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Germany 1914–1918. Total War as a Catalyst of Change

Abstract and Keywords

It is a commonplace to see the First World War as a major caesura in German and European history. This article records the war years from 1914–1918 in Germany. Not least, such an interpretation can rely on the perceptions of influential contemporary observers. In Germany, as in other belligerent countries, many artists, intellectuals, and academics experienced the outbreak of the war as a cathartic moment. While it is straightforward to see the mobilization for war and violence as a major caesura for any of the belligerent countries, it is much more complicated to account for causalities and for German peculiarities. Difficult methodological questions arise, which have not always been properly addressed. While Germany was facing a ‘world of enemies’, as a popular slogan suggested, the semantics of the political shifted to an articulation of emotions, excitements, and promises, contributing to a dramatized narrative centered around the notions of sacrifice and fate. The effect of World War I concludes the article.

Keywords: Germany, total war, mobilization for war, semantics

It is a commonplace to see the First World War as a major caesura in German and European history. Not least, such an interpretation can rely on the perceptions of influential contemporary observers. In Germany, as in other belligerent countries, many artists, intellectuals and academics experienced the outbreak of the war as a cathartic moment. War, conceived as a decisive struggle over life or death between nations, seemed to provide an opportunity to leave the restrictions and ambivalences of bourgeois civilization behind. Instead, intellectuals hoped to usher in a new age where the life of the individual was clearly framed by the superior needs of the national collective. In 1914, theologians of both Christian confessions were not alone in thinking that the war would bring redemption.1 In a bourgeois culture where the feeling of ennui or boredom had gained ground since the turn-of-the-century, the prospect of dying on the battlefield was no reason for dismay or fright, but could offer hope and satisfaction, at least for those intellectuals who were not immediately confronted with it. Even the sociologist Max Weber, usually a very sober mind, reckoned in 1916 that the ‘death in the field differs from’ simply ‘inevitable dying,’ as ‘only here the individual can believe to know that he dies ‘for’ something.’2 War created meaning and offered orientation; that was the gist of this and many other intellectual reflections.

When historians started in the 1970s to investigate the social and cultural repercussions of the First World War in more systematic fashion, they could elaborate on the already well established trope of the conflict as a major caesura. Three examples should suffice to convey how historians conceptualize the place of World War I in the trajectory of modern German history. In his book Rites of Spring, published in 1990, Modris Eksteins portrayed the war as the decisive breakthrough of modernist culture. The notion of liberation through sacrifice is one of the key motifs for his argument. (p. 379) Beginning with the controversial premiere of Stravinsky's ballet ‘Sacre du Printemps’ in Paris 1913, and moving on to the German soldiers who fought in Flanders fields since 1914, Eksteins aimed to chart how modernism spread beyond the small circles of an artistic elite, and how Germany became ‘the modernist nation par excellence,’ as the necessity of sacrifice turned into a popular experience. Citing war letters written by students who had volunteered for the war, Eksteins stated that ‘the German interpretation’ of why the war should be continued was, unlike in Britain or France, ‘cloaked in mystical and romantic notions.’ Thus, the ground for further political irrationalism and radicalization in the 1920s was prepared.3

In another landmark book, also published in 1990, the late George L. Mosse presented his seminal argument about the brutalization of German political culture through the myth of war. Narratives of heroism were ‘designed to mask war and to legitimize the war experience.’ While such mythological representations of the front-line experiences emerged in all belligerent nations, as Mosse conceded, he insisted that nationalist memories of the war experience ‘informed most postwar politics’ in Germany, ‘which proved most hospitable to the myth.’4 For Mosse, as well as in slightly different terms for Eksteins, the brutalizing effects of the war were the key to an explanation of the German Sonderweg, which ultimately led to the Nazi seizure of power. Whereas Eksteins and Mosse suggest lines of continuity between 1914–1918 and 1933, historian Omer Bartov has even gone one step further. For him, the Holocaust was ‘more directly the almost perfect reenactment of the Great War (…), with the important correction that all the perpetrators were on one side and all the victims on the other.’5 This argument, however, is no more than a formal and very superficial analogy, based on the fact that both at Verdun and in Auschwitz some trademark signs of modern military organizations were used, such as ‘barbed wire,’ ‘machine guns,’ ‘gas,’ and ‘uniforms.’6 The context and the intensity of their use, though, differed fundamentally. Poison gas, for example, caused no more than 1.7 percent of all injuries in the German army during World War I.7

While it is straightforward to see the mobilization for war and violence as a major caesura for any of the belligerent countries, it is much more complicated to account for causalities and for German peculiarities. Difficult methodological questions arise, which have not always been properly addressed. Taking the alleged ‘brutalization’ of political culture as an example, we need to distinguish between the unleashing of aggressions as a direct result of front-line service, and the wider repercussions of atrocity stories and violent fantasies, which influenced male (and female?) civilians at the home-front in mediated form through posters, cartoons, and other representations. Whereas severe doubts have been raised with regard to the former argument, the latter is mostly undisputed, but should be further specified with regard to the timing and range of this ‘brutalization.’8 It is equally important to qualify assertions about the war as a caesura with regard to social contexts such as class, gender, confession and regional background, bearing in mind that regional diversity is a key element of German political culture. These qualifications are all the more important as many interpretations have taken the self-descriptions by the small literate elite of the Bildungsbürgertum (p. 380) (educated middle class) as indicative of German society as a whole. Historians have also started to attend more carefully to the difference between the change of perceptions up until 1918, and those in the immediate postwar period, when defeat in war, and the loss of territories and colonies resulted in altered political contexts.9

These introductory remarks do not intend to diminish the significance of the First World War for modern German history, nor its importance as a moment of rupture and violent discontinuity in the medium and longer term. Rather, it is to insist on a more cautious approach when causality is attributed to certain strands of development, and to flag both August 1914 and November 1918 as pivotal moments of change. These crucial weeks mark, each in their own way, a departure from the political framework of Imperial Germany that had been established in 1871. As such, they deserve specific attention. In the following, we will focus on the ways in which the national community of the Germans was made and unmade during the mobilization for war. We will first examine both the inclusionary and exclusionary effects of a changing mode of political representation, and then chart how mobilization led to increasing claims for participation and paved the way for the revolution. Concluding remarks discuss elements of continuity and consider the Great War as a catalyst of change.

17.1 Longing for Unity and the Changing Representation of Politics

The journalist Siegfried Jacobsohn was the founder and editor of the journal Schaubühne. Since 1918 published under the title Weltbühne, it was one of the most important left-wing intellectual journals of the time. Upon the news of German mobilization on 1 August 1914, he noted, while on holiday on one of the small islands in the North Sea: ‘If it is time, we will not only mobilize men, but also higher feelings, and we will bash everybody's hat who does not appear to have got plenty of those according to regulations.’10 With these remarks, Jacobsohn captured the ambivalences of the German ‘experience of August 1914,’ the complex mixture of emotions and expectations that marked the beginning of the war. The mobilization for war opened up the prospect of national unity, expressed through and accompanied by an outburst of ‘higher,’ more noble patriotic feelings. However, it was uncertain whether all Germans would join in and celebrate belligerence against Russia, France, and the United Kingdom, and any lack of unanimous support would, as Jacobsohn rightly predicted, soon trigger exclusionary tendencies.

