The initial response after the war was that Germany along with her allies was fully responsible for the general European war this however completely ignores input and responsibility of the Allies. Germany and Austria-Hungry are seen by all for, at least, creating conditions for conflict however historians such as Fritz Fisher see the outbreak of the war as fully their responsibility. There is clear evidence to show Germany’s responsibility of pre-war tension, caused by the policy of Weltpolitic. Fisher claims the Germany “willed the war” to distract from domestic problems namely rising tensions.
He believed that the traditional ruling class within Germany pursued war to increase nationalism and to fulfil imperial aims. Fisher compared the expansionist aims of pre-1914 Germany as similar to those of Hitler. Fischer claimed that the decision to pursue war at the most favourable opportunity was taken at a in 1912 during a “war counsel” meeting however this claim has been heavily criticised as during this meeting the chancellor was not present, therefore war would not have been decided then.
Another criticism of this is that 1912-1914 Germany gave very little support to Austria, not what one would expect if Germany was preparing for war. Fisher’s thesis has been criticised by low and Berchmann-Hollweg because of his (Fisher’s) one sided focus on Germany , he did not, for example, take into account the diplomatic situation in 1914 or the importance of policy making in other countries. However, even if we reject Fisher’s thesis, Germany can still be held partially responsible for the war.
Her aggressive policies increased tension and soured international relations frightening France, Russia and Britain into defensive alliances. As with other countries Germany had a war plan, the schleiffen plan, the implementation of this meant war as by invading Belgium, to defeat France, Germany brought Britain into the war The assassination of Franz Ferdinand was not as great a loss for Austria-hungry as it was made out to be.
Ferdinand was considered a disgrace for not marrying within the royal family and subsequently many people, including Emperor Franz Joseph believed the assassination was punishment from God. The event therefore can be seen as an excuse for Austria-Hungry to stop the growth of Serbia and restore prestige and to take attention away from internal problems. These problems were caused by the vast number of people of varying nationalities living within Austria-Hungry, instability was caused by this. A war would unite the country and subdue certain nationalities from trying to gain independence.
Austria-Hungry needed little prompting from Germany to benefit from the Sarajevo murder However the lack of speed in doing so led to the crisis becoming a war by allowing time for other powers to become involved through the alliance system. Lastly both Austria-Hungary and Germany shared one “aim” this was to get rid of embarrassment caused by the Balkan crises’ by going to war they believed they could show their strength and gain respect of the other nation, the strength of memories of past defeat is noted by historian James Joll. Russia was the first to order mobilization.
Most of Europe and Germany in particular had a long standing fear of Russian expansionism and militarism. When the Tsar refused, despite some pleadings from his own counsel, to stop the mobilization, Germany had no alternative but to begin mobilization also as a defensive measure. Germany had only one basic military plan. Once mobilization began, the German army must attack west. The plan was to quickly defeat the French and then turn on Russia. At the time, Russia was considered by all world leaders to possess the greatest military potential. Germany believed she would need all her strength to oppose the Russian forces.
Thus it can be argued that her mobilization was partially if not fully responsible for the onset of the war. She also hold responsibility in her unwillingness to restrain and control Serb/Slav nationalism whether she had the power and ability is questionable. The British are often depicted as reluctant victims of forces beyond their control, attempting to mediate in the interests of peace. This however is false. In the years before 1914, Britain’s rulers, while feigning injured innocence, pursued a provocatively anti-German policy causing a reaction from them.
The British alliances with France and Russia have blamed to have “encircled” Germany and threaten her rulers with the war on two fronts they so feared . The British began building huge new “dreadnought” battleships, quickly outpacing Germany in a naval arms race. They soon had the bulk of their fleet concentrated in the North Sea, where it threatened the German coast causing Germany to feel more threatened. Anglo-German rivalry fuelled the drive to war. France bears responsibility for scaling up the pressure and international mobilization in the weeks leading up to WWI.
Kaiser Wilhelm tried to reign in Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Tsar Nicholas II; France, however, worked feverishly behind the scenes to arrange a multi-lateral attack on Germany in retaliation for the Franco-Prussian War, and did in fact encourage Russia to mobilize before Germany. Of the four initial Great Powers involved (Germany, France, Russia, and Austria) German armies mobilized last. Austria and Russia are more to blame, and France, therefore, bears responsibility. The First World War can thus be seen in this light as simply revenge (on their part at least) for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.
The extent of responsibility can be shown to very little as both the President and Prime minister were at sea during the critical period in July. In conclusion all the Great Powers were responsibility for the war with Germany deserving more than an equal share of this. They (great powers) became caught up in nationalistic, overconfident, imperialistic and militaristic policies leading to the shared belief that war was positive and quick. Opportunity led to Germany playing such a large role in the outbreak.