To what extent should Germany be held responsible for causing both the First and Second World Wars?

To what extent should Germany be held responsible for causing both the First and Second World Wars?
From IBDP History 1998 Exam—Paper II

Example I:

In 1961, German historian Fritz Fischer published a book, “Germany’s Aims in the First World War”, that sparked a furious debate amongst historians inside and out of Germany. In this book, Fischer argues that Germany was responsible for the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, thus justifying the claim of the War Guilt clause in the treaty of Versailles that Germany was solely responsible for the damages the war had caused. Fischer’s argument conflicted with the belief of both the German public and academia at the time, as most Historians prior to Fischer agreed with the arguments of the revisionist historians of the 1930s, such as Sidney Bradshaw Faye, who argued that although Germany may have been partly to blame for the start of World War 1, the other major superpowers in Europe were equally to blame. Fritz Fischer presented in his book, as well as in his sequel “World Power or Decline”, a number of theses which he uses to argue that Germany had actively and aggressively planned for a world war since 1912 and as a result should be blamed for starting one, yet simultaneously many other historians, notably Gerhard Ritter, refute Fischer’s claims by presenting equally compelling evidence to argue that Germany wasn’t trying to be aggressive in its policies, but instead was being defensive and only engaged in war mistakenly and spontaneously as opposed to Fischer’s view that the Germans’ declarations of war had been the result of deliberate planning. In order to fully evaluate to what extent either view can be justified and thus decide whether or not Germany should be considered solely to blame for the outbreak of War in 1914, both the strengths and weaknesses, the accuracies and the oversights of each of the arguments should be assessed. This essay shall analyse both the revisionist views of Ritter and the Anti-Revisionist views of Fischer in order to come to a balanced conclusion as to what extent Germany was to blame for the outbreak of one of the deadliest wars in human history. 

A point argued by Fischer extensively in conjunction with his thesis that Germany was guilty of the outbreak of war in 1914 was that Germany’s militarism during the build up to war signals Germany’s aggressive, war-mongering intent. Fischer points out that between 1910 and 1914, German military expenditure rose by 73%, significantly more than the 10% increase of spending over the same time period of Germany’s greatest enemy, France. Using this as evidence, Fischer argues that this shows that post 1910 – and especially post 1912 – Germany had clearly decided to go to war sooner rather than later and had as a result increased military spending by this huge amount. Fischer continues by stating that the – in comparison – negligible increase in French military spending shows that France was not expecting to go to war and as a result had chosen not to prepare by increasing its military expenditure by as much as Germany had. From these observations, Fischer argues that the huge increase in the military spending of Germany between 1910 and 1914 was a signal of their preparations and intent to embroil Europe in War sooner rather than later. Fischer, with this argument however, fails to take a number of key points into account. First, Fischer fails to mention that France may well have wanted to increase military spending but were not able to, as their democratic parliamentary system would never elect a leader whose intention were to raise taxes on the poor in order to fund, to a greater extent, the militarisation of France. This means that although the relatively low French increase in military expenditure may not have been due to a lack of aggression and intent for war, but instead due to the restrictions that its political system lays upon the government, unlike the system in Germany, which is Autocratic and thus the public opinion has far less sway. Furthermore, it is worth noting that Germany had had far less time to build up its army and thus the rapid increase of military expenditure may well be seen as a defensive policy aiming to merely allow Germany to build up its army to the level where it can effectively defend itself from its aggressive Neighbours, rather than as an aggressive policy looking for war. Thus, although the excessive increase in German military expenditure between 1910 and 1914 may be a signal of Germany’s aggressive intent over its neighbours, it could also, upon reflection, be regarded as a purely defensive manoeuvre. 

Another central argument that Fischer uses in order to convince historians that Germany was to blame for the outbreak of the First World War is that by 1912, many of Germany’s military officers and most powerful politicians had decided that war with Russia was inevitable. This was primarily due to the reforms that the Russian army was undergoing following their defeat in the Russo-Japanese war. These reforms would transform the Russian army into a far more modern and thus potent threat to Germany and, due to Russia’s alliance with Germany’s highly antagonistic neighbours France, the reformed army could well crush Germany. As a result, German politicians believed that war with Russia prior to the reforms being completed in 1917 would be beneficial for German growth and thus the German high command, according to Fischer, actively sought war with Russia before 1917. In the words of the head of Army van Moltke in 1912: “I hold war [with Russia] to be inevitable and the sooner the better.” Fischer argues that this attitude of the German generals and politicians shows that Germany was aiming to go to war as early as 1912. Indeed, the Bosnian crisis already showed Germany’s willingness to go to war and it was only Russia backing out when none of its allies backed it that caused war to have been averted. Fischer also uses this attitude of the German politicians to justify his claim that it was Germany who pushed Austro-Hungary to go to war with Serbia, thus starting the series of events that lead to the start of the First World War. Fischer claims that the murder of the Archduke gave Germany an opportunity to both support Austria and, potentially, initiate the war with Russia, through a war with Serbia, that Germany had been seeking. Thus Germany encouraged Austria by handing them the infamous blank cheque. On the other hand, the series of desperate telegrams sent between Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II, on the advent of the start of the war, urging one another to not mobilise indicates that German leadership (ie the Kaiser), was reluctant to go to war with his cousin the Tsar and his people, contradicting Fischers’ argument. As a result, although Fischer argues that the Russian military reforms prompted German officials to actively seek war with Russia, by, for example, encouraging Austria with their blank cheque agreement, other evidence points towards Germany, and in particular the Kaiser, being reluctant to declare war on Russia. 

