The Road to the First World War

Published: 2014-07-27

By Wilfried Heink-

[caption id="attachment_2301" align="alignright" width="150"]Was the German Kaiser really responsible for launching WWI? Was the German Kaiser really responsible for launching WWI?[/caption]


The Holy Roman Empire German Nation, in fact a German Empire – German chiefs had accepted the Pope as ceremonial head of state – for various reasons disintegrated over time into Kingdoms, Principalities, Duchies, etc., etc.. And although the Hapsburg's, the last line of German Emperors who had moved to Vienna from Aachen, were still accepted as Emperors, their influence was limited. When Bismarck appeared on the political scene at around the middle of the 1800s, he started out as ‘Bismarck the Prussian’ to later become ‘Bismarck the German’ with the aim to re-unite Germany, sans Austria, under the Hohenzollern, a Swabian Dynasty, the rulers of Prussia.

Bismarck was aware that very few rulers, least of all the Hapsburgs, were in favor of his plan, he nevertheless continued, making the re-unification his Raison d'être. He was a shrewd politician and considered parliament to be a debating club, not capable of making the decisions needed to be made. He stunned Germany, even the King and the world when, on September 30, 1862, following the failed Revolution of 1848, in his speech to the Reichstag (German Parliament) he stated:

“It is true that we can hardly escape complications in Germany, though we do not seek them. Germany does not look to Prussia's liberalism, but to her power. The South German States would like to indulge in liberalism, and therefore no one will assign Prussia's role to them! Prussia must collect her forces and hold them in reserve for a favourable moment, which has already come and gone several times. Since the treaties of Vienna, our frontiers have been ill-designed for a healthy body politic. The great questions of the time will be decided, not by speeches and resolutions of majorities (that was the mistake of 1848 and 1849), but by iron and blood."(Emil Ludwig, Bismarck, (Little, Brown and Company, Boston 1927), pp. 206/07.)

Bismarck’s phrase was turned around by the press to read “blood and iron,” and whether real or feigned, alarms were raised. Bismarck never repudiated his words – all he did is state a fact – although he later deplored having used them. Another of his speeches is also misrepresented. In 1888, four weeks before the death of William I, in his last speech to the Reichstag Bismarck talked about the situation in Europe:

“In these days we must husband our strength," says Bismarck, "and it is in our power to be stronger than any other nation of equal numbers...We are placed in the center of Europe, are liable to attack on at least three fronts,...and are, moreover, exposed to the risk of coalitions to a greater extent than any other nation...The pike in the European fishpond make it impossible for us to play the part of harmless carp, for they would fain fix their teeth in both our sides...They constrain us to a unity which is repugnant to our German nature, and were it not for this pressure from without we should all fly apart...We Germans fear God, and are not afraid of anything else in the world, and it is because we fear God that we seek peace and ensue it." (Ibid, pp. 551/52)

It is the last part of his speech that is misquoted to this day, the last sentence left out. Now back to the issues at hand.

The Prussians eventually defeated the Austrians at Königgrätz, and Prussian generals, who at first were reluctant to fight a war against Austria, now wanted to pursue the defeated Austrian army. But at Bismarck's insistence – he envisioned a Germany/Austria-Hungary co-existence – the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was left intact. And although its influence had been further diminished, most of German nobility still considered the Hapsburg's to be legitimate heads of state. Then France became the concern, Napoleon III claiming that the German block forming to the east was a threat to France' existence, that even though not one menacing gesture was made toward France. In this mistrust the “hereditary enemy” issue played a part, this dating back to the middle ages. A little more background is necessary.

At the Treaty of Verdun, in 843, the Empire was split among three brothers, the sons of Emperor Louis I. Louis the German (Ludwig der Deutsche), received the eastern portion (later Germany), Charles the II (the Bald, Karl der Kahle) became King of the western portion (later France) and Lothair I (Lothar I) received the central portion (Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence and most of northern Italy. Following the death of Lothair I, in the Treaty of Mersen, most of the territory given to him at Verdun was divided between Louis the German and Charles II. In 962 a new Roman Empire came into being, commonly known as the “Holy Roman Empire, German Nation,” ruled by an Emperor. It was in fact a German Empire with the Pope as ceremonial head of state, thus the “Holy Roman” in the name, but German armies had to insure that the Pope remained in his position and to assert German authority. The Empire stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north, to the northern part of Italy in the south and included Ostarrichi (Austria) in the East. By the 11th Century, the western border of this Empire run in almost a straight line from roughly Antwerp in the north to Marseilles in the south, encompassing the Duchy of Lorraine, as well as Alsace (VEB Hermann Haack, Atlas zur Geschichte Gotha/Leipzig, 1973, p.30).

