The Role Of Bethmann Holloweg In The July Crisis

1099 words - 5 pages

Naturally, there are three main points offered, when analyzing the role of Bethmann-Holloweg in the July Crisis. One of them, the sympathetic viewpoint, describes the German Imperial Chancellor as a victim of circumstance, rather weak, but totally guilt-free. The more critical viewpoint assigns him the characteristics of an aggressive expansionist and finally the neutral point balances out the two. It claims that Holloweg lost control, and desired no more than a limited war. Nonetheless, it is never certain how far the Chancellor was a crucial figure.To begin with, the sympathetic, and possibly very naive view is that the Chancellor did his best to avoid war and was a peace-loving statesm ...view middle of the document...

This suggests that Holloweg tried to maintain peace, however due to external influence he lost control and there was no way out. Furthermore, on 26th July, the military had gathered behind him and there is evidence that General Moltke was taking so much initiative, it was no longer clear whether him or Holloweg actually ruled Berlin. Finally, the optimism of the general Staff completely overcast Holloweg's failing battle: '...military now gained the ascendancy over the civilians'. Consequently, this optimistic viewpoint suggests that Holloweg had no definite war aims and tried to maintain peace.However, the more rational, but also extremist, critical viewpoint sees Holloweg's aims coinciding with those of the Generals and industrialists. Supported by a historian Fischer, this view suggests that Holloweg's ideas were much more elaborated. Fischer claims that Holloweg was close to such military extremists like General Ludendorff. He also claims that Holloweg had far-reaching war aims, which followed closely the ideas of leading German industrialists and the Pan German League. These ideas were stated in an influential memorandum on 9th September: '...France must be so wakened, that she cannot again rise as a Great Power, Russia must be pushed as far as possible from the German frontier, and her rule over non-Russian subject peoples must be broken'. More so, Fischer accentuates that these were formulated before the war had begun and that Holloweg had close links with industrialists such as Walther Ratheneau, who exerted expansionist ideas upon him. Holloweg's private comments full of doubts and apprehensions, such as 'the more distant future is quite dark' and 'in a few years the Russians would be here anyway', suggest that he considered war inevitable. Furthermore, they can be interpreted as 'excuses' for Holloweg's actions which were to trigger a world war. It is also important to note that he has only consulted 12 people over main decisions, namely these were from the Court, the German foreign Office and the General staff. All these groups coincided in the war-aims, none tried to actua...

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