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Impact of the War on Germany from Summer 1914-1916. Period of Unity and Burgfrieden

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In 1914 huge demonstrations were held across Germany following the immediate outbreak of the war. Between 28th and 29th July demonstrations in berlin exceed 100,000. This changed once the government presented the campaign as a defensive one against Russian aggression as there developed a general consensus on the side of national duty and what was understood to be morally right. The argument of the Russians supporting their own Slavs in Serbia ensured the public unconditionally agree to Germany stance to go to war. Thus there developed images of cheering crowds and the most famous is the photograph of the crowds in Odeonsplatz, Munich in which Hitler was caught on camera cheering the outbreak of war. This seems to agree with Johns Rohls stance in Germany war effort was calculated “as the bringing of war through the Balkan crisis would bring three advantages: Austria-Hungary would not be able to wriggle out of its alliance commitments to Germany, lastly the German people could be manipulated into believing that they were being attacked by the barbaric Russians and Britain might be persuaded to stay out of war.” Nationalism was the dominant mentality days approaching the war. The was no more demonstrations only unity between Germans prevailed.

The Kaiser summarised the feeling of national unity by saying that he knows no parties anymore, only Germans. Even the socialists fell in line and voted for war credits. The political divisions of the pre-war era seemed to be over. The Reichstag passed the Enabling Act (known as Burgfreiden). This meant that the Reichstag delegated all legislative power to the Bundesrat which was to rule the Home Front by emergency legislation.

In 1914 the War Ministry took over the bureaucratic (administrative) function of running the war and corporations were set up to ensure the supply of raw materials. The War Committee for German Industry advised the bureaucrats on industrial policy.

Hindenburg was appointed head of the Supreme Army Command and Ludendorff was appointed Chief of Staff. This marked the beginnings of a semi military dictatorship. Ludendorff became the most powerful man in Germany. However the Kaiser still needed to be consulted, the bureaucracy ran the war effort and the Reichstag had control of the budget. From August 1916 Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided on the course of the war and their ideas were in contrast to Hollweg. They said that a negotiated peace was out of the question, that all available resources should be used to achieve a victory, that Russia should be knocked out of the war and subjected to a harsh peace settlement.

The Schlieffen plan that was the blueprint for victory on two fronts, knocking out France before turning on Russia did not enact as planned. Having only six weeks to capture France the German army was met with fierce resistance in Belgium by the British Expenditory Force. Even though the resistance was wiped out they spent a mouth in battle


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