August 1914 was a crucial moment in modern German history, but not because all Germans reacted with exuberant enthusiasm to the declaration of war. Quite to the contrary, public displays of collective enthusiasm for war were only one rather minor element in a much more complicated set of popular attitudes. On 1 August, they were largely confined to the big cities, where mostly middle-class people and members of student fraternities roamed the streets and gathered on inner-city places. The famous (p. 381) photograph of the Odeonsplatz in Munich on 2 August 1914, showing Adolf Hitler among an exuberant crowd celebrating the news of the declaration of war against Russia, is a good example: the crowd is almost exclusively made up of men, and most of them are clearly marked as middle-class by their straw hats, white collars, and suits.11 Elsewhere in large cities and smaller towns, crowds simply gathered because they were curious to receive the latest news on the rapidly unfolding sequence of diplomatic events, or to participate in ‘carnivalesque’ events such as hunting down automobiles that were supposed to bring gold from France to Russia. Outbursts of patriotic fervor occurred alongside significant displays of panic, mostly about economic uncertainty, and feelings of outright depression. The latter was the prevalent mood in the countryside, particularly in Catholic regions of the Reich, where uncertainty over the lack of manpower for the harvest and grief about the separation from loved-ones pushed any other concerns aside.12

One might argue that it is an ‘overly simplistic question’ to ask which Germans were supporting the war from the onset, and which were not.13 However, these differences matter, not least because they indicate early fissures in the German war effort, which had turned by 1916, at the latest, into major cleavages. To be sure, the mobilization of the German war machine commenced without any interruption, as the trains with conscript soldiers made their way to the fronts. However, there is a need to distinguish between the public perception of the Burgfrieden (literally: fortress peace), the contemporary term for the suspension of party political strife, and the reality at the grassroots level. When the parliamentary party of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted, as all other parties, for the war credits in the Reichstag session on 4 August 1914, the party leaders justified their support with the defensive nature of the German war effort and the need to fight against the oppressive Tsarist regime in Russia. However, this was only an ideological smokescreen, used to conceal their deliberate aim to abandon fundamental opposition in favor of national integration. In the days before 31 July, when the state of siege suspended freedom of press and political expression, at least 750,000 rank-and-file members and supporters of the SPD had attended anti-war rallies across the Reich. In early August, Social Democratic workers displayed hardly any enthusiasm, and both as soldiers at the front and in the factories at the home front, they were among the first to note the mendacity of the rhetoric of Burgfrieden amidst the deprivations of war. Thus, the seeds for the split of the SPD, which was formally sealed only in April 1917 with the founding of the USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party), were already laid in August 1914, when a sizeable minority in the party was left bitterly disappointed by the Party's opportunistic top-down decision to support the war.14

It is thus crucial to distinguish between popular opinion and attitudes in August 1914, and the subsequent mythologized perceptions of the Augusterlebnis, representing these days and weeks as a moment of unanimous enthusiasm and national unity. Yet because they wildly exaggerated certain features of the popular Augusterlebnis, these mythologies mattered. They are indicative of a substantial recoding and reshaping of the representation of politics. First, August 1914 brought the notion of the Volksgemeinschaft or people's community to the fore. One of the characteristic features of the middle-class gatherings on the streets and places of Berlin in late July and early August (p. 382) was the way in which they bypassed the established pageantry of nationalist rituals, which was centered on the army and the Kaiser and sidelined ordinary civilians to the role of mere spectators. Now, as they waited for news and welcomed the declaration of mobilization, middle class Berliners took center stage. Here, they ‘could see themselves constituting a nationalist public,’ and began to re-enact the nation as a ‘less hierarchically bound collectivity.’15

These developments on the ground were reflected in the sphere of intellectual debate about the future of the German polity. Academics from all disciplines across the humanities and sciences engaged in a lively discussion about the lessons that had to be drawn from the mythologized Augusterlebnis of national unity. These lessons, condensed as the ‘ideas of 1914,’ are usually interpreted as outlines for a German mission in the wider world, and, in their rejection of universalist values symbolized by the year 1789, as indicative for the German Sonderweg or divergence from the West.16 However, the various public appeals, pamphlets, and petitions by professors neither elaborated on a peculiar mission of the German nation, nor articulated a fundamental opposition to 1789. Rather, the ‘ideas of 1914’ sought to develop a new, communitarian political framework for the German people that could build on the experience of August 1914. With many differences in detail, two main models were envisaged: a more libertarian Volksstaat or people's state, which would turn subjects into citizens, and the harmonizing vision of the Volksgemeinschaft, represented by a corporate state and a government of experts above the parties. Crucially, the blueprints of both models transcended the contemporary political system and the valence of the Imperial monarch. In the ‘ideas of 1914,’ the Kaiserreich already came to an end, at least in terms of a substantial intellectual debate on political reform.17 Not only liberal and national-conservative academics supported these ideas. Reformist Social Democratic intellectuals shared their fascination with the notion of a Volksgemeinschaft even as the war dragged on, and were, for instance, ready to see the corporative elements of the Auxiliary Service Law in 1916 as a first step in that direction.18 The Service Law required mandatory military service and ended the freedom of workers to change jobs.

The shift towards expectations of national community brought, secondly, new modes for the articulation and representation of sociability. In a landmark article ‘On the Sociology of World War,’ published in 1915, the sociologist Emil Lederer lucidly encapsulated these changes. Part of the ‘social transformation’ brought about by the war was, he argued, that ‘a sense of togetherness’ was no longer based predominantly in commercial and legal ‘contracts,’ as in bourgeois society. Rather, in the wartime community relations based on ‘understandings such as in families’ created bonds between individuals, framed by the ‘state's suggestive power.’19 Lederer's observation implied that politics were not any longer represented according to a register of compromise and of sober calculations of means and ends. While Germany was facing a ‘world of enemies,’ as a popular slogan suggested, the semantics of the political shifted to an articulation of emotions, excitements, and promises, contributing to a dramatized narrative centered around the notions of sacrifice and fate.20 This new accent on the intimate and personal as a site for the expression of emotions of belligerence and (p. 383) community required a new media of political discourse. Until 1918, and even after the armistice, Feldpostbriefe, letters sent from the front by the army postal services, were among the most important media for the representation of community and the political meaning of the war. Abundantly reprinted in newspapers and in many edited collections, they seemed to offer authentic voices and emotions from key eyewitnesses of the epic battles between nations. The introduction to one edited collection, published in 1914, praised their qualities like this: ‘Reading Feldpostbriefe means to feel the pulse of the war (…) The most extreme sacrifice as a matter of course, honesty and uprightness, these are the distinctive features of German Feldpostbriefe.’21

Apart from the form (community) and the mode (dramatization) we have to consider, thirdly, the range and depth of the changing representation of politics. One common assumption is that propaganda played a vital role. State-sponsored indoctrination had to instill enemy images and to re-interpret acts of aggression that occurred in foreign territories as a defense of the German nation. At first glance, popular visual media, such as picture postcards, seem to support such an interpretation. Since 1914, postcards with patriotic motifs had inundated German stationary shops and department stores. With mottos such as ‘Jeder Stoss ein Franzos’ (‘Each push one Frenchman’), they depicted German soldiers who happily kicked and thrashed cowardly British, French, and Russian troops. With this rather bizarre sense of humor, these postcards seemed typical examples of misguided, but effective German propaganda. However, military censorship in 1914–1915 stopped precisely the distribution of these ‘inflammatory’ images, as they were deemed to be ‘degrading’ to the German military and war effort.22 German mobilization was, as Jacobsohn had noticed, meant to produce ‘higher,’ more noble feelings. From the iconography of popular media, such as picture postcards and amateur photography we can glean that, at least until 1918, the pictorial representation of death and sacrifice resorted to very traditional, often banal tropes and communicative codes. The impossibility of depicting human agency amidst the emptiness of no-man's-land led to a crisis of the representation of violence. However, during the war itself, only a very few, astute observers analyzed this crisis of representation. Not until the 1920s would fundamental changes in the iconography valorizing war occur, as conservative and Fascist authors and artists selected and rearranged the existing stock of photographs according to a visual code that glorified the machinery of warfare and saw human agency as a mere appendix to technology.23

