World History II
May 10, 2011
World War I, lasting from 1914-1918, is a war that will definitely be remembered for years to come. After the allies had won the war after four long years Germany was the country that received the full blame for the war, but the question arises if it’s safe to say that Germany had totally caused World War I. In actuality, Germany had never asked or wanted a war. Germany was only honoring the Triple Alliance of 1882 and fighting alongside Austria-Hungary. As Germany should not take full blame for the war, they are responsible for World War I to the extent that France and Great Britain came into the war, because of a number of their own actions. Finally, Germany did receive full blame for the war. However the actual causes that had sparked World War I were a series of events between Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Russia. For these reasons, Germany should not take full responsibility for the war, but only partial responsibility.
Germany’s involvement in World War I was not brought on because of how they wanted war, even though they welcomed it, but how Germany was honoring the Triple Alliance of 1882. During this time Germany did not have very good ties with many European countries, but the Triple Alliance of 1882 assured them that they had at least one reliable ally in Europe. This alliance was an agreement between Italy, Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to remain supportive of each other in time of conflict. However, Italy had made a peace agreement in 1902 with France that had actually nullified the Triple Alliance for Italy (Brittanica 1). So all in all, Austria Hungary was really Germany’s only dependable ally. This friendship between Austria-Hungary and Germany would massively cost Germany seeing as how Austria’s foreign minister, Leopold von Berchtold, rightly counted on support from Germany (Taylor 1). Not to mention that Germany had respected the Triple Entente (an agreement between France, Russia and Britain to protect each other in time of conflict) and really had no idea about Austria’s ultimatum towards Serbia (Fay 2). So in reality, Germany was pretty much victimized by its alliance with Austria and was forced to join the war, since Germany probably would have been the lone wolf of Europe it hadn’t.
Germany definitely should not be totally blamed for World War I, but they do share responsibility for causing the war only to the extent where Great Britain and France joined the war. Germany never really had a good relationship with France from the beginning and the French still had hatred in their hearts towards Germany for the loss of Alsace-Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War; a war caused by Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the 1870s to help win support of southern German States. Plus France would have eventually joined the war since Germany declared war on Russia, but Germany saved them the trouble of it by declaring war on France, because Germany was aware of the Triple Entente. Germany’s relationship with Great Britain, on the other hand, had once been a prized one. Great Britain and Germany had showed great respect and admiration towards each other, which came from the Bismarckian Era (time when former chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, had control of Germany). However, Kaiser Wilhelm II was not consistent in being respectful to Britain. He began to make mockeries of Britain and started a naval rivalry with Britain (Wilkinson 3). This left a lot of anti-Germany attitudes in the hearts of the British. The British finally had it after Germany had invaded Belgium in August of 1914. This action had awoken the Treaty of London (1839) which was and agreement between Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium that recognized Belgium as a neutral nation and to guard Belgium in case of invasion (Sanger 1). Britain, keeping its word to the treaty, declared war on Germany in order to protect Belgium. Britain would have eventually joined the war as well, since Britain was part of the Triple Entente. This just goes to show that France and Britain’s involvement in World War I was German caused, even though they would have participated in the war anyway.
As Germany should definitely take some responsibility for the war, Germany was never part of the real events that caused the war. The real background causes were a small chain of events between Serbia, Austria-Hungary, and Russia that led to the war. To start off, Serbia had wanted to create an entire nation for all Slavs to be free. However, Austria-Hungary rejected this idea, due to the fact that they feared it would make them look like a weaker nation and threaten Austria-Hungary’s existence (Fay 2). Austria had also annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908 and 1909, also known as the Bosnian Crisis (Anderson 1). This damaged Austria’s ties with Serbia and Russia, since the Serbs thought that the Slavic area should be theirs. As tensions steadily rose between Austria and Serbia, Austria promised Serbia and Russia that any efforts to take territory from Austria on the Balkans would be crushed. Franz Ferdinand’s assassination at Sarajevo in 1914 was caused by the secret Serbian group known as the Black Hand who was out to rid Bosnia and Herzegovinia of Austrian rule. This set up the ultimatum presented by Austria, especially since Pashitch, the Premier of Serbia, had not warned Austria about the assassination after learning about the Black Hand’s plot (Fay 1). Serbia did not want war even if they had Russia on their side, but feared that the assassination would almost definitely lead to it . Austria, fearing its downfall after the assassination, was in no mood to negotiate so Berchtold was quick to declare war on Serbia (Fay 2). This quickly brought Russia into the war and set off the chain of events that lead to World War I. Not to mention, even Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany had even urged Austria and Russia to negotiate.
So in conclusion it’s probably necessary to say that Germany should not have taken full blame for World War I, but only partial blame. Germany was only honoring the Triple Alliance of 1882 and fighting alongside Austria-Hungary. As Germany should not take full blame for the war, they are responsible for World War I to the extent that France and Great Britain came into the war, because of a number of their own actions. Finally, Germany did receive full blame for the war. However the actual causes that had sparked World War I were a series of events between Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Russia. Looking back on it now, we should all really look into what caused World War I and ask ourselves if Germany deserved the punishment that they got.
Fay, Sidney Bradshaw. The Origins of the World War ... New York: Macmillan, 1928. Print. Wilkinson, Richard. Germany, Britain & the Coming of War in 1914…History Today, March 2002. Print. Taylor, Alan J. P. The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848 - 1918. Oxford: Clarendon, 2007. Print. "Triple Alliance (Europe [1882-1915]) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Web. 08 May 2011. . Sanger, C. P. and H. T. J. Norton. England’s Guarantee to Belgium and Luxemburg, with the Full Text of the Treaties. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915. Anderson, Frank Maloy and Amos Shartle Hershey, Handbook for the Diplomatic History of Europe, Asia, and Africa 1870-1914. Prepared for the National Board for Historical Service. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1918.