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Lecture notes (week seven): World War I

Lecture 6

Great War Lecture

Fighting Front

W front: Marne offensive blocked by autumn 1914 > defensive war of trenches, machine guns & artillery

E front: Tannenberg campaign fends off Russian advance in E Prussia - renewed offensive Jan 1915; huge Central Power successes in Poland in summer 1915, but Austria always an unreliable mil ally

Schlieffen Plan (1895-1906): avoid war on 2 fronts; attack Fr with knockout blow & turn on Russia; purely tech not pol considerations (violation of Bel neutrality) - unwieldy & required high levels of coordination; revolving door plan to withdraw in Ardennes to lure Fr - Moltke variations: no invasion of Holland; strengthened left wing at expense of right wheel

Falkenhayn: replaces Moltke in late 1914; confides to WII that cannot win war militarily; Russ non-starter for geog reasons, so main mil effort in W, combined with peace feelers in E (Hindenburg & Ludendorff favour annihil of weaker Russ) - 1916 F hoping to attrit GB & force recognition that could not beat Ger army in field; strat for unrestric U-boat war v GB + knockout land blow v Fr - Verdun: Ger hope to capture & then bleed Fr to negot table in her attempt to recapture; attack Feb 1916 with massive artill barrage - offensive strat foiled by counter-offensives in E (Brusilov) & W (Somme)

War aims: Bethmann Hollweg bans public debate of war aims until late 1916 - right favour annexations - Apr 1917 BH persuades Kaiser to make ‘Easter Offer’ promising constit reform to placate left

1914: 800,646 peacetime troops; during mobil of reserves > 2.93m (1915 4.36m; 1917 7+m); @ 2/3 in field army, 1/3 in rear; in toto 13.12m men serve; @2m killed & 4.8m wounded (casualties highest early on); censorship of public death notices - at front some bonding; in Etappe social divs persisted - with mounting casualties more under-20s drafted; rural regions suffered higher losses (Mecklenburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Pommern, Württemberg)

1917: army morale deteriorating (esp among E front transferees to W front & in Ger barracks) - field post letters as source: some adopt official diction of sacrifice; after 1916 more disillusioned; censor also concerned at Jammerbrief (moaning letter) from home

1918: spring offensive bogs down; US troops tipping balance; Ger desertions rise; desire for peace at any price - summer 750,000 troops contract ‘flu’ (covert mil strike?)

Trench community: many spend leave/convalescence at home, often spreading grievance stories - expectations of Etappe (rear area) troops on leave high - late 1917 @10% of troops transported from E > W front deserted - 1914 idealism of Langemarck eclipsed by 1916’s endurance & later Jünger’s amoral transcendant violence

Weapons: bolt-action 7.65mm rifle range 2km; each regiment fields MG company of 6 MGs; artillery - one day of fighting expended more munitions than in entire Fr-Pr war! - Apr 1915 Gers intro poison gas in Flanders, but unreliable - defensive premium of barbed wire & trenches

Naval war: 1914 High Seas Flt 16 dreadnoughts, Grand Flt 25 - Nth Sea kept to ports - ulterior target of commercial shipping & counter-blockade - U-boats: Feb Bln announces Br territ waters war zone; impressive sinkings in spring 1915, but pol sensitive sinking of Br liner Lusitania in May 1915 (incl 100 US citizens) > effective calling off of sub warfare in Sept, but after controversy resumed unrestric sub warfare Feb 1917 (> Apr to US entering war) - May 1916 Jutland indecisive surface engagement in which Grand Flt lost 6 capital ships to High’s 2, but thereafter Gers remained in port

The Cultural Front

Jünger, Ernst (1895-1998): pre-1914 in Fr Foreign Legion - Homeric ideal; some description detached, like scientist (reflective horror); war kills off enlightenment rationality; willpower; bloodlust as form of sexual impulse; right to lead through combat - mechanisation of war > soldiers ‘patient day-labourers of death’, cf Massemenschen (mass beings) - several patriotic glosses added to later editions of Storms of Steel in 1920s, eg: ‘life has deeper meaning only through commitment for an idea, and that there are ideals compared to which an individual’s life or even a people’s count for nothing.’ or ‘Germany lives and shall never go under!’ - Battle as Inner Experience (1922): ‘but when the curve of life’s wave swings back to the red line of the primitive, the mask falls, and the Urmensch, the cave dweller breaks forth in the total release of impulse. ... In battle, the animal ascends as the secret horror at the soul’s base, shooting high as a consuming flame, an irresistible rapture that intoxicates the masses, a godhead enthroned above the hosts.’; modern war ‘new and bolder race’, ‘We’ve been harnessed and chiselled, but we are also such as swing the hammer and guide the chisel, we are at once the smith and the flashing steel.’