The Brothers shared the territory of Western Europe, thus the “hereditary enemy” angle. Also, all of the border disputes between France and Germany originate from that time, most of Alsace-Lorraine originally part of the German Empire, not France. In early 1870 Leopold of Hohenzollern was offered the Spanish crown, the French immediately hollered “encirclement,” Leopold declined, but the French asked the King of Prussia for assurances that this will never happen again and when the king refused, (The so-called Ems Dispatch played a role. The King had sent Bismarck a telegram, the text to be published and claims are made that Bismarck altered it. Not so, he changed some words but did not alter the meaning), France declared war on Prussia. Bismarck did not interfere, he knew that war with France was inevitable – the French trying to prevent German unification – just as war with Austria before had been. Bismarck then asked the German Rulers how they would react, leave Prussia to battle the French on her own and be defeated as in 1806 - and have the French rule parts of Germany, or the whole of it again - or would they come to Prussia’s assistance. The Rulers came to the assistance of Prussia, reluctantly, and when the war was over France was defeated. Germany was united territorially but not in spirit, that took years and one could argue that it never happened to this day. At the peace treaty Alsace,- as well as large parts of Lorraine, was/were ceded to Germany, against Bismarck's wishes but this time he had to give in, the generals citing security concerns – Alsace “protruding” into Germany, making it suitable for an act of aggression by France, and with the King claiming that it was German territory in any case. But as Bismarck had envisioned, the French later thirsted for revenge, claiming Alsace-Lorraine was stolen from them. German re-unification changed the map of the continent and brought Britain onto the scene.

Prelude to World War I

On February 9. 1871, the war had just ended, Disraeli (later Lord Beaconsfield), then leader of the opposition, gave a speech to parliament in which he stated/declared:

“Let me impress upon the attention of the House the character of this war between France and Germany. It is no common war, like the war between Prussia and Austria, or like the Italian war in which France was engaged some years ago; nor is it like the Crimean War.
This war represents the German revolution, a greater political event than the French revolution of last century. I don't say a greater, or as great a social event. What its social consequences may be are in the future. Not a single principle in the management of our foreign affairs, accepted by all statesmen for guidance up to six months ago, any longer exists. There is not a diplomatic tradition which has not been swept away. You have a new world, new influences at work, new and unknown objects and dangers with which to cope,….We used to have discussions in this House about the balance of power. Lord Palmerston, eminently a practical man, trimmed the ship of State and shaped its policy with a view to preserve an equilibrium in Europe. [...] But what has really come to pass? The balance of power has been entirely destroyed, and the country which suffers most, and feels the effects of this great change most, is England” (GHDI document )

Just paranoia? Hardly, and that even though never a threatening gesture had been made toward England, English Royalty of German origin, the German House of Saxe-Coburg also the royal house of the British, the name changed to The House of Windsor only in 1917. The reason for this English “concern” was that she had – for centuries – tried to maintain what it called the balance of power, which in fact was an successful effort to ensure that no rival power would emerge threatening her hegemony. When for instance France became too strong under Napoleon I England sited with Prussia to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo. And now, following the re-unification of Germany, plans were made in a circle around the Price of Whales, later to become King Edward VII, to render powerless “Middle Europe”, i.e., Germany and Austria-Hungary. The circle included Lord Randolph Churchill (father of Winston), the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Salisbury and the head of the house of Rothschild (Renate Riemeck, Mitteleuropa, Bilanz eine Jahrhunderts, Verlag Engel & Co., 1965, p.12).

With the 100-year anniversary approaching, some articles and book have been published in regards to World War I and who started it, what really happened? One of the more often mentioned books is that by Christopher Clark, Sleepwalkers. As the title suggest, Clark tries to make a case for the European heads of state ‘sleepwalking’ into the war, they just didn’t pay attention and that therefore not one state is to blame (At Versailles, the Germans were forced to sign the war guilt clause, Germany solely responsible). He is right to not blame Germany, but this was no sleepwalk, the war was well planned by a few, working behind the scenes.

Riemeck, in the above-mentioned book, writes that to start with, an alliance between Russia and France had to be formed, with England ready to come to the assistance, thus encircling Germany and Austria-Hungary (Ibid, pp.12ff). Bismarck was aware that the re-united Germany would cause anxieties, and was instrumental in forming the Three Emperors League between Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Bismarck also made every effort to maintain good relations with the Czar, bending backwards to avoid friction, it would thus seem almost impossible for the Brits to get Russia on board, but that they did succeed is history. Prof. E. Adamov in his Die Diplomatie des Vatikans (The diplomacy of the Vatican, Verlag von Reimar Hobbing in Berlin SW61, 1932), provides details. The book, containing many documents, was published by the Bolsheviks to expose some of the secret dealings (Riemeck, p.12). Riemeck shows, as does Adamov, that the Vatican only played a minor role – was a tool – the real powers behind the encirclement of Germany sat in England.