A final argument that Fischer used to blame Germany for the start of the war was that Germany actively sought the outbreak of war in order to cover up and suppress internal social and political tensions. Following the turn of the 20th century and the widespread reforms throughout Europe, many high ranking German officials, especially the conservative Junkers, became worried about the increasing power of socialist parties and workers’ unions within the Reich, considering them a rot to society. In order to stop this rot, the Junkers wanted to arrest the leaders and suppress these parties by force. However, in order to do this effectively, the Junkers needed an effective cover to distract attention away from these events. The primary opportunity for this was war. Hence, Fischer argues that many of the powerful Junkers within the German government were, if not actively seeking, then not careful to avoid the outbreak of war. Fischer reasons that Germany’s drive for war was in part due to the powerful Junkers looking for the most suitable cover so that they could settle their own internal affairs (i.e. motivated by self-interest). However, to what extent these internal quibbles had upon foreign policy beyond perhaps a slight change in mentality is unclear, and consequently the argument that the socio-political unrest within Germany motivated the powerful and conservative Junkers to start a war in order to provide cover for the suppression of unrest, although credible, is not an obvious reason as to why the war started, nor a particularly convincing argument that Germany was to blame. 

When, in the 1960s, Fischer published his books arguing Germany’s guilt for the outbreak of the First World War, he garnered a fair following amongst German historians, however he also had his fair share of critics. An argument that his critics point out is that prior to 1914, German foreign policy was oft contradictory and with no clear aim, especially not the aim of going to war with its neighbours. Kaiser Wilhelm the II was a very fickle man, so as an autocratic leader his policies were inconsistent. In 1895, Kaiser Wilhelm declared his support for Russia in the triple intervention that settled the first Sino-Japanese war. Germany thus seemed to support Russia, almost, but not quite, as an ally. However, five years previously, Kaiser Wilhelm had decided to let the Russo-German Re-insurance treaty lapse, causing Russia to feel frightened that Germany may be hostile towards it (due to expansionist policies) and thus sign an alliance with Germany’s greatest enemies France. Historians argue that this evidences Germany’s inconsistent policies: that they first let relations with Russia to break down to such an extent, that Russia sign a treaty with Germany’s greatest enemy, France. Yet, upon seeing this alliance, Germany then, and only then, try to win back Russia’s favour by supporting them in the Far East. Thus, historians conclude that Germany had no clear aim of whether it wanted to antagonise its Neighbours in the search of war, or whether they were trying to appease them in order to prevent war. Fischer may state, however, that as these events took place long before the start of the War and thus Germany’s attitude and direction may have changed later on, specifically in 1912. However, chaotic German policies followed on all the way to 1914. For example, in 1905 Germany provoked a crisis by protesting the French having colonised Morocco, something that had been agreed between France and Britain within their Entente Cordiale. Germany, by getting involved in an agreement between France and Britain immediately seemed overly aggressive, forcing the British and French to become even closer to one another, thus posing a greater threat to Germany, as opposed to a lesser one. This was a political miscalculation, as Germany had sought to drive France and Britain apart. However, this event again indicates that German policy making was not as carefully planned and meticulously thought out as Fischer described in his books, but instead the policy making by the Kaiser seemed naïve and rushed, something that seems unlikely to be the case for a nation that in a few years would be planning for war. Through this, historians argue that it seems unlikely that the German government and the Kaiser in particular, in a matter of five years, changed his policy making from a naïve and rushed, chaotic and contradictory style to a carefully planned war strategy. As a result, critics of Fischer argue that the German policy making was too inconsistent in the years prior to the outbreak of World War 1 to countenance the idea that Germany then made a careful plan to go to war. Thus they argue Germany’s innocence as they point out that Germany signalled no clear intention of war prior to 1914, indeed they, in many cases, seemed confused as to what policy to follow. 

