Why did Germany and her allies lose the First World War?

 
Last Wager
In the spring of 1918, the German command took its last gamble. According to their calculations, time was of the essence:
   i) Victory in the East meant that German troops could be massed on the Western Front.
   ii) The breakthrough needed to be achieved before American troops arrived in numbers sufficient to tip 
the balance.
   iii) As with the Schlieffen Plan, Verdun, and unrestricted submarine warfare, the German Empire gambled again, but this time put all its bets on this last throw of the dice.

Eastern Triumph: The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

   i) After their ceasefire in December 1917, the Bolsheviks and the Germans met to negotiate a peace treaty but had irreconcilable aims. Both sides argued about the meaning of self-determination for the peoples of Eastern Europe, although it was a concept about which neither side cared.  In reality, the Germans sought control of huge expanses of territory, whereas the Bolsheviks aimed to turn negotiations into a platform for a global propaganda event.
   ii) Appealing to world public opinion, the Bolsheviks publicised the secret treaties of the Allies found in the Russian foreign ministry.  Trotsky was brilliant in stalling for time. When negotiations reached a deadlock, Trotsky announced a new tactic of “neither peace nor war” and 
simply left. The German army responded by attacking, meeting almost no resistance. The armies came within a hundred miles of Petrograd. Because the revolution was in peril, Lenin narrowly convinced his comrades to sign the treaty.
   iii) On March 3, 1918, they signed the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which stripped vast territories from 
the former Russian Empire. By some estimates, Russia lost a third of its territory, a quarter of its population, and three-quarters of its coal and iron. Russia ceded control of Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Finland, and the Baltic provinces.
Despite these reverses and impending civil war within Russia, Lenin breathlessly awaited news of the outbreak of international revolution.

Germans exulted at this victory. The wildest hopes of annexationists had been realized. Many felt that half the war had been won. I tried to mention in class (for use in the section on Hitler's aims) that changed perceptions of Eastern Europe and fantasies of a German colonial empire there would later be taken up and radicalised by the Nazis.
BUT the harshness of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk produced liabilities, hence my argument that supposed success produced disaster:
    i) The Allies’ resolve was strengthened by this brutal performance.
   ii) The one million German soldiers, who had to hold down the occupied territories in the East, might otherwise have been used in the spring offensive in the West.
   iii) The Treaty of Bucharest of May 7, 1918, with defeated Romania was also harsh and required the vanquished to provide food resources and oil to the Central Powers.

Spring Offensive

This last German offensive of spring 1918 also was called “The Kaiser’s Battle” and “Operation Michael.” It was a conscious wager because, if it failed, there would be no reserves left.
 With the transfer of some German troops from the East, the Germans achieved a 10 percent superiority over Western forces.

The attack began March 21, 1918.
    i) Over the course of the next four months of attacks and storm troop tactics, the Germans pushed Allied lines back 40 miles.
   ii) In this crisis, the French general, Ferdinand Foch, was at last given unified command of Allied forces.
   iii) German attacks finally petered out. The material abundance of supplies in captured Allied trenches discouraged German soldiers.
   iv) The Germans were halted 56 miles from Paris.
   v) To spread panic, Paris was bombarded by long-range German guns, including the Big Bertha (yes, and the so-called 'Paris Gun'). Around 250 Parisians were killed by the shelling.
   vi) The gamble had failed.

Beginning of the German Collapse
   i) Decisive reverses came for the Germans.
   ii) An Allied counterattack at Amiens in August broke their lines. The use of tanks overwhelmed discouraged German troops.
   iii) This breakdown in morale came to be called the “Black Day,” as soldiers lost the will to fight. I think it's interesting it's also the date of Nagasaki, another ‘black day.'
   iv) As German armies retreated, the Allies took the initiative and retained it for the rest of the war.
   v) The U.S. army went into action independently for the first time and overran the salient at St. Mihiel.
   vi) Simultaneously, Allied troops launched an attack from their long inactive camp in Salonika in August 1918.
   vii) In September 1918, a massive Allied offensive was launched at St. Mihiel in the Meuse-Argonne sector and on the Saint-Quentin–Cambrai sector.
   viii) By the middle of the month, the Germans had retreated back to the Hindenburg Line, whence they had launched their spring offensive.
Despite these successes, the Allies assumed that the war would continue into 1919.

Breakdown of the Central Powers
On September 29, 1918, Ludendorff informed the Kaiser that the war had been lost and that only an armistice could save them now. A desperate attempt at revolution from above was undertaken but came too late to satisfy the Allies or even attract much notice. Prince Max von Baden became chancellor and started internal reforms.
The German government appealed to Wilson for peace on the basis of his Fourteen Points on October 
4, 1918, but the American President responded by demanding internal change first.

Germany’s allies fell away.
   i) On September 29, 1918, Bulgarian representatives signed an armistice in Salonika. Bulgaria was the first of the Central Powers to leave the war.
   ii) Turkey followed in October.
   iii) Allied troops began to move up through the Balkans from Salonika.
Austria-Hungary was next on the list.
On the Italian front, from October 24–November 2, the Austro-Hungarian army began to dissolve. In trying to go home, many were captured by Italian forces at Vittorio Veneto. On November 3, 1918, Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Allies but was already disintegrating.

Fall of Germany
Revolution broke out in Germany, provoked by futile gestures at the war’s end.
On November 3, 1918, news of orders for a naval “deathride” against the Allies touched off mutinies in the base at Kiel and spread to other port cities.
On November 7, revolt broke out here in Munich.
Ludendorff was fired and escaped abroad in disguise. The scientist Fritz Haber, fearing trial by the Allies, also escaped.
Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated when told that the German army no longer stood behind him and went into exile in Holland (fortunately for him, they ignored the Netherlands when carrying out the Schlieffen Plan).
Turmoil reigned in the capital, Berlin. On November 9, a German democratic republic was declared.
On November 8, a German armistice delegation met with the Allied commander, General Foch, and heard the terms.
On November 11, 1918, at 11 A.M., the armistice signed at Compiègne in France came into effect. The guns fell silent on the Western Front.


Essential Reading:    Hew Strachan, The First World War, pp. 267300.  (You can also watch the documentary based on it)

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Outline
I.       Following Brest-Litovsk, the Germans transferred the bulk of their eastern army to the west for an all-out assault on the Allied lines. This would be Kaiserschlacht, the “kaiser’s battle.”  The three months that it took to work out the peace had enabled the Allies to get fresh American troops under General John Pershing  to the front. In fact, the German plan, devised by General Erich Ludendorff was to aim right for those troops, stationed in the Argonne Forest. The campaign began with an artillery barrage in late March 1918.
1.      The German troops broke through the Allied lines and came within 50 miles of Paris.
2.      The American forces before Paris stiffened and held.
3.      By late May, the German offensive had stalled. The Allied counteroffensive began on 18 July 1918. The exhausted Germans soon fell back, giving up 8 miles on 8 August, a day that would be known as Schwarztag (Schwartzer Tag), the “Black Day.” By late September 1918, German losses were a million men in six months.
1.      Morale was low; desertion was mounting.
2.      At home, the population suffered food shortages.
3.      Communists, demanding an end to the war, attracted large crowds.
4.      Nationalist groups in the Austro-Hungarian Empire rose up and began to form armies of their own.
5.      When ordered on one last suicidal sortie, the Imperial German Navy mutinied.
 By early November, the command structure of the German and Austrian Empires began to fall apart.
1.      On 7 November, revolts broke out in Bavaria (We'll discuss this at length later).
2.      On 9 November, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and fled to the Netherlands. 3. Two days later, Kaiser Karl, the last Austro-Hungarian emperor, gave up his constitutional powers. German and Austrian provisional governments immediately sued the Allies for an armistice.  The armistice was agreed to begin at 11 AM on 11 November 1918.
The Great War had involved 34 nations at its height. Eleven million soldiers had died. Four great empires fell: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. Europeans lost faith in authority and even, perhaps, in God. Great War clearly changed the balance of power. The United States was now a world power of the first rank. The Soviet Union clearly had the potential to be one, as well.
3.      Out of the old empires, numerous independent nation-states, many of them democracies, would be created, including Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and from 1922, a semi-independent Ireland.
4.      After 1918, Germany and Austria would also be democracies.
D.     Many of these changes were enacted or confirmed at the peace conference that assembled at Versailles in 1919.
IV. The Versailles Conference was convened not only to put Europe back together but also to find a way to prevent future wars.
A.     Despite—or perhaps because of—the terrible experience of the war, the Versailles conference convened amid great optimism.
1.      There was a widespread conviction that the Allied leaders had a plan to make war a thing of the past: President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points.
2.      Wilson had drawn up the Fourteen Points in January 1918 to bring Germany to the negotiating table and establish a basis for a permanent peace.
3.      The Fourteen Points was a rational and moderate attempt to reduce or eliminate many of the tensions that had led to the war initially, in part by not blaming one side or the other for the conflict.
a.      The 1st point was open covenants of peace; that is, there were to be no more secret treaties, à la Bismarck and Napoleon III.
 b.     The 2nd point was freedom of the seas, no more unrestricted warfare or even blockades.
c.      The 3rd point was that there would be no tariff barriers among nations.
d.      The 4th point was disarmament “to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety,” and the 5th called for the impartial arbitration of colonial disputes.
e.      The 6th through 13th points addressed individual issues in Europe, including self-determination for Russia and Belgium, the withdrawal of German troops from France, and so on.
f.       Finally, the 14th point was the proposal of the formation of a general association of nations.
4.      Georges Clemenceau, president of France, and, to a lesser extent, David Lloyd-George, prime minister of Great Britain, were not interested in rational or moderate treatment of Germany.
 a.     The French still harboured bitter and humiliating memories from their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871.
b.      A good third of France had been occupied and turned into wasteland by the imperial German army.
c.      Britain had nearly been starved out by German U-boats.
d.      Both politicians promised their respective peoples a harsh peace.
5.      In the end, Wilson, the idealist, was outmaneuvered by Clemenceau and Lloyd George, the realists.
 6.     Germany was not invited to be part of the negotiations at Versailles. Germany diplomats would be summoned only to accept or reject the final document. Germany later charged that the Treaty of Versailles was a diktat—a “dictated peace.”
B.    
1.      Germany lost significant amounts of territory, in part to give neighbors a buffer.
a.      Alsace-Lorraine reverted to France.
b.      The Rhineland, including the Saar Valley, heart of the German coal industry, was to be demilitarized for 15 years, and the French were allowed to exploit its coal deposits.
c.      Much of East Prussia went to help form Poland, though Danzig (Gdansk) remained in German hands—a sore point for both sides.
d.      In effect, Germany lost 13 percent of its population, 15 percent of its coal, 50 percent of its iron ore, and 20 percent of its iron and steel industry.
e.      Its overseas possessions were distributed to Britain, Japan, and the United States.
2.      Later treaties broke up the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, awarded territory to Poland and Italy, and confirmed the independent existence of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia (lumping together Czechs and Slovaks), and Yugoslavia (Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims).
3.         Bulgaria lost territory on the Aegean.
4.         The Ottoman Empire lost all its overseas possessions.
a.      Lawrence of Arabia had promised self-determination to Arabs in Palestine, Iraq, and Syria who rebelled against the Ottoman Empire.
b.      But Versailles made Iraq and Palestine protectorates of Great Britain and Syria a protectorate of France.
5.      The territorial settlement of Versailles and associated treaties only partly fulfilled the goals set for it by the Fourteen Points.
a.      Old, defeated empires were broken up.
b.      Victorious empires (Britain, France) were strengthened.
c.      Some peoples (Poles, Baltic peoples) achieved statehood.
d.      Other peoples were lumped together in uneasy states: Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
6.      The old principle of balance of power outweighed the newer one of national self-determination.
7.      Germany and the Soviet Union had to be counterbalanced, even if that meant lumping together Czechs
and Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims.
8.      Imperialism remained very much alive.
The military settlement was mainly intended to “de-fang” Germany, rather than to disarm the whole world.
1.      The Rhineland was to be occupied by Allied troops for 15 years.
2.      The German army was to be reduced to 100,000 men.
3.      Germany was forbidden to have an air force.
4.      The German navy was forbidden to have U-boats.
The economic provisions of Versailles were likewise intended to stifle German militarism but also to punish and avenge.
1.      Germany’s coal was to be shipped to France.
2.      Germany’s merchant ships, foreign assets, and patents were awarded to the Allies.
3.      Germany was to pay an indemnity of $5 billion and reparations of $32 billion to the Allies, by which the Allies hoped to pay off their war debt.
The War Guilt Clause, Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty, was the ultimate humiliation; it blamed Germany for “causing all the loss and damage...of the war imposed upon them [the Allies] by the aggression of Germany and her Allies.”
1.      The assignment of national blame for war was something new in diplomacy.
2.      In fact, although Germany clearly bore a heavy responsibility, all the great powers had some share in starting the war.
3.      The War Guilt Clause would only exacerbate German resentment of the diktat of Versailles.
Versailles was, at best, an incomplete solution to the problems that had led to the Great War.
1.      It largely ignored what had happened in Russia, establishing a policy among Western governments of simply shunning the new communist regime.
2.      It only partly solved the problem of nationalism and did not address colonialism.
3.      The economic provisions of the treaty were unworkable. The League of Nations was the one real glimmer of hope to emerge from the Versailles Conference. It was chartered in 1919 “to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security.” It had four specific functions: international disarmament, arbitration of international disputes, economic sanctions against aggression, and treaty revision.
But it suffered from two fundamental flaws.
1.      The charter contained no provision for the use of military force against recalcitrant aggressor nations.
2.      Three major powers were not members: Russia was not invited to join; Germany was excluded; and the United States chose not to join.
a.      Wilson campaigned hard to convince Congress to ratify the Versailles Treaty and the league charter.
b.      But Republican senators and congressmen opposed further involvement in European affairs.
The league first convened in Geneva on November 5, 1920.
1.         The first matter on the agenda was international disarmament.
a.      In naval disarmament conferences held in 1921 and 1936, the British, Americans, and Japanese agreed to a ratio of 5:5:3 in capital ships.
b.      The naval conferences also agreed on a moratorium on building new ships until 1931, but they did not address submarines or aircraft.
c.      A 1932 conference on military disarmament could not identify a reasonable formula for determining a country’s land force needs.
a.      This was accomplished with some success when the countries were small and relatively powerless, but larger and more powerful countries tended to simply ignore the international community.
b.      The only recourse for the league was economic sanctions, which were applied unevenly and failed to solve international disagreements.
3.      Finally, the League of Nations offered the possibility of treaty revision, which was used to ease the German situation somewhat in the 1920s and 1930s.
E.      The League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles have been viewed as failures, but the treaty enabled the reconstruction of Europe.
1.      Further, the League of Nations brought about naval disarmament, attacked international traffic in narcotics and prostitution, assisted war refugees, and addressed health and labor conditions.
2.      The league also brought Germany and the Soviet Union back into the brotherhood of nations and set a precedent for global cooperation.
3.      Both the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, however, would be overwhelmed by the economic, social, and political tensions of the 1920s and 1930s.

Questions to Consider:
1.      How should Germany have been dealt with after World War I?
2.         Why did the United States opt out of the Lea

2004—Paper III      Why did Germany and her allies lose the First World War?




From IBO Examination November 2008 —Paper III
Why did the Central Powers lose the First World War?

MARKSCHEME: Candidates could include the following factors: the failure of the Schlieffen Plan which led to a two front war, the use of unrestricted submarine warfare, the entry of the USA, the military weaknesses of Germany’s allies, poor military tactics such as the failure of the March 1918 offensive, internal dissension at home due to hunger and inflation, Allied control of the sea and the leadership qualities of Allied statesmen. The question is not just about Germany so candidates should include the importance of the role of Germany’s allies. [0 to 7 marks] for unsubstantiated generalizations, inadequate general answers or vague, inaccurate and irrelevant comments. [8 to 10 marks] for narrative or descriptive accounts of the First World War, unbalanced answers or implicit or undeveloped arguments. [11 to 13 marks] for narrative framework with explicit focus on the question. Arguments with limited examples and analysis. [14 to 16 marks] for analytical, well focused, relevant, developed and balanced answers focusing on why the Central Powers lost: some may not address all aspects of the question. [17+ marks] for fully analytical and relevant answers with detail, insight, perceptive comments and perhaps different interpretations, which address all aspects of the question.

EXAMPLE ONE:

On the 3rd of March, 1918, Germany and Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsky that effectively confirmed Russia’s defeat and the end of the eastern front. This treaty brought about great change to the course of the First World War. Germany no longer was fighting a war on two fronts and was thus able to transfer millions of troops to the still contested western front, along with heavy artillery and other weaponry, as reinforcements. This enabled the German high command to launch a huge, concentrated offensive on France in the search of breaking the deadlock that had been held since 1914. This offensive, the Spring Offensive, was perhaps the most effective German offensive of the First World War, as it was able to drive further into France than Germany had previously been able to during the entirety of the war; close enough for the Germans to shell Paris. Then, suddenly, coinciding with the arrival of help from America, the allied forces, under the command of General Foch, were able to halt the advance of the German army and even turn the tides against it, pushing it back into Germany to the extent, where, on the 11th of November, Germany was forced into signing an armistice that would sow the seeds for the now infamous Treaty of Versailles. How were the Allied forces able to defeat the Germans when they themselves were on the brink of collapse? Why did the German Blitzkrieg style offensive, which had previously been so effective, suddenly fail? To answer thus, a number of factors need to be considered.

Perhaps one of the most notable causes of the failure of Germany’s Spring Offensive was the strategic incompetence of the commanders of the German army: Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Ludendorff’s central strategy was very simple: concentrate his newly amassed forces and artillery on the weakest parts of the British line, break through and through the power of will drive to Paris and defeat the Allied before the Americans could attack. This form of Blitzkrieg was not a knew concept on the western battlefront, indeed the Schlieffen Plan itself was based on the concept of Blitzkrieg. This similarity causes historian Trevor Wilson to label the Spring Offensive as little more than “a Schlieffen Plan Mark 2.” Wilson remarks that although the concentrated force of the German Army initially overwhelmed the British forces, the longer the Germans battled, the slower their progress became, before eventually their advance ground to a halt. Wilson believes this is due to a number of reasons. First, the German infantry soon outpaced the slow moving artillery in their haste to advance into France. Once beyond the protection of the big guns, the British troops were able to pick off the German troops, causing the Germans casualties that they could not replace. While the German army was slowly decimated, thousands of American troops arrived as reinforcements to the allied nations each week. This meant that as the Spring Offensive became longer, the German army slowly lost more and more troops while the allied nations became more and more powerful in terms of man power, eventually desperately outnumbering the Germans. A second consequence of Ludendorff’s tactics was that soon the German troops were extended a long way into France, meaning that they began to outpace their supply lines. Pretty soon, the British were able to encircle the Germans by reassigning troops from Ypres and thus encircle the German forces and attack their supply lines. This had dire consequences, as by restricting the line of supply, the British were able to stop the Germans receiving the additional bullets, hardware and man-power that they required to compensate for the casualties that their army was suffering and thus continue their momentum into France. As Colonel Henderson famously said: “The line of supply may be said to be as vital to the existence of an army as the heart to the life of a human being.” By cutting off the lines of supply, Britain was able to slowly strangle the German army, depriving it of the resources it needed and thus causing their advance to lose its momentum. A final argument that Trevor Wilson makes concerning why the Germans failed was the lack of direction showed by the German commanders. Wilson describes how Ludendorff, when his initial advance fails, first attacks northwards towards Flanders, then southwards against the fight, each time with the same result: initial success followed by a loss of momentum and an eventual failure. Wilson claims that this is primarily due to Ludendorff relying on this tried and tested Blitzkrieg method that relied more on the quick moving infantry than the slower but more devastating guns. This he describes as lunacy, as the German infantry was being decimated and there were no replacements for the casualties suffered. Thus it can be seen that Ludendorff’s rather obvious strategies and unwillingness to change his strategy allowed the allies to exploit some major strategic flaws of the German offense and consequently stop it in its tracks. There are some flaws to this argument, however. Wilson fails to account for the fact that the British and French were suffering huge casualties as well. Furthermore, the Allied counterattack used very similar tactics to what had been used previously, but it was successful. Also it was unclear what other tactics Ludendorff could have used, considering the War fatigue that was present during 1918. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the flawed strategies used by Ludendorff during the Spring Offensive allowed the allies to, eventually, stop it and counter attack.