In his reflections on the Augusterlebnis, Siegfried Jacobsohn had assumed that those who lacked ‘higher’ patriotic feelings would soon be at the receiving end of a backlash from the national community. The experience of the Jewish minority in Germany, however, can serve as proof that outsiders were subjected to discrimination even though they supported the war with the very best intentions. The Centralverein, the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, which represented the large majority of the about 600,000 Jews in the Reich, was hardly alone in adamantly insisting that Jewish Germans had to support the war effort. Taking the rhetoric of the Burgfrieden at face value, many male Jewish citizens volunteered for army service or took up important posts in the various bodies that governed the war economy. They (p. 384) clung on to the hope that their service would pay a dividend and would finally bring full acceptance by the Gentile majority population. As censorship curbed anti-Semitic propaganda and the army started to promote Jews to officers, equality seemed to be achieved. However, anti-Semitic associations such as the Reichshammerbund rejected the notion of a Burgfrieden that would include Jews from the start. They resumed their agitation quickly and filed petitions and memoranda to the authorities, accusing the Jews of being profiteers and shirkers who would avoid front-line service and take advantage of the increasing scarcity of food provision.24

This form of anti-Semitic agitation scored its first major success on 11 October 1916, when the Prussian War Minister Adolf Wild von Hohenborn issued the decree for the infamous ‘Jew Count,’ which ordered all military commanders, through a census to be taken on 1 November, to determine how many Jews who were subject to the draft actually served in the German army. It is difficult to determine the exact motives of the war ministry for this step. However, it was certainly not by chance that Wild von Hohenborn gave in to pressure from anti-Semitic groups exactly at a time when the army was facing a severe manpower shortage, and mobilization for total war had reached its first peak. In this situation, radical nationalist circles and parts of the military believed that ‘inner unity could only be achieved by fighting (…) the internal enemy.’ The Jews were associated with everything that weakened the German war effort.25 The devastating effects of the Judenzählung on the Jews, who felt bitterly disappointed by this symbolic exclusion from patriotic service, have often been described. It is equally clear that the count opened the floodgates for further, ever more vicious anti-Semitic agitation, even though Wild's successor Hermann von Stein declared the issue closed on 22 January 1917, stopping short of issuing a full apology.26 However, while it is undisputed that the First World War and the Jew Count in particular was important for the radicalization of German anti-Semitism, the exact contours and the pervasiveness of this shift across society at large are still subject to conjecture.27

At least three tentative conclusions can be drawn from the existing body of evidence and scholarship. There is, first, hardly any doubt that the encounter of millions of German soldiers with Eastern European Jews during the occupation of vast territories in Russia until 1918 fuelled anti-Semitic stereotypes and informed ideas about a necessary civilizing mission of German ‘culture’ in the East. However, the long-term repercussions of these contacts with the Ostjuden were not straightforward. The sources display also, in perhaps less frequent, but still notable cases, substantial ‘expressions of interest and sympathy’ with the, at first glance, strange culture of orthodox Polish and Russian Judaism.28 Secondly, at the level of popular perceptions at the home-front, we have to consider the impact of the rapid deterioration in food supplies since 1915. Food shortages, as we will see below, led to popular protests. Malnutrition and hunger also triggered reflections about the persistence of gross social inequality in German society. A pervasive moral discourse emerged about the discrepancy between those who sacrificed themselves for the war, most prominently the soldiers, and those who gained profit from it. This discourse was effectively the flipside of the rhetoric of the Burgfrieden, as it became obvious that not all social groups and (p. 385) strata were equally affected by the war. In this context, Jews who worked as tradesmen, and their presence in the War Corporations that regulated the supply of most raw materials, were starting points for anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and usury.29 The intensity of these emotions and prejudices evoked aggressive comments, as the following letter by someone from Dresden, written in June 1917, demonstrates:

Unfortunately we have so many Jews who practice usury—certainly it would be the best to string all these up to the next best tree—then, scarcities in food would immediately disappear. These men are our biggest enemies, and one is too weak to kill them. Perhaps this might later be a consequence of the war—it should be wished for.'30

However, violent fantasies like this one were not only targeting Jews as usurers and war profiteers. Since 1916, the conflict between rural agrarian producers and urban consumers emerged as the major cleavage in German society. As food supplies dwindled, city dwellers took to the countryside every weekend in order to hoard or steal food. In their perception, peasant farmers were the main culprits for the dire state of food supplies, and the ultimate war profiteers. These encounters led to hostility on both sides, and to an increasing number of physical confrontations.31 Caricatures in satirical journals confirm that the popular iconography of the profiteer and usurer was not simply anti-Semitic, but much more diverse, and also included a mockery of the bureaucratic nature of the highly-regulated war economy.32 Amidst increasing social inequality and a lack of national cohesion, Jews were, by far, not the only group presented as a scapegoat for these developments.

There is, thirdly, ample evidence for the wartime radicalization of anti-Semitic discourse among nationalist interest and pressure groups such as the Pan-German League and increasing numbers of Protestant, middle-class, teachers, professors, civil servants, and pastors. It seems more appropriate to interpret this trend not as a result of ‘brutalization,’ but rather as a backlash against the drive towards democratization. It is not by chance that the intensity and the language of the political demonology of völkisch anti-Semitism geared up since the spring of 1917, when mass strikes and later the peace resolution of the Reichstag signaled first major blows to the authoritarian Wilhelmine system.33 In this interpretation, only defeat and revolution in 1918 moved anti-Semitism from the fringe to the center of German politics, as an increasing number of those who struggled over the proper representation of the Volksgemeinschaft based their vision on the exclusion of Jews. There was, to sum up, no ‘direct line’ from the Jew Count in 1916 to the Holocaust.34

17.2 Mobilization, Participation, and the Road to Revolution

In its mythologized version, represented in countless poems, sermons, speeches, posters, and postcards, August 1914 was a moment of national recognition. As the (p. 386) bar for the internal cohesion and inclusiveness of the German nation was substantially raised, minority groups such as the Jews—but also the Poles and the people from Alsace-Lorraine, who were constantly harassed by and in the army—failed to qualify as German citizens despite their best efforts. As we have seen, these exclusionary tendencies gained momentum in 1916. The vision of a unified Volksgemeinschaft, however, sidelined also those who had no intention of taking part in it. In August 1914, the number of dissenters was small. Even the Social Democratic Reichstag deputy Karl Liebknecht, who became the figurehead of the opposition within the SPD once he voted openly against further war credits on 2 December 1914, had—formally—supported them earlier in the Reichstag session on 4 August.

However, soon discontent spread widely across the German population, in a process that commenced only weeks after the war had begun. As the casualty lists got longer (and were soon no longer publicized), as the experience of industrial warfare disillusioned even nationalist soldiers who had expected to excel in bravery, and as workers in ammunitions factories were drafted to the front when they voiced minor grievances or engaged in trade union activism, a critical discourse about the war emerged among soldiers and civilians alike. This language of discontent was mostly concerned with petty grievances and personal setbacks, sometimes combined with genuine outrage about experiences of loss and bereavement. However, it was soon summed up in the more general conclusion that the war was only one big ‘swindle.’ It is important to note that this critical discourse was already firmly established long before extreme material hardship in the form of widespread malnutrition and hunger affected German society since 1916, and turned Ersatz into an unpopular codeword for dreaded artificial food of vastly inferior quality. Based on these grievances, average people with no leftist political affiliation started to mock the idea of doing ‘the fatherland a good service,’ as did a certain Michael Kappelmeier, NCO in a Bavarian regiment and butcher in civilian life, in a letter from the front dated October 1914.35 Nationalist discourses started to lose their grip on many Germans only weeks after they had been so powerfully reaffirmed and reshaped in August 1914.

