Divided Europe and Evil Conflicts

  February 16, 2022   Read time 1 min
Divided Europe and Evil Conflicts
The High Command had relied on the Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg, to keep the Reichstag in order. Now that he had failed, they compelled the Kaiser to demand his resignation.

His successor, a malleable bureaucrat, Georg Michaelis, agreed to accept the Peace Resolution ‘as I understand it’, so the war credits were passed. But clearly more would be needed to counter the peace propaganda of the left. In September the High Command sponsored the launching of a new ‘Fatherland Party’ to campaign against constitutional reform and support an annexationist peace.

The terms of the latter were laid down in the Kreuznach Programme of 9 August. In the east, Germany would annex outright all the lands already occupied by her armies—Courland, Lithuania, and the eastern provinces of Poland. In the west she would retain Belgium and Luxembourg and gain the French regions of Longwy and Briey. The object, as Hindenburg and Ludendorff explained to the Kaiser, was ‘such a strengthening of the German people, and such an improvement in our frontiers, that our enemies would not dare to let loose another war for a long time to come’.

The Fatherland Party was lavishly financed by Rhineland industrialists, but it was no mere front for the ruling classes. Within a year it numbered 1.25 million members— arguably the first genuinely populist right-wing movement of the twentieth century, and a harbinger of more to come.

The nature of the peace would thus determine not only Germany’s position in Europe, but what kind of country she was going to be. In the eyes of the High Command and its civilian followers, to yield to the demands of the Reichstag for a peace without annexations or indemnities would be effectively to have lost the war—a war no longer simply against Germany’s external enemies, but against all the internal forces apparently bent on destroying traditional German values.
In Ludendorff’s view, the only way in which those forces could be overcome before the Home Front collapsed altogether—and the even more desperate Austrians defected—was by victory on the Western Front, gained by a blow so overwhelming that the Allies would lose heart and be forced to accept the German plans for peace. This would truly be Germany’s ‘last card’.

Write your comment