And that brings us to another recent publication, Hidden History. The secret Origins of the First World War, by Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh and London, 2013. The authors begin their text as follows:

“The history of the First World War is a deliberately concocted lie. Not the sacrifice, the heroism, the horrendous waste of life or the misery that followed. No, these were very real, but the truth of how it all began and how it was unnecessarily and deliberately prolonged beyond 1915 has been successfully covered up for a Century. A carefully falsified history was created to conceal the fact that Britain, not Germany, was responsible for the war. Had the truth become widely known after 1918, the consequences for the British Establishment would have been cataclysmic (p.11)… To this day, researchers are denied access to certain First World War documents because the Secret Elite had much to fear from the truth, as do those who have succeeded them (p.15).”

They base much of what they wrote on two books by Prof. Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment and Tragedy and Hope. They outline in detail how during a meeting of Cecil Rhodes, William Stead and Lord Esher in February 1891 plan were laid to form a ‘Secret Elite’:

“…a secret society that aimed to renew the Anglo-Saxon bond between Great Britain and the United States [1], spread all that they considered good in the English ruling-class traditions, and expand the British Empire's influence in a world they believed they were destined to control (p.17).
[1] W.T. Stead, The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes, p.62.”

The Secret Elite, the original three eventually replaced/joined by others, set out to realize their plan for Britain, along with the US, to rule the world, and Middle Europe, i.e., Germany and Austria-Hungary, were in the way. For Britain to declare war on them would have been disastrous, and also, Britain could then not have claimed the moral high ground. Therefore efforts were made to forge alliances, to encircle Germany and Austria. First, Russia and France had to come to terms, and the Secret Elite worked diligently in the background to make it happen. Then, Russia and England had to become friends, but before this could happen the ‘Russian bear’ had to be tamed. To achieve that goal, England: “…decided to break 500 years of insular tradition by wooing Japan”(p.87). English shipyards build the most advanced naval vessels for the Japanese, helping them to defeat the Russian navy in 1905. Also: “A massive and consistent propaganda drive was needed to create a German ‘menace’ and whip the British people into a froth of hatred towards Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm”(p.63) (The Saturday Review of August 1995 started a series of articles, calling for the destruction of Germany: Germania esse delendam). The violation of Belgium neutrality by Germany at the start of WWI became an issue, it should not have: “King Leopold sold Belgian neutrality for African rubber and minerals…”(pp.108/09). Impossible to go into all of the detail here, fact is, the encirclement was completed and Germany had to fire the first shot.

Kaiser Wilhelm inadvertently helped. Bismarck, as mentioned, took great care to have Germany allied with other powers. The Three Emperors Agreement had been allowed to expire, but good relations were maintained with Austria-Hungary, a natural ally, and a ‘Reassurance Treaty’ had been signed with Russia. Germany and Russia agreed to stay neutral should the other be attacked, this not to apply if Germany were to attack France of Russia Austria. A secret addendum stated that Germany would remain neutral should Russia make the Bosporus an issue. Just as Wilhelm dismissed Bismarck, the term of this treaty was up and needed to be renewed. At first Wilhelm agreed to the extension, but negated because of bad guidance by some of his advisors (Otto Becker, Das französich-russische Bündnis (The French-Russian Alliance], Karl Heymanns, Berlin 1925, pp.43ff). Wilhelm later realized his mistake and in 1905 he and Czar Nikolaus signed a treaty at Björkö, but by then the war party in Russia was firmly in control and the Czar forced to negate. Wilhelm finally realized what was happening, in his assessment of the situation of July 19, 1914 he stated, in part:

"...For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves — knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria — to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us... Our dilemma over keeping faith with the old and honorable Emperor has been exploited to create a situation which gives England the excuse she has been seeking to annihilate us with a spurious appearance of justice on the pretext that she is helping France and maintaining the well-known Balance of Power in Europe, i.e. playing off all European States for her own benefit against us." (Die Zerstörung der deutschen Politik. Dokumente 1871-1833, Fischer Bücherei 1959, p.199).

When Russia mobilized on July 24th 1914, Germany was forced to implement the Schlieffen Plan to avoid being overrun from east and west. “The plan was discussed in French circles at least as early as 1904” (The World Since 1914, Walter Consuelo Langham, The MacMillan Company, 1948, p.18, footnote 1 [the plan was finalized in 1905]). And if the French knew, so did the British. No significant changes were made to the plan but surely the Germans were aware that this plan could not have been kept in secret for all of those years. If Germany set out to conquer the world, as is alleged, they surely would have worked out something more applicable to that time. In fact, the German leadership were on vacation in the summer of 1914 and munitions would last to October, no stockpiles of it (Die Welt, Jan 18,2014, "Die deutsche Munition reichte nur bis Oktober 1914").

Germany, having entered the industrial revolution late, was busy manufacturing items for sale and did so quite well. They had no interest in starting a war. But because they had been forced to “fire the first shot,” and those who study history more closely know that this shot is not what starts a conflict, the Germans were forced to sign the “War Guilt” clause at Versailles. One must take this into consideration when discussing the origins of World War Two.

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Author(s): Richard A. Widmann
Title: The Road to the First World War
Published: 2014-07-27
First posted on CODOH: July 27, 2014, 3:49 a.m.
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