After Falkenhayn's demand to conclude a separate peace with Russia as the last possibility to win the war, 18 Nov. Germany's Aims , xxi.
Ruedorffer , J. Erdmann , , , cf. Fischer , Fritz , Juli Wir sind nicht hineingeschliltert above, n. Farrar , L. Erdmann and Zechlin persist in asserting that Bethmann Hollweg had expected England's participation in the war. The sources show that the contrary is correct. This was an expanded version of my lecture at the 32nd German Historical Convention in Jews in the Revolution.
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Hillgruber , A. Nipperdey , , in Historische Zeitschrift Hillgruber, ; M. Rothwell: Oxford, Wehler , H.
Lynar , Ernst W. Graf , ed. Fischer and , and essays by Herzfeld , H. Jahrhundert Frankfurt a. Geburtstag , ed. Geiss , I. Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection. This data will be updated every 24 hours. The way historians have viewed the causes of WWI has changed in the hundred years since war broke out.
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The debate on the origins of the First World War - OpenLearn - Open University
For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy. How could the death of one man, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was assassinated on 28 June , lead to the deaths of millions in a war of unprecedented scale and ferocity? This is the question at the heart of the debate on the origins of the First World War.
Finding the answer to this question has exercised historians for years. In July , everyone in Europe was convinced they were fighting a defensive war.
Germany’s Aims In The First World War
Governments had worked hard to ensure that they did not appear to be the aggressor in July and August This was crucial because the vast armies of soldiers that would be needed could not be summoned for a war of aggression. Socialists, of whom there were many millions by , would not have supported a belligerent foreign policy and could only be relied upon to fight in a defensive war. French and Belgians, Russians, Serbs and Britons were convinced they were indeed involved in a defensive struggle for just aims.
Austrians and Hungarians were fighting to avenge the death of Franz Ferdinand. But if not they who had after all invaded Belgium and France in the first few weeks of fighting , then who had caused this war? President Woodrow Wilson For the victors, this was an easy question to answer, and they agreed at the peace conference at Versailles in that Germany and its allies had been responsible for causing the Great War. Based on this decision, vast reparation demands were made. Sponsored by post-war governments and with access to vast amounts of documents, revisionist historians set about proving that the victors at Versailles had been wrong.
In the interwar years, such views influenced a new interpretation that no longer highlighted German war guilt, but instead identified a failure in the alliance system before With such a conciliatory accident theory, Germany was off the hook. A comfortable consensus emerged and lasted all through the Second World War and beyond, by which time the First World War had been overshadowed by an even deadlier conflict. The first major challenge to this interpretation was advanced in Germany in the s, where the historian Fritz Fischer published a startling new thesis which threatened to overthrow the existing consensus.
Germany, he argued, did have the main share of responsibility for the outbreak of the war. Fischer had found the document, which had previously been kept secret, in the Potsdam archives. German hegemony in Central Europe should be achieved through the ceding of territory by France, Belgium and Luxembourg; trade agreements bringing these countries under German dependence; the founding of a central European economic association including France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Poland and eventually Italy, Sweden and Norway, as well as the thrusting back of Russia.
The controversy stretched over 10 years. It culminated in , 50 years after the outbreak of the First World War, in an hours-long war of words at the German Historians Conference. The main responsibility for the outbreak of war and the course of the war was borne by the two real world powers, England and Russia, they asserted.
In the course of the debate, this issue moved more and more to the fore, and Fischer, in later books and articles, took an unequivocal position.
Fritz Fischer finally emerged victorious from the controversy of the s. The political atmosphere of the time contributed to this. The trial of Adolf Eichmann and the Auschwitz Trial to had inspired a younger generation to deal critically with the past. The reckoning with the crimes of the Nazis was a central topic of the student protests in Many well-known German historians were influenced by Fischer, taking up and developing his work.
It stands out how weak the dissent was until now. They repeat long-familiar assertions from the Fischer controversy, which have been answered and refuted. Following the publication of the German edition of the book Sleepwalkers by the Australian historian Christopher Clark, this accusation became massively inflated.
One wonders what they would mean by an offensive policy if they consider the establishment of hegemony over the European continent as a defensive aim. This whole argument is false from its foundations. It imputes to Fischer statements that he has never made, only to refute him with reasons that amount to a justification of imperialist war policy. Already on its initial publication in the autumn of , Fischer defended himself against the accusation that he was advancing a thesis of sole German guilt.
Die Zeit had reviewed his book favourably, but talked of sole German guilt. Fischer immediately refuted this in an article of his own in Die Zeit. Fischer stressed that he could not examine the political responsibility of all the European and international governments, because that would have demanded a multivolume mammoth work. He focused on the special German war responsibility, in the hope that historians in other countries would be encouraged on their part to investigate the responsibility of their government. The assertion that Fischer had claimed a German sole responsibility for the First World War is a straw man.
Although Fischer never adhered to the Marxist view that the war was the inevitable result of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism—the contradiction between world economy and its division into antagonistic nation-states, which form the basis for the private ownership of the means of production—his book contains extensive material to support that view.