Germany was responsible for World War One. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Essay by Laura Iafur, 3rd Form
Taking place on 28th July 1914 until 11th November 1918, World War One was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, ending the lives of millions of people. Although no one country deserves more blame than the other countries, many would argue that the country of Serbia, after all, it was a group of Serbian terrorists who killed the hero of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Franz Ferdinand. This is considered by many, what triggered this war. Others suggest Austria-Hungarian is to blame the most, they wanted war with Serbia even before Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, it seems like the assassination was the opportunity they were waiting for. Some could even say that it was Russia, who was the first to mobilize its troops, creating even more tension in an already unstable Europe. These countries are all guilty for such a violent war, but Germany, being the one that has the blank cheque to Austria-Hungary, is the most responsible of all; without backing up Austria-Hungary, it is improbable that Austria-Hungary would have acted so recklessly.
On 5th July 1914, Germany gave the “blank cheque” of unconditional support to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, fully aware of the consequences it was probably going to bring. At that moment, Germany had the strongest army, with 2,200,000 soldiers and warships, this guaranteed Austria-Hungary that no matter how drastically they acted, they would receive massive support from Germany. If Germany had not given this back up to Austria-Hungary, they most likely would have done something other than declaring war. Germany knew that Russia would most likely help Serbia, which meant that a local war would escalate into a Global war, but they did it anyway.
Germany also dragged Britain into the war when using the Schlieffen plan. On 2nd August, Germany asked for permission for their army to pass through Belgium, to get to France, but they were refused. Sir Edward Grey proposed to Germany that Britain would stay if Germany did not attack France, but the German generals denied this. On 3rd August, Germany violated international treaties by invading Belgium, a neutral country; knowing that Britain was obligated to help Belgium if an invasion occurred. Therefore, Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914.
The enormous increase in tension between these countries was one of the main reasons for this war to start, there are various factors that led to more tension, many in which Germany was involved. One of these factors was the German and British naval race which did not make Britain happy. (“Britannia rules the waves”), and at the end of 1914, Britain was this race.
The Moroccan crisis, 1906, was another factor. The French wanted to conquer Morocco and Britain agreed to help, but in 1905 Kaiser Wilhelm visited Morocco and promised to protect it against anyone who threatened it. The French and British were furious. Germany had to promise to stay out of Morocco, which didn’t make them happy at all. In 1911, there was a revolution in Morocco, the French sent in an army to control it. Kaiser Wilhelm sent a gunboat to the Moroccan part of Agadir; this angered the French and British. Germany was forced to back down, which made them very angry, it increased their resentment. Kaiser Wilhelm was determined to win the next crisis. All this evidence shows that Germany, at that point was ashamed. They had lost various crisis issues and since they could not allow themselves another defeat. Germany had decided they needed to prove their power, this being the reason they acted in such a careless manner.
Austria-Hungary also deserves part of the blame; they were the ones who declared war first on Serbia on 28th July, 1914. Before 1914, assassinations of royal figures did not usually result in war. However, Austria-Hungary saw the Sarajevo assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife as an opportunity to conquer and destroy Serbia. The Austrian Chief of Staff General Hotzendoz wanted to attack Serbia long before the assassination.
Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia (23rd July) with ten very exigent requests that needed to be accepted to avoid military conflict. Serbia accepted all requests apart from one, which was to allow Austria-Hungary to enter Serbia and oversee investigation and prosecution on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Nonetheless, this was not enough for Austria-Hungary, so they declared war, and with Germany’s support, it would’ve provided an easy win.
On the other hand, if Austria-Hungary did not make a move against Serbia, the different nationalities living in the Austria-Hungarian territory could act against their leaders giving the impression to other countries that there won’t have been any consequences. Austria-Hungary could have acted in a different manner on the Serbia war, but it was due to Germany who empowered them to act this way.
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand was conducted by a Serbian terrorist named Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia, 28th June 1914. This was the spark that caused the war. Gavrilo was a nationalist who wanted Bosnia to be its own country, and when Ferdinand announced his trip to SaraJevo, it was the perfect opportunity to strike against Austria-Hungary. Gavrilo was a member of a terrorist group named, Black Hand. Austria-Hungary suspected the involvement of Serbia in the Bosnian attack, thus representing the final act in a long-standing rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Russia did not want a war, the Russian Grand Council decided if Serbia was to be invaded, it would have to request a conference to asses the issue. However, Russia had previous issues with Serbia regarding the Bosnian crisis in 1908.
To conclude, World War One was a chain reaction triggered by the assassination Franz Ferdinand; however, Serbia wasn’t mostly responsible but Germany, who pushed Austria-Hungary in making those decisions leading to the global conflict. The alliance system was created to prevent war, but it did the total opposite, where all the countries were forced to join the war.