Complaints and grievances, to be sure, did not threaten the war effort, at least as long as they did not translate into collective action. However, this happened sooner rather than later. Urban working-class women were the first to challenge the authority of the Wilhelmine state during the war. As the food provision became critical in autumn 1915, long lines in front of grocery stores and market stalls became a regular sight in the big cities. They offered an opportunity to voice collective anger about the rationing system and the inequalities of food provision. In October 1915, the first food riots occurred in Lichtenberg, a working-class suburb of Berlin. Over several days, women protested against the lack of butter, instigated by the rude treatment they had received from shopkeepers. Similar incidents followed in other cities such as Chemnitz, Hamburg, and Nuremberg, where women and youths smashed shop-windows, stormed the city hall, or staged demonstrations demanding ‘peace and bread.’36 The authorities were deeply concerned about these displays of popular unrest. Consequently, they accelerated the shift towards an agricultural policy that was meant to serve, however poorly, (p. 387) the interests of the urban consumers first, thus triggering further discontent in the countryside about the introduction of ceiling prices and delivery quotas. However, participation in food protests did not contribute to a more general discourse of female ‘citizenship,’ as historians of women have claimed.37 Some working-class women simply demanded the introduction of a ‘food-dictator’ who would guarantee the proper and just distribution of groceries. Many others, however, were ultimately overpowered by material hardship, personal bereavement, and the maltreatment they received from male superiors at the shop-floor level. Emancipation or empowerment are inappropriate terms to describe women's experiences at the home front, both in the short-term and with regard to consequences in the postwar period.38 When the revolution came in 1918, its gender was male. Only in the symbolism of the conservatives who loathed the collapse of the monarchy in 1918 was the revolution female.

At the front, the accumulation of grievances translated into a widely used language that transcended the social and political system of Imperial Germany. This language could draw upon the anti-capitalism and the participatory, democratic aims of the socialist labor movement. While the majority wing in the SPD continued to support the policy of Burgfrieden, the minority current quickly established itself as the nucleus of a wider anti-war movement. Already in the first weeks of the war, many rank-and-file members of the party began to unmask the illusion of national unity. At the front, Social Democratic soldiers offered a fundamental critique of the ‘human butchery’ of war even before the troops started to dig trenches in October 1914. Three leading members of the moderate opposition publicly criticized the Burgfrieden in June 1915. The split within the SPD was only formally acknowledged in March 1916, however, when the parliamentary party expelled the most determined proponents of the minority wing. Notions of party discipline, a longstanding feature of the Socialist labor movement, continued to motivate SPD-members at the front to cope with the strains of war, as did their aversion against the authoritarian Tsarist regime. However, the increasing number of soldiers who resented the war used the 20 SPD Reichstag deputies, including Karl Liebknecht, who voted against war credits in December 1915, as a symbolic rallying point.

From 1916 onwards, only a minority of the German front-line troops were convinced that they were defending their fatherland against a coalition of enemies, in particular since the ban on any public consideration of war aims was lifted by the Army Supreme Command in the fall of that year. As annexationist fantasies filled the pages of the national-conservative press, even working-class soldiers with no direct affiliation to the SPD aired their disappointment in a language that employed key terms of socialist party discourse. The basket-maker Peter Hammerer from Bavarian Swabia reasoned in November 1916 about the wider causes of ‘this misery’: ‘This must be the payment for the years when we were protecting the Big Capitalists, protecting their stuff. Let them protect it themselves and not send people out who have to go out and make a living. (…) I have nothing to defend.’ Hearing news about the lack of support for his wife, who was pregnant with their seventh child, Hammerer cursed the hypocrisy of the ‘swindle nation.’39 Written conversations between spouses like these, outlining the (p. 388) causes of the gross inequality and injustice in wartime society, could not be suppressed by censorship efforts. While the private exchange of opinions was perhaps less harmful, outright opposition to the continuation of war was a different matter. Front-line soldiers started in the autumn of 1916 to urge their relatives, in letters or while on furlough, not to sign up for the fifth war loan. This negative impact on the morale of the home front triggered systematic attempts to influence the soldiers by means of propaganda, which finally led to the ‘Patriotic Instruction’ program, rolled out in the field and replacement army in the summer of 1917. The soldiers, however, simply ignored this form of indoctrination, or used reports and meetings to voice their rejection of any annexationist aims.40

Since 1916, a broader anti-war current emerged at the front and at the home front. It coalesced around vaguely defined socialist ideas, identified capitalism as the root cause for the prolongation of the war, and demanded substantial democratic reforms. Not only Protestant industrial and agricultural workers supported these ideas, but also a growing number of Catholics, incidentally turning Matthias Erzberger, who had come out as an ardent supporter of peace in spring 1917, into the most popular politician of the Catholic Centre Party and pushing the party to the left. The leadership of the majority SPD, however, was not yet ready to abandon its support of the German war effort. Only once the USPD was founded in April 1917, did the majority feel forced to publicly express opposition to the Reich leadership, in order to prevent the increasingly intense longing for peace from bolstering support for what had formerly been a competing group within the same party. By adopting the formula produced by the Petrograd Soviet of a peace ‘without annexations or reparations’ on 19 April 1917, the Majority SPD succeeded in making the term ‘Scheidemann peace’—named after Philipp Scheidemann, a leading member of the majority party—synonymous with a peace of understanding.

Support for these aims and the potential for protest was strongest where the impact of the war was most intensively felt, at the front. It was here, among front-line soldiers and NCOs, where mobilization for the war fostered a discourse of participatory citizenship that already anticipated and prepared the revolution in November 1918. When front-line soldiers were polled about their support for an ‘immediate peace’ without annexations, as in spring 1917 by the Social Democratic newspaper Munich Post, their response was overwhelmingly positive. The following quote is just one variation on a theme that was running through all responses: ‘The Pan-German League should notice that the broader strata of the people are not backing it. Why should the fighters at the front not turn to that particular party that demands, head held high, those rights which also the lower strata of the people (des Volkes) are entitled to have?’41 The outright rejection of aggressive nationalism is not even the most remarkable aspect of this political declaration. Pertinent and crucial for the events to come was the language of rights and entitlements of the ordinary people, making claims that rejected any restrictions on the freedom of political expression and transcended, in Prussia and in the Reich, the political system of Wilhelmine Germany.