One of the foremost critics of Fischer was the conservative German historian Gerhard Ritter. Ritter’s main counter against Fischer’s arguments focussed on why Germany were not intentionally causing war through their actions in 1914, thus being innocent of the charges put forward by Fischer. Ritter’s argument is that Germany’s starting of a world war was not the result of a predetermined intention, but rather due to a catastrophic evaluation of European politics at the time. The argument states that Germany regarded itself as coming to the defence of a brother empire that had been attacked by terrorists. Thus, Ritter justifies the blank cheque agreement by saying that its intentions were meant as a deterrent to Serbia and to intimidate them. Ritter particularly stresses that Germany agreed to invade Serbia because it did not think that Russia was willing to support a terrorist state who had just assassinated an “innocent”, nor did Germany believe that Russia could mobilize with any speed anyways. Naturally, Ritter concludes it was these miscalculations that caused Germany to become involved in a World War, as opposed to Fischer’s view that these actions were part of a deliberate Russian war strategy. Ritter further opposes Fischer’s argument that German politicians desired war in and around 1914 with their neighbours, in particular France. Ritter points out that the German chancellor ordered the governor of Alsace Lorraine in 1914 to prevent the German-speaking press from printing Francophobic remarks. This indicates that rather than being aggressive towards their neighbours in an expansionist way, as Fischer described, the German government instead sought to make peace with its neighbours, if at first merely on a social level as opposed to a political one. Finally, Ritter refutes Fischer’s claim than van Moltke refusing to comply with the Kaiser’s last minute suggestion to call off the invasion of France was an indication of Germany’s willingness and intent to cause a World War. Ritter states that in fact, Moltke merely had refused to comply due to the logistics nightmare that this would cause. Although neither party has many facts to back this up, Ritter argues throughout that Fischer’s view is wrong due to his extremely biased interpretation of events during 1914 and that, upon revision, Germany can be seen not as directly intent on causing a war, but rather as having gotten itself involved in a situation that spiralled out of control and towards World War due to a series of mistaken judgements rather than any direct desire for war. 

Fritz Fischer argued in 1961 that Germany had been to blame for the outbreak of World War 1 as it had directly planned to go to war with its neighbours, whom it felt threatened by, by 1917, due to a mixture of military pressure from its Generals who saw war as inevitable and thus readied themselves accordingly, not least by handing a blank cheque to an aggressive Austria, an increase in military spending that had signalled an intent for war and due to internal conflicts motivating high ranking politicians to, if not actively seek war, then not to try hard avoiding it. Other historians, notably Gerhard Ritter, criticise Fischer’s arguments, pointing out that Germany’s contradictory policy making prior to 1914 was at odds to Fischer’s vision of a deliberate plan for war being formulated as well as that Fischer’s interpretations of events in 1914 were one sided and unbalanced. Personally, although I agree to some extent with Fischer that Germany may well have been overly aggressive and thus has to bear some of the responsibility for the outbreak of war, at the same time I disagree that Germany were solely to blame, as stated by the Treaty of Versailles. Instead I believe that while the actions of Germany may have been questionable, I highly doubt that there was a specific intent to start a war that would, over four years, kill six million people across Europe.  

Example II:

Upon signing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany agreed to a section that has caused much speculation since then. Article 231, also known as the War Guilt Clause, states that Germany was to blame for the full extent of the Great War. However, with hindsight, historians such as Ritter and Schroeder disagree with this conclusion, they believe that Germany was not to blame for the outbreak of war. The following essay will discuss how Germany, though not innocent, was not the sole cause for the breakdown in International Relations before the Great War. 

The first argument to support this deduction is the idea that tensions in the 1900s were already very high. After Germany defeated France in 1870 and took Alsace-Lorraine, France’s pride was wounded. Alsace-Lorraine was one of her more industrial regions, thus, when Germany took it, France suffered a substantial blow to their economy. Not only that, but they were humiliated to the point where they wanted revenge and they would stop at nothing to get it. This seems like the attitude of a nation willing to risk war just to salvage their pride, which is shown a few years later, when, in 1894, France and Russia create the Franco-Russian Dual Alliance. The sudden alliance, at the time, looked like an attack on Germany. It was only natural for Germany to feel encircled by the two countries, which led to the Germans beginning to build up their army. Germany did what any other one of the nations, who, put in the situation, would have done. The tensions between the European countries were escalating rapidly to the point where any sudden attack on one of the allies would cause an immediate response in the shape of a war. 