Remarque, Erich Maria: author of All Quiet on the Western Front; anti-war novel tracing the fate of individuals including Paul; written in a neutral but bleak tone, following the initial enthusiasm for war in 1914, to disillusionment as the original company is wiped out; filmed in 1930 in Hollywood, leading to picketing of some German cinemas by nationalist 'patriots'

A good selection of German pacifist poetry is available in Cross's The Lost Voices of World War One. You could also look at the paintings and etchings of George Grosz and Otto Dix, which depicted both the horror of the trenches and the pathos of postwar street-scenes, replete with war cripples.

Home Front

Aug 1914: ‘spirit of 1914’ = unity; Burgfrieden (fortress truce); Kaiser, 4 Aug: sees no pol parties, only Germans; patriotic rallying, even among wc & minorities, but esp press & students; even later crits such as Th Mann welcome war as cleansing storm - hopes for rapid vic in West & defensive war v autoc Russia - also panic buying & savings withdrawals

Bethmann Hollweg: secretly sympathises with annexationist war aims (Sept Prog envisages hegemony in Euro); but vetoes public debate of war aims - sides with ‘easterners’ Hind & Lud, suspicious of Falkenhayn & Tirpitz

Inflation: 1918 RM lost 75% of 1913 value - cost of living up ca.4x - black market more important, with barter > huge resentment at those with connections; breach of social justice

Food: 30% of pop engaged in agric; prewar Ger imported ca. 25% of food + fodder + Chilean guano for fertliser; Br naval blockade > 25% drop in agric prod - 1915 rationing intro, beginning with bread - 1915 great pig massacre of 9m as too many mouths to feed > dung shortage - 1916 Kriegsernährungsamt (war nutrition office) founded, but with no teeth - 1916 harvest failure; potatoes blighted by phytophtora > ‘turnip winter’ of 1916/17 - ersatz food (K-bread used potato additive; coffee made of tree bark); growth of soup kitchens - heightens urban/rural rifts; 'Hamsterfahrten' to barter for hoarding - sickness rises (TB, pneumonia, influenza) - morale also affected

Workers: initial high unemp (22.4% Aug. 1914, 7.2m Dec 1914), esp among export inds; but soon shortages - poor coord of war effort - some skilled workers recalled from front (eg miners); by 1918 2.5-3m in arms ind > job-hopping; wages @ double - internal migration to urban centres - Krupp expands from 41,000 in 1914 to 110,000 in 1918 - foreign workers up (Poles 600,000 by 1917); 2m POWs put to work (2/3 in agric, 1/3 in ind)
Strikes: 1916 240 actions; 1917 561; food initial spark - Apr 1917 first mass strikes in Bln (200,000 in 300 factories, sparked by bread ration cuts); repeat elsewhere in Jan 1918 with 400,000 in Bln (1m nationwide) - targeted at gov, but wildcat

Mittelstand: new MSt proletarianised (Kocka thesis); salaried fall behind inflation - also those on state support, incl war widows, pensioners, affected; 1/6+ of pop on some family support - many small businesses combed out & closed down

Farmers: higher draft rate; lower wages than in ind; severe labour shortages (POWs do not redress)

Women: by 1918 1/3 of ind workforce female - women workers soar in chems from 27,000 > 209,000 & machine ind from 75,000 > 493,000 (women altogether up from 1.4m > 2.1m) - also trams - maj single, often menial & still 1/2 male rates - supposed rise in sexual promiscuity; instit bordellos near front

Youth: more job opps; less parental authority; higher theft rates & truancy; mass particip in criminality > undermining of state authority - schools turned into hospitals

Martial Law

Admin: 1914 regional army commanders responsible for law & order and censorship under 1851 Pr Siege Law; also recruit & labour direction; but cut across civilian admin boundaries; contingency planning for suppression of SPD at home - WII unwilling to assume personal control of dual mil-civil powers (GHQ or OHL/Oberheeresleitung does) > discrediting of mil Admin - Reichstag delegates emergency powers > Bundesrat - War Min out of chain-of-command > bureauc disorder

War econ: munitions: 1914 ca. 40% in state-run factories, rest in Krupp etc. - Rathenau of AEG becomes War Min rep; inspires Kriegsrohstoffabt. (War Raw Materials Section); in branches of ind Kriegsrohstoffgesellschaften set up to monopolise materials for war-important prod & distrib to licensed manufacs (often themselves!); cost plus 5%; important step along road to cartelisation - Br naval blockade - chemicals ind synthesis nitrates & cellulose (ersatz cotton) - ind alarmed at state corporatism in instit labour rep