(p. 389) It is indicative of the severe impediments for political reform in Imperial Germany that the leaders in the Reichstag did not properly seize the opportunity that was presented to them by the upsurge in grassroots support for immediate peace and popular participation. To be sure, Matthias Erzberger managed to push the majority parties in the direction of a more critical stance towards the government. Following a meeting of the Hauptaussschuss, the parliamentary budget committee, on 6 July 1917, Majority Social Democrats, Center Party, and the left liberals of the Progressive Peoples Party formed the Interparty Committee, temporarily, but not wholeheartedly also supported by the National Liberals. Working as a steering committee for an informal coalition of the majority in the Reichstag, and sometimes meeting on a daily basis, the Interparty Committee scored a first major success when the parliament passed a resolution for a peace of ‘understanding’ on 19 July 1917. This was, indeed, a significant act of defiance by the parliament against the government of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, who had (secretly) endorsed annexations demanded by the Army Supreme Command, and since February 1917 had supported unrestricted submarine warfare. However, the coalition was based on a fragile compromise. Thus, it did not dare to attack the Army Supreme Command and its Quartermaster General, Erich Ludendorff, who wielded more power than the weak chancellor and was the key obstacle to any substantial political reform. The Reichstag majority also did not push for full parliamentarization of the political system and, hence, failed to capitalize on the supportive groundswell of popular unrest.

Consequently, Ludendorff used the opportunity to have the vacillating Bethmann-Hollweg removed by the Kaiser for an even weaker chancellor, Georg Michaelis. Ludendorff also supported a new attempt to rally the masses against any further democratization, and in favor of a peace based on German victory and annexations. The German Fatherland Party, founded in September 1917 by leading members of the Pan-German League and the Conservative party, was a direct backlash against the peace resolution of the majority parties. Many members of the Protestant middle-class, including pastors, teachers, civil servants and officers, were appalled by what they perceived as the power of ‘public opinion.’ They resented that the ‘behavior of the government is dictated by its fear of the clamorers.’ From the viewpoint of the conservative elites, the drive towards democracy and a negotiated peace effectively represented only ‘political sentimentality, sentimental humanitarianism (Humanitätsduselei) and feebleness.’42 With its aggressive propagation of wide-ranging territorial war aims and attempts to mobilize the masses for extreme nationalism, the Fatherland Party has sometimes been interpreted as a radical departure from conventional Wilhelmine conservatism and as ‘the first pre-Fascist mass movement.’43

However, claims for the mass appeal of the party have been vastly exaggerated. In ‘early 1918,’ it was certainly not ‘close to 1,000,000 members.’44 In February 1918, the party had only around 300,000 members. By September, this figure had increased to 800,000. At least one half of these, though, were not people who had signed up as individuals, but who had been incorporated collectively as members of other nationalist pressure groups such as the Ostmarkenverein (Association for the Eastern Marches) (p. 390) or via regional branches of the National Liberal Party. Sociologically, the party utterly failed to meet its declared objectives, extending nationalist mobilization beyond the narrow confines of the middle-class, and attracting workers. Ironically, one of the unintended effects of the Fatherland Party was to boost the political activism and citizenship of patriotic middle-class women, as about one-third of the individual members were female. Public meetings were often well attended, but mostly because a large percentage of the crowd was keen to disrupt the gathering. With its pathetic, incompetent leader, the Prussian conservative Wolfgang Kapp, and its traditional style of Honoratiorenpolitik, the Fatherland Party was no departure, but the last gasp of the Wilhelmine Sammlungspolitik.45 At the front and in the rear army, the main success of the party was to dispel any remaining illusions that Germany was fighting a defensive war, and to polarize public opinion even further. In the latter half of the war, it should be stressed, any attempts to propagate aggressive nationalism in Germany backfired.

Already at the beginning of 1918, the bottom-up demand for democratization and immediate peace, together with the deep-felt war weariness and material grievances, had created a potential for revolutionary transformation. The revolution in 1918 was not only, as has often been stated, the result of imminent military defeat. At the home front, working-class unrest had already, in April 1917, led to a first major strike wave, mostly among metal workers in Leipzig, Berlin, and some other cities. In January 1918, about a million workers embarked on a mass strike that was in many ways the ‘final rehearsal’ for the revolution.46 The center of gravity of this unprecedented protest was Berlin, where about 400,000 workers went on strike, demanding, as elsewhere, immediate peace, a thorough democratization and parliamentarization both in Prussia and in the Reich, the lifting of the state of siege, and the release of political prisoners. The two last points in particular demonstrate the influence of the USPD, but also the clear aim to overcome the militarization of state and society more generally. The strike was a dress rehearsal for the revolution not only through the radicalism of its aims, but also because the workers learned not to rely on the leaders of MSPD and USPD, who joined the strike committees only in order to facilitate a return to work. When the revolutionary mass movement began in the autumn, it was clearly sympathetic to social democratic aims, but bypassed the two socialist parties and caught their leaders by surprise.

At the front, reactions to the January strike were mixed. Outright resentment was voiced only by a minority. However, even the majority that agreed with the key aim of the strike—peace—tended to compare the dangers of life at the front with the generous wages paid in the armaments industry. More importantly, the soldiers had set their hopes on the imminent final offensive at the Western front, which in their view would bring peace more quickly. When Ludendorff embarked on this final, desperate gamble to win the war and the offensive commenced on 21 March, it was greeted with some optimism among the troops. However, hopes soon turned into disappointment, and, when the Allied troops started their counter-offensive in July, into final resignation. From mid-August to Armistice Day, about 750,000 soldiers on the Western front took their fate and that of the German nation, in their own hands and deserted the front in an unstoppable mass movement, boarding trains for the lightly wounded or simply (p. 391) walking back home. Months before the sailors of the High Sea Fleet in Kiel fired the formal starting shot for the revolution with their refusal to board the ships on 29 October 1918, the ‘military strike’ in the field army was, in the seminal formulation of the historian Wilhelm Deist, the ‘decisive precondition for the revolution and determined its form and content,’ as it fatally undermined the army as the ‘guarantor of the existing order.’47

There is some debate about the exact nature and radicalism of the political aims that were shared by the hundreds of thousands of men who abandoned their military duty in the autumn of 1918.48 It seems obvious that they did not want to endanger their lives for a regime they perceived as corrupt and fundamentally lacking in legitimacy. There is hardly any doubt that the overwhelming majority of them were in favor of a popular form of democratic representation, widely conceived, which would allow for more social equality and liberty than the authoritarian Wilhelmine state. The revolution differs from August 1914, as no intellectuals waited in the wings to express its meaning in an elaborate set of ‘ideas of 1918.’ However, as a revolution, this was the moment of the people, not the intellectuals. Its first stage comprised the toppling of the monarchy, the sober recognition and acceptance of defeat in a war that had been prolonged by radical nationalists, and the preparation of a national assembly. In this stage, the revolution found support among its core constituency, the Socialist labor movement. It also found significant support among many Catholic workers and small farmers, white collar workers and other members of the lower middle class—who had shifted to the left during the war. The key points of the ‘ideas of 1918’ were succinctly summed up by a certain Uhlan Görres, who attended the meeting of the representatives of soldier's councils in the field army, held in Bad Ems on 1 and 2 December, for the 7th Cavalry Division: ‘All front-line soldiers demand freedom, truth, justice and bread.’49 In some respects, November 1918 was a moment of national recognition, as August 1914 had been. Four years of mobilization for total war had unleashed a drive towards participatory democracy. As a consequence, the overwhelming majority of Germans embraced the new republic. There was certainly more to the end of the war than only ‘exhaustion.’50

