In response to Russian Empire’s and Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against each other after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914. Three days later, the German Reichstag declared Burgfrieden or “civil peace” which declared for people to set aside their conflicts aside and unite to defend the country. Most Germans expecting a rapid victory, enthusiastically supported the war. Their views, however, shifted from ebullience to one of detest. Opinions toward war all varied to each person.
Some supported the war through the end, while some changed their view and wanted the war to end. In another perspective, some saw the war as an economic opportunity. Wars were series of repetitious events that occurred throughout the history of mankind. No matter how horrid they were, however, they brought a sense of unity among the people who were forced to unite to defend their home. When the declaration of war had been made on August 1, 1914, the German Emperor Wilhelm II used words of eloquence to appeal to the citizens’ emotions to unite them together “like brothers” (Doc 1) in order to gain their support for the war.
Much enthusiasm followed after his speech as depicted in the photograph (Doc. 2). Most people waved their hats, shouting words of praise to the emperor. Women felt gratefulness during the war in the beginning. They found it as an opportunity to expand the rights of a woman. They thought that with the victory of the war, they would become more equal to men. This idea was voiced in the editorial of the women’s rights advocate. (Doc. 4) Oskar Schmitz, and author, indirectly approved of the war by asserting that since Germany was united and strong, other countries such as England could not hope to defeat them (Doc. ). Although some supported for the war with no question, some grudgingly supported in fear of retribution and in hopes of gaining recognition. According to a Social Democratic Party newspaper, the democratic parties would have been “destroyed and crushed,” had they not voted to finance the war. Their agreement to finance the war was a gamble to secure their position in the government. (Doc. 3) No matter what their reasons to support the war, they followed the terms of the “civil peace” in the beginning. As the time progressed on, people began to realize the dragging war hurt hem more than benefit them. It was nothing new to those who realized the cost of the war in the beginning as S. Jobs, a columnist, noted. Among the rush of enthusiasm among the Berlin population, there were “a quiet, serious, even shaken group of people. ” (Doc. 5) Both solemn and enthusiastic attitudes grew into frustration. A military administrator of a rural province reported to his superiors, which was formal and accurate, that one woman voiced her displeasure and refused to work for the government stating, “I can’t take it any more. (Doc 9) Evelyn Blucher von Wahlstatt accounted in her diary—which was unbiased because of the private information in the diary—that she heard the complaints of women in the streets. Those women were starving and lost their husbands in the war; loss of their husband also meant the loss of income to support the family. (Doc 8) Those who had enough of the war formed a radical labor party. They made a list of demands to the government to end the war and to ease the burden of their economic problems according to a police report in Berlin.
While the majority of the citizens of Germany bickered amongst themselves if they should continue to support the war, those of rich and powerful took an advantage of the war for economic benefits. They coaxed the citizens that workers had the power to influence the outcome of the war by working harder and by trying to sound patriotic. One of those who used that excuse was General Wilhelm Groener, who was the Army Chief of Staff, proclaiming to the workers to “work and more work until the victorious end of the war. ” A german soldier showed his abhorrence toward these opportunists in the National Liberal Party paper.
He said, “The blood rises to our heads when we imagine that, behind the front, turncoats are exploiting our inhuman sacrifices to fill their sacks with gold, and that they are enriching themselves at the expense of our women and children. ” (Doc. 7) Once again a wife of a farmer in Doc. 9 declared to the military administrator that she was not going “to slave away” for the Berliners, implying that those Berliners only took an advantage of the war for their gain. The cartoon in Doc. 12 also indicates people’s distaste for the opportunists.
The two fat figures indicate the wealthy that came from the cities (as depicted in the background). The fatness could represent all the gains those men have gotten from the lower middle class. The lower middleclass is represented by a thin, malnourished man whose resources were “sucked away” by those wealthy people. The “civil peace” was to attract the supports for the war. It was successful in the beginning but as the time passed, its policy failed as people resented it. At the end, everyone was dissatisfied with their defeat in the war and the harsh terms that came as the consequences.