A second major cause of the failure of the Spring Offensive of 1918 was the low morale of the German troops. Many of the reinforcements that arrived on the western front at the beginning of the Spring Offensive had been transferred from the eastern front. This meant that many had believed or hoped that the war for them was over, only for them to be required to continue fighting. This caused many of the soldiers to lose the will to fight, as they were unwilling to throw their lives away, having already survived fighting on a completely different, but equally brutal front. Furthermore, as the Germans advanced through France they discovered evidence of how the Allied soldiers were enduring significantly better conditions than the Germans. This was due to the support of the Americans supplying the Allied troops with resources that Germany was not able to get as easily from its own fading industry, trade and disintegrating allies. As a result, when progressing through France, the German soldiers were further demoralised by the fact that the Allied troops, despite being routed, were being treated better than the Germans were. This planted the seeds for rebellion as well as further grew the discontent amongst the German troops. Finally, the spreading of new ideals, specifically socialist and communist ones about the troops turned many soldiers against the idea of a continued war. Many of the German soldiers were pictured interacting with former Russian soldiers following the armistice on the eastern front. This allowed the spread of Bolshevik ideals to reach the Germans, who then carried these new beliefs to the western front and spread them there. This had the effect of allowing the soldiers to realize that they continued to fight for a cause which they no longer believed in and thus there will to fight lessened dramatically. As historian Laura Downs argued, the soldiers no longer believed that the government should be allowed to throw the lives of soldiers away to the damage caused by machine guns purely in order to advance a few miles. This change in beliefs and faith in the command structure had the effect of sowing the seeds of rebellion in the German army that were eventually seen during the Kiel Revolt in October, following the defeat of the German Army. As the historian Jay Winter remarks, Ludendorff’s Spring Offensive did not rely on the power of the German army in its quest for success, but instead on the will of the soldiers. However, as has been already seen, the will of the soldiers had by this time greatly lessened since the patriotic days of the Battle of Langmark and thus by relying on this wavering morale when competing against the new found determination of the Allies born from the desperation stemming from the avoidance of total national annihilation, the offensive could be seen as having been doomed from the start, despite initial success. What is unclear is how great of an effect this loss of morale actually had. The French also had revolts in their army and the British soldiers, especially the colonial ones, were also questioning their loyalties, nevertheless they succeeded in beating back the Germans, implying that the loss of morale was universal as a result of general war fatigue and that other factors may also have caused the failure of Germany’s spring offensive.

Perhaps the foremost reason why Germany lost the First World War in 1918 was that it fell apart internally due to various reasons. First, as more and more farmers were drafted into either the manufacturing of weapons, less and less worked in the fields to supply the Germans with food. Following the famines during the winters of 1916 and 1917 as well as the British blockade preventing Germany from importing food from abroad, widespread starvation that in total caused 750,000 civilian deaths, quickly disillusioned the German populace from the patriotic ideals that had made them initially support the war in 1914. This meant that they no longer supported the war effort, sowing the seeds for a revolution that would blossom during 1918. Living in Munich, this is particularly notable, as it allowed for the declaration of a communist state of Bavaria for a short period of time. These divisions were not just caused by the damaged agricultural sector. Industry had also failed in Germany as they began to run out of the steel and coal needed for the war effort. This meant that the German government had to use desperate measure to gain the steel that it could not get from elsewhere due to the allied forces blockading German trade routes. Hew Strachan tells of how the army melted down 300 year old church bells to be turned into bullets for the war effort. This shows the desperation of Germany to get resources that it didn’t have and this direct attack on the cultural heritage of the German people did nothing to help garner support for the war effort. Similarly, just as the German people was slowly splitting away from the war in favour of peace, so too was the German government fractured and unstable. The orthodox view is that the Kaiser and his band of Junkers made most of the decisions in the German government and that the general population had little say. Historian Niall Ferguson disagrees with this view, as he argues that most of what the Kaiser did was mere posturing and that in effect, in terms of policy making, he was powerless. Indeed, the Kaiser was, if anything, extremely damaging to Germany, as argued by historian Bernd Huppauf, who argues that the Kaiser’s tendency for strong language and rash remarks and speeches made his construct a fragile one. In the words of Niall Ferguson, he was “an embarrassment.” The fragility of the German government went deeper, however. Heinrich Winkler describes how the Reichstag itself was split between socialists such as Friedrich Ebert who opposed the war and aristocratic patriots who supported the war. This divide caused the German government to be increasingly unstable, eventually leading to the 1918 revolution that would confirm Germany’s defeat. This political instability, combined with the alienation of the masses from the war effort, meant that the German commanders not only experienced a loss of support from its own soldiers, but also from the nation it was fighting for. Combining this with the low supply of necessary resources, t becomes clear that the Germans lost the war because their own nation could no longer afford to support the needs of its army. Although the British and French also were on the brink of bankruptcy and political suicide, the arrival of fresh resources and aid from America helped to stave off disaster. This may help to explain why Britain and France avoided collapse, but Germany didn’t (its allies were of no help).

In conclusion, the Germans lost the war for a number of reasons. Some historians argue that the flawed military strategies used by the German commanders stopped the German advance and eventually forced their army into retreat. Others blame the loss of morale as a seed for rebellion that eventually tore apart the German army from the inside out, thus causing them to lose the war. The most convincing argument however, which is argued by the majority of Historians, is that Germany lost the war because internal strife in Germany meant that the nation, economy and society could no longer support the army’s needs, whereas the allies, who were on the brink of disintegration themselves, survived through American aid and could continue to support their armies and thus causing the German defeat.
 


EXAMPLE TWO:

 Although the poem “The Second Coming”, written in 1919 by W.B. Yeats concentrates on describing the future, after the First World War, many of the thoughts in it can also be applied to the past. Phrases such as “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” and “the worst are full of passionate intensity” address some of the reasons and opinions on what finally led to the end of the war and why the Central Powers lost. Like Yeats's poem, this essay will be concerned with arguments such as the weaknesses in the alliances between the Central Powers, including Germany’s change and decay from within and the fact that although Germany may have been lucky in many of its gambles, it never had a good strategy and was driven by thirst for power. However this text will also discuss further arguments not raised in “The Second Coming”, such as the U.S.A. joining the First World War and Germany's success in Russia as a source for disaster.


The Americans joining the war was one of the main factors that lead to the Central Powers being defeated. It is clear that they were a principal reason for the German Collapse, because it is when they joined the war in August 1918, fighting under their own flag but on the Allies’ side, that the Germans’ “Operation Michael” first started to falter. By the middle of August the combined armies of Britain, France and America managed to push their lines all the way back to the Hindenburg Line, were Germans had first started of from in spring. The Americans did not only have good leadership and morale, but were adaptable and learnt fast. At first they were at a disadvantage on account of their out-dated tactics and their lack of experience in this completely new field. To begin with, they were fighting as the Europeans had been fighting in 1914, remaining in open terrain and attacking by trying to cover expanses of free ground. Other armies had since then developed new tactics and strategies adapted to trench warfare. The Americans were soon found to be fighting with new tactics as well as British helmets and French tanks. Lastly, the Allies were clearly in a superior position to the Central Powers due to the immense difference in manpower between the two sides. For, in addition to the Germans losing 2 million men in the war the Americans brought 2 million men to the front as they joined the war. From these facts it is evident that the Americans managed to tip the scales of power within Europe by joining the war and help the Allies in overpowering the Central Powers.

The line “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” in Yeats’ poem evokes another reason for the Central Powers losing the war: the centre of the alliance was not strong enough, could not endure and did not hold together. Germany was let down by its main ally, Austria-Hungary, for while Germany had created a strong and victorious army, that of Austria-Hungary was definitely not strong enough to keep up with the war. The Austro-Hungarian army was divided. On the one hand it was needed at the front, to support Germany but on the other hand at least seven divisions were required within the State to maintain order in the Balkans. An additional source of weakness within the Central Powers was that Germany and its allies often had different aims. For example, Ludendorff was intent on threatening India, Britain’s’ “most sensitive spot”, and therefore commandeered Turkish troops to prepare themselves. However these troops were not in the least interested in such ambitions; they were even willing to turn against Germany if need be, as Halil Pasha a commander in the Caucasus declared, “If necessary I would not hold back from waging war against the Germans”. Other incidents, like the seizure of a Ukrainian grain barge, that was bound for Germany, in Vienna, which lead to Ludendorff nearly calling for Germany to go to war against its “ally”, illustrate the lack of cohesion between the Central Powers. Given this evidence, it is undeniable that there were complications in the alliance between Germany and its allies. At the beginning of the war, Germany’s strength was such that it was able to compensate for its allies weaknesses. However over the course of the war this changed. As Strachan argues by 1918 “Austria-Hungary was truly shackled to Germany, but by the same token Germany itself was now too weak to survive without its ally”.

Returning to “The Second Coming”, Yeats’ claim, “the worst are full of passionate intensity”, reflects the tone of German leaders mind-sets. Although the Germans were often successful in many of their operation and offensives, they were gambling most of the time and driven by thirst for power and annexation. Germany gambled on victory in a two-front war in August 1914 as well as on Austria-Hungary making a reasonable partner for an alliance. The gamble on winning a two-front war was a success in the East, but a tremendous failure regarding the West, due to its predestined logistical deficiencies. Concerning Austria-Hungary, as Niall Ferguson argues, “the gamble […] went wrong”, for Germany had to divert men to the eastern front to bail out its ally more than once. The Germans did not have a strategy, as is confirmed by Ludendorff’s’ erratic and inconsiderate actions throughout the First World War. Strachan points out that for Ludendorff, “If a breakthrough could be effected, then strategy could follow”. One of the many examples for Germany’s lack of strategy is the “Michael Offensive” in 1918. Pushing forwards through the weakest part of French and British lines in the north of France and heading towards Paris, Germany managed to gain an enormous amount of territory within few weeks. It seemed like they were on a straight road to victory. However though Germany had moved forwards so fast, their plan had no hope of victory. The logistics of supplying their army, that was now so far from “mainland” Germany had no chance of working. Besides, it was now very easy for enemy lines to attack them from the sides of their outstretched surge into French territory. Pursuing Yeats’ thought on “passionate intensity”, it is also possible to consider the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which was signed on the 3rd of March 1918, as a reason for the Central Powers to lose the First World War. The fact that Germany’s wildest dreams were realized in defeating Russia was liable to lead to disaster. Evidence for this is that in response to this German victory, the Allies took further steps to strengthen their own forces. In addition to that, parts of the German army were now forced to remain in the East, attending to the newly acquired countries, and could not be put into action at the Western Front, where they were desperately needed. From this it is clear that Germany's Victory against Russia was not their ticket to success, let alone to winning the war.

Having now considered these different arguments that all imply that the Central Powers lost due to various reasons, I think the Central Powers defeat can not be attributed to a single cause. Strachan and Ferguson argue, that the failure lay with German problems concerning strategy and the weakness of the Central Powers alliances. It must however also be acknowledged that factors such as the Allies building up their armies and working in an adaptable and flexible way led to the Central Powers being defeated. In Conclusion I would like to take up Ferguson's position. He claims, “Even when the tide turned in the summer of 1918 it had more to do with errors of German strategy than improvements on the Allied side.”


EXAMPLE THREE:

March 24th, 1918, the Kaiser orders all church bells in Germany to be rung in celebration of the success of Operation Michael, and what seemed like the imminent victory of the Great War. Not even six months later, these same bells, symbols to hundreds of years of undying German morale and culture were melted down in a pitiful attempt for scrapes of ammunition, even though the nation had beat Russia on the Eastern front, ‘freeing’ 1.5 million troops to fight on the West. This will examine why Germany and her allies failed to ring those church bells one final time in a declaration of victory.

One of the major reasons of the Central Power’s defeat was the British Blockade and its damaging effects. It officially began the same day the British joined the war, August 4th 1914, and become progressively worse for nearly 5 years to July 17th 1919; 8 months after the armistice was officially signed. It would later be christened the ‘Starvation Policy,’ by the historian Lord Delvin, in 1975. To understand just how this lead to being one of the foremost causes of Germany’s defeat and why it was called the ‘Starvation Policy’, one has to understand just how dire the situation was. An American correspondent in Berlin during the mass starvations caused by the blockade said, ‘In the case of the youngest women and children the skin was drawn hard to the bones and bloodless. Eyes had fallen deeper into the sockets. From the lips all colour was gone…’ This paints a decent visual of the circumstances, and is acceptable as it was written before America came into the war, however he may have been biased; he may not wanted America to join the war and as a result exaggerated this to show how Germany was suffering and it was ‘unnecessary’ to enter the ever-growing conflict. By the winter of 1916-7, the nation was at its worst and the time is commonly referred to as the ‘Turnip Winter.’ Almost the entire potato crop had run out and severe food rations occurred. By March 1918 Germany was on it’s knees; the general consensus is that 760,000 people starved to death during this period, however some figures reach upwards of 800,000, such as the British historian, Arthur Bryant in his book ‘The conduct of War.’ The economy was under huge stress as well, with an estimated 55% decrease in production, as well as its industry, which relied upon imports to manufacture goods and war items. Germany now relied on digging up pipes and other metals they could find in their own country, as they had no ‘new’ materials being delivered into their borders. This is seen with the amount of tanks the country produced compared to their opponents. Germany produced only about 20, while Britain and her allies produced over 4,000. This lack of industry and raw materials is of great significance as this meant the military leaders had to be cautious of how they used their weapons and resources, making it necessary to make compromises regularly on the fronts, leading to weak defenses in the essential last months of the war. The huge amounts of starvation and the lack of imports were a main cause of the Central Power’s losing the war.

Because of the mass starvation, citizens started to become anxious and opposed to the war, causing extremist parties to flourish in the once proud German state. One of the most important of these was the communist party of the time. They held large demonstrations throughout Germany (namely in Bavaria). The government responded by sending these ‘rebels’ to the front lines to fight in hopes it would punish them and deter future attempts. The leadership made this decision unknowingly of the circumstance it would cause, leading to communist ideals spreading through the army and essentially splitting, not only the military, but also the population at home. This caused the country to become much more frail, as they would have to ‘please’ more than one ‘variety’ of people. Another effect of the blockade was that it laid the foundation for America becoming involved. The inclusion of the American’s on the side of Britain’s empire and France was arguably the final straw in the falling of Germany and her allies. As the situation worsened in Germany due to the Blockade, they decided the only way to combat it was unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic, North Sea, and the English Channel in hopes of deterring and shrinking Britain’s navy. This arguably brought America into the war, specifically the German sinking of the Lusitania. One must recognize however, this was not the only reason of America joining, but at most the final straw for the nation. Other factors such as the ‘Zimmerman Telegram’ and the American loans that were given to the allies, played a large part as well. The inclusion of the United States was devastating for the already weak central powers. America brought 2 million fresh and energetic troops to the western front, while up to that point, that same number of German’s, 2 million had died in the war. Even though the American’s were fairly new to war in Europe, they were a godsend to the allies and were one of the main reasons why Germany lost, as seen with the ‘Hundred Day Offence:’ the last hundred days of the war where the allies lunched a series of offensives that lead to the final defeat of Germany. These series of allied offensives simply would not of been possible without the great number of American troops, however many historians still believe Germany may have lost later due to the growing severity of its domestic problems and lack of nationalism. This could be debunked however, as the new ‘German states’ formed under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, would provide a great amount of food the following year, dampening the effects of starvation, which are often seen as the root cause of the rise of extremist parties, meaning the introduction of the American’s was a major part of their defeat. One can see how the blockade was the primary reason why Germany lost the war, not only because of starvation and dwindling resources, but also of the rise of extremist parties, the split of the German military and society, and the American’s joining the war effort. Germany, however, should not only be focused on; the role and underestimated weakness of the other Central powers were a leading cause of the failure of the war as well. The opening sentence of the film ‘The Go-Between,’ an adaptation of LP Hartley’s book, is striking: ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently here.’ This has become a renowned sentence over the years, and is exceptionally fitting when examining the Central Powers, or more particularly Austria-Hungary. Their nation was poly-nationalistic: a melting pot of several different cultures, ideas, and nationalistic ideals from Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Italians, Ruthenes and Jews living in under one umbrella. The opening sentence is extremely relevant as these different cultures had to change to meet new requirements, dissimilar to their former nations. Even though Germany formed around the same time and was similar in the fact they united many different states, they did not suffer as much as Austria-Hungary in this regard, as Austria-Hungary had exceptionally more diverse cultures and gained this territory by means of aggression. This was always a problem within the relatively young empire, but as time wore on during the Great War, it became greatly detrimental to the war effort and the state of the empire itself. By autumn 1918, the empire was falling apart when Germany needed them most. Although many minorities in Austria-Hungary at the beginning were loyal to the empire, worsening circumstances and misfortunes forced them to reconsider their allegiance. The first of a series of mutinies in the Austrian army was that in 1917 of group of Slovenes. This was followed by other groups and led to the decent of the army and the worsening weakness of the nation. As Bismarck said years before, ‘All treaties between great states cease to be binding when they come in conflict with the struggle for existence.’ By the end of the war, Austria-Hungary’s domestic problems lead it to putting the alliance with Germany on the sidelines. As seen when Austria-Hungary commandeered a ship headed to Bavaria with precious food on board. This escalated already strong tensions between the two countries and made the two ‘allies’ come nerve-rackingly close to war. All of this meant that the nation would not fight nearly as hard as they did during the beginning of the war, while Germany needed them to help them in the last months when the American’s got involved. One must wonder if Austria-Hungary stayed strong, would victor would be very different. Even though America were never ‘allies’ of Britain or France during the war, the now growing ‘Triple Entente’ were very close, a stark contrast to that of the relationships between the Central Powers, a very important reason why they failed to win the first world war. The Ottoman Empire suffered a similar history, but was much weaker as their empire was already starting to fall apart before WW1. This meant they were of little help to the main power, Germany. However, the Ottoman Empire did keep Britain busy and was an important buffer in the Middle East, for a possible offence from the South-East of Europe. Germany’s and her allies did not cooperate very well and were very weak, offering little to the German’s fight, leading to the loss of the war. The Schlieffen Plan was undoubtedly a severe failure for the Central powers and led to the failure of the Great War. Several historians argue that the Schlieffen Plan was infeasible for its time, in particular, B.H. Liddell, and was why it failed. He states that it would have been possible in the next generation when air power could paralyse an army and fast mechanical vehicles could encircle the enemy much quicker than traditional war tactics in the early 1900s. Some historians, such as David Fromkin argue that the Schlieffen Plan had too many changes made by Moltke prior to the war to be successful, however recent close inspection by A. Palmer on recently released documents, show that the plan was flawed from the start, and no sizeable changes were made prior to the war. One of the main flaws of the plan were the unrealistic expectations of speed and the reliance almost exclusively on rapid movement. This is backed by the British historian Sir John Keegan: when summarizing the plan, he states that there was an unreasonable expectation that the Right Wing of the German army could fight through Belgium and the Netherlands arrive to Paris on schedule. This is one of the fundamental reasons of why the plan failed, and as a result the Central Powers lost. Along with this, however, the Russians mobilized much quicker than anticipated, pulling troops away from the Western Front to the Eastern Front, further slowing down the advance in the West and eventually creating a stalemate. This stalemate created a severe lack of resources for Germany and her allies as they had to constantly supply an army with troops that would die quickly and military resources that would be expelled rapidly. Although both sides had negative effects from this, such as lower morale, Germany suffered considerably worse due to its limited resources, while Britain and its allies had almost the entire world to supply them, further depleting Germany’s precious food, raw materials, and infantry resources, making it much easier to lose the war.

When the plan did fail, the leadership of the time, Hindenburg and Ludendorff failed to react until near the end of the war. Even though they desperately wanted to break through the stalemate, they could not create a military tactic that would create a hole in the line. The passage of time of the stalemate only played further to the defeat of Germany, due to its lack of domestic resources and the small industries of its allies. A contrast to the British Empire’s abundance of materials. Even when the American’s joined and broke the stalemate, Ludendorff stated that they did not have a strong strategy, only to go as far into France as they could and as quick as they could. This had severe problems. This lead the army to taking over areas that had little importance and thus made it null to have and an exceptional waste of resources. Also, once the army got so far in, the supply line could not keep up due to the long distances, essentially deserting platoons in the middle of France causing a less organized and supplied military resulting in the loss of the war. These examples clearly show how the leadership of the time were anything but competent. It was not only Ludendorff and Hindenburg however, the other leaders in the Central Power’s are also to blame: i.e. von Kühlmann and Hoffmann of Germany, Czernin of Austria-Hungary, and Mehmed Talat of the Ottoman Empire. All these leaders signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a treaty that would be labelled as their ‘Greatest achievement, and their greatest failure.’ The main result of the treaty was the land of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland being given to Germany and Austria-Hungary. This was seen as a great success in the eyes of the leaders and the people, however it was short lived. One of the major effects of the treaty was the impact it had on the western allies. Living in Germany, and seeing the Haimhausen war memorial every day, one notices that the loses of the German’s became more and more severe as time went on. At the time, Britain and her allies were losing morale and desperately wanted the war to be over, however this treaty was shock to them. It served as a warning to what would come if the Central Powers won the war. This was seen with the raising exponential rise of deaths of the nations, signalling that Britain and her allies were ready to do anything to avoid losing the war and dealing with the terrifying German’s demands. This made it increasingly difficult to win and fight, something that the German’s believed would have been easy with their ‘freed’ troops, from the East. Even though the decision to take this territory from Russia had a huge impact on the morale, and eventually how hard the western allies fought, it also had effects on it’s military. The Central Power’s that signed the Treaty for all of this land, failed to recognize that they would have to use significant force to keep them at bay, making what should have been about 1.5 million troops moving from the East to the West, much smaller. This was disastrous for the German army; not only did they have to keep its new territory, but also fight and win on the West, spreading its resources even thinner then it should have been if they decided to not take as much land. The leaders of the Central Powers made some very large mistakes that significantly added to their future loss of the war.

There was no one reason why the Central Powers failed to win the war, but a culmination of many varied points. From huge domestic problems, lack of resources, weak allies and alliances, to poor leadership and military strategies. ‘Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of fuel, to the last beat of the heart.’ (Baron Manfred von Richtofen). Germany and her allies tried their best and fought until they could no more, and for that it is important to give them even a small amount of gratification.

EXAMPLE FOUR:

“Whoever has access to the railways wins the war”. Although AJP Taylor’s statements may no longer hold merit this statement was true about the First World War. This was clearly seen after the battle of Amiens where the German advance during operation Michael was stopped. This was Germany's last gamble and the last hope for the Central powers to win the war. Germany had lost the battle for the factories as the allies had 4000 tanks and they only had 20. They lost the battle for leadership as the allied generals were united under Foch and Ludendorff was crazy and he was supposed to be leading their forces. The Central powers also had no clear aims, they were in disarray, whereas the Allies had a clear aim defeat Germany. This essay will show that the Central powers lost the war because they did not win the battle of the factories, they lost their last gamble operation Michael, they lost the battle of leadership and the Central powers were also in disarray caused them to lose the war.

“We must strike at the earliest moment before the Americans can throw strong forces into the scale. We must beat the British.” Ludendorff in this statement shows the desperate situation that the central powers are in at the moment, and that the Michael offensive was their last hope. Three days after the offensive had been in action the Kaiser ordered al the church bells to be rung in victory, because of how much land the Germans had taken in such a short amount of time. However later in the war these bells that had been there for hundreds of years would be melted down for ammunition for the war. Ludendorff decided that this was the only option that Germany had to possibly win the war; However what the offensive did was spread the German lines very thin, thus if a weak link in the front was attacked then the rest of the front would be cut off and would not receive any supplies. Also the land that the Germans were taking was not of strategic value, the Allies did not put up a very strong defence to the Germans offensive. The end of the German advances came at Amiens, this was a main transportation hub for the Allies. After this the and with the arrival of the 2 million American soldiers the Germans lost ground fast and ultimately lost the gamble that the placed on their victory of operation Michael. In the Beginning of the war the German army was the most elite, best equipped and best trained. To be able to achieve this they needed factories that they had, but by the end of the war Germany had fallen behind in the race for new weapons to turn the tide in the war. The Allies however had continued to build up their factories and invest in new weapons for the war. This is clearly shown in the number of Tanks that each side had. The allies had 4000 tanks and the Germans only had 20. Tanks would be a deciding factor in winning the war as they gave advancing soldiers something to hide behind and they could advance on enemy lines and incite fear. However the tanks in the First World War were quite slow (could only travel 4mph) and when armour-piercing ammo was invented there effectively in battle was diminished. But the psychological affect that it had on the German soldiers to see a large metal behemoth coming towards you incited fear within the German ranks. Without any proper tank threat the Germans could not properly counter this weapon of the British. The fact that the Germans could not counter this was a main reason why they lost the war because of the psychological factor that these metal Goliaths had on the German troops.

When looking at the battle of leadership it was clear that it was only a matter of time that the Central powers would lose the war. The man in charge of the German military command was Ludendorff, and for the allies Ferdinand Foch was in control of the military. Foch had the generals united under him, this means that the allies had a clear leadership structure for how their supreme command was set up. The Central powers had Ludendorff in charge of their armies, a man who was often described as crazy. The allies under the leadership of Foch had one clear aim, “Defeat Germany”. Whereas the central powers did not have a clear aim. After the treaty of Brest-litovsk the Germans annexed 1/3 of the Russian territory, this however made Ludendorff leave over 1 million troops in these territories to subdue the populace. When the allies realized that this is what Germany would to all of them if they would win the war. This gave the Allies one clear goal “ defeat Germany to end the war”. In addition the central powers were in disarray. Austria Hungary in 1918 commandeered a German grain boat that was going through Vienna, this act of desperation shows that the Central powers would turn on themselves and fight each other even while they are still fighting the Allies. After the incident Ludendorff almost declared war on A-H, Germanys only ally. This action shows that the Central powers were willing to go to war with each other for their own needs when they should be allies. The central powers by the end of the war were not allies but they were a mess that would be easily defeated by the Allies because of superior leadership from Foch and the fact that they had an aim and were fighting together and not with one another.

In conclusion the central powers only have themselves to blame for the loss of the Great War. If they would have held together at the end in 1918 they might have been able to repel the advance of the allies. Also the treaty of brest-litovsk was a disaster for the Central powers, because they annexed so much land that they did not need Germany needed to leave over 1 million troops in these lands when these men could have been fighting against the allied offensive. If the central powers had not been oblivious to the fact that tanks would become a decisive factor in warfare and built more of them then they might have been able to defeat the allies but they did not do this, they disregarded the moral shock that this would have on the men and how important tanks would be in battle. They also needed a goal a major target to focus on like the allies with defeating Germany. The Central powers lost the war to their own incompetence, lack of leadership and the fact that they did not build enough tanks. They only have themselves to blame for the loss of the “war to end all war”.


EXAMPLE FIVE


By the end of March, church bells rang throughout Germany in anticipation of victory. Russia had already been decisively beaten and, with 44 divisions moved to the West, Germany, Austro-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria together had for the first time outnumbered the Brits and French. How then, could the central powers be forced to sue for peace within eight months? The answer lies within their alliances; the central powers were divided both internally and externally.  

Austro-Hungary was an empire made up of thirteen countries: many of which demanded self-determination, a concept supported by the enemies. As Hew Stracken argues, this did not only pose a threat to the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s survival in general but also crippled their army. Men who did not even want to live in this country were definitely not ready to die for it. Even the Austrian and Hungarian kingdom disagreed throughout the war, and the Hungarian’s did not import food into Austria. This caused for Austria to do the unspeakable in March 1918, proving that the central powers were not only divided domestically. In this month, Austro-Hungary stopped a Germany ship on the Danube and confiscated their food supplies although their ally Germany at the time was also starving. Needless to say Germany was infuriated. Such quarrel between allies only weakened forces further instead of creating a strong system of support like the one Britain and France had with the advantage of the United States’ fresh batch of resources and extra men. This internal division within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which spread throughout the front as well as their unfaithful behaviour towards their allies added to the burdens that the central powers had to carry compared to the allies, ultimately resulting in the loss of world war one.  

The Ottoman Empire on the other hand faced similar issues to Austro-Hungary as its thirty-two provinces were divided, many of which did not want to be part of the Ottoman Empire apparent in the fact that there was the Young Turk revolution in 1908. Although, the Ottoman Empire had held itself up despite the revolts in 1908, in 1912 they were once again destabilized through Italy’s invasion of Libya. In fact, Christopher Clark argues in his book “The Sleepwalkers” that this specific invasion caused for the collapse of the Sick Man of Europe. The Ottoman Empire’s troops were focused on the Russian front; such that once the treaty of Brest Litovsk was signed between Germany and Russia on the 21st of March 1918 they basically retreated from the war in general. Instead of helping their allies Germany and Austro-Hungary at the Western front once the Eastern front had been defeated, the Ottoman Empire sent their troops to Baku. In June 1918, while the central powers were still fighting Britain, U.S and France the Ottoman Empire was engaged in the Battle of Baku miles away from the Western Front. This lack of support from the Ottoman Empire caused for very little resources for Germany and Austro-Hungary who were still fighting, thus six months after Russia had been defeated and the Ottoman Empire had more or less retreated from the war the central powers were forced to plead for an armistice.  

Last but not least it was the German’s who experienced trouble at home as well as causing trouble amongst their own allies. With the treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed the German morale was through the roof, Kaiser Wilhelm rang bells of victory and the troops were convinced the war was soon to be over. However, due to the 35% of land mass that had been taken away from Russia in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk both troops and government were unhappy. Instead of being sent home, 1.5 million troops had to stay in Russia in order to occupy the land that had been taken from Russia, which had been battered by the war. In addition to this Germany was mostly governed by the SPD at the time, the Socialist Party, who was against taking land from Russia who was a “fellow socialist” country. This caused large controversy amongst Germans back home, as well as a sink in morale. Furthermore, the army and the government started becoming increasingly distant, as the army was busy occupying land whilst the government disagreed with this point in the treaty. This issue crippled Germany and sure enough in November 1918 Hindenburg and Ludendorff appealed for an armistice as they realized that the central powers could not possibly win the war. The Germans had also weakened their ally the Ottoman Empire during this period, as in an attempt to destabilize India. Kaiser Wilhelm had called for Jihad throughout the Middle East and Asia. Considering many of the countries under the rule of the Ottoman Empire were Muslim, this act caused for chaos and rebellion in the Ottoman Empire kicking this collapsing country whilst it was down. Consequently in the summer of 1918 when it became obvious to the Germans that they were going to lose, the Ottoman Empire was busy with its own battles and the maintenance of its Empire and was unable to help the central powers win the war. 

In conclusion the central powers lost the war because they had several domestic issues such as political and national segregation, which spread quickly to the troops at the front as well. And in addition to this weakness they betrayed each other and weakened one another to create benefits for their own countries that ultimately caused everyone’s loss.

From IBO Examination 2004—Paper III Why did Germany lose the War?

March 5th 1918 was a decisive day and should have been the ground stone for German victory. On this day the treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed and through that Germany and her allies had effectively won the war against Russia. Through this Germany gained 80 % of Russia’s industry, 35 % of Russia’s land and 30 % of the population and it seemed to the whole world as if Germany and her allies in the end would succeed and against all odds, win this war. source for such numbers? It even went so far that Kaiser Wilhelm announced a national day of celebration to celebrate the German victory, although the war was not even over. So how was it possible that in the end, after the 100 day offensive launched by the allies on the 8th August 1918, Hermann Müller and the colonial minister Johannes Bell were the ones who, in the name of Germany, had to sign the Treaty of Versailles on the 28th June 1919 and thus had to agree to a horrendous amount of reparations set by the victorious triple entente, when by the end of March 1918 it seemed as if the German victory was imminent?

Although superficially it appeared that Germany was fine and that she was about to win the war, Germany faced considerable domestic problems. The British blockade began on the August 4th 1914, the same day when Britain declared war on Germany, and by March 1918 the German economy was crippled. It had decreased by  55 % and it is estimated that 760 000 civilians starved to death in Germany.  In the winter of 1918, strict rations were placed on men, who were only rationed six ounces of bread per day, one egg every two weeks and milk was virtually nonexistent. This winter was commonly referred to, as the Cabbage and Turnip Winter and it gives a clear example of how deadly effective the British blockade was. Furthermore, the severity of shortage in Germany can be expressed by the fact that church bells. which had been ringing for centuries where taken away from villages and melted down so that weapons and ammunition could be produced. Metal pipes were dug up and melted down for bullets. The whole country was starting to feel the British blockade this thus sapped the moral of surviving, causing huge communist demonstrations to ripple through the country. The government could not tolerate this and started sending all strikers to the war front, as a form of punishment, however, these actions had a catastrophic impact of which no one had though of. The 3000 strikers, that were sent to the war front infested their surrounding men with communist ideas and this was not something one wanted to have, as the men in the front trenches were required to fight and not suddenly start a communist way of thinking. These 3000 men caused huge damage to the army and played their part in why Germany lost. Through this example one can see how the British blockade not only caused enormous shortages of food and raw materials but how the blockade also led to a division in Germany and in the army. By 1918 the blockade was starting to achieve its utmost damage and it played a huge role in the defeat of Germany and her allies.

It is also arguable that Germany lost the war as early as 1879, when she signed the secret alliance with Austria-Hungary. Not only did this tie Germany into fighting a two front war against France and Russia but, as the Austrian-Hungarian empire was so weak and fragile it was more of burden than a help to Germany. There were as many as eleven different nationalities in Austria-Hungary and nationalism played an important role for each one of them. Of these eleven ethnic groups, six were Slavic and they wanted independence from Austria-Hungary; however the government would not allow this and because of this there were frequent disagreements. Government attempts to introduce or improve minority language or culture this drew oppositions from the other nationalities including Germans and this made it very hard for the government to reform. If the government focused to much on one nationality then it provoked all the others and because of that Austria-Hungary was in no way ready to fight a war. No evidence so far that this directly led to German defeat in 1918 This made it vital that Germany send troops and its support to Austria-Hungary, as otherwise it would easily be defeated by the Russian and Italian troops. The need for help was so great that in April 1918 Austria stole the food of a ship that was travelling down the Danube to Germany in order to feed Vienna. When Ludendorff and the Kaiser heard of this they were short before declaring war on their ally Austria-Hungary. To make matters worse the new Kaiser in Austria had started negotiations with the France, which caused the Germans to be furious and the Austrian-Hungarian troops were starting to lose to Italy. Now Germany had to spare more men and send these to aid Austria-Hungary and thus had less troops to fight against France and Britain. From the start, Austria-Hungary only muddled Germany into a greater crisis. They drew them into a two front war, needed their troops and weapons and above all even stole their food supplies. With such a weak ally Germany simply had no chance in winning this war.

At 4:45 in the morning, on the March 21 1918 Ludendorff launched Operation Michael and started bombarding and attacking a 40-mile front. After nearly half a million troops had been successfully transported from the eastern-front to the western-front, Germany for the first time, was superior in numbers and Ludendorff saw his chance in breaking the deadlock. There were 7 500 British casualties from the bombardment alone the storm troopers which followed, ventured deep into enemy lines. In the matter of a few days more land was taken then during the three years of stalemate. However, Ludendorff made decisive mistakes and through this lost the German chance of a victory. Ludendorff had no real plan, his answer to the questions of what his plan consisted of was: “We chop a hole, and the rest follows”. Yet the “rest that follows” had no clear direction. Suddenly Ludendorff wanted to capture Amiens and Compiénge and the German 5th Army continued fighting for each bit of ground. Eventually, Ludendorff noticed that his offensive had departed of its main goals but by then it was too late. The supply lines were already too long and the German army terribly exhausted. Had Operation Michael focused on its original goal, taking Paris, and if the troops and not simply advanced but had actually waited for the rest of the army and established sufficient supply lines then a German victory could have possible been the outcome but as this was not the case all the offensive did was break the deadlock, act a start to the Hundred days and kill 177 739 allied and 239 000 German forces.

When on August 8th 1918, known as the Black Day, the German forces started surrendering this was due to a number of reasons, partially due to own mistakes and partially due to sophisticated tactics of the allied forces, for example creating the British blockade. Although, in March 1918 German victory had seemed imminent to the outside world, Germany had faced severe shortages and bottomless interior problems and out of the perspective of many Germans victory had not appeared definite or even reachable.

At 05:00 AM on the 11th November 1918, the Armistice was signed in a railway carriage near Compiegne, France, marking the end of the First World War – a victory for the allies, Britain and France, and a humiliating and painful defeat for the Central Powers, whom, at the time, consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria. The Armistice enforced a cease-fire, and its terms included the Central Powers handing over their fleets, evacuating all occupied territories and annulling all of the peace treaties made during the course of the war. With this and the later agreed Treaty of Versailles of 1919 along with other country specific peace treaties of St. Germain, Sèvres, and Trianon, the Central Powers accepted full responsibility for the war, and fully declared their surrender – Germany and her allies had lost the First World War. Although there are many factors which need to be considered when analysing a momentous event in European - and even World - history, for the purpose of this essay my interpretation of the Central Powers’ loss of the First World War is centred around the argument that it was mainly due to a lack of balance – a theme which relates to many of the causing factors of the end of the Great War, such as the relationships between the countries that made up the Central Powers, the ratio of manpower between the Central Powers and the Allied powers, and, as the country hit hardest by the end of the war, Germany’s inability to balance her economy between her home front and her frontline – an imbalance which was worsened further by the Allied Naval Blockade. Basically, the Central Powers lost the war because of a lack of balance, and, as German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “the lack of balance (among friends) is a fault that cannot be reprimanded without becoming incurable.” A factor which contributed greatly to the lack of balance that caused the Central Powers to lose the war was the lack of balance that arose between the alliance members themselves. An example of this is the difference in war aims of the countries – in this case, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Whereas the Allied Powers, Great Britain, France and Russia, all shared similar war aims which were based on preventing German hegemony (leadership or dominance) and expanding their empires by gaining control of German or Austro-Hungarian territory – in France’s case, they wanted to regain Alsace Lorraine, a territory which was lost to the Germans after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. The Central Powers, however, were not so united over their war aims – Germany’s war aims were very ambitious and territorial – she wanted to attain Mitteleuropa along with world dominance and to be seen as a symbol of power, whereas her allies, Turkey (or the Ottoman Empire at the time) and Austria-Hungary had their sights set on different things – Turkey wanted a Turkish Union, in which all Turkic speakers were united under one rule, and Austria-Hungary wanted to restabilise their country after years of turmoil, with many clashing nationalities living under one leadership regime. It is clear to see that the allies were not in agreement on what their main war aims were, and it can therefore be interpreted that there was a lack of balance between the three main members of the Central Powers – due to their inconsistent and incoherent war aims they were unable to work collaboratively to achieve one united aim – this weakened their strength as an alliance against the Allied Powers, who clearly
wanted the same things when it came to preventing German expansion, and contributes as a reason to why Germany and her allies, the Central Powers, lost the First World War.
The lack of balance between the Central Powers themselves can also be substantiated when the sizes of their armies are observed – there is a clear lack of balance between Germany’s mobilized forces, which, between 1914 and 1918, consisted of 11 million men. Compared to Turkey’s offering of 2.85 million men, Austria-Hungary’s contribution of 7.8 million men and Bulgaria’s force of 1.2 million men, it is clear to see that there was a lack of balance in the military force in the Central Powers. This effectively means that the other members of the Central Powers were reliant on Germany’s army to guide them towards victory, and, with weak allies, it is understandably clear that the lack of balance of power between the allies was another contribution to the Central Powers’ surrender in 1918. There was even a lack of balance between the various members’ surrenders from the war – due to their wanting of different things and the imbalance of force that they had to offer, the Central Powers crumbled apart – as the famous Irish poet William Yeats wrote, “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.” This is reflected in the various members of the Central Powers’ withdrawals from the war, which all occurred at different times, reflecting the lack of balance of union between the four major powers – Bulgaria withdrew in September 1918, followed by Turkey in October. Austria- Hungary signed an armistice on November 3rd, 1918, which left Germany to fight for herself, a task that she simply could not do, leading to her withdrawal through the November 11th armistice – the Central Powers had surrendered, and part of the reason as to why this happened was the lack of balance between the four members of the alliance – they wanted different things, and did not have equal military forces. Another contribution to the lack of balance which, in my opinion, caused Germany and her allies to lose the First World War was the imbalance in terms of the manpower between the two armed camps – the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. When the sizes of the two armies are observed, it is clear to see that the balance was set in the favour of the Allied Powers, who, in 1914, consisted of three major world powers – Britain, France and Russia. In the case of Germany, the only ‘world power’ in her alliance, however, it is clear to see why some historians say that her allies “hardly inspired confidence.” Compared to Russia’s 12 million, France’s 8.4 million and Britain’s 8.9 million mobilized troops, the Central Powers were at a severe disadvantage. When Britain’s colonial forces are added into the running total as well, it is no surprise that some historians, such as John Keegan, argue that the Central Powers’ troops set them at a clear drawback to their enemies. Although Russia’s Bolshevik revolution and subsequent withdrawal from the war in 1917 evened out the balance between the two armed camps, the USA’s entry into the war in the same year after the Lusitania attack and the Zimmerman Telegram (both of which Germany can be held responsible for initiating) re-established the imbalance in the favour of the Allies, who gained another major world power adding 4.4 million troops to their war effort. In the terms of world powers fighting in the war, it was now 3 against 1. This made Germany and her Allies’ loss of the war a very likely prospect, and it was all due to an imbalance – in this case,
between the military power of the two armed camps. There was a lack of balance present between the Allies and the Central Powers which set the Central Powers at a clear disadvantage – this imbalance was only ever intensified by the USA’s joining of the war – the Central Powers were clearly outnumbered, which provides another reason as to why the theme of lack of balance is to blame for Germany and her Allies’ loss of the First World War. Adding to the list of factors which caused an imbalance in the First World War and ultimately led to the Central Powers’ loss is the lack of balance that existed in the state of Germany – what used to be a prosperous state was turned into a chaotic one by the war. In Germany, there was a lack of communication between the military forces and the government, causing confusion between what was happening on the front line and what was happening on the home front. Teamed with the lack of communication and co-operation between the members of the Central Powers, Germany was in a very unstable state. This was worsened by the Allied Naval Blockade, which started as early as 1914 and inhibited German access to the seas, her main source of import for foodstuffs and nitrates, which were essential for fertilizing the soil in order to produce home grown crops. The French also blocked off Austria-Hungary’s access to the Adriatic. This highlights the Allied Powers’, superiority over Germany and the Central Powers proving as another reason why they lost the war. In hindsight, the Allied Naval Blockade “crippled” the German economy – German imports were 55% below their pre war levels, and the value of her trade with the USA fell from 68 million in December 1914 to 10 million in January 1915 – in the space of a mere two months, Germany’s economy fell to practically nothing. This, teamed with the obvious lack of resources leading to an average daily calorie intake of 1,100 calories, took a massive toll on the people of Germany as well as the troops fighting for their country. Through the “hunger blockade”, as some historians aptly call it, 800,000 Germans died – this figure excludes the death toll of those who were affected by the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 on top of their malnutrition. It is clear to see here that the British Blockade deeply affected both the German public and the troops, leading to food riots and calls for the Central Powers to surrender. War weariness was really setting in in the German state, and they just couldn’t go on – as a Marxist historian would say, the war is like a fire – it needs oxygen (in Germany’s case, resources) to keep it going. Unfortunately, due to the Allied Naval Blockade, Germany did not have any access to the resources to maintain the fire that was their war effort – there was a severe lack of balance of resources and economic distribution, which led to her and her allies’ surrender and subsequent loss of the First World War. Although there has been presented a clear argument as to why a general lack of balance was to blame for Germany and her allies’ loss of the war, some historians may argue otherwise. As the American writer Henry Miller once said, “whatever needs to be maintained through force is doomed” – some historians, such as Martin Gilbert, would agree with this, arguing that Germany and the Central Powers were doomed from the start of the war. They would justify this by saying that Germany’s failed initiation of the Schlieffen Plan led to a war on two fronts which she couldn’t possibly fight, and, teaming
this with her weak allies and her small navy, she was doomed from the moment she declared war on the 1st August 1914. This, however, can be disproved by the fact that, even at the start of 1918, “from the German point of view, the prospects for both victory and defeat were delicately balanced” - they still thought they could be victorious. This was mainly due to their success in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March 1918 following Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. The loss of a major power made it easier for Germany to reach potential success – as Hew Strachan stated in his book The First World War, “victory on the east meant that German troops could be massed on the western front.” The Germans then subsequently launched their Spring Offensive in 1918, which was also known as ‘The Kaiser’s Battle’. This was their last chance, as the lack of balance mentioned previously was mounting and the Germans needed to advance in order to continue on in their war effort. Although they successfully advanced 60 miles, they were then confronted by the Allies, who tore them apart and pushed them back – their gamble had failed. The Germans had lost their will to fight. They had to surrender. It can therefore be argued that the Germans weren’t doomed from the start of the war as some historians may argue – the lack of balance only came into play during the war, and their main moment of loss was during their Spring Offensive, which was their last gamble after the lack of balance had affected Germany and her allies so detrimentally. It was, therefore, the lack of balance during the war that led to the Central Powers’ loss of the First World War. After crucial analysis of the Central Powers’ loss of the First World War, it can be concluded that, although there are numerous contributing factors, the lack of balance in various areas was to blame for Germany and her allies’ surrender in 1918. The difference in war aims meant that there was a lack of balance when it came to what the Central Powers actually wanted, and, when compared to that fact that the Allied Powers had clear, defined war aims, this set Germany and her allies at a clear disadvantage. The lack of balance was also worsened by the unequal distribution of arms between the two rival camps – the Allied Powers had significantly more troops, a number that was only increased by the USA’s joining of the war. Additionally, the lack of balance of resources which was created by the Allied Naval Blockade induced a severe case of war weariness in the states of Germany and her allies, topping off the fact that the lack of balance was to blame for Germany and her allies’ loss. Contrary to some historians’ beliefs that Germany and her allies were doomed from the start of the war, the lack of balance was only really established during the war when the Allied Powers’ actions through their blockade and superior manpower imposed detrimental consequences upon the Central Powers – in fact, Germany were close to winning the war after the 1917 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In conclusion, the lack of balance in various areas was to blame for Germany and her allies’ loss of the war and therefore the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, which, in hindsight, some historians called “an armistice for 20 years” before the outbreak of World War Two in 1939.



On 24 March 1918, three days after the launch of Operation Michael, Kaiser Wilhelm ordered every church bell in Germany to ring in celebration of the Operation’s successes on the Western front – a German victory was far from inconceivable. In August 1918, the German war machine’s efforts has stagnated; morale was lower than it had ever been during the conflict; and the German army supplies had become so meagre that those church bells that had celebrated the proximity of a German victory army barely six months previously were being melted down to produce bullets for the front line. By the end of October, Germany’s allies had all capitulated, and Germany followed suit in November. This radical turnaround of fortunes, and the reason why Germany and her allies lost the war, was due to and German successes and a lack of coherence and organisation of the Central Powers’ war effort compared to that of the Allied Powers. The moment each nation lost the war is considered to be their signing of their respective armistice, as these armistices were not contested and each resulted in a peace treaty that clearly defined that respective nation as the vanquished. 

German successes in 1918 on the Eastern front, culminating in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March of that year, led to the significant weakening of her war effort. After the February revolution, Russia continued hostilities for the “defence of the Russian homeland”- Brusilov attempted to repeat his triumph of 1916 with a major offensive on the Galician front to which the Germans successfully counterattacked, resulting in huge Russian defeats. The Russian defeat by the successful German offensive culminated in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which resulted in Russia’s having to pay six billion marks in reparations, as well as its ceasing of Riga, Lithuania, Livonia, Estonia, the Ukraine and some of White Russia to their adversary. Rather than securing a German victory, the German forces’ successes on the Eastern Front resulted in increased vigour on the Allied Powers’ parts to defeat their enemy given their fears for their fate at the hands of the Germans, should they lose and be forced to sign a treaty like Brest-Litovsk, as Churchill states in his memoirs. Furthermore, the German successes in Russia led to an influx of communist propaganda into Germany, increasing support for revolution into the German army and population1. The communist Russian example proved infectious; in January 1918 the German High Command faced major and prolonged strikes in Kiel and Berlin; martial law was then declared in Hamburg and Brandenburg2. By August of that year, communist propaganda had infiltrated the German army to the extent that half of the losses of soldiers in that month were through desertion. Additionally, the harsh terms of Brest-Litovsk led to dissent among socialists in the German government which undermined the government’s cohesion and support for the war. After German humiliation by other delegates, angered at the harsh terms of Brest-Litovsk, at the Socialist Conference in 1917, the Reichstag passed a Peace Resolution, voiced demands for reforms in the electoral system, and for the armed forces to be placed under the Reichstag’s control3. All of these effects of Germany’s success in defeating Russia clearly
led to the weakening support for the war in all levels of German society, resulting in the weakening of her war effort. 

German successes on the battlefield were not limited to those on the Eastern Front, and, like those successes, the ones on the Western Front also led to the weakening of the German war effort as well as the signing of the armistice of 11 November. The initial stage of Operation Michael, launched on 21 March, saw German troops advance as far as forty miles into French territory; while ground was successfully gained, this feat resulted in the weakening of the German advance. Morale decreased as German soldiers saw excellent French and British supply to their troops as they advanced into French territory. The German front line reached the wastelands of the Somme battlefields, over which the infantry could hardly advance, the German progress thus inhibited. Supply lines became hugely overextended, as artillery could not keep up with the pace of the successful infantry advance; German communication was similarly overexerted, making the continuation of the offensive movement nearly impossible. Thus, as a result of the successes in gaining ground, the offensive movement stagnated, and began suffering heavy losses. The German Army was unable to recover from these losses before American reinforcements arrived, and its subsequent defeats during the Allied Hundred Days Offensive resulted in the armistice in November 1918. Clearly, then, German success in battle in 1918 resulted in Operation Michael’s failure, after which the German Army was unable to recover and suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the Allies, their losses culminating in the armistice of 1918. 

It is often argued, however, that the British blockade of German ports was the reason for its defeat in 1918, because it crippled the German economy, and led to widespread starvation on the home front. By 1915, German imports had fallen by 55% from pre-war levels, and the blockade had cut off fertiliser supplies that were vital to German agriculture. By the winter of 1916, essential foodstuffs had become so scarce that many subsisted on a diet of ersatz products, causing looting and food riots. Official statistics attributed nearly 763,000 wartime deaths in Germany to starvation caused by the Allied blockade4. However, according to revisionist historians, the German capitulation was precipitated on the Western front rather than among the populace on the home front. Political leaders and those that controlled the army had not capitulated before 1918, even though the situation on the home front in 1918 was comparable to that in preceding years, indicating this was not the reason for capitulation in 1918. Furthermore, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 1918 involved Russia surrendering territory containing about 90% of Russia’s coal resources, 50% of her heavy industry and 30% of her heavy industry, as well as the Ukraine, which was the “bread basket” of Russia; Germany was thus better equipped in 1918 regarding these products than it had been before, indicating this is not the reason for capitulation. The Treaty of Bucharest of May 1918, whereby Romania yielded up control of her oil production and grain surpluses, completed Germany’s acquisition of a vast, self-sufficient eastern empire that could supply the German populace with more essential produce, suggesting further the blockade did not cause Germany’s signing of the armistice as Germany had now acquired a new region from which it could gain resources. In fact, the mutinies in October 1918, followed by widespread rebellion (workers and soldier’s councils seizing power; Bavaria declaring herself an independent state) that led to Groener - the head of the Oberstekriegsamt - realising that revolution could only be avoided by signing an armistice, were caused by the revelation that their armies were on the brink of collapse to the German people in October 19185. Rather than increasing food shortages leading to these open shows of rebellion, it was the German defeats on the Western front that led to the German populace finally demanding peace from its leaders. 

Whereas Germany’s success in the battlefield led to her losing the war, the lack of coherence and general coordination of Germany’s allies’ war efforts in the last battles before they capitulated compared to those of the Allied Powers, was the reason for their defeats. Through the eyes of Germany, Hew Strachan argued in 2005, Austria-Hungary was a “corpse” to which they were “shackled” throughout the war. By 1918 its army was ill-supplied, hugely impoverished, and increasingly disintegrating into its separate ethnic elements6: its war effort was failing due to the lack of cohesion between ethnic groups in the army. Not only was there no cohesion within the Dual Monarchy’s army, but there was none between the German and Austro-Hungarian forces either: while Germany was fighting with renewed vigour in early 1918, Austria-Hungary had desperately begged the French for peace terms in April 1918 – there was no unified and coordinated strategy between the two countries. Conversely, the Italian army –which was most dangerous to the Monarchy in 1918– was powerfully reinforced by the British and French. On 24 October, these unified Allied forces took the offensive against the Austrians, whose forces disintegrated after 48 hours and signed the armistice on 2 November. Similarly, the Bulgarians capitulated on 30 September 1918 after Serbian and French troops, unified in their strikes, attacked hitherto impregnable Bulgarian positions. Greek and British forces came to their allies’ aid, and Bulgaria, deprived of any support from Austria-Hungary or Germany, surrendered. Turkey signed an armistice on 30 October after the combined effort of Allied forces, under leadership of the British Edmund Allenby, pushed the solitary and aid-starved Ottoman forces back past Constantinople. In the face of unified and coordinated Allied attacks, the lack of support or coordination between the Central Powers’ forces caused their armies to surrender in the autumn of 1918. 

1918 may be christened the year of paradoxes and juxtaposition: while the Central Powers’ forces acted as disjointed units, their united and coordinated Allied counterparts forced their surrender; Germany’s success guaranteed its defeat. The German copper that had, for centuries, voiced anthems of celebrations of love, unity, and God, was now re-forged into shells that killed fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. Perhaps it is fitting that the German church bells had been destroyed: by the end of 1918, and well into the future, Germany and her allies would have few occasions for celebration.


Why did Germany lose the Great War in 1918?

To comprehend why we are being asked this question, one hundred years after the start of the First World War, it is essential to understand that in March of 1918, victory seemed to be at Germany’s doorstep. The Eastern front had been defeated, and Germany was now ready to “reinforce the [Western] front line for a fresh attack.” Kaiser Wilhelm had church bells ring all throughout Germany in anticipation of a Germany triumph that everyone deemed to be arriving soon. How is it then, that in the matter of months, Hindenburg and Ludendorff had Germany signing an Armistice and accepting defeat? The answer to this question is so complex, that still rings in our ears to this day. Sir Hew Strachan (a Scottish military historian well known for his work on the history of the First World War) argues that Germany lost three battles, the battle of manpower (morale), the battle of resources and the battle of leadership. This essay will interpret his argument into a more specific scheme, analyzing the role of the British Blockade, Brest-Litovsk, and allies in the loss of these battles.

Since 1914 the British Blockade held its “iron grip” on German supplies and resources. By 1918 here in Munich alone, 750 000 Germans had starved to death as a result of this blockade, which was intensified by the conscription of agricultural workers that led to the reduction of German harvest in 1917-1918 by half of its former yields. The German public suffered under rations and resource scarcity, whilst the front too was lacking in weaponry and ammunition. Thus, the infamous melting of the church bells was implemented in order to provide further steel, which Carsten (a British-German historian who lived in Germany between 1911-1936) himself labels as a true “cause of despair.” Centuries of marriages, funerals, baptisms and religious celebrations manifested in these symbolic church bells were melted away. Soldiers heard of these dreadful effects of the war on their friends and families back home, heavily diminishing their morale at the front and forcing them to question the value of the war. Furthermore, it encouraged them to report back home with their own problems, promoting pessimism both back in Germany as well as up in the fronts.

The treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed in March of 1918 was meant to be a significant step towards victory for the Germans, after all they now had won the battle in the East and could replenish their Western lines with two million additional soldiers. However, this in itself posed a huge problem. The German soldiers who had fought to success in the East were seriously disappointed to be sent right to the next battlefront instead of home to their families. Furthermore, half of them were forced to stay behind and occupy the vast amount of land Germany had claimed from Russia through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This sparked political conflicts within Germany, as Socialists such as Karl Liebknecht concluded that this “was not a war of nationalist defence but had imperialist causes and aims.” Pacifists also agreed with this claim, as well as a large proportion of the German population that did not support such expansion into the East. Lorne Armstrong of the Hambubger Institute of Paedogogic Affairs stresses that even the SPD themselves, who were the biggest party in the Reichstag at the time, were unhappy with the results of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, as it very much promoted the deterioration rather than the support of their so-called “Socialist Brothers”. Whilst such turmoil occurred within Germany in regards to the former Eastern Front, the Western Front also posed a threat to the German military leaders. As Hindenburg himself had stated, during the peace talks of Brest-Litovsk, Lenin and Trotsky had attempted to “sow the seeds of political dissolution into the ranks of [the German] army.” The German soldiers who had fought in the East had heard tales of worker uprisings and Lenin’s socialist promises from their Russian counterparts, which could spread into the Western Fronts once they arrived. Hence, the German generals now above worrying about losing the war, also had to worry about infesting their troops and causing military insurrection.

In terms of Germany’s allies, it could be argued that they had already lost this battle before the war begun. After all, the Ottoman Empire, or as it was labelled at the time “the Sick man of Europe” was collapsing bit by bit ever since the Italian annexation of Libya in 1912. Austro-Hungary was divided and constantly feared their own soldiers to turn against them and turn to fight for the entente powers, as half the Slav and Romanian populations of Europe still lived in their empire. Throughout the war, Austro-Hungary had even gone as far as attempting to conclude a separate peace with the entente powers in late 1917 and stealing a boat full of German grain during the Danube incident. Thus, despite being so-called allies, Austro-Hungary almost provoked Germany to start a war against them in several occasions. Though Bulgaria was a relatively powerful ally, it was much smaller than the other countries (except Serbia) who were fighting, such that “The whole process of disintegration was hurried on by surrender, one by one, of Germany’s key allies” according to Patrick Cavendish (a British journalist who published a book on the First World War). On the other hand, the Entente powers gained an ally in April 1918, giving German morale one last deadly blow. Although the Americans only sent 200 000 troops, with minimal experience, they learned fast. The U.S. also brought with it extensive amounts of resources, such that the ratio of tanks for example, between the US and Germany, was 4000:20. The boost in French and British morale with the arrival of the Americans trumped the German morale, which existed on the basis that the Michael Offensive would allow the Germans to hold out until the Americans arrived. However, the Americans had arrived and the Germans were far from victory, Ludendorff had spread the Western front line so far apart that communication and transport of resources was no longer sustainable whilst General Pershing was able to launch a series of successful offensives against the German troops.

Thus, by 1918 Ludendorff and Hindenburg accepted that Germany had no chance of victory, and signed the armistice with the Entente Powers and America on the 11.11.1918, the last one of the Central Powers to do so. This twist from close victory to strident defeat led to the “stab in the back” theory in the German army, who, like many others to this day, did not understand how the Germans suddenly lost the war. This would lead to the establishment of the Weimar Republic and many more historical events to come. Thus these few months, which resulted in German defeat, act as an important milestone in 20th century history.   

 
Why did Germany and her allies lose the First World War?


On the 24th of March 1918 church bells across all of Germany where ringing, Germans were celebrating and Kaiser Wilhelm declared that day to be a national holiday. Everyone thought that the English had been defeated and the war was won. For the first time in four years people were singing the national anthem with pride and regaining trust in the government for it’s highly successful “Operation Michael”.
With such high spirits in the country, what could have then led to Germany being down to her knees, begging for an armistice short six months later? There are many factors that can be taken into account for Germany’s, and therefore he allies failure, like the Schlieffen Plan, unrestricted submarine warfare and poor military tactics, however this essay will discuss and evaluate the significance of Sir Hew Strachan’s famous theory of the ‘three battles’ lost in those six months: the battle of manpower, the battle of leadership and the battle of resources.

