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HIST2128 Germany, 1871-1933: From Empire to Republic Political and military situation at the beginning of the war, 1914 Lecture 12 15 March 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "HIST2128 Germany, 1871-1933: From Empire to Republic Political and military situation at the beginning of the war, 1914 Lecture 12 15 March 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 HIST2128 Germany, : From Empire to Republic Political and military situation at the beginning of the war, 1914 Lecture March 2012

2 Main causes of WW I Conflicts generated by power politics within Europe Armament race of great European powers Anglo-German naval rivalry Difficulties of multi-national A-H (Habsburg Empire) European alliances turn from defensive to offensive Russia’s Balkan policy Hasty mobilisations and ultimatums caused by preconceived plans of military operations

3 Question of responsibility for WW I Mutual distrust among European powers Belief that limited EU war could not be avoided Limited freedom of decision on part of leading statesmen Peoples’ willingness to arm to ensure own nation’s security

4 ‘Powder kettle’ Balkan A-H: Multinational state with Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina SER: National state including all Serbs R: Pan Slavism with strategic interests in Mediterranean GB: Fear of R’s influence in Mediterranean F: Allied with R to pressure G → Failed to exert moderate influence on R in July 1914 G: Allied with A-H → Failed to exert moderate influence on A-H in July 1914

5 July Crisis, 1914 (1) Assassination of Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand by Bosnian-Serb nationalist ► Attempt to block plans of Archduke on improving political status of Serbs in A-H ► Attempt to stir Serbs’ unrest in A-H and pave way for ‘Greater Serbia’ ► Actual involvement of Serbia unclear Unconditional G loyalty to A-H Reassurance of F alliance with R

6 July Crisis, 1914 (2) Chain reactions : Ultimatum of A-H to S and declaration of war General mobilisation of R + A-H G mobilisation and declaration of war on R + France and invasion of B (Schlieffen Plan) GB ultimatum to G + declaration of war Declarations of war by S ≠ A-H, A-H ≠ Russia, F ≠ A-H, GB ≠ A-H, J ≠ G, R + GB + F ≠ T – later: I ≠ A-H + T (1915), I ≠ G (1916), R ≠ A-H (1916)

7 Major German War Aims Central Powers: G + A-H + I (until 1915/6) Entente Powers: GB + F + R + I (since 1915/6) 1)Domination of B through annexation of important parts 2)Economic unity of ‘Central Europe’ incl. satellite states (PL + RO) 3)Enlargement of G colonial possessions 4)Elimination of GB rule and influence from Morocco to India 5)Separate peace with R

8 Schlieffen Plan (1) Based on memorandum of Count Alfred von Schlieffen = Proposal on how to handle 2-front war: War to be conducted defensively in East but offensively in West Depended on quick mobilisation of G troops Quick break through L, B, NL + move South & East vs. F army Encirclement of F army by strong ‘right wing’ to achieve quick decision in West = 39 days for fall of Paris, 42 days for capitulation of F

9 Schlieffen Plan (2) Altered by Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke ( ) Found Plan too risky: Anticipated F advances in Alsace-Lorraine + R advances in East → Weakened right wing Avoided injuring NL neutrality by suggesting to conquer B fortress of Liège Was confronted with joined F, B, GB armies: 80 G ≠ 104 Allied divisions

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12 Why did the Schlieffen Plan fail? (1) Strong Belgian resistance Effectiveness of GB expeditionary force Higher speed of R mobilisation Improved French railway system → All factors underestimated by G Schlieffen Plan’s logistical shortcomings Moltke’s changes

13 Why did the Schlieffen Plan fail? (2) → More hypothetical memorandum → Probably only intellectual exercise of Schlieffen → Never refined into operational program → Underestimated lack of roads in B + F for mass advance of G troops → Highly impracticable + lacking flexibility + realism → Not considering unexpected difficulties = Furious improvisation even with Moltke’s improvements = Probably does not deserve its high reputation in older historiography of WW I


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