The German War Policy from the German Point of View
[Current Opinion, September 1914]
Jingo organs throughout Germany had entertained a suspicion, even prior to the crisis involving Belgrade with Vienna, that the general European war could not be much longer delayed. A flood of militarist literature, of which the pamphlet by Lieutenant-Colonel Frobenius on "The German Empire's Hour of Destiny" is characteristic, had taught the public to expect an outbreak of hostilities against the Fatherland by next summer at the latest. This student of the subject, as the inspired Kreuz-Zeitung quotes him, had but recently described the seriousness of the international situation, showing how necessary it was for Germany to keep her powder dry. His conclusions, endorsed by such dailies as the Hamburger Nachrichten and the Berlin Post, culminate in the following assertion:
"The thirst of France for her revenge upon Germany, which has been immensely stimulated by our foes, and the hatred kindled in Russia against Austria-Hungary, have driven both France and Russia to increase their preparations for war to a degree which can be maintained for the shortest time only. As a matter of fact, this preparedness is indistinguishable from actual readiness to open a military campaign, and it will be so complete by next spring that we must then be in daily expectation of such powerful armies marching into our country as have never before trod German soil or for that matter any other soil. Then the hour of destiny for the German Empire and its allies will have struck."
Germany's Crown Prince Joins the Jingoes.
Opinion throughout Germany had been prepared for the serious events following the ultimatum from Vienna to Belgrade. Every newspaper in Berlin, and especially the Socialist Vorwärts, had its comment upon the crisis as a prelude to the general war; but the organ of the Marxists warned the militarists that the working classes of the Fatherland were in a discontented mood. However, the Kreuz-Zeitung pointed out that Germany was in the shadow of a crisis having its origin in something more general than the quarrel over an archduke's assassination. In this course it reflected or seemed to reflect the attitude of the militarists who rallied around the Crown Prince. He had but recently sent a telegram of congratulation to Lieutenant-Colonel Frobenius for his words regarding the impending general war. Crown Prince William, in a word, as the London and French dailies feel, had been captured by the war party in Berlin. He believed firmly that France was preparing a blow in conjunction with Russia. His conviction was embodied in articles appearing from time to time in German dailies of the militarist school, not, of course, written by the Crown Prince but inspired by the clique that surrounded him.
How Germany Was Misrepresented in Europe.
Ever since Germany prevented a general European war over Bosnia and Herzegovina, to follow the analysis in the Kreuz-Zeitung, there has existed in France and Great Britain a journalistic conspiracy to exaggerate the armed strength of Emperor William. An instance in point is afforded by the state of the German fleet. Relatively to other navies, we are assured by our contemporary, that of Germany is "inoffensive." It is in no position to challenge the supremacy of the British on the seas. It exists as an insurance against risk to Germany's growing commerce. It is a defensive force. London dailies have filled the world with denunciations of the German navy as a "provocative force." The British fleet exists to defend Great Britain, but the German navy is maintained to challenge the world to a war.
Such was the gist of British press comment, complains the Kreug-Zeitung, altho a comparison of squadrons proves how inadequate the Kaiser's fleet really is. Exactly the same comparisons can be instituted, according to this daily (supposed to be inspired by the court circle), between the German forces on land and the forces of her neighbors. The German army is relatively small compared with the hosts maintained in arms by Russia on the one side, the new Balkan powers in southern Europe and France on the other. Germany has seen army after army spring up in Europe until she was "ringed in"—and that by nations which made no concealment of their determination to subdue her. In the case of Great Britain there has been the obsessing fear of a loss of the mastery of the sea which Germany has never threatened to inflict. It mattered little to the Jingo English, complains the Berlin daily, provided they could use the German measures of defense as a basis for their calumnies.
A Survey of Germany's Measures of "Defense."
Having come to the conclusion, some two years ago, that Russia would mass an ever-increasing host along her western European frontier, we read in the Berlin Zeitschrift, Berlin resolved that the German army in first line should be raised to a total of twenty-five army corps. One additional corps was created by constituting a new division in East Prussia and combining it with a spare division. The other additional corps was formed by organizing a new division on the Rhine and combining it with a spare division in like manner. When these augmentations were carried out there were the guard corps and the three Bavarian army corps as before and twenty-one others instead of the previous nineteen. This was an answer to the haste with which the Czar armed his legions. At once the British press was filled with alarm. Paris went into a panic. The German Empire was accused of "the heinous crime" of arranging to place twenty-five army corps instead of twenty-three in the field at the outset of a great war. There were sensational comparisons with what France and the other four great powers could do in the same direction and there was a summing up of results as between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. Thus, a little over two years ago, originated the press campaign of the Triple Entente against German armaments —-a campaign behind which Russia went on arming herself unnoticed. She was preparing, says the Berlin Post, to strike Germany when France too was ready.
