Question: describe and analyze changing views toward the concept of a “civil peace” (Burgfrieden) in Germany 1914-1918.
In August of 1914, the German Reichstag made two major decisions. First, it began mobilization for World War I. Also it declared (Burgfrieden, or “civil peace” in which all previous issues and parties would be st aside for the duration of the war. As the years progressed, the peoples opinions changed in regards to this policy. In 1914, at the announcement, there was awe and happiness. By the middle of the war, in the years 1915 and 1916, people began to ignore the policy, as they were tired of the war. By 1918, opinion was divided, mostly between supporters and dissenters of the war. These views show how the progress of World War I affected the German population.
In a speech on August 1, 1914, Emperor Wilhelm II beseeched the German people to stand together “like brothers” to unite the country (doc. 1). The speech was surely biased, as the emperor needed support in his declaration of war. A photograph of his speech (doc. 2) suggests that the people did support the emperor, as the people appear to be waving their hats and cheering. This was a time of nationalism and the people shown most likely felt certain they would win. Many women were in support of the policy because it meant that they, who were already fighting for rights such as suffrage and equality, would be allowed to take part. This idea is supported by doc. 4, in which a women’s rights advocate describes the euphoria they felt at being allowed to help. Also in 1914 and 1915 there were people who, though in shock, knew they must be supportive. This shock is described in doc.5 as a columnist wrote of it leaving silence in the streets. S. Jobs, the writer was liberal and may have been against the war, which could have affected the way he viewed people’s reactions. The social Democratic Party printed an article describing how they had to agree or would perish (doc. 3). This shows that, though many were agreeable due to strong nationalism, many also agreed because it appeared that there was no other choice. In a pamphlet, most likely biased for the war used as propaganda, the pan Germanic league urged the people to follow the emperor and find strength in unity. Initially, people agreed with the idea of “civil peace”, whether they felt it was right or not.
As the years progressed, opinions shifted and many of the German people were upset. This feeling of frustration is mirrored in doc. 8. Evelyn Blucher described in a diary entry, which was most likely unbiased since it was private, her views of women in the streets complaining about the war. They were starving and forced to work in the place of men who were sent to fight. This is a far cry from the women of 1914. Other women were upset at doing their husband’s jobs alone, or with bad help. This is described in a report by a military administrator (doc. 9). He tells of hearing women who refuse to work for the government any longer. The wives were not the only ones upset. A German soldier in the trenches was quoted as saying that people back home were taking money and food from his family (do. 7). Discontent began to grow and would continue until the war was over (and even after that).
By 1917 and 1918, the population had schismed; some diehard supporters continued patriotically, while others rallied for an end. In a proclamation made by an army officer (doc. 11), people in opposition of the war were compared to dogs, the support of the entire country was required to support the war effort. This side was most likely favored by people in high in the ranks (which could explain the stance of the general) and those in government. The people, especially the lower middle class, were the ones suffering most from food shortages. The opinion of one such person was published in a Munich based magazine (doc.12). It...