German perspective

The document is essentially an analytical account on why the world went to war in 1914. Germany is central to the discussion within the article and it provides a short introduction on the Kaiser as well as looking from a German perspective, specific factors which influenced his government’s decision to enter the war. It includes an analyst of the Kaiser’s military policies to achieve international prosperity and explains why they increased tensions within Europe. There is also descriptive explanations of particular events that were significant in causing the war to start. Additionally, there is a brief introduction on historical arguments about whether Germany caused the world to go to war.

The Kaiser

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2.1 Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941) was born in Berlin in 1859. He was the son of Fredrick II and Grandson of Queen Victoria. Wilhelm’s life as a child was one which involved extreme strictness mainly because of his Father’s rigorously authoritarian approach. In 1898 His Father, Fredrick II died and immediately it resulted in Wilhelm becoming emperor of Germany. Wilhelm two years in to power sacked Otto von Bismarck as chancellor because of there fundamental differences on future German prosperity.

2.2 Primarily Wilhelm foremost political intention was to profoundly increase the strength of the German armed services. In particular he was extremely interested in building a navy with the resources to rival that of Britain’s – a proposals which got him militaristic support from Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. He was a senior member of the British armed forces; however it eventually turned in to a contradictory relationship with the service. This was mainly because he spoke publicly of how he could never envisage a war with the country although he overtly criticized King Edward VII and described him as “Satan”.

3.0 Background before the war

3.1 As briefly mentioned earlier, the new Kaiser wanted to place building a proficient military at the top of his political agenda. One could argue that this objective was not only because the new government wanted to pose a significant challenge to the British navy but also because the Kaiser was apprehensive of Britain and France in case they formed a military alliance. The Kaiser supported pan-Germanism, a movement rejected by the formal chancellor – Bismarck. Central to the newly formulated Kaiser foreign policy was achieving a place in the sun for the German empire by committing to strategies such as establishing Germany as a monumental colonial power in the pacific, and even more so, in Africa.

This was, of course to assist in the Kaiser’s plans to make Germany an influential and prominent world power; however the policy caused considerable unease amongst Britain and France. Britain responded by expanding on their navy and built the Dreadnought battleship as a warning to Germany of their military supremacy. In Britain, journalists were worrying about the German policies. Germany did not have a big enough empire to justify their naval development, so therefore why did they need such a large naval fleet, unless they wanted to attack Britain.

3.2 Alliance system: Concurrently during the years of Wilhelm’s political leadership several alliances formulated in the international region that fundamentally had a significant influence on the events which lead up to the war. Dual Alliance – In 1879 Germany and Austria formed a military agreement ensuring that if either country was attacked the other would stay disinterested and neutral. If however the attack came from Russia, the agreement meant both countries had to become involved.

Triple Alliance: In 1882 Germany and Italy devised a military alliance. Extente Cordiale – In 1904 a non military alliance between Britain and France initiated. Acted as an important diplomatic solution to the colonial conflicts. Anglo Russian Agreement – Again, Britain formed another non military agreement. This time was Russia.  he tensions, one could argue, did not do anything circuitously which caused war, however it can be argued that they divided Europe and escalated tensions, which consequently made war more likely.

3.3 The Moroccan Crisis’s:

In 1905, the Kaiser visited Morocco and made several speeches supporting the country against its enemy, France. In one speech he demanded an international conference and resolution, followed by indistinct threats of war on France if they did not act in accordance with their proposal. The Kaiser saw this as an opportunity to attain diplomatic success as well as increasing their reputation amongst the international community. The French however were infuriated for the German’s involvement in a colonial problem which they had no involvement with.

3.4 War was avoided by the calling of an international conference in Spain. Ironically at the conference France was supported by the British. The Kaiser was humiliated in the conference and it lead to him developing a degree of hostility towards France. Again, it can be argued that this increased any future prospect of future war. 3.5 In 1911 the Kaiser sent their prestigious warship, the panther, in to morocco.

This more than ever angered the French, who of course still remembered the previous Moroccan crisis in 1905. Britain was extremely concerned that it might be a pre-emptive act and were additionally anxious because they had a navy base situated near the warship which worried them in case the German’s proposed to establish one within region. As a response, Lloyd George, the British chancellor, during a speech in the Mansion house in London issued a threat of war to Germany unless they pulled out of the area. The German’s were not looking for war but were trying to test the level of support between France and Britain. Nevertheless it further increased tensions between the nations and indeed, one could argue that again increased the chances of a war.

3.6 Balkans conflict: While there were decisive conflicts within Western Europe, mostly between Germany and the British-French alliance, in Eastern Europe around the Balkans there was also an ongoing conflict within the region which posed a potential threat to World peace. The Slav nation was under authoritarian control from the Turkish and the Austrians. The Slav society demanded that the country be freed from the occupation of the two nations (self-determination), a demand which became known as the “Balkan Question”. The demands followed a terrorist war by the people within the Balkan region.

Serbia had already accomplished independence from the countries and they believed that it would only be a matter of time before Turkey accepted their demands. In 1908 Bosnia achieved what they had campaigned for, which of course was independence from the Turkish Empire. However Turkey transferred the region over to Austria, an action which caused extreme abhorrence amongst the people. They considered Austria as no better than Turkey and appealed to Russia for help. Russia declined to offer any as they were still suffering from there defeat during their war in 1905 with Japan. Furthermore Germany was a support of the Austrian regime. Accordingly, Russia took no involvement and the Balkans was subject to control from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. This again resulted in a guerrilla war in the region.

3.7 In 1914 the tensions in the Balkans reached a peak. The Bosnian’s were now receiving support from Serbia who were urging them to fight the Austrian-Hungarian regime in order to gain freedom. This resulted in terrorist organisation forming. In particular, one called the Black Hand became significant in causing the events which were to follow. Black Hand received undisclosed support from the Serbians and were issued weapons to fight. In 1914 Black Hand had already showed there guerrilla power by assassinating several Austrian officials. In spite of the rebel threat, the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand visited the province – a decision which was to change the world. The Black Hand produced a plan to assassinate him, central to which, were six young freedom fighters.

Finally, on the 28th of June 1914 the royal procession started in the streets of Sarajevo. The six men all planned to attempt to assassinate the Archduke; however they also planned to kill themselves with poison immediately after the attack. The first two of the waiting killers took fright and did not attempt to attack Ferdinand. However the next waiting killer attempted to bomb Ferdinand’s car, the Archduke had seen the bomb coming and immediately threw the bomb away injuring several people.

The Archduke’s security was very concerned for him, fearing that more attacks might come they decided to change the operation of the procession and headed to the hospital to visit the victims who were injured in the bomb. Meanwhile the six assassins on hearing the bomb exploding suspected the Archduke was dead, however one of the members- Princip was soon to realise the truth. He remained in the city centre and was outside a caf� when suddenly at 10.45 the Archduke’s car appeared. This was due to an error by his driver. Abruptly, Princip pulled out his gun and shot the Archduke and his wife, resulting in them both dying.

4.0 International reaction 4.1 The consequence of the shooting had a devastating effect within the international community and within 10 weeks there began a world war. A few weeks after the assassinating, Austria issued the Serbian’s a tough ultimatum which included them bringing to justice the assassin. The Austrians expectation was that the Serbians would accept to avoid the pretext of war. However, once again Serbian turned on its closest ally, Russia, for support. The Austrians did not think the Russians would be drawn in to the dispute except through possible diplomatic disapproval.

Although they called on their own closest ally, Germany, in case the situated escalated. Russia’s response expressed diplomatic support for Serbians but they went further and confirmed Austrian trepidation, by declaring war on the regime. Germany backed Austria and praised them for there warlike stance and urged them to attack Serbia as well as sending a dossier to Britain, France, and Russia explaining the Serbian view although the document included a distinct threat of “incalculable consequences” if they took involvement. On the 29th of July Austria launched an attack on Serbia. As a result of the alliance systems as well as international agreements, Austria-Hungary, Germany (see appendix 2 for their Schlieffan Plan), France, Britain, United States, and Japan forced in to the war (see appendix 1).

4.2 Did Germany cause the war? The argument around whether or not Germany caused the war has caused wide-spread debate amongst historians for decades. Before the 1960’s it was generally agreed that the leading cause of the war was due to the conflicts in Europe and of course the alliance systems. However a prominent German Historian, Fritz Fisher, argued otherwise. He claimed that Germany was the cause of the war because of their Weltpolitik (translated world policy) intention was to gain world wide dominance by premeditating a plan to build up Germany navy resources as well as gaining colonies.

Furthermore he argued that the German’s had a plan to start the war because they believed victory would make them into a world power. Additionally, fisher used evidence from a 1912 meeting, where German political and navy chiefs argued that 1914/15 would be the best time for a European war. Conversely, Historians such as Layton are incredulous however. Layton believed the Weltpolitik was confusing and illogical. There were numerous facts which backed this up including, Germany made few colonial gains. In terms of the 1912 meeting, Layton believed the evidence was inconclusive. However he accepted that the war plans existed but he claims it is impossible to comment on whether or not the German’s were definitely planning a war.

4.3 Indeed, one could argue that the Germans were a key factor behind the European conflicts because of their foreign policy and specific actions carried out by their government, such as in the two Moroccan conflicts. However, in the author’s opinion Germany did not solely cause the world to go to war. There was no pre-planned proposals or at least there was insufficient evidence to claim that there was plans therefore Germany was only one of a number of nations which influenced the conflicts which caused the war to start.

4.4 Theoretically speaking, if Germany was on trial for murder they would had been acquitted because there was inadequate evidence suggesting Germany planned the war, but they could have possibly been charged with the definition of manslaughter because certain actions by the Germans on the events leading up to the war increased the tensions thus adding to the already hostile atmosphere within Europe, making war more likely.


The Kaiser became Emperor of Germany 1898. During the time he came the leader of Germany there was on going political and military alliances within the international community. The new Kaiser developed a strong foreign policy and immediately showed his intention to challenge the British navy. However his authoritarian approach frequently caused resentment. A prime example of this was when he intervened in the French-Moroccan situation, an action which infuriated the French and significantly increased the tensions within Europe. While there were tensions within Europe, in the Balkans there was also ongoing conflict between the Austrian-Hungarian regime and the Balkan states. The situation reached a peak in 1914 when Serbians trained a terrorist organisation that shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Within weeks of the shooting the world was at war.

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