Interpretations of the November revolution usually focus on the radicalization of the extreme left and on the bloodshed that was the result when the Majority Social Democrats relied on the Freikorps to crush Communist uprisings in Berlin and Munich in early 1919. Surely, these events polarized German politics and fuelled the more radical second phase of the revolution. It should not be overlooked, however, that the Spartacus Group, the precursor of the Communist Party, played hardly any role in the chain of events which led to the declaration of the republic on 9 November 1918. There was a mismatch between the hysterical reaction of a bourgeois public, which perceived Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht as the trailblazers of an imminent Bolshevist revolution in Germany, and the actual power of the Spartacus League, which had never had more than 3000 members. The self-demobilization of the field army in the autumn of 1918, on the other hand, determined the subsequent course of the revolution. When, by the end of December, most of the soldiers had returned home, and the elections to the National Assembly were announced for 19 January 1919, two of (p. 392) their main aims—peace and democracy—had already been achieved, and hence their revolutionary zeal faded. Facilitated by the increasing inflation, which gave a boost to German exports and kick-started the economy, millions of veterans were quickly absorbed back into the labor market and civilian society in the immediate postwar period. Thus, the protest potential which had built up during the war faded away quickly. However, this also posed a problem for the republic. As many veterans tended to gloss over or to forget their previous grievances, they left the commemoration of war to the political right, which was keen to use a heroic, militant discourse about the legacy of the war as leverage against the new political system.51

17.3 World War I as a Catalyst of Change

In this brief overview, we have focused on the making and unmaking of a national community in Germany during the war. We have thus accentuated changes in the symbolic construction and representation of war, violence, and national inclusion. Such an accent on the transitional moments and rituals that defined the meaning of the war—August 1914 and November 1918—and on the semantics of community, victimization, and citizenship is bound to miss out on another crucial dimension of the war, its ‘materiality’: the noise of exploding shells, the pain of the wounds inflicted by them, the bad smell of turnips and Ersatz groceries, the very corporeal presence of dismemberment, malnutrition, and starvation as mass phenomena on an unprecedented scale.52 Even the most dramatic and traumatic physical experiences, however, could only contribute towards social change when they were transformed into meaningful communication. The transformation of experiences and perceptions into symbolic communication endowed the war with meaning, and these symbolic representations were perhaps the most important legacy of the war for German society and domestic politics.

Undoubtedly, the Nazi movement tapped successfully into the symbolism of national mobilization, which had emerged since August 1914, and owed its appeal to the fact that it could represent itself as the authoritative representative of the front generation. However, this success required an intensive reworking and medialization of the front-line experiences, and was as such never uncontested throughout the Weimar Republic. There was nothing ‘inevitable’ about a protracted and complicated process by which the image of the German ‘warrior,’ filled with ‘envy’ and ‘hatred’ of the enemy, came to be the hegemonic representation of the Great War.53 By no means was this transformation accomplished before 1930. During the war, nationalist aims and discourses had not unified the German people, but had rather had a divisive impact and had ultimately undermined the war effort. To be sure, fears about the possible brutalizing effects of four years of industrial warfare agitated many observers. It was widely expected that the return of millions of men who had participated in mass violence would spill over into the domestic political scene and cause an aggressive, confrontational style not only of veteran's politics, but also in public opinion more generally.

(p. 393) Such expectations, however, were not restricted to Germany. In the immediate postwar period, for instance, a wider public in the United Kingdom was terrified about the prospect of wholesale brutalization. This expectation seemed justified through a series of violent riots in various British cities in 1919, and by the behavior of the ‘Black and Tans,’ mostly ex-servicemen who were drafted into the ‘Royal Irish Constabulary’ in early 1920, when the Black and Tans committed a string of excesses and atrocities against Catholic civilians and alleged Sinn Fein members in Ireland. However, these fears about brutalization faded as quickly away as they had emerged, when the public reestablished the understanding, shared across the political spectrum, that Britain was the quintessential ‘peaceable kingdom.’ In comparison with Germany, the crucial difference was not a lack of ‘brutalization,’ but the shared framework of a political culture that was defined by the rejection and de-legitimization of violence.54 Ever since the Napoleonic wars, on the other hand, political culture in Germany had been framed around bellicose values and codes of honor. No surprise that the Steel-Helmet and other right-wing paramilitary organizations in Weimar exploited the symbolism of the wars of liberation for the names of their units and their rituals.

As brutalization and political violence put their stamp on German politics since 1919, a clear line of continuity can be established. In an attempt to break up the stalemate of trench warfare, the German army had introduced storm troops in 1916, specially trained and equipped groups of elite soldiers who were meant to penetrate the enemy lines. These were precisely ‘the men who after the war were to play a leading role in all the counterrevolutionary attempts’ and pursued their ‘warrior's creed,’ in the Freikorps, among the Nazi storm troopers, and in other paramilitary formations. However, the peculiar type of front line fighter who fought in the storm troops was, as the military historian Herbert Rosinski noted already in 1939, ‘essentially a volunteer.’55 The overwhelming majority of the 13.2 million men who were mobilized from 1914 to 1918 remained, both technically, in their mode of recruitment, and socially, in their form of participation, conscripts.

The First World War had had a massive impact on the political imaginary of all political groups in Germany, and fundamentally shaped notions of national belonging, class, and citizenship. Participation emerged as a key issue, and contributed towards the ‘two radicalisms’ in the postwar period: the radicalism in the socialist camp, where the politics of the Burgfrieden left a poisonous legacy of internal fragmentation and bitter infighting among moderate Social Democrats and Communists; and the radicalism of the middle class, which struggled to find appropriate forms of political representation in the new setting of the republican system. Both radicalizations were deeply entwined, and ultimately bound to the conflicts that had ensued since 1914, rather than simply reflecting long-term cleavages in German society.56 It is important to accentuate rapid change at the level of political symbolism and representation. On the other hand, the relative stability of institutional forms of sociability even under the strains of total war should not be underestimated. Three brief examples must suffice to make this point.

It has long been assumed, first, that the Bürgertum or middle class was further fragmented and ultimately dissolved as a social formation due to the war. Recent (p. 394) empirical studies have, however, put a question mark behind this claim. The family as the key institution of middle class sociability provided stability for men and women of the bourgeoisie who coped with the changes brought about by the war. Core values of the bourgeois mindset and cultural practice or Bürgerlichkeit, such as cleanliness, a work ethic centered around notions of duty and performance, and the ideal of Bildung or intellectual self-formation, survived the war largely if not fully unscathed. Equally persistent were bourgeois notions of paternalism with regard to the lower classes among higher civil servants, a key reason why the revolution in 1918 caught them by surprise and left them speechless and dismayed.57 Continuity prevailed, secondly, among the Catholic Church. During the war, it provided pastoral care amidst precarious circumstances and helped to foster ‘bonds of Catholic solidarity’ between French and Germans in the occupied zone in Northern France. 58 After the war, the moral teaching of the Church continued to command respect among one third of the German population, even though the problem of theodicy—how to reconcile the seemingly futile horrors of war with the idea of an almighty God—had sown doubts in the minds of many faithful believers. Particularly in the countryside, the Catholic Church remained, some lapses in the immediate postwar period notwithstanding, an eminent force of social and mental stability.59

One can investigate, thirdly, marriage as one of the core institutions in a civilized society. In Freiburg im Breisgau, for instance, a city with a population of 85,000, exactly thirty couples divorced in 1910. Even in this lovely place in the Black Forest, extended separation since the departure of the troops in 1914 led to some alienation between spouses, and the number of divorces trebled to slightly more than ninety in 1920. However, reflecting a similar trend across the country, at least one-third of these separations occurred in couples bound together through Kriegstrauungen, marriages which had been hastily arranged more as a patriotic service than as a heartfelt desire from 1914 to 1918. Still, ‘this point was lost on those who viewed the rising divorce-rate’ in the postwar period as ‘clear evidence of moral decline.’60 As in many other fields of society and politics during the Weimar Republic, the notion of a ‘crisis’ of family life was a semantic construct, but nonetheless one that exerted considerable influence on the contemporaries and supported calls for radical change.61 It would be exaggerated, however, to conclude from these developments that the ‘very civil institutions of society were fissuring’ during the war.62

