Brill’s Digital Library of World War I

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National Socialism

(2,472 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
National Socialism The first industrialized mass war had considerable effects on political and social relationships, and on the mentality of people. Italian Fascism and German National Socialism owe their particular characteristics and their legitimization to the First World War, described by Eric J. Hobsbawm as a “machine for brutalizing the world.” By his own testimony, Hitler himself was a “son of the war.” In repeated references to the war in Mein Kampf and in numerous statements and documented conversations ( Hitler’s Table Talks), Hitler returned time and again to his p…

Verdun

(2,073 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Verdun A French fortress that was continually expanded since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871. With its 20 forts and 40 intermediate redoubts, Verdun was without any doubt the strongest defense work in France. The principal forts in the vicinity of Verdun included Douaumont, Vaux, Souville, and Tavannes. Verdun was considered to be practically impregnable. During the German advance of August 1914, the German Fifth Army (under Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia) operated in the sector before Verd…

January Strikes

(1,075 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
January Strikes Between January 28 and February 2, 1918, there arose in Berlin and other industrial and economic centers (Kiel, Hamburg, and the Rhine-Westphalia industrial area) mass protests and strike actions, in which between 200,000 and 500,000 workers took part. In contrast with the 1917 strikes, which may be understood primarily as social protest, the January Strikes had to a great extent a direct political motive. In light of the Soviet government’s offer of peace, and the brutally extreme claims for annexation of the German S…

Poincaré, Raymond

(994 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Poincaré, Raymond (August 20, 1860, Bar-le-Duc [Département Meuse] – October 15, 1934, Paris), French politician, state president. Poincaré came from a prosperous French provincial bourgeois family. Despite a political career that took place predominantly in Paris, his home town of Bar-le-Duc (capital of the Meuse Department) remained for him a haven of social and political retreat. Poincaré became one of the defining personalities of moderate republicanism in France. A lawyer by profession, he wa…

“Stab-in-the-Back” Legend (Dolchstosslegende)

(930 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
“Stab-in-the-Back” Legend ( Dolchstosslegende) The claim that Germany’s military defeat in 1918 was not, or not primarily, to be ascribed to the failure of the military leadership, or the exhaustion of the soldiers, but to failure or betrayal on the part of particular persons or groups on the home front. There were a number of quite different variants of the legend. Thus, for example, the inadequacy of supply in the battles for Verdun in 1916 was already referred to in military circles as a Dolchstoss. As early as July 1917, General von Seeckt gave voice to the typical accusati…

Encirclement Concept

(477 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Encirclement Concept The concept of encirclement was coined, or rather applied to the situation in international relations, by Reich Chancellor Bülow in a speech in the Reichstag on November 14, 1906. Reacting to the entente that had just been concluded between England and France, Bülow warned that the German Reich was being encircled “like the beast in the forest.” It is probable that no political conception received such wide currency in prewar Germany as that of encirclement. The mantra circulated not only among nationalists, but also in that portion…

Wilson, Woodrow

(808 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Wilson, Woodrow (August 1856, Staunton – February 3, 1924, Washington DC), President of the United States. Nothing in Wilson’s career prepared him for leading the United States into an international political conflict. Born the son of a Presbyterian minister in Virginia, Wilson internalized the Protestant Ethic early. He felt called to commit himself to politics. Wilson was a professor of Political Science at Princeton University when nominated to become the university’s president in 1902. This sm…

July Crisis

(720 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
July Crisis Few topics from the history of the First World War have been discussed more intensively by historians and in the public arena than the July Crisis of 1914. Into the 1930s in Germany, the foremost question was that of the justice of the accusation of “war guilt” as expressed in Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. In this case the predominant opinion initially, and even after the Second World War, was that all the powers “stumbled” into war. In the 1960s, Fritz Fischer brought to the c…

War Guilt

(797 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
War Guilt The question of responsibility for the First World War was actually the subject of controversial discussion even before the outbreak of war, during the July Crisis of 1914, and was even answered propagandistically, to justify positions taken. Proclamations at the outset of the war, such as the “balcony speech” of Kaiser Wilhelm II on August 4 (“It is not the desire for conquest that drives us . . .”) or Poincaré’s “ Union sacrée” address on the same date (“In the war now breaking out, France has right on her side.”) always emphasize the defensive character of…