. 2nd Edition. Düsseldorf 1970, ISBN 3-7700-0913-4 , p. 736.
- I. Geiss (ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 364 f.
- I. Geiss (ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 370.
Laurence van Ypersele: Belgium. In: G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 44.
Hermann Kantorowicz: Opinion on the question of war guilt in 1914. Edited from the estate and introduced by Imanuel Geiss. With a foreword by Gustav W. Heinemann. Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Frankfurt am Main 1967, p. 260.
Luigi Albertini: The Origins of the War of 1914. Volume 3, London/New York/Toronto 1952, p. 484 ff.
Fritz Fischer: The War of Illusions. 2nd Edition. Düsseldorf 1970, p. 732.
- Excerpt from the Belgian Gray Book , entry no. 27 of August 4, 1914.
Thomas Müller: Imagined West. The concept of the "German West" in the national discourse between political romanticism and National Socialism. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8376-1112-0 , p. 25.
Gottfried Niedhart (ed.): Gustav Mayer: As a German-Jewish historian in war and revolution, 1914-1920. Diaries, notes, letters (= German historical sources of the 19th and 20th centuries. Volume 65). Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59155-2 , p. 49.
- I. Geiss (ed.): July 1914. The European crisis and the outbreak of the First World War. 1986, p. 344 ff., 371.
- Gerhard Richter: Statecraft and the Craft of War. The Problem of “Militarism” in Germany. Volume Two: The Major Powers of Europe and the Wilhelmine Empire (1890-1914). Verlag R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1960, p. 334.
Wolfdieter Bihl: The First World War. 1914-1918. Böhlau, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-205-78379-4 , p. 90.
G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 45, p. 686 f.
- Cf. To the German people! at Wikisource .
- John Horne, Alan Kramer: German War Atrocities 1914. The Disputed Truth. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 , p. 24 f.
John Horne, Alan Kramer: German War Atrocities 1914. The Disputed Truth. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 , pp. 23 ff., pp. 120 ff., pp. 137 ff.
Ulrich Keller : Questions of guilt: Belgian underground war and German retaliation in August 1914 . With a foreword by Gerd Krumeich. Schöningh, Paderborn 2017, ISBN 978-3-506-78744-6 , pp. 106, 131 ff., 169 ff.
Spencer Tucker (ed.): The Encyclopedia of World War I. A Political, Social and Military History . Verlag ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2 , p. 192.
G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 46 f.
John Horne, Alan Kramer: German War Atrocities 1914. The Disputed Truth. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-930908-94-8 , p. 21 ff.
Ulrich Keller: Questions of guilt: Belgian underground war and German retaliation in August 1914 . With a foreword by Gerd Krumeich. Schöningh, Paderborn 2017, ISBN 978-3-506-78744-6 , p. 43 ff.
J.-J. Becker, G. Krumeich: The Great War. Germany and France 1914–1918. 2010, p. 202 ff.
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- Note: The Mexican-American relationship was still clouded by the Mexican expedition of the USA at this time.
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The information in the literature differs greatly. See e.g. B.: Berghahn: The First World War . Munich 2014, p. 9.
Chickering: The German Empire and the First World War . Munich 2002, p. 235.
Henke-Bockschatz: The First World War . Stuttgart 2014, p. 264.
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Horst Möller: Europe between the world wars. Oldenbourg, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-486-52311-2 , p. 2.
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Martin Schramm: The image of Germany in the British press 1912-1919. Berlin 2007, p. 509.
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E. Kolb: The Peace of Versailles . 2005, pp. 79 f. (quotes), 94 f.
G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 945 ff.
E. Kolb: The Peace of Versailles . 2005, pp. 65, 98 f.
G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 795.
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E. Kolb: The Peace of Versailles . 2005, pp. 63 f., 68.
G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 946 f.
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- E. Kolb: The Peace of Versailles . 2005, p. 80 ff. G. Hirschfeld et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War. 2014, p. 946.
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Rolf Steininger: The Middle East Conflict . Fischer paperback publisher, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-596-19519-0 , p. 3 ff, 73 ff.
Friedrich Schreiber, Michael Wolffsohn: Middle East. History and structure of the conflict. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1989, ISBN 3-8100-0777-3 , p. 19 ff., 54 ff.
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- Hankel: The Leipzig Trials. 2003, pp. 11, 99, 488, 495.
- Hankel: The Leipzig Trials. 2003, p. 452 ff, quote: p. 461.
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