All in all, it is perhaps best to describe the First World War as a catalyst of change in Germany society and politics, rather than as a fundamental caesura and immediate cause of rapid change. Such an assessment seems to be correct with regard to the radicalization of an extreme form of völkisch nationalism, which was well under way in the period since 1900. It is an equally fitting formula for the attempts of the SPD-majority to be accepted and integrated into the national fabric of politics. While the ‘negative integration’ of Socialist labor into Wilhelmine politics has been previously stressed, recent interpretations have emphasized the incremental positive integration of the Social Democratic labor movement into the Reich.63 Last, but not least, it is worth mentioning that more radical anti-Semitic ideas had become mainstream among (p. 395) circles of the extreme right already before the war. These blueprints for a solution to the alleged ‘Jewish question’ combined anti-Semitism with racist ideas and hopes of removing the Jews from German soil altogether. Still, these anti-Semitic fantasies stopped short of contemplating the targeted killing of Jews.64 It was only after war and revolution that anti-Semitism turned from a mere ‘cultural code,’ elaborated in speeches and printed texts, into the recurring practice of physical violent attacks against Jews on behalf of the Volksgemeinschaft.65


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        ——, The Great War and Urban Life in Germany: Freiburg, 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).Find this resource:

          Dantel, Ute, The War from Within. German Working Class Women in the First World War (Oxford: Berg, 1997).Find this resource:

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              Stibee, Matthew, Germany 1914–1933. Politics, Society and Culture (Harlow: Longman, 2010).Find this resource:

                (p. 399) Ulrich, Bernd and Benjamin Ziemann (eds), German Soldiers in the Great War. Letters and Eyewitness Accounts (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2010).Find this resource:

                  Verhey, Jeffrey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).Find this resource:

                    Welch, David, Germany, Propaganda and Total War, 1914–1918. The Sins of Omission (London: Athlone Press, 2000).Find this resource:

                      Winter, Jay, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning. The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).Find this resource:

                        Ziemann, Benjamin, War Experiences in Rural Germany, 1914–1923 (Oxford/New York: Berg, 2007).Find this resource:

                          ——, ‘Germany after the First World War—A Violent Society? Results and Implications of Recent Research on Weimar Germany,’ Journal of Modern European History 1 (2003), 80–95 (online at: ‹›).Find this resource:

                            ——, ‘Weimar was Weimar. Politics, Culture and the Emplotment of the German Republic,’ German History 28 (2010), 542–571.Find this resource:


                              (1.) Roland N. Stromberg, Redemption by War. The Intellectuals and 1914 (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1982).

                              (2.) Cited in Bernd Ulrich and Benjamin Ziemann (eds), German Soldiers in the Great War. Letters and Eyewitness Accounts (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2010), 42.

                              (3.) Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring. The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (London: Black Swan, 1990), 18, 275.

                              (4.) George L. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars (New York/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 7, 10.

                              (5.) Omer Bartov, Murder in Our Midst: The Holocaust, Industrial Killing, and Representation (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 48f.

                              (6.) Ibid., 49.

                              (7.) For a systematic analysis of methods and contexts of killing in the First World War, see Benjamin Ziemann, ‘Soldaten,’ in Gerhard Hirschfeld, Gerd Krumeich, and Irina Renz (eds), Enzyklopädie Erster Weltkrieg (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2003), 155–168, figure 157.

                              (8.) See Benjamin Ziemann, ‘Germany after the First World War—A Violent Society? Results and Implications of Recent Research on Weimar Germany,’ Journal of Modern European History 1 (2003), 80–95.

                              (9.) See Moritz Föllmer, Die Verteidigung der bürgerlichen Nation. Industrielle und hohe Beamte in Deutschland und Frankreich 1900–1930 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002).

                              (10.) Cited in Ulrich/Ziemann, German Soldiers, 26.

                              (11.) For the photo, and a mostly misleading interpretation, see Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge, Mass/London: Harvard University Press, 1998), 1–7.

                              (12.) See Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 58–114, quote 82; Benjamin Ziemann, War Experiences in Rural Germany, 1914–1923 (Oxford. New York: Berg, 2007), 16–27.

                              (13.) Fritzsche, Germans, 22.

                              (14.) See the detailed account by Wolfgang Kruse, Krieg und nationale Integration. Eine Neuinterpretation des sozialdemokratischen Burgfriedensschlusses 1914/15 (Essen: Klartext, 1993); compare Verhey, Spirit, 156–161.

                              (15.) Fritzsche, Germans, 25.

                              (16.) See, for instance, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Imperial Germany, 1867–1918. Politics, Culture and Society in an Authoritarian State (London: Arnold, 1995), 205–216.

                              (17.) Steffen Bruendel, Volksgemeinschaft oder Volksstaat? Die ‘Ideen von 1914’ und die Neuordnung Deutschlands im Ersten Weltkrieg (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2003), 102–141, 313.

                              (18.) Gunther Mai, ‘‘Verteidigungskrieg’ und ‘Volksgemeinschaft.’ Staatliche Selbstbehauptung, nationale Solidarität und soziale Befreiung in Deutschland in der Zeit des Ersten Weltkrieges,’ in Wolfgang Michalka (ed.), Der Erste Weltkrieg. Wirkung-WahrnehmungAnalyse (Munich/Zürich: Piper, 1994), 583–602, 589–591.

                              (19.) Emi Lederer, ‘On the Sociology of War,’ Archives Européennes de Sociologie 47 (2006), 241–268, 244, 260; translation amended from the original; idem, ‘Zur Soziologie des Weltkrieges,’ Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 39 (1915), 347–384, 349f., 373.

                              (20.) Bernd Weisbrod, ‘Die Politik der Repräsentation. Das Erbe des Ersten Weltkrieges und der Formwandel der Politik in Europa,’ in Hans Mommsen (ed.), Der Erste Weltkrieg und die europäische Nachkriegsordnung. Sozialer Wandel und Formveränderung der Politik (Cologne: Böhlau, 2000), 13–41.

                              (21.) Bernd Ulrich, Die Augenzeugen. Deutsche Feldpostbriefe in Kriegs-und Nachkriegszeit 1914–1933 (Essen: Klartext, 1997), 106–142, quote 109.

                              (22.) Christine Brocks, Die bunte Welt der Krieges. Bildpostkarten aus dem Ersten Weltkrieg 1914–1918 (Essen: Klartext, 2008), 30–32.

                              (23.) Brocks, Die bunte Welt des Krieges, 53–147, 237–252; on the ‘crisis of representation’ see Bernd Hüppauf, ‘Experiences of Modern Warfare and the Crisis of Representation,’ New German Critique 59 (1993), 41–76.

                              (24.) Christhard Hoffmann, ‘Between Integration and Rejection: The Jewish Community in Germany, 1914–1918,’ in John Horne (ed.), State, Society and Mobilization in Europe during the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 89–104, here 90–97.

                              (25.) Ibid., 103.

                              (26.) Werner T. Angress, ‘The German ‘Judenzählung’ of 1916. Genesis—Consequences— Significance,’ Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 23 (1978), 117–137.