One important aspect to consider when looking for possible causes of Germany’s defeat is the “battle of manpower”. After Russia had taken her armies out of war in 1917, Germany was able to sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the Western front and, for the first time, had a great advantage over her contractors; Germany’s army outnumbered all others. The problem that arose, however, was that the Americans were preparing for war against Germany after the Zimmermann Telegraph, which sparked enormous anger in the United States. Large numbers of American soldiers were now on their way to Europe to fight the war independently, but with the same aims as the Allies: to defeat Germany. General Erich Ludendorff announced: “Our general situation requires that we should strike at the earliest moment… before the Americans can throw strong forces into the scale.”[1] With this given statement it is made clear that with fit, refreshed and high-spirited soldiers on their way, German military leaders knew that they wouldn’t stand a chance if they were to face them, which forced them was to initiate gambles in the hope of winning the war before the Americans would arrive. Another example for the disadvantage in German manpower is the organisation of their troops. On March 3, 1918, the Russians signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The outcome of this, besides very harsh conditions for the Russians, was that Germany had now gained massive territory in the east, including Poland, Finland and the Baltic provinces. Even though this seemed like a glorious gain to German people, what it really meant was that now one million German soldiers had to occupy and defend these territories and thus less soldiers were able to take part in fighting the Allied Powers. Adding onto that, Germany’s ally Austria-Hungary was facing bankruptcy and famine; national debt was 75 billion and hunger was crushing the masses.  Austrians were tired of fighting and in 1917 started secret peace negotiations with France. Ultimately this lead to Austrian soldiers slowly diminishing their efforts along the Italian borders. As for manpower, Austrian troops along the Alps were reported to slowly starve to death. Towards the end of the war, Austria-Hungary became a burden to Germany rather than an ally and so Germany was on it’s own with it’s troops and it’s manpower could in no way outlast the Allies’ manpower.

Another point in Hew Strachan’s thesis for the lost war is the ‘battle of resources’, which describes huge differences between Germany and the Allied powers. On August 8, 1918 the Allied Powers launched the “Hundred Days Offensive”; also known as the Battle of Amiens, which turned out to be a huge setback for Germany and ultimately led to the end of the First World War. The first day of that offensive came to be known as the “Black Day” for German people, as it was then that many soldiers lost their will to fight. Very interesting, when looking at statistics for this offensive is that when it comes to strength and resources, Germany had a huge disadvantage. The Allied powers had 32 different divisions, whereas the Germans only had 10 active and 4 reserved ones; the Allied Powers had 1,104 French and 800 British aircrafts[2], whereas the Germans only had 365; the Allied Powers had 532 tanks[3], whereas the Germans had none. The example of the Battle of Amiens shows how these tremendous differences in resources helped the Allies to succeed and how Germany in no way was prepared enough for such battles. But why did Germany have such disadvantages in resources? Something that played a very important role in this limitation during the war was the Blockade of Germany. As the German empire relied heavily on imports not only to feed their population but also to supply for warfare, the British Empire established a naval blockade right after the beginning of the war in 1914, yet this blockade reached it’s peak in 1918. John Maynard Keynes cited the testimony of an observer who accompanied Herbert Hoover's mission to help the starving as such: “Tiny faces, with large, dull eyes, overshadowed by huge puffed, rickety foreheads, their small arms just skin and bones, and above the crooked legs with their dislocated joints the swollen, pointed stomachs of the hunger edema...”[4] By 1918, not only children, but nearly all German people were starving. Those soldiers, who hadn’t lost their will to fight before, had lost it then. These observations written down by Keynes, make clear how extreme the blockade was affecting the German population and how severe it’s impacts were. Starvation and malnutrition brought diseases like influenza pandemic, which caused great suffering and nearly 763,000 wartime deaths in Germany during the war can be associated with the Allied Blockade, yet there is an argument that says that the blockade and starvation didn’t play as big of a role in Germany’s defeat as believed by many. Revisionists argue that though many people went hungry, few actually starved and that the capitulation in 1918 was precipitated on the Western Front, not among the discontented populace back home.[5]

The third ‘battle’ that Germany lost and that inevitably lead to her defeat is the ‘battle of leadership’. During the time of Germany’s “operation Michael” in March, the Allied Powers realized that they were facing a serious crisis and that their only chance was to change the way they organized themselves. Thus Ferdinand Foch, the French general, was made Allied Généralissime and given unified command over of the Allied forces. This was an important strategic movement because now the Allies were even more unified and organized then before and were thus able to perform highly complicated attacks like the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Larry H. Addington, Professor Emeritus of History at The Citadel, said “to a large extent the final Allied strategy which won the war on land in Western Europe in 1918 was Foch's alone."[6] Without a doubt, Ferdinand Foch played a very important and essential role in European history when it comes to war strategies, but it wasn’t only him who helped the Allies to success. The fact that all different nations and divisions that fought for the Allied Powers accepted a Frenchman to be in complete charge and followed his commands as if it came from their own leader is extraordinary. And it is exactly this cohesiveness and organization the Germans were lacking. Their leadership at that time had many faults. Military leaders were all acting independently and no one knew exactly who was doing what. This lead uncertainty when it came to Germany’s allies as well. Whenever important militaristic strategies needed to be discussed between Austria-Hungary and Germany for example, Austria-Hungary leaders had no way of knowing who to talk to about issues. Leadership was not only a problem in Germany, but also a problem in Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary, with 15 different languages spoken, had major communication and leadership issues long before the war started. Revolutionary and nationalistic feelings had been a problem for the empire for a long time and the starvation and killing of soldiers made the situations much worse. Overall it can be said that the Central Powers’ leadership systems, especially Germany’s, were too scattered and underdeveloped to be able to keep up with the Allies’.

With all that has been said above, Germany’s and her allies’ defeat can be very well explained using the ‘three lost battles’. Manpower, resources and leadership are strong and important components to any war and nearly all mistakes that Germany and her allies made during the First World War can be traced back to those three basic principles. If Germany would have had better strategies and tactics regarding their troops, easier access to more and better resources and a much clearer and simpler concept to their leadership, the war might have ended differently, but with the Allies strengths in manpower, resources and leadership, it was impossible for Germany to defeat them.
       [1] Marshall, S.L.A.. “World War I”, 2001, page 343  [2] Hart 2008, page 311  [3] Kearsey, pages 2–3  [4] Blahut, Fred (April 1996). "Hidden Historical Fact: The Allied Attempt to Starve Germany in 1919". The Barnes Review: 11–14.  [5] "The Blockade of Germany." The National Archives | Exhibitions & Learning Online | First World War | Spotlights on History. N.p., n.d. Web.  [6] Larry H. Addington (1994). The Patterns of War Since the Eighteenth Century. Indiana UP. pp. 167–68.
The Eastern Front, 1914−1917. Questions to Consider: 1. 2. If Russia had been knocked out of the war in 1915, what effects would that have had on the war as a whole? In what ways did the fighting on the Eastern Front differ from that in the West? 36  Lecture Eleven The Southern Fronts Scope: This lecture examines the Southern Fronts of the First World War in Europe and the factors that made decisive victory elusive here as well. Turkish entry into the war expanded its scope. Allied landings in Gallipoli in 1915 were repulsed by the Turks in a campaign that involved one million men on all sides. Italy at first stayed out of the general war, avowing a policy of “sacred egoism.” Secret diplomacy and promises of territorial gains brought Italy into the war on the Allied side in the clandestine Treaty of London of 1915. Alpine warfare and the 12 battles of the Isonzo between Italy and Austria-Hungary are surveyed. Germany and Austria-Hungary succeeded in overrunning Serbia and Romania. A 1915 Allied expedition to Salonika, Greece, proved indecisive. Outline I. Widening of the War: Turkish Entry A. The war took on a southern dimension by the addition of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), Italy, and operations around the Mediterranean. 1. Turkey joined the Central Powers by a secret treaty of August 2, 1914. 2. Led by Enver Pasha, the Young Turk movement, which had controlled the empire since 1909, sympathized with Germany. 3. Two German battleships, the Goeben and the Breslau, moved into the Black Sea and shelled the Russian port of Odessa in October 1914. 4. In November 1914, the Allies declared war on Turkey. Operations now spread around its territories in the Mediterranean and Middle East. B. Britain discarded an earlier constant aim of its diplomacy and promised Russia the Dardanelles. C. Turkey attacked Russia in the Caucasus, envisioning a great Pan-Turanian empire extending into Central Asia. 1. The Turkish winter campaign of 1914–1915 was a disaster. 2. Turkish soldiers froze to death, and only 13 percent of the force survived. D. In the wake of this disaster, in spring 1915, Russian forces moved down from the Caucasus into Anatolia, welcomed by some Armenians as liberators. E. Turkish forces made attempts to attack the Suez Canal, worrying the British. F. On November 14, 1914, the Turkish Sultan, in his capacity as Caliph, declared holy war (Jihad), hoping to set ablaze Muslim populations under British rule in India and Egypt, and in Central Asia under Russian rule. II. Gallipoli A. To relieve Russia, the Allies crafted plans to knock Ottoman Turkey out of the war, beginning with a landing in Gallipoli, the peninsula at the tip of the Dardanelles Straits, and thence to occupy Constantinople to the northeast. 1. This plan was championed by the British First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. 2. It has been called the only strategic idea of the war. B. Efforts to force the straits by battleships failed, but they alerted Turkish forces, which, under the leadership of German commander Otto Liman von Sanders, began to mass to repel an assault. C. The major landing began on April 25, 1915. 1. Franco-British forces landed at Cape Helles and Australian and New Zealand troops (Anzacs) at Anzac Cove. 2. An initial window of opportunity to expand beachheads was squandered.  37 3. Allied forces dug trenches while Turkish troops took positions atop the cliffs. Among them was a young officer, Mustafa Kemal, later Atatürk, leader of a new Turkey. 4. The advantages of the defensive were again demonstrated. 5. The British commander Sir Ian Hamilton renewed assaults in August 1915, with new landings at Suvla Bay to the north. D. When news of disaster filtered back to Britain, Hamilton was removed and throughout December troops were withdrawn in secret. The successful evacuation was completed by January 9, 1916. E. The outcomes were notable and long-lasting. 1. Some 200,000 Allied men died in this futile expedition. The fighting involved 1 million men on both sides. 2. Winston Churchill was disgraced, blamed for the misadventure, and lost his position. 3. The Anzac troops suffered very heavy losses. During the war, they took 62 percent of the casualties. The Gallipoli disaster came to be considered the founding experience of independent Australian identity. 4. The failure made clear that a decision would need to be reached on the Western Front. III. Italy A. When war broke out, Italy announced it was not bound to the Central Powers by the earlier Triple Alliance and instead would follow what Prime Minister Antonio Salandra called “sacred egoism.” B. A bidding war for Italian participation or neutrality commenced. 1. The Allies won this auction, able to promise enemy territory. 2. The Secret Treaty of London between the Allies and Italy was signed on April 26, 1915. 3. Italy was promised ethnically Italian areas under the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Trentino and Trieste, as well as larger gains in Tirol and the Dalmatian coast, and perhaps even Asia Minor. 4. Contradicting professed Allied war aims, these secret promises would later be a liability. C. Italy prepared to enter the war. 1. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. 2. Italian nationalists, the Romantic poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Futurist artists celebrated the war. IV. Alpine War and Battles of the Isonzo 38  A. B. C. Though Italian participation was thought to be a prize, Italy in fact would require Allied assistance. Italian Commander Count Luigi Cadorna threw one million men into battle against Austria-Hungary on two fronts: toward alpine areas bordering Italy in the north, such as Trentino, and also Trieste, across the Isonzo River. 1. In 11 battles of the Isonzo, Italian forces were unable to break through enemy trenches. In 1916, the Italians took half a million casualties. 2. In the high-altitude fighting in the Alps, guns had to be hauled up by pulleys. The Italian war effort took a turn for the worse with the disaster of Caporetto. 1. In fall 1917, German troops were moved in to help the Austro-Hungarians. Among them was Erwin Rommel, later a famous commander in World War II. 2. In the Battle of Caporetto in October 1917, often called the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, Italian lines broke and a massive retreat set in to the Piave River, north of Venice. 3. Entire Italian units surrendered. The Italians lost half a million casualties, and a quarter-million Italian prisoners were taken. 4. Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is about the retreat, though he arrived in Italy six months after it occurred. 5. The retreat was halted as Italian forces regrouped 90 miles west at the Piave River to defend Venice. General Cadorna was replaced as commander in chief by General Armando Diaz, and the crisis passed. D. V. Serbia and Romania Overrun A. Bulgaria had joined the Central Powers on September 6, 1915, and was promised Serbian territory. B. The conquest of Serbia would ensure lines of communication with Turkey. C. In the winter of 1915, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Bulgarian armies overran Serbia in two months. 1. Belgrade was captured. 2. The Central Powers invaded Montenegro and moved into Albania in January 1916. 3. An Allied expedition seeking to come to the aid of Serbia found themselves trapped in Salonika in Greece. D. Ina dramatic and costly retreat, the Serbian army marched across the Albanian mountains to the Adriatic and was evacuated by sea. E. It is estimated that Serbia lost one-sixth of its population in this campaign. F. Prematurely impressed by Russian advances in the Brusilov offensive, Romania entered the war on the Allied side on August 27, 1916, and was promised enemy territory. G. Instead of seizing Transylvania, however, Romania was itself invaded a week later by the Central Powers. H. By December 1916, the Central Powers, with Falkenhayn as one of the commanders, conquered Romania. I. Romanian oil and agricultural resources now fell to the Central Powers. VI. Salonika A. The Allies had sought to aid Serbia by sending a military force through neutral Greece. Forces were moved to Greece by October 1915. B. Greek politics played a part in this fiasco. 1. The Greek prime minister, Eleuthérios Venizélos, cooperated but was deposed. 2. Venizélos gathered opposition to King Constantine, who was forced to abdicate. 3. As a result of internal politics and Allied pressure, Greece joined the Allies in June 1917. C. Unable to break the Bulgarian lines to the north, half a million Allied soldiers were trapped and idle in Salonika, which the Germans jokingly called their “largest internment camp.” D. Decision would have to come elsewhere. Essential Reading: John Keegan, The First World War, pp. 217−256. Supplementary Reading: Alan Moorehead, Gallipoli. Norman Rose, Churchill: The Unruly Giant. Questions to Consider: 1. What factors made victory elusive on the Southern Fronts? 2. Was Turkish entry into the war a mistake, as some have argued, or inevitable? Why?  39 Lecture Twelve War Aims and Occupations Scope: This lecture first discusses the historical debates surrounding the war aims of the combatant powers. What goals did the Allies and the Central Powers pursue from the outset of the war? How did these goals change and evolve during the course of the conflict? We then turn to examine the experience of military occupation and how it affected civilian populations, including forced labor, deportations, ethnic manipulation, and harsh economic exploitation. The lecture surveys the brief Russian occupation of East Prussia and Galicia at the start of the war and then the longer German control of occupied Belgium and northern France and the atrocities that accompanied their initial seizure. Also surveyed is the Central Powers’ rule over Eastern Europe in Poland, the Baltic region, Romania, and Serbia. I. War Aims 40  A. B. Prolonged warfare demanded the articulation of war aims on both sides that went beyond the initial rallying to a war of self-defense. 1. Even among allies, individual war aims could conflict and threaten cohesion. 2. Aims also changed under the pressure of circumstances. We start by examining the war aims of the Allied Powers. 1. The Treaty of London of September 1914 committed France, Russia, and Britain not to sign a separate peace with the Central Powers. 2. French war aims were seen as existential: as France had been invaded, Germany was to be expelled, the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine regained, and a future Germany weakened to the point that it would not again threaten France. France also envisioned colonial gains in Africa and the Middle East. 3. Russian war aims included plans for an expanded Poland (at the expense of Germany and Austria- Hungary) under Russian control and the fulfillment of a long-standing dream, the control of Constantinople and the Dardanelles, allowing unimpeded movement from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. 4. British aims centered on restoration of the balance of power on the continent. Following British traditional strategy, leaders also hoped for colonial gains on the periphery. 5. Italy, with its policy of “sacred egoism” and signature on the Secret Treaty of London of 1915, demanded territory at the expense of Austria-Hungary along the Adriatic and in Asia Minor. Let us now look at the war aims of the Central Powers. C. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. As Germany dominated the Central Powers, its war aims took priority. The war aims of Austria-Hungary were vague and simple survival was increasingly the overriding goal. Although Serbia was to be reduced in power, annexations were intensely problematic (as they would further increase the complexity of this diverse empire) and were resisted by the Hungarians in particular. Germany’s war aims included significant gains in Western and Eastern Europe. Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg’s confidential September Program of 1914 outlined initial war aims (its precise intent is still debated). In Eastern Europe, Poland was to come under German control, with a border strip carved from this territory to give strategic security. Russia was to be pushed back in Eastern Europe. Annexationist plans called for control over the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In the West, annexationists demanded Luxembourg, territory in Belgium, and northern France. An important concept in German war aims was the notion of constructing a unit called “Mitteleuropa” (central Europe), a continental economic union dominated by Germany. The British naval blockade of Germany, which threatened to strangle it economically, gave added appeal to the Mitteleuropa concept. Outline 10. German aims also included expanded colonial gains in Africa, establishing a Mittelafrika as a counterpart to domination of Europe. 11. In the 1960s, the Fischer Debate among historians also concerned questions of the continuity of German war aims in World War I and World War II. Fritz Fischer argued that there were linkages to Nazi goals. 12. However, within Germany itself, the government worried about the impact of open discussion of extreme war aims and tried to silence it. II. Changing War Aims A. The British and French agreed in March 1915 to Russian demands for Constantinople and the Dardanelles. This agreement represented a fundamental shift in traditional diplomacy, especially for Britain, which had long resisted this aim. B. Germany and Austria-Hungary held conflicting views of the future of Poland. C. In a fascinating and perverse process, some German annexationists increased their demands as the war continued, arguing that this proved the need for larger gains. III. Occupations A. In general, occupations of enemy territory increasingly brought total war home to civilian populations. 1. Civilians were exposed to mistreatment, deportation, forced labor, and other trends intensified in World War II. 2. In longer occupations, complex forms of social interaction could grow up between occupiers and occupied. B. We begin with the Russian occupations of East Prussia and Galicia. 1. The brief Russian occupation of East Prussia in 1914–1915 traumatized the population and was marked by sporadic brutalities. 2. The Russian occupation of Galicia from 1914–1915 saw pogroms against Jews and deportations of civilians, as part of larger plans for the incorporation of the area into the Russian Empire. 3. In both cases, scorched earth policies in retreat took a further toll. C. Occupied Belgium was a classic case as well. 1. The initial invasion of Belgium was marked by German atrocities. 2. Some 800,000 Belgians fled and lived as refugees or “displaced persons” in France, Britain, or Holland. 3. An electrified fence was erected in an attempt to close off the Dutch border. 4. Economic exploitation through requisitions and forced labor was intense. 5. Attempts to manipulate the Flemish or Wallonian segments of Belgian society failed. D. France represented another area of occupation in the West. 1. German atrocities had also taken place at the start of the invasion of 1914. 2. Ten French departments fell under German control. 3. Under an occupation similar to Belgium, the French suffered a double agony of foreign rule and isolation from the home country. E. Eastern Europe under the Central Powers suffered greatly. 1. Poles, living under three empires, found themselves forced to fight on opposite sides (1.5 million Poles served in the different armies). 2. The conquest of Poland was accompanied by the destruction of the towns of Kalisz and Czestochowa. 3. Poland was divided into two governments under the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians. 4. The establishment of a Polish kingdom was declared in November 1916, as the German command hoped to muster a Polish army to fight for the Central Powers, but the result was disappointing. 5. Polish political leaders were themselves divided on which side to favor in the war.  41 6. A socialist, Józef Pilsudski, at first cooperated with the Austro-Hungarians in creating Polish legions but later resisted growing German control and was imprisoned in 1917. 7. Roman Dmowski, leader of the National Democratic Party, favored the Allies and with the famous pianist Paderewski promoted the Polish cause in the West. 8. In the territory of the Baltic countries and Belarus, a German military colony called Ober Ost was established. In this military utopia, ambitions for control of populations and cultural and ethnic manipulation took on vast proportions. 9. German views of Eastern Europe were conditioned by the devastation of the region. The remnants of the scorched earth policy, disease, ethnic variety, and disorganization were seen as Unkultur, which needed to be redeemed by a German cultural mission. 10. Harsh policies of economic control and requisition alienated the native populations. 11. The Central Powers occupied most of Romania in the winter of 1916, and it became a German economic colony, yielding food and oil. 12. Serbian civilians suffered tremendously in the successive invasions by the Central Powers. The country was divided into Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian zones, which saw armed resistance. IV. International Relief Efforts A. International efforts were organized to bring relief and food to Belgium. 1. An American engineer of great managerial talents, Herbert Hoover, coordinated the Commission for Relief in Belgium. 2. This organization aimed to feed 10 million people. 3. These and other efforts brought Belgium more than 3 million tons of food aid. B. War-torn areas in Eastern Europe were harder to bring assistance to, but efforts were expanded there at the end of the war by the American Relief Administration under Hoover. Essential Reading: Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker, 14−18: Understanding the Great War, pp. 45−69. Supplementary Reading:  , War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I. Helen McPhail, The Long Silence: Civilian Life under the German Occupation of Northern France, 1914−1918. Questions to Consider: 1. 2. After Germany, which Great Power had the most extensive war aims? Did military occupations differ in Western Europe and Eastern Europe? If so, how? Scope: World War I: The “Great War” The First World War came as a dreadful surprise to those who experienced it, due to its magnitude, global expanse, unprecedented violence, and shattering impact on Western civilization. This course of 36 lectures explores the continuous series of brutal surprises and shocks that the first example of a “total war” brought, a conflict not limited to armies, but pitting entire societies against each other in mortal struggle. An estimated 70 million men were mobilized and approximately 9 million died. The civilizational impact of an industrial slaughter on this scale was so significant that World War I set the 20th century on its violent course, culminating in a later, perfected total war, World War II. We combine chronological and thematic approaches for an in-depth look at this conflict’s many dimensions, integrating military history with social, political, intellectual, and cultural history. Unlike narratives of World War I that emphasize the Western Front with scant attention to other theaters, this course provides comprehensive coverage of all fronts. Likewise, we consider not only political elites and generals but also the lives of ordinary soldiers and civilians. Major themes include the surprising eagerness to plunge into mutual slaughter; the unexpected endurance of societies undergoing this ordeal; the radically different hopes and hatreds that war evoked, with remarkable contrasts in Western and Eastern Europe; and the way in which the Great War functioned as a hinge of violence, opening the door to the normalization of previously unsuspected levels of violence, including against civilians, a dynamic that hurried Europe toward renewed conflict. Our first six lectures depict the state of Europe and the world as the 1914 cataclysm approached and then struck. We examine internal politics of the Great Powers and growing tensions among them, reacting to the expansion of German power, as well as important currents of thought (both optimistic and pessimistic) in intellectual life. We examine the slide into the abyss: origins of the July crisis, beginning with an act of terrorism in Sarajevo; historians’ debates on the war’s true causes and where the main responsibility lies; the striking “August Madness” celebrations; and the breakdown of longstanding military plans for short, decisive war. The next three lectures—Seven through Nine—cover the Western Front and the surreal trench landscape that arose there. We examine technological reasons for the stalemate that the trenches represented, desperate and costly attempts to break it, strange patterns of death and life (including tacit truces) developed by ordinary soldiers, and vain and horrific battles at Verdun, the Somme, and Ypres. Lectures Ten and Eleven cover lesser known theaters: the vast, open Eastern Front where Germans battered Russia, even as final victory eluded them, and the Southern Front, including the Alps, the Balkans, and the doomed Allied Gallipoli expedition against Ottoman Turkey. Lectures Twelve through Fifteen take a closer look at particularly important themes. We survey combatant countries’ war aims and the experience of foreign occupation. The suffering of ordinary soldiers is confronted, as we discuss military medicine, psychological traumas, and the experience of 8 million prisoners of war. Although many men broke down under the strain of combat, others exulted in it: elite storm troopers were among them, as well as two men, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, who later became dictators as they sought to recreate wartime experience. This section concludes by investigating rapidly changing technology, as machine guns, poison gas, and tanks were deployed to mass-produce death ever more efficiently. The next three lectures—Sixteen through Eighteen—return our attention to other theaters: war in the air and at sea and surprises and confounded expectations in each. The war’s global reach, its colonial dimension, and the attempt to win sympathy in world opinion are examined in detail. Our next set of lectures concerns internal home-front politics. In comparative fashion, we note similarities as well as striking differences in how nations reacted. Lectures Nineteen to Twenty-Three reveal centralized state control of economies, societies, and propaganda to create martial enthusiasm. We cover the privations and extraordinary endurance of many societies, as well as growing signs of stress and breakdown, to understand civilian experience. New social divisions arose, threatening cohesion. Dissent could be explosive, and we explore protest and its growth or suppression. By the later years of the war, 1916–1917, a fresh remobilization of energies was needed to continue fighting. The next five lectures cover dramatic new departures in world history created by total war. The 1915 slaughter of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire launched a series of 20th-century genocides. War’s strains encouraged revolts,  1 socialist and nationalist, radically reenvisaging the political future. In the Russian Empire, turbulent events produced the first attempt at total revolution, launching the Soviet Union’s communist experiment. America’s 1917 entry into the war announced a new, expansive role for the United States in world affairs, while its society was convulsed by mobilization for intervention overseas. Lectures Twenty-Nine through Thirty-Three cover the war’s immediate outcome. After the failure of Germany’s last gamble and defeat, the November 11, 1918, Armistice closed the war, even as aftershocks continued: the unprecedented collapse of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Turkish Empires, and the onset of ideological warfare among nationalists, revolutionaries, and counterrevolutionaries, in an atmosphere of European civil war. We analyze the 1919 peace settlement in Paris and the Versailles Treaty. The last three lectures examine the war’s deeper impact on Western civilization. Drawing on rich, recent scholarship in cultural history, we follow the war’s echoes (and anguished questions of what it had ultimately meant) in monuments, collective rituals of commemoration, literature and art, and also in poisonous myths and conspiracy theories concerning the war. Most ominously, new and fierce ideological mass movements—spearheaded by Fascists, Nazis, and Communists—were so inspired by the experience of total war that they aimed to restructure politics along military lines and achieve permanent mobilization of state and society. Ultimately, our course concludes with a summation of the Great War’s effects, its implications for the rest of the century, and the new world that it created. 2  Lecture Twenty-Five Strains of War—Socialists and Nationalists Scope: The enormous pressures of the world war tore at the structures of established states and empires in a seeming race toward collapse. This lecture explores the growing divisions in wartime societies, sometimes producing revolts, including the 1915 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland, the French army’s mutinies in 1917, and the growing alienation of subject nationalities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, captured in literary form by Jaroslav Hasek’s comic hero, “Good Soldier Svejk.” These discontents were encouraged by the opposing forces. All sides followed a policy of “revolutionizing” the enemy’s populations. In particular, we examine the Arab revolt encouraged by the British in the person of Lawrence of Arabia, the German attempt to subvert the Russian war effort by shipping back Lenin to spread Bolshevism, and the drive for American security (the Zimmermann Telegram). Outline I. Weariness A. The year 1917 in particular was marked by war weariness, as the suspicion dawned that the war might last forever. B. Nonetheless, the war would be fought on all sides to the end, as the alternative seemed to be internal collapse, as revolutionary pressures, both social and nationalist, grew. 1. Social revolts demanded changes to the structures of authority within society. 2. Nationalist revolts demanded independence and self-determination for submerged ethnic groups. II. Social Revolts A. Radical socialists came to favor Lenin’s prescription for turning the war between nations into a social revolution. B. A fascinating subject, the French army mutinies of 1917 could have changed the course of the war. 1. Nivelle’s attacks on the Aisne River in April 1917 brought French units to the breaking point. 2. Protests began to grow in the ranks, as some troops went into battle bleating like sheep to the slaughter. 3. Some units refused orders to attack, and the disobedience spread in May and June 1917. 4. Soldiers considered this a patriotic strike, protesting their treatment, and not rejecting the defense of France or the government. Their slogan was, “We’ll defend the trenches, but we will not attack.” 5. Astonishingly, the Germans did not learn of these mutinies until they were over. They were unable to exploit the situation, which could have produced the breakthrough so long hoped for on the Western Front. 6. The hero of Verdun, Pétain, was brought in to restore order, which he did using a combination of harsh discipline and the assurance that no more senseless offensives would be launched. 7. In demonstrative disciplinary acts, mutineers were court-martialed, but few death sentences were carried out. 8. Rations and leaves for soldiers were increased. 9. Pétain’s reputation as a commander who had paternal concern for his troops was crucial. 10. Nonetheless, the offensive spirit of the French army would not recover. C. Discontent in the German ranks is also noteworthy. 1. Less dramatic but still simmering discontent grew in the German army as well. 2. Many soldiers could sense that the strategic and material balance in this industrial war was turning against Germany. 3. Soldiers from ethnic minorities were distrusted, including Poles and Alsatians. 4. Soldiers from Alsace were left on the Eastern Front when transfers took place, as they were not trusted to fight the French on the Western Front.  3 5. As more medals were handed out to raise the morale of troops, some felt this cheapened the earlier honor. III. National Revolt 4  A. Unrest exploded in Britain’s own colonial back yard in the form of the Irish Easter Rising. 1. Just before the war, conflicts over the prospect of Home Rule brought Ireland to the brink of civil war between the Ulster Volunteer Force and the nationalist Irish Volunteers. 2. When the war broke out, the conflict was put on hold and more than 200,000 Irish joined the British army. 3. The revolutionary Irish Republican Brotherhood planned a full-scale revolt. 4. Sir Roger Casement, an Ulster Protestant who had been knighted for his work in the British Foreign Office, joined the Irish nationalist forces. 5. In line with German hopes to revolutionize Ireland, he traveled to Germany to get assistance. He tried to recruit Irish POWs into a brigade. 6. On returning, he was arrested and executed in a London jail in August 1916. 7. A German arms shipment was intercepted by the British two days before the planned uprising. 8. The planned revolt went ahead anyway, intending to galvanize Irish nationalism. 9. On April 24, 1916, the rebels seized the Central Post Office and other parts of downtown Dublin but failed to take Dublin Castle. They proclaimed an Irish Republic. 10. After a week of fighting, they capitulated. 11. The British forces executed 15 leaders and incarcerated other volunteers in camps in Britain. 12. These harsh reprisals affected Irish public opinion, turning it from disapproval to sympathy for those now regarded as martyrs. This nationalist turn later led to independence in 1921. 13. In the most famous poem of William Butler Yeats, “Easter 1916,” the act was celebrated as a “terrible beauty.” 14. In popular culture, the song “Foggy Dew” memorialized the rebels and bitterly pointed out the irony of a world war fought for the rights of small nations like Belgium, but not for Ireland. Cohesion in the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been crumbling, too. 1. Habsburg armies needed to be “corseted” by German forces. 2. Units and individual soldiers from Slavic nationalities at times defected to the Russians at the front. 