Another event that created plenty of tension in Europe, and led to the brink of war, was the Bosnian Crisis in 1908. The Bosnian Crisis is where the initial conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia began, and led to Austria declaring war on Serbia after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered on 28th June 1914. The rising tension between the two countries led to the other nations coming to support their allies. The rush to aid their allies was not caused by Germany, as they weren’t even expecting Russia to go to aid Serbia against Austria-Hungary. When they did, Germany had to rush to Austria-Hungary’s aid. Germany was even less to blame for this event, as it wasn’t even involved until Austria-Hungary asked for its aid against Russia and Serbia. The conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary continues to strengthen the fact that Germany wasn’t the sole reason behind the outbreak of the Great War. One of the main reasons behind why Germany was seen as such a ‘bad guy’ in the outbreak of the First World War, was due to the amount of propaganda made at the time. The Daily Mail newspaper in 1911, after the second Moroccan Crisis printed a feature saying, “Germany is deliberately preparing to destroy the British Empire. Britain alone stands in the way of Germany’s path to world power and domination.” In this quote, the British propaganda spins the Agadir Crisis completely out of proportion to make Germany seem like the antagonist in the situation. The statement is only partly true, as Germany had become the second largest industry in the world by then, second to America. Britain had a larger empire than Germany and a larger navy, but Germany had the upper hand in a war situation, as it had a larger army. Germany quickly became the antagonist during the early 1900s and therefore was an easy target to put all the blame on when the war ended, however they didn’t deserve all of it. A further example of propaganda displaying Germany as the ‘enemy’ is when the Kaiser’s words were twisted and put together to portray him as such. The Kaiser wasn’t even in an interview when a journalist used some of the Kaiser’s quotes and portrayed him as if he was in an interview. In 1908, the Daily Telegraph ‘quoted’ the Kaiser saying, “You English, are mad, mad, mad as March hares.” These words made the Kaiser seem as if he were being hostile towards the British and were successful in portraying the Kaiser as the antagonist in the war. This would have helped in the argument of Germany being the sole blame for the outbreak of the Great War, however this so-called ‘interview’ was falsely portrayed and so is another point that supports the argument that Germany was not to blame for the collapse in International Relations before the Great War. When the supposed long-term enemies, France and Britain, signed an Entente Cordiale or a ‘friendly understanding’ in 1907, Germany saw this as threatening. As the two nations continued to team up against Germany, tensions continued to rise. Tensions reached a peak in 1905 for the 1st Moroccan Crisis and then again in 1911 for the 2nd. Germany was humiliated and began to see that the two recently become allies were teaming up to prevent Germany from expanding and becoming more powerful. This was crucial in directing the blame to Germany, as the two allies were able to portray Germany as the aggressor. However, Germany by itself was not to blame, other nations were as much a factor in the outbreak of the Great War as Germany. 

Among the many historians who are opposed to the theory that Germany was not to blame for the outbreak of the Great War, Fritz Fischer caused the most controversy. In 1961, Fischer wrote Griff nach der Weltmacht. In his book, he argued his opinion on how Germany was to blame for the war due to its aggressive pursuit of its Weltpolitik. He also discussed how aggression from Germany might have sparked due to fear of encirclement by France and Russia and this could have led to Germany wanting the war. However, shortly after the book was published, many historians argued against Fischer. Of the more respected, Professor Gerhard Ritter “has not only suggested that Fischer misinterprets documents but has also implied that he has a political purpose in doing this”, this was taken from an excerpt in H W Koch’s book The Origins of the First World War. One of Ritter’s main arguments is that he was present during the war and experienced it first-hand, whilst Fischer was only a child at the time, therefore Ritter “has a view of the origins of the First World War which is entirely different from Fischer’s”. Professor Gerhard Ritter has the upper hand in this debate, as he was present for both the war and the ‘hindsight’. This is supported by the fact that German policy before 1914 was vague and doesn’t support the idea of Weltpolitik. Although Fritz Fischer provides substantial arguments, it is Ritter’s that gain the upper hand, as it was proven when in 1965, Fischer published another book, Weltmacht oder Niedergang, to counteract the criticism. Ritter succeeded in arguing against Fischer to support the idea that Germany was not the sole nation to blame for the outbreak of the First World War.

An example of an event that could be used to blame Germany for the breakdown in International Relations before the Great War is the formation of the Drei Kaiser Bund in 1881. The Drei Kaiser Bund itself wasn’t to blame, but when, in 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm let the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia lapse, Russia was annoyed and therefore went and joined France in the Franco-Russian Dual Alliance in 1892. This led to Germany feeling encircled by the two nations and it also felt threatened by a possible attack. Although this contributed to the outbreak of war, it wasn’t the only cause, otherwise war would have broken out in the 1890s instead of 1914, however, it is important to remember that it may have been a significant factor in increasing tensions in Europe. Another event that might aid in blaming Germany for the First World War is the German naval law in 1900. This is important as it showed Britain, for the first time, that Germany might be a threat to their empire. The naval law led to a naval race between Germany and Britain, which caused a lot of tension between the two countries. Although it caused a lot of tension, the naval race was caused by both Britain and Germany, meaning the blame would have been distributed to both of the countries, not just to Germany. 

In conclusion, Germany may have been a significant factor in the outbreak of the First World War, but was not the only factor. The other European nations played as much a part in causing the War as Germany, meaning that it was unfair for Germany to have had to take all of the blame for it. The events leading up to 1914 were crucial in causing the war and were not due to Germany. As this essay has shown, historians such as Professor Gerhard Ritter and Professor Fritz Fischer have disagreed about which nations were the cause of the War. However, out of the two, Ritter has the benefit of first-hand knowledge and hindsight, which gives him the advantage. Propaganda also played a large role in giving Germany the blame as it spun events out of proportion to make Germany seem like the antagonist. Therefore, Germany was not to blame for the breakdown in International Relations before the Great War. 

