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However, see the pioneering studies of Michael Jeismann on the concepts of national identity, and the corresponding Feindbild [Concept of the enemy] in France and Germany , Trude Maurer on the universities in war time , especially in Germany and Russia, and Stefan Goebel on the effects of medieval traditions in Britain and Germany.

Bergson had been popular in Germany before the war and knew the country well, but now he forewent his former knowledge. So did many of his colleagues in the states involved, who accused Germany of barbarism without any restriction. In response, German artists and professors soon started to explain the German point of view to foreigners in neutral countries.

They wrote private letters to colleagues and composed booklets with large numbers of copies, which they sent abroad. In some cases there was an exchange of open letters, for example, between the economists Lujo Brentano and both Yves Guyot and Guyotand Daniel Bellet Often, these and other propagandistic activities were coordinated in the background by the bureaus of different states: However, this was of little importance because the authors strongly believed in the content of the declarations, despite who was organizing their distribution. The authors of the Aufruf , Ludwig Fulda , Georg Reicke and Hermann Sudermann , were liberal writers of the Goethebund , an association of intellectuals, who had fought for cultural freedom in Germany before the war.

Now they protested against the accusation of barbarism arguing, in fact, that Germany should be considered a Kulturvolk. Oh friends, not these tones! But who, outside of Germany, could possibly appreciate such a reaction? There were also several exchanges of letters and manifestos between Catholic and Protestant Christians living in the antagonistic countries.

Total War Comes to the Fatherland: The German Home Front, 1914-1918 - Scott Stephenson

But all Christians in the belligerent countries tried to proclaim a holy war drawing on symbols from the medieval times on. However, whereas in Britain the offensive concept of a new crusade played an important part, the German Christians emphasized the sacrifice for their homeland in the name of defending their Heimat.


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The problem was that nobody could really tell what Germany was fighting for, except for its own preservation and its position as one of the leading powers in Europe. England and France could mobilize the universal ideals of equality and freedom, i. Germany could not decline these attractive ideas. They could only try to explain their own cultural and political preferences, which were not well suited for export. Consequently, public statements made by intellectuals were increasingly geared towards the German public. First, many speeches and papers in universities [12] were made with the goal of strengthening the unity of the nation.

Wide-spread was the conviction, that German Kultur had to be defended against western civilization as Thomas Mann argued in his Gedanken im Kriege Thoughts in Wartime and Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen Reflections of a Non-political This expression was first coined by Johann Plenge The ideas of also had some roots dating back to the pre-war period. They were also drawn on to shape the conception of a specific German approach to development adopted in the 19 th century called deutscher Sonderweg German exceptionalism , which was in contrast to the rest of Western Europe.

Many of these speeches and articles resulted from the heated atmosphere of war, and were therefore idiosyncratic and drew on shortsighted analysis of the problems of the day. They neither fully accounted for the political shortcomings of Imperial Germany nor did they realistically discuss the objective superiority of the combined forces of the Entente with regard to industrial capacity and manpower. At the beginning of the war there was an immediate and strict censorship of the newspapers by the commanders of the Army Corps, and beginning in February , also by the Supreme Censorship Office Oberzensurstelle of the High Command Oberste Heeresleitung.

Public discussion of possible war aims was especially prohibited. However, the censorship was not as strict for books and periodicals, and in any case, memoranda and petitions to the government were still allowed. Thus, in an informal way, intellectuals gained more political influence than usual.

Campaigns in the Affaire Dreyfus and the agitation of the Goethebund against the Lex Heinze had helped to prepare this effect. These ideas originally had to explain and defend the special social and political system of the German Empire and to proclaim national concord. With the extension of the war discussions about the war aims and about the necessity of political reforms inevitably took place, especially in Prussia. These discussions were connected, because monarchists and radical Pan-Germans Alldeutsche hoped to stabilize the political status quo through a victorious war with great territorial annexations.

In the first period of the war, many overestimated the importance of German victories and developed plans for the expansion of the Empire. This was especially true in the case of Belgium, whose annexation or control as a protectorate was considered as a defensive measure against Great Britain in the case of future conflicts.

One of the first memoranda was that of Matthias Erzberger on 2 September , which called for far-reaching annexations in Eastern and Western Europe and substantial reparations. This very much resembled the political goals of the Pan-Germans as they were formulated in the so-called Seeberg Adresse of 20 June , which included 1, signatures university teachers. The idea of Mitteleuropa Central Europe gained significant attraction through the book of Friedrich Naumann , published in Others, such as the Baltic Germans Theodor Schiemann or Paul Rohrbach , focused more on the simultaneous disintegration of the Russian Empire and an increasing autonomy of the Eastern nations, under German influence, of course, but also in combination with a new colonization of German peasants in the Baltic region.

In reality, however, the scholars split into two separated camps as a consequence of the addresses in summer However, even this group was not entirely against German annexations in the East. As the war dragged on and the food situation deteriorated, the debate about the future political structure of the German Empire became more and more urgent. Answering propositions of Friedrich Meinecke , [25] Max Weber and others, the Chancellor of the Empire, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg promised reforms in the Reichstag on 27 February , but only very vaguely. The same was true in the subsequent Easter message Osterbotschaft delivered by the Emperor.

It was not a party in the strict sense, but an extreme nationalistic movement in opposition to the majority of the Reichstag. Both movements turned obsolete with the November revolution of , but they did anticipate the political controversies in the republic of Weimar. The left side of the political spectrum split in the same way.