Hindenburg-Ludendorff: Aug 1916 replace Falkenhayn as OHL - L technocratic soldier insistent on total war

Hindenburg Prog (Aug 1916): militarise econ > hvy ind (double munitions & triple artill/MG) > austerity, then chaos; non-essential inds closed down; strips agric - Nov 1916 Auxil Service Law conscripts all men 17-60war bonds (no increase in direct taxation) > inflation - food shortages & black market; 1916/17 Kohlrübenwinter; inad for total mobil

‘Silent dict’: BH marginalised - H & L incompetent & lay selves open to crit - July 1917 BH replaced by civil serv Michaelis, but soon repl in Nov by von Hertling (conserv Bav aristo)

Propaganda: anti-Eng prop; phrase ‘May God punish England!’; sense that Ger underdog - press censored mil reporting of casualties or defeats - after Tannenberg Hindenburg cult of erecting wooden titans (pay for nails) - support of literati incl Th Mann - UFA formed 1917 to regulate cinema output

The Left & Pacifism

2nd Internat: prole internat; debate gen strike to avert war; 1907 resol (reaffirmed 1910 & 1912) ‘to do everything, by whatever means seem to them most effective, to prevent an outbreak of war’; rather open-ended; SFIO & Labour favour pol mass strikes - after 1907 2nd Int’s infl waned > nat identification

SPD: resisted, claiming too weak to enact; also v anti-mil pol in peacetime; reserved right of self-def (v reac Russia; cf B & L v Fr in 1870) - SPD ‘nationalised’ (school, mil service); ‘Kaiser Bebel’, ‘König Ebert’, Otto Braun ‘Red Tsar of Pr’; Pr state worth reforming; SPD leaders persuaded Ger needed expansion to protect econ - 1913 large SPD maj vote for new mil expend

War credits: 4 Aug 1914 SPD faction votes unan[!] for war credits with 14 internal dissenters (incl Karl Liebknecht/KL & Haase); allegedly defence v Russ despotism (don’t mention GB or Fr!); ult opp for SPD to identify with Vaterland - most workers enthusiastic for war; but workers’ rights reduced more than necessary, not incl in gov (unlike GB) - calls for collective bargaining rights, democ of franchise, parl accountability - May 1916 Bln workers protest v war (‘Bread, Freedo, and Peace!’), KL calls ‘Down with the war! Down with the gov!’ & arrested; 55,000 metalworkers strike

July 1917 inter-frac RT cmtee with MSPD, Progressives & Zentrum (Erzberger, papal peace note in summer) (+ later Nat Libs) to press for more realistic war policy (negot peace) & domestic reform in ‘Peace resolution’ > Ludendorff’s toppling of BH; Sept 1917 L sponsors Ger Fatherland Party under Tirpitz; 1m members - Oct inter-party calls for reform of Pr 3-class franchise

SPD Splits

Right: around Helphand (‘Parvus’ of Die Glocke); Ger mission to expand E & W (v reac GB); at home Germanic ‘organisational soc’ (proto-soc fasc?)

Revisionists: Soz Monatshefte: Cohen-Reuss, Schippel, Aug. Müller; continental Euro under Ger v Anglo-Sax econ hegem

(M)SPD: (Ebert, Scheidemann, David) betw Left & Right; collab with monarchy & army for nat democ; RT-Frak non-annex, but some not opp to Ger hegemony in E

Left: i) pre-war rad Left (RL, KL, Zetkin, Mehring) in minority - anti-imp war; use for rev coup - anti-war credits - from Dec 1914 KL votes against (Jan 1916 resigns from parl party) - Jan 1916 RL & KL sympathisers form Gruppe Internationale with journal Spartakus

ii) maj Left after 1915 (from Centre - Kautsky; moderate rad Left - Haase, Hilferding; Revisionists - Bernstein, Eisner) - pacifist-democ - opposed expansionist/annexationist war aims - after Dec 1915 vote against war creds -> negot peace - bridled at Burgfrieden

USPD: Mar 1916 18 expelled from RT-Frak; extra-parl split followed - Jan 1917 SPD expelled opps > Apr 1917 USPD (Bln, Leipzig, F/M, Brswg, Halle, Erfurt) joined by Sparts

TUs: collab on leg for vol service & in war-effort > de facto recog of Free Unions by 57 local Wehrkommandos - Dec 1916 Hilfsdienstgesetz for labour mobil > concessions > official recog & freedom to org (1918 3 unionists in Prinz M v Baden’s gov) - TU leadership/grass roots splits > Rev shop-stewards under Müller (spread from Berlin)