Works Cited: [1] Badsey, Stephen. The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871. Oxford: Osprey, 2003. Print. [2] "Fischer." Fischer. N.p., n.d. Web. . [3] Fischer, Fritz. Germany's Aims in the First World War. New York: W.W. Norton, 1967. Print. [4] Fischer, Fritz. Griff Nach Der Weltmacht; Die Kriegszielpolitik Des Kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914/18. Düsseldorf: Droste, 1964. Print. [5] Fischer, Fritz. Weltmacht Oder Niedergang. Deutschland Im Ersten Weltkrieg. [Frankfurt A.M.]: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1968. Print. [6] Hamilton, Richard F., and Holger H. Herwig. The Origins of World War I. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print. [7] Herrmann, David G. The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1996. Print. [8] Koch, H. W. The Origins of the First World War: Great Power Rivalry and German War Aims. London: Macmillan, 1984. Print. [9] Macdonald, David M. United Government and Foreign Policy in Russia: 1900-1914. Cambridge, Mass. U.a.: Harvard Univ., 1992. Print. [10] Padfield, Peter. The Great Naval Race: The Anglo-German Naval Rivalry, 1900-1914. New York: D. McKay, 1974. Print.

Example III:
The German question’ began in 1871 on how to handle the huge power that is Germany, and has been continuing ever since. Germany has always been a main power within Europe, and it can be argued now more than ever. With Germany having one of the strongest industrial bases in Europe, some countries rely on her, for instance Greece with its economy in shambles. Germany can manipulate international relations at will; it can refuse to pay aid to Greece, weakening these relations and creating tension, or it can help Greece and strengthen European country’s relationships. Fritz Fischer argues Germany did just this in the years leading to WW1, with its aggressive policy of ‘Weltpolitik.’ In order to fulfill ‘Weltpolitik’ Germany, specifically the Kaiser, manufactured hostility to eventually conquer Europe instead of using diplomacy, the ways of Bismarck before him. This will examine not only the ways in which the Kaiser’s foreign policy broke down international relations prior to WW1, but also how other countries and world leaders were at fault as well.

Weltpolitik was the foreign policy adapted by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1890, which contrasted Otto von Bismarck’s policy of creating a balance of powers to keep peace and isolate France. One of Bismarck’s main ways to do this was to be peaceful with Russia, a very large and growing nation at the time. The thinking was that it was better to be together with the other strong power in Europe, than to oppose and create tension within the continent. One of his most famous quotes concerns this; ‘The secret of politics? Make a good treaty with Russia.’ When the Kaiser came to power, he did not renew this treaty and thus abolished the alliance between the countries, which was the start of the breaking of international relations as Russia would now be against Germany and vice versa.
The First Moroccan crisis was part of this policy to advance their control and influence in Europe as well. The crisis involved Germany declaring to Morocco that they supported their independence from Britain and France. This made the two countries furious at Germany and severely worsened their relations together. Both France and Germany threatened war at this time over the crisis. France, not wanting a war with Germany was going to back down, but Britain made it clear to France that it wanted it to stand up for itself. Some historians argued that this worsened relations between these two countries too as France felt almost threatened by Britain and created a weaker Triple Entente.
Germany also destroyed any relationship between themselves and Britain, which as a result rose tensions in Europe and broke international relations further. The Kaiser wanted to expand his oversees empire, but the issue was that France, and Britain particularly had already dominated most parts of the world by the late 1800s and early 1900s. To do this, he enacted the ‘Naval Law’ in 1900, which would have Germany build up its Navy to be in competition with Britain’s (the largest at the time). This made Britain uneasy and suspicious as they didn’t understand why Germany would need such a Navy if they were almost land-locked. As Germany’s navy grew, Britain did too as a consequence. Robert Wilde argues that this destroyed Germany and Britain’s relationship further than ever before. What he neglects is that it was also a large part the interview with the Kaiser and the Daily Telegraph in 1908. The Kaiser said that his people were not friendly to Britain and it put himself in a bad situation as he wanted to keep the relationship with Britain, but he couldn’t ‘due’ to his own people. This was seen as aggressive in Britain and caused alarm, which further divided the two countries.