                              (27.) See Werner Jochmann, ‘Die Ausbreitung des Anti-semitismus,’ in Werner E. Mosse (ed.), Deutsches Judentum in Krieg und Revolution 1916–1923 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1971), 409–510; Werner Bergmann and Juliane Wetzel, ‘Anti-semitismus im Ersten und Zweiten Weltkrieg. Ein Forschungsüberblick,’ in Bruno Thoß and Hans-Erich Volkmann (eds), Erster Weltkrieg—Zweiter Weltkrieg: Ein Vergleich. Krieg, Kriegserlebnis, Kriegserfahrung in Deutschland (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2002), 437–469. See the qualifications made by Dietmar Molthagen, Das Ende der Bürgerlichkeit? Liverpooler und Hamburger Bürgerfamilien im Ersten Weltkrieg (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2007), 397f., with regard to middle class families.

                              (28.) Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, War Land on the Eastern Front. Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 120; Klaus Latzel, Deutsche Soldaten—nationalsozialistischer Krieg? Kriegserlebnis-Kriegserfahrung 1939–1945 (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1998), 166–171.

                              (29.) Belinda J. Davis, Home Fires Burning. Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 132–135.

                              (30.) Excerpt from a letter written in Dresden, 11 June 1917: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Handschriftenabteilung, Schinnereriana.

                              (31.) Ziemann, War Experiences, 166–176, 191–195; Davis, Home Fires, 191–196.

                              (32.) Jean-Louis Robert, ‘The Image of the Profiteer,’ in Jay Winter and Jean-Louis Robert (eds), Capital Cities at War. Paris, London, Berlin 1914–1919 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 104–132, 126–131.

                              (33.) Jochmann, Ausbreitung, 435ff.; Bergmann/Wetzel, Anti-semitismus, 444f.

                              (34.) Gerhard Hirschfeld, ‘Germany,’ in John Horne (ed.), A Companion to World War I (Chichester: Wiley, 2010), 432–446, 440.

                              (35.) Ulrich/Ziemann, German Soldiers, 128.

                              (36.) Davis, Home Fires, 80–89, 96–98.

                              (37.) Kathleen Canning, ‘Between Crisis and Order. The Imaginary of Citizenship in the Aftermath of War,’ in Wolfgang Hardtwig (ed.), Ordnungen in der Krise. Zur politischen Kulturgeschichte Deutschlands 1900–1933 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2007), 215–228, 223.

                              (38.) Ute Daniel, The War from Within. German Working Class Women in the First World War (Oxford: Berg, 1997), 273–294; Benjamin Ziemann, ‘Geschlechterbeziehungen in deutschen Feldpostbriefen des Ersten Weltkrieges,’ in Christa Hämmerle and Edith Saurer (eds), Briefkulturen und ihr Geschlecht. Zur Geschichte der privaten Korrespondenz vom 16. Jahrhundert bis heute (Vienna: Böhlau, 2003), 261–282.

                              (39.) Cited in Ulrich and Ziemann, German Soldiers, 106.

                              (40.) Ziemann, War Experiences, 66–71.

                              (41.) Letter excerpt provided by the Münchener Post, included in a memorandum by War Ministry press officer von Sonnenburg, 15 June 1917: Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv/Abt. IV, Munich, MKr 2332. Emphasis in the original.

                              (42.) From the letter by a lieutenant at the Eastern front, 9 January 1918: Denis Bechmann and Heinz Mestrup (eds), ‘Wann wird das Morden ein Ende nehmen?’ Feldpostbriefe und Tagebucheinträge zum Ersten Weltkrieg (Erfurt: Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen, 2008), 274.

                              (43.) Wolfgang Sauer, ‘National Socialism: Totalitarianism or Fascism?,’ American Historical Review 73 (1967), 404–424, 420; MacGregor Knox, To the Threshold of Power, 1922/33. Origins and Dynamics of the Fascist and National Socialist Dictatorships, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 190f.

                              (44.) Roger Chickering, in his otherwise excellent Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 165.

                              (45.) See the definitive study by Heinz Hagenlücke, Deutsche Vaterlandspartei. Die nationale Rechte am Ende des Kaiserreichs (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1997), 180–187, 192–215, 385–411.

                              (46.) Volker Ullrich, Vom Augusterlebnis zur Novemberrevolution. Beiträge zur Sozialgeschichte Hamburgs und Norddeutschlands im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914–1918 (Bremen: Donat, 1999), 109–157.

                              (47.) Wilhelm Deist, ‘The Military Collapse of the German Empire,’ War in History 3 (1996), 186–207, 205, 207. The attempt to revise this argument by Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 184–231, is fundamentally flawed.

                              (48.) Wolfgang Kruse, ‘Krieg und Klassenheer. Zur Revolutionierung der deutschen Armee im Ersten Weltkrieg,’ Geschichte und Gesellschaft 22 (1996), 530–561, 559f.

                              (49.) See the document in Heinz Hürten (ed.), Zwischen Revolution und Kapp-Putsch. Militär und Innenpolitik 1918–1920 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1977), 17.

                              (50.) See Roger Chickering, The Great War and Urban Life in Germany: Freiburg, 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 548ff.

                              (51.) See Richard Bessel, Germany after the First World War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).

                              (52.) See Chickering, Great War, 9 (quote), 262–317, 331–351.

                              (53.) Quote: Knox, Threshold, 194.

                              (54.) Jon Lawrence, ‘Forging a Peaceable Kingdom. War, Violence, and Fear of Brutalization in Post-First World War Britain,’ Journal of Modern History 75 (2003), 557–589; Adrian Gregory, ‘Peculiarities of the English? War, Violence and Politics 1900–1939,’ Journal of Modern European History 1 (2003), 44–59; for Germany, see Ziemann, ‘Violent Society?’

                              (55.) Herbert Rosinski, The German Army (London: Pall Mall Press, 1966) [first edition 1939], 149. See Robert G.L. Waite, Vanguard of Nazism. The Free Corps Movement in Postwar Germany 1918–1923 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952), 23–30; Knox, Threshold, 194, fails to make this crucial distinction.

                              (56.) See the important article by Helge Matthiesen, ‘Zwei Radikalisierungen—Bürgertum und Arbeiterschaft in Gotha 1918–1923,’ Geschichte und Gesellschaft 21 (1995), 32–62.

                              (57.) See Molthagen, Ende der Bürgerlichkeit?; Föllmer, Verteidigung, 149f.

                              (58.) Patrick J. Houlihan, Local Catholicism as Lived War Experience. Everyday Religious Practice in Occupied Northern France, 1914–1918 (unpublished manuscript, 2010), 27. I am indebted to Patrick J. Houlihan for sending me a copy of his article.

                              (59.) Ziemann, War Experiences, 240–268.

                              (60.) Chickering, The Great War and Urban Life, 352–354; quote: Bessel, Germany, 232.

                              (61.) See, with further references, Benjamin Ziemann, ‘Weimar was Weimar. Politics, Culture and the Emplotment of the German Republic,’ German History 28, (2010) 553–560.

                              (62.) Michael Geyer, ‘Review of Roger Chickering, The Great War and Urban Life,’ Central European History 43 (2010), 372.

                              (63.) See, in comparative perspective, Marcel van der Linden, ‘The National Integration of European Working Classes (1871–1914): Exploring the Causal Configuration,’ International Review of Social History 33 (1988), 285–311.

                              (64.) Helmut Walser Smith, The Continuities of German History: Nation, Religion, and Race across the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 167–210.

                              (65.) Benjamin Ziemann, ‘‘Linguistische Wende’ und ‘kultureller Code’ in der Geschichtsschreibung zum modernen Anti-semitismus,’ Jahrbuch für Anti-semitismusforschung 14 (2005), 301–322; Michael Wildt, Volksgemeinschaft als Selbstermächtigung. Gewalt gegen Juden in der deutschen Provinz 1919 bis 1939 (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2007), 69–100.