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None of the European power wanted World War I, but they
feared Germany. Germany was newly unified, and was beating
the European powers in population and Industry. France
wanted to recover the Alsace-Lorraine. Britain was a
country used to being on the ocean, so they felt threatened
by Germany's colonial expansion and William II's insisting
on a large navy. Russia and Austria feared pressure on
their unstable empires.
In 1887 William II refused to renew the Reinsurance treaty
with Russia, but continued the Triple Alliance of Germany,
Austria-Hungary, and Italy. In 1894 Russia made an alliance
with France, and Great Britain settled it's differences
with France in the Entente Cordiale in 1904 forming the
Triple Entente.
The assassination, with Serbian Knowledge, of the liberal
Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinan in Sarajevo in June 1914
was the spark that set off the war. Germany assured Austria
full support, which resulted in an Austrian ultimatum that
Serbia could not accept. Austria declared war on Serbia.
Russia mobilized to defend Serbia, then Germany declared
war on Russia. Germany also declared war on France. Germany
wanted a quick defeat of France. To avoid the French
frontier, German forces moved through neutral Belgium
thinking they would take Paris by surprise. The Germans
encountered more resistance than expected in Belgium,
giving France time to prepare. [Caidin 207] This violation
of international law destroyed all sympathy for the Central
Powers. Although German forces nearly reached Paris, the
British and French Miraculously turned back the Germans at
the Battle of Marne. The two sides dug trenches for a war
that would last four years. The Russians then attacked
sending Germany into a two front war. The Germans defeated
the Russians Many times on the east, but the Allies
blockaded the Germans on the east by cutting off food and
raw materials, The Germans became desperate to break the
blockade, so they declared unrestricted submarine warfare.
[Villiers 176] After several American ships were sunk, the
United States entered the war in 1917. The Russians were in
the middle of several revolutions so they were not a threat
to Germans. In 1918 when the Germans did not have to worry
about the east, they launched an all out offensive attack
in the west, but the United Allies slowly turned the tide.
Realizing the situation was hopeless the German High
Command urged William to let a new civil government sue for
peace. Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President from 1913 to 1921,
insisted on dealing with citizens. William grudgingly
appointed Prince Max of Baden as chancellor. Even Though
Wilson was negotiating with the chancellor there were still
many problems. Fighting continued, sailors mutinied,
socialist staged strikes, workers and military formed
Communist councils, and revolution broke out in Bavaria.
[Grolier] Prince Max announced the abdication of William II
and resigned.
When Germany surrendered and changed its government, it
expected a negotiated peace rather than the harsh terms of
the Versailles treaty of 1919. The allies were determined
to receive reparations for their losses and to see that
Germany was never in a position to harm them again. Germany
lost the Alsace-Lorraine to France and lost West Prussia to
Poland. It also lost all its colonies and had to give up
most of its coal, trains, and merchant ships, as well as
its navy. Germany had to limit its army and submit to
Allied occupation of Rhineland for 15 years. Worst of all,
the Germans had to accept full responsibility for causing
the war and, consequently pay its total cost. The Germans
did not consider themselves anymore guilty than anyone else
and could not possibly pay all of the costs demanded. The
Versailles treaty seemed fair to the Allies point of view,
but it did not ensure a lasting peace. By accepting the
treaty the German Government gained a bad name among its
people. [Encarta96] The war reparations put a enormous
strain on a country already bankrupted by four years of
war. In Weimar in 1919 a nationalist assembly, led by the
Social democratic party, wrote a democratic constitution
for the new German Reich. But the prospects of the Weimar
Republic, as it was familiarly known, were dim. For most
Germans the government was defeated and was controlled by
the Versailles treaty, which they regarded as only
temporary.[Encarta96] The Parliamentary government was
opposed by conservative militarists and revolutionary
scientists. Both sides frequently tried to overthrow the
government with small armies. For instance the military
Kapp Putsch in 1920 and, the Uprising of the Communist
Sparticists in 1919 under Karl Liebknecht and Rosa
Luxemburg. The economic situation made matters worse
because the German government could not pay off reparation
requirements, so France invaded Ruhr in1923 to take over
coal mines. The government encouraged the workers to resist
passively, printing large amounts of currency to pay them.
The result was an inflation that wiped out savings,
pensions, insurance, and other forms of fixed income,
creating a revolution that destroyed the most stable
elements of Germany. Aided by the Dawes plan of 1924, which
set reasonable amounts of reparations and provided for
foreign loans, the brilliant German Minister Gustav
Stresemann reorganized the monetary system and encouraged
industry. Stresemann introduced a new currency, and paved
the way for more reasonable reparation schedules. For five
years Germany enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. In
1926 Germany joined the League of Nations. In 1929 when the
worldwide depression hit it plunged the city into disaster.
Million of unemployed, disillusioned by capitalist
democracy, turned to communism or to the party of National
Socialism (Nazism) led by Adolf Hitler. In notable efforts
called the Munich Putsch of 1923 Hitler and the Nazis made
a farcical attempt to seize power in Bavaria. From 1930 on
the government functioned by emergency decree. The
Communist profited briefly from radicalization, but the
main beneficiary was the Nazi party. The Nazi party had
twin attractions of appearing to offer radical solutions to
economic problems while upholding patriotic values.
[Encarta96] By 1932 it was the largest party in the
Reighstag. The next year President Paul von Hindenburg
appointed Hitler Chancellor after allowing himself to be
convinced by generals and right-wing politicians that only
the Nazi leader could restore order in Germany and that he
could be controlled.


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