3. The stereotype of their disloyalty further undermined ethnic relations. Hasek’s comic novel Good Soldier Svejk gives ludicrous testimony to this situation. 4. From fall 1917, a Czech Legion was organized from POWs to fight against the Austro-Hungarian forces. 5. Growing nationalism was reflected in the advanced Czech national movement, much of it mobilizing in exile. 6. In Paris, Tomáš Masaryk and other exiles formed a National Council, claiming independence for a Czechoslovak nation. 7. The Allies’ recognition of Czech claims imperiled the future existence of the Habsburg Empire. 8. Other nationalities were galvanized to seek independence as well, in a wave of rising expectations. The phenomenon of revolt was also seen in the growing disarray in the Russian Empire. 1. The Russian army was in a state of disintegration. 2. Food riots in Petrograd in spring 1917 led to a revolution in which the Tsarist regime collapsed with incredible speed. A classic case of growing nationalist aspirations was Poland. B. C. D. 1. 2. Poles had been divided among three empires in the late 18th century and grew restless once the future shape of Europe was being decided. Tragically, 1.5 million Poles were recruited into the armies of Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, facing one another on the battlefield in World War I. 3. The Polish socialist and patriot Józef Pilsudski, from the Vilnius region, planned to establish Polish military forces as the basis for later independence. His legions’ slogan became, “We are Poland.” 4. In November 1916, Germany and Austria-Hungary declared a Polish kingdom, hoping to create Polish armies to fight on their side. 5. As this plan failed, Pilsudski was arrested and jailed in Germany. He was released only as the war ended, emerging with great prestige to lead Poland and later to become its dictator. 6. Abroad, his rival Roman Dmowski sought to rally support for Poland from the Allies. IV. Revolutionizing A. A key example of such a phenomenon was the Arab revolt and Lawrence of Arabia’s part in the aftermath. 1. The British encouraged an Arab revolt within the Ottoman Empire with political support and arms. 2. The revolt broke out at Medina in June 1916, led by the family of Sherif Hussein ibn Ali of the Hejaz. An Arab army was rallied to the cause of fighting the Ottoman forces, and the revolt spread through Arabia and to Syria. 3. The young British archaeologist Thomas Edward Lawrence, famed as “Lawrence of Arabia,” identified with the Arab cause intensely and championed it and the preeminence of Feisal ibn Hussein, son of the Sherif. 4. In a surprise attack, the Arabs captured the port of Aqaba in July 1917. 5. Significant Turkish forces were pinned down by the revolt, and the rebels coordinated their activity to help British campaigns in the Middle East. 6. News of Allied diplomacy (the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement) led to keen disappointment of hopes for Arab independence. B. German initiatives at this time were fascinating and, in some cases, disastrous. 1. The Zimmermann Telegram of January 17, 1917, was sent by the German foreign minister, Arthur von Zimmermann, to the German ambassador in Mexico, urging action to bring Mexico into the war to regain lost provinces in the United States (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona). 2. The attempt at revolutionizing ended catastrophically, as it galvanized American opinion for war. 3. The German Supreme Command also sought to use the Russian Bolshevik conspirator Lenin as a revolutionary weapon. 4. Just weeks before the outbreak of the revolution in Russia in March 1917, Lenin was in Swiss exile, despairing that he and his generation might not live to see the great revolution he had prophesied. 5. On the orders of the German command, Lenin and 31 other revolutionaries were transported by train through Germany to Russia in April 1917. 6. As soon as Lenin arrived in Petrograd, he preached Russian defeat and the overthrow of the government. Lenin cheerfully accepted German assistance while pursuing his own plans. 7. The successful revolutionizing of Russia was the greatest success of this policy during the war, but one that German elites came to regret, as revolution spread back to Germany. V. Outcomes A. The growing revolts revealed a paradox. To many political leaders, it seemed that the only way to quell dissent was to win total victory because otherwise the social system would be wiped away by revolution in defeat. B. This dynamic in turn made the conduct of the war more extreme and compromise less likely. C. In general, as the war drew on, a revolution of rising expectations was taking place.  5 1. Within Europe, nationalities and ethnic groups hoped to win independence in the postwar order. 2. Outside Europe, effects were seen as well. 3. Colonial troops and colonial laborers (among them the later Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh) also assimilated the rising expectations. Essential Reading: John Keegan, The First World War, pp. 322−332. Supplementary Reading: Jaroslav Hasek, Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War. T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. Questions to Consider: 1. 2. If the German command had learned of the French mutinies and broken through the front, how might the war have proceeded then? Was revolutionizing ultimately a useful and effective tool or not? 6  Lecture Twenty-Six Russian Revolutions Scope: Historically, wars often bring revolution, and, in a perfect symmetry, in 1917 total war provoked an attempt at total revolution. The Russian Empire was the first to break down under the pressure of the demands of this industrial conflict. In March 1917, its centuries-old tsarist regime collapsed abruptly, replaced by an irresolute, liberal-led provisional government, aiming to give Russia a democratic structure. Mere months later, in November 1917, the radical socialist party of Lenin’s Bolsheviks seized power and inaugurated the building of a new communist state and a social revolution to produce a new utopian society. The Bolsheviks signed the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Germans in March 1918, withdrawing from the war to await the expected collapse of all capitalist systems. The Soviet Union would become a radical new player in international relations, dedicated to overthrowing other governments worldwide and ushering in a final world revolution. Outline I. The year 1917 would be a crucial one in modern history. A. The historian A. J. P. Taylor argued that it marked the start of world history, with the Russian Revolution and America’s emergence as a world power. B. Both events clearly injected new ideological energies into the world, changing it. II. Background A. The last ruler of Russia’s autocracy was Tsar Nicholas II, who came to the throne in 1894. 1. He was unsuited for the role, and the Tsarina Alexandra, granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Britain and of German origins, worsened matters with bad advice. 2. In a 1905 revolution, the throne had nearly been toppled. 3. A grassroots revolutionary movement, centered on the institution of the soviets (councils), had swept the country and the revolutionary Leon Trotsky had gained prominence. 4. The tsar defused the revolution by granting a parliament (the Duma) but undermined its significance. Attempted reforms from 1907–1911 brought structural improvements but needed more time to ripen. 5. An active revolutionary movement included the peasant-oriented Social Revolutionaries and the Marxist Social Democrats, of which Lenin’s Bolsheviks were a small, radical faction. B. World War I represented a test of strength that the Russian Empire failed. 1. In the initial enthusiasm, nationalities pledged loyalty to the regime. 2. The capital of St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd to sound “more Russian.” 3. With unrelenting disasters on the battlefield, morale crumbled. The tsar, who had taken over command, was blamed personally. 4. Ordinary soldiers “voted with their feet” by simply leaving for home. 5. Within court, a pro-German faction urged leaving the Allies. 6. Tsarina Alexandra fell under the influence of Gregory Rasputin, a crazed “holy man” and faith healer who, at least in the short term, was able to improve the condition of the sickly heir to the throne. 7. Scandalized by this inner corruption, a group of nobles murdered Rasputin in December 1916, but he had been a symptom of problems, not their cause. III. The March 1917 Revolution A. When the March Revolution broke out, it did so spontaneously and took revolutionaries by surprise. 1. On March 8 (February 23 by the old Russian calendar), women in Petrograd, clamoring for food, were joined in demonstrations by striking workers from armaments factories. 2. When the city garrison was ordered to fire on the demonstrators, the soldiers instead joined the crowd. 3. Tsar Nicholas abdicated on March 15, 1917, ending three centuries of Romanov dynastic rule.  7 B. A new provisional government was formed by March 15. 1. Made up of former Duma politicians, it subscribed to liberal ideas and pledged to stay in the war. 2. The new government was greeted with relief by the western Allies, as now all the Allied forces were ideologically united behind the banner of democracy. 3. The provisional government ruled increasingly ineffectively for eight months before being overthrown. 4. It faced the rival authority of the soviets. The largest of these, the Petrograd Soviet, was another power center, which claimed to speak for the other soviets established by soldiers, sailors, and workers throughout the country. 5. The provisional government continued the war and prepared for elections and constitutional reforms. C. A great challenge to this fledgling government came from Lenin in 1917. 1. Lenin read about the revolution in the newspaper in Switzerland. 2. After being transported back to Russia by the Germans in April 1917, he emerged at the Finland Station in Petrograd to declare his “April Theses.” 3. The April Theses promised peace, land, and all power to the soviets. Lenin championed revolutionary defeatism. 4. In his call for the overthrow of the provisional government, Lenin shocked even his own associates, but slowly he convinced them. 5. Lenin was supported by a fervent revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, recently returned from New York on news of the revolution, who joined the Bolsheviks in the summer of 1917. D. The 1. Eventually, the socialist Alexander Kerensky led the government, first as minister of war, later as provisional government lingered on but its demise was inevitable. prime minister. 2. Kerensky prepared an offensive into Galicia, which failed by July 1917 and led to military collapse. 3. When a premature Bolshevik uprising misfired in July 1917, Lenin fled to Finland. 4. The provisional government found itself threatened from left and right. 5. By October 1917, the Bolsheviks had achieved a majority in the Petrograd Soviet and moved to seize power at Lenin’s urging. IV. November 1917 Seizure of Power 8  A. B. The Bolsheviks took power in a coup on November 7, 1917, with astonishing ease. 1. Small numbers of Red Guard forces stormed the lightly defended Winter Palace, arrested most members of the government, and took over the capital Petrograd. 2. Bolsheviks later mythologized the “Great October Revolution” (the date was based on the old calendar), depicting it as a mass event in art and film. 3. They announced that they were taking power in the name of the Soviets. 4. Real power was held by the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom). Lenin and his comrades set about establishing their power with a new regime. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. The Peace Decree announced that Russia was leaving the war. On December 15, 1917, a ceasefire was signed with the Central Powers. The state took over ownership of the land, which the peasants were allowed to seize. The Cheka secret police was established on December 17, 1917. Cheka was an acronym for the “Extraordinary Commission for Combatting Counter-Revolution and Sabotage,” and it was charged with “Red Terror” against counterrevolutionaries and class enemies. The beginnings of a concentration camp system were established. One after another rival party was shut down, and newspapers were banned. State control of internal trade, factories, and land was established, drawing on Lenin’s admiration for Germany’s War Socialism. 7. In elections to the constituent assembly, the Bolsheviks received less than 25 percent of the seats and shut down the assembly in January 1918. 8. On July 16, 1918, the Bolsheviks executed the imprisoned tsar and his family, shooting them in a cellar in Ekaterinburg. 9. The mood of emergency was summed up in the policy of War Communism. 10. Lenin saw the need for dictatorship, which he defined as “authority untrammeled by any laws, absolutely unrestricted by any rules whatever, and based directly on force.” V. Preparing for World Revolution A. The Bolsheviks felt a special sense of urgency, as they expected world revolution to break out in quick order. B. Bolsheviks fraternized with German soldiers on the now stilled Eastern Front and sought to spread their ideas. C. Lenin, who admired German war industry and organization, believed that if German efficiency and Russian revolutionary fervor could be fused into one revolution, a new world would result. D. To win time for the expected coming revolution, Lenin convinced his skeptical comrades of the need to sign a peace with Germany. E. After the December 1917 armistice, a strange set of negotiations began at the fortress of Brest-Litovsk on the Eastern Front. VI. Implications A. The Bolshevik seizure of power represented a revolutionary event in world politics, introducing a new factor: a new kind of ideologically steered state devoted to the overthrow of all other states. B. The Bolshevik coup was a pivotal event of the century, for communism did much to shape the ideological discourse of the modern age; states and societies were forced to respond to it. Essential Reading: John Keegan, The First World War, pp. 332−343. Supplementary Reading: Martin Malia, The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, pp. 1−138. Brian Moynihan, The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years, pp. 1−77. John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World. Robert Service, Lenin: A Biography, pp. 253−355. Questions to Consider: 1. If the Russian Empire had been spared the ordeal of World War I, how might its development have been different? 2. What were the keys to Lenin’s success in taking power?  9 Lecture Twenty-Seven America’s Entry into the War Scope: With America’s entry into the Great War in April 1917, the conflict changed once again, assuming a larger ideological character. Worsening relations between Germany and the United States (in particular over submarine warfare, with the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915) and growing economic ties between the United States and the Allies finally led America to join the Allies as an associated power. President Woodrow Wilson articulated a revolutionary set of war aims, the Fourteen Points, seeking to make the world safe for democracy. This lecture follows the path to war. Outline I. Together with the revolutionary events in Russia, American entry into the war combined to give the year 1917 special significance as a world historical watershed. II. Let us first examine the record of American neutrality. A. In the first years of the war, America stood aside from the events unfolding in Europe. 1. Many Americans of immigrant origin felt grateful to be spared the bloodletting in the Old World. 2. German-Americans and Irish-Americans felt little sympathy for the Allies. 3. Elites in the United States, however, felt affinity for the British and the French. 4. Both the Allies and the Central Powers sought to win American sympathy through propaganda efforts. B. At the same time, trade and economics helped shape American opinion and decisions. 1. American trade patterns were disrupted by the war at sea. Though both sides were violating the freedom of the seas, American trade with the Allies grew. 2. German submarine warfare acquired special notoriety, unlike the British blockade of Germany, which America also considered illegal. 3. German sinkings of the Lusitania in May 1915 and the Sussex in March 1916, both with American passengers aboard, provoked protests and led to the growth of a U.S. “preparedness campaign,” among private citizens and in Congress, which pressed for an expanded army and navy. 4. Wilson tried to calm the outrage by praising the stance of being “too proud to fight.” 5. American production boomed, with iron and steel increasing by 76 percent. From 1914–1917, American exports quadrupled. 6. American loans subsidized the Allied war effort. America went from being a debtor nation to a creditor, as by 1917 the Allies had borrowed $2 billion. 7. American economic interests increasingly tied the country to the Allies. III. Woodrow Wilson played a critical role in America’s entry into the war. 10  A. B. We need to consider the background of this statesman. 1. A Virginian, Wilson (1856–1924) was an academic (America’s only president with a Ph.D.), president of Princeton, a progressive politician in the Democratic Party, and governor of New Jersey. 2. He became President of the United States in 1913. 3. He was marked by an extraordinary confidence in his own providential calling, believing that he embodied the will of the American nation. This belief was reflected in his characteristic rhetoric of noble ideals and moral fervor. Wilson’s political course during the war bears reflection as well. 1. 2. 3. At first pursuing a neutral stance for the United States, Wilson sought to mediate among the warring powers after 1914. There was strong sentiment to keep the United States neutral, and Wilson won reelection in 1916 under the slogan “He Kept Us Out of the War.” Wilson’s last attempt at mediation in December 1916 failed. C. Germany’s declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1, 1917, forced a crisis. 1. The United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany and armed merchant ships. 2. Wilson made public the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram on March 1, 1917. 3. Public opinion mobilized dramatically, with demonstrations in favor of entering the war against Germany. D. The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917. Wilson announced that the “world must be made safe for democracy.” 1. It joined the Allies as an “Associate Power,” to underline its independence. 2. Public outrage at German policies, cultural sympathies, and economic ties all contributed to the American entry into the war. 3. American entry changed the nature of the war fundamentally, not only in expanding its scope, but also by injecting a new ideological message. IV. Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech summed up this ideological message. A. On January 8, 1918, Wilson outlined before Congress the war aims for which the United States would fight. 1. These aims included implicit support for the principle of national self-determination and explicitly called for “open covenants, openly arrived at,” disarmament, and a League of Nations. 2. Other demands included freedom of the seas, free trade, freedom for occupied lands, Italian assumption of control over ethnically Italian areas, a free Poland with access to the sea, and free development by the peoples of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. 3. The idea of national self-determination directed that all ethnic groups should have their own governments rather than being under foreign rule. This revolutionary principle was enormously attractive to “submerged” nationalities. B. Clearly these principles represented as well a rejection of Old Europe’s traditional balance of power politics, to be replaced by a new democratic statecraft and collective security. C. The Fourteen Points were intended also as a response to the Bolsheviks, who by then had come to power, and who called for peace and world revolution. An ideological struggle was engaged. D. Once publicized, the Fourteen Points gained in popularity, and Wilson became a figure of hope for war- weary populations on all sides. E. Realistic and more cynical European politicians had to tolerate what they considered Wilson’s utopian pretensions and rhetoric. 1. Clemenceau quipped that even God had only had ten points. 2. More seriously, the principles enunciated in the speech certainly conflicted with some of the Allies’ own policies, imperial ambitions, and secret diplomacy. V. Americans then prepared to go “Over There.” A. American military might was built up with astonishing speed. 1. Like Britain breaking with liberal tradition, the United States reinstated conscription with the Selective Service Act of May 1917, registering all men 21–30 years of age. 2. By the end of the war, nearly three million American men had been drafted. 3. With volunteers, by war’s end, the U.S. armed forces numbered nearly five million. 4. African-American soldiers were relegated to segregated units or given menial tasks in support positions. B. General John J. Pershing was charged with the command of the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) in May 1917. 1. In short order, the First Infantry Division, nicknamed “The Big Red One,” was shipped to France. 2. Pershing now prepared to send a million “doughboys” to France by the spring of 1918.  11 Essential Reading: David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society. Supplementary Reading: Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, Peace. Questions to Consider: 1. 2. In what ways did America’s entry into the war resemble that of European nations, and in what ways did it differ? Without Wilson, how would America’s role in the war have been different? 12  Lecture Twenty-Eight America at War—Over There and Over Here Scope: This lecture examines the impact of the First World War on American society, affecting life at home as well as America’s relationship with the wider world. On the home front, public opinion was energetically mobilized, with dire results for the German-American community. We examine the sophisticated propaganda campaign launched by the Committee of Public Information to rouse a nation to arms, the massive economic mobilization (with the brilliant technocrat Herbert Hoover in charge of the food program), the sensitive role that issues of race played in the war effort, and the encounter of American doughboys overseas with the “old continent.” Outline I. America organizes for war. A. Woodrow Wilson knew that popular opinion had to be shaped and cultivated. 1. Without the immediate motive of a defensive war, American participation had to be explained in terms of ideas, chief among them a crusade for democracy. 2. The government also set about organizing enthusiasm. B. The 1. Wilson charged journalist George Creel with coordinating the C.P.I., an agency that produced Committee on Public Information (C.P.I.) was critical to this effort. effective and innovative propaganda. 2. The C.P.I., with some 150,000 employees, blanketed the country with more than one million publications to fan enthusiasm for the war effort. 3. Tens of thousands of instant orators, called “Four Minute Men,” were dispatched to galvanize the masses through short speeches before movies and musical performances. 4. It is estimated that, in 18 months, a million oratorical performances were heard by 400 million spectators in the United States (this number obviously includes people who heard such talks many times over). 5. Movie stars and celebrities helped sell Liberty Bonds. C. Within American society, a self-propagandizing “war culture” also took hold, as it had in European countries. 1. American universities participated by integrating courses into their curricula to explain the values of Western civilization that were at stake. Originally called “War and Peace” courses, these developed into the Western Civilization courses, a staple of liberal education. 2. German culture was often attacked, with German language courses abolished at some schools. 3. The word liberty was substituted in common words that had German associations: the hamburger became the Liberty sandwich, sauerkraut became Liberty cabbage, and German measles were renamed Liberty measles. In many instances, people with German-sounding last names altered them. 4. A once large and vital German-American community, which earlier had established printing presses, newspapers, schools, and other institutions, came under immense social pressure. 5. Other immigrant communities were also affected, as a propaganda message of “100 percent Americanism” urged the dropping of “hyphenated” identities. II. Economic mobilization was a reality as well. A. As in European states, the U.S. government energetically intervened in the economy to mobilize for the war effort. B. In summer 1917, the War Industries Board was founded by the government with investor Bernard Baruch in charge, regulating prices and profits. 1. It used the threat of nationalization to compel cooperation by industry. 2. The mobilization produced an industrial and agricultural boom and great profits.  13 3. Railroads were nationalized for the duration as strategic assets. C. The scope of the income tax, instituted in 1913, was expanded enormously, changing the tax structure of the nation. D. Herbert Hoover (1874–1964), an engineer who had organized the relief effort in Belgium and northern France, was made Food Administrator under the Food and Fuel Act of August 1917, which allowed the government to regulate these resources. 1. Price controls were used to spur production and lower consumption. 2. Instead of rationing, Hoover preferred to emphasize voluntary measures, which had striking successes. E. As in the European states, organized labor found its role transformed by the wartime “domestic truce.” 1. Demand for labor in the boom led to a labor shortage, increasing the bargaining power of workers. 2. Trade union membership rose significantly, doubling from 1914 to 1920. 3. The president of the American Federation of Labor (A.F.L.), Samuel Gompers, was co-opted into the National War Labor Board, which arbitrated labor disputes and protected workers’ rights to join unions. F. German chemical patents were seized. III. Government control on the home front was tightened. A. The Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of May 1918 were used to clamp down on speech opposed to the war, with very harsh punishments. B. In a famed case, the socialist Eugene V. Debs was arrested and given a 10-year jail sentence in June 1918 for a speech in which he defended opposition to the war. Despite appeals, he served nearly three years of the sentence. IV. Social changes were taking place at this time. A. Women were at the center of many of these changes. V. 14  A. The 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. first American troops landed in France in June 1917. American soldiers were called “doughboys” (the origin of the term is disputed). Despite the promises of the German navy that no Americans would arrive in Europe, two million American soldiers were brought over by sea without losses. The American force was not overwhelming at first. U.S. soldiers did not take the brunt of the fighting and needed to be equipped with weapons from the Allies. However, their sheer numbers and fresh reserves made clear that the strategic balance was tipping against the Central Powers. For many American recruits, this deployment was their first long trip away from home. 1. Women participated in the effort on the home front as one million entered the workforce. 2. Almost a quarter of the workers doing war work were women. 3. The fight for women’s suffrage now took on strategic significance, and Wilson called it vital to the war effort. Congress passed the 19th Amendment in January 1918, and women’s right to vote became law nationwide in 1920. B. The 1. The labor shortages of the war years led to a large African-American migration from the South to the industrial North, reconfiguring America’s demographic landscape. 2. Chicago’s African-American community grew by almost 150 percent, Detroit’s by 611 percent. 3. Those who migrated encountered racially motivated violence, with riots in Chicago, St. Louis, and many other cities. We also need to examine the record of American soldiers in Europe. Great Migration took place during this period. 6. One anxiety of those at home was (as a song put it), “How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Par-ee?” Pershing was horrified at the possible public reaction when his troops were offered the use of French brothels. B. Among the American officers were Harry Truman, George C. Marshall, and George S. Patton. C. General Pershing insisted on keeping the A.E.F. together, rather than dispersing the force throughout the Allied lines. D. The exception to this policy concerned African-American units, which served under French command with distinction. 1. Some 400,000 African-American soldiers served during the war. 2. African-American soldiers, segregated and mistreated by their own commands, encountered sympathetic treatment from the French. 3. The African-American 369th U.S. Infantry, known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” served in the French lines, and the regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre for its service. 4. The friendly French reception extended to the music of the soldiers, jazz. E. The American troops encountered their first engagements. 1. The first American attack took place at the village of Cantigny on May 28, 1918. 2. At the Battle of Belleau Wood, American and French troops halted a German advance in June 1918. 3. The A.E.F. went on to a major offensive in St. Mihiel, south of Verdun, in mid-September 1918 and then took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive from late September 1918. 4. The enthusiasm of the young American soldiers could be costly, with a steep learning curve in this industrial war. 5. Among the heroes of the American effort was a Tennessean, Alvin York, who, though originally a pacifist, became a celebrated warrior. In the Meuse-Argonne offensive, when his unit was pinned down by German fire, his backwoods marksmanship killed 25 German soldiers and caused more than one hundred more to surrender. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor. F. Approximately 117,000 American soldiers died in combat or of disease during the war. Essential Reading: David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society. Supplementary Reading: Arthur E. Barbeau, The Unknown Soldiers: Black American Troops in World War One. Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, Peace. Questions to Consider: 1. How were American propaganda appeals different from those of the European powers? 2. How did the comparative brevity of American direct engagement in the war shape American experience?  15 Lecture Twenty-Nine 1918—The German Empire’s Last Gamble Scope: This lecture charts the last wager of the German High Command in the spring of 1918, hoping to press the fighting on the Western Front to a conclusion before the massed arrival of American forces. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had ended combat on the Eastern Front, freeing the German armies to launch a spring offensive in the West. “Operation Michael” began in March 1918. Using new storm trooper tactics, the Germans achieved impressive advances and approached Paris, which they bombarded with enormous long- range artillery. Despite initial successes, however, they were stopped by an Allied counteroffensive, employing tanks, and were pushed back, having exhausted their reserves. I. II. Outline Last Wager A. In the spring of 1918, the German command took its last gamble. B. According to their calculations, time was of the essence. 