The leaders of the Social Democratic Party were heavily criticized by many for their extensive support of the government without any substantial political concessions. Even the more radical Spartacus group around Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht joined this grouping for tactical reasons. The idea that there was a general enthusiasm in the belligerent countries at the outbreak of the war [26] has been modified by scholars in the last decades. Only some crowds in the capitals joyfully greeted the war, whereas farmers and workers saw no advantages in leaving their farmsteads and families.

People confronted with fundamental changes brought about by war were eager to listen to the speeches of scholars and the sermons of clergymen, as well as to read poems and essays. First there was a flood of poems, [28] now primarily forgotten except for three of the most unique: Many writers greeted the end of decadence with hopes for catharsis through the Stahlbad [29] of the war.

However, like the scholars, the poets tried to minimize all foreign influence, which included ignoring what they had learned abroad previously, and also forgetting their foreign friends living in the now hostile countries. The continuous exchange of letters between Romain Rolland and Stefan Zweig remains unparalleled.

The German Front Experience

Especially the young expressionist poets and painters felt attracted to the war as redemption from their monotonous daily life. The most influential books were written only after the war: The same was true for the fine arts, Ernst Barlach , Max Beckmann , Otto Dix and George Grosz , all took part in the war and artistically reprocessed their experiences afterwards in dreadful pictures of the war. Official war-painters were sent to the front, for example Max Slevogt in the West, who was rapidly disillusioned, and Hugo Vogel , the portraitist of Paul von Hindenburg in the East.

The war also led to a rapid development of propaganda by means of new mass-media. Photographs and post-cards illustrated the war in official and censured pictures. Erich Ludendorff fully appreciated the significance of the movies for the Anglo-Saxon propaganda. Special attention was paid to children. In a way, German history text-books had a similar problem as that of the German intellectuals with respect to their French colleagues: Therefore they were more concerned with promoting loyalty to the state and the dynasty according to the ideas of The assurance to carry out a bellum iustum just war may be as old as war itself, and we can find debates about the guilt of war dating back to antiquity.

In however, immediately after entering the war, it was evident that this debate had received a new dimension. The need to justify a war between millions of not only soldiers, but citizens, which affected the entire population, not only in the belligerent, but also in neutral countries, was urgent.


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  6. While England and France could claim a universal mission to fight for democracy and freedom, Germany neither had such a mission nor was it clear what the objectives of the war were. As a result, the German arguments were on the one hand rather defensive and in a way even idiosyncratic. On the other hand, however, they were often more thorough and accurate in reflecting on the national character of Germany at the time. Most people outside of Germany were unable or unwilling to appreciate this quality. The consequence was an embitterment on the part of many Germans, which was additionally nourished by the defeat and the revolution in November , the Treaty of Versailles , and the boycott of the German scholars by the international League of Academies in the next decade.

    Fighting for Another Fatherland: the Polish Minority in the German Army, 1914-1918

    In this way, the Krieg der Geister of had a disastrous and continuous impact on the subsequent events. Making Sense of the War Germany , in: International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. This text is licensed under: Making Sense of the War Germany. Throughout most of the war, Hitler had great luck avoiding life-threatening injury. More than once he moved away from a spot where moments later a shell exploded killing or wounding everyone.

    The die-hards

    Hitler, by all accounts, was an unusual soldier with a sloppy manner and unmilitary bearing. But he was also eager for action and always ready to volunteer for dangerous assignments even after many narrow escapes from death. Corporal Hitler was a dispatch runner, taking messages back and forth from the command staff in the rear to the fighting units near the battlefield. During lulls in the fighting he would take out his watercolors and paint the landscapes of war.

    BBC - History - World Wars: The German Front Experience

    Hitler, unlike his fellow soldiers, never complained about bad food and the horrible conditions or talked about women, preferring to discuss art or history. He received a few letters but no packages from home and never asked for leave. His fellow soldiers regarded Hitler as too eager to please his superiors, but generally a likable loner notable for his luck in avoiding injury as well as his bravery. On October 7, , Hitler's luck ran out when he was wounded in the leg by a shell fragment during the Battle of the Somme. He was hospitalized in Germany. It was his first time away from the Front after two years of war.

    Following his recovery, he went sightseeing in Berlin, then was assigned to light duty in Munich. He was appalled at the apathy and anti-war sentiment among German civilians. He blamed the Jews for much of this and saw them as conspiring to spread unrest and undermine the German war effort. This idea of an anti-war conspiracy involving Jews would become an obsession to add to other anti-Semitic notions he acquired in Vienna, leading to an ever-growing hatred of Jews. To get away from the apathetic civilians, Hitler asked to go back to the Front and was sent back in March of In August , he received the Iron Cross 1st Class, a rarity for foot soldiers.

    Interestingly, the lieutenant who recommended him for the medal was a Jew, a fact Hitler would later obscure. Despite his good record and a total of five medals, he remained a corporal. Due to his unmilitary appearance and odd personality, his superiors felt he lacked leadership qualities and thought he would not command enough respect as a sergeant. As the tide of war turned against the Germans and morale collapsed along the Front, Hitler became depressed. He would sometimes spend hours sitting in the corner of the tent in deep contemplation then would suddenly burst onto his feet shouting about the "invisible foes of the German people," namely Jews and Marxists.

    In October , he was temporarily blinded by a British chlorine gas attack near Ypres. He was sent home to a starving, war weary country full of unrest.