Certain historians say that this rise in tensions was the fault of Britain, specifically the Daily Telegraph, as they exaggerated the interview so more people would read it. You can argue this, however you can only exaggerate something so far from the facts. If the Kaiser hadn’t said anything bad about Britain, the Daily Telegraph could not make something up and say that he had said something he didn’t and as a result the argument is flawed. The Kaiser seemed to not be careful about what he says and that itself lead to him breaking international relations further as well.
Nevertheless, some historians argue that other countries and even Europe as a whole were responsible for the breakdown of the relations in the continent, not particularly Weltpolitik and the Kaiser. Serbia and the Balkans created a large amount of tension and ruining of international relations, not Germany specifically. After Serbia had defeated Bulgaria in 1885, their prime minister of Serbia said, ‘The first round is won, now for the second war against Austria-Hungary.’ This outright showed that Serbia had intentions to go to war with Austria, but Russia supported them in any event. This support from Russia hurt relations between Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia, as now there is a possible war hanging over their heads.

Many historians blame Germany for the Bosnian Crisis and raising the tensions during, but you can blame almost all countries in Europe during the Bosnian crisis. Russia called a conference to discuss and try to find a solution to the crisis. The problem was that no one showed up other than Russia. This shows that the countries In Europe didn’t necessarily want to solve their issues peacefully. Also, since no one showed, tensions grew as their was no official discussion about how to solve the problem. Along with this, Russia felt like a fool as they had been just defeated by Japan, and had surrendered. Russia felt it wasn’t being taken seriously anymore and as a result said that next time they would not back down. This also significantly rose tensions in Europe at the time, as they nations knew Russia would go to war if something similar would happen again.

As a result, the exponential breakdown of international relations due to Germany and Europe as a whole were one of the driving reasons as to why the Great War had begun. The countries did not trust one another and felt threatened. Fritz Fischer’s argument on that Germany should be to blame is flawed, as it only looked at Germany and its Weltpolitik and denied to look at other factors that could have broke international relations as well, such as the Balkans and the Bosnian Crisis in depth. This doesn’t mean he is entirely wrong however; Germany is certainly to blame for a good part of the breakdown, but not fully.

To what extent were the policies of Germany responsible for the outbreak of war in 1914?


 "The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage […] as a consequence of the war imposed […] by the aggression of Germany and her allies." In the famous and highly controversial War Guilt Clause of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany is assigned complete blame for causing the First World War, even though this decision isn’t justified in the Treaty itself and therefore gives room for different and debatable interpretations. Many historians agree with this concept of guilt blaming, but having grown up in Germany and experienced the German point of view first hand, it is clear that Germany isn’t a nation that deserves all the blame.

The German historian Fritz Fischer was the first to blame solely Germany for causing the Great War. His thesis was that Germany was aching for a war since 1912 and that it’s militarism provides clear evidence for that. Many other historians and British officials argue the same point, that Germany’s militaristic expenses, which grew 73% over the cause of 4 years, 1910-1914, and were therefore the highest in Europe, provided undoubted evidence that Germany was eager for war. However, contributing one specific characteristic like militarism to an entire nation can be somewhat problematic. Kaiser Wilhelm II became a representation for the entire German people, especially to the British. His public speeches were often rather bellicose and not though through, like his statement “The soldier and the army, not parliamentary majorities and decisions, have welded the German Empire together. I put my trust in the army.” Such statements show how militaristic the German leader was, but they do not represent the entire German population, as thought by many. Even today, 25 years after the unification, there are severe differences in the thinking and living habits inside Germany itself. In north Germany, for example, people are more open and modern, whereas the south is more conservative. Such differences haven’t just developed in the past few years, but have always been there, which supports the thesis that one man could’ve hardly represented the thinking and feelings of an entire nation.

Another problem with the thesis that Germany was more militaristic and eager for war than any other nation is that before the First World War broke out, the act of going into war and defending the father-or motherland was glorified by many European nations, not just Germany. Nearly every European country had poems and songs about heroic sacrifice and the glory and beauty of war, especially the British. The first verse of Owen Seaman’s Pro Patria states: “England, in this great fight to which you go/Because, where Honour calls you, go you must,/ Be glad, whatever comes, at least to know/You have your quarrel just.” This poem is one of many British poetry pieces that glorify the war and strongly trust and believe in the thesis “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori [It is sweet and proper to die for one's country]”. That statement became motto and inspiration for the British during World War One and it makes the explanation that Germany is to blame for the Great War, because it was most militaristic, seem less effective and too simplistic overall.

A different reason why historians like Fritz Fischer might have argued that Germany is to blame is that they developed their thoughts in the time period after the Second World War. Even though there are many debates and uncertainties as to who started the Great War, it is clear that Germany, with the help of Adolf Hitler, is to blame for the Second World War, so when looking back at 1914, it lies close to assume that with her war-starting history, Germany can be easily made responsible for causing both wars. However nowadays, a century after the start of the First World War, the causes can be analyzed from a much clearer and less bias perspective. Therefore more and more historians today try to explore a different side to who caused the Great War, and less make Germany fully responsible.

