Will there be a war for history?

War Guilt - The Versailles Treaty

Who is to blame?

The First World War began more than 100 years ago, and the question of war guilt has been discussed since then. Were the German Reich and the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy to blame, as was enshrined in the Versailles Treaty of 1919 after the war?

After all, Austria-Hungary's decision to go to war against Serbia with the support of the German Reich triggered a fatal chain reaction.

Or was it also partly to blame in other countries? Had the European powers all "slipped" into war, guided by the pursuit of power and competition, trapped in alliances that dragged them to war? So was everyone involved in the guilt, or was it just the German Reich and Austria-Hungary?

Both theses can be defended. In the meantime, however, the prevailing opinion among international historians is that all warring parties that have been there from the start bear part of the blame. Everyone could have opposed the outbreak of war, even prevented it. The fact that they did not do it, that they accepted a war, made everyone complicit.

The constellation between the great European powers before the war also speaks in favor of the thesis of shared guilt.

In the years before the war, the German Reich had heavily armed itself. The army numbered 800,000 men. It was a time of great enthusiasm for everything military, especially for the new navy.

This was the emperor's pride and joy, and it was to bring greater recognition in the world and more colonies. This is what the emperor and many of his subjects had long strived for.

Great Britain saw its rule over the oceans threatened by the German fleet. Britain was the superpower of that time, with colonies all over the world.

France also had a colonial empire. After long conflicts it had allied itself with Great Britain, but not with Germany, the "archenemy". The last war in 1870/71 had ended with the French defeat, which was not over. France also prepared itself and followed Germany's rise to become the strongest power on the continent with great alarm.

Russia, in turn, was allied with France and Great Britain after long wars and conflicts. The Russian Tsar Nicholas II was also concerned about the increase in power of the German Empire and its ambitions.

The tsar's rule was weakened by internal unrest in his empire. But he still had 173 million subjects and was able to raise huge armies. The mobilization of his army at the end of July 1914 was also a step towards war.

This constellation of competition, distrust, threats, armaments and alliances was undoubtedly very threatening for peace and therefore highly explosive. What is certain is that in the war all the states involved presented themselves as defenders against an attacker.

It is also certain that during the war those responsible on both sides of the front lacked the will to end the war - even though it cost nine million lives on the fronts alone, most of them in enormous material battles in which the soldiers were burned for tiny gains in land. The question of guilt and responsibility relates not only to the beginning of the war, but also to its course and duration.

The Versailles Treaty

In January 1919, the peace conference began in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, which concerned the peace treaty between Germany and the Entente and their allies. Further conferences of the winners with Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire also took place near Paris in 1919.

At first, the German Reich was not allowed to participate in Versailles. The peace conditions were not presented to a German delegation until May 1919. The Germans made numerous counter-proposals, but they were rejected.

Finally, in June 1919, under threat of military intervention by the victims, they signed. High reparation payments were imposed on Germany, but the amount was still open in June 1919.

In addition, there were assignments: seven percent of the territory. In the west these included Alsace and Lorraine, in the east Posen and West Prussia. In addition, Germany had to give up all of its colonial possessions.

In several border areas, the people should also decide on their state affiliation. In 1920, Eupen-Malmedy fell to Belgium, and North Schleswig was divided between Germany and Denmark.

In the voting areas of West Prussia and East Prussia, the population voted almost unanimously for Germany. In the Versailles Treaty it was also stipulated by the victims that Germany was solely responsible for the war.

This in particular led to a strict rejection of the treaty in Germany, which was viewed and sharply criticized as a "dictate" and "shame of peace" across the spectrum of political directions from the extreme right to social democracy.