1. Victory in the East meant that German troops could be massed on the Western Front. 2. The breakthrough needed to be achieved before American troops arrived in numbers sufficient to tip the balance. C. As with the Schlieffen Plan, Verdun, and unrestricted submarine warfare, the German Empire gambled again, but this time put all its bets on this last throw of the dice. Eastern Triumph: The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk 16  A. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. 1. After their ceasefire in December 1917, the Bolsheviks and the Germans met to negotiate a peace treaty but had irreconcilable aims. 2. The negotiations had a curious character, as both sides argued about the meaning of self-determination for the peoples of Eastern Europe, although it was a concept about which neither side cared. 3. In reality, the Germans sought control of huge expanses of territory, whereas the Bolsheviks aimed to turn negotiations into a platform for a global propaganda event. 4. Appealing to world public opinion, the Bolsheviks publicized the secret treaties of the Allies found in the Russian foreign ministry. 5. Trotsky was brilliant in stalling for time. 6. When negotiations reached a deadlock, Trotsky announced a new tactic of “neither peace nor war” and left. 7. The German army responded by attacking, meeting almost no resistance. The armies came within a hundred miles of Petrograd. 8. Because the revolution was in peril, Lenin narrowly convinced his comrades to sign the treaty. 9. On March 3, 1918, they signed the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which stripped vast territories from the former Russian Empire. 10. By some estimates, Russia lost a third of its territory, a quarter of its population, and three-quarters of its coal and iron. Russia ceded control of Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Finland, and the Baltic provinces. Despite these reverses and impending civil war within Russia, Lenin breathlessly awaited news of the outbreak of international revolution. Germans exulted at this victory. B. C. 1. 2. The wildest hopes of annexationists had been realized. Many felt that half the war had been won. D. E. III. The A. B. 3. Changed perceptions of Eastern Europe and fantasies of a German colonial empire there would later be taken up and radicalized by the Nazis. Yet the harshness of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk produced liabilities. 1. The Allies’ resolve was strengthened by this brutal performance. 2. The one million German soldiers, who had to hold down the occupied territories in the East, might otherwise have been used in the spring offensive in the West. The Treaty of Bucharest of May 7, 1918, with defeated Romania was also harsh and required the vanquished to provide food resources and oil to the Central Powers. Spring Offensive This last German offensive of spring 1918 also was called “The Kaiser’s Battle” and “Operation Michael.” 1. It was a conscious wager because, if it failed, there would be no reserves left. 2. With the transfer of some German troops from the East, the Germans achieved a 10 percent superiority over Western forces. The attack began March 21, 1918. 1. Over the course of the next four months of attacks and storm troop tactics, the Germans pushed Allied lines back 40 miles. 2. In this crisis, the French general, Ferdinand Foch, was at last given unified command of Allied forces. 3. German attacks finally petered out. The material abundance of supplies in captured Allied trenches discouraged German soldiers. 4. The Germans were halted 56 miles from Paris. 5. To spread panic, Paris was bombarded by long-range German guns, including the Big Bertha. Around 250 Parisians were killed by the shelling. 6. The gamble had failed. Beginning of the German Collapse 1. Decisive reverses came for the Germans. 2. An Allied counterattack at Amiens in August broke their lines. The use of tanks overwhelmed discouraged German troops. 3. This breakdown in morale came to be called the “Black Day,” as soldiers lost the will to fight. 4. As German armies retreated, the Allies took the initiative and retained it for the rest of the war. 5. The U.S. army went into action independently for the first time and overran the salient at St. Mihiel. Simultaneously, Allied troops launched an attack from their long inactive camp in Salonika in August 1918. 1. Hungry Bulgarian troops withdrew. 2. On September 29, 1918, Bulgarian representatives signed an armistice in Salonika. 3. Bulgaria was the first of the Central Powers to leave the war. In September 1918, a massive Allied offensive was launched at St. Mihiel in the Meuse-Argonne sector and on the Saint-Quentin–Cambrai sector. By the middle of the month, the Germans had retreated back to the Hindenburg Line, whence they had launched their spring offensive. Despite these successes, the Allies warily assumed that the war would continue into 1919. Breakdown of the Central Powers On September 29, 1918, Ludendorff informed the Kaiser that the war had been lost and that only an armistice could save them now. A desperate attempt at revolution from above was undertaken in the German Empire but came too late to satisfy the Allies or even attract much notice. IV. The A. The “Black Day” of the German Army took place on August 8, 1918. B. C. D. E. V. The A. B.  17 C. D. VI. The A. B. C. D. E. 1. Prince Max von Baden became chancellor and started internal reforms. 2. The German government appealed to Wilson for peace on the basis of his Fourteen Points on October 4, 1918, but the American President responded by demanding internal change first. Germany’s allies fell away. 1. After Bulgaria left the war in September, Turkey followed in October. 2. Allied troops began to move up through the Balkans from Salonika. Austria-Hungary was next on the list. 1. On the Italian front, from October 24–November 2, the Austro-Hungarian army began to dissolve. 2. In trying to go home, many were captured by Italian forces at Vittorio Veneto. 3. On November 3, 1918, Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Allies but was already disintegrating. Fall of Germany Revolution broke out in Germany, provoked by futile gestures at the war’s end. 1. On November 3, 1918, news of orders for a naval “deathride” against the Allies touched off mutinies in the base at Kiel and spread to other port cities. 2. On November 7, revolt broke out in Munich. Ludendorff was fired and escaped abroad in disguise. The scientist Fritz Haber, fearing trial by the Allies, also escaped. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated when told that the German army no longer stood behind him and went into exile in Holland. Turmoil reigned in the capital, Berlin. On November 9, a German democratic republic was declared. On November 8, a German armistice delegation met with the Allied commander, General Foch, and heard the terms. F. Essential Reading: On November 11, 1918, at 11 A.M., the armistice signed at Compiègne in France came into effect. The guns fell silent on the Western Front. Hew Strachan, The First World War, pp. 267−300. Supplementary Reading: John W. Wheeler-Bennett, Brest-Litovsk: The Forgotten Peace, March 1918. Questions to Consider: 1. 2. Could Austria-Hungary have saved itself by leaving the war earlier? If the armistice had not been signed and the front moved onto German territory, how might the outcome of the war have been different? 18  Lecture Thirty The War’s End—Emotions of the Armistice Scope: When the guns at last fell silent on the Western Front on November 11, 1918, with the armistice, those who had survived the Great War experienced a tidal wave of different emotions: grief, anger, loss, relief, exaltation, and furious desire for revenge. This lecture explores the range of responses to the conclusion of the war and the divergent hopes vested in the upcoming peace settlement. With the armistice, the hatred built up over years impeded reconciliation, and many Germans found it difficult to accept that they had in fact lost the war. As a crowning horror in the concluding stages of the conflict, a pandemic swept the globe: the Spanish influenza killed an estimated 50 million. Outline I. Mixed Emotions A. As the guns stopped firing on the Western Front, and a great stillness settled on the battlefields, contemporaries had to take stock of the war, the coming peace, and their own emotions. B. These emotions were mixed: despair and fury for the defeated, celebration and mourning for the victors, and the exaltation of new independence achieved by peoples in Central and Eastern Europe. C. In point of fact, even with the armistice on the Western Front, the war did not end everywhere: it would continue in aftershocks in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. D. A premature American announcement of a ceasefire caused great celebration on November 7, 1918. II. The A. The armistice was signed at five A.M. on November 11, 1918, in a railway carriage at the forest of Great Stillness of the Armistice Compiègne, near Paris. B. Terms of the armistice were drawn up to reflect Foch’s determination to hinder renewed German war efforts. 1. Germany had to withdraw from all occupied territory (except on the Eastern Front) and Alsace- Lorraine would be returned to France. 2. The Rhineland was to be cleared of German troops, and the Allies would occupy strategic bridgeheads at Mainz, Koblenz, and Cologne. 3. Military materiel and the German high seas fleet were to be turned over to the Allies. 4. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk became invalid. 5. Germany would pay for the damage caused by the war. 6. The naval blockade would continue while the following negotiations took place. 7. At first set for 36 days, the armistice was later prolonged indefinitely. 2. They hoped for what they called a “Wilson Peace” of moderate terms, based on the Fourteen Points of January 8, 1918. D. The ceasefire came into effect at 11 A.M. on November 11, 1918. E. The war had lasted 52 months. III. Reactions to the News of the Armistice A. Reaction in Allied Western Europe was a mixture of sorrow and celebration. 1. Reportedly, in the front lines of the trenches, the mood was one of quiet exhaustion. 2. In London, riotous celebrations broke out, and strangers reportedly made love in public. German delegation was led by Catholic Center Party leader Matthias Erzberger (later assassinated for 1. Now Germans would have to await the terms of the peace. C. The his role in 1921).  19 3. In Paris, as bells rang, crowds paraded down the boulevards and before the statue of Strasbourg; Allied soldiers were carried aloft. Trophy cannon captured from the Germans were pulled down the Rue de Rivoli. 4. At the British gas warfare laboratory at Porton Down, drunken guards released apes that terrorized the region until captured again. 5. In the mood of celebration, even a Belgian beer dedicated to the peace, “PAX,” was produced (and is still made today). 6. Among these celebrations, inescapably private sorrows also made themselves felt among widows, orphans, and bereaved parents and siblings. B. The 1. In Poland, November 11 became celebrated as national independence day, a key symbolic fact that formal closing of the war had a similarly mixed reception in Eastern Europe. shows the meaning attached to World War I. 2. Independent countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe now emerged from the ruins of the fallen empires, celebrating their new existence but also vulnerable to threat amid their fragile beginnings. C. The reaction of defeated Germany was a different case. true fortunes of the war. Moreover, German armies stood on foreign soil. 1. Many Germans were glad of the fact that the war was over but incredulous at the news of their defeat. 2. Many were psychologically unprepared for the news, as censorship and propaganda had hidden the 3. The sheer momentum of events was hard to take in: the Kaiser had abdicated and a new German democratic republic was declared two days before the armistice. 4. In the humiliation of defeat, for many Germans the new democracy would come to be associated with failure and shame. 5. A “Stab in the Back” legend emerged, claiming that Germany had, in fact, not been defeated on the battlefield but undermined by dark forces. 6. The democratic revolutionaries of 1918 were denounced by nationalists as “November criminals.” 7. One obscure soldier, Adolf Hitler, who was recovering at the hospital of Pasewalk after being gassed in Belgium on October 14, 1918, was shattered when he heard the news of Germany’s defeat. 8. He went blind and afterwards claimed he had visions instructing him to restore Germany’s greatness. IV. Losses 20  A. B. C. D. The number of deaths was huge and could not be determined with precision. 1. Germany had lost almost 2 million; Austria-Hungary 1.5 million. 2. Russia lost 1.7 million, France nearly 1.5 million, Britain nearly a million, Italy half a million, and America lost more than 100,000. 3. The generational losses were crushing. In France, 17 percent of those who served were killed. 4. Altogether, some nine million soldiers died. 5. Every dead soldier left behind families and relationships shattered by that loss. Injuries were equally significant. 1. Twenty million were wounded, seven million of these disabled permanently. 2. It cannot be known how many suffered from psychological disturbances long after the war. 3. Even those who survived often considered themselves a haunted “Lost Generation.” The economic damage was enormous. 1. A report from 1920 estimated the cost of the war at $337 billion. 2. Besides the immediate losses of the war were the losses of markets to neutral countries, or to the United States, and the plague of inflation. Confidence in progress was another casualty of the conflict. V. Influenza A. Even as the war drew to a close, a natural disaster overtook the world, a devastating pandemic, the Spanish influenza. B. The epidemic seems to have appeared in Haskell County, Kansas, in early 1918. 1. The movement of troops and ships as a result of the war, as well as weakened constitutions of civilians in warring countries, apparently facilitated its spread, according to some interpretations. 2. The disease spread to Europe and other parts of the world, mutating in several waves. 3. Though it originated and spread from the United States, the pandemic came to be called the Spanish flu because in neutral Spain, without censorship, reports of the disease were not downplayed as they were in warring countries. 4. The disease rapidly attacked a victim, often the young and healthy. C. This virus probably killed another 50 million, mostly in the fall of 1918. 1. Estimates range from 20 million up to 100 million deaths worldwide. Spanish flu killed more people in a year than the medieval plague did over the course of 100 years. 2. Most recent estimates suggest that 17 million died in India and that 2 percent of the entire population of Africa died. 3. In towns in the United States, not enough coffins could be produced for the dead. D. Curiously, not long after this devastating pandemic, its memory was seemingly effaced from collective consciousness. Why was this? 1. Did the tragedy of the war overshadow this disaster, overloading grief? 2. Was the enormity of the flu’s devastation something that people simply could not fathom? 3. Epidemiologists warn that pandemics such as this one could certainly recur in our own time, and they are watching for an outbreak. VI. Moving Forward A. On January 18, 1919, in Paris the formal opening of peace negotiations took place. B. Hatreds built up over the last years of war would impede a peace settlement. 1. French popular opinion demanded that Germany be punished for aggression and French security guaranteed. 2. In Great Britain, in the December 1918 “Khaki Elections” (so named because they were dominated by military issues), Lloyd George and his coalition won (and ruled until 1922) on promises of “making the Germans pay.” “Hang the Kaiser” was a common demand. 3. By contrast, many Germans were skeptical that they had indeed lost the war. C. Even the victorious Allied powers wrestled with the question of what victory might conceivably mean after losses of such magnitude. Essential Reading: John Keegan, The First World War, pp. 414−427. Supplementary Reading: John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, Peace. Stanley Weintraub, A Stillness Heard Round the World: The End of the Great War, November 1918. Questions to Consider: 1. On what basis could a peace of reconciliation have been crafted given the emotions of late 1918? 2. Why was memory of the Spanish influenza seemingly repressed?  21 Lecture Thirty-One Toppled Thrones—The Collapse of Empires Scope: As the war ended in defeat for the Central Powers, their empires and political structures also came crashing down. Total war had led to total defeat. This lecture outlines the startling internal collapse of the Central Powers. In November 1918, a German revolution broke out, following naval mutinies in German ports. Kaiser Wilhelm II fled into exile and a democratic Germany was declared. The young German republic was not unchallenged, however, as a civil war developed in the streets, with fighting between radical socialists and mercenary right-wing Freikorps units. The centuries-old Habsburg Empire dissolved into independent states, breaking down along ethnic lines. The Ottoman Empire lost many of its ancient territories and retained only its Turkish core before the onset of a nationalist revival. In the case of each empire, what order would replace the extinct structures was a burning question. I. Transforming the Political Map II. A. B. C. The A. B. As a result of the war, four great empires came crashing down: the Russian Empire of the Romanovs, the German Empire of the Hohenzollerns, the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs, and the Ottoman Empire. In Europe, republics replaced dynastic kingdoms and nine new national states appeared: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Two key points need to be emphasized about this transformation. 1. The new states were not created by the negotiators of the Paris Peace Conference. Rather, facts unfolded on the ground with astonishing speed, suggesting the appeal of nationalism and ideas of “self-determination” and associated democratic ideals. 2. New independence for nationalities in Central and Eastern Europe also made for a different perception of the war, whose end was seen not as senseless tragedy and waste, but as a baptism by fire for national freedom. German Revolution After naval mutinies and revolts broke out, the attempted “revolution from above” to create a constitutional monarchy failed. 1. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and fled to exile in Holland. 2. Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff systematically sought to evade responsibility for the defeat. 3. Prince Max von Baden offered government power to Social Democratic leaders, who were surprised and unprepared. 4. Social Democratic leader Friedrich Ebert took over on November 9, 1918, and his colleague Phillip Scheidemann declared a German democratic republic in Berlin. Confusion reigned at first. 1. One observer commented that Germans had fallen asleep under an empire and woken up under a republic. 2. Chaos and confusion were rife, as local councils on the model of Russian soviets organized, a socialist republic was declared in Bavaria, separatists mobilized in the Rhineland, 10 million soldiers needed to be demobilized, and the Spartakus revolutionary movement planned the overthrow of the republic. 3. Karl Liebknecht declared a rival radical socialist republic on the same day. 4. In a paradox, the S.P.D., which had claimed it wanted revolution, now sought order. 5. Government leaders fell back on an agreement with the army for mutual assistance and the hiring of brutal mercenaries called Freikorps to quell revolts. 6. A civil war atmosphere pervaded the streets. This atmosphere did not bode well for German democracy as the Weimar Republic was established. 22  C. Outline B. The 1. The provisional government included the S.P.D., Left Liberals, and the Catholic Center Party. 2. In the elections for the constituent assembly in January 1919, a strong vote of support (76 percent) for these parties gave a mandate for democracy. 3. The constitution, crafted in Weimar, was considered a model of democracy, progressive governance, and enlightened welfare state obligations. It included universal voting rights, a bill of rights, and extensive social commitments. 4. Its system of proportional voting made for a splintered parliament with many parties. D. The 1. In the minds of many, German democracy became associated with defeat and the Versailles Treaty, which Germany signed with the Allies on June 28, 1919. 2. Radical nationalists denounced the government as “November Criminals.” 3. When troops returned from the front, Ebert welcomed them in Berlin as “undefeated in the battlefield,” which raised the question of how then Germany had lost. 4. The “Stab in the Back” legend, already being circulated as the war was being fought, now proliferated, asserting that Germany’s armies had been betrayed by elements on the home front. III. End of the Habsburg Realm A. Even before the war’s end, Austria-Hungary had been dissolving as national committees were founded by the separate ethnic groups. 1. Exiled politicians abroad agitated the Allies for recognition. The reluctance of the Allies to see the dismemberment of the empire gradually declined. 2. From 1917, with the Russian March Revolution and American entry into the war, a new ideological emphasis on democracy condemned the multinational empire. 3. Wilson’s Fourteen Points included the demand for free, autonomous development. 4. By the summer of 1918, the Allies supported national claims to independence and recognized exile committees. Republic of Czechoslovakia was established. “Stab in the Back” legend took hold even more firmly. 1. A national committee had de facto been taking over power in the Czech lands, mobilizing one of the best organized national movements in Europe and seeking to make common cause with the related Slovaks. 2. Abroad, Tomáš Masaryk and Eduard Benes cofounded the Czechoslovak National Council in London in Paris in 1915. 3. On October 28, 1918, an independent Czechoslovak republic was declared in Prague. C. An independent Yugoslavia was also declared. 1. The prewar “South Slav” movement led to the forming of a Yugoslav Committee in London in May 1915, gathering Serbs, Croatians, Montenegrins, and Slovenes. 2. In the Corfu Declaration of July 1917, Serbia and representatives of the other South Slavs agreed to seek a combined Yugoslav state, but its nature remained unclear. 3. On October 29, 1918, an independent Yugoslavia was declared. D. Hungary also broke from Habsburg rule. 1. As the empire melted away, on October 16, 1918, Hungary split off from Austria, though the two retained a common monarch. 2. On November 16, 1918, an independent Hungarian republic was declared under Prince Michael Karolyi. E. Austria, too, became independent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 1. With the empire’s collapse, on November 12, 1918, an independent German-Austria was declared. 2. This small country of 7 million was a shadow of its former powerful self—Vienna once had been the capital of an empire of 50 million. F. The young Emperor Karl, who had sought to save his regime, was crushed.  23 1. In mid-October 1918, the emperor had proclaimed federal reorganization with autonomy of nationalities in Austria, but it came too late. 2. On November 3, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian armistice was signed for a state that no longer existed. 3. Emperor Karl refused to abdicate and went into exile to Madeira, dying young. His exile marked the end of 600 years of Habsburg rule. G. Once unified politically and economically, the Danube basin was now torn apart, the empire separated into seven states. In another imperial hangover, five million Germans now lived as minorities outside of Austria. IV. Independence in Eastern Europe A. The Russian Empire also had begun its disintegration before the end of the war, during the revolutionary events of 1917–1918. B. Poland became an independent country. 1. The Haller Army of 100,000 Poles fought in France, winning Allied sympathies. 2. Abroad, nationalist politician Roman Dmowski and the world-famous pianist Ignacy Paderewski agitated for Polish independence. 3. Wilson’s Fourteen Points made an independent Poland a key war aim. 4. November 11, 1918, is still celebrated as Poland’s independence day. 5. Pilsudski was freed from a German jail and traveled to Warsaw to form a government. 6. Despite personal and political conflicts, Pilsudski and Dmowski (who led the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference) worked together for Poland. 7. Polish borders to the east and to the west remained unclear. C. The Baltic Republics and Finland gained their independence as well. 1. With the German collapse, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland became independent republics. 2. Their independence remained fragile, as some German forces remained, Bolsheviks aimed to regain the lands, and civil war threatened. Transcaucasian Republic included the former Russian territories of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. D. The V. Ottoman Turkey A. With Arabia now a separate state and Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Trans-Jordan under Allied disposition, the remaining parts of the empire came under Allied military occupation. B. The Young Turk war leaders fled into exile. C. The new Sultan Mehmed IV cooperated with the Allies. D. A nationalist movement led by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk) resisted the government as well as the Allied occupation, eventually abolishing the sultanate and creating a Turkish nation-state. Essential Reading: Aviel Roshwald, Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, 1914−1923. Supplementary Reading: Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis. Questions to Consider: 1. 2. Could the Austro-Hungarian Empire have been preserved? Would that have been desirable? Was the growth of the “Stab in the Back” legend inevitable, or could it have been quelled? 24  Lecture Thirty-Two The Versailles Treaty and Paris Settlement Scope: The peace settlements ending the First World War were beset with contradictions. Should the treaties reconcile enemies or punish the defeated? Were they meant to repair the prewar Balance of Power or abolish it? This lecture considers in depth the entire complex of treaties with the defeated Central Powers, which together constituted the Paris Settlement, and the divergent motives of the victors at work in the drafting of the peace. The case of the 1919 Versailles Treaty with defeated Germany brings the paradoxes of the peace into sharp relief, expressing the desire for European reconciliation, while imposing economic and military constraints on Germany, along with reparations for war guilt. Elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, in the new republics established out of imperial wreckage, the settlement was celebrated as a ratification of longed-for national independence. Issues left unresolved by the Paris Settlement would soon return to haunt Europeans. Outline I. Paris Settlement A. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 opened on January 18, 1919, and involved five separate treaties with the defeated powers: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey. B. The peacemakers for the Big Four represented France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States. 1. Premier Clemenceau negotiated with dogged and inflexible determination to defend French interests and security and to win the peace. 2. British Prime Minister Lloyd George, despite his earlier ferocity, tried to compromise where possible but defended British imperial interests. 3. Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando, frustrated by Allied refusal to meet Italian territorial demands on the Adriatic, stormed out of the negotiations on April 24, 1919. 4. Woodrow Wilson came to construct a peace along idealistic lines and met a rapturous welcome on his arrival. No American president spent so much time away from the United States while in office, and his decision to personally lead the negotiations has been criticized by some historians. C. Different priorities could clash: Wilson’s aim was to enshrine a democratic peace with self-determination and a League of Nations, whereas the European powers preferred to emphasize the imperatives of security and the realities of power politics. D. Germany expected to be included in negotiations as a new democracy but was disappointed in this expectation and had to wait to hear the terms of the peace. E. Time was a crucial factor on all sides. Facts were being established on the ground, armies were being demobilized, and shifts in relative power were taking place. F. Negotiators were lobbied furiously by advocates of different causes. G. The Versailles Treaty, centerpiece of the Settlement, was carved out with compromises and dissatisfactions aplenty but still met the biggest demands in many cases. II. Terms of the Versailles Treaty A. Germany was to lose all of its colonies and about 13 percent of its prewar territory (along with 10 percent of its population), including Alsace and Lorraine, lands transferred to Belgium and Denmark, the eastern provinces, the Polish Corridor to the Baltic Sea, and the port of Danzig. B. Germany’s armed forces were to be drastically reduced. 1. With no conscription, the German army would be limited to a volunteer force of 100,000 men. 2. Germany was to have no air force or submarines. Gas weapons were banned. 3. The Rhineland was to be demilitarized along a frontier belt 30 miles wide. The west bank was to be occupied by the Allies for 15 years.  25 4. France had demanded an independent Rhineland buffer state but eventually dropped this requirement in exchange for British and American pledges of security. C. Germany would pay an unspecified amount in reparations for the war. (Wilson had resisted this demand but acceded to it eventually.) Later, the sum was set at $32 billion in 1921. D. Limitations were placed on German industry and commerce. E. In article 231, the so-called “War Guilt Clause” to establish a legal foundation for claims to reparations, Germany was to accept the blame for the war. III. German Reactions A. When the terms of the treaty were announced, the German public was thunderstruck and outraged. 1. No negotiation of the terms was to be allowed. Rather, they were to be accepted or the blockade would continue and war recommence. 2. German naval officers sank the German fleet at Scapa Flow in protest. 3. Nationalists denounced this Diktat (dictated peace) and Germany’s “bleeding borders.” 4. Across nearly the entire political spectrum, German rejection of the terms was unanimous, especially concerning war guilt. 5. In fact, the terms were milder than those Germany had imposed on Russia in 1918. B. Despite protests, the German delegation signed the treaty on June 28, 1919—five years to the day of the assassinations in Sarajevo—in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. C. Outrage remained strong and poisoned the public’s view of German democracy by association. D. Scientist Fritz Haber sought to extract gold from seawater to pay for reparations. Though he failed, he won the 1918 Nobel Prize for earlier work in synthesizing nitrates. IV. Other Treaties of the Paris Settlement