A common justification that is given for blaming Germany is that after Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, Germany gave Austria-Hungary a “Blank Check”, which as many say, promised full support if there would be a resulting war. Historians argue that without the German support Austria-Hungary wouldn’t have declared war on Serbia and that Germany encouraged Austrians to fight. However, having read the telegram that was sent from German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg to the German Ambassador in Vienna, it is clear that the arguments regarding Germany wanting a war are just assumptions. The telegram itself says nothing about a potential war that would be encouraged by the German parliament. It simply states: “as far as concerns Serbia, His Majesty cannot interfere in the dispute now going on […] as it is a matter not within his competence. The Emperor Francis Joseph may, however, rest assured that His Majesty will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancient friendship.” The telegram clearly says that Germany has no influence and does not want to get involved in the decision-making regarding the conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. This is really important because it makes the argument of Germany being eager for war invalid. This specific passage from the Telegram is often used out of context and has therefore been misinterpreted. Adding onto that the idea that Germany would want a war, especially a World War, makes very little sense, as Germany was just starting to build up it’s economy after the unification and rather then sending troops off to fight and spending large amounts of money on the army, it would make more sense to invest in the state itself and make it’s world markets stronger. Assuming that that was the case, Germany would’ve then given Austria-Hungary full support in what they did in hopes that there wouldn’t be a war, which is a much more considerate interpretation of the telegram.

With all these points made, it is clear that even though Germany does deserve some blame for the war, it can’t be made fully responsible. Other nations contributed to the tension between the European powers, such as Austria-Hungary for demanding too harsh conditions from the Serbs, France declaring war on Germany and Russia starting it’s pre-mobilization even before Serbia had responded to the Austria-Hungarian demands. Germany might have played an important role in the Great War, but so have nearly all European powers at that time.

Good introduction- it's just like I had spoken of in class. Start with a relevant quote showing judgement and reading, develop it, and then move on to the theme.
It still needs development- you end by writing that "having grown up in Germany and experienced the German point of view first hand, it is clear that Germany isn’t a nation that deserves all the blame." That isn't an argument; it tells me nothing. There is a danger therefore that you are intimating that you are writing as a biased observer- "I'm German, so I know it's wrong." You must be specific in how you intend to challenge the question, and not simply by saying you're German.

You are very wrong in claiming that Fritz Fischer "was the first to blame solely Germany for causing the Great War"- you began with a quote doing just that dating from 1919. EVERYONE blamed Germany after the war. Maybe you mean he was the first GERMAN historian to have done so PUBLICLY.

Throughout, as in the introduction, you show you understand the structure to follow when writing the essay; now you need to put meat on the bones. For example, you tend to throw out quotes here and there and then conclude simply "this shows how militaristic the German leader was, but they do not represent the entire German population, as thought by many." Is it fair to selectively choose a single quote out of context? WHO thinks the entire German population was militaristic? What is your point? Instead of explaining it and using it to answer the question, you then go on to describe how, TODAY, "people are more open and modern, whereas the south is more conservative." I understand why you're doing this, but look at your paragraph- it is short, consists of a quote halfway after first giving ONE statistic and ONE historian (doing justice to neither) before offering a description of Germany 100 years later.

Your second paragraph is even shorter, and you use a single poem written DURING the war to ... to do what? There is no reference to the cause of the war. Certainly, the quote you give discusses why Britons MUST get involved in the war, (which could be used to argue the opposite of what you are) but not they cause it. That's the question- did Germany start the war? Were they to blame? EVERY country (including Germany) had such poems- why are you picking on the British? Are you claiming Germany didn't employ bloodthirsty art and poetry? And then there's the reference to “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori"- this, the opening lines to Owen's poem, simply write about the futility of the war and how the soldiers are against it- it's clear you are not familiar with the works you are discussing. 

The next poem focuses on WWII through a handful of simple statements. Not one line is relevant to the question; in fact, besides serving no purpose it hurts you by showing the examiner you are unclear about the question.

Your last paragraph looks ONLY at the blank cheque. it's jarring given what came before- there is no link to anything you mentioned, it serves no overall theme or argument... look at every sentence- most are just the thoughts of a teenager and not a fact, event, statistic, historian...
"The idea that Germany would want a war, especially a World War, makes very little sense, as Germany was just starting to build up it’s [sic] economy after the unification and rather then [sic] sending troops off to fight and spending large amounts of money on the army, it would make more sense to invest in the state itself and make it’s [sic] world markets stronger."
Says who? Is that YOUR opinion? Who are you? That you throw all these things into a single line not only betrays a lack of critical thought to each point, but a simplistic understanding of the world.

Thus knowledge is weak.
Analysis is there, but not tied to specific understanding of the historical period.
Reference is made to historiography, but more in the form of name-dropping than actual consideration of the value, origin and purpose of such arguments.
Organisation is poor, and not in the service of the question.
next time focus on this one area- topic sentences. Instead of beginning a paragraph with "A different reason why historians like Fritz Fischer might have argued that Germany is to blame is that they developed their thoughts in the time period after the Second World War," ANSWER THE QUESTION. It is NOT "Why did historians blame Germany after WWII", but based on the available evidence, is it right to blame Germany today? 