Russia Becomes An Armed Camp in German Eyes.
Militarists in the German capital came to the conclusion last spring that Russia meant to force a war upon Berlin. The result was a flood of pamphlets warning the Fatherland. The Neueste Nachrichten, which is credited with being the organ of the German war party, has for some time delivered itself of utterances like these:
"The reinvigorated, refreshed and immense Russia, animated with Pan-Slav animosity towards the German Fatherland, weighs so heavily upon us now that we must reckon soberly on being compelled to defend ourselves by force of arms against this colossus and that, too, before no very long time. Hemmed in between France, eager for the cherished revenge, and Slavism, drunk with dreams of victory, our hands are now and will be in the future less free than they ever were before."
So terrible would be the forces let loose against the Fatherland when this war came, according to the Berlin daily thus quoted, that an accommodation with Great Britain became desirable. Everything was done to placate "perfidious Albion," we read, but the task proved an utter impossibility. Germany had to struggle on the sea and in Africa with the same England which is the deadly enemy of German hegemony in Europe. Whatever Germany does, concludes this organ of militarism, "the European noose will be drawn tightly about our necks," and it became the great business of the German nation to loosen this noose. Had she not struck, says the Neueste Nachrichten, Germany would have abdicated her position in Europe.
German Measures of Defense Cause Alarm.
Soldiers know well that the balance of military power in Europe shifted in consequence of the events attending the Balkan war. In view of these events, the Berlin Norddeutsche Zeitung says, and in view of Germany's exposed geographical position, it was more than ever her first duty to make her defenses as strong as the national power allowed. The strength of the German army has not, in fact, kept pace with the growth of the German population. Universal service has proved the most trusty foundation of Germany's strength. The development of universal service in proportion to the numbers of the German population was, therefore, the guiding principle of the last army bill in the Reichstag. The principle was set forth in the preamble. It is the patriotic principle which inspires the revival of Russian strength in arms, which preceded the response to such a challenge in Germany. Everywhere, however, as the Berlin organ complains, the effort is made to represent Germany as "setting the pace," a thing left to the dual alliance. This analysis of the situation is endorsed by the Tägliche Rundschau, which is convinced that Germany has for the past six months been ringed about by enemies ready to attack at a given signal. Germany, to this somewhat Jingo paper, is engaged in a struggle for her existence against the Slav on one side and the Briton on the other, the latter trembling for his position on the sea. France is seeking merely revenge.
Germany's Confidence in the Outcome.
Nevr did the German press agree on anything so completely as the might of Germany—that is, on the eve of the struggle in which the Fatherland is engaged. The Berlin Kreuz-Zeitung reflected press opinion faithfully in declaring that the armed strength of Germany was the rock of her safety. It took little stock in hints that the autocracy in Berlin was attempting too much, trying to extend a pre-eminence into supremacy and thereby producing a European combination which in the end might prove too strong for Germany. Only recently there appeared in the Revue de Paris a grave indictment of the capacity of the German naval officer from the pen of a competent expert, while as for the German army its critics abroad express themselves at times with a frankness of which the following in the London Chronicle is typical:
"The German soldier of to-day is what his Unteroffizier and the Kaiser's regulations have made him—an apathetic automaton. He is there to obey blindly, mechanically. At the same time that he exchanges his civilian attire for a military uniform he sheds his individuality and for the time being becomes a mere unit in a system which is as rigid and as unyielding as one of the massive stone supports of the Brandenburger Thor. Nothing that might tend to develop initiative and self-reliance is allowed to figure in the curriculum of this human cypher—the living embodiment of the 'Mailed Fist.'
"Why should they? ask the advocates of the superstructure which has been reared on a foundation of 'Blood and Iron' and which will probably endure as long as Prussia herself endures. As a 'cog' in the huge and somewhat unwieldy war machine, his business is to avoid friction and revolve as smoothly as he can with the other wheels of the machine, and, above all, neither to think nor act for himself."
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013.
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald