The Role of Germany in WWI and WWII

January 18, 1871 inVersailles, after a brilliant victory over the French Empire, the "Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck, and King William I proclaimed the creation of the German Empire. Since that time, Berlin began to prepare for a new fight, which would have allowed Germany to take a worthy place in the world. Five billion francs, paid to the Germans as a contribution, were a powerful incentive for the German economy and the development of military-industrial complex. Germany joined the colonial division of the world, captured Togo, Cameroon, mainland Tanzania (Tanganyika), Rwanda and Burundi, Namibia, the Chinese port of Qingdao on the Yellow Sea coast, which became a strategically important base for the Imperial East Asiatic squadron cruising (it had to carry out the operation of cruising in the Pacific after the war). In Oceania, Germany occupied New Guinea (north-eastern part of the island), Micronesia (Nauru, Palau, Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana Islands), and Western Samoa (Hewitson, 2005).

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However, it was not enough for strong and rapidly growing German economy.  Much of the world was divided into spheres of influence without Berlin. Germany at the beginning of XX century was not only an advanced industrial nation, but a very ideological state. The life of the empire and its foreign policy was determined by three main principles: the cult of Kaiser (Emperor), Pan-German and the cult of army. Officially it was considered that the German people had the right to lead the world. A war for empire is a way to take its rightful place in the sun, similar to natural selection in human population. Kaiser agreed with the idea of global leadership of Germany. His claims were supported by the world's Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930), a distinguished naval officer in Germany. He was a supporter of the German "world fleet", which was twice to beat the British fleet and help to push it (Britain) off the world trade, to take control of major sea routes and strategic points of the planet. All estates of Germany supported the idea, including the Social Democrats, since it ensured a variety of jobs and relatively high wages. As a result, the German military and political elite formed a plan of "Greater Germany" ("Middle Europe") (Hewitson, 2005).

The outbreak of World War I was inevitable. The first imperialist world war was inevitable as a result of laws of capitalism. At the same time, there was no force that could prevent its occurrence. The ruling classes of Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary and Russia were preparing this war for decades. A special role in the outbreak of war was played by German imperialism. In 1914 there was a right moment to unleash the war for Germany. Economically, Germany was the second country in the world after the U.S. In Germany iron was smelted almost as much as in England, France and Russia combined. Germany produced more steel than these three countries combined. Militarily, Germany overtook Russia and France. By 1914, arming of the German army with modern weapons was completed. Development of a mobilization plan of the German Army was completed in March 31, 1914.  Russia was intended to end its weapons program, increasing the Baltic fleet and building strategic roads only in 1917, while France was just beginning its rearmament (Chickering, 2004).

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After it became obvious that the war got protracted, the German government faced the task of transfer the entire German economy on a war footing. The German government did not take care of creating the country's largest reserves of strategic raw materials and products. It did not develop detailed plans for industrial mobilization and allocation of labor. All this had to be done in conditions of war. At the same time, the special structure of the German economy made it relatively easy to adapt it to the needs of war. A high degree of concentration of industry, which ensured rapid mobilization, the latest technology, which allowed developing new types of production, highly skilled and disciplined workers contributed to this. The state apparatus of the Empire had good management of the economy, as Prussia had significant state ownership in the form of railroads, coal mines and oil field nitrate. All this should have helped Germany to sustain long war in conditions of virtual blockade and lack of own resources. However, it did not help. The German Empire lost the war. As a result of World War I, the German Empire was dissolved. Germany, ceasing to be a monarch, was cut territorially, and economically weakened. World War I accelerated the development of social processes. It was one of prerequisites that caused the revolution in Germany. It ended up creating a new military-political situation in the world. Revanchist sentiment in Germany led to World War II (Chickering, 2004).

The danger of World War II was immediately after the end of World War I, after which Germany got angry with the desire to take revenge. Versailles system could not be effective because its direct or indirect victims were two major powers of the continent - Germany and Soviet Russia. Mutual understanding between two powers would lead to the collapse of the Versailles system, as happened in the Italian city of Genoa, where representatives of Soviet Russia normalized relations with Germany. Another factor that led to the fact that World War II broke out, was the rise of the National Socialists to power in Germany. The Nazis isolated the country, rallied collective will, and supported national fanaticism. In the early 20s a program of further development of Germany was adopted, which identified three main points:

  1. The union of all Germans in the Greater Germany.
  2. Cancellation of the Versailles Treaty.
  3. Expansion of the living space.

Germany sought to capture a dominant position in world markets, while its competitors made every effort to preserve and strengthen their rule. There was a conflict between Britain, France and the United States - victor countries in World War I, on the one hand, and a defeated Germany - on the other hand. Unleashing the war against Poland, Hitler was convinced that the Western powers could not really oppose it. It just happened. Germany followed the tactics of Blitzkrieg - lightning war. In an hour after the invasion of Poland, half of the Polish aircraft was destroyed on the ground directly. A few days later Poland was already in hands of the enemy. England and France (as well as British dominions and colonies of Australia, New Zealand and India, and later - the South African Union and Canada) had to declare war on Germany. But the real war by the Allies on the continent was not conducted. During 8 months a strong Anglo-French group led against the Germans "odd war". There was no fighting. Any bomb fell at this time on the territory of Germany. Although Britain and France had a powerful fleet, they did absolutely nothing to take advantage. This allowed Germany to use the time to prepare for a decisive attack. By the summer of 1941 virtually all the continental Europe was under Nazi control. The bridgehead for an attack on the Soviet Union was prepared. In line with the plan "Barbarossa" in June 22, 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. May 8, 1945 in a suburb of Berlin the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht signed the act of unconditional surrender of the German armed forces. Hitler's Germany that started World War II admitted defeat. Germany suffered 75-80% of the losses on the Eastern front, the Allies, respectively, phased out of action only 20-25% of the Wehrmacht.

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Hitler's ultimate goal was the creation of 250 millionth Volk (people) in the East. He intended to settle 100 million Germans in the vast plains to the west of the Urals. Hitler dreamed to conquer not only Europe but also Asia, reaching India. However, his dreams did not come true (Weinberg, 1996).

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