Example 2:

To excuse Germany from being the preliminary culprit of the outbreak of war in 1914 would be, as Sir Max Hastings put it, “unfounded and illogical”. One could assign the blame to various nations and individuals, but none in my opinion held the same amount of influence and grasp over European matters as Germany and perhaps Great Britain, and as Uncle Ben Parker famously said “with great power comes great responsibility”. This is highly applicable in the case of Wilhelm and his Generals reacting sluggishly and indecisively in the face of a crisis, not to mention obvious signals of aggression and schizophrenia from the German Reich in the years prior to 1914. In this essay we will delve into how painfully clear it is that Germany could have at various times throughout the early 20th century reacted more appropriately to prevent a European bloodbath.

Those that seek to dismiss the notion of German aggression prior to the first shots being fired must simply look at the Schlieffen-plan. Designed to take Paris in a matter of weeks, it was an offensive plan designed for rapid European expansion and invasion. It bares an awful lot of similarity to Hitler’s blitzkrieg and even employed strategies including the invasion of neutral countries; of course Britain was to get involved as a response. The United Kingdom realized it should no longer use “splendid isolation” as an out for getting involved in European politics. The argument could be made on behalf of Germany that with the signing of the 1904 Entente Cordial, the Reich needed to protect itself. This argument however falls flat, as this was merely an agreement between Russia, Great Britain and France, as they did not have an alliance; it was simply assurance designed as an attempt to stabilize the growing tension in Europe. Germany further responded by engaging Britain in a naval race, which it had clearly lost by 1910. This is, logically, not the response a passive and peace-seeking nation would have had in response to the slightest indication of a threat in its vicinity.

The Blank Cheque of July 5th 1914 was yet again, another wrong step on Germanys part in preventing war across Europe. Taking the fact that it wasn’t even the Kaiser to hand over this insurance of force into account, one must ask themselves as Austro-Hungary did; who is in-charge in Berlin? To answer them, it was either a paranoid, self-conscious war-mongerer, who felt he had something to prove, or hyper aggressive generals and foreign ambassadors such as Moltke or Zimmerman. Either way, now with Austria-Hungary assured in that it would be protected from Russia due to the aid of its natural ally, it felt free to wage war.

Germany is to be blamed to a great extent for the outbreak of the war, as it could have at so many times in the year’s prior done so much to stop the bloodshed. Historian Tim Cook argues feverishly in his novel “The Necessary War” that the First World War was bound to happen. I have to disagree, as I cannot concur with the notion that the most powerful and influential nation of its era was futile in its attempts to halt the looming disasters to come. Of course, each country and empire played its role, but none can be convicted in the same light as Germany was in the treaty of Versailles, which in rightfully saw Germany as the primary instigator of the war.
"Indicates some understanding of the question but historical knowledge is limited in quality and quantity. Historical context may be present as will understanding of historical processes but underdeveloped. The question is only partially addressed."

Apart from the bizarre reference to "Uncle Ben Parker", a fine introduction; just what I want to see- Starts well with a relevant quote showing judgement and reading, developed, and then move on to the argument.
The focus is far better than your previous essay. It's just far, far too short and lacking in sufficient factual information and support.
The main area of focus (understandable at this stage of the course) is putting meat to the bones. Your paragraphs are too short and lack sufficient evidence or support. They tend to consist of simple statements followed by bold claims with nothing in between. Consider: "Germany further responded by engaging Britain in a naval race, which it had clearly lost by 1910. This is, logically, not the response a passive and peace-seeking nation would have had in response to the slightest indication of a threat in its vicinity." Your point about the naval race is not only lacking in any real analysis or development, but the point (Germany lost the naval race 4 years earlier) seems to contradict the next point you make.
   Your next paragraph, about the blank cheque, is promising but is so devoid of explanation or development that it is of little use. IT CONSISTS OF ONLY FOUR SENTENCES! No historiography, no discussion of what you are actually referring to (how is it a "fact"t that "it wasn’t even the Kaiser to hand over this insurance of force into account"- what does that even mean? What is the basis for the question "who is in-charge [sic] in Berlin?"- the Kaiser, no?)- it's not enough to simply offer claims- you need EVIDENCE through EXAMPLES!
Then, that's it. 1 1/2 paragraphs. You conclude by referring to how "feverishly" the "historian Tim Cook argues in his novel “The Necessary War” that the First World War was bound to happen" without explaining what the hell he actually says! You can't conclude by throwing out new ideas, let alone leave them unexplained so the reader has no idea what you're on about. And what is an historian doing writing novels? If it is a novel, why refer to it?
START with an historian, clearly explain his argument (and explain why he believes it as if you were giving a debate on his behalf)- don't throw out an historian's name in such a way